tension tamer and hard hats

I’m just now recovering from the injustice of two days ago when the internet ate my blogpost.

I wrote the blog on my phone and I felt good about the productivity of my commuter inspiration… until I looked at it later and saw that only half of the post got published. The other half is in the belly of the internet somewhere, gurgling and hopefully making a big indigestive scene.

I am aware my frustration is ironic, given the content of the post – that it was about whimsy and surprise and the unexpected. But what do you do when all of the above feels more like a series of unfortunate events and less like a fairytale – when city commuting and daylight savings darkness and spilt pumpkin bread feel a little more like failure?

There is adventure inside those places, too, I know. But my belief has to be big enough to swallow up the doubt that it is not so. Or at least my belief has to be big enough to wrestle my doubt into submission. And sometimes that sized belief is hard to come by, hard to pray for, and hard to keep.

Tonight, tension tamer is my tea of choice.

It was in the birthday package from my mom, shipped from Iowa with other useful things like measuring cups, Grandma’s homemade hot pads, and the angel food cake pan that carried all the spongey goodness of my childhood. How she knew that my tension would need taming on this day in early November, I’m not sure. I think it’s probably a “mom” thing and I hope it’s hereditary.

I do know that one of my loaves of pumpkin bread came out like this tonight. It’s more mangled in person, and for good reason: it somersaulted onto the oven window.

pumpkin bread crumble

I actually think it recovered well, all things considered. I think my roomie will find a way to convert it into morning deliciousness. She’s kind of a sucker for redeeming messes.

Maybe this is what it really means to worship with a hard hat – maybe it means headaches and heartaches and haphazard nights in the kitchen. Maybe the worship adventure is something that is always redemptive because this life is always broken.

Maybe the kind of posture Dillard thinks proper for worship in the Christian life is one that prepares for danger and doubt as much as it prepares for joy and song.

I am usually the joy-song type. Mostly.

I mostly love new things and crowded schedules and mishaps and detours. Mostly. Then, there are those days, those series of unfortunate events that remind me that my worship must be made of harder stuff. Anxiety isn’t believed away with joy-songs. They factor in, sure, along with tension tamer tea and well-timed laughter.

But there is a reason Dillard suggests a hard hat under the steeple on Sundays. I think it might be because worship can sometimes look like a demolition. It is not comfortable or pleasant, but it is right and it is good work.

My joy-songs are of a different kind when debris is flying overhead. The adventure is inside the danger and inside the belief that God’s identity has not changed. He is not less God and I am not less His child. My future is no less secure.

When your life so closely resembles Amelia Bedelia, you might remember every ingredient for vegetable beef soup except the beef. You might also forget the butter on the stovetop (in an effort to soften it for a cookie recipe when you do not have a microwave). In typical Amelia flare, you might somersault your pumpkin creation onto the oven window and then shove it back in the pan to bake the salvaged parts. You might miss the train that beat the daylight to the horizon and you might make one errand into seven.

And you might need to wear a hard hat if you plan to worship.

Because your heart will only respond to surprises with joy-songs if you are prepared for things to get messy. The only proper preparation is the Word taking root and establishing inside your heart and inside the series of unfortunate events. There is not a single curveball my Amelia Bedelia nature can throw in this life that the Word is not prepared for – not a single unfortunate event in this life that the Lord isn’t already planning to use for His glory.

Last weekend, I heard a message from Hebrews 12:18-23,

“For you have not come to what may be touched, a blazing fire and darkness and gloom and a tempest and the sound of a trumpet and a voice whose words made the hearers beg that no further messages be spoken to them. For they could not endure the order that was given, “If even a beast touches the mountain, it shall be stoned.” Indeed, so terrifying was the sight that Moses said, “I tremble with fear.” But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to innumerable angels in festal gathering, and to the assembly of the firstborn who are enrolled in heaven, and to God, the judge of all, and to the spirits of the righteous made perfect,”

“Does anyone know the power we so blithely invoke?” Dillard asks.

Well, I’m learning at least. I’m learning that the power we invoke requires hard hats and a supernatural amount of perseverance. There are joy-songs, but they are not empty. They are hard wrought and wrestled from the grip of failures.

beware, a wakening God

“On the whole, I do not find Christians, outside the catacombs, sufficiently sensible of the conditions. Does anyone have the foggiest idea what sort of power we so blithely invoke? Or, as I suspect, does no one believe a word of it? The churches are children playing on the floor with their chemistry sets, mixing up a batch of TNT to kill a Sunday morning. It is madness to wear ladies’ straw hats and velvet hats to church; we should all be wearing crash helmets. Ushers should issue life preservers and signal flares; they should lash us to our pews. For the sleeping god may wake some day and take offense, or the waking god may draw us out to where we can never return.” Annie Dillard, Teaching a Stone to Talk, Harper & Row, 1982

It is Monday and I am still sleeping as I write this blog on my morning commute. The weekend was rich with worship and this wisdom from Annie Dillard frames it in right perspective.

Because worship is not safe.

As we sat on the fire escape for a Saturday picnic of mostly locally scrounged grub, it felt like the right amount of whimsy – like the best way we could have appreciated the beautiful colors and the conversation.

But that fire escape plan had materialized only minutes before, on the bike ride back to the apartment after hanging out in our neighborhood for the morning. It was something we stepped inside on a whim and then wondered if it might have been prepared for us.

I’m still thinking about how differently a child responds to surprise. When there is a firework or a hot air balloon or an ice cream truck, children get big eyes- they get wonder-filled and adventure-ready. It doesn’t matter that it wasn’t plan A or that it might be impossible.

They are always expecting the next adventure because it doesn’t matter whether or not they have shoes on or bare feet. They are just ready either way. Not because adventures are easy, but because it is easy for them to say yes when wonder hits them between the eyes.

It makes sense to follow a kite’s pattern across the sky and to cloud gaze and to chase grasshoppers. It makes sense to wonder and to be pulled into the wider story of worship – it makes sense that the chase might get mysterious and that they might run into danger. And they don’t need to dress up or pretend its any other way.

I want to live like this more.

I want to feel the fear being cast out because the wonder won’t let it stay. There isn’t room for both wonder and fear, because wonder is worship and it can happen inside danger and storm and drought. The right kind of wonder, anyway.

We are too safe. We dress up and act proper and we are never prepared for what a waking God might do with his limitless power and grace. We are not looking for it like children who hunt grasshoppers with hard hats. We aren’t prepared to be surprised and we are not ready enough to be wonder-filled.

I want to worship with a hard hat – to worship in a way that expects wonder and danger and is prepared for both.