A Prayer of Sending

I was browsing for new music to listen to recently and found a site entitled “Liturgy of the Commute.” As I was just browsing, I moved on and don’t remember where I saw it–if I find it again I’ll update and link it. But the concept struck me–most Christians worship together on Sunday and then go out Monday morning into a world utterly other than the reality they proclaimed the day before. We go to offices, cubicles, kitchens, construction sites, and any other place imaginable–the vast majority of which are at best tepid toward the Christian faith.

The daily office is a wonderful resource. But the reality of my mornings does not allow for the kind of time I would prefer to take to go through the liturgy–that’s something I need to work toward, but at the same time acknowledge where I am in life. That’s why the concept of a “Liturgy of the commute” struck me–the 25-or-so-minutes between my home and work are otherwise dead space. I could fill it with silence (and sometimes do, which is a nice alternative to the din of the rest of the day), but more often than not I find myself mindlessly playing the same music I always do, or worse–sports radio. Nothing against Mike or Mike, but as I attempt to free associate a one-word description for the entire genre, the word “drivel” is screaming at me from somewhere deep in my psyche.

So as I thought of how I could have a drive without drivel, the concluding prayer after the Eucharist came to mind, and I was struck by its applicability. It’s a prayer asking God to give our day His direction, so that we would not be diffuse in our intentions and actions. So I wrote this song as a way to back into the concept of preparing my heart for a day bearing truth in a world that can’t recognize it through all the static.

Send us out to do the work you’ve given us to do
May all our earthly toil be as for you
All our labors woven to
The way you’re making all things new

Send us out to be the people you made us to be
Ambassadors of true humanity
We the bearers of your light
A beacon for the lost at sea

Give us grace to lead lives worthy of your name
Don’t let those who trust in you be put to shame
To the Father, Son, and Spirit e’er the same
Be all honor, be all glory
Amen

Alleluia
Alleluia
Alleluia

The Dead of Winter

“She turned to the sunlight
And shook her yellow head,
And whispered to her neighbor:
“Winter is dead.”

-A.A. Milne, When We Were Very Young

Spring came early this year. At least that’s what the redneck cousin of Punxsutawney Phil told us would happen. Sure enough, in mid-February, the Bradford Pear trees were blooming and giving rise to the first leaves of the new year.

I sat in the early dawn light, looking out at the buds just beginning to peer out of their branches, seemingly ex nihilo, and hearing the birds singing in a chorus that was completely oblivious to the fact that the temperature could not have been above 40 degrees. Their song seemed like an affront to winter’s stranglehold, and the proclamation of a resurrection as beautiful as you could find on Easter morning.

Nevermind the fact that a few short weeks later, there was another deep freeze, after which I looked up into the Bradford Pears to see all the beautiful, fresh leaves turning into a brown, rotten mess that made the ‘resurrection’ of Spring look more like a zombie apocalypse.

Yet in that intervening time, the metaphor stuck, and I set about writing a song about Spring. Happy songs are not my forte–or maybe they could be: I’ve never attempted one. The closest I have come to a ‘happy’ song would be the silliness that is Pizza Man. But this song came out genuinely joyful, as I realized that every spring, while the church at large prepares to celebrate Christ’s resurrection, creation itself is doing the same thing. Slowly, each flowering plant and creature that was hidden away, dormant, or attenuated by the cold and apparent death of winter begins to rebel against the occupying frost. Everything that the winter stripped bare, spring now begins to counter-claim. Eventually, the bright banners of victory will fly over creation, delivering a verdict in favor of life itself.

Lyric:

All is silent, all is still
An empty canopy above
When man has given out the last of his goodwill
But not yet given into love

Across this wasted no man’s land
Ravaged, cold, left for dead
I hear a scandalous whisper
And I give an ear to what it said

This is not the end
This is not the end
From the ashes of your hope
A flame will spark and burn again
So lift your heart and lift your eyes
And watch the dead of winter rise

One by one the flowers wake
Beckoned by the cardinal’s song
It laughs at what the winter thought that it could take
‘Cause it knew better all along

As the sparrow spreads its wings
And stakes its claim to the sky
What was a whisper becomes the shout
Of creation’s rallying cry

This is not the end
No, this is not the end
From the ashes of your hope
A flame will spark and burn again
So lift your heart and lift your eyes
And watch the dead of winter rise

It’s bold as a lion
Bright as the dawn
Better days are coming, yeah
Our hope is not undone

This is not the end
No, this is not the end
The summer sun will come
And warm your weary soul again
So lift your heart and lift your eyes
And watch the dead of winter rise

Watch the dead of winter rise

Pizza Man

Customer: “It was cold when it got here, it didn’t taste right. We want a new one, for free.”

Me: “But you had to eat every piece of it, just to make sure–right?”

When I was in college, my primary livelihood was trafficking in pizza; it was easy money for someone with a car and time on their hands. It was also the most entertaining work I will likely ever do in my life.

People don’t seem to think much when they order pizza. If they did, they probably wouldn’t do it. The entire transaction is suspect. Think about it: nowhere else in life would the general public consent to eating what was once in a cardboard box on the floor of a taxi cab–but if they bring it to your door in a big awkward bag and charge you for it, well…

And that’s not to say that pizza delivery drivers are creepers–in fact, my small survey suggests that they are generally trustworthy people. The trouble is that to the customer, a delivery driver is not ‘people.’ They are merely the extension of the pizza shop taking up space on your front porch. As such, all rules of social decency are null and void when encountering a pizza man. But because they are technically human, anything that could possibly go wrong in the exchange immediately finds its scapegoat in them. It’s almost like being a waiter, except you’re trespassing.

Yet most customers are not angry–they just want to eat. Some want to eat more desperately than others. The things that I have been offered en route to a customer’s doorstep, if I would only abandon my duty and give up the dough, defy both description and federal narcotics law.

When I wasn’t slinging pie, I was a theatre major, and as such, had to listen to a requisite amount of Billy Joel music. One night, Piano Man came on the radio while I was on the road, and my got my wheels turning. A short while later, this song came out. Full credit to Billy Joel for the music, and the woman who would become my wife for helping tidy up the last verse.

Lyric:

It’s nine o’ clock on a Saturday
The regular crowd orders in
There’s an old man on the phone with me
Complaining ’bout how long it’s been

He says, “Son, can you blame me I’m hangry?
I ordered two hours ago
There’s rain and there’s sleet but for the sake of Pete
Just get here before you guys close.”

Please don’t be long Mr. Pizza Man
Please come at some point tonight
‘Cause we’re all in the mood for some extra cheese
And breadsticks and hot wings deep fried

Now John on the dispatch says this one’s mine
And give him his sodas for free
This job is a joke, they just go out and smoke
Like I don’t have someplace to be

Yeah this pizza delivery is killing me
Oh, the customers laugh in my face
Could someone please look for my dignity?
It’s disappeared without a trace

Paul is a middle aged fry cook
Who’s been high for most of his life
And he’s talking to Jody, who eats raw anchovies
He’ll probably ne’er take a wife

And the manager’s arguing politics
While the drivers, they slowly get stoned
Together they’re causing my tardiness
Oh, I’d rather be working alone

Please don’t be long Mr. Pizza Man
Please come at some point tonight
‘Cause we’re all in the mood for some extra cheese
And breadsticks and hot wings deep fried

We’re backed up like usual Saturdays,
And I’m searching for reasons to smile
But the people don’t see the tips they’re not giving me
Would help stave off eviction awhile

And my transmission sounds like a carnival
And the customer smells like a beer
As I yell from afar, “I left the bread in my car,”
He shouts “Man, what’re you doing here?”

“You’re at the wrong house, Mr. pizza man
We didn’t order tonight
But now that you’re here we’d like extra cheese
And breadsticks and hot wings deep fried.”