[Folks, Carolyn Arends has long been one of my favorite writers--both when it comes to songwriting and prose. Her book Wrestling with Angels is one of my favorites. She's in the midst of raising funds for a new Christmas album, which promises to be most excellent, so I'm including her (awesome) Kickstarter video at the bottom of this post. I hope you'll join me in supporting her. --The Proprietor]
Given an opportunity to contribute something here at the Rabbit Room, this piece came immediately to mind. Why? For starters, it’s inspired by some things C.S. Lewis (The Patron Rabbit? The Grand Hare?) wrote about worship and pleasure. Second, it’s also about Mexican food. I can’t explain why, but I just have a feeling that quite a number of the folks who hang out here understand the importance of quality TexMex.
So, while this piece was originally published in Christianity Today a while back, it gives me a particular pleasure to share it here. I hope you feel likewise!
There’s a TexMex restaurant in Houston I have visited on three occasions. Each meal has begun with chile con queso. The cheese at this particular restaurant is the most delicious food I have ever tasted.
Each time, the queso has ushered me into a worship experience. With every bite, I have been overcome with gratitude to God for creating taste buds, cows, and human ingenuity. And that gratitude has led to praise.
I get varied reactions to my testimony of worship-via-queso. Some folks understand. Some think I’m kidding. And others are skeptical that such a carnal thing as a TexMex appetizer could facilitate genuine worship.
We Christians have a long history of mixed and sometimes openly-hostile attitudes toward sensual pleasure. Saint Augustine is the fourth-century poster boy for our dilemma, struggling in Book X of his Confessions to reign in each of his five senses. He attempts, for example, to “take food at mealtimes as though it were medicine” and to “fight against the pleasure in order not to be captivated by it.”
I’ve been a fan of Carolyn Arends since 1995, when I saw her open for Rich Mullins at the Ryman Auditorium here in Nashville. That means that for seventeen years of my life I’ve been affected by the songs and writings of this most excellent Canadian. I count it a great blessing to call her a friend. Her newest book, Theology in Aisle Seven, is a collection of pieces she wrote for Christianity Today, and is available here. –The Proprietor
The day before he died, my father wore what his doctors called the “Star Wars mask”—a high-tech oxygen system that covered most of his face. Pneumonia made his breathing extremely labored, but that didn’t keep him from chatting.
“Pardon?” my mom would ask patiently, trying to decipher his muffled sounds. Exasperated, he’d yank off the mask, bringing himself to the brink of respiratory arrest to ask about hockey trades or complain about the hospital food.
After several hours, he gave up on conversation. He started singing.
“What are you humming?” my mom asked. My dad repeatedly tried to answer through the mask before yanking it off again. “‘With Christ in the Vessel, I Can Smile at the Storm’,” he gasped. “Wow,” murmured my mom, before singing it with him.
My dad learned “With Christ in the Vessel” at Camp Imadene in 1949, the summer he asked Jesus into his 8-year-old heart. Six decades later, hours before his death, that silly old camp song was still embedded in his soul and mind, and he was singing it at the top of his nearly-worn-out lungs.