I will listen to pretty much any musical genre (not a huge fan of scream rock), which is nice because I’m at my computer all day and having something going helps me focus. It also reflects where I am for the day—my office associate has learned that if Bach’s organ suites are rumbling through my speakers, it’s probably best to let me mellow out before asking me to process yet another reimbursement request.
So this week has been a fight in several ways, but my soundtrack has been quite a bit of rap. The thing about rap is that I love the quickness of it, the dance with language and sound—but so much of it is awful lyric-wise. The beat is awesome, the looped rhythms underneath are fun to groove to, but the words themselves make me sad for culture. (A good example is Love the Way You Lie; sounds great, horrifying story.) So a seemingly easy fix would be to find a Christian rapper, but heavens, sometimes Christian music is so…Christian.
Do you know what I mean, Reader? It’s that almost sappy, cloying feeling of the lyrics whaling you over the head with YAY JESUS HE IS SO BEAUTIFUL LIFE IS MUCH BETTER NAOW PRAISE PRAISE. Even my fave Christian rappers like DC Talk and Kirk Franklin and Deitrich Haddon can be a little syrupy, and sometimes that’s awesome and sometimes I need a little more…salt, I guess. So I say, well, let’s go to the Intarwebs.
Thankfully, the Intarwebs introduced me to LeCrae (among others), who is pretty awesome. Not only is he good at the craft (itself nothing to be sneezed at) but he has lyrics that punch through stories; God is not an object but a partner, an impetus, a Being.
Now, I get that rap isn’t everyone’s cup of tea (or soda, or vodka, or whatever), but my point of today is not “you should go listen to rap.” (Although please feel free to do so.) It’s the reminder to myself that prose is not the only way to get into prayer (and yes, rap is poetry); King David has his crap ton of psalms (150) that are all poetry, and verse winds its way throughout the Old Testament in Job, Song of Solomon (now there’s some love poetry), Ecclesiastes, Proverbs, Genesis, et aliquid. It’s a part of the Hebraic culture and history, this reliance on poetry, and it is for the modern Gentile as well. There are whole anthologies of folks writing poetry to try and communicate with and understand their God, their faith, and themselves.
I’m a words person, I’ve mentioned before, and I love to make myself sound flowery and lovely. I know that. I also know that prayer isn’t exactly the time to do that, so I find that sometimes I need to get the hell out of my highfalutin prose and throw in some poetry. It also carries a different flavor of the “making myself sound lovely” trap, I realize, but it forces me to focus on what I’m saying. What does it mean? Do I get to make up a phrase to express this reaction? How do I describe this? Poetry give a different angle of mindfulness to what I’m trying to say to or about God—and what I’m trying not to say at all, or am unable to say, or am merely wishing I could say. Poetry both imposes a ton of boundaries and breaks all of them, and I think prayer needs and does not need boundaries.
So, Reader, with your indulgence, I would pray here. May God hear it.
One command breaking
both hearts, casting out the
a Father betrayed by His son.
The son became a father to fathers,
generations of mudmen reaching
scar-crossed sinews of bony supplication
to this dream that had been
“Deliver us,” the fathered sons said in a
jarring discord of hope-wrapped
sorrow, the breaths of a thousand weary sighs
sung in joyful, winding strains.
Hearing quiet and calling it silence, they stretched
metallic fingertips brushing Heaven’s
guarded doors bolted against the
smoke-filled ashes of arrogance
snowing in the deserted temples.
The three-part broken Heart reached new
skin-wrapped senses to this journey,
a thousand trodden miles
to lay borrowed fingertips on
my forehead, fevered in fear of being
exactly who I am in front of
Willing hands grasp my upturned palms crossed
by scars of my own making,
wordless answer to the mudman’s hope
that we are forgiven, and loved.
The one who made the Pleiades and Orion,
and turns deep darkness into the morning,
and darkens the day into night;
who summons the waters of the sea,
and pours them out on the surface of the earth—
this one’s name is the Lord— (Amos 5:8, CEB)