Journaling to hip-hop, a guest post by Christina Blackwell
This is part five in A Contemplative Approach To Christianity, a series dedicated to introducing the quieter side of Christian practice, featuring a new writer every week. These are all from men or women who have been able to connect with God in the middle of the noise–often using spiritual disciplines that are very similar to those found throughout historical Christianity. I’ve asked these authors to share details about what their practices look like, to include us all in the opportunity to take part! As far as the blog series goes, you can speak up at anytime. Ask questions of the writer, or of me. Add your experience. Your apprehensions. It’s an open place. We’re all exploring. And may you be refreshed as you return to first things.
When I first learned that Christina married the tenured practice of journaling with hip-hop music, I must admit, I was intrigued. I know a few people who express their thoughts and prayers, examine their hearts, and confess their sins to God through journaling, but to intermingle this spiritual discipline with music is unique. I wanted to hear what she had to say, but I knew it would be too good to keep for myself. So we present it to you for your joy. For those who want to learn how to engage the soul in the disciplined art of journaling, Christina will, of course, lay out some helpful steps; much of this can work with or without music. But what I love about her approach is that you don’t have to constrain yourself with rigid formulas. Who’s to say you have to practice the presence of God exactly like Brother Lawrence, or balance your life just like Benedict of Nursia, or enjoy Lectio Divina only as outlined by Guigo? The point of any spiritual discipline is to connect your soul to the Christ who is already in you. It is not to fill a quota, check off a spiritual to-do list, or feel righteous about one’s ability to replicate someone else’s regimen. And for Christina, well…it seems her combination of writing mixed with the infectious sounds of a beat have done what was needed to help center her soul on God. I hope it greets you with refreshing intensity. I also hope it opens your eyes and heart to a world of spiritual creativity.
The rest of this post is in Christina’s words…
I am currently transitioning out of full time ministry that I have been engaged in the last two years. I am moving towards being used as a vessel of the Lord to be catalytic in the awareness and participation of African- Americans in global missions work. I am originally from Southern California but now I live in Orlando, Florida. Graduated from UCSB in 2012. Studied black studies, minored in applied psychology and education. I’ve known and loved Jesus as much as I knew how since I was five years old, but I’ve truly and wholly been walking with the Lord for the last six years. I have five siblings ranging from ages twenty-five to three. I am an auntie of one sweet baby girl who will be one soon. I have lots of friends in California that I love and dearly miss. I love all things creative and cozy. I enjoy cooking, eating, writing, singing, dancing, and Spotify. I am thoroughly amused by dry and corny humor. It’s the best when I am the only one laughing at a joke in a large group setting. I especially love word crafting like that expressed in spoken Word, poetry and Hip-Hop music.
Hip Hop, dare I say, is the language of my soul.
These wordsmiths say what I would say in a way they thought of first. My first experience with hip-hop that exalted the God of Heaven and preached the truth of the Gospel was through a friend of mine, Barry Moore, my senior year in high school. He met Jesus; gave his life to him and renounced all things against the Lord. For him, part of that meant throwing away his extensive music collection and replacing it, to which we both benefited from during rides to and from school. Then my freshmen year in college when I said no more to my divided heart, the Lord used this Hip-hop, alongside a church I love, to take my understanding of the Gospel from a hundred to about a thousand! Yet, it is ever increasing even now. I love Hip-hop music because artists can use such a small amount of time to say so much, and when you are speaking of an infinite God with infinite love, I say what better way than through a few 16s (or verses) over some incredibly engineered beats.
Journaling is gathering your thoughts, processing your feelings, remembering, dreaming, celebrating, etc., by writing these things down in a notebook.
It is like a Dear Diary, to God. You can be brutally, embarrassingly honest but find comfort in the fact that He knows you already, and you don’t have to be ashamed. Take it with you to church to take notes on the sermon. Keep it in your car or bag, somewhere on your person, so that it is accessible to you whenever you need it.
When Lazo asked on Facebook what ways folks connect most with the Lord—as I was scribing my answer of journaling or praying to God through my pen while listening to hip-hop music with a biblical world view—I was shocked at the recent lacking of this discipline in my life.
Years ago I realized that with rap accompanied by stylized rhythmic music blasting through my headphones, a journal (fancy and leather bound with blank paper or spiraled between to flat pieces of cardboard with blue line paper) underneath the pen in my hand is when the Lord meets me most intimately.
Through each bar (line of a verse) the God of Heaven is magnified and I am made small; my folly is rebuked and I am called to life; met with his undying love and lavish grace. The Lord is speaking to me showing me the truth of his character, the truth of my brokenness, what Jesus did to reconcile me, how I ought to respond and bring others along. I worship as I write all this grandness and emotion that wells up inside down. Repeating the words I have heard on my paper or crafting my own response to them, to him.
When I consider the words below all said in about a hundred and five seconds over a simple drum beat accompanied by a variety of sounds from the drums, piano, guitar/bass, my heart surrenders to this amazing God and rejoice that my story is in his:
How sweet the Gospel sounds to ears like mine
Well acquainted with pain and strained relationships
Friendships that suffer from long distances
Or even worse they get severed from something more severe
And He still hasn’t wiped away all my tears yet
My cheeks get wet every now and then
Even when I give my best, I know I fall short
I get scared when the ball’s in my court
Focused on my performance, wretched and poor
It makes the message more real when I preach it
I’m not there yet so I’m reaching, reaching for a goal:
To stand before my King and be speechless
Then, never again will I question if His grace is sufficient to cover my sin
Cause death is gone, and all the effects of evil and wrong
Will be conquered when His Kingdom comes
So this is my hope and my prayer
The air that I’ll breathe in eternity with lungs that never fail me
If it pleases my Lord, and only by Your grace
Use my life ’til it’s poured out for Your sake
Until then I’ll remain where You have me
With joy when I feel unhappy
And a peace that surpasses all my understanding
My life is in the hands of Your love everlasting
(Verse two of Beautiful Eulogy by Beautiful Eulogy on the album Satellite Kite)
Maybe you want to try this?
- Grab some headphones, a music playing apparatus, a pen and a journal.
- Since you’ll have your headphones on then it doesn’t matter where you are. For some reason coffee shops are great for me. However if you are distracted by life happening around you, choose an isolated place that you might normally meet with the Lord in.
- Choose a selection of music or even one song to listen to. Maybe start with the song above if you are not familiar with this Hip-hop music.
- Listen closely write down bars or words that stick out to you, keep listening and come back to it or pause the song and respond to it.
- Or listen as you pray about other things and allow verses that stand out among the rest to interrupt you and respond to them.
What are these things telling you about who God is? What is it telling you about what God says about you? What Jesus has done? The hope of eternal life we have in him? How does the artist engage culture through the above questions?
You may need to do some ground work before you get started.
Below are just a few suggested record labels who host a few different varieties of artists. Some will be relaxed, close to an R&B sound, if you will, while others may seem a bit rowdy. It’s up to you to choose your style and maybe you give them all a chance.
There are of course independent artists as well who you will find along your journey. One of my favorite right now is SPZRKT (pronounced Spazzy Rocket) listen to him here : http://spzrkt.bandcamp.com/
What are they saying? Check out http://rap.genius.com/
You might want to have the lyrics pulled up if you need them to follow along better as you listen.
Note: Your head may began to bob, your shoulders do a little lean or something, maybe even your hands shoot up in the air, or you let out a “whoo!” at a line that blows you away. It’s all a part of the process. Enjoy. I pray that the Lord would meet you like he has been faithful to do with me in these times.
I will remember the deeds of the Lord;
yes, I will remember your wonders of old. ~ Psalm 77:11
Posted on July 21, 2014, in spiritual formation and tagged contemplation, contemplative, contemplative approach, journaling, spiritual disciplines, spirituality, UCSB. Bookmark the permalink. Comments Off on Journaling to hip-hop, a guest post by Christina Blackwell.