What I’m Praying: Dancing Justice

Continuing my What I’m Praying series, here’s something that’s been on my heart for a few years now, and came to a head again last Friday. It’s something I talk about with increasing frequency on my social media, but rarely if ever on Fragrance Arise, mostly because my thoughts and feelings are still so raw, and it’s difficult to get them into a form that fits the mission of this blog. Also, I think, there’s fear of being perceived as “stirring the pot”, as I’ve been accused of trying to do–i.e. stir up trouble and division that hurts more than it helps.

I’m talking about justice issues. Specifically, right now, racial justice issues.

This past week, Stephon Clark was shot 20 times by police in his grandmother’s backyard in Sacramento. He was unarmed. He was scared. There is currently an ongoing investigation and several outstanding questions as to how the police handled the encounter. They were looking for someone breaking windows in the neighbourhood, and even assuming Stephon was that guy, he did not deserve to die. And yes, he was black.

I don’t have all the answers, but that should never have gone down the way it did. There was no reason for him to end up dead.

This post is mostly not about Stephon Clark. As grieved as I was over the injustice of his death, a more close-to-home grief arose when I witnessed the reactions of some of my white brothers and sisters in Christ. We were quick to defend the police and slow to mourn the loss of life. We were quick to deny racism had any role, systemic or specific, and we were slow to listen to the stories of the black people who had the courage to jump into those conversations and share their experiences and perspectives. We were all too okay with what had happened. And I’ve witnessed echoes of this same conversation so. many. times.

I can already hear the cries of “not all white people/Christians/police/etc!” so yes, I’ll say it here. NOT ALL.

But too many.

And too many turning a blind eye.

“Let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger; for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God.” James 1:19-20

My heart aches for us as white believers, who are part of the Body of Christ, the hands and feet of Jesus on the earth, to slow down, shut up and listen, and recognise that our world is broken, centuries of brokenness have built up to create the world as it is today, and some of our brothers and sisters walk through this world differently than we do.

We need to let go and listen.

Just.

Listen.

I’m still listening. I’m still very much in the early stages of this journey. A few years ago, I realised I had grown up in a bubble, and racism to me was mostly a thing in the history books. When I heard of black people being shot by police, and my black friends crying injustice and tragedy, I silently thought that they were overreacting, because the police are always the good guys who always deserve the benefit of the doubt.

If only.

On Friday, I found myself once again in a conversation where all of these emotions and reactions came to a head, hurtful things were said, there was way more ranting and accusing than listening, and humility and compassion seemed a million miles away.

It broke my heart.

That afternoon I was folding laundry in my room when I broke down crying. I had so much frustration and grief that I didn’t know what to do with it.

Grief for Stephon Clark and the far too many who came before him.

Grief for my friends and family, the church, who seemed to have forgotten how to listen in love.

Grief for the relationships that have been strained, brother against brother and sister against sister, because of these issues.

Grief for America and the world, where I know there will never be true shalom until Jesus comes back.

Grief for myself, my own turmoil, my poor angry heart that had lost sight of peace and joy.

“Jesus, help me,” I cried. “I don’t even know what to do with my heart right now.”

In a moment of clarity and wisdom that I wish I had more often, I knew I needed to worship. I knew I needed to declare again that God does see and hear every injustice, and His heart breaks for it, and He will not be silent forever. I needed to rise above the mess and declare the fierce love and justice of King Jesus. I put on a youtube playlist that I created specifically for processing these kinds of emotions (many of the songs were suggestions from friends trying to work through the same things).

And then I danced. I danced every emotion I was having. I danced frustration, anger, fear…and I danced faith, confidence, and hope. I danced through that playlist until I could hardly breathe. Alone in my bedroom, I declared the bleeding love of God, the fire in His eyes, and His fierce promise to establish swift, perfect justice forever. As I danced, my body became a prophecy and a prayer and a weapon.

Jesus sees. He hears. He will not forget. He will make all the wrong things right. He will restore, and He will repay.

And in the meanwhile… what if we could just listen for a while? What if we could actually listen to the stories of our brothers and sisters of colour who have LIVED this reality for generations? Sometimes those stories come out with anger, true, but what if we could put aside our defensiveness for a while and actually try to hear their hearts? And then just say “Thank you for sharing your story” without listing off our reactions and objections? And what if we did that a hundred times before we opened our mouths to share our opinions?

This is the cry of my heart. This is what I believe christlike love looks like.

And if you’re like me, caught in the storm of emotion, feeling tangled and pulled and watching the world implode into chaos around you… slow down, breathe deep, and remember what is true. Proclaim it. Pray it, sing it, shout it, dance it. He will not forget justice.

But you do see, for you note mischief and vexation,
that you may take it into your hands;
to you the helpless commits himself;
you have been the helper of the fatherless.
Break the arm of the wicked and evildoer;
call his wickedness to account till you find none.

The LORD is king forever and ever;
the nations perish from his land.
O LORD, you hear the desire of the afflicted;
you will strengthen their heart; you will incline your ear
to do justice to the fatherless and the oppressed,
so that man who is of the earth may strike terror no more.

Psalm 10:14-18

~~~

Enjoy my Justice Worship playlist on Youtube.

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What I’m Reading: Growing as a Prophetic Singer

I’m a prophetic singer in the house of prayer, but it kind of happened by accident. I’ve had very little musical training, and when I first went to IHOPU it was not with the intention of being trained as a singer or worship leader. I had a few opportunities to sing on student teams (with other non-music students), and I had several excellent coaches who gave me some great encouragement and pointers, but it wasn’t until I became part of a smaller house of prayer in Texas and found myself leading worship with my meager skills 10+ hours a week that I started to take myself more seriously as a singer and worship leader. I still feel very green as a singer, and I need all the help and encouragement I can get!

Anna Blanc is one of the singers/worship leaders at IHOPKC I most respect and admire for her faithfulness and humility in singing in the prayer room for years and for her earnestness and Bible-centredness in pressing into God through her worship. Plus, she’s dang talented. Her song “Isaiah 42” (“You are the Lord, that is Your name/Your glory You will not give to another to be praised”) is one of my favourite anthems to declare the supremacy of Jesus in the context of His return.

We have Anna’s book, Growing as a Prophetic Singer, in our little library at The Prayer Room. I picked it up this week, thinking I probably would really benefit from learning from Anna.

Boy, was I right.

Anna’s book addresses the varied dimensions of anointing, excellence, and endurance that affect a prophetic singer. All three are vitally important. A person can be highly skilled without having that anointing from God that makes them a truly powerful prophetic singer, and a person can also be super anointed without pursuing excellence and the increase of skill at whatever level they may be. We don’t have to choose one or the other. God gives anointing, often in response to diligent seeking, and He also values excellence as an extravagant offering. And on top of these two components, it also takes endurance to persevere through the emotional roller coaster that is singing on worship teams for years–through promotion, demotion, and just plain mundaneness.

Here are a few of the key themes I was strengthened by in this book:

  • Stewardship over our gifting and calling involves growing in both anointing and excellence. As I said above, we need God to fill us with His Spirit, and we also need to continue growing in musical excellence.
  • God is glorified in our obedience and worship, even when we are weak. For the beginning singer (or the proficient singer on an off day!), God is still so delighted by our sacrifice of praise.
  • Singing to God alone in the secret place is so precious to Him. He LOVES hearing our songs when no one else is around! Those hidden times are often more powerful and transformative than worship experiences before a huge audience.
  • Both promotion and demotion bring unique challenges. When we’re promoted, we can easily become prideful. When we’re demoted, we can easily become offended (which also stems from pride). God strategically takes us through both to purify us.
  • Singing the Word anointed by the Spirit is POWERFUL. God moves so powerfully when we declare His truth in song. There’s really nothing like it.

I highly recommend this book to everyone who desires to touch the heart of God through singing, especially in a team context, and especially especially through prophetic worship in a house of prayer. (Really, a lot of it applies to anyone in ministry in general.)

It’s on our library shelf at The Prayer Room, so feel free to read it here at the base if you’re local, or you can pick it up on Amazon or IHOPKC.

BONUS — Anna has a number of videos on youtube sharing her heart as well as practical tips to grow as a singer, which can be found on this playlist linked here.

LIVE Worship Video from The Prayer Room – “Beautiful”

The past few months, there’s been a trend of worship leaders at The Prayer Room making a Facebook Live video as they play. I was super nervous at first, but I finally did a few myself. (If you’re my Facebook friend, feel free to look them up!) One day we hope to be able to stream all our prayer room hours on our website, but in the meantime, Facebook Live is a really fun way to share a glimpse into the atmosphere of prayer and worship we’re cultivating.

I’d like to share a video with you, but I need to tell you a little bit about it first.

This video has a special place in my heart because the song I’m playing, “Beautiful” by Sam Lane, was introduced to me by Ted Dekker. He used the chorus of it in his book Green, the fourth book released in the Circle Series. In this scene, the spiritual community called The Circle is ceremonially reenacting our “Great Wedding” with Elyon — God.

Six maidens in white faced Thomas and Chelise on their knees and sang the Great Wedding’s song. Their sweet, yearning voices filled the valley as they cried the refrain in melodic unison, faces bright with an eager desperation.

You are beautiful… so Beautiful… Beautiful… Beautiful…

…And in many ways they were all perfectly beautiful as Elyon was beautiful. Beautiful, Beautiful, Beautiful.

-Green, Ted Dekker, Thomas Nelson 2009

Shortly before Green was released in 2009, I attended a Ted Dekker fan event near Nashville at which Ted went all out to bring us into the world of his stories. He gave us an exclusive cd which included the original recording of the song (you can find it on youtube) as well as a message from himself describing his heart for Green and this song. In Ted’s own words:

“I have to say that this song has always exemplified the heart of the Circle Series, of God’s creation calling out to Him, ‘You are beautiful,’ but also God, Elyon, saying to his creation ‘You are beautiful’–the Lover and the Beloved crying to each other, singing to each other, ‘You are beautiful, beautiful, beautiful.’ When I first heard this song many years ago, you know, it brought me to tears. It was an incredible touching experience, where I thought, ‘This is what it’s really all about.’ In the end, everything distills down to this moment, this song, a song like this. And I knew I had to write about it…

“Really, at the heart of this whole series is this song, ‘You are beautiful, beautiful, beautiful.’… think of the people on the edge of the lake singing this song to Elyon over and over and over again… It’s all about this yearning that we have to be reunited once again–on the lake, on the shores of the lake, in the bowels of the lake, deep in the lake–to go back and be with God, with Elyon (in this story), in the same way we once were. It’s an irresistible calling to us. My hope and prayer is that this song would work its way into your spirit.”

-Ted Dekker, The Gathering 2009 cd

This is what it’s all about. This is actually my third time this week blogging about the beauty of Jesus, and I didn’t even plan it that way. The purpose of all existence is anchored in the beauty of Jesus. He is so deserving of all of our obsession and adoration, and this is our truest and deepest life’s calling–to sing this song to Him and to hear Him singing back to us. To love and to be loved.

In this recording, in between choruses of the song, I also started singing spontaneously some scriptural phrases from Song of Solomon and other passages about His beauty to us and our beauty to Him. Below you can listen to the song on Youtube (it’s unlisted, so you won’t find it if you try searching Youtube itself), and below that you can read the verses that I was singing from. (The song “Beautiful” in the video is only about the first 11 minutes, and the rest of the video segues into “Jesus, You’re Beautiful” by Jon Thurlow.)

“Let us know; let us press on to know the Lord; his going out is sure as the dawn; he will come to us as the showers, as the spring rains that water the earth.”
Hosea 6:3

The Lord your God is in your midst, a mighty one who will save; he will rejoice over you with gladness; he will quiet you by his love; he will exult over you with loud singing.”
Zephaniah 3:17

 

“Let me see your face, let me hear your voice, for your voice is sweet, and your face is lovely.”
Song of Solomon 2:14

“Behold, you are beautiful, my love; behold, you are beautiful; your eyes are doves.”
Song of Solomon 1:15, also 4:1

“Turn away your eyes from me, for they overwhelm me.”
Song of Solomon 6:5

“You are altogether beautiful, my love; there is no flaw in you… You have captivated my heart, my sister, my bride; you have captivated my heart with one glance of your eyes, with one jewel of your necklace.”
Song of Solomon 4:7, 9

 

You are fairer than the sons of men”
Psalm 45:2 NKJV

My beloved is white and ruddy, chief among ten thousand.”
Song of Solomon 5:10 NKJV

“In that day the branch of the Lord shall be beautiful and glorious,”
Isaiah 4:2

“Worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness.”
Psalm 29:2, also 69:9 NKJV

“There is none holy like the Lord: for there is none besides you;”
1 Samuel 2:2

“…so that you may know that there is no one like the Lord our God.”
Exodus 8:10

“The LORD is my light and my salvation;”
Psalm 27:1

“even the darkness is not dark to you; the night is bright as the day, for darkness is as light with you.”
Psalm 39:12