Ashes to Ashes, Birth to Freedom and Liberation Songs

Mists and Lemonade

You must have been living under a rock if your weekend was not peppered in some way with the announcement of the death of the musical legend and artist known as Prince. Shortly after this announcement, his body was autopsied, returned to his family, cremated, and an intimate ceremony was held for his close family members and friends.

Just like that we are all quickly called to ponder a profound question with a simple truth:

What is your life?

You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes.

Within a couple days of this announcement some were visually, spiritually, emotionally, artistically, physically awakened again with the dropping of Beyonce’ new album, Lemonade. I do not consider myself a fan, nor am I a card carrying member of the Beehive. Yet, as an African American woman who has navigated a life of suffering, healing, love, and forgiveness in this mortal body, I found myself renewed, awakened, refreshed as I watched transitions of the visual album take place.

The short scenes follow the themes of intuition, denial, anger, apathy, emptiness, accountability, and reformation. Several times, I caught myself taking slow and steady exhales out loud. I could breathe again. It was a celebration of life after death of the unexpected.

A stand out for me was the track titled, “Freedom” featuring Kendrick Lamar. Over a heavy drum beat and bluesy guitar, Beyoncé belts out the lyrics:

Freedom! Freedom! I can’t move.
Freedom, cut my loose!
Singin’, freedom! Freedom! Where are you?
Cause I need freedom too!

Freedom Photo

And I sit to ponder the shifts that are taking place in our own country and in our world. The past couple weeks have been filled with days of words, intimate conversations, internal wrestling, and the desperate need for a truth that liberates…a truth that does not constrain or choke the life out of an already starving people.

Tension and Wholeness

I recently attended a writing workshop titled, “Writing Whole: Making Peace with the True You” where a dear friend briefly shared about her dark night of the soul. To her, God was completely silent for a period of three years. When he began to speak again, it was through liberating songs of artists like Carlos Santana (that she was not “supposed” to listen to as a Christian). The truth is, there are image bearers of God, some who know Jesus intimately and others who don’t, who are being used by Him to offer up songs of liberation for people who are holding on for dear life.

The world is changing and the earth is shifting below our feet. We know that all sin and fall short of the glory of God. We see the results of this sin in the broken relationship that so many have with our creator, God. We also see this sin in the broken relationships between human beings—all the ways that we hate, oppress, use and abuse, slander, disrespect, offend, dishonor, lie about, cheat, capitalize on and steal from each other.

But we often forget that our sins also impact the earth. The Apostle Paul writes that

The whole creation has been groaning in labor pains until now; and not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly while we wait for adoption, the redemption of our bodies (Romans 8:21-23).

This is the holy tension in which we live…that we have already been adopted into God’s family through Christ, and we wait for the adoption of the new heaven and new earth where there will be no more pain, suffering, or sorrow. We have already been redeemed by the blood of the Lamb, and we wait for the redemption of our glorious bodies that will not yield to sickness, death, or decay.

It is true that we have already seen the glory of God, and that glory has been revealed to us through Christ. Yet, we seek and patiently wait for a future glory where “creation itself will be set free from its bondage to decay and will obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God (Rom. 8:21).” As we linger in this “now but not yet” reality of spiritual and physical life and death, we need lyrics of truth, resurrection chants, and liberation songs which remind us that God has not left us alone in this world; his kingdom is on the move. We need lyrics of truth, resurrection & liberation reminding us God's kingdom is on the move. Click To Tweet

Movement Music

I know many are calling for more songs of lament, but people of color; Black people, women, the impoverished and marginalized in particular have been singing dirges and ditties, slave songs and old negro spirituals for a mighty, mighty long time. If we want to walk in the new light of day and if we want to stand in solidarity, we also need more liberation songs that remind us of God’s kingdom movement. For I believe the great advocate, artist, and elder Harry Belafonte when he said, “When the movement is strong, the music is song.” The music is coming back strong again!

Lecrae’s Freedom track reminds us that:

Freedom isn’t free, but I still, I still believe
In my freedom so my mind can see.
Please let me be free.
Please let me be free.

The young acoustic soul singer, Andra Day, channels the truth and power of Maya Angelou’s “Still I Rise” in her modern classic, “Rise Up.”

I’ll rise up
I’ll rise like the day
I’ll rise up
I’ll rise unafraid
I’ll rise up and I’ll do it a thousand times again.
And I’ll rise up
High like the waves
I’ll rise up
In spite of the ache
I’ll rise up
And I’ll do it a thousand times again
For you

“When the movement is strong, the music is song.” Harry Belafonte Click To Tweet

As people of God, we must bring Jesus and the power of the Holy Spirit to bear on all the dark nights; wilderness moments; spiritual, emotional, and internal wars that beat us down in this life or there is no hope for us. “When the movement is strong, the music is strong.” And I’ll take it a step further to say, “When the movement is strong,” the art is strong, the dance is strong, the teaching is strong, the protection is strong, the women and men are strong together so the community is strong. When the movement is strong, the people of God must declare boldly that:

Jesus came to proclaim good news to the poor, freedom for prisoners, sight for the blind, a release of the oppressed, and to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.

Nothing can separate us from the love of this God that is revealed to and present with us in Christ Jesus—not death, not life.

Those who the Son set free are free indeed.

Now is the time of the Lord’s favor. He is the one who bestows beauty for ashes, gladness instead of mourning, a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair.

This is the message of Jesus, the great liberator, the anointed one, the coming King. He is the one who has ushered in a kingdom movement that will not fail!

As we approach #PrayMay15 for Pentecost, I say call the prophets and the poets, get the artists on deck! Write out, sing, play, and give us visuals that talk about this freedom. Give us liberation songs so our young people have a reason to hope and dance, so old women can wail with their tambourines, so we can lift our hands in total adoration and cry out together, “Hallelujah” and “Hosanna.” Jesus saves. Jesus saves.

“Behold, I am coming soon! My reward is with me, and I will give to everyone according to what he has done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End…I, Jesus, have sent my angel to give you this testimony for the churches I am the Root and the offspring of David, and the bright and Morning Star.” The Spirit and the Bride say, “Come!” And let him who hears say, “Come!” Whoever is thirsty, let him come; and whoever wishes, let him take the free gift of the water of life (Rev. 22:12-13, 16-17).”

We live in and long for this newest of life. We welcome you. Come, Lord Jesus. It’s freedom time now. It’s freedom time! Give us liberation songs so people have a reason to hope & dance. Click To Tweet

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