This is America

Warning: this video may be disturbing to viewers… because it’s supposed to be!

In this month to consider the place of violence in our times, “This is America” is an assaulting song/video; it is bizarre and disorienting; it is a prophetic word about the times in which we live.

CNN reported:

“Donald Glover’s musical alter ego, Childish Gambino debuted the song “This Is America” [first weekend of May 2018] and everyone is still busy tossing around theories about it.”

Rolling Stone reported:

“The video, helmed by Atlanta director Hiro Murai, is a surreal, visceral statement about gun violence in America as Glover alternates between gleefully dancing and remorselessly unloading firearms at unsuspecting victims over a series of unflinching long shots.”

Billboard reported:

“In the four-minute clip, Gambino goes from dance meditations to murder in the blink of an eye — and that’s the point. What starts with the actor/musician grooving along to the beat of an acoustic guitar player sitting nearby turns into an instantly murderous moment, as Gambino picks up a gun and shoots the man, now hooded, in the back of a head 53 seconds into the video.

The first words out of his mouth? “This is America. Don’t catch you slippin’ up.”

From there, Gambino’s joined by dancing school kids and a gospel choir, who sing until Gambino mows them down with what appears to be a semi-automatic rifle. The refrain continues, as cop cars enter the frame and chaos unfolds around him and the dancers: “This is America / Don’t catch you slippin’ up / Look how I’m livin’ now / Police be trippin’ now / Yeah, this is America / Guns in my area (word, my area) / I got the strap / I gotta carry ’em.”

To see all the lyrics go to “This is America” by Childish Gambino.


What is your response?

What does your prayer sound like – look like in light of this?

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Awakening in the World

A Blessing: Awakening in the World

by John O’Donohue

Blessed be the longing that brought you here and that quickens your soul with wonder.

May you have the courage to befriend your eternal longing.

May you enjoy the critical and creative companionship of the question “Who Am I?” and may it brighten your longing.

May a secret Providence guide your thought and shelter your feeling.

May your mind inhabit your life with the same sureness with which your body belongs to the world.

May the sense of something absent enlarge your life.

May your soul be as free as the every-new waves of the sea.

May you succumb to the danger of growth.

May you live in the neighbourhood of wonder.

May you belong to love with the wildness of Dance.

May you know that you are ever embraced in the kind circle of God.


In John O’Donohue’s book, “Eternal Echoes, Celtic Reflections on our Yearning to Belong“, he says in a Celtic dialect of Ireland, when someone asks a child who he is, he says “To whom do you belong?” The Longing to Belong speaks to some eternal echo, as O’Donohue writes:

The human heart is a theatre of longing. One of our deepest longings is to find love and friendship.

Our first journey was the journey to the earth and we are still travelling… there is no other way into the universe except through the body of a woman.

[We come as children]: the child lives in the neighbourhood of wonder where innocence keeps mystery playful. Each new event and encounter is all-absorbing… the child lives in the house of discovery.


May you discover the One to whom you belong.

May we discover those with whom we belong.

For more see: “The Greatest Gift of my Friendship.”

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Just a Shot Away

Gimme Shelter

Oh, a storm is threat’ning
My very life today
If I don’t get some shelter
Oh yeah, I’m gonna fade away

War, children, it’s just a shot away
It’s just a shot away
War, children, it’s just a shot away
It’s just a shot away

Ooh, see the fire is sweepin’
Our very street today
Burns like a red coal carpet
Mad bull lost its way

War, children, it’s just a shot away
It’s just a shot away
War, children, it’s just a shot away
It’s just a shot away

Rape, murder!
It’s just a shot away
It’s just a shot away

Rape, murder yeah!
It’s just a shot away
It’s just a shot away

Rape, murder!
It’s just a shot away
It’s just a shot away yea

The floods is threat’ning
My very life today
Gimme, gimme shelter
Or I’m gonna fade away

War, children, it’s just a shot away
It’s just a shot away
It’s just a shot away
It’s just a shot away
It’s just a shot away

I tell you love, sister, it’s just a kiss away
It’s just a kiss away
It’s just a kiss away
It’s just a kiss away
It’s just a kiss away
Kiss away, kiss away

Songwriters: Keith Richards / Mick Jagger
Gimme Shelter lyrics © Abkco Music, Inc

Consider the place of violence in our times:

“… a storm is threat’ning my very life today
If I don’t get some shelter  Oh yeah, I’m gonna fade away…

War, children, it’s just a shot away… it’s just a shot away.”

Here is an example of a prophetic word cried out into the bleakness of our day. But Jagger and Richards don’t know from whom or in whom to take shelter; they merely cry out “gimme shelter” (sic).

The Psalmist sings:

Whoever dwells in the shelter of the Most High
    will rest in the shadow of the Almighty.
 I will say of the Lord, “He is my refuge and my fortress,
    my God, in whom I trust.


Gimme Shelter” is the opening track to the 1969 album Let It Bleed by the Rolling Stones.  Greil Marcus, writing in Rolling Stone magazine at the time of its release, praised the song, stating that the band has “never done anything better.”

Of Let It Bleed’s bleak world view, Jagger said in a 1995 interview with Rolling Stone magazine:

Well, it’s a very rough, very violent era. The Vietnam War. Violence on the screens, pillage and burning. And Vietnam was not war as we knew it in the conventional sense. The thing about Vietnam was that it wasn’t like World War II, and it wasn’t like Korea, and it wasn’t like the Gulf War. It was a real nasty war, and people didn’t like it. People objected, and people didn’t want to fight it … That’s a kind of end-of-the-world song, really. It’s apocalypse; the whole record’s like that.

From Wikipedia

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What about us?

Listening for the currents of popular culture that serve as a prophetic word about the times in which we live, “What about us?” performed by P!nk, is a prayerful lament. Though the specific meaning behind this song is unclear, this is an example where the authors may have had different ideas about whom they address the haunting question.

More and more are songs like this making it to the fore in a world that has either forgotten God, or has been profoundly disappointed to not find Him on the broad way of destruction:

What About Us?

We are searchlights, we can see in the dark
We are rockets, pointed up at the stars
We are billions of beautiful hearts
And you sold us down the river too far

What about us?
What about all the times you said you had the answers?
What about us?
What about all the broken happy ever afters?
What about us?
What about all the plans that ended in disaster?
What about love? What about trust?
What about us?

We are problems that want to be solved
We are children that need to be loved
We were willin’, we came when you called
But man, you fooled us, enough is enough, oh

What about us?
What about all the times you said you had the answers?
What about us?
What about all the broken happy ever afters?
Oh, what about us?
What about all the plans that ended in disaster?
Oh, what about love? What about trust?
What about us?

Oh, what about us?
What about all the plans that ended in disaster?
What about love? What about trust?
What about us?

Sticks and stones, they may break these bones
But then I’ll be ready, are you ready?
It’s the start of us, waking up come on
Are you ready? I’ll be ready
I don’t want control, I want to let go
Are you ready? I’ll be ready
‘Cause now it’s time to let them know
We are ready, what about us?

What about us?
What about all the times you said you had the answers?
So what about us?
What about all the broken happy ever afters?
Oh, what about us?
What about all the plans that ended in disaster?
Oh, what about love? What about trust?
What about us?

What about us?
What about us?
What about us?
What about us?
What about us?
What about us?

Written by Alecia B. Moore, John Mcdaid, Steve Mac • Copyright © Universal Music Publishing Group. “What About Us” is the first single from P!nk’s seventh studio album Beautiful Trauma. The song was released on August 10th 2017.

This contemporary song carries a lingering theme of W.B. Yeats’ “The Circus Animals’ Desertion” circa 1937.


Here is an excerpt from the Billboard interview with one of the song collaborators, Johnny Mcdaid. Though he wouldn’t discuss the specific meaning behind the song, he described the “alchemy” behind its creation and explained to Billboard that the message was very much something that “revealed” itself over the collaborator’s time in the studio together.

McDaid: I have a thing that every songwriting session that I go into, it’s such a sacred space and I don’t ever think about what a song is for. It’s really just about allowing it to happen and be whatever it decides to be. It tells you, or tells the people that are there what it should be. If you go in with a kind of prescriptive attitude of, you know, ‘This is going to be or should be a single,’ then I think you probably limit its potential.

Do you have any other songs on the album?

This is the only one from the sessions that made it onto the album, but we wrote some other songs a few days prior to that, which I thought were really, really great and certainly the process was really important. Often that is the case, where no song that you write is a mistake and no song that you write isn’t important, because it alters everything you do after it…. So for me the fact that the other songs aren’t on the record, they were still important to have written, because we wouldn’t have gotten to ‘What About Us’ if we hadn’t written the ones before it.

So when you guys first getting together are you sharing influences, things you’re into, or is it just kind of understood you get in there and get to work?

The best kind of writing collaborations that I’ve done are always conversations that lead to a song. Bob Dylan once said that the song is in the room, when you walk in there, you just have to find it. You just have to put a butterfly net into the sky and pull down whatever comes and look at it and say, is this what I want to say? And I think this was very much one of those sessions. Alecia’s got so much to say and she says it really profoundly. So really it becomes a case of shepherding home whatever message reveals itself in the room. So we of course shared influences and a lot of stories and anecdotes and we talk about family and we talk about friends and we talk about our lives and then, out of that, comes an idea — it was already in her, it just needed to be revealed.

What can you tell me about those conversations that led to the song, or the meaning behind it? 

Explaining what a song is about is kind of a dangerous thing for me, because it takes away the possibility of a song becoming whatever it is to somebody that listens to it. From my perspective the creation of it is about looking into yourself, interacting. It’s like alchemy, you know, you interact with the person there in the room and you — these things, these ideas come out and what the ideas are for Alecia are probably different to even the person hearing it. And that’s the beauty of her, she really allows people to receive her music the way they do. She doesn’t take it personally. Whatever way they react to it, she has a very secure sense of self and writing with someone like that is a real joy…. Alecia doesn’t hold back. Her heart is so open, her heart is giant and it makes our life as collaborators not just easier, but really joyous.

And sometimes when you’re writing a song you don’t know what it’s about until it tells you. Often I’m involved in a songwriting session where I come away from it and I listen to it later and I think, ‘Wow, that was actually what was being said?’ Because I’m receiving it in a different context from where it was created.

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These are the Days of Miracle and Wonder

alexiafoundation.org

Boy in the Bubble, by Paul Simon

It was a slow day
And the sun was beating
On the soldiers by the side of the road
There was a bright light
A shattering of shop windows
The bomb in the baby carriage
Was wired to the radio

These are the days of miracle and wonder
This is the long distance call
The way the camera follows us in slo-mo
The way we look to us all

The way we look to a distant constellation
That’s dying in a corner of the sky
These are the days of miracle and wonder
And don’t cry baby, don’t cry
Don’t cry

It was a dry wind
And it swept across the desert
And it curled into the circle of birth
And the dead sand
Falling on the children
The mothers and the fathers
And the automatic earth

These are the days of miracle and wonder
This is the long distance call
The way the camera follows us in slo-mo
The way we look to us all, oh yeah

The way we look to a distant constellation
That’s dying in a corner of the sky
These are the days of miracle and wonder
And don’t cry baby, don’t cry
Don’t cry

It’s a turn-around jump shot
It’s everybody jump start
It’s every generation throws a hero up the pop charts
Medicine is magical and magical is art
The boy in the bubble
And the baby with the baboon heart

And I believe
These are the days of lasers in the jungle
Lasers in the jungle somewhere
Staccato signals of constant information
A loose affiliation of millionaires
And billionaires and baby

These are the days of miracle and wonder
This is the long distance call
The way the camera follows us in slo-mo
The way we look to us all, oh yeah

The way we look to a distant constellation
That’s dying in a corner of the sky
These are the days of miracle and wonder
And don’t cry baby, don’t cry
Don’t cry, don’t cry

These are the days of Miracle and Wonder

…these are the days violence & terror; of evasion & ignorance; of self-protection &  pre-emptive strikes – but today “let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful.”

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I am because we are

Ubuntu Image from Gravity

i am because we are

by Elisabeth Barahona (article from Gravity).

“Marriage is a mysterious journey of learning how to consent to God in order to learn how to say “yes” to one’s spouse.  It is a delicate interdependence of honoring both the I and the we in this journey towards marital togetherness.  Archbishop Desmond Tutu provides a powerful framework called Ubuntu that encapsulates how the individual and the community cannot be divorced.  In short, Ubuntu is “I am because we are.” 

The difficulty of marriage cannot be underestimated.  The first years of our marriage forced us to examine painful and ugly parts of ourselves.  We decided that one thing we would always strive for is to be honest with ourselves first prior to compromising on a given issue. Ten years in, we are still figuring out how to live into that.  We have learned that when we begin to feel anger or resentment towards each other, it is a sign that our individual voices have already been muted.  We have to spend time hearing our own voice before we can offer it to anyone else.  That is our individual responsibility; no one can do this for us.  I am learning that there is room for the Ubuntu phrase to also become inverted, We are only if I am.

How can we honor the I in we?  Contemplative Christian practices offer us a model.  These practices (centering prayer, breath prayer, lectio divina) teach us to listen instead of talk.  Prayer becomes communion, rather than just one-way communication.  Submitting ourselves to this Divine presence requires us to show up and to consent to God’s movement.  I am not in charge.  I am not in control.  I am not the one changing or illuminating.  Although a limited analogy, it is as if I am a cell phone showing up to be connected to the power source.  I am doing the work of showing up to prayer, but I relinquish the power and control to the one who is doing the charging.  I am showing up to wait on the Lord to illuminate and change me.

When we wait on the Lord to show up to us, we encounter a God that has always offered this remarkable story of Love.  Contemplative prayer allows us to cultivate the tools through silence, solitude and stillness to tune into the Divine. This invitation has always been extended, we are just learning to accept the invitation.  This invitation is not new, it’s just newly available to us because we are learning to finally listen.  Learning to listen to God’s voice is, in fact, learning how to listen to our own voice.  And listening to our own voice is learning to listen to God’s voice.  I am because we are.  We are because I am.  When our vertical relationship with God is strengthened, our horizontal relationship in marriage is equally strengthened.

Contemplative practices are offering me a model for communion with God that first allows me to find my own voice in this Divine story of Love.  I cannot know my voice apart from God’s.  Our job is to show up.  God’s job is to do the rest. Then, only then, can we truly show up to our marriage with our voice that is now grounded in the I and the Divine we.  We have expanded the circle of love into three way communion.

I am because we are.  We are because I am.  Marriage is a mysterious journey of consenting to the Divine first, which in turn fuels the “yes” to our marital union. Marriage is a painful and amazing process of learning to expand our internal and external circles of love.  Expand the circle from I to we.  We were never meant to do this life alone.  It teaches us about the fullness of what love can be.  The circle is much bigger than we can imagine.”


fb_img_1486760090966-187x300 Elisabeth Barahona considers herself rich because she has the privilege of sharing her life with her amazing husband and three children. Professionally, she is a Licensed clinical social worker at Maple City Health Care Center in Goshen, IN. She is an artist, beauty-seeker, life-learner, justice-pursuer and ever on a quest for her soul.

This piece originally appeared on Menno Snapshots, the official blog for Mennonite Church USA


For more, see Ubuntu.

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When Prayer can be Itself

My daughter holding her mother’s finger while breastfeeding. Grasping without fully understanding. Photographed by R.H. Foerger, 1985.

When Prayer can be Itself, by Karl Rahner

Prayer can be itself only when it is understood as the last moment of speech before the silence,

as the act of self-disposal just before the incomprehensibility of God disposes of one,

as the reflexion immediately preceding the act of letting oneself fall after the last of one’s own efforts and full of trust,

into the infinite Wholeness which reflexion can never grasp.

To this Susan Phillips writes, “One falls, trustingly, beyond what can be expressed in speech… It’s a submission and immersion in grace, even when one’s life circumstances are distracting or painful.” (Candlelight)

Perhaps this is another reason why prayer is difficult; another reason why one might not pray. If prayer is best understood at the last moment of “self-disposal” – who can venture courageously to do that? Who has the trust to face the incomprehensibility of God?

In an earlier post I wrote:

And the beauty of it all is
     The endless loops of wonder
     The dendritic pathways of discovery
     The labyrinthine journeys of joy
     All found in You, from You, with You…

We are beckoned to be one with the infinite Wholeness and Holiness of God – who’s glory we cannot grasp, or in grasping, we hold only “fistfuls of grace.”

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