The Gospel According to Kesha (Part 2)

Part 1 here

If you’re going to read something in the Bible, it helps to also know the background story. Who wrote it? Why was it written? What was going on in the surrounding culture at the time?

If you’re going to listen to Kesha’s new album, it helps to also know the background story. I don’t know all the details. To best understand why these songs were written, it helps to know what was going on in her life that led to this. There are lots of allegations and legal actions. But with the climate of our current culture and the systemic way that women are treated, we can assume what the truth is. You can read all the details here. To sum it up, she was in an abusive situation and contractually bound to be in it.

Out of that situation comes the song “Praying,” the fifth track from Rainbows:

Well, you almost had me fooled
Told me that I was nothing without you
Oh, but after everything you’ve done
I can thank you for how strong I have become

‘Cause you brought the flames and you put me through hell
I had to learn how to fight for myself
And we both know all the truth I could tell
I’ll just say this is “I wish you farewell”

I hope you’re somewhere prayin’, prayin’
I hope your soul is changin’, changin’
I hope you find your peace
Falling on your knees, prayin’

I’m proud of who I am
No more monsters, I can breathe again
And you said that I was done
Well, you were wrong and now the best is yet to come

‘Cause I can make it on my own
And I don’t need you, I found a strength I’ve never known
I’ll bring thunder, I’ll bring rain, oh
When I’m finished, they won’t even know your name

You brought the flames and you put me through hell
I had to learn how to fight for myself
And we both know all the truth I could tell
I’ll just say this is “I wish you farewell”

I hope you’re somewhere prayin’, prayin’
I hope your soul is changin’, changin’
I hope you find your peace
Falling on your knees, prayin’

Oh, sometimes, I pray for you at night
Someday, maybe you’ll see the light
Oh, some say, in life, you’re gonna get what you give
But some things only God can forgive

I hope you’re somewhere prayin’, prayin’
I hope your soul is changin’, changin’
I hope you find your peace
Falling on your knees, prayin’

Songwriters: Kesha Rose Sebert / Ben Abraham / Ryan Lewis / Andrew Joslyn
Praying lyrics © Warner/Chappell Music, Inc
(Photo by AugeeKim, Wikimedia Commons)

Lyrical Analysis

Prayer is not an unexplored metaphor in pop music. Bon Jovi was living on one and Madonna’s name was called like a little one. But what is prayer? Is it dead ritual? Is it recitation of ancient words handed down through the ages? Is it conversation with a deity?

We can think of prayer as many things, but it might be best understood as connectedness. When I’m being prayerful, I am aware of my connection to God and my connection to the people and things around me. Because of these connections I become opened to what God desires from me, and how I can serve the people and things around me.

Knowing Kesha’s story, the events that led to the composition of this lyric, we can assume they are directed at an antagonist. If prayer is really connectedness then why would you hope that your enemy is somewhere praying? That hardly sounds like revenge. Who wishes prayer, soul change, and peace on their enemies?

Jesus.

Don’t let this nugget of truth and justice slip away. This is not an insignificant detail. Perhaps one of the most Christo-centric lyrics to be produced in all the world in the last year, both within and without the church, just came from Kesha.

This lyric echoes the words of Jesus from the sermon on the mount: “You have heard that is was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be children of your Father in heaven; for he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the righteous and on the unrighteous.” (Matthew 5:43-45)

It should not be so surprising for such lyrics to come from pop music. Jesus regularly found a home among the disenfranchised, the social outcasts, and women falsely accused. Kesha says for herself that she neatly fits in all those categories. Kesha prays that her enemies find peace. So what do you pray for?

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Weekly Worship Thought – Every Table is An Altar

This is a new worship song I came across called, “Every Table is An Altar.”

If I were going to use this song, I might arrange it leaving the Bridge section out. An 11 minute ballad isn’t for every church. I think the song is lyrically strong enough without the Bridge. Especially if you use the Pre-Chorus in place of the building Bridge section.

The lyrics are striking. I’m drawn to them because they connect the tables of our everyday lives to Jesus’ radical table fellowship. They remind me of the sursum corda (“Lift up your hearts…Let us give thanks…”). They also recall the Emmaus Road story:

Verse 1:
Every table is an altar
Every breath is a gift from you
Every moment is a treasure
Every day is a kiss from you

Pre-Chorus:
So let our hearts
Be awake, be awake

Chorus:
Break the bread, pour the wine
Let our hearts, come alive
In your presence, in your presence
Let our fear, fall away
Let our faith, rise today
In your presence, in your presence
Jesus

Verse 2:
Every stranger has a story
Every story’s being told by you
We’re all children on a journey
Jesus only you can lead us through

Chord chart can be downloaded here.

Song Story – "Be A Blessing"

On Saturday, August 25 the Faith Alive! Band went on a one-day retreat. The Band spent the whole day at the Cenacle Retreat House in Houston. We spent time studying God’s word and listening to each other. We enjoyed a silent lunch (most of us enjoyed it) and explored the trails and hammocks at the Cenacle. We had conversations about what the goal of leading worship is. Those in attendance at the retreat were Alan Balius, Cathy Doughty, Tim Griffith, Kathy Patrick, and Jim Richman.

Songwriting was another activity I proposed for the Band to do while on retreat. Before beginning our attempt at songwriting, I told the Band to not get hung up on the outcome. Many songwriters work for years on perfecting a song. Sometimes the lyrics come easily, but not the melody, and vice versa. I also set some parameters on the type of song we would attempt to write. I wanted to write a sending song. The sending song is an important part of worship. It is the last thing we sing – a song that catapults us into the world carrying the message of God’s grace and mercy. I am always on the lookout for great sending songs for The Gathering service.

I also wanted our song to capture the vibe and spirit of Faith Lutheran Church. The motto, or mantra, that we use a lot is, “Be a Blessing.” That phrase sums up our commission as the people of God to love and serve our neighbors and the entire world.

We started by discussing some of the biblical images of being sent. Then we started to develop lyrical phrases. Next we paired the lyrical phrases together. Then we identified the paired phrases as sections of a song, such as verses, a bridge, and a chorus. Finally we developed a chord progression and a melody to fit the lyrics. An hour and a half later, this is the song we wrote! We have used it in worship several times and we have received several compliments on the song. Great job Faith Alive! Band. You can hear a demo of the song below:

Be A Blessing

Be a blessing, you have called us. Be a blessing, you have shown us.
Be a blessing, you have told us. Be a blessing, you have sent us. 

Send us to places where doubts prevail.
Help us remember your love won’t fail. 

Be a blessing, you have called us. Be a blessing, you have shown us.
Be a blessing, you have told us. Be a blessing, you have sent us.

 Send us with nothing; your grace is enough.
Help us proclaim your truth in love.

 Be a blessing, you have called us. Be a blessing, you have shown us.
Be a blessing, you have told us. Be a blessing, you have sent us.

 To heal, to help, to hold a hand.
To show your heart, to take a stand.

 Be a blessing, you have called us. Be a blessing, you have shown us.
Be a blessing, you have told us. Be a blessing, you have sent us.

 Be a blessing (we’ve been blessed), you have called us (we’ve been blessed).
Be a blessing (we’ve been blessed), you have sent us (we’ve been blessed).

Mystery – by Charlie Hall

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A69Hj3ISMSo

This is one of the most creative attempts at a worship music video I’ve seen in a while. The low-fi feel is perfect. Lyrics are:

Sweet Jesus Christ my sanity
Sweet Jesus Christ my clarity

Bread of heaven broken for me
Cup of salvation held up to drink
Jesus the Mystery

Christ has died and
Christ is risen
And Christ will come again

Download the chord chart here.

The text for this song comes from the Memorial Acclamation, which is said/sung during the Eucharist. The pastor/priest invites the assembly to “Proclaim the mystery of our faith.” It’s a wonderful, compact Christological statement that captures the heart of who Jesus is in bite-size form.

To be alone with me you went up on the tree

I’d swim across lake Michigan
I’d sell my shoes
I’d give my body to be back again
In the rest of the room

To be alone with you
To be alone with you
To be alone with you
To be alone with you

You gave your body to the lonely
They took your clothes
You gave up a wife and a family
You gave your ghost

To be alone with me
To be alone with me
To be alone with me
You went up on the tree

To be alone with me you went up on the tree

I’ll never know the man who loved me