January 23, 2006

poetry slam/prayer

Ah, downtown living. Tonight I went to a poetry slam at Voz Alta (10th and Broadway), and I absolutely loved it. There's something about spoken word, raw emotions, people alone on a stage talking about what matters most to them- that appeals to me. Gosh, I sound post-modern. The night started with the emcee talking about being an atheist. It seems he went to another poetry show dominated by Christians, and one said that they'd pray for him. He said some super hurt things that bore from deep scars, obviously beyond a "I'll pray for you". I think sometimes I get in this groove where I forget about what's around me, the culture, the hurt and I hum and pretend that everything's alright. But there's people just like this guy, with spiritual questions and longings raging inside of him so much that he needs to take 5 minutes of our time while he's on stage and rant. Rant, he did. I sat back in my chair, I wanted to be empathetic and just listen to his words, rathering than write him off. In the end, I heard one word loud and clear- EMPTINESS. I'll pray for him, but I'll never tell him I am.
I wrote down little excerpts from different people throughout the night (after each period is a different poet, and I put them together in order) Together they make an interesting piece...

Comfort is birth to complaceny. Started, continued, and finished this race. To make it out of here takes blood, sweat and mountains of stress. A closed mouth doesn't get food. Damaged goods, baggage, bondage- we just need to visit the laudromat. The lightswitch of one-night stands- I have one heart and you're not invited. Liquid truth spills through my heart and my pores. The sunset sky screams like a sore red tonsil. Happiness is a beautiful theif- it is the whole world agreeing on one thing- for the first time- knowing what's true and what's not. Can't escape this sense of matter. Overtime under the thumb of time- work is a foul and obscene gesture. But LOVE, there's a difference between a handshake and a hug- no one talks about love anymore.

The guy they wrote about love captivated the audience, and he won. He deserved to win, from what I gathered, he does all the time, all over the city. Instead of sitting back, I sat forward. He flowed, he paused, he gathered the crowd, and then brewed some more. If he was a cup of coffee, he'd be espresso roast, no cream, one packet of raw sugar. It seems that my first poetry slam has had a funny effect on me.

On a completely different topic, I had an interesting conversation with some girlfriends this weekend about prayer. We went to dinner together and whenever Christians dine, there's the look around the table to decide who will pray. Depending on the crowd, someone will either volunteer or get volunteered by another, which isn't a true volunteer at all. Usually, that person shoots up a prayer thanking God for the food before them and the classic "hands that prepared it". Then the person praying says Amen and the rest follow with a nod and Amen, which means 'to agree'. But do we? Are we really thankful for the food before us? Or would we trace our thankfulness to our 25 hr/week job that let's us afford the meal? Or, for some, the parents that transfer money into the bank account every month? And the 'hands that prepared it'? If this is true, America is grateful above all else, for the restrauant chefs across the country. Do they feel appreciated? Have we told the guy or girl walking through the restaurant with the tall white hat and white buttoned smock (it's hard to miss them) just how grateful we are? They should know if most Americans talk about it with God every night.
Without over-generalizing, I would say that the average American doesn't pray regularly outside of 'grace'. I was raised with 'grace' and it was a memorized, rhythmic, recitation that we had to say before our fork was raised from the napkin. "Bless us, oh Lord, for these thy gifts which we are about to receive from thy bounty through Christ, our Lord. (Pause, long breath. Break into the AA prayer, because my grandfather was a recovered alcoholic) God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference. Amen." I said that same prayer for 19 years, every night with my family and I never thought about it. Even before I was a Christian, and prayed before 5pm with my hand on a fork, I loved when I went to a friends house and it was freestyle. There was something relational about it that made me wonder if God was relational.. and maybe, just maybe he was sick of me saying the same thing every night. Maybe he wanted me to just talk to him?
So this group of young ladies (cori, jen, misty and i) wondered aloud about prayer. We asked 'would it be unbiblical to pray after a meal? Could we pray once for all the meals for the rest of our lives, and then spend the rest of our life praying for something else? Would that be ok with an eternal God? Could we just, right then, pray for all the dinners until we're 87 (for some reason that's always the old age I pick for myself)? We drifted off the subject and began talking about other things. Jen talked about India and the poverty there, Cori talked about ministry around the world, Misty talked about Australia and encouraged me with China teaching. We talked about my father and his accumulation of possessions, only to leave a will to pass them on- and how we wanted to spend our lives. I love that we're so idealistic when we're together. At the end of all that, I suggested that instead of praying nightly for the actual food before dinner, we pray for a nation. There are children in Uganda captured in the middle of the night by militants and brainwashed for guerilla warfare... and I'm praying to Jesus that I'm so thankful for my Mexican food? There's teenagers in New Zealand with the highest suicide rate in the world because they have no hope. There's people in China that have never once heard the name of Jesus. Our hope in this idea was not that it would be an appetite-loser, but instead bring a broader worldview and, indeed a true petition and voice of thankfulness. If there comes a day when I can honestly say that I'm thankful for the food before me and the hands that prepared it, then I'll pray that. But I don't want to pray and talk to the Creator of the Universe and say 'Thanks for the spaghetti' when I don't really mean it. I prayed for Cambodia tonight.

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