There was a woman living in the apartment building across the street from me who, beginning early every Sunday morning and ending around 4 in the afternoon, would play a continuous catalog of classic gospel tunes on her record player.
Notice I said record player, so you know I mean classic; you might hear the Staple Singers, the Mighty Clouds of Joy and the Dixie Hummingbirds, or maybe even some early Sam Cooke, a bunch of good stuff.
Sometimes you’d hear the same songs more than once in the afternoon but that was OK. And every now and then, it seemed she’d get a bit moved and you’d hear her singing ever so softly along with the records, clapping her hands to the beat, holding church right there in her living room.
It was infectious. Pretty soon, a neighbor down the block started getting his praise on with his own particular mix of early and more contemporary gospel artists. He brought Mary, Mary, Kirk Franklin and others to the table. It was during early summer, so it was a time of open windows when the sound of music coming from a neighbor’s home could travel along the breezes from one house to another. And like I said, it was infectious.
Other neighbors began doing the same; not all with the same regularity as the neighborhood’s original Sunday morning DJ nor with the same level of volume, but they did seek their own version of Sabbath musical entertainment. Language barriers were broken, age limits were defied and musical genres were crossed.
I guess that’s what’s meant when they talk about “getting your praise on”. I remember the first time I heard the expression. Coming from an old Baptist and Catholic upbringing, I immediately thought, there they go, blaspheming. Little did I know I was doing the same thing, and had been for quite some time.
That’s because praise is both a universal and personal thing and can be found in some of the damnedest places. Praise can be contemporary as well as old-fashioned. Praise is heavy metal. It’s the blues, with or without rhythm and rock, with or without the roll. Praise is jazz, Latin or folk and comes in many different languages. Most of all, praise doesn’t have to come on Sundays, alone.
So as you turn Mahavishnu up loudly, listen to the words of Eternity’s Breath, part 1 and 2 and realize what they’re saying, who they’re talking to and what they’re talking about. Try to seize on the prayer that exists in music. And don’t be surprised to find out that while you were diddybopping along, you were also giving thanks, or exalting His name or just expressing joy for being able to draw a lasting breath.
It may not be a Sunday but that’s cool too.
Mahavishnu Orchestra, Visions of the Emerald Beyond, a musical video by Bryan Trannin was downloaded from YouTube. You can see his other videos here.
Additional music: John Scofield, from the album Piety Street
“Lord God, Supreme, Supreme
Let me fulfill thy will”