What’s your playlist have to say?
A dear friend dropped a lovely gift on my doorstep last week for my 39th (Yes. Thirty. Ninth.) birthday. Two of its thoughtful contents included a brand new sketchbook with perforated, thick blank pages and a pack of colorful, double-sided doodle pens. On Friday of last week, I was able to break both of them open and begin journaling. Within minutes, I had crafted a simple prompt and I began sharing it widely – with family members, friends, colleagues and mentors. It simply listed three song titles, a key verse, and the artist for each. The question that connected all three is this: what’s your playlist saying about you right now? More specifically, what three songs are you listening to on repeat and what message from them speaks to you right now?
As I pored over mine, I realized there’s a certain level of “skress” as the urban dictionary names it – a state of emotional or mental strain brought on by demanding or adverse circumstances – and so the songs I selected encourage me to “calm down,” “keep smiling” and look for “the bright side somewhere.” It’s as if these things weren’t readily visible to me. And sometimes – pandemic, wildfires, racial unrest, election season, extended family woe – they aren’t.
I not only learned from my own reflection on this question, but also took delight in the observations of others. For example, a clergy friend was listening to songs about war, but saw comparisons to some of the struggles in church life. Other friends introduced me to artists I didn’t know already, and still others reminded me to revisit the powerful vocals of Nina Simone and Stevie Nicks of Fleetwood Mac. I got a good chuckle out of watching the music video for David Crowder’s “Run Devil Run” featuring a high speed car chase between two vehicles, one being The Enemy himself.
Since my initial journaling session, I’ve crafted other doodles – grocery lists and Bible study notes – but that first exercise was poignant, and I was touched by how many friends played this game with me. It helped me feel connected to those I love and admire – even as life seems disconnected, polarized, and fragmented. I know that there are things I say and do that further entrench me to my side or beliefs, but as a gal with a connecting personality, my preference is to do the opposite – to find the common ground, to speak deeply on things of the heart, mining our ordinary lives for meaning. There’s a lightness to this exercise, despite increasingly heavy times.
Recently I revisited Paul’s Letter to Colossae, and in Colossians 2, I was reminded of the invitation to dwell in God’s light; to trust that even though the Divine remains mysterious, I am not in charge of brokering that mystery. I am, however, through my baptism and redemption, invited to be filled by Christ; to receive the fullness of his spirit, grace, and forgiveness. I’m happy to say my playlist is in flux – toward the start of COVID quarantine I was processing my uncertainty with noisy rock and headbanging. Now, I’m just breathing deeply, and trying to remind myself, in the words of Alanis Morissette to “keep on smiling, keep on moving, can’t stand still.”
How about you? What’s your playlist say?
-Kendra Thompson, pastor of children and family life