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  • Malisa Payne

All the Words, Speak Them

“All the words; words of love, forgiveness, encouragement-- words of frustration, angry words - HABLARLOS, SPEAK THEM!” - Lila Downs

I was in a packed concert hall when I heard these words expressed with love from the mouth of world renowned singer, Lila Downs.

This sentence which echoed through the hall with power had my heart answering, “yes”. This is what is needed to bring understanding, unity, and intimacy today.

The Bible tells in Cor 3:18, “And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord's glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.”

What I understand from these words of truth is that we must be honest and exposed to transform with ever-increasing glory in the Lord as individuals and as a church.

Lila Downs is a Mexican-American singer and poet. She has a rare ability of expressing difficult, raw, truth with a genuine compassion for everyone. She sang of unity and generosity of spirit. She spoke of peace and respect. She points to the suffering of the vulnerable with hope and expectation.

How can people even begin to come together if we don’t know anything about one another? It begins with these honest conversations; or in this case a soulful serenade. It starts with real interest. Communities are fueled by effort to love one another. In order to love one another, we must know one another.

Lila Downs continued, “I believe that all the tension we are experiencing in our country today is an opportunity for us to get to know each other better.”

“Yes,“ again.

I know that God uses everything to reveal his heart to us. We have been stirred and shaken; now it’s time to look. What are we learning about each other and the Father?

I can tell you what I have learned.

I’ve always been a little different because of my race, not much different, just slightly different. I have received a lot of positive attention from being born on an exotic Caribbean island. Not every person that is “different” receives the same kind of enthusiastic interest from others.

We have a long way to go before we, as a nation, are educated about, intrigued, appreciative, and begin celebrating the cultures of people groups that we have been in conflict with. I know now that many citizens of this country avoid learning about challenging historic facts of the U.S. and this practice diminishes the possibilities of awareness and interest in the people groups affected by these negative past (and current) experiences.

The Bible tells us in Rom 8:1, “Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.”

So let us live by this truth as a new people prepared to know and love one another.

I now have a more complete understanding of the truth that we are all “different”. We each have an ethnic identity that was created by God and is good. We should all be exploring and sharing these wonderful identities.

While exploring my own personal ethnic identity I’ve found that my people, Latin Americans, are not considered to be part of any one race. We are a combination of three races; Native American, African, and European. This has been a fascinating realization for me that has led me and my family to open new chapters about who we are and all that is worth celebrating.

Lila Downs pointedly spoke this truth at the concert my husband and I were attending. She said, “We are Hispanic, we are a blend of races – Native American, African, and European.” Then she beautifully belted out a song by African American, Nina Simone and my heart said yes again.

She also sang of Mexican-American history, which is the history of my son Ari.

She talked about the work from the hands of her people, and the many invitations that have been extended to her country for workers to come to the U.S., particularly in the 1920s and subsequent years. She spoke of her love for the United States and her sorrows. She spoke of hope and dignity.

It was a real treat to listen to Lila Downs. She performed many songs about joy, celebration, suffering, and loss. She is famous for her expression through words but also for her range. Listening to her in the hall you hear the lowest of notes get released into the auditorium to be followed by perfect high pitches.

It is a remarkable experience to hear her beautiful performance and to take in her exposed heart. I was inspired to live a life of honest love. I look forward to all God is doing in my life and the world through transformation that begins with unveiled contemplation.

We do have an opportunity to know each other better, unveiled.


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