We're often a bit hesitant about poetry in Christian songs. If you're like me, our post-modern flavoured education has taught us that truth in art and poetry lies in our individual experience and what we choose to believe its saying. And so we've often steered away from the poetic and towards the concrete in our Christian songwriting - in fear that these precious and timeless truths we're trying to share might be obscured or misunderstood.
But this is not necessarily the case with poetry. Good poetry can actually help us perceive the truth that often lives "between the lines"*, and require us to place ourselves in the picture and apply it to our lives.
This is the gift of Caroline Cobb's album. Her lyric writing is clearly tethered to scriptural truths - you can always see the passages she's drawing from, and she shows a real concern to not just pop in scriptural references, but to convey the overall intent and meaning of the passages and books they come from. But at the same time, she does this with metaphors and word plays that require you to 'flesh out" the truth.
In telling the story of the two sons in Luke 15, she succinctly encapsulates the issue with both these sons with the phrase...
...and in doing so, invites - almost forces - us to see that same way that we so often treat our Father God.
Probably my favourite song is the opening track "There Is A Mountain". There's not much that is harder for our self-centred , fallen souls to grasp than the upside-down good news of the Kingdom of God. But by skilfully building scriptural image upon image, Cobb helps us ponder and yearn for this intangible reality.
While most of the songs don't immediately lend themselves towards congregational singing (an exception being "Emmanuel"...worth checking out for Christmas), I can see a really helpful place for many of them as items, and particularly in an outreach setting. When people are exploring the truths and claims of Christ, its often not the objective 'facts' of Christianity that are barriers or hurdles for them, but how these facts intersect with the played out reality of their lives. And so songs like "All Is Vanity" could really serve to draw people into this deeper, embodied contemplation of these truths.
* JKA Smith's recent talk at the Art House, Nashville really helpfully explores this concept.