Sep 6, 2013

"Atlas" by Coldplay

Today, Coldplay released "Atlas," a beautiful song for the soundtrack to The Hunger Games: Catching Fire that carries a very deep spiritual message (pun intended). While I'm sure the song is in reference to Atlas, a god of Greek mythology who was believed to be carrying the world on his shoulders and the movie will place the song in its proper context, consider the lyrics from the perspective of the gospel:

Some saw the sun
Some saw the smoke
^ This may be in reference to some sort of violent event that we take various perspectives on, by seeing the horror of it or finding the good that came out of it
Some heard the gun
Some bent the bow

^ Likely a reference to the personal fighting that is found within the Hunger Games series, where some simply hear the violence while others are the ones pulling the trigger or bending the bow
Sometimes the wire must tense for the note
Caught in the fire, say oh
We're about to explode

^ This is the reflection on the violence that is occurring: we are resorting to violence to communicate our messages and emotions, many are getting "caught in the fire" and we're all becoming very vulnerable in the process

Some far away
Some search for gold
Some dragon to slay

^ Thought it may look different for different people, everybody in this life is searching for adventure (far away), riches (gold), or accomplishments (dragon) -- and many are willing to resort to violence to make it happen
Heaven we hope is just up the road
Show me the way, Lord because I,
I'm about to explode

^ Realizing the fragility of his life and our misplaced hope in these achievements, this becomes a plea to God to show us the way to heaven because we are so fragile and cannot make it there alone

Carry your world, I'll carry your world
Carry your world and all your hurt
^ As the chorus, I think this may allude to the reply that God gives us -- He says that He will carry this world of suffering -- on the cross, I would argue:

"He has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows... upon Him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his wounds we are healed... the Lord has laid on Him the iniquity of us all."
~ Isaiah 53.4-6

Aug 21, 2013

"Society" by Eddie Vedder

"We have a greed with which we have agreed. You think you have to want more than you need; until you have it all you won't be free. Society -- have mercy on me. I hope you're not angry if I disagree."
~ Jerry Hannan

Eddie Vedder covered this song for the soundtrack of Sean Penn's 2007 movie, Into the Wild, about Emory University graduate Christopher McCandless who gives his life savings to charity and abandons society in a trek into the Alaskan wilderness. His goal was to escape from his family and community that seemed to value things over people. Rather than escaping such a culture, Jim Wallis advocates for an internal societal restoration in his book Rediscovering Values, which I am about halfway through right now. Although Wallis attacks the lifestyles of corporate elites, he also takes a jab at what has become the norm in American culture across all social classes. I could easily see Wallis meeting with credit-free financial advisor Dave Ramsey, despite their theological and political differences, to advocate for a more conscious and responsible consumer culture.

This song seems to capture what connects vagabond McCandless, activist Wallis, and advisor Ramsey -- a critique of greed. The latter two make it clear where they receive their wisdom from: Jesus Christ. I hope these quotes directly from Him help you see the moral imperative we have to live simply as disciples.
  • "Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; a man's life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions." ~ Luke 12.15
  • "Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you clean the outside of the cup and the plate, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence." ~ Matthew 23.25
  • "What good is it for a man to gain the whole world, yet forfeit his soul?" ~ Mark 8.36

In his inspired letters to the churches, Paul places greed on the same level with murder, sexual immorality, and idolatry (Romans 1.29, 1 Corinthians 5.10-11).  Given this, it is quite disappointing to see today's professed Christians being vocal about scriptural teachings on sexuality and murder, but relatively silent on this issue. I certainly have a lot of room to grow, but the following verse has helped me think about how to start -- by being very intentional with what I use and what I give:

"And when you reap the harvest of your land, you shall not reap your field right up to its edge, nor shall you gather the gleanings after your harvest. You shall leave them for the poor and for the sojourner: I am the Lord your God." 
~ Leviticus 23.22

I hope to take a critical look at my budget to see what I really need so the rest may be left for others; meanwhile, I'm thankful to  God for his grace and patience.

Feb 18, 2013

John Mayer and the Preacher

As I sat here listening to John Mayer's Live in Los Angeles -- a medley of songs, jam sessions, and conversations with the audience -- I couldn't help but make the connection of one of his comments to The Preacher, the writer of the book of Ecclesiastes. Some folks make the charge that scripture is not as relevant today, but hopefully this post will spark your interest in reading one of my favorite books in scripture that is both living and active (Hebrews 4.12):

"I've done everything in my life that I want to do except just give and feel love for my living."
~ John Mayer [Live in Los Angeles, 2008]

"Whatever my eyes desired I did not keep from them... I saw that there is nothing better than that a man should rejoice in his work, for that is his lot."
~ The Preacher [Live in Israel, circa 225 BC]

This isn't the first time John has reminded me of The Preacher. Notice the similarities between the lyrics of "Something's Missing" and the reflections in the book. Fortunately, the preacher does reach a conclusion about his musings on life (hint: it's "the whole duty of man") and it's a lot more spiritually conclusive than poor John's continuous searching.

"Something's missing,
and I don't know what it is.
Friends: check.
Money: check.
Well slept: check.
Opposite sex: check."
~ John Mayer, "Something's Missing"

"I built houses and planted vineyards for myself...
I made myself pools...
I gathered for myself silver and gold...
I got singers, both men and women...
and behold, all was vanity and a striving after wind."
~ The Preacher, "Ecclesiastes Chapter 2"

Jan 14, 2013

J is for "Janglin" by Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros

It may seem that this is just another song with catchy, wordless background vocals that make it easily adaptable for a bounty of commercials, but the lyrics in this song cut to some deeper thoughts. Of course, the Magnetic Zeros' peacemaking message seems to match the expectations of the Woodstock vibe they give, but the following verse suggests that the peacemaking isn't a shallow call, but one rooted in the Sermon on the Mount:

Well your wartime is funny.
Your guns don't bother me.
I said we're out to prove the truth of
The man from Galilee.
Well your laws are for dummies, yes.
Your institution's dead.
I say we're out to blow the trumpet
To wake you all from bed.

"Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God"
~ The Man from Galilee (Matthew 5:9)

The charge made by the group here seems to be a prophetic one ("blow the trumpet" and "prove the truth"). It seems that there is a discontent with laws and institutions in that they are not in line with the truth of the man from Galilee. It is human nature to be selective with how we apply our moral compass to institutions and law: shouldn't a "pro-life" stance extend beyond the womb? What about innocent life that is taken by unjust war and preventable violence? Disciples may differ on how they think peace is accomplished via policy, but we should consider it such a serious spiritual and moral issue that we are willing to take a stand for a consistent pro-life ethic.

The group does give a vibe reminiscent of this Portlandia skit as well. Enjoy!

Jul 14, 2012

I is for "I Can't Read Your Mind" by Emily Hearn

This is the second post of Emily Hearn's music, so I hope you've checked her out by now! Her first full-length album, Red Balloon, is pretty awesome. I myself couldn't resist using some of her music in my own wedding, and some good friends have done likewise! Of course, not this song. While it's a great song, it's more relevant to the tough bridge that takes folks from a crush to a relationship.

I look your way and I can't hope for anything 
But maybe that you'll look my way too.
Do you even notice me?
These days, I see through different eyes 
That only work if you do feel this way too.

So if you love me, please don't keep it to yourself. 
My heart is breaking into pieces.
And if you need me, please don't hesitate to tell me.
I'm sick of holding in this secret - and I can't read your mind.

You look my way and in your eyes you say 
That you don't wanna know me 
And that you've disowned me, 
But that's not fair, because I don't wanna go from 
Holding hands to shaking them. 
It doesn't work that way.

Here's a song of greater devotion -- the one that's been featured in two weddings (that I know of) this summer from Roswell, GA to Dade City, FL.

Jul 5, 2012

H is for "How Come You Never Go There" by Feist

Try to listen to the song first with your eyes closed, and you will enjoy this post much more.

This song of heartbreak by Feist is her most recent single from her album Metals released last fall. Before I saw the video and only relied on the audio, I pictured her feelings being expressed in this dusty black-and-white, with her being a woman who has been beaten down by her man and is back with anger... and that's exactly what this video portrays. A once lush forest is now dark, gray, and gloomy and she's in the middle of it singing out with frustration for being neglected. 

That's what a good songwriter can do without video -- what separates good music from bad music.

Enjoy another H song with a similar theme in it. However, ol' Danny Boy's song seems to be more of an outlaw ballad rather than a "long lost love" song:

"Heartbroken, In Disrepair" by Dan Auerbach

There is no light, there is no charm
All my belongings, I hold in one arm
Under the bridge, asleep in the shade 
All of the terrible choices that I made 

Searching for light, gasping for air 
Heartbroken, in disrepair 

God may forgive me, but that's not enough 
'Cause I gotta live with myself, 'till I'm dust 
Just walk on by, if we pass on the street 
Sometimes in battle, it's best to retreat 

Searching for light, gasping for air 
Heartbroken, in disrepair

G is for "Ghost"-Songs

Enjoy both of these "Ghost" songs for the letter G!

"The Ghost Inside" by Broken Bells
(long intro - skip to 1:23 if impatient)

"Ghost" by Ingrid Michaelson