Reflections of a Broken Man


On Video by StephenMac

Good news everyone!

Underoath have released a video for “Too Bright to See Too Loud to Hear”.

I love this song, best song on the album. I’ve blogged this song before, but I thought it time to reflect on it.

“I originally wrote the music without intending it to be a quote-unquote accessible song,” McTague says of the memorable soundscape. “It was a slow paced, slowed down jam-out song. We were actually out to dinner one day out by our practice space and Aaron pulled out his iPhone and he was thinking about that song and he said, ‘I wrote these lyrics’. And what he wrote was so meaningful. It was this huge statement.”

Citing the lyric “Good God if your song leaves our lips / if your work leaves our hands / then we will be wanderers and vagabonds,” the guitarist continues, “Our band has always been this Christian band and we’ve always been open about what we believe in, but there comes a certain point where a lot of the messages in our songs are very ambiguous. And that was so bold and straight up, talking about how we’re all people but without purpose we can feel lost.” (h/t here)

It’s so good to go to the original source and find out what they really mean rather than speculate on meanings… I had originally thought that that when they said “your work leaves our hands” they meant as in going out from them, as in proclaiming God, yet I am glad to see that it in fact means the complete opposite, and I’m struck by the powerful image of pointlessness and despair that we have should we abandon the one who gives us meaning.

McTague says of the concluding song (Desolate Earth :: The End is Here):

“Being lost, searching for answers and finding hope, we really felt like it summed up the whole record.”

It seems as though hope is a central theme, and the resounding answer is that it can only be found in God. But not just the theistic conceptions of God, not “God” in general, but the God of the Bible, the Father of Jesus Christ. To make sense of Underoath’s lyrics, you must understand that their world view is based on the work and the person of Jesus Christ.

Hope can only be found in Him. Underoath’s call is to find that hope in Jesus. Listen to the rest of the album. They paint for you an image of what a godless world would look like. Listen to “Emergency Broadcast :: The End is Near” (second favourite song on the album).

At the end of it all
We will be sold for parts
We will try to rebuild
But we ate it all away
All ambitions now run dry
Someone stop this thing, turn it off
In search of new life
Nothing will be left to walk this earth again
Turn it off
Our hopes and dreams
Will be swallowed
We always said it wouldn’t end up like this
We will be the new ice age
We will be the new plague
Disguised as a colony
We will wipe them all away
Feast your eyes
Or just rip ‘em out
This is it for us
It’s time to panic
We always said it wouldn’t end
It wouldn’t end up like this
We are the cancer
We are the virus
Tell me it’s not too late

Spencer Chamberlain, the main vocalist of Underoath, says this about the two songs:

WTL!: What’s the connection between “Emergency Broadcast… The End is Near” and “Desolate Earth… The End if Here”?

Spencer: They’re both songs that are just kind of referring to the end of the world, like not really songs about “the end of the world”, but when you’re going through something and you think “This is terrible, this is the worst ever! It’s the end of the world!”, that’s why they’re so visually inspired by real end of times, inner struggles, demons, those dark, sad places you find yourself in.

Underoath know what it is that many of their listeners are going through. They know that society demands of them an identity, and yet there is none to be found. Who are you? Why are you here? Don’t be fooled by these simple questions: they are the most important questions for all of us. The answer is not what “we are of our own making” or “I am whoever I want to be” – we see where that leads us:

We always said it wouldn’t end
It wouldn’t end up like this
We are the cancer
We are the virus

The answer is only found in Jesus Christ. To divide Underoath’s lyrics from Jesus is to completely misunderstand them and to miss the point entirely.

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. According to His great mercy, He has given us a new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that is imperishable, uncorrupted, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who are being protected by God’s power through faith for a salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time.
1 Peter 1:3-5 (CSB)

EBHG

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On Call by StephenMac
March 25, 2009, 10:38 pm
Filed under: Reflections | Tags: , , , , , , ,

**Currently listening to On Call – Kings of Leon**

She said call me now baby, and I’d come a running.
She said call me now baby, and I’d come a running.
If you’d call me now, baby then I’d come a running.
I’m on call, to be there.
One and all, to be there.
And When I fall, to pieces.
Lord you know, I’ll be there waiting.
To be there.
To be there.
I’m on call, to be there.
One and all, to be there.
And When I fall, to pieces.
Lord you know, I’ll be there waiting.
I’m gon’ brawl, so be there.
One for all, I’ll be there.
And when they fall, to pieces.
Lord you know, I’ll be there laughing.
I’d come a running.
I’d come a running.
I’d come a running.
To be there.
To be there.
I’m on call, to be there.
I’m on call, to be there.
I’m on call, to be there.
I’m on call, to be there.

There is something to be said for being “on call”. As a Christian, there are often pastoral situations where we will have to “be there” for those who depend on our MPj04330860000[1]support. For those who are hurting, for those who want someone to talk to, for those who are struggling with sin, and those who are complacent, we are “on call to be there”.

I think the biggest challenge is setting aside time for others. Being there for others requires being interrupted in what we are doing, and to focus on another. It has, at it’s heart, selflessness. This was part of Jesus’ ministry too. So often, he would be moving from one place to another, teaching as he went, only to be interrupted by one person or another, begging him to heal this person, fix that ailment, visit this house, have lunch with that person, answer the various demands and traps of those who hated him. The ministry of Jesus was an interrupted ministry, because he was constantly on call, because he was constantly there for those who needed him.

And because we’re “on call, to be there” for those around us, a significant part will be prayer. This is what I struggle with the most, and yet, it is probably the most important thing we can do to show that we are there for others. Currently, there are people around me who are hurting, who are struggling, who are confused, or saddened, or stressed, any number of ailments of this age. If I’m “on call”, then there needs to be an attitude change of “let me fix the problem” (which I can’t do) to “let me pray for you” (where God can fix the problem).

I wonder if Kings of Leon understood that being on call required selflessness and patience on their part? I wonder if they knew that Jesus is the only one who didn’t fail while “on call”, and is always there?

EBHG



On Wisdom by StephenMac
March 11, 2009, 10:08 pm
Filed under: Reflections | Tags: , , , , , , , ,

**Currently playing in iTunes: Burn Out Brighter (Northern Lights) by Anberlin**

I think the chorus of this song sums up this post:

Live, I wanna live inspired
Die, I wanna die for something higher than myself
Live and die for anyone else
The more I live I see this life’s not about me

Wisdom is the art of godly living. It’s something that I make no claim to know extensively, nor even able to live out. It’s about living our life in a way that brings glory to God. I also think that wisdom is a moral category: to act foolishly (to act without wisdom) is morally wrong and reprehensible, because it fails to bring glory to God (cf. Romans 1:21-23).

As Christians, we live in a family: adopted children of God, and so interpersonal relationships is a key part of our life. Thus, I would argue that wisdom involves understanding how to be in relationship with others (specifically other believers), and involves selflessness.

Oliver O’Donovan, in the CASE lecture series in 2007, describes morality in terms of being “awake” and “aware” of what is around us. It is morally wrong (foolish) to be inattentive, or unconcerned, or even ignorant of what is going on around us.

Drawing these threads together, I want to say that wisdom is being aware in our relationships, and failure to do so is morally wrong. We need to be attentive to how we are interacting, how we are impacting and affecting people around us.

What is the motivation for this left-field post? At the risk of trivialising this post, I have recently been reflecting on relationships. To put it verbosely, what is the wise way to pursue courting? To be blunt, what is the wise way to tell a girl you like her? Wisdom, being aware of the way that you affect people, warns us that just because you think that asking a girl out for all the right reasons as you see it may not be the wise thing to do. You may think that she is the right person for you because:

– She would be a great partner for ministry
– She is precisely the kind of girl you want your sons to marry, and daughters to be
– She is the epitome of Prov. 31.

Wisdom warns us that we need to be aware that in fact, our “overtures” for a relationship may not be wise. What happens if our pursuit of a relationship in fact harms her, for whatever reason? I would argue that our inattentiveness, our lack of being “awake” or “aware” of the impact of our intentions is therefore morally reprehensible, foolish, and wrong.

Wisdom tells us, “The more I live I see, this life’s not about me.”

EBHG



Messes of Men by StephenMac
February 6, 2009, 8:46 am
Filed under: Reflections | Tags: , , , , , ,

*listening to mewithoutYou – Brother, Sister album again, or rather, still*

"I do not exist," we faithfully insist
sailing in our separate ships, and in each tiny caravel-
tiring of trying, there’s a necessary dying
like the horseshoe crab in its proper season sheds its shell
such distance from our friends,
like a scratch across a lens,
made everything look wrong from anywhere we stood
and our paper blew away before we’d left the bay
so half-blind we wrote these songs on sheets of salty wood

You caught me making eyes at the other boatmen’s wives
and heard me laughing louder at the jokes told by their daughters
I’d set my course for land,
but you well understand
it takes a steady hand to navigate adulterous waters
the propeller’s spinning blades held acquaintance with the waves
as there’s mistakes I’ve made no rowing could outrun
the cloth low on the mast like to say I’ve got no past
I’m nonetheless the librarian and secretary’s son
with tarnish on my brass and mildew on my glass
I’d never want someone so crass as to want someone like me
but a few leagues off the shore, I bit a flashing lure
and I assure you, it was not what it expected it to be!
I still taste its kiss, that dull hook in my lip
is a memory as useless as a rod without a reel
to an anchor-ever-dropped-seasick-yet-still-docked
captain spotted napping with his first mate at the wheel
floating forgetfully along, with no need to be strong
we keep our confessions long and when we pray we keep it short
I drank a thimble full of fire and I’m not ever going back

Oh, my God!
"I do not exist," we faithfully insist
while watching sink the heavy ship of everything we knew
if ever you come near I’ll hold up high a mirror
Lord, I could never show you anything as beautiful as you
________________________________________________________________________

brothersister Why am I even posting this song?!? It’s about adultery, and by posting it, am I admitting to that? No… thankfully…

There is something about the futility of sin that this song expresses. I’m reading a commentary of Judges for an upcoming Bible study, and the author mentioned the sheer monotony and repetitiveness of the sin of the Israelites. I think this song follows a similar line, in that sin is futile… we do it, but we understand that it doesn’t satisfy:

you caught me making eyes at the other boatmen’s wives
and heard me laughing louder at the jokes told by their daughters

And while there are a few lyrics which I am still trying to get my head around, I must admit to loving the final part:

If ever you come near I’ll hold up high a mirror
Lord, I could never show you anything as beautiful as you

I think that this is the thing I want in my life, that when people see me, they actually see the reflection of the Lord in the mirror that is holding his image. My life should reflect God’s work, God’s person.

Hang on, haven’t I ranted about taking God’s name in vain before? How is this song different? This is not a meaningless or empty use of God’s name… the context shows us that it’s a cry to God…

Oh to be a reflection of the Lord…

EBHG



On Music by StephenMac
January 29, 2009, 11:13 am
Filed under: Reflections | Tags: , , , ,

*currently listening to Paramore: The Final Riot!*

I love music… I really wish I was a more skilful muso so that I could actually use the term to describe myself without feeling like a tryhard, and also to justify the sheer constancy of the stuff coming out of my speakers…

It was during high school where I learnt that songs actually had meaning. You couldn’t just like music for “music” sake, the lyrics were just as important. I’ve used the excuse that “I just listen to it for the beat, I don’t listen to the lyrics”, and then found myself singing along to the song…

Music is important: it expresses what you feel more often, better than you can express it. Music expresses your inner most desires and feelings, music that you love will be the music that “strikes a chord with you” (excuse the pun). Not only does music express what you feel, but you will often feel what music expresses: it’s a two way street. You will be influenced by the type of music that you listen to (Nirvana, though musically brilliant, always depresses me).

And so, the meaning of songs is important (a fact that is not lost on many of the readers here who have found this blog by searching for song meanings). I may be preaching to the converted, so to speak, but we need to be aware of the music that we listen to. 

                     paramore

I write this, pretty much because I bought the Paramore album. Some of you may know this band, others may not (www.paramore.net/music). There is a song called Misery Business which is quite a sad song, but musically awesome. Yet, as you begin to get into it, singing along to the chorus, you find yourself taking God’s name in vain…

No, I never meant to brag… but i got him where i want him now.
Oh it was never my intention to brag…
to steal it all away from you now
But God does it feel so good cause I got him where I want him now
if you could then you know you would
cause God it just feels so…
It’s just feels so good.

What do you do?!? Hayley (writer of this song) has already produced an explanation for this lyric, which I quote in part below (from Paramore’s LiveJournal blog)

i’m ashamed to say that, although i’m a believer in Jesus Christ and i claim him as my God, when i wrote those lyrics i wasn’t addressing him. i was using his name casually. in vain, to be blunt….

i don’t want to be held accountable for being the cause of so many people using his name in vain. you don’t have to believe in what i believe and no one in Paramore is ever going to go around forcing our faith into people’s lives… but believer or not, i might have led some of ya’ll to believe that i take my saviour lightly. and i don’t. …

when i sing those lines that i used to sing in vain, i mean them in a different way. i don’t want to opportunity to be held responsible for causing a lot of people to use my God’s name in vain. so, whether or you not you believe in Christ. whether or not you care if it means something when you say God. just know that as for me, when I am singing those lines, i’m telling God that it feels good to stand up for myself and be victorious after long months of confusion and pain. i don’t hurt the same way anymore.

Please read the post in full, because I don’t want to misrepresent her. And for the cohenrecord, who am I to criticise… I’m no better. My point is this: Unless you think hard about the lyrics, unless you are critical about what you are singing along to, you could end up like me taking God’s name in vain. 

This is why I love Paramore’s “We Are Broken“. In the live version, you hear the passion of the lyrics, you know that this song means something genuine to the singer.

For Paramore’s “Hallelujah”, they begin with singing “hallelujah” from Leanard Cohen. Never heard of him? It’s his song that is sung in Shrek. Here’s another song you need to be careful about… Cohen’s song is quite misleading: it sounds hymnal and nice, but have a look at the lyric changes (h/t BBC for an insightful article):

 

1984 version 1988 version

Now I’ve heard there was a secret chord
That David played, and it pleased the Lord
But you don’t really care for music, do you?
It goes like this
The fourth, the fifth
The minor fall, the major lift
The baffled king composing Hallelujah

Hallelujah, Hallelujah
Hallelujah, Hallelujah

Your faith was strong but you needed proof
You saw her bathing on the roof
Her beauty and the moonlight overthrew you
She tied you
To a kitchen chair
She broke your throne, and she cut your hair
And from your lips she drew the Hallelujah

Hallelujah, Hallelujah
Hallelujah, Hallelujah

You say I took the name in vain
I don’t even know the name
But if I did, well really, what’s it to you?
There’s a blaze of light
In every word
It doesn’t matter which you heard
The holy or the broken Hallelujah

Hallelujah, Hallelujah
Hallelujah, Hallelujah

I did my best, it wasn’t much
I couldn’t feel, so I tried to touch
I’ve told the truth, I didn’t come to fool you
And even though
It all went wrong
I’ll stand before the Lord of Song
With nothing on my tongue but Hallelujah

Hallelujah, Hallelujah
Hallelujah, Hallelujah

Baby, I’ve been here before.
I know this room, I’ve walked this floor.
I used to live alone before I knew you.
Yeah I’ve seen your flag on the marble arch,
But listen, love is not some kind of victory march,
No it’s a cold and it’s a very broken Hallelujah.

Hallelujah, Hallelujah,
Hallelujah, Hallelujah

There was a time you let me know
What’s really going on below,
Ah but now you never show it to me, do you?
Yeah but I remember, yeah when I moved in you,
And the holy dove, she was moving too,
Yes every single breath that we drew was Hallelujah.

Hallelujah, Hallelujah,
Hallelujah, Hallelujah.

Maybe there’s a God above,
As for me, all I’ve ever seemed to learn from love
Is how to shoot at someone who outdrew you.
Yeah but it’s not a complaint that you hear tonight,
It’s not the laughter of someone who claims to have seen the light
No it’s a cold and it’s a very lonely Hallelujah.

Hallelujah, Hallelujah,
Hallelujah, Hallelujah.

I did my best, it wasn’t much.
I couldn’t feel, so I learned to touch.
I’ve told the truth, I didn’t come all this way to fool you.
Yeah even tough it all went wrong
I’ll stand right here before the Lord of Song
With nothing on my lips but Hallelujah.
Hallelujah, Hallelujah,
Hallelujah, Hallelujah.

Now I don’t know about you, but neither of these version I think I would be comfortable singing…

A long winded post, but something that was on my thoughts… would love yours…

EBHG



Too Bright To See, Too Loud To Hear by StephenMac
December 12, 2008, 9:18 am
Filed under: Reflections | Tags: , , ,

Lost in the Sound of SeparationIt’s been quite a while since I last posted here… first exams, then my laptop’s wireless not working, and then WoW… probably the latter is the most prominent reason. Anyhow, while doing some Christmas shopping, I came across Underoath’s latest album, Lost in the Sounds of Separation. Having not listened to much screamo music of late (Define the Great Line being the only one that I listen to regularly…) at first hear, this album was rough… Yet, after listening to it quite a few times, it begins to grow on you… For some reason, my albums always require repeated listening session before I start liking them. But one song really struck me: Too Bright to See, Too Loud to Hear. I love this song, not only because (a) it has minimal screaming, and (b) musically it’s great, but also because it has a fantastic message. I think the songs that I love are the ones that actually require thought and have real meaning. Sure, the typical pop love song may be great, but the songs that hit home are the ones that mean something.

Good God, if your song leaves our lips
If your work leaves our hands
Then we will be wonders and vagabonds
They will stare and say how empty we are
How the freedom we had turned us up as dead men
Let us be cold, make us weak
Let us, because we all have ears
Let us, because we all have eyes
Good God!
How they knew that this would happen
they knew, they knew that this would!
We’re so run down
Good God! Can you still get us home?
How can we still get home?
I’m not dreaming
We’re forgetting our forgiveness

I don’t think that this one needs commentary, so I recommend that you find a copy to listen to!

EBHG



A Man is Coming in Thirteen-one by StephenMac
October 29, 2008, 7:26 pm
Filed under: Reflections | Tags: , , , ,

Since posting the lyrics of Miserabile Visu (Ex Malo Bonum), there have been a number of people who like me, have google-searched the meaning of the phrase “A Man is Coming in Thirteen-One”. There are quite a few thoughts out there, and there is one in particular where the person has gone through and referenced nearly every line. There are some thoughts on that interpretation that I am still unsure about, but have a look if you want. I thought I might post some thoughts on this lyric, from a most awesome song.

**NOTE** As an afterthought, this appears to be a long and detailed post. For those who hate details, scroll down to the **IMPORTANT SECTION**

The Context: Here’s the bridge, repeated twice.

A man is coming in thirteen-one
To charm the daughters and the sons
Scared for our lives, I turned to your hand
Hold this tight while we run, if we still can

It’s actually best if you see this in context. On both occasions, “a man” is mentioned in the line before. The first time, the phrase is “A man who was raised up in the sea”, the second being “a man from the seven hills”.

The Reference: Thirteen-One by online consensus seems to be Revelation 13:1. This fits with the general tone of the song, being about the end, and so the assumption for the moment bears out. Revelation 13:1 is this:

Revelation 13:1  And I saw a beast coming up out of the sea. He had 10 horns and seven heads. On his horns were 10 diadems, and on his heads were blasphemous names.

anberlin2_1280x1024 So where is the man? In light of the first use of this stanza, in the context of “a man who was raised up in the sea” we could speculate that Anberlin are drawing the two images together. But that’s just guess work isn’t it? Well, Revelation is what is called an “apocalypse”. The word means a revelation or viewing of some previously unknown information. Revelation is therefore an unveiling of previously unknown things. The content is quite mindblowing though, it’s the end of history, the big Finale. And so that we can understand it a bit better, God reveals the information through imagery. So we could make the case for the beast being an image that represents some reality. We must be wary however of being too allegorical and saying that for every image, there is a corresponding “reality”. This is the limit that keeps our interpretation in check.

Revelation 13 in its wider context is about a series of characters who come to persecute the Church, the Christians who hold Jesus Christ as Lord. They blaspheme or mock/misuse the name of God, they kill people and they “deceive” people (Rev. 13:14). Perhaps from this idea, we can see the second line of the stanza – “To charm the daughters and the sons”. This would probably also fit in with the “fear” aspect: “Scared for our lives, I turned to your hand; Hold this tight while we run, if we still can”

At this point, we look at the second time this stanza is mentioned, in the context of the man from “Seven Hills”. While we could see that because the number seven recurs, the seven hills is the same as the seven heads of the beast, this is not a good enough reason. Seven Hills is another way for referring to Rome, which was founded on seven hills. This is significant, as Revelation can be seen through a political lens. As such, Revelation also could be interpreted as a political treatise against “Babylon”. If you were being persecuted, it’s not wise to draw attention to yourself by attacking the persecutor with a political letter against them. Anti-language is used, and as such, it is common for “Babylon” to be used for “Rome”. Hence, the man from seven hills could be a direct reference to the persecution from Rome. “Coincidentally” there is a passage in Daniel where the image of a beast is again thought of to be “Rome”. Drawing on these thoughts, it is more than possible that the seven-headed beast is Rome.

What does this mean for the man? What does Rome have to do with the man mentioned earlier? Well, Rome is the epitome of evil, everything that God would hate, and which hates God in turn. The two are polar opposites. As such, Rome could be described as an instrument of Satan, the one who fights against God. However, we are not talking about a dualistic eternal struggle between “good” and “bad”. God tells us that this war is won, but not yet over: there are residual conflicts even though the outcome is already decided. Back to topic however, as the man is now the reality behind the image of the beast. He is the one who deceiving people, who is killing people, who putting people to flight. Identity? Perhaps Satan himself, perhaps his agent the Anti-Christ, I’m not sure which. new_surrender_wallpaper copy

**IMPORTANT PART**

“A man is coming in thirteen-one” is a reference to the one who in the end times will persecute and deceive mankind, particularly Christians. Most probably the antichrist. But don’t leave it there. Because whatever Anberlin meant (I give my opinion, but it is by no means certain), they make a clear plea in their chorus.

What disasters may come
Whatever it may be
At the end of the age
It will land you and me
What tragedy may bring
Whatever may fall
The end of the world
You’ll still belong

Yes, the end times will be more than a tragedy, it will be a nightmarish hell. Filled with fear and suffering. Yet there is a hope. Whatever happens, you’ll still belong. Belong to what? The other part of the chorus is this

Look children to the eastern sky
When you hear the voice say your last goodbyes
Look there to the eastern skies
When the ghosts take hold of the men who died
Look children to the eastern sky
When your fathers weep and your mothers cry
Look children to the eastern sky

Children is a term often used by the author of Revelation as a way to refer to the family of believers in Christ. This is their hope: look to the eastern sky (where the sun rises). Look to the dawning of a new day. The day when Christ will return, and finally defeat the man in thirteen one. The day when suffering and horror of this life will end. I now ask you a personal question. Will you belong? Where do you stand on that last day?

EBHG