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



On Being Thankful by StephenMac
April 7, 2009, 7:51 pm
Filed under: Reflections | Tags: , , , , , ,

**Currently listening to Never Take Friendship Personal by Anberlin… oh how I have missed you!**

CS Lewis Song – Brooke Fraser

If I find in myself desires nothing in this world can satisfy,
I can only conclude that I was not made for here
If the flesh that I fight is at best only light and momentary,
then of course I’ll feel nude when to where I’m destined I’m compared

Speak to me in the light of the dawn
Mercy comes with the morning
I will sigh and with all creation groan as I wait for hope to come for me

Am I lost or just less found? On the straight or on the roundabout of the wrong way?
Is this a soul that stirs in me, is it breaking free, wanting to come alive?
‘Cause my comfort would prefer for me to be numb
And avoid the impending birth of who I was born to become

Speak to me in the light of the dawn
Mercy comes with the morning
I will sigh and with all creation groan as I wait for hope to come for me

For we, we are not long here
Our time is but a breath, so we better breathe it
And I, I was made to live, I was made to love, I was made to know you
Hope is coming for me
Hope, He’s coming

Speak to me in the light of the dawn
Mercy comes with the morning
I will sigh and with all creation groan as I wait for hope to come for me

This song was awesomely covered by the guys at the church I was serving at during mission. As I was reflecting on mission, contemplating life the universe and everything, doing your average everyday navel-gazing (as you do), I remembered that I have much to be thankful for. Amanhecer Do dia - dawn of the sun

I am thankful for this life that God has given me: not just this lifestyle or this occupation/pathway, or even this lifetime of opportunities, but for this organic, biological life that exists at his desire as I inhale each breath! Sounds simple, but this is not something that I could have said in my first few years of high-school, nor even in my final years there where I was shown what it meant to be a Christian amidst a torrent of emotions: anger, despair, disappointment, loneliness and melancholy. This is something that I have only come to truly appreciate recently, in understanding that this life is not about me, but about the God who has made me his own.

And I, I was made to live, I was made to love, I was made to know you

I am thankful for the hope that I have been given: again, not just this ethereal or wishful thinking hope that our society pictures, but the hope of life eternal, that imperishable inheritance, that living hope that is only available because God called me. Again, this is not a hope that I have always had, but has been something that has only been recognised recently. This is the hope of Job, who screams out that he knows his Redeemer lives and that in spite of his perceived impending doom, he is still able to see his God knowing that God will vindicate him in the end! I ask you, where else will you find this hope? Nowhere! Not in materialism, not in super-spirituality, not in success or power or money or family or popularity or anything except him who is the living hope.

Speak to me in the light of the dawn
Mercy comes with the morning
I will sigh and with all creation groan as I wait for hope to come for me

What a powerful image that is, the light of the dawn. That God would deign to speak to me of all people, that he would show me mercy and kindness and forgiveness and love, that I may have life, that I may have hope. What else is there to say?

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ. 4For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love 5he predestined us to be adopted as his sons through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will— 6to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves. 7In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace 8that he lavished on us with all wisdom and understanding. Eph 1:3-8

(h/t to sxc for the pic)

EBHG



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



Why I Blog by StephenMac
March 24, 2009, 7:07 am
Filed under: Reflections | Tags: , , , , ,

**Currently listening to Define the Great Line by Underoath**

My MarsEdit trial has ended so I am back on Windows Live Writer after I sold my soul and installed Windows on my mac…

There has been a lot of talk recently around the place about a greater “web presence” for our community. I’m all for it: I think that to reach people like my and those in our generation, we need to use the web. But somehow I found this blog as part of the lists of “students who blog”. True enough, but I specifically did not respond to the email because I did not want this blog to be a “college blog”.

I was discussing this with one of my friends, and I was asked why I then blog. Why? What do I hope to achieve? What is the purpose of ROBM? So I thought that I should probably clarify myself…

I think, therefore I blog. For me, blogging is sometimes a way to be able to collate thoughts and have them in text, to be able to better understand what on earth is going on. Hence the Reflections part of the name. But, as she asked, why not simply write things down in a word document? For me, blogging includes a level of openness, of being able to write, to share, to wear my heart on my sleeve to use yet another cliché. It is a chance to get things out there, while maintaining a level of anonymity that otherwise would have made the whole process impossible. And finally, it is a chance to speak to those who have similar tings on their heart, for those who love music and want to know what songs mean, for those who desire more than the superficial from their speakers, but want to be moved, provoked, challenged, by their music. And so I will provide reflections on song lyrics, and should do so more often.

Finally, I end with a postscript of EBHG. It stands for Ever By His Grace, a tag that I picked up off one of my dearest friends, who would sign off his emails with that, reminding me that whatever we do, it is continually by God’s Grace. The ability to blog, to hear the thoughts of others, to share with them my life somewhat, but to eventually tell them that there is real meaning, and real hope, and real life found only in Christ, is purely by the grace of God. These reflections are sometimes an attempt to point you to the reality. They are broken, as the man who writes them is fallen and broken, but the reality they point to is not.

And so I write,
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