Weekly @Switchfoot Song: Might Have Ben Hur

This Switchfoot song title seems to be a play-on-words, talking primarily about a relationship, but is seemingly referring to the old 1959 film, Ben-Hur. Here’s the lyrics:

Everything I know
Tells me she’s everything
That I could hope for
Everything I know
Tells me I can’t let her walk away

[bridge:]
I took my time to find the words
I hope she’d feel the same

[chorus:]
‘Cause I want someone to share my smile
To share the pain
To be there when the sea turns gray
To share the joy
For better or worse
And I thought that it might have been her
I thought that it might have been her

Wonder if she knows
The way I saw her soul
Light up my life
Wonder if she knows
of the pain I feel tonight

The setting of the movie is in AD 26, where Judah Ben-Hur (played by none other than Charlton Heston) is a wealthy prince and merchant in Jerusalem. His childhood friend, the Roman citizen Messala, is now a tribune. After several years away from Jerusalem, Messala returns as the new commander of the Roman garrison. Messala believes in the “glory of Rome” and its imperial power, while Ben-Hur is devoted to his faith and the freedom of the Jewish people, at any cost, even by the sword. Messala asks Ben-Hur for the names of Jews who criticize the Romans, but Ben-Hur refuses, angering Messala.

As the plot of the movie goes on, Ben-Hur falls in love with a woman named Esther who has been following a man named Jesus, and as love has it, Ben-hur is curious about him because of his love for Esther. Ben-Hur’s mother and sister are sick and he takes them to see Jesus, but by this time, Jesus has been arrested on his way to be crucified. Ben-Hur witnesses the crucifixion of Jesus, and during the rain storm, Miriam and Tirzah are healed. Ben-Hur tells Esther that he heard Jesus talk of forgiveness while on the cross, and says “I felt His voice take the sword out of my hand.” He let go of his hatred for Rome, put his sword away, and was relationally/emotionally reunited with his mother and sister.

What’s love got to do with it? Well, this song speaks to the reality of love, which in this context, is someone to come along side of you and share the joy and the pain of life. It’s having someone to share life with, especially when loneliness sets in, skies turn gray, and the need to have companionship and feel heard, understood; this is a human need.

For Ben-Hur, it was Esther, the woman who lit up his soul, who opened his heart to a new way of being human. It was the love of a woman who allowed his heart to be opened to the suffering savior. It was ultimately a soft heart that allowed Ben-Hur to receive the love and forgiveness from Jesus. This is the power of love, compassion (to suffer with), friendship, companionship. This is what Jesus offers, but he often uses relationships to prime our hearts to receive the beauty and worth of His great love. I want to take my time today with my words to share with those whom I love that I’m thankful for them.

I took great liberty to interpret this song the way I did, but the title allowed my imagination to consider the old film’s plot and see what the power of love and relationship can have over us. I’m considering all those who love me and have loved me this morning, and am thankful for everyone who has walked by my side when the pain has been unbearable. I’m thankful for my wife who has displayed the love and compassion of our suffering savior, and has been a patient counselor in the midst of my anger. My heart is softer because of her and many others.

Weekly @Switchfoot Song: Home

Home. I’m currently reading a book called Beyond Homelessness: Christian Faith in a Culture of Displacement, and it is bringing out so much more from this song than it used. This is song # 5 on Switchfoot’s first album (The Legend of Chin) which talks about longing for home, a place to belong. Here’s the lyrics:

It’s a long way from Miami to LA
It’s a longer way from yesterday
To where I am today

It’s a long way from my thoughts
To what I’ll say
It’s a long, long way from paradise
To where I am today

All that’s in my head
Is in Your hands

It’s a long way from
The moon up to the sun
It’s a longer road ahead of me
The road that I’ve begun

Stop to think of all the
Time I’ve lost
Start to think of all the
Bridges that I’ve burned
That must be crossed

Over, over, over
Take me over

I’ve been poison
I’ve been rain
I’ve been fooled again

I’ve seen ashes
Shine like chrome
Someday I’ll see home

Home, home

I can see the stars
From way down here
But I can’t fall asleep
Behind the wheel

It’s a long way from the
Shadows in my cave
Up to Your reality to
Watch the sunlight taking over

Over, over, over
Take me over

I’ve been poison
I’ve been rain
I’ve been fooled again

I’ve seen ashes
Shine like chrome
Someday I’ll see home

This is a “gut” honest song. Confession you can call it, or maybe transparency, or both. “I’ve been poison, I’ve been rain…” Feelings of despair creep in so fast sometimes in life, especially when we make stupid decisions and get “fooled again” with the lust of this world, and the fraudulent beauty that lures us all in to destruction. Many times in life, I’ve felt a long way from home (physically and emotionally). I’ve felt displaced often. I am in a season of displacement (or one could call it homelessness). Things have been uprooted and what was home, familiar, safe… has changed. But it’s often in these season of life when we notice the “stars” from the bottom of our “caves” that we’ve been locked in (or that we’ve locked ourselves in). It’s in the darkness of the cave where we cling to the only thing we can… HOPE.

Hope. Home. As long as we have breath, we have the hope of going home. And in this sense, I mean home with God. To the “place” we’ve always longed for, where our deepest desires are met in one person, one being. Home is where you aren’t supposed to be fooled anymore. Home is the place you aren’t supposed to be worried about being accepted. Home is supposed to be a safe place. It’s a place where the vision of ashes can be seen as chrome (a metaphor for beauty). It’s a place where our sin can be forgiven. It’s a place where rivers of life and peace rush back into our souls.

This is the home I long for, and it’s the kind of home I long to offer (at least in glimpses) to my wife and kids and friends and family. A taste of home happens on this earth when we start being honest about where we are at, what we have done, and ask for help. It’s at this place where we will experience home; grace, forgiveness, mercy, peace. Home can be seen as a house, a neighborhood, a church, as family members, a city, or a country; but all these things have one thing in common… they can be taken from us, and when that happens, we become displaced, homeless, and we are found in a dark cave, longing once a gain for the hope of true reality with God. Home.

Weekly @Switchfoot Song: Edge of My Seat

Track four on the Legend of Chin album is entitled, “Edge of My Seat”. Are you sitting on the edge of yours? If not, sit down, get on the edge, and read on:

Nothing more
That there’s nothing more
Nothing more
That there’s nothing more

Nothing here’s the same, it’s all a dream
Life on the movie screen
And I’m sitting on the edge of my seat

I can’t tell what happens next,
Just what I’ve seen
I don’t know what it means
But I’m holding on the edge of my seat

‘Cause I can’t forget your name,
Forget your name
Yeah I can’t forget you now
I know I can’t forget you, girl

I promise
Sit back buckle in and hold on tight
A roller coaster ride
And I’m holding on the edge of my seat

And I can’t know for sure
‘Cause I just landed on your shore
But I think you got nothing but another thing coming
If you think there’s nothing more
That there’s nothing more

At first glance, this seems to be an aimless song about being in love with a girl, and being excited about what happens next. And indeed, it may be, but we have to read (and listen) to the song in the context it was written (Jon was 20ish and dropping out of first year of college or so…). In this stage of life, there’s always much excitement mixed with other intense feelings and questions about life.

In the ripe young age of 20, the idealistic life (for most Westerners) seems promising and exciting. The chance to make of yourself what you’ve always longed to be, whether it be totally opposite of the way you were raised. The chance to establish you’re own values, pursue your own dreams and not some other adults dreams. The adventure of figuring out what it’s like to love and live. It’s a season of living on the edge of your seat. What’s next? Will it be like “life on the movie screen”? Will it be better, or worse?

I take from this song, especially at the end of it when it says, “And I can’t know for sure, ‘Cause I just landed on your shore, But I think you got nothing but another thing coming, If you think there’s nothing more, That there’s nothing more”, that there’s a cry out to those who think, at a young age, that there’s nothing more; not much to live for. To me, it’s a plea for the young apathetic guy/gal to hang in there, to realize that no matter what their story has been up to this point, that they just arrived on the shore of life, and there’s much more to be found in life.

So I say to the one who’s giving up, or is on the verge of giving up, “Keep hope alive, don’t give up, I promise, there’s more to this life. Stay on the edge of your seat!”

Weekly @Switchfoot Song: Underwater

Following along Switchfoot’s first album, the third song on The Legend of Chin (1997) is the song “Underwater”. I think the song speaks for itself, if you pay attention to it when you listen (or read it):

It’s in her head
It’s in her mind
She can’t believe it
Can’t believe she’s running
Out of time

And any hold
That she can find
Something to lean on
Everybody fails her
Half the time

Nothing to be
She’s already been
Plenty of time
Plenty of time
Plenty of time

She lights her candle
6 a.m.
Starting a new one
Every new one hits her
Just the same

Just like clockwork
She climbs down
Into her bottle
No one down there cares
To know her name

She’s underwater
Nowhere now
Underwater upside down
The rising tide won’t
Find her now
She’s lost and found
Underwater

She’s underwater
But she won’t drown
She can’t believe it
And every one she meets
Feels just the same

It takes all day to
Get to tonight
What makes the sunset
And what makes it go back
To where it came

She’s underwater
Nowhere now
She’s underwater
Upside down
The rising tide won’t
Find her now
She’s lost and found
Now she’s upside down
Now she’s six feet down

Underwater

We live in a fast paced world, with people working night and day just to get by, to make a buck, or maybe even find some happiness in this existence. Everyone’s “running out of time,” and there’s not enough hours left in the day… that is, until you’ve been consumed and spit out by the system that eats up dreams, and women, and families, and husbands. There’s not enough time, until you realize, what you’re “running” in can’t be trusted, neither can the people you’re “running” with. We all fail each other, and each time it happens, it still hurts… and no matter who you run to or where you go, the problems are still the same.

So you wait all day just to get to the night, or that place of escape for yourself. In this story it’s the bottle, drowning her pain and lostness by a chemical that gets to her head. We know this story all too well, but what we don’t know, is that we all have a “bottle” we run, that numbs us from feeling, from living truly, that masks us from reality. I know this is true, because we live in a world of too much pain and loss, how could we possibly live in reality everyday. Genocide is happening today. 10’s of thousands of children are dying today. Right now there’s a child being sexually abused, a woman being raped, a man or woman cheating on their spouse, a kid getting bullied at school, a suicide bomber making plotting his next heroic move, a little girl being sold in slavery, families being forced from their country being torn from their loved one. We all live at a certain level of numbness to make it in this life.

The lady in “Underwater” represents the problem of modern humanity. When nothing is sacred anymore, all is consumed, no matter how hard you try not to be, so we are all addicts struggling not to be controlled.

At the core, the drug addict isn’t running to drugs because he made a series of bad decisions. He runs to them because they have become the one thing that can provide relief from pain, pleasure, and an escape.

At the core, the porn addict doesn’t run to the computer screen or the bookstore because he/she has let his mind go too far. He runs to it because it’s giving him something that relieves him from the lack of intimacy, acceptance, and pleasure that this world promised, but failed to deliver.

At the core, the workaholic doesn’t work all the time because he/she is so in love with what she does. She works all the time because it gives her a sense of significance, acceptance, or the right kind of living.

The same can be said about the shopaholic, the Facebook addict, and the one who controls their eating, their relationships, or their children. At the heart of all of these addictions is a deep idol (a wanna be god) that drives us to satisfy “it”, a desire that has convinced us that “this” is the one thing that can fill our deep, empty wells.

As “holy-ones-of God”, our goal is to be addicted to Jesus, craving to live in his truth, which actually harmonizes us with reality. Apart from the reality that is found in Christ Jesus, everything else is a fake-counterfeit-reality, a fraudualent-directionless-desire, that leaves us upside-down-and-inside-out… underwater.

Weekly @Switchfoot Song: Chem 6a

Here’s the next song on Switchfoot’s first album The Legend of Chin: “Chem 6a”. Apparently, Chem 6A is the intro chemistry class at University of California, San Diego. This is one of the classes Jon (the lead singer) took while he was in college, before he dropped out to pursue his dream of playing music full-time. Here’s the lyrics:

Nothing but a chemical in my head
It’s nothing but laziness
Cause I don’t wanna read the book
I’ll watch the movie
Cause it’s not me
I’m just like everybody else my age

I think I’d rather play around
And I think I’d rather watch TV
Cause I don’t wanna face my fears
I’ll watch the movie
Cause it’s not me
I’m just like everybody else
I’m just like everybody else

Because I don’t wanna be here
I don’t wanna see this now
It’s all wrong but it’s alright
And I don’t wanna be here
And I don’t wanna study now
It’s all wrong but it’s alright

I don’t know what love is
I don’t know who I am
And if I ever want to find out
I’ll watch the movie
Cause it’s not me
I’m just like everybody else my age

I don’t wanna change the world
And I don’t wanna be someone
I don’t wanna write the book
I’ll make the movie
Cause it’s not me
I’m just like everybody else
I’m just like everybody else

I don’t wanna be here
I don’t wanna see this now
It’s all wrong but it’s alright
And I don’t wanna be here
And I don’t wanna study now
It’s all wrong but it’s alright

I must say this again, as I have said it before, and will likely say it many more times, music (and the arts) are universal and powerful precisely because, unlike many other pieces of literature, most forms of the arts leave open-ended meanings to the work that is enjoyed (not all, but most). So allow me indulge on what this song has meant to me. This song speaks to the reality of having to conform to what the world around me says I need to be, or to do, to be successful, to be somebody, or to fit in. It speaks to the person who isn’t motivated to work at a fortune 500 business, start an online business, or just work a 9-5 job sitting in a cubicle. This speaks of the person who is tired of living in the rat race just to keep up with all the things that will give you a “good, steady job” so you can keep up with all the bills that have been acquired in the name of having a good time, and living the American dream.

It also speaks to the person who has lost themselves in this life, and don’t want to open that door to find out who they really are. The person who knows something’s wrong with the status quo, but they don’t want to know, so they just stay like everybody else, watch the same movies, believe the same news reels, and never find who they truly are. We live in a fast paced culture that has made consumption “king”, which has caused a sickening system that has allowed capitalism to be the new religion, and has allowed it to be almost completely unaccountable.

This unchecked capitalism has conformed many of us “Christians” to it’s image more than we are being conformed to the image of Christ. We say this is not so, but our lifestyles betrays us. Us ‘Westerners’ are the all-consuming-mouth-of-the-world, consuming products and people. This unchecked, unaccountable capitalism has created a way of life that has made the bottom line (financially) the most important discussion. This has turned creative citizens, into crazy consumers. We are told to keep consuming, or our way of life will not be sustainable. So we strive to keep up, lest we be forgotten… and the result is that we lose ourselves. We become one with the people, or the systems, that we never believed in, but we’re like everybody else, so that makes us feel okay.

For Christians, or may I say “holy ones” (fun fact side note: the Greek word hagios often translated ‘holy ones’ or saints’ is used over 60 times in the New Testament, compared to the Greek word Christianós or ‘Christian’, only being used three times), this unchecked capitalism has been detrimental to the identity of the ‘holy ones’. Instead of living as citizens of heaven, we have become consumers of heavenly feelings.

Consumerism has become such a way of life because of unchecked capitalism, that even the church now is addicted to consuming religious goods, services, and leaders. We consume worship. We consume entertaining preachers/leaders. We continue to consume more and more, but feel better about it because we have put “Jesus” on the product, or have deemed it a “Christian” product. But in the midst of this rat race, we have forgotten that over-consumption in the problem, so we keep consuming “Christian” things. And while we do it, we long for more comfortable, trendy venues to do our consuming.

I think all of this sets us up for a big let down in life; we lose who we are, life becomes disappointing, everything’s wrong, but we say, “It’s alright, because I’m like everybody else.” The American way of life has become a chemical in our heads. We were created for so much more.

Weekly @Switchfoot Song: “Bomb”

The song Bomb (listen here; Tim Foreman kills it on the bass in this song!) is the first song of the first album of Switchfoot (The Legend of Chin, 1997) that came out my first year in college. In case you didn’t already know this about me, I’m a Switchfoot junkie, and have been listening to them since the beginning. I’ve always loved their creativity and willingness to write good songs and good music, and not give in to the pressure to have to label themselves “A Christian boy band”. Christian music has always been interesting to me since music can’t get saved, people do. It’s also interesting because we don’t have pro athletes making an all-Christian league… no, we have Christians who are really good athletes, and it should be the same for musicians, artists, engineers, businessmen and women, etc.

Anyways, enough of my soap box. I’ve been wanting to share a song a week from Switchfoot and go through their albums from the beginning until today, and share with you what they have meant to me as I listened to them. And I need to add, this is my opinion and my experience of these lyrics and songs, not Switchfoot’s. The beauty of music and art, is that it can mean many different things to different people. Here’s the lyrics to Bomb:

with blankness starring back at me
and screaming from the pages
i feel the fear of apathy
gripping me, pushing me
on top of everything
in the corner with a view
i turn off the fluorescent tubes

this is the bomb that i’ve been waiting for (looking for)
you finally lit the fuse
thats in my head
yes, you finally lit the fuse
thats in my head

with nothingness on top of me
and bleeding from my folder
who can stop the emptiness
don’t let it take me over

i’ve been sinking down
further into nothing
ive been waiting long
longer than for some things

this is the bomb that i’ve been waiting for (living for)
you finally lit the fuse
thats in my head
yes, you finally lit the fuse
thats in my head…

Since I share the same generation as the band, I remember the late 90’s in my life being one of asking questions (big questions, which Switchfoot was never afraid to ask). I have learned over the years of my life, in the joys and the pain, the questions and the answers, the interests and the apathy, that God loves these questions that are birthed from these moments. I’ve learned that God is big enough for my junk and can handle my doubt, my arguments, and my questions. I’ve learned to be okay with the season of “not-knowing” what the hell is going on in life.

Then, in the middle of my “hell”, my disbelief, my questions, a “bomb” goes off and I catch a small glimpse of the way things are supposed to be, or get a little bit of clarity in life, and for that season, I can see purpose and meaning. I can feel the passion that I once had, sneak into my life again, this time, a passion that’s a little more passionate and mature. I can see God’s kingdom more clearly, and many times, the bomb hurts… it reveals misconceptions of Christ, of the poor, of my enemies, of those who are different from me, and I am led to repentance as I watch my ego and pride be stripped away. Bombs usually blow up things they hit, and if we let them, God will use them to shape us into kingdom-people who care for the things God cares for.

You see, it’s in the “sinking down”, the “apathy”, the “blankness”, or “nothingness”, where God usually shows up to those who are looking for truth. I’ve never been encouraged as a youth to be okay with these emotions and seasons of life. This song offered that kind of freedom. Many of our motivations “not to feel” this way are birthed out of fear; fear of doubt and not having the right answers; fear of frayed edges and loose ends, etc… God’s okay with loose ends.

For now, I appreciate Bomb, and if you follow these posts in the future, you will see Switchfoot give you freedom to feel, to ask, to struggle, to cry, to rejoice, etc. This is a big reason why I love Switchfoot and appreciate their journey of displaying the beauty of God’s kingdom in new and fresh ways.