Weekly @Switchfoot Song: Don’t Be There

LOC

I have finally arrived at the last song of Switchfoot’s first album, which by the way was recorded, start to finish, in just three weeks. Pretty impressive for a few young amateur musicians who didn’t know all the boundaries that “professional” music was supposed to have. This last song entitled “Don’t Be There” a poetic piece that was written about a relationship that was changing as they grew apart from each other. The beauty of this song, in my opinion, is the honesty of emotion in the midst of change, pain, and confusion.

Don’t be there
‘Cause I’m on my way

And I’m already gone over
And I’m on my way

And I can’t recall myself
How I went down
Did I get shot
Or shoot myself

I’m down here
And you’re way up there

But that doesn’t hurt badly
But it stings right here

And I won’t pretend there’s
Nothing there
You be around and I’ll be square
Don’t be alarmed if I’m not there
You be around and I’ll be square

If you’re a rose
Then I’m the thorn
That’s in your side

And does it hurt badly
‘Cause it burns right here

I’d like to say hello
I’d like to say I care
I’d like to let you know
That nothing here’s the same with me
Nothing here’s the same

Don’t be around
Don’t be there

Oh the freedom to be able to express emotion and to process pain. This seems to be something in our day and age that is numbed by food, technology, or other forms of busyness. Some people get mad when asked, “How are you feeling?” Many people want to just be left alone, and I can understand that, but there is something that is missed when we are able to grieve and process in loss in community. We all love community, but when it comes to painful personal things, we close up; we resist the purest expression of community. Processing loss and pain out loud allows us to break down barriers in ourselves and others so there is room for one another, and for difference, and discomfort, and growth.

So go ahead, try it. What are you going through that you’ve given yourself freedom to be concealed to those you’re close to? Open up to safe people. Give it a shot. Let others walk with you, maybe even say the wrong thing and offend you. It will only serve to heal you and mature you, as you welcome the joy of community and the power of being weak and vulnerable.

Weekly @Switchfoot Song: Ode to Chin

This song title is apparently written for a friend of theirs when they were younger, named Willis Chin. I’m sure we could speculate much more about this song, the title, and other things we’d never really know unless we sat down with the band. But that’s not the point of some songs, and I think this song fits in that category, of having a deeper and more liberal meaning (liberal meaning generous, not politically liberal). It’s a great song with questions we’d all be better for if we spent time intentionally answering them in our own lives. Here’s the lyrics:

What’s your direction?
Tell me what’s wrong, tell me what’s right
What’s your direction?
Think about somebody else for the night
Life’s more than girls
God’s more than words
You’re more than this
So what’s your direction?
And where are you now?

Grow, grow where you are
Anchor your roots underneath
Doubt your doubts and believe your beliefs

What’s your direction?
What matters most?
What should you know?
What’s your direction
All that you’ve been
Makes who you are now
‘Cause I’ve been ashamed
I’ve been a fool
You know I’ve backed down
When I lose direction I pray to be found

Grow, grow where you are
Anchor your roots underneath
Doubt your doubts and believe your beliefs

Now some would read this song and question the health of telling someone to “grow where you are,” especially if you are planted in bad soil, or in a place with little sun and water is scarce. Growth won’t happen there. I agree. To me, this song is challenging us to root ourselves. Be known. Don’t close off and isolate yourself. To grow is to be planted and rooted. In a culture where transient people and communities aren’t rare, rooting yourself somewhere is one of the ways we are going to get back to communal life that is restorative and actually makes a difference in a local context. Healthy global change can never happen if we never focus locally. 

Be who you are locally, today. Wrestle out what you believe and what matters most in life. Think critically. Challenge what you do and ask why you do it. Understand what shapes you and how your habits are formed. Culture is not neutral in the sense that it is shaping people and communities all the time. Beliefs and exposed in marketing, grocery shopping, and church going or not. We are always being shaped.

What are you being shaped by? What’s forming your habits and thoughts? Who you running with? Who knows you? Who should know you? Who do you know? The doubts you have…. doubt them and be honest about your doubts. The beliefs you have… believe them and don’t be ashamed of those beliefs. To be a good friend is not to agree about everything. It’s to be who you really are and being honest about that. The best, most intimate friendships are those who are honest with who they are now and the beliefs and doubts they have, even about each other.

Jean Vanier (Canadian Catholic philosopher turned theologian, humanitarian, author, and founder of L’Arche Communities) has some of the best thoughts on community, belonging, being known, and knowing. “Community is the breaking down of barriers to welcome difference.” Community and Growth, 20. Barriers are built when we are not honest about our doubts and beliefs. Barriers are built when we are not sure of who we are and pretense settles in. Barriers are built when we never plant or root ourselves because we are never able to be truly known.

This is difficult stuff. Stuff I struggle with all the time, but I’m committed to wrestling it out. Believing what I believe about God, the gospel, life, and sin without shame. Doubting elements of truth that have been shaped more by my own interpretation or other people’s interpretation of a truth. Doubting interpretations of truth is not saying there is not truth… but it is embracing that many truths are twisted and construed throughout history, and getting back to the root of many truths takes much doubting and at the end, an embracing of mystery and faith.

So what’s your direction? What matters most to you? What are you willing to die for? Where have you lost your direction? Wherever you are, you can ask to be found, and you will be found.

Weekly @Switchfoot Song: Life And Love And Why

I haven’t posted a “Weekly” @Switchfoot Song in quite a while, so I realize the title of these posts now are fraudulent to a degree. Offer me the grace to keep the “weekly” part of the title if you will, as I am on a personal journey to unpack the theology/philosophy of Switchfoot’s songs (which are many and will take a while), and the “weekly” part of the title puts pressure on my weird mind to keep working on this.

So today I’m highlighting the song “Life and Love and Why,” which asks many questions about life, it’s purpose and meaning, and is searching for something, not just to live for, but to give one’s whole life for, and even die for:

Life and love and why
Child, adult, then die
All of your hoping
And all of your searching
For what?
Ask me for what am I living
Or what gives me strength
That I’m willing to die for

Take away from me
This monstrosity
‘Cause my futile thinking’s
Not gonna solve nothing tonight
Ask me for what am I living
Or what gives me strength
That I’m willing to die for

Could it be this
Could this be bliss
Could it be all that
I ever had missed
Could it be true
Can life be new
And can I be used
Can I be used

Give me a reason
For life and for death
A reason for drowning
While I hold my breath
Something to laugh at
A reason to cry
With everyone hopeless
And hoping for something
To hope for
Yeah, with something to hope for

Could it be true
Can life be new
Could it be all that I am
Is in You
Could it be this
Could it be bliss
Can it be You
Can it be You

Some people say these are the questions of the 20 somethings, the idealists who are longing for more than this world has offered them, and will be discontent in life till they find that purpose.

I suppose many middle aged men and women look at this generation and say, “It’s only a matter of time until you realize the American dream is not worth fighting against, so just give in to it now before you’re let down and realize the idealized life of standing courageously for something is a let down.” With all the lost dreams out there and the relentless fight of wanting to die for something, I understand why people would feel that way.

To long for something that you would be willing to die for ends up really bad for most people in the movies, at least if it’s not a cheesy flick. It’s like William Wallace in Braveheart. Everyone wants to be the lover and warrior that he was, but no one wants the outcome of his life. Dying on the execution table having lost his love and the war he was fighting for.

The world we live in does not value lives that give everything up for truth and justice, at least not right away. We all think of the righteous martyr and say, “Wow, she was courageous! I want to be like her, but I really hope I don’t have to in this life.”

Whether we like it or not, we are in a time in history where the courageous men and women are being raised up again in the West, as there has been a season when courageous people were few and far between. The age of comfort and leisurely pleasure is over.

With the rise of social media and the global connectedness we can now have, even though there’s “relative” peace in the West, all of us know that it is not all good throughout the world and our lives of “bliss” are confronted with death, hunger, and grave injustices. We can no longer live in our bubbles and pretend everything’s good. We all belong to one another, I hope we believe that… and the only hope in the world is people not losing hope.

“With everyone hopeless and hoping for something to hope for, yeah, with something to hope for… Could it be true, can life be new, could it be all that I am is in You; could it be this, could it be bliss, can it be You?” The answer to these questions are found in the next song on the album entitled “You.”

“I find peace when I’m confused, I find hope when I’m let down, not in me… me
in You, it’s in You. I hope to lose myself for good. I hope to find it in the end, not in me … me in You.”

This is the hope this world’s longing for. This is the place where confusion is not disorienting, and being let down in the end doesn’t breed hopelessness. This is the place where losing is winning, and death is living. This is the place where the weak are strong, and the poor are rich. It’s the place where if you want to be somebody, you become a servant of all. You can’t lose when you arrive at this place.

I’m talking of course about the place of surrender. Losing one’s life while standing before a bloody cross with Jesus the Christ hanging on it, displaying the greatest act of love, sacrifice, courage, and compassion. It’s not in us, it’s in Jesus. Jesus is the hope in the darkness, and the love for the loveless. It’s in Him, not us. Jesus offers us life for death and makes love something worth dying for.

Because of Jesus, love alone is worth the fight. Love for our enemy is cast in a whole new light. Love for the underdog and the broken sufferer is the new normal. And today, there is an army rising up, learning how to die, resurrecting an old moral. What gives me strength that I’m willing to die for? It’s the hope of life in Christ that offers more.

Weekly @Switchfoot Song: Concrete Girl

It’s been a while since I’ve had time to write about another Switchfoot song from their first album, The Legend of Chin. This is more of a personal project for me, going through each album from their first to the last. Switchfoot has represented to me a band that stays rooted over many years of change and adversity. They also represent a band who hasn’t been, nor is, afraid to address real issues in life, writing about the beauty of life, relationships, God, creation, and the battle of life in the midst of the beauty. They continually live in the tension of pain and joy, loss and gain, beauty and ashes, and gives hope to the hopeless. This particular songs is addressing the coldness of life at times, and how the modern view of architecture (mass concrete al over the place) presents a coldness to life, a life that values sameness at the cost of people faking who they are. Here are the lyrics:

Bleeding thoughts
Cracking boulder
Don’t fall over

Fake your laughter
Burn the tear
Sing it louder
Twist and shout

Way up here
We stand on shoulders
Growing colder

Laugh or cry
I won’t mind
Sing it louder
Twist and shout

Immovable shadows
The concrete girl
They’ll rock your world to nothing

And they’re swimming around again, again
And they’re swimming around
The concrete girl

Catch your breath like four-leaf clover
Hand it over

Scream to no one
Take your time
Sing it louder
Twist and shout

Nothing to run from is worse than something
And all your fears of nothing

And they’re swimming around again, again
And they’re swimming around
The concrete girl

Concrete girl don’t fall down
In this broken world around you
Concrete girl don’t fall down
Don’t fall down my concrete girl

Don’t stop thinking
Don’t stop feeling now

One step away from where we were
And one step back to nothing

And we’re standing on top of our hopes and fears
And we’re fighting for words now concrete girl
And we’re swimming around again, again
And we’re swimming around now
Concrete girl

Concrete girl don’t fall down in this broken world around you
Concrete girl don’t fall down
Don’t fall down my concrete girl

Concrete girl don’t fall down in this concrete world around you
Concrete girl don’t fall down
Don’t break down my concrete girl

Now I am well aware if that when you read these lyrics, you can feel lost and might not get what they’re trying to say. On one of their websites, they describe the context for these lyrics that, I think, speak to the way we think about urban development of buildings: “Here at the University of California San Diego, concrete reigns supreme. I love my school and wouldn’t go anywhere else, but the contemporary buildings here are noticeably different from the stately facades of the Ivy League schools. The sterile modernity here is cold and impersonal, the concrete corners immovable and severe.”

Sterile and cold. The modern architects of the “Urban Renewal” Act of 1949 thought that they could clear the slums of major cities across the country by designing multiple housing units in the slum that all look the same, sterile and cold, and simple some would say. Build it and they will come some thought. Well this “urban renewal” act was what created all of the projects in the inner city that we know of today. Sterile and cold, with no personality and no thought of the cultures of the people who would live there.

Some of the urban development that has taken place across our country is void of character, with mass track housing, no personality, the sameness of model homes, the loss of true neighborhoods when subdivisions were created, and before you know it, we have a concrete world around us, that takes a car to get you from one place to the next. The concrete world around is built to cater to the car more than the person; the development than the neighborhood; the marketing than the connecting. Concrete worlds tempt us to stop thinking and feeling, and conform to the world of technology and advancement.

So here’s a plea for those who are struggling in the concrete world around us: change happens when we chose to live differently. Walk more. Drive less. Shop locally. Plant a garden. Start a farmer’s market in your neighborhood. Advocate for development in your town that caters to the pedestrian. Help design neighborhoods where the poor have equal access to goods and services as those who have cars do. Don’t buy into “bigger is better” or success means growth. Cancerous growths are not successful, nor are growths of urban concrete sprawls that kill creativity and culture. The change starts one life change at a time. We can help our cities and neighborhoods be truly better places of justice and righteousness. Concrete girl, don’t stop thinking; don’t stop feeling.

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: “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.