When Dreams Are Fading

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Switchfoot has a song called “Sooner or Later (Søren’s Song)”, which is more or less a prayer of Søren Aabye Kierkegaard (May 5, 1813 – November 11, 1855), who was a nineteenth century Danish philosopher and theologian. Much of Søren’s work and thoughts were criticized while he was alive, but after he passed, many people realized his contribution to the break down of rationalism that was overtaking the institutional church of his day.

It seems to me that much of Søren’s work desired to bring together the spiritual and material realms, as the Christian “religion” had pitted the “material” against the “spiritual”, which had deprived the material life (eating, drinking, pleasure, etc.) of having any meaning or value. In other words, the good Christian was boring and unable to enjoy the better parts of God’s material world. Friedrich Nietzsche’s keen but sad critique of Christians of his day was that their religion made them boring.

This is where the lyrics of this song come in. Søren longed for more and was honest about his struggle with faith. I struggle with faith, the boring and taxing parts of it. The suffering for doing good, and the regret of my actions. The loss of a reality that movies told me life was like when I was a child. The let down that Christendom handed me when I entered adulthood and the formula for joy was a disappointment. The struggle is everywhere and the desire to hold on to hope is relentless for those who are willing to be honest.

Søren wanted more than a rational understanding of faith, and so do I. He longed for an experience of faith, of God; a faith that haunted him, met him in the mundane every day, followed him, swallowed him, consumed him; so do I. I’m convinced that anything less than the divine invading the material realm in every part of life will lead to a major disappointment in any spiritual journey. Here’s the lyrics to this Switchfoot song from the album, New Way to be Human (1999):

“Sooner Or Later (Søren’s Song)”

Come back and haunt me
Follow me home
Give me a motive
Swallow me whole

They say I’ve lost it
What could I know
When I’m but a mockery?
I’m so alone

Sooner or later you’ll find out
There’s a hole in the wall

Today is ours
Condemned to be free
Free to keep breathing
Free to believe

I look to find you
Down on my knees
Oh God, I believe!
Please help me believe

Sooner or later they’ll find out
There’s a hole in the wall
Sooner or later you’ll find out
That you’ll dream to be that small

I’m a believer, help me believe

I gave it all away and lost who I am
I threw it all away
With everything to gain
And I’m taking the leap
With dreams of shrinking
Yeah, dreams of shrinking

There’s much to leave open ended about this song and I do not want to draw too many conclusions, but one I must is that this longing to experience God for Søren, I believe, was a desire to enter into the presence of God in a different dimension than what was offered to him through the “religion” of Christianity.

That “hole in the wall” metaphorically refers to an entrance, an invitation if you will, into the dimension where a Kingdom utterly different than ours exists. And the entrance is small, so small that we have to shrink, become lowly, humble enough to receive a new set of lenses and senses, new wine skins if you will, to see and experience the God of this universe.

Søren’s prayer was honest, much like the father of the epileptic son in Mark 9, who believed, yet asked Jesus to help him in his unbelief. Jesus invited the father to enter into a new dimension of faith, faith that would redeem a broken part of his material realm, but for some, only to leave that person once again wanting more because life breaks down.

The material realm is so wonderful in so many ways, until it breaks down. Betrayal. Loss. Pain. Abuse. Neglect. Anger. Bitterness. Failure. Broken dreams. Broken bodies. At that point, we long to separate from the material either from our religion of choice, or through other false stories of salvation such as various chemicals or sex.

So we begin to live in this dualism. We love the material realm until it breaks down, and then we long to be in another realm, spiritually or imaginatively. We need the God of this universe to penetrate our material reality in every way so that our dual understanding of life and faith is shattered and we begin to embrace that every moment is a sacrament waiting to be noticed, not necessarily celebrated all the time, but noticed.

This is the beginning of experiencing God in a new dimension. This is the beginning of becoming small enough to enter the hole in the wall, to walk in to the real realm that is fully divine and spiritual, and fully material and fully good. This is the beginning of rightly understanding pain and loss, and joyfully receiving good meals and drinks with friends. This is the beginning of not giving up when life is unbearable and has broken you down. This is the beginning of learning to have fun and laugh and to have extended time of silence that heals and restores.

This is the beginning of experiencing the life of life, who is God, revealed to us through Jesus, the suffering servant who grew in stature and favor with God and man. This is the beginning of receiving the whole gospel that says God will never abandon you, and will relentlessly act in such a way for you to truly know him and hunger for him more than anything else. The life that God offers is his Son, the light that has always shone, not from the beauty into the dark, but out of the darkness pointing towards the beauty; reconciliation with God through faith in the Son who sines light out of darkness.

So today, I cry out with Søren for the faith to believe and to experience the light and life of God, and for it to shine with all of it’s brightness into my dark life, into this dark world, so that on the days of hopelessness, myself and many others may not abandon post and cause more pain to others and ourselves on this journey to the heavenly realm that will be our reality here on earth one day.

If this light in not true and is not experienced in our material world, then to what are we witnesses of? What have we to offer if we have not seen and touched with our hands? Where will we call others who are hopeless to? What can we offer?

Come back and haunt me. Follow me home. Give me a motive. Swallow me whole. Make of me a living liturgy that encounters the Eucharist today. Let me touch your body. the hands that were wounded with holes. Let me see and taste of your blood that was spilled in the darkness so that light would be shone for all. Give us something to truly be a witness of in the midst of despair.

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Weekly @Switchfoot Song: Incomplete

Johnny Gosch was the first kid to appear on the side of a milk carton.

Have you ever seen a “missing person” report on an old milk carton or hung up in the front of a local grocery store? I have all kinds of emotions that pop up when I see them, and think of that child or adult, who’s missing… lost, and I wonder:

What are they thinking? What’s happened to them since they’ve been lost? Are they alive and happy somewhere, or alive and suffering? Are they even alive? Is there family at home grieving over the loss of their presence, their smile? Are they still looking for them, or have they given up?

And the more I think about missing people, I think about the season of my life when I’ve been a missing person, right here in my normal, everyday self, when the only person who’s been kidnapped is my identity. Then I ask myself those same questions:

What am I thinking right now? What’s happened to me since I’ve been lost? Is this what living really is like? Is this happiness? Am I even really alive in the truest sense? Does anybody care that I’ve been missing? And does anybody care if I’m found, or will they even recognize me when I show up again?

Over the last 15(+) years I’ve built relationships with people in such a way as to be a friend to people who are longing to have/find a voice, to be heard, to vent, and to offer freedom to those trying to figure life out. I can say that I’ve really learned a lot over the years, and have heard lots of longings and doubts, fears and confusion, loss and pain.

Every single person, in their own way, are incomplete, just like me, trying to find out who we really are what life’s really all about… and in this journey of life, there’s a lot of relational wreckage in my life, and in those of my friends’ lives as well.

Missing person. Incomplete. Where will I find myself? But as Switchfoot poetically puts it, the real question we should be asking ourselves is: “Where will I lose myself?”. Check out their song “Incomplete”:

He’s washing face to start his day

He’s lonely, lonely, lonely, lonely

Nothing in the mirror ever shows him what’s within

Now he’s checking out the faces

On the back of the milk

He’s sour under all this pressure

He thinks the missing person looks an awful lot like him

And he starts his engine

But he knows he’s missing gears

Incomplete!

Where will you find yourself?

Incomplete!

Where will you find yourself?

Where will you lose yourself?

‘Cause you’re the missing person now

Step outside your doubt

And let yourself be found!

He’s sick of the race just to save face

He’s tied and tried, he’s sick and tired

He’s tired of the holes that are keeping him incomplete

He’ll push the pedal to the floor

Like the day before

He’s trying to be always trying

Try to find an end to justify his means

We all long to be complete. To be found and feel safe and sound. The problem is, we often try to feel complete within a system that has us running off fumes. The rat race. “The pace of life is full, busy, and hopefully, one of these days,” we say to ourselves, “I will find my purpose or be noticed during one of my busy activities, then I’ll feel complete and the burn out of life will be worth it.”

We don’t have to keep saving face. We can step out of the race, out of the system that tells us what it looks like to “succeed”. We don’t have to keep pushing till we drop, and lose or miss all that we already have. As missing people who try to find themselves in what they do, we will miss the people who truly love us now. We will miss our kids, maybe lose our spouse, and hurt those we love most. It’s not worth it. Take your foot off the pedal, slow down, and smell the flowers that are closest by you.

There’s freedom when we take our eyes off the systems and place them on the person, Jesus. The luggage-free savior who isn’t owned or managed by anyone. The problem is, this system, or the systems we’ve created, have squeezed out the very person who helps us find ourselves by losing ourselves.

Losing, or cutting off the baggage that comes with whatever it is we’re trying to protect. It could be Christianity or your faith (or lack there of) of choice, it could be your lifestyle, your job, your “significant other”, or your faith community. Jesus isn’t owned by any of those things or people.

Jesus doesn’t come with the baggage of their history. Jesus rises above the entities, circles, and teams, and clearly makes known, there’s no team that can contain him. He’s complete, and our incompleteness melts away to the degree that we walk in his direction.

Where will you find yourself? It’s where and when you’re willing to lose yourself, to cut out all the lines you’ve drawn and the circles you’ve joined, and realize, Jesus isn’t following you. Crazy thought, huh? Jesus isn’t following us. He’s inviting us to follow him. This is where life is found, not in right belief, or in a well-ordered life, but in a life pursuing Jesus. This is where we really find ourselves and can offer ourselves to people in a ways that give life.

Jesus is the beginning of all that is good, and he cares about missing people, and longs for them to be found.

Weekly @Switchfoot Song: New Way to Be Human

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After Switchfoot’s first album, there was more attention around this young band, and another album was going to be only the beginning for this talented group of guys. In 1999 they came out with their second album “New Way To Be Human.” Their first song was the one that gave more meaning to the album title. Check it out here:

Everyday it’s the same thing
Another trend has begun
Hey kids, this might be the one

It’s a race to be noticed
And it’s leaving us numb
Hey kids, we can’t be the ones

With all of our fashion
We’re still incomplete
The God of redemption
Could break our routine

There’s a new way to be human
It’s nothing we’ve ever been
There’s a new way to be human
New way to be human

And where is our inspiration?
When all the heroes are gone
Hey kids, could we be the ones?

‘Cause nobody’s famous
And nobody’s fine
We all need forgiveness
We’re longing inside

There’s a new way to be human
It’s nothing we’ve ever been
There’s a new way to be human
It’s spreading under my skin
There’s a new way to be human
Where divinity blends
With a new way to be human
New way to be human

You’re throwing your love across
my impossible space
You’ve created me
Take me out of me into…

A new way to be human
To a new way to be human

You’re a new way to be human
Where my humanity bends
To a new way to be human
Redemption begins

You’re a new way to be human
You’re the only way to be human

This is a reset song for humanity. When life seems to be out control in so many ways, we need songs like this to confront our lifestyles; the way we seek comfort, the way we show concern for injustices but end up being handcuffed by fear and lack of passion to do anything about it, the way we naturalize the supernatural by trusting in science, medicine, and professionals more than the divine. We need a new way to be human, a new way of rediscovering the supernatural in our lives.

Every day it’s the same thing, another trend has begun; a trend that will change your life forever! What’s the next fad that will come and convince us we need it or else life will be dull and not worth living. Google Play seems to have done a great job, with their advertising video at least, as they have captured the heart of humanity through story and adventure:

I have to admit… I love this ad. The video was written and put together so well, it tugged at my heart strings and dipped into my passions and made me want to join those little girls shooting arrows at injustice; it’s portraying a new way to be human; passion, courage, fearlessness, love, hate, cry, feel pain. This Google Play ad teaches us about our humanity in such a beautiful way, that we long to feel and remember the good and fight against the bad, to make life count, to be on the side of justice and joy.

This is indeed what we were created for: life, beauty, adventure, justice, sacrifice, generosity, love, but many of us just like to watch the movie, read the book, or play the game. Allowing that passion and courage to manifest into action… a radically changed life… well, that’s just to radical and weird for most of us.

The end of Google’s ad gives us a glimpse into their ‘profit-driven-answer’ as to how the new way to be human ought to be: Go to “Google Play, and play your heart out.” “Get more apps and games. Watch more movies and listen to more music. This is truly living!”

Now, I’m not against good music and movies, I love them, A LOT… but they are not the way to life, and beauty, and adventure, and a new way to be human. They ultimately leave us empty and void of life. Try it… Play games all day, or look at Facebook and watch everyone else’s life that is better and happier than yours, and see how you feel after wards… it feels like one big race to be noticed as being happy, socially connected, with the best kids, the best church, the best life. When we see advertisement like this in our household, Mike Goheen has led us to repeat a family liturgy that responds to these bids of the good life by saying, “Who are you kidding!”

The digital social world looks so good, buying the next thing that advertisement says you need is disappointing when the newer fad comes out after it… the fall from the “high” is a big let down. This type of numbing so that we can live a happy life looks even better when the way to real life, at least what history has shown us is found in sacrifice, suffering, and courage. It’s much easier to feel good by watching a movie or buying a new app, but Jesus’ answer is radically different.

Allow me to speak on behalf of God for a moment, because Jesus demands to be heard in this conversation, for many reasons, but one especially from the gospel of Mark. In the opening chapter of Mark’s letter, Jesus utters the most spectacular announcement of all time: the kingdom of God is here! (Mark 1:15). But what’s even more spectacular is what happens after Jesus announces this spectacular statement, He displays what this statement means and looks like.

If we read through Mark’s letter about Jesus, we would see that He lives and teaches like no other religious leader ever has. Each miracle, every sermon, and all of his movements toward the poor and marginalized is calculated to beat back evil and restore creation to its Maker. The blind see. The deaf hear. The lame walk. The sick are healed. The social outcasts are socially restored. The untouchable are touched. The oppressed are freed. The oppressors are condemned.

Then at the end of Mark’s letter, we see that Jesus’ plan all along was to take all that was broken in the world, and absorb into himself. This means sin done against us, and sin we’ve done against others (and ourselves) is consumed by Christ, but it came at a high cost for Jesus. He became cursed by our cursings, and was rejected because of our reputation. Thankfully, Jesus being God made into a man, died, but death was like sleeping for Jesus, so he woke up after a few days, and when He did, he put to death the death of death and has now offered us, through his sacrifice, suffering, and courage, the greatest gift of all… the “Way” to true life, true beauty, true adventure, true justice, true generosity, true love; he created a new way to be human!

The point isn’t to hate on Google play or apps or movies. Buy them, have fun with them, watch them, enjoy them with friends and family, “play your heart out”, but don’t run to them to answer questions about life, or look to them to define beauty and sacrifice, or allow them to create a new way to be human. The cyber world wasn’t meant to be more real than your neighbor next to you, or your wife or kids.

By Jesus’ words and works of power, He is bringing the kingdom, the ultimate and most satisfying app on the market! You can’t buy it though… you must believe Him and then share Him with others, because He’s the ultimate flesh-satisfying and soul-defining gift to the world. Don’t play without Him! He’s the one who makes you a winner through losing your life.

This post is best summed up by the words of Mother Teresa and Gandalf:

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And the words of Gandalf encourage the same as he responds in Rivendale to Lorien’s question, “Why the halfling?”

“Saruman believes that it is only great power that can hold evil in check. But that is not what I have found. I have found it is the small things… everyday deeds of ordinary folk that keeps the darkness at bay. Simple acts of kindness and love. Why Bilbo Baggins? Perhaps it is because I’m afraid and he gives me courage.” (From The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey)

Weekly @Switchfoot Song: Don’t Be There

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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.