Tag Archives: Hope

Chasing the wind?

I read the book of Ecclesiastes this summer. If you’re not familiar with it, it is the musings of an old ‘Philosopher’ on life; what satisfies, what is the point of it all? He tries to make sense of life, and what the purpose of both life itself and its pleasures are, given its brevity, the randomness of chance, and the fact that, taking the long view in his eyes, everything comes around again in an endless cycle in which nothing lasts. ‘Everything is meaningless, like chasing the wind’. He speaks with great wisdom, and yet I found myself debating with him as I read.

It occurred to me I’m thinking like the Philosopher, and not in a good way; in the long, slow recovery from the depression that has knocked back my energy for activism, if not my desire to see things change, I’m starting to succumb to the feeling that everything has happened before and will happen again, it all comes around again and nothing makes a difference. And then as I try to nurse myself, I find I am just trying to ‘feed’ myself, give myself the things I want, as if that could satisfy, and finding unsurprisingly that it doesn’t.

The Philosopher blows back and forth on this, on the one hand saying it’s useless as chasing the wind, on the other that enjoying what we have is all we can and should do.

But is that true?

I think adding Jesus to the equation changes everything. In Him there is a bigger narrative of hope and direction. There is eternity. Everything is headed somewhere. There will be justice – beyond the timeframes of our lives. Which side of that we choose to stand on now matters, not because we can change the endless cycles of rise and fall in this world in our lives, but because He sees it, and is honoured and assisted, or dishonoured and hindered, in His work by our actions and inactions in all things.

Recently at church the speaker preached on the whole book! Their conclusion was similar, that you need Jesus to complete the picture. The service was focussed on wisdom, rather than any other aspect of the book, but it took a similar course. The Philosopher points out that wisdom does not guarantee success, and asks what the point is, and yet concludes that it is still the best way to live and enjoy life. And yet wisdom is personified in Jesus; without Him, there is a hole in the logic. Why live wisely if it doesn’t bring us any benefits, except to know and please the one who is Wisdom?

The speakers made a big deal of how ‘depressing’ the book is to keep emphasising the reality of death. But isn’t this an important, and even life-giving, perspective, a wake-up call to remind us to actually remember to live whilst we have time? It is good and healthy to look at the material and remember how transient we are. But the conclusion of that should not be that we can only consume it in the time we have, but that we need to find contentment. And more than that, we can do far more than simply enjoy what we have; we can actually use it to help others thrive. We are blessed to bless, given to to give. In this way we build something bigger and more lasting than anything merely material we could build and invest in here for ourselves.

Everything may well come around. The justice, peace and progress we work for may well never be seen in our lifetimes, and may be undone in the generations to come. It is important to remember that I cannot fix the world. Even small acts of good that I do may be undone again afterwards. Does that mean it is worthless? No, it is worth it if I can help others now nonetheless. It is not my own legacy that I’m working for, but God’s, not my own kingdom but the eternal Kingdom of God. Never let fatalism become an excuse for apathy! It matters now!

What struck me most from the church sermon was when we were told the meaning of the word translated as ‘meaningless’ – ‘hevel’. It means vapour, breath, smoke.  Real, but intangible, transient, hard to grasp, hard to hold onto. Life is like this. It isn’t meaningless, but we cannot hold on to it, or anything in it. We can enjoy them. We can live in the now. But the only solid, lasting thing we can build is the Kingdom of God, and making life more enjoyable for others.

This is the perspective that I need right now. I cannot truly care for myself and nurse myself back into health by simply feeding my desires, though a certain amount of that is no bad thing. It won’t actually satisfy; but blessing others will. And whilst I cannot fix the world, I can always look for the opportunities before me in all situations and take the baby  steps towards bringing in God’s Kingdom that will get me walking again with some direction.

Don’t try to run from what’s uncomfortable; look for what opportunities you’ve been given to do good, and take them. That will satisfy in a way that feeding our comfort and material desires never could. It will outlast us all.

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Looking for Europe 4: Basel, hidden treasure

May 29th-30th

Wow! Wowow! Basel is gorgeous!

We spent the morning in Paris, seeing the Seine and Notre Dame cathedral, battling too many stairs, and looking for food/Sprite/ icecream/ peace with varying degrees of success! We had some fun with Kitty Jon, and randomly bumped into a fellow fan from last night’s show, which was nice, and eventually got expensive but delicious sandwiches in a café.

Then it was off to Basel! The journey was beautiful, and unexpectedly, so was Basel!

We fell in love with the place almost instantly. After a few stressy days lugging suitcases, overspending and failing to find any grocery shops, we were rather too excited to see food shops, ramps, clean and unpotholed pavements, and finally feel like we were not going to get run over! We got a bit hyper; I think I ran into the first food shop we found, went straight up to the bread and said ‘it’s so nice to meet you!’ before buying some, and some fruit, and consuming the fruit almost immediately despite intending it for breakfast..! You’d think we’d never seen fruit or bread before! The town was pretty, and the hostel ‘amazeballs’ :P, situated in this courtyard complex of arty little businesses and full of surreal artwork itself. And I really wished I had the time, money and luggage to be able to go shopping, the shops were lovely! We ended the day goofing around in the hostel, dancing, internetting, making terrible puns and literally moonwalking on the ceiling!

On show day #4, we had a wonderful morning cooking and eating our own real food, during which time I think I finally shook off the tears and began to feel whole again, then an afternoon just wandering and seeing the town, eating far too much vegan icecream and taking too many pictures, it was so beautiful!

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We arrived at the venue just in time to find Jon giving an interview for a radio station, and he performed The Most Gorgeous Acoustic Version Of Float Ever Heard! Stunning 🙂 We saw the guys going in and out the venue again and spoke to Tim about their day off in the mountains, to Drew, to Mark Foreman as he and Jan were there – they’re so nice! And to Jon – I thanked him for Float and told him that’s the best acoustic version I’d ever heard. He said he’d not played it like that before, and I told him I really liked it (which was a huge understatement; my JonForemania was going through the roof!).

Eventually they disappeared off inside, and (alas, whilst we were out the room) sound checked Healer Of Souls and Hope Is The Anthem. When I heard them start Healer Of Souls I whooped, jumped and ran to the doorway, and applauded even though I was in another room! It was that great though 😀 And ‘Hope…’ was intensely beautiful; I’d just been talking to a fellow fan about which songs we’d most like to hear and those two songs were our respective picks, so it was very special. And then we got to go in, and they soundchecked Shadow Proves. Wowow; happy shivers. Jon was singing so, so well that day, and they were soloing like crazy and sounding incredible.

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Then it was time for Meet ‘n’ Greet. I was fangirling to Jon after the sound check, and he pulled me up first for a photo! I told him I was trying to rearrange our trains to get to his show as we were meant to be in Belgium that day, and he said ‘if it’s meant to happen it’ll happen.’ I got my ’10th show’ banner out (‘This is my last banner and it’s a special one; I never imagined I’d get to this!’) Tim said ‘Hey it’s Jon’s 10th show too!’ as he was holding it! Drew gave me a hug and asked how I was, I said ‘Much better!’, and he and Tim gave me sweet smiles and I thanked them. I then managed to show Jon my diary, where I had written out my survival strategy after my depressive episode at BCDO; I’d wanted to show him in Paris, but it had been too rushed and I’d felt too fragile. I showed him, and read to him, what I’d written about lyrics as a part of this, and told him that so many of the lyrics that met me in those moments were his, just one of many things he’s done for me, that I had been there in the dark with his songs meeting me and pointing me towards light and hope. He said it was good advice that he too could use… Ohhh..! Oh my heart.

At the end of Meet ‘n’ Greet he drew me this little picture – so random! I just asked him if he would draw me something and with no hesitation whatsoever that is what he drew! I got talking to Romey whilst he drew it so I only saw it afterwards! Romey asked to see it too, and laughed and shook his head when he saw it!

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I asked Romey was he vegan as rumoured, and he told me he wasn’t but was mostly veggie, so I asked how he found Paris as I almost didn’t eat and he laughed and said yeah he had to eat meat, and I told him Basel is amazing and that I’d eaten so much icecream! I also told him that I wasn’t getting much chance to talk to them but wanted to say how incredible they are all playing at the moment (which he laughed off!) and how honoured I am to be on this tour with them playing like this. Then… he asked after M!! (which he opened with ‘are you married?’ :D) I said yeah, he’s hard to miss, he was with me at the last tour (he remembered!!), and at BCDO (he hadn’t noticed him there). What a memory!!

Ah the show… alas the speakers were too far forward from the stage, so despite how incredible the sound check had been, we couldn’t hear the gorgeous vocals at all from the stage, bar what we could hear audibly 😦 It would have sounded much better from the back, but that would have meant not being at the front and getting to interact with the guys as they played. Unfortunately it meant I didn’t catch what Jon said to me as he addressed me a couple of times from the stage, though I know he thanked me for each flag, told the crowd I’d brought them from England, the artwork was beautiful, and mentioned ‘friends from England’.

 

He picked out so many people from the crowd this time, far from just me, it was lovely to see him making moments for people. They played Bull again, and finally played me Healer Of Souls (video here), and then played Vice Verses ‘for Jemima’, who was one of several fans wearing a Vice Verses t-shirt.

 

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There was no aftershow, I think too many people left straight afterwards, but we did get to speak to Jon again as he still came out to hang with us – and whilst we were there I found out from the ‘fam back home that his solo tickets were on sale!! I couldn’t believe I was literally there with him and he hadn’t told me! I told him he was in trouble 😀 but I forgave him immediately when he said he’d only just found out himself. That was funny. 😀 I told him I’d do whatever I could to rearrange plans, and he said again if it’s meant to be it’ll happen… let’s hope…

I booked the tickets when I got back! I ended up buying a whole new set of train tickets but it was clear it was going to be worth the expense to me. We walked back to the hostel via several adorable kitties and could hear crickets singing, and found some fun sculptures. Basel wins!

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Read part 3 here and Part 5 here

Survival strategy

I wrote this in my diary the night I missed Jon Foreman’s aftershow/solo show at the BCDO festival; it’s a survival strategy for getting through a depressive episode, so I have it to look back on the next time the ‘wolf‘ starts beating me around the head with painful thoughts. It’s the process I went through that night, and over the following couple of days, firstly to withstand the immediate assault, and then to calm myself down from it, and then to find God, and light, and hope, through it all, and eventually to recover.

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The little note at the bottom I added in the morning. It felt like sometimes you have to lose the occasional battle even when you’re winning the war, and that it’s ok that sometimes ‘chaos wins’. With no apologies for quoting a lyric, because it was one of the lyrics that shifted my perspective that night, this episode was the shadow that proved the sunshine; suddenly facing a (temporary) deep and scary darkness turned up the contrast on my life, and giving the tears to God as a desperate prayer I really did see hope, and joy, and every good thing, in a breathtaking light.

Hope is strongest set against despair.

The Light shines the brightest in the dark.*

 

*John 1:5, The Bible

Looking for Europe 2: BCDO South, finding the light shines in the darkness

May 27th

We were woken by distant thunder on show day #2. I’d arrived at the BCDO festival campsite late the previous evening and met up again with Jude, M, and some other fellow UK fans, and we were all camped together. We had a chilled late evening and morning hanging out on the campsite together, drinking Switchfoot related beverages, eating chocolate, dodging rain showers and jamming Switchfoot and Brooms songs together.

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Eventually we wandered onto the festival site, went over to Switchfoot’s merch stall where some of my friends picked up their first ever items of merch, and then went over to the interview tent. As hoped, the guys were indeed giving an interview that afternoon, so we all met up again to watch that.

You can watch the interview here. Romey and Jon were interviewed this time, we got a wave hi from them at the start. Bizarrely, and I’m still confused about why, Kitty Jon* got pulled up on stage and Jude had to explain it! They talked about honesty, hope, what success means as an artist… which is the heaviest vegetable… and as Jon was talking about the chaos and madness of what can happen in live music he shot just a tiny split-second glace in our direction with a twinkle in his eye! Jon got asked did they ever get told stories from their fans about what their music has done, and he looked at me and smiled, ‘Yes all the time, someone here was at our show in Amsterdam…’ At the end there was a great question about how they don’t like to be boxed in by labels but ‘where are you most comfortable, leading worship or reaching non Christians’? Jon’s response was very deep and wise and inclusive; we’re all searching, all hungry for something bigger, Christian or not, God doesn’t draw lines between us but sees us all as His children. But I noticed he referenced something I’d written to him (whether consciously or more likely not), that what he does is always his worship, ‘worth-ship’, when you sing you take people with you.

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The afternoon was rather dominated by chaos and chasing round trying to find out what was happening with VIP. Eventually through running back and forth we found tour manager Chico and got in. Tim was with his family so wasn’t there but I met the others and we asked each other how we were – they were much better having had a wonderful day off in Brighton with Martin Smith (who I spotted backstage too!), but I told them about my bus journey: ‘This is what I do for you guys!’ 😀 Drew asked what I thought of the festival, and I had to be honest and said it felt a bit of a weird bubble! A guy was there from the Philippines, he was so happy as it was his first time meeting them, and he got to speak to Romey. I got a hug from Romey, who asked where the cat was: ‘In here (pointing to my bag) – but I tell you what, I’ll let the cat out of the bag’ 😀 (Jon then made precisely the same joke!) I got a picture with Jon and Kitty Jon; real Jon said ‘Some people are cat people; some people are Cat People. I’m Cat Man – you got Cat Woman, we need Cat Man!’ 😀 On seeing the photo afterwards one of my friends pointed out that Jon was dressed almost identically to Kitty Jon, and indeed it would have been perfect if he had been wearing his hat! Switchfoot were talking to Jude about Amsterdam and she said  she loved how they improvise the setlist, so I jumped in and told them I was waiting for them to stick in Healer of Souls as so many British fans were into that one… let’s see 🙂

Jude also remembered to ask the question we’ve all been wanting to know the answer to; what is the little end track on New Way To Be Human?? Jon answered right away: ‘Chin 105 – it’s a fake radio station!’ :O 😀 It’s a jingle?! :O I told him there’d been a lot of theories going around; he liked ‘chew on a pie’! 😀

And then wow the concert!! We got pretty much front row or nearby, and were treated to a full hour of epic rock! They did not play Healer of Souls, nor any of M’s other picks (he’d said they would be neglecting their duty to rock’n’roll if they didn’t play that, Holy Water, Bull In A China Shop or Where The Light Shines Through!), but it was still awesome; they rocked up Gone again, and played us Stars, We Are One, Your Love Is A Song (that solo gets more awesome every time!), and opened with Float this time. It was a great set of songs that spanned their career, and I definitely felt they did not neglect their duty to rock! I particularly loved hearing them play so much from Nothing Is Sound, that album is very special to me.

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And then…

After a wonderful evening, we got word of an aftershow over at the chapel. And disaster struck. We rushed down there, to find a security guard and a locked gate; that part of the site would not be open until 10:30. The tweet had said 10. Tried another gate; same result. Went back. No luck. Tried the second gate again. By this time I had got separated from everyone, and the crowds were building up around the very small gate and beginning to press in. And I broke. The chaos out there and the chaos in here collided; the first thing was the heartbreak of being shut out from the aftershow. Then the pressing crowd and the anxiety around that; I felt like I might be hurt, I got scared. Then the despair on having to duck out and return to my tent. Then alone in the tent, all my most painful thoughts assaulted me…

Depression won that night. If he’d have said 10:30, and/or I hadn’t been ill, and/or his music didn’t mean so very much to me it would have been ok, but it was as it was. I just couldn’t stop crying. It went far beyond a missed aftershow into some very painful places. I let the thoughts assault me, let the tears come, and tried to hang on through it all, every let up in the assault a chance to take some deep breaths and pray and search for light and hope, until I could clearly see the brightness of everything good that had happened so far, and the strength of hope, standing in strong contrast to the excruciating pain.

M came back eventually and tried to persuade me to go over once it was 10:30 but by then I was too hurting and brain-fogged to be able to think clearly or to move. And then the others came back. They’d caught the end half of what had turned out to be a beautiful hour long solo set**. I was, and especially now am, relieved and extremely happy for them that they got to see it, but at the time my heart just splintered into pieces; that was my dream, and I’d been shut out of it, and I felt like a failure….

 

*I should explain; Jude and I have a mascot, a soft toy black and white cat named Jon after the real Jon and his climbing abilities… and tendency to end up places he’s not sure how to get back down from 🙂

**This is what I missed: Aftershow vid

Read Part 1 here and part 3 here

Resurrecting me

Like so many of Jon Foreman’s songs, Resurrect Me has played a huge part in my story.
I stayed up till 3:30am last night watching (amongst other things in the beautiful, honest, hope-filled evening that was TWLOHA’s Heavy and Light concert) Jon singing this song. In a whole evening dedicated to being real, opening up about when life hurts, and affirming that hope is real, it struck me again that this song was what first inspired me to seek help for my own pain about a year ago.
I’d been back and forth between ‘ok’ and ‘not ok’ for some time, and keeping an eye on myself, aware I needed to take my mental health seriously but not sure at what point to reach out.
And then one day last spring I found myself listening to this song. I’ve listened to it hundreds of times, but that day one line jumped out at me: ‘I tried to drown the pain with a friend of mine, it didn’t seem to help, ah she’s got a pretty face with her wedding lace but I’m still waking up with myself
Suddenly it was obvious; if I’m not ok now, without a job, what makes me think I will be ok when I get one? Isn’t the problem right here, in me? A line in a book I was reading that same week confirmed it: Wherever we go, ‘We take ourselves with us’. I had to find a way to be ok with that!
Here is the truth. I was ‘ok’, but I was carrying pain that previous jobs had not fixed. Neither had my marriage, my relocation or my home. Maybe it was ok for that ‘ok’ to not be enough, and to seek help.
I can testify that it was absolutely worth it! There is help and support out there, none of us are alone in our pain, and as TWLOHA will tell you, hope is real, help is real and recovery is possible. I’m now on that road; I hope that I am learning to ‘take myself with me’ now, to be able to keep my eyes on the honest reality of the state of my soul and listen to both my ‘light’ and my ‘heavy’.
I don’t know where you are at. But if you find yourself waiting for something to complete you, I’d love to encourage you to find help to discover that you can be whole already, without that thing yet in place. If you’re not ok with yourself now, you will not be ok when that job, relationship, family, move, marriage, money, or home arrives. That pain is there, in you. And that’s ok. And you can be helped to find yourself whole, now.
Resurrection is real.

You can watch the whole of Heavy and Light here, I recommend the whole thing, a really affirming and honest event.

Switchfoot’s ten albums

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With their 10th album releasing today, here is my take on each of Switchfoot’s albums. I’ve found there are particular moods or sets of circumstances for which each one is just right for the moment; this is how it looks for me. For each album I’ve picked out one song that I think illustrates it best, and you can listen along by clicking on the links, which will open the song  in a new tab. Enjoy!

1 – The Legend of Chin

Listen here

This album is perfect for my questioning moods; it raises questions, and helps me process questions. Who am I, why am I here, what should I be doing, what’s my aim, what’s the point, why don’t things make sense, what do I do with doubt, is it a good thing, what do I believe when it comes to it, what matters…why…?

“It’s a longer way from yesterday to where I am today… all that’s in my head is in Your hands… scream to no-one, take your time, sing it louder, twist and shout… all of your hoping and all of your searching for what… ask me for what am I living… could it be true, can life be new, can I be used… give me a reason for life and for death… not in me, in You…what’s your direction..?”

2 – New Way To Be Human

Listen here

This was my first introduction to Switchfoot. Jesus found and rescued me late 1999, and shortly after, a friend gave me an old-school mixtape to celebrate. New Way To Be Human was the final track on side B, and it fell off the tape half way through! But it was enough – I borrowed, and then bought the album, and the rest is happy history! So this album has been with me right from the beginning of my walk with God, and is deep enough to have been there for me throughout the journey, wherever it’s taken me. It’s even helped shape that journey as it has thrown in interesting philosophical ideas about life and faith, asked the deep questions, made space for the doubts and the wrestling with God, and taken me on some exciting adventures in vulnerable prayer. I’m so glad they’ve kept that depth over the years when so many other Christian musicians have felt the need to have all the answers and to always put on a show of positivity – that phoniness has put me off so many others, but Switchfoot’s honest questioning just keeps drawing me deeper in. I can’t fault New Way at all, except as with all of them, it’s too short!

“Divinity blends with a new way to be human… you’re the missing person now… give me a motive, swallow me whole… condemned to be free… oh God I believe, please help me believe… dreams of shrinking… all my sandcastles spend their time collapsing… let me know that You hear me… hey, I give it all away… sing to me of the song of the stars… out to start a fire in a barcode plastic world… breathing You in to blur the lines that mark where I begin and where You end… I’m an already-but-not-yet resurrected fallen man, come break this limbo, come define me… deep is the soul is the space I control…”

3 – Learning to Breathe

Listen here

It’s an extremely close call but I think if I had to pick a favourite album this is it (though Nothing Is Sound, and Edge Of The Earth if I can count an EP, pretty much tie with it!). It actually feels like blue skies and a breath of fresh air to listen to, and as a sky lover I appreciate all the atmospheric references. I love these delicious songs for many reasons, but I come back to it time and time again when I’m in need of grace, especially when I’ve messed up, as there are so many lyrics in there that connect me back in to God’s grace and a heavenly perspective on myself. This is where they became my favourite band, and I couldn’t have found a better band to follow if I’d tried.

“I could use a fresh beginning too…I want to lose myself in grace…you’ve been given innocence again… grace is high and low… do me a favour ‘cause I’m playing for keeps… we are bruised and broken masterpieces but we did not paint ourselves… sweet Erosion, break me and make me whole…”

4 – The Beautiful Letdown

Listen here

This one carries a sense of feeling far from home, that the shallow everyday is not all there is… this sense of holy discontentment has been very important to my faith journey over the years, keeping my eyes on the things that matter eternally (which come down to love), and from becoming too attached to the things that don’t (which come down to personal gain). Listening to Switchfoot, and this album in particular, I can never forget that what we see as normal is actually completely upside down compared to how it should be, and I should never become complacent in accepting things as they are but keep striving to make them better.

“We were meant to live for so much more… we want more than this world’s got to offer… more than oceans away from the dawn… we’re the issue, we’re ammunition… the tension is here, between how it is and how it should be… I don’t belong here… she believes in living bigger than she’s living now, but her world keeps spinning backwards and upside down… there’s more than what you’ve heard… I’m standing on the edge… I want to see miracles, to see the world change… I am the second man now…”

5 – Nothing Is Sound

Listen here

This is a strong contender for a favourite, partly because it’s my favourite evolution of their sound so far, partly because it was when I really realised how much of a good thing I was on to with this band, and also because it’s carried me through so much. This is where I go when ‘nothing is sound’ to the extent I have no words to express it or to pray – when I’m frustrated with myself, when there seems no hope, but more often when nothing seems right with the world and all the news is bad. (For example, where do you start when your country’s whole political narrative is being driven and dominated by mass-media xenophobia, but you know we are one, allied to a country without borders..?) Here I find the prayers and heart cries, big-picture hope on the horizon without being sold short with easy answers. And it helps me look at the situation with compassion too, overcoming the tendency to respond with anger.     

“I want more than my desperation, I want more than my lonely nation… we are slaves of what we want… I’ve been thinking about the meaning of resistance and a hope beyond my own… when will all the fighting end… nothing is SOUND!… please Lord don’t look the other way… does justice never find you, do the wicked never lose, is there any honest song to sing besides these blues… they’re selling shares of me again, I’m not buying it…I pledge allegiance to a country without borders… I don’t want to lose the common ground with the whole world upside down… let it go, open up your fist…”

6 – Oh! Gravity.

Listen here

I know it wasn’t the best time for Switchfoot, but they seemed to channel the pure energy from that difficult period in a way I’ve not heard from them before or since, it’s amazing. I think if I had to name a single thing that makes me the fan I am it would be how they take imperfect raw materials, and work them into something sublime, far better than ‘perfection’ could achieve. There’s a stunning level of musical and lyrical creativity in this one. And when I’m feeling restless inside and need something new to push and pull at my thoughts, disturb my normal, wake me up from sleepwalking through life, break out my own creativity, or just to yell, this is where I go.

“There’s a fracture in the color bar, in the back seat of a parked car… are you really as tough as you think, you blink and you’re over the brink, you bleed but the blood runs pink with dirty second hands… you’ve been talking in your sleep about a dream we’re awakening… I want to wake up kicking and screaming… another line, another freeway, another freefall…  I hated what I saw, golden eyes were dead… the future is a question mark of kerosene and electric sparks… souls aren’t built of stone, sticks and bones… as the dead moon rises, and the freeways sigh, let the trains watch over the tides and the mist, spinning circles in our skies tonight…”

7 – Hello Hurricane

Listen here

Songs of love for God, humanity, partners, children, and self; love in all its forms, inspiring without being idealistic. Whatever the storm, where there’s real love of any kind, it will pull through. ‘Needle’ illustrates it best for me; a love song that doesn’t shy away from real-life imperfection of life together, but is yet euphoric. The highs and lows. And when they play it live for us I know they understand it works just as well for the artist-fan relationship too.

“We are once in a lifetime… it’s hard to free the ones you love when you can’t forgive yourself… Your love is a symphony all around me… love is the final fight… there is no song louder than love… back from the dead and all our leaves are dried, you’re so beautiful tonight… when I try to reach above I only hurt the ones I love…  this is the day you were born and I am always yours… love is the one true innovation, love is the only art, don’t let ‘em blow it apart… she’s got teary eyes, I’ve got reasons why… if it doesn’t break your heart it isn’t love… take what is left of me, make it a melody…”

8 – Vice Verses

Listen here

As an activist, it’s easy to get worn down by the constant battles against the injustices of this world; the endless cycle of wins and losses in the things that I really care about, steps forwards and backwards in environmental and social justice, takes a toll on me. This album has a lot of ‘fight’ for the times when I can’t find it in myself; so many times I have come to it broken, and it lets me have my cry out, but then gives me the kick I need to press on and come back fighting again. The lyrics meet me at my lowest ebbs of hopelessness, and carry me through it, never letting me fall too far from the energy and determination I need to pick myself up and keep going.

“I’ve tasted fire, I’m ready to come alive, I can’t just shut it up and fake that I’m alright… every fight comes from the fight within, I’m the war inside… running hard for the infinite with the tears of saints and hypocrites… we’re still on the air, it must be the truth, we’re selling the news… no I’m not alright, feel like I travel but I never arrive, I want to thrive not just survive… hope makes the blood change courses… just another scarecrow choking on a cough OH COME ON!…  the curse is spoken, the system’s broken, let’s rise above it… I want to see the earth start shaking, I want to see a generation finally waking up inside…”

9 – Fading West

Listen here

This album is full of sunshine, and it sounds incredible on the beach or at a summer festival. But whether or not it feels ‘sunny’ at the time, these songs are full of brightness. This album landed in my life during a really difficult winter (along with Fiction Family Reunion – took me a while to track that one down!) when I was in an awful housing situation, and those two albums lit up that dark period. I’d take them with me on long cycle rides down to the sea, sit on the dunes, watch the waves and be reminded of better things – that whilst I didn’t have anywhere to call ‘home’ right now, maybe this was a reminder that ultimately nowhere here would ever be ‘home’ when I was made for something bigger… that difficult times pass… to put aside my own circumstances and focus instead on making the world I want, and supporting others in the stuff they’re struggling with, and breaking down ‘us and them’ divisions in society… There’s an element of escapism to it, but the lyrics remain rooted in reality and a true perspective.

“I’m trying to find where my place is… eyes open like a child… it’s gone, yeah but we carry on… is this the world you want, you’re making it, every day you’re alive you change the world… every breath is your religion… our hope is just a metaphor for something better… let my soul fly, let it go… we won’t stop till we’re getting it right… sick of all the small-talk dripping non-stop from the open mouth graves of the faux hawk cinderblock malls… I can feel the ocean… my heart is Yours and what a broken place it’s in, but You’re all I’m running for and I want to feel the wind at my back again…”

10 – Where The Light Shines Through

Listen here

Even after these nine incredible albums, this collection still surprises. As with Oh Gravity, it’s a stunningly musically creative album, and the band sound very much like they’re having fun experimenting with styles and pulling it off beautifully. Running through it all is a theme of hope for broken relationships, whether personal or within wider society. It’s been with me less than two weeks as I write, but it’s already put its finger firmly on a few of my issues, and pointed me to the hope that they can heal. I’m not feeling like I’m in a place where I can talk more about that yet; it’s early days, some of it is very personal, and will take some dealing with to get to a point where I can share about my particular ‘wounds’ and the healing process, but I find these lyrics already at work. It’s also arrived at a point where things look pretty dark politically in both the US and UK, and here I find songs to sing into that darkness. Finally we really get to hear their musical skills, so evident when you see them live. This is an album we will be able to hold up to show what they’re capable of.

“Your wounds are where the light shines through… if the house burns down tonight I got everything I need with you by my side… my enemies weren’t the ones that I had fought, my liberties weren’t the freedoms I had sought… I keep feeling like we fall apart better than we fall in love… bring me the music for the revolution, I’m singing for more than just a dead solution… everybody wants to rock and roll but a couple of years and it takes a toll and I want to start healing… America who are you, do you get what you deserve, between the violence and entitlements, which nation do you serve… Your hope is the anthem of my soul…”

If you like what you hear or want to explore more, you can buy the music and read more at switchfoot.com – please support this amazing band! 🙂

10 Jon Foreman songs that shape my world

Last year I picked out a selection of Switchfoot songs that together map out how significant this band has been to me over the years in a whole range of ways.

But I tend to call myself a Jon Foreman fan, since my fandom extends beyond what he does with this one, amazing band, and into his solo work, his second band, his writing, art, and life example. He and his music fire my own creativity, give me the fight I need inside to keep pushing for a better world, have been one of the main influences on my faith journey (along with an eclectic mix of others!), and are developing me as a person.

Since I wrote about Switchfoot, he has released a second set of solo EPs, collectively titled The Wonderlands; 25(!) songs for 24 hours of the day, exploring the contrasts of light and dark in life and time. When he introduced the concept, speaking of creating a world, a planet, composed entirely out of these songs, it made sense to me; his music has built my inner world, been a place of adventure and discovery, shaped the person I am, and is, musically at the very least, where I find home. I am a Wonderlands native!

Now I’ve had time to live with the new songs and let them work on me I want to celebrate them by sharing a selection of his solo work here. I could pick pretty much any song of Jon’s and tell you stories of how it’s shaped me, but here’s a glimpse; one song per solo EP, plus two bonuses, taken from his compilation Limbs And Branches and from his second band Fiction Family*. You can listen to each track as you read; click on the title and it will open in a new tab:

1. The Cure For Pain (Fall)

We can’t shut ourselves off from pain: Prayer, and action, and change, and growth, and faith, all come through making ourselves vulnerable to it, wrestling through it. There’s no greater motivator or more authentic way to follow Jesus. I know I’ve come to this song so many times aching over the state of my life or the pain of the world, and it has led me through, allowed me both to hurt, and to admit that I do sometimes want to run, to shut the pain out, but to help me see through to recognise that Christ is found in the pain itself, and I need sometimes to walk the painful way to follow Him. To open myself up to feel the groan of creation, take it to heart, bring it to God and let God in turn move me to action.

2. Behind Your Eyes (Winter)

This sweet song is what’s driving this project. As I let this song work on me it became a real challenge to me: Breaking down the barriers that keep me from others, the things I hide, that stop people seeing who I really am inside, and becoming vulnerable, is deeply scary. But it’s what builds intimacy, and is what inspires others to become more fully themselves too. I admire open, vulnerable people who are honest about their struggles and who share the depths of their souls, and I want to become like that. I don’t want to shut people out with a false front on my life. I want to let you in.

3. Baptize My Mind (Spring)

This has to be a contender for one of the most musically lovely things he’s ever recorded 🙂 But it runs deep. I find his words, paraphrasing Jesus, playing over and over in my mind: ‘for these seeds to give birth to life, first they must die…’ It’s true in Jesus’ context, that His death has brought multitudes to life, but it’s true beyond that. So much is planted in us, the potential to transform the world and bring in God’s kingdom of restored relationships. But how much still has to die in us to allow that to happen? It’s certainly true in my own life; I’m so addicted to normality, comfort and convenience that most of the time, I feel I remain a seed. The times I let that die, die to my selfishness, are the times I find real life springing up in and around me.

4. Resurrect Me (Summer)

There’s a lot going on in this song, and I’ve found it’s taken on different meanings for me at different times over the years, but just recently it’s been resonating with me in a new way – ‘… but I’m still waking up with myself…’ A change of circumstances alone will not fix me, because I take myself with me. If the fundamental problem is not my circumstances but myself, no new job is going to fix that. Getting married didn’t fix me, neither did any of my previous jobs, moving to a new town, getting a house or anything else, so the answer will be no different this time round. I need a deeper heart change of the kind only God can bring about. The world’s resurrection begins within us.

5. Over The River (Limbs and Branches)

This is an eerie song; but at the same time it is overflowing with hope. Hope. Strong, firm hope, though it’s found only in Jesus and, so far, unseen. I attended a difficult funeral a couple of years ago, that raised so many questions and doubts for me. But I found this song stuck in my head the whole day, and the more I let the words sink in, the more I realised that all is uncertain beyond this life, even in this life, except one thing, my hope in Jesus. I don’t know what exactly happens after death, or what will happen to anyone else, but I do know that for me there is now, and always will be, Jesus. The only thing I can take with me, the only place I can hope, but the strongest hope possible; the very source of all our longings for life, and love, and a sense of home and belonging. I’ve never glimpsed it as clearly as I did that day.

6. Terminal (Sunlight)

I’ve heard so often that when someone is told they only have a short time left to live that it sharpens their focus and determination to make the most of the time they have left, to think about what they want to achieve before they die. This song is that kind of perspective shift for me– after all, I too am mortal; why should I wait till my final diagnosis to recognise this, wake up and think about how to make the most of this short time I’m given? To say we’re terminal is true from the day we’re born whether we have days or decades left. Time is counting down as our bodies slowly age, even whilst we remain healthy. One day all of us must die, and what matters is whether or not we learn to live before that day comes, or just let it slip by. I want to learn to live well whilst I have time! I find this incredibly energising when I let it sink in; it makes me want to make the most of every moment and give more of myself to the things that really matter. The other aspect of the song that’s made a difference to my outlook is its emphasis on being patient with others, recognising that we’re all the same, and all so finite. Why shouldn’t I try and help others live well and enjoy each precious moment they’re given too?

7. My Coffin / Fake Your Own Death (Shadows)

I have to group these two together as they are two halves of the same thought process for me, considering the interplay between fear, and the process of death and resurrection, both in the here-and-now and ultimately. Can I let go of myself, let what I have been die for bigger things? Am I afraid? What if I wasn’t – what would I do then? Can I let the fear die, so I can step out in faith more and more into the life maybe I was made for? Am I trying too hard to be a ‘somebody’, and missing the goal as a result? I’m finding it’s the small, daily deaths to self I am afraid of, much more so than actually giving my life for something. But continually having these songs ask me the uncomfortable questions is already moving me out of my comfort zone and raising my ambition for following Christ more self-sacrificially.

8. Inner Peace (Darkness)

I seek peace; shalom peace, relationships restored between God, and us, and the earth, and ourselves. I ache for it. But I am so mired in the mess of my soul and this world it’s hard to even begin to set the relationship right within myself, let alone work for that greater Peace. This is a song that expresses that ache, that I come back to again and again to vent the hurt, but that as with so many of Jon’s other songs leads me through to a bigger perspective: I am never going to be able to find ‘inner peace’ in my broken self; I need to be remade by the One who made me. And as with Resurrect Me, I can’t blame my insecurities on external circumstances; I will only find myself secure in my God. Only He can release that shalom peace in and through us. So; I get on with working towards what I can change, and seek to depend more and more on God for wholeness.

9. Mercy’s War (Dawn)

This song was released the day before I celebrated being alive for half my life, the sixteenth anniversary of my very first encounter with the grace of God. And the juxtaposition of these powerful words with those intense memories levelled me to the floor, left me completely undone, and put me back together again a little better than before. In so many ways this really is my story; I felt like I was at the end, felt like giving up on life, I went looking for ways out… and You showed me the Way in. Every move I’ve made against God has been met with a counter move of undeserved kindness that disarms my rebelliousness, allowing me to do my worst to Him and His ‘revenge’ is simply to bleed forgiveness. Instead of punishing me, responding with unimaginable, proactive love. Then, when I accept it and expect an easy life, He reminds me we have a battle to fight to put this world right. And every time I get it wrong, or fall away, there is that same great Love seeking me out to pull me back again. Amazing grace.

10. God Badge (Fiction Family Reunion)

There’s a story I hope to tell on this blog some day when I’ve processed it through a little more (and figured out how to tell it concisely!) involving my discovery of this song shortly after taking part in a protest that turned into an insult-flinging match, and reading about how Jon himself handled a crowd protesting one of Switchfoot’s shows. This isn’t the time for the full story. But the combination of events was a real learning experience for me as an activist. ‘There is no us or them, there’s only folks that you do or you don’t understand…’ The words, and Jon’s example, hit home, and since then I’ve been determined to work hard to make sure I begin with the common ground and work for dialogue and understanding, even when protesting something. It’s too easy to jump in with the blame, and start hurling insults, and before long both sides have shouted each other into pigeon holes that neither fit. I want to do something different, own the blame myself, but challenge both parties to work to bring change. I don’t think I’ve arrived there yet, but this is wisdom to build on.

If you like the music and want to explore some more (it’s worth it!), you can buy it and find out more here – he’s definitely an artist worth supporting! 🙂


*I imagine I may come to regret this: On the whole, though I love their music as much as anything else Jon has done, due to their different approach to lyrics, more often telling stories than soul-baring, there are many fewer Fiction Family songs that have a real, strong resonance for me personally, so I don’t, yet, see myself writing them a similar article, hence sneaking this song in here. That said… there are still a lot of important songs, and I certainly wouldn’t put it past them to make more! 🙂