Monday, October 18, 2010

Satan Is My Motor - Cake

On the surface this song has pretty simple meaning. Just that we have a sinful nature and that while we have good intentions we still do things we shouldn't do. When I was listening to it the other day though, I caught on to some further insight that kind of surprised me. I always assumed that the song was an excuse for bad behavior, and that seems to be what was intended. But consider these points:
while "Satan is my motor",
1. "I've got seats that selflessly hold my friends" - I am willing to share.
2. "and a trunk that can carry the heaviest of loads." - I am willing to take on the burdens of others.
3. "I've got a mind that can steer me to your house" - I am in control of my own actions.
4. "and a heart that can bring you red flowers" - I have a desire to do good.
5." I've got brakes, I'm wide awake, I can stop this car at any time. At the very last second I can change directions, turn completely around if I feel so inclined." - Again, Satan may be my motor, motivator, or tempter, but I make the decisions.

I know I am reading a lot into this, but it is still interesting to look at it from a different angle.

I've got wheels of polished steel
I've got tires that grab the road
I've got seats that selflessly hold my friends
And a trunk that can carry the heaviest of loads

I've got a mind that can steer me to your house
And a heart that can bring you red flowers
My intentions are good and earnest and true
But under my hood is internal combustion pow'r
Satan is my motor
Hear my motor purr
Satan is my motor
Hear my motor purr
Satan is the only one who seems to understand
Satan is my motor

I've got brakes
I'm wide awake
I can stop this car at any time
At the very last second I can change directions
Turn completely around if I feel so inclined

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Between The Cracks - John Mark McMillan

There are a lot of things going on in this world today that cause us to lose hope, that just beat down on any positive attitude we may have about the future. I am not sure that is not on purpose. I recently read an explanation of why God does not reveal Himself to us face to face, or in a way that leaves no doubt of His existence. The author said God is playing hide and seek with us. He wants us to find Him. He leaves clues to His presence and provides motivations for us to seek Him. I think now a lot of those motivations are the struggles we are going through individually as well as collectively as a nation and the world.

John Mark McMillan's latest album, The Medicine, became one of my favorites the day I bought it. It is a little unconventional in subject matter, but very encouraging, and really a great worship album. The song Between The Cracks is about that hide and seek concept. Throughout the song God is portrayed as being right here among us just out of sight, and at the end of the song He asks "when are you going to come out from behind these paper thin walls of your cardboard box reality?" He is here with us and He wants us to find Him.
It is also comforting that while we are going through hard times He is right here with us. We have a loving God who is with us when we need Him and "His name is hope". God is "raising the dead in the graveyard where we've laid down our dreams".

I could not find a very good video for this song but youtube does have a video with the song playing and the lyrics scrolling on a black background as they are sung. I will copy and paste the lyrics below as well so you can read at your own pace.

Hope grows between
cracks in the asphault
In the downtown
ghetto streets
that contour the government
housing intentions of my heart
No one notices
the daisies don't care
About gang related violence
As long as they get enough air
and water and sun
They're all just fine
Who would've thought it but life is finding a way
Through this wasteland
of cynics, concrete, and pain
There's a man down here
somewhere between
The Saturday cartooons and the
dirty magazines
He's raising the
dead in the graveyards
Where we've laid down
our dreams and His name is Hope

Hope stands high
on the 15th floor
Of a Christmas tree perched
about the ledge
of a fortress of steel
that's trying too hard
to be somebody's home
As it seized
my attention from I-85
though the throes of the day were
still writhing inside
I lifted my head
as I drove home that night
and knew that everything
was gonna be fine
Who would've thought it
but life is finding a way
Through this wasteland
of cynics, concrete, and pain
There's a man down here
somewhere between
those Saturday cartoons and the
dirty magazines
And he's raising the
dead in the graveyards
Where we've laid down
our dreams and His name is Hope

Can you hear him outside
he's been singing all night
He's saying when are you gonna
come out from behind
These paper thin walls of your
cardboard box reality

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Book of Eli/Greystone Chapel

I watched The Book of Eli the other day and decided to write about it. I thought it was a great movie. It did not go into great deal of details about why the Bible is so important,but there are many ways you can apply this movie to your Bible lessons.

First, Eli lives by faith. This is the connection with the song Greystone Chapel. Eli quotes the song to Solara when they are traveling west and she asks what faith is. Eli tells her it's when "you know something even if you don't know something". He then quotes the song written by Glen Sherley, who was an inmate at Folsom Prison when Johnny Cash recorded his album there. Johnny sang the song on the album. The line Eli gave Solara was that faith is the "flower of light in the field of darkness that gives me strength to carry on". Eli found the last copy of the Bible (I am not sure how it was determined to be the last copy, but somehow everyone knew that it was),and he heard a voice tell him to take it out west. That is what he did, even though he had no idea how far he would have to go. Throughout the movie Eli demonstrates faith in many situations.

Second is that even a good thing like the Bible can be used for evil, we need to be sure of what we believe, and careful of who we listen to. Carnegie, Gary Oldman's character, hunts Eli down to get the Bible from him. His intentions are not to teach the Bible to others, as Eli wants to do, but he wants to use it to gain control of more towns than the one he already runs. He knows how powerful religion has been and how it has been used to exploit people and he intends to do that himself. Also, Eli admitted himself at one point that he got too caught up in trying to protect the Bible that he neglected to live according to what it said. We need to make sure we are living out our faith and not just going through the motions of church attendance, halfhearted prayers, etc.

Third,this is a little bit of a spoiler, so don't say I didn't warn you, Carnegie does get the Bible from Eli, which may seem like a bad thing, but Eli had it memorized so he was still able to take it west like God told him to. (Don't worry, Eli's copy of the Bible does Carnegie no good. I will not give away why in this post though.)This illustrates the importance of keeping God's word in our hearts.

While not a perfect representation of Christian faith and perhaps not suitable for a younger audience due to language and violence,I really enjoyed this movie and examining it for it's spiritual context. (And the Cash reference is definitely a plus).

Book of Eli trailer

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Radio, Radio - Elvis Costello

I liked this song right away the first time I heard it because I share the same frustrations about the junk that gets played on the radio, and the radio/record execs who decide what we should hear. I haven't listened to music on the radio on a regular basis in about 15 years. But today there is more that this song warns about than just music. Celebrity worship and instant gratification have been so ingrained in our culture that we have been dumbed down as a society. It infuriated me right before the last presidential elections to hear interviews of voters for both parties not able to give intelligent reasons for their voting decision. I could not believe how gullible or even brainwashed some of them sounded, and how the media gravitated towards trivial pop culture type issues and ignored the real ones. So I guess this should have been posted several months ago, but here it is - and it's not like anything has changed since then. Sorry for the gloom and doom, at least I added the fun video clip at the end. If you don't know the history of this clip you can read it on

Radio, Radio - written by Elvis Costello for the album This Year's Model (U.S., 1978)

I was tuning in the shine on the light night dial
Doing anything my radio advised
With every one of those late night stations
Playing songs bringing tears to my eyes
I was seriously thinking about hiding the receiver
When the switch broke 'cause it's old
They're saying things that I can hardly believe
They really think we're getting out of control

(CHORUS) Radio is a sound salvation
Radio is cleaning up the nation
They say you better listen to the voice of reason
But they don't give you any choice 'cause they think that it's treason
So you had better do as you are told
You better listen to the radio

I wanna bite the hand that feeds me
I wanna bite that hand so badly
I want to make them wish they'd never seen me

Some of my friends sit around every evening
And they worry about the times ahead
But everybody else is overwhelmed by indifference
And the promise of an early bed
You either shut up or get cut up, they don't wanna hear about it
It's only inches on the reel-to-reel
And the radio is in the hands of such a lot of fools
Tryin' to anaesthetise the way that you feel


Wonderful radio
Marvelous radio
Wonderful radio
Radio, radio

Saturday, February 21, 2009

When The Angels Sing - Social Distortion

You may remember my comparison to Johnny Cash in my last post on Social Distortion. Johnny left no doubt as to what he believed. He performed at Billy Graham's Crusades, made a movie called Gospel Road about Jesus's ministry, and wrote Man In White: A Novel About The Apostle Paul (referring to Jesus as the Man In White). It is a surprisingly well written book. You should definitely click on the title to read about it at
I don't know exactly what Mike Ness believes. He writes a lot about prayer, heaven, hell, angels, etc. but I think maybe that is more because these things are part of the lives of people who are down and out. Maybe he is a very spiritual person. There seems to be more evidence against it, but I guess the truth is known only to him and God. Either way, I appreciate songs like this one.

*Related Posts*
Social Distortion - Ball And Chain

When The Angels Sing - Mike Ness for the album White Light White Heat White Trash (1996)
Watch the video

At last we meet again, dear God
Hear the angels sing
The funerals are nicer when we know you're there
When the angels sing

Sometimes I try so hard
To understand the things you do
Who am I to question you
When it all comes down
Hear the angels sing

Stand up strong feel the pain
When the angels sing
Love and death don't mean a thing
Til the angels sing

The prisoners pray when they're on death row
Hear the angels sing
The junky cries for love but it's all run out
When the angels sing

The sins of the world and it's cold on the streets
When you're all alone and the tears they start to fall
When it all comes down
Hear the angels sing


Little by little day by day
I watch the children play
Cause life and death don't mean a thing
Til the angels sing

When the angel of death comes to looking for me
Hear the angels sing
I hope I was everything I was supposed to be
When the angels sing

There's gotta be a heaven
Cause I've already done my time in hell
And a little baby's born when it all comes down
Hear the angels sing


Little by little day by day
I watch the children play
Cause life and death don't mean a thing
Til the angels sing

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Here I Am - Emmylou Harris

Emmylou Harris's first big break in the music industry occurred in 1971 when Chris Hillman (The Byrds, The Flying Burrito Brothers, and the Desert Rose Band) saw her perform and recommended her to Gram Parsons (also of the Burrito Bros. and briefly The Byrds), who was looking for a female vocalist for his solo album. She ended up touring with him and his band The Fallen Angels until his death in 1973. Since then she has worked with musicians from all genres and has been responsible for launching the careers of others as well, including Rodney Crowell and Ricky Skaggs.

This song reminds me of a lesson in the Bible Study I am teaching called The Embraceable Mystery... God. The particular lesson states that while God is a mystery to us, He does want us to know Him, and I think that is what this song is all about. I believe this song is written from God's point of view. There is a great live performance on youtube from the Late Show featuring Paul Shaffer on piano. Click here to watch.

Here I Am - written by Emmylou Harris for the album Stumble Into Grace (2003)

I am standing by the river 
I will be standing here forever 
Though you're on the other side
My face you still can see 
Why won't you look at me
Here l am

I am searching through the canyon
It is your name that I am calling
Though you're so far away
I know you hear my plea 
Why won't you answer me 
Here I am

I am in the blood of your heart 
The breath of your lung 
Why do you run for cover 
You are from the dirt of the earth 
And the kiss of my mouth 
I have always been your Lover 
Here I am

I am the promise never broken 
And My arms are ever open
In this harbor calm and still 
I will wait until 
Until you come to Me 
Here I am

Friday, February 13, 2009

Secret Of The Easy Yoke - Pedro The Lion

David Bazan is the main songwriter of Pedro The Lion and for years he was the only permanent member of the band. He is the most honest and open artist both in his lyrics and interviews that I have ever heard. I have struggled with whether or not to write about him on this blog because most of his songs are dark and depressing without any moral point to them. They just are what they are. There are some, mainly from his earlier albums that are spiritual in nature and easily relatable. Because he is so open and honest in his writing it is easy to think of him on a more personal level, like a friend. That is why it saddens me that a couple of years ago he formed an agnostic view of faith. This concerns me not because I think now suddenly he is a bad person, and not even because I am worried about his future in eternity because that has already been settled. It concerns me because he has been an inspiration to seek God through hard times and now he is not sure that God is there. I just hope that he gets past whatever he is going through and finds peace and God again. 

This song was written several years ago when he still believed in God. It is about frustrations with organized religion as well as personal trials of faith. And it is pretty self explanatory. I heard this song while I was driving today and I decided to write about it after thinking about how it related to comments on my last post.

*Related Posts*

Secret Of The Easy Yoke - written by David Bazan for the album It's Hard To Find A Friend (1998)
I could hear the church bells ringing 
they pealed aloud Your praise 
the member's faces were smiling 
with their hands outstretched to shake 
it's true they did not move me 
my heart was hard and tired 
their perfect fire annoyed me 
I could not find You anywhere 
could someone please tell me the story 
of sinners ransomed from the fall 
I still have never seen You, and somedays 
I don't love You at all 

the devoted were wearing bracelets 
to remind them why they came 
some concrete motivation 
when the abstract could not do the same 
but if all that's left is duty, I'm falling on my sword 
at least then, I would not serve an unseen distant Lord 

could someone please tell me the story 
of sinners ransomed from the fall 
I still have never seen You, and somedays 
I don't love You at all 
if this only a test 
I hope that I'm passing, 'cause I'm losing steam
but I still want to trust You 

Peace, be still (x3)