Month: September 2014

Come Thou Fount (on the Ukulele)



 

Here’s my version of the traditional Christian hymn “Come Thou Fount Of Every Blessing” on the ukulele.

Got a song you want me to try? Lemme know in the comments below!

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This is an image from the Civil Rights Movement.

Civil Disobedience

To never letting voting be enough
nor abusing life for your convenience

to stop excess and live within yourself
denying all the loved luxuriance

to not await a change that must become
in revolution-based expedience

expressing discontent for injustice
to live in civil disobedience.


 

Just some thoughts I had after reading (and trying to summarize) the essay “Resistance to Civil Government” – better known as “Civil Disobedience” – by Henry David Thoreau.

This is an image of a roadside billboard that memorializes Robin Williams after his death.

When A Celebrity Dies

Yes, we will die, too.

One of the elemental truths God has established in this created world is that man will die. It used to not be like that; in fact, I sometimes wonder how long Adam and Eve would have lived had they not succumbed.

The truth remains that we die, and it is always a sad event.

Death’s sting is never too far. Just this week, I’ve been affected by two deaths in my own community. One was of a man who lived right up the road from me. He was a lover of humankind, and he showed that love by leading countless Habitat for Humanity projects and helping homeless people build their own houses. The other, though I didn’t know personally, was the father of one of the most knowledgeable and prestigious history professors this area has been blessed to have.

My generation here at home has also experienced numerous deaths this year. Numerous car crashes and vehicular accidents have claimed the lives of people with whom I’ve shared some school life, whether in the classroom or in extracurricular activities. It’s harrowing to read the names of contemporaries in the obituaries (a sentiment that transcends my own generation, I’m sure) when we shared the same high school hallways just a few years ago.

But something strange happens when a celebrity dies; in fact, several strange things happen.

Maybe the most poignant phenomenon that revolves around a celebrity’s death is the communal sting that everyone feels.

A sting is present just the same as when someone within your family, sphere of friends, or community dies, but it’s different in its scale of how far it reaches. It’s one thing when you can join in with people you know and mourn the loss of a communal figure; it’s another thing for a world full of strangers to collectively mourn the death of a solitary figure who, in a way, uniquely touched and affected each person individually.

An odd occurrence that stems from the first is that social and political enemies can become friends and sojourners as they both try to figure how to live in a world without their mutual celebrity friend (and unfortunately they will probably turn it into a sympathy vote, but whatevs).

Certain celebrity deaths bring attention to certain problems…with the unspoken hope that these problems will no longer remain problems.

Just three hours ago (1:30 PM), news broke about the death of Joan Rivers, and the social media trending began. How weird that five days ago, CBS Sunday Morning syndicated this clip of Rivers from 2002 in which she speaks of getting older and being okay with it.

This year has also seen the passing of Shirley Temple and Mickey Rooney, two celebrities that were the face of the generations that preceded my own. Their deaths brought on hordes of Tweets and Statuses with nostalgia dripping like honey.

Other celebrity deaths served as tinder to reignite discussions should never but always somehow manage to slip down to everyone’s back-burners.

Most recently, the death of Robin Williams reminded us all of how deep and true the cords of depression ring. Because of his death, several social media figures took to the browser to talk about their own bouts with suicide, as NBC’s Susan Donaldson James points out in this article.

Before that was the death of Philip Seymour Hoffman who struggled many years with drug abuse. In this aftermath, many celebrities came out and confessed to their own struggles with drugs, as The Wrap’s Greg Gilman reports.

All of this serves as a giant signpost that points back to God.

For one thing, it points to the fact that humanity is scary. Sure, we can think of monsters, demons, natural disasters, conspiracy theories, religious beheadings, and global terrorism all we want; we’re at a somewhat safe distance from such morbid grandiosity.

But when a celebrity dies – especially one that affects us – it’s a more staunch reminder of how mortal we really are, and, if the right seeds have been planted, it will remind people of how another famous and infamous Figure died not at the hands of suicide, drugs, old age, or natural causes, but because He had to die so as to rescue the members of the human race who fall short of God’s glory, whoever that is.

This is an image from the music video of the song SAVE ME by Gotye.

Christian Salvation in Gotye’s “Save Me”

In 2012, musical artist Gotye released his third studio album Making Mirrors.

This album was catapulted to international fame because of its third track “Somebody That I Used To Know” (click the link if you want to add to the over-500-million-and-ever-increasing YouTube views); however, I believe the best song on the album is the eleventh track, “Save Me.”

For this post, we’ll look at this song at how it can serve as a signpost that can point people back home to God.

But first, if you haven’t already (or if you want to again, like I do), listen to the song.


These convicting lyrics, though.

Something like a story exists in the lyrics of this song because they feature a conflict that is resolved in the end.

The persona of the poetry starts out by showing us how he was once in a state of hopelessness:

In the mornings, I was anxious,
was better just to stay in bed;
didn’t want to fail myself again.

Running through all the options, and the endings
were rolling out in front of me;
but I couldn’t choose a thread to begin.

Before the change, he was in a constant state of worry and anxiety so heavy and burdensome that he didn’t even want to get out of bed because a step out of bed would be a step toward recurring failure.

And even though he wanted to alleviate his distress, he was so overwhelmed by all the ways to do it that he became metaphorically paralyzed.

In the first chorus, he shows us how far down he really is in his despair because he can’t love:

And I could not love
’cause I could not love myself;
“never good enough, no”
that was all I’d tell myself.

And I was not well,
but I could not help myself;
I was givin’ up on livin’.

His deepest and scariest realization wasn’t that he’s hurting but that he couldn’t help himself; he needed something or someone stronger than himself to pull him out of this pit. And he needed this helping hand fast because he was on the verge of suicide.

In the second verse, however, the persona turns and introduces us to another figure into the narrative:

In the morning, you were leaving,
travelling south again,
and you said you were not unprepared.

And all the dead ends and disappointments
were fading from your memory;
ready for that lonely life to end.

The persona is now remembering a time when this other person was ready to leave him.

But something changed in the other’s mind, and they decided to not only stay but rescue the persona from his own depression with love:

And you gave me love
when I could not love myself;
and you made me turn
from the way I saw myself.

And you’re patient, love,
and you help me help myself
and you save me.

The glory thus shines for our persona. He is reinvigorated with the love shown by the other, and his sense of self-worth is revived. Ultimately, the other has rescued – yes, saved – our persona.


Just Like How Jesus Saves Us

I can identify and sympathize with the persona of this piece in that I’ve hit some immobilizing low points in my life. They were the kind of troughs that I couldn’t climb out of alone.

Even though I haven’t been diagnosed with clinical depression, it does run in my family, and I have several friends who either have been or still are thus afflicted (some who didn’t come out of their own troughs alive). I’ve been as close to depression as one can get without being there myself, and I can tell you that the sentiment of the first half of the song is accurate.

But when I realized that I couldn’t save myself from my own pit, that’s when I realized that I needed someone else – an “other” – to help me out. Such is the human condition when we realize that we’re not as good as we think we are. From here, we then realize that we deserve nothing more than to be abandoned by the God who we betray and crucify every time we want something more than Him and His love.

This hopelessness and despair is where our Lord and Savior’s hand reaches down and saves us. Whenever we forget how to love, He reminds us by loving us; when we feel like we’re worth nothing and don’t mean anything to anyone, this love restores the value within us.

Jesus is even so patient with us that He is willing to walk with us for the rest of our earthly lives and even throughout our heavenly perpetuity.

All of the above is how He loves us and continually saves us.

This is an image of the front facade of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum.

Waiting In Line At The Holocaust Museum

Until now, I’ve neglected to share anything from my trip to Washington, D.C. As impactful as it was, I’ve been too busy ever since I returned home to solidify any thoughts and type any of them down (but that’s no excuse, and I know it).

These images, however, has been stuck with me ever since. It’s not a burden, though; I’m actually glad I was able to capture them. I didn’t know why I needed to take these pictures when I did, but I did anyway because I felt like it needed to be done (attribute it to being an INFJ if you must).

We begin at the waiting line of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum.

After driving through the Sunday night/Monday morning, we were too pooped for anything major on Monday night. Bright and early Tuesday morning, however, we were greeted by the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. However, we spent a good amount of time in the wrong waiting line. Apparently, we were lining up for specially guided Foreign Language tours. We didn’t know why we felt like we were on the back end of the Tower of Babel until some tour guides who could speak English were able to help us out.

Thankfully, they showed us where our waiting line was, and we booked it to the spot: a brick wall with built-in concrete benches that faced the side of the museum’s building and separated from it by a sidewalk.

I sat looking at two different edifices: the steel and the brick.

From my bench, my line vision of divided in half: the cold, gray steel on one side, and the natural red brick on the other. There exists an interesting, intriguing, and even poetic juxtaposition between the two.

This is an image of the outside wall of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum.

Nuts and bolts bullet the steel frame which held the panels in place, and I think of the Nazi party and as “structured” and “firm” it was on the outside thanks to the facade its leaders gave it. This trait is also found in the harsh exterior of the concentration camps and the grotesque devaluation of human life which was housed and perpetuated within them.

The opposing brick then made me think of the people who were left on the outside of this stronghold and left defenseless: the Jews themselves. They began just as clay does as it is removed from its home in the subterranea of the earth and ended in being removed from the crematoria just as a horde of brick is removed from the kiln.

They were the bricks upon which the Nazis built their power and would have continued to fuel had not the camps been liberated.

It’s in this “liberation” where the branch in this picture comes in.

In this next picture, we see the steel panels and the brick wall side by side in the background. In the foreground, however, is a branch from a thankfully well-placed shade tree – one of many that also lined our concrete benches.

This is an image of the outer side of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum with a sole branch in front of it.

The branch in the picture then becomes a symbol of everyone that came into the camps and abolished them. Armed forces from Great Britain, France, Canada, and the United States all stepped up and did their best to rescue any survivors from these hell-houses.

Because of these actions, the world was being prepared to be put back to rights, people could see the light at the end of the tunnel…

…and the value of human life was revived.

That’s what we have to remember about this whole ordeal, I believe.

Sometimes, we want to remember only the bad, and the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum is full of plenty of the bad that the Jews went through – two out of four floors of it, to be exact.

It’s easy to not want to stop thinking about these atrocities because we see it all around us still today among the different peoples of the world, and we kinda put ourselves in a bottleneck of perception where we can only see what’s closest to us and lose all hindsight and foresight.

But the branch still grows, and life goes on. That’s the beauty of how God’s world works, and that should encourage you as much as it does me.