Tag Archives: Songs

A Song To Sing In The Dark

Recently I realized that I write my best songs when I’m pissed off. Something bad happens, and I cope by writing about it. That’s true for a lot of people, I know, but I think people cope by writing angry songs. I don’t write angry songs. I write defiant songs. I recently wrote a song about the Notre Dame fire. It happened on the same day as the Boston Marathon, so I tied the two events together. The second verse goes as follows:

Cheer for the runners
They all ran the race
Run for tomorrow
A glorious day
Tested by fire
The cross stood tall
The glory of Heaven
In old Notre Dame

The cross stood tall among ruins. God is never outdone. There are still places in the world where it’s illegal and even dangerous to be Christian. Recently, there have been shootings at places of worship in our own country. The cross standing among ruins was a powerful image for me. The Lord is greater than anything bad that could possibly happen. I reflected, too, that people can’t worship in Notre Dame any more, but buildings aren’t God’s Church. The people are His Church.

For the past two weeks, the people in Sri Lanka haven’t been able to celebrate Sunday Mass for fear of another attack. The Bishop has celebrated Mass privately, and the people have watched it televised. That would be tragic for me. I live in Suburban America, and I doubt the likelihood of anything like that happening in my home town. Still, there is a chance it could. There was a time in the early Church when Christians had to celebrate Mass in the Roman Catacombs. Still, they did it. They did it because Jesus conquered sin and death, they did it because He died for us, and they did it because He’s worth dying for. He’s worth suffering for.

The cross stood among the ruins in Notre Dame because the cross is our hope. The cross is what gave us life. The cross is a promise that as messy as things might be, and as messy as they might get, God is greater. The cross is a promise and a reminder that we are redeemed, and God can bring even greater light out of any darkness.

The title of my upcoming album is, “A Song To Sing In The Dark.” It’s from a line in my song, “Nothing Else.”

This is a song to sing in the dark
This is enough, a spark to start a fire
This is a prayer you answer with love
‘Cause you are God, and you are with us

I wrote the song a few years ago and released it as a single. All I remember is that I had been watching the news a little too much, and I was feeling depressed. The world looked like it was falling apart. The fact of the matter is, the world always looks like it’s falling apart. The cross is the symbol of our faith because Jesus overcame it. What had only appeared to be an instrument of death became a symbol of hope and life, and even more than that, a symbol of God’s undying love for us, and the promise of our salvation. We can look to the cross when we need a song to sing in the dark. Remember that the cross is a beginning, not an end.

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I’ll Stick Around To Remind You

I’ve been on a bit of a blogging hiatus. I’ve been busy loving a teenage boy from where, I don’t know, praying, working on my book, and working on music in the studio. I just finished up the second song, “Heart Of Love.” I don’t know where it’ll be on the album, but I’m just overjoyed at how good it sounds. A lot of love went into this song, on my end, for sure, but I’m convinced, from heaven as well. Ken and I pray before every session, and both of us have been convinced that we’ve had very little to do with this song. Even when the work was barely started, we couldn’t stop ourselves from laughing at how good it sounded.

Last week we finished “Heart Of Love” and started work on a song called “Sunset Sparrow,” which is partly dedicated to my new friend, but also to anyone who is suffering from loneliness or any kind of mental health issue. The first verse ends with a question: “Sunset Sparrow, can you see the city lights, and in the sky beyond, can you see the stars?” The Chorus goes like this: “If your answer’s ‘no,’ I’ll stick around to remind you, the night can’t last forever, and the morning’ll break through.”

A couple of weeks ago, my friend and I decided to watch “The Hunger Games.” There’s an interesting conversation in the first movie between President Snow and the guy who designed the game/arena. President Snow questions, “You like an underdog?” The guy responds by saying, “Everyone likes an underdog,” to which the president responds, “I don’t.” My friend reflected, “People don’t actually like underdogs. People like underdog stories.” Truthfully I haven’t thought about it a whole lot, but at the time, she seemed to be right, and I think she probably is.

I have also heard over and over that we live in a cut-throat, survival-of-the-fittest society. Though I have seen beautiful exceptions, I think, for the most part, this is overwhelmingly true, too. This leaves people afraid to reach out to one another in kindness because it leaves them vulnerable. Any show of weakness could mean defeat. I am reminded of the “Good Samaritan” story. Two of the three people who pass the wounded man–the underdog–pass him by. They are more interested in their own survival; the task at hand.

Jesus uses that story in a particular context as a teaching device, but I wonder what the wounded man–the underdog–would have been thinking. I had a very strange conversation with my new friend just a couple of days after we made contact. I asked him how his weekend had gone. His response was not a positive one. I spent two hours trying to convince him that he was lovable, that he was loved, that I don’t abandon my friends, and that I wasn’t going to abandon him. He countered by saying that he was very good at pushing people away, and that we couldn’t possibly really be friends because we had only known each other for two days, and then, it was only over the internet.

I spent the whole two hours inwardly hoping he wouldn’t ask me why I loved him because if he asked me, I don’t think I could have explained. The fact of the matter is, though, that, though I only really know his name and his age and the bare minimum of his personality, I love this kid, even if I can’t articulate a reason. Pope Benedict XVI said, “Only when God accepts me, and I become convinced of this, do I know definitively, it is good that I exist.” Saint Paul said that we can know God loves us because, and I am not quoting directly, “While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” I’ve recently come up with a prayer that I find exceedingly helpful when, in a sense, I have to remind myself of what I believe. “Lord, I’m a mess, but I’m your mess.”

For too long I tried to figure out why God loves me. Of course I know that God is Love, so I can infer that, in some sense, he has to love me. He kind of can’t help it. At the same time, I personally don’t have to exist. He wanted me with all my quirks and talents, and preferences, and what not, to exist. He created me knowing I’d be a mess, but he loves me too much not to have made me. Accepting my own messiness has not been easy. It probably never will be. By messiness, I don’t only mean sinfulness. I’m talking about other things, too, like the leftover insecurity that still occasionally tries to rear its head from when I was a teenager, or even my medical weirdness.

Acknowledging the mess is important, but if anyone only looks at their mess, they’re left with not much more than a bad mood. That’s why the second part of the prayer is important. By saying that I’m His mess, I am reminding myself that I belong to Him. It’s my pledge of loyalty, but also a way to say, “I know you love me, and I love you, too.” In a world where we’re convinced we have to do everything on our own, it’s easy to make the mistake of either not asking for help when we need it, or ignoring those who do need our help.

From talking with my new friend, I’ve discovered a new sense of the idea of tough love: “I’m going to love you whether you like it or not because you need it.” Sometimes unconditional love is uncomfortable. It can sometimes seem entirely idealistic and unrealistic, when, in fact, the opposite is true. The God of the universe who can literally do anything, and never changes, loves each person literally no matter what, even if our actions or words are sometimes not to His liking.

Last night I reflected on the fact that, while praying, I usually call God, “Lord.” That should be no surprise, except that, when Jesus instructed his disciples (i.e. us) to pray, he told us to address God as “Father.” That’s the whole point. God is the most perfect Father we could ever have. Even when we’re being “the actual worst,” He loves us. Sometimes when our loved ones are going through something particularly hard, or they do something particularly detrimental to themselves, another person, or our relationship, it’s tempting to decide, “I can’t deal with you right now,” and then “right now” lasts a long time. God, on the other hand, doesn’t think like that. Unlike humans, God can handle any mess, no matter how big, and nothing we do, and no matter how we feel, we are unconditionally loved.

I wrote “Sunset Sparrow” initially as a promise to my friend from my personal perspective. However, on further reflection, I’ve realized two things. The first is that I have never encountered the kind of deep darkness I’m finding in his soul. Maybe he’s being an overly dramatic teenager, but I’d like to give him the benefit of the doubt. Secondly, though, I think the chorus of the song can be addressed to anyone. “I’ll stick around to remind you. The night can’t last forever, and the morning’ll break through.”

My upcoming album is a worship album, but I wanted the songs on it to be a bit less conventional than the usual fare of worship songs. The fact of the matter is, after a while, truth can only be said the same way so many times before it starts sounding like white noise. I hadn’t intended to write a song to reflect God’s faithfulness directly. On the other hand, I have asked Him to give me some words from His perspective that He wanted me to address to someone in particular, or the world in general. I had hoped He would give me something new to say, but no spectacular divine revelation came. Instead, He gave me new words to convey an ancient message: “I am faithful;” in other words, “I’ll stick around to remind you. The night can’t last forever, and the morning’ll break through.”

Email Miracle

Just because I’m in school again does not mean that music is getting left in the dust. Something amazing happened 3 days ago. I had sent an email blast towards the end of my vacation to all the places that would potentially let me make noise in their venue for a night. On August 30th, I heard back from my favorite; the Gulu Gulu Cafe in Salem Massachusetts. I was told that I had 4 hours to work with from 8:00 to midnight and that if I didn’t want to play that long I needed to find openers. Just a few minutes ago I heard back from my friend Nate. He and a girl I met at an open mic named Amanda have both agreed to open for me.

We’ll each get to play for about an hour and 20 minutes, which is super cool. Now all I need to do is come up with a set list that’s long enough and awesome enough to get the audience to like me for that long. I’ll be playing most of my originals, including the ones that won’t be going on my first album and a few covers including some from my friend Ken’s old band since he’ll be accompanying me on lead guitar. You can check them out on iTunes; just look up Meet The Day.

To be honest, I wasn’t expecting to get this gig. I’ve been either rejected or ignored so many times that I was just scratching my head and wondering what to do next or instead. Getting this gig and getting opening acts was so easy that I really do think this some kind of gift or push in the right direction; maybe even just assurance that this is what I should be doing. Sometimes I come across opportunities like this seemingly by accident, and I’m sure that the Lord has something to do with it. It doesn’t always have to do with music either; I think he probably had something to do with finding the right school or getting runner up in a state wide poetry contest that I submitted song lyrics to.

Because in my world guinea pigs can fly!

Music Inspired Love Poem

I had to write a Cento for my Poetry class. In case you don’t know, a Cento is a poem writen entirely with names or titles. Since I love music I decided to use song titles. This is what I came up with…

Love Song
Little light, I will follow you into the dark.
Knocking on heaven’s door; we can work it out.
In the summer’s when you really know
We are nowhere and it’s now.
At the bottom of everything, across the universe,
Behind blue eyes you are digging for your dreams.
Days of wonder on and on; I’m slowly turning into you.
Marry me; let it be time; be my escape.

Breathe in the air after the storm.
Up again, amongst the waves;
It’s the end of the world as we know it,
And I feel fine.
Long before freedom; resolution; a smile like yours…
Eclipse everywhere the ghosts of me and you.
Imagine the soundtrack of my life.
By your side for the first time again;
Wonderful road of trials,
Perfecting loneliness…
You’re the one I want.

Here are the actual song titles I used…

Little Light: Jets To Brazil
I Will Follow You into the Dark: Death Cab For Cutie
Knocking on Heaven’s Door: Bob Dylan
We Can Work It Out: The Beatles
In The Summer’s When You Really Know: Jets To Brazil
We Are Nowhere And It’s Now: Bright Eyes
At The Bottom of Everything: Bright Eyes
Across the Universe: The Beatles
Behind Blue Eyes: The Who
You Are: Tenth Avenue North
Digging For Your Dreams: The Indigo Girls
Days of Wonder: The Wallflowers
On and On: Tenth Avenue North
I’m Slowly Turning Into You: The White Stripes
Marry Me: Train
Let It Be: The Beatles
Time: Pink Floyd
Be My Escape: Reliant K
Breathe In The Air: Pink Floyd
After The Storm: Pink Floyd
Up Again: Meet The Day
Amongst The Waves: Pearl Jam
It’s The End of the World As We Know It And I Feel Fine: R.E.M
Long Before: Lucy Wainwright Roche
Freedom: Melissa Ferrick
Resolution: Andy Timons
A Smile Like Yours: Meet The Day
Eclipse: Pink Floyd
Everywhere: Lucy Wainwright Roche
The Ghosts of Me and You: Less Than Jake
Imagine: John Lennon
The Soundtrack Of My Life: Less Than Jake
By Your Side: Tenth Avenue North
For The First Time Again: Jason Gray
Wonderful: Everclear
Road of Trials: Austin Wintory (Journey Soundtrack)
Perfecting Loneliness: Jets To Brazil
You’re The One I Want: Jets To Brazil

Like I said, every part of this poem was from a song title. I wasn’t allowed to add little words like “and” or “because.” Those words had to be included in a title. It was fairly difficult and took me a while, but I’m actually happy with the result. I’d love to know what you guys think.

Because in my world guinea pigs can fly!

I Will Play

Well, there was some interest in my last post, so I thought I’d give y’all an update. Today I spammed emails out to a few venues. I’m going to try and get the “feature” at a couple open mics. If that works out I’ll try and get my own gigs there. I know I will be playing at The Sad Cafe in Plaistow NH, but I’m waiting to hear back from them with the exact date. I also sent an email out to Cafe 939 in Boston. I’d say it’s pretty unlikely that I’ll get in there since I’ve never played a paying gig before, but I think I might have just enough experience for them to at least consider me. I’m shooting for Saturday June 8th. I also may or may not send something out to The Middle East in Cambridge. my Friend played there and I don’t recall if there was a feasible way to get a wheelchair on stage (that little detail should make gigging super fun). I’ll probably send something anyway. Life is an adventure!

I also had another excellent idea today. Once the CD is out I’m going to give 50% of sales to a charity (I have some ideas, I just haven’t picked one yet). I’m going to wait until I make my first hundred and start there. I seriously think this could go places. Prayers are appreciated. Wish me luck everybody!