Friday, 23 July 2010

Musical genius

I’ve been listening to Picaresque (Amazon link) by The Decemberists this week. Fantastic album, full of great tunes, clever lyrics and interesting stories. I love how they write about such a range of subjects, from bereaved wives of American Civil War soldiers to teenage sporting disaster. Here’s a little sample of their lyrics:
When I was a girl how the hills of Oconee
Made a seam to hem me in
There at the fair when our eyes caught, careless
Got my heart right pierced by a pin

We are two mariners, our ship’s sole survivors
In this belly of a whale
Its ribs our ceiling beams, its guts our carpeting
I guess we have some time to kill
You may not remember me, I was a child of three
And you a lad of eighteen
But I remember you, and I will relate to you
How our histories interweave

Among five score pachyderm, each canopied and passengered
Sit the duke and the duchess’s luscious young girls
Within sight of the baroness, seething spite for this live largesse
By her side sits the baron, her barrenness barbs her
And we'll all come praise the Infanta

Trust me, I know they look really pretentious on screen but they work in the songs! If you like indie-folk-rock with a bit of prog and a guy with a slightly whiny voice…

While I’m on the subject of great lyrics, here’s a couple more that I just love, firstly from I Want You To Stay by Maximo Park:

I always said you could rely on me, now it seems that I was wrong
I want you to stay, I want you to stay with me
‘Cause nothing works round here where cranes collect the sky
I think of your face at night, ‘cause nothing works round here

It’s that line ‘where cranes collect the sky’ that gets me; what a perfect metaphor to describe a bleak urban, industrial landscape. Here’s another fab metaphor lyric, from my favourite American alt-folk singer, Laura Veirs and her song, Galaxies: (Unofficial video as the official one has got embedding disabled on YouTube)

When you sing, when you sing, stars fill up my eyes
Galaxies roll down my cheeks, galaxies
Galaxies, they flood the streets, galaxies

Hope you like some of these songs, and share your favourite lyrics below!

Sunday, 18 July 2010

Why do bad things happen?

This is a difficult one for Christians, at least those Christians who say that God is all-powerful and entirely good. If he’s all-powerful then surely he could stop bad things happening; things like earthquakes, plane crashes, grievous illness, mass murders. If he were all-good then wouldn’t he stop these things if he had the power to do so?

I had to mention this issue in my final essay of the year (just finished and sent off, hooray!). Obviously, it’s a massive question that many people have written whole books about, but I thought this little explanation from C. S. Lewis was wonderful. It’s from Mere Christianity, pages 47-48 and I’d love to know what you think. Elegant and clear, or simplistic rubbish?

‘God created things which had free will. That means creatures which can go either wrong or right… If a thing is free to be good it is also free to be bad. And free will is what has made evil possible. Why, then, did God give them free will? Because free will, though it makes evil possible, is also the only thing that makes possible any love or goodness or joy worth having. A world of automata – of creatures that worked like machines – would hardly be worth creating. The happiness which God designs for His higher creatures is the happiness of being freely, voluntarily united to Him and to each other in an ecstasy of love and delight compared with which the most rapturous love between a man and a woman on this earth is mere milk and water. And for that they must be free.’

Tuesday, 13 July 2010

Living a better story

One of my favourite authors is Donald Miller. The first book of his that I read was ‘Blue Like Jazz’. It’s a fantastic bunch of stories from Miller’s life and his reflections on faith, friendship, the meaning of life – ‘non-religious thoughts on Christian spirituality’, as the book’s sub-title says.

Miller also has a blog (at, which I would thoroughly recommend you read. Now. Before you finish reading this – Miller has much more interesting things to say than me, and he actually updates his blog regularly! Anyhow, a few months back he blogged about how our lives can be thought of as a story. It followed from a major theme in his book from last year, ‘A Million Miles in a Thousand Years’, in which he wrote of how his life had become boring and predictable. So he decided to look for his dad, who he hadn’t seen for over thirty years. He also, pretty much on the spur of the moment, accepted a friend’s invitation to hike the Inca Trail in Peru. Obviously enough, these two decisions led to major changes in Don’s life but the changes went way beyond those immediate areas. They opened up a load of new opportunities and massively changed Don’s outlook on life.

So I’ve been thinking about my life, my story. I’ve been on an amazing journey over the last year with changing jobs and starting a theology course, and I’m wondering now about where these new things might lead me. The course finishes this time next year, so what then? I’ve got plenty of ideas but the question is which one to go for? Maybe it doesn’t really matter though. It’s tempting as a Christian to think that God has one plan for our lives, one correct option every time we have a choice to make. But I’m not sure that’s right. A lot of the time, I think God cares more about why we make a certain choice; why we get involved in this project or that one, apply for this job or that job, live here or there, date this person or that person. I think it's more about what story I should be living. If I am clearer about my story, who I am meant to be, then I can make my choices in the light of that. And hopefully I’ll grow into my role, my part in the great story of life.