Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Wheels Up, London

As this posts, we are taking leave of London.  I scheduled it for wheels up.  I have loved living on the Thames.  I wouldn't have traded it.  A big regret for our time here, though, is that we haven’t been able to enjoy London the way most people enjoy London, by delving into history, art, architecture and using London as a home base for exploring the rest of Europe. 
We’ve done some of those things, but not as much as most.  We arrived, for “12 to 18 months” when Christopher Robin was 2 ½ and Cupcake was 9 months.  As we depart, 5 years later, Thing 1 and Thing 2 are not quite 3 ½.  I’ve mentioned before, but 0-3 is logistically difficult and as your youngest passes 3 years old, things get progressively easier.  Another few months, and we could travel relatively easily.  I, myself, am just now able to do more of anything from touring to volunteering.  It is time for me to pick up a copy of The Girlfriends Guide to Getting Your Groove Back and start grooving.  But the grooving will happen at home.  I’m starting to wonder if my London girlfriends will recognize me when I return in the fall to move into our new flat.   Not physically, no plastic surgery planned, but me.  They have mostly known the mother in me.  
My regret, however, is blunted by what London gave to me. While I was here in London, away from family and close friends, I had to hunker down a bit more than I would have needed in Texas.  We missed some family drama and upheavals while we were here as well, and while I would have preferred to be there, the silver lining that I must find is that the children were spared any drama and we got concentrated time together.  What I am writing, not so very well, is that London gave me dedicated time with my children--if only because the dismal weather kept us locked in the flat more than I would have liked.  My mentor, Sherri, saw this coming when we first moved here and I called her and lamented missing family and an inability to do more.  She told me I would one day be thankful for this time and, as always, she was right.  
London is the place where my children were young.  The memories of parks and rainy days, of first words and field days, of friendships forged in the trenches of motherhood, all of that for me will always be in England.  And that is sufficient, before any of the other fabulousness that is England, to keep her in a special place in my heart.   
I will return soon--we just put an offer in on the elusive downsized house--and I feel like I still have much to discover about London, even though I’ve been here for so long.  When we bring the children back each year (essentially, we are reversing to the actually sane plan of winters in Texas and summers in London) they will have much to explore as well.  In an way, the only thing I am losing is the day to day life in London, which is a significant loss to be sure, but not, by any means, a total one.    
For now, however, Take Me to Texas.  It is time to go home.  

Monday, July 11, 2011

Christianity in Pop Culture: Pop Music Lyrics Overview

How often do you really listen to the lyrics of a song?  Between passive listening and masks by the tune, the meaning of a song is not often clear.  The meaning becomes obvious when you see the lyrics written as a poem.  The scoring, vocals, and video often underscore the meaning in surprising ways...once you know the words.  I highly recommend actively listening to pop music.  The hooks disguise some surprising ideas.   Given the black gospel and Scottish folk music origins of American rock and pop, those ideas are often Christian.  
I organized some of the songs I know well enough to write about into categories.  I don't listen to the radio, and am not a true music junkie, so the selection is a bit odd, not exactly fresh.  I don’t want to wait until I have the individual posts done to post this overview because that will take a while, what with my current crazy life, and most of the people who would use this post will probably be Christians who can figure out the meanings.  I will have linked to some of the lyrics until I can get my own interpretation posts up for these songs.  I do not contend that all of these songs have Christian themes intentionally.  With a few notable exceptions, such as The Killers and Peter Gabriel, the reverse is more likely. 
Note, that songwriters often return to themes again and again.  If you find one song heavy on the Christian allusion or morality, you will probably find more by that songwriter.  
Unapologetic Gospel Songs 
It is rare to find straight up gospel songs in pop culture, songs that are obviously about God, but they do exist.  Country music has a fair few.  The Long Black Train by Josh Turner is a fave of mine.  Lyle Lovett usually has at least one per album.  Two of my favorites with a heavy black gospel church flavor are Church and I’m Gonna Wait.  Songwriter Brandon Flowers, frontman for the hugely popular band The Killers, loads his songs with Christian imagery.  He filled his solo album with straight up gospel and hymns, On the Floor, Playing with Fire, and Right Behind You.  He writes a little less directly for his work with The Killers, so those songs will appear below.  
Baptism and Rebirth Songs
This category has two surprises, two legendary songs.  

  • Take Me to the River by Al Green and then Talking Heads.  
  • Solsbury Hill by Peter Gabriel    
  • Magdalena by Brandon Flowers
  • Human by The Killers
  • Awake My Soul by Mumford and Sons  Our vicar's wife knows one of the moms of one of the band.  The heavy Christian allusion in this band's work is not accidental.
  • Wave on Wave by Pat Green
  • Foundling by David Gray
  • The Call by Regina Spektor
Doubting Thomas Songs
Thomas was the disciple who famously wanted to see Christ’s wounds before he would believe that the man before him was the risen Christ.  A doubting Thomas always demands tangible proof.  

  • You Found Me by the Fray
  • Calling All Angels by Train
  • What if God Was One of Us?  I stuck this song in Doubting Thomas only because I did not want to create a separate category for aggressive ignorance.  The song basically challenges God to come live among us so he can appreciate how hard life is.  One wonders if the songwriter knows even a little bit about Christianity.  
Fighting off Despair songs
Despair is separation from God, the state of believing that even if God’s promise that all sins are forgivable is true, you are still not worthy of forgiveness.  In a sense, despair is when you stop seeking God--regardless of whether you realized you were seeking God.  In our post-modern secular culture, before despair comes the searching and grasping for something, anything.  We fail again, and again, and again, to find peace and purpose and eventually give up.  For a Christian, these songs about flailing though life will make your heart ache.  

  • River of Dreams by Billy Joel  
  • Crystal Ball by P!ink (she has multiple entries)
  • Happiness by The Fray
  • Full of Grace by Sarah McLaughlin
  • Where the Story Ends by The Fray
  • God Put a Smile Upon my Face by Coldplay
  • Death and All His Friends by Coldplay
  • Lost? by Coldplay
  • Only the Young by Brandon Flowers
  • Dustland Fairytale by The Killers
  • Thistle and Weeds by Mumford and Sons
God songs disguised as romance
This is common.  Many of the songs listed above could also appear in this category. There are striking parallels between the relationships of husband and wife, God and Man, parent and child.  The Bible is full of such comparisons.   Pop culture lyrics are no different.  Disguising gospel as romance is probably the easiest way to write a gospel song without obviously writing a gospel song.  There are some heavy hitters in this category.  

  • You know In Your Eyes by Peter Gabriel, the iconic romance song from Say Anything?   It is not about a lover’s eyes.   
  • Forget About What I Said by The Killers
  • Roll Away Your Stone by Mumford and Sons
  • Pieces by Red Red is a crossover band that I found while browsing with growing fascination the world of fan music videos, in this case Keith and Allura of one of the original anime cartoons Voltron.  (My geekiness knows no bounds.)  The video was cheesy (given the subject matter, how could it not be?) but I liked the song.   
  • Wait for Me by Seether, the first verse is another entry, though I think it is a soldier's song.  I’m curious about Seether’s stuff, but haven’t had time to listen to it all yet.  They have a new album coming out in May that I have my eye on.    
  • How by Maroon 5--It all works except the 'I’m a man, be a woman now' line.  By the time I get around to posting on it, I might figure it out.  
  • Till Kingdom Come by Coldplay