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Archive for September, 2008|Monthly archive page

Vito’s Ordination Song by Sufjan Stevens

In Faith, Music, Readings, Video on September 28, 2008 at 12:41 am

I’ve discovered yet another beautiful Sufjan song. I had heard this before, but hadn’t paid great attention to the lyrics until today; it instantly became one of my favorites once I figured out what it means (or at least what I think it means). Here’s the backstory: Sufjan’s close friend Vito was being ordained as a Presbyterian minister and Sufjan offered to write this for him. There’s a Youtube video of it at the bottom if you would like to listen as you read the lyrics. Now for the lyrics with some analysis.

 

Vito’s Ordination Song

Sufjan Stevens

I always knew you1
In your mothers arms
I have called your name 2
I have an idea
Placed in your mind
To be a better man
I’ve made a crown for you 3
Put it in your room
And when the bridegroom comes
There will be noise
There will be glad
And a perfect bed
And when you write a poem
I know the words
I know the sounds
Before you write it down
When you wear your clothes
I wear them too
I wear your shoes
And the jacket too
I always knew you
In your mothers arms
I have called you son 4
I’ve made amends
Between Father and son
Or, if you haven’t one
Rest in my arms
Sleep in my bed
There is a design
To what I did and said

——————–

This song is spoken from the point of view of Christ, speaking to us (just as in For The Widows In Paradise, For the Fatherless In Ypsilanti). Sufjan begins the song with the phrase “I always knew you.” The Bible makes it clear that God knows us personally from conception, as well as our names: “I have called your name.” Then, the song moves on to discussing our rewards in Heaven; our crowns that we will receive. 2 Timothy 4:81 Corinthians 9:25Revelation 2:101 Thessalonians 2:191 Peter 5:4 all talk about the crowns Christ will give us, depending on our accomplishments and faithfulness on earth.

“And when the bridegroom comes” represents Christ’s return to earth and the rapture. This is when all of the believers will rejoice: “There will be noise / There will be glad.” The “perfect bed,” I assume, is meaning the “bed” is our place in Heaven, our own personal space (how literal this is, I don’t know). The next few lines emphasis God’s intimate and deep knowledge of us: “And when you write a poem / I know the words / I know the sounds/ Before you write it down.”

The next section brings up the human aspect of Jesus; his 100% corporeal form. “When you wear your clothes / I wear them too / I wear your shoes / And the jacket too” means that Jesus came in human form and experienced the same things that we do: wearing clothes, wearing shoes, and bundling up to keep away the cold. Whatever we experience, Jesus can empathize with us in a meaningful and complete way.

“I have called you son / I’ve made amends between Father and son” is perhaps the most important line in the whole song. It is referring to Christ’s bridging of the gap between mankind (son) and God (the Father). Christ’s blood has reconciled us to God, now that Jesus took our sins upon Himself. This is followed up with a grouping of lyrics that are beautiful in their simplicity: “Or, if you haven’t one [a father] / Rest in my arms / Sleep in my bed / There is a design / To what I did and said.” This section simply means that we can always rely on Christ, even when we haven’t a father. We can take refuge in His strength and rest in His presence. Then, we are reassured that everything that happens, no matter how terrible or mysterious, has a reason. We can always have faith that everything works towards God’s perfect plan, and that in the end everything will be perfect.

Think I have it wrong? Let me know! I love to hear from readers.

——————–

1 Psalms 139:13: “For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb.”

2 John 10:3: “The watchman opens the gate for Him, and the sheep listen to His voice. He calls His own sheep by name and leads them out.”

3 2 Timothy 4:81 Corinthians 9:25Revelation 2:101 Thessalonians 2:191 Peter 5:4

4 1 John 3:1: “How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God!”

What Do Conservatives and Liberals Value?

In Politics, TED, Video on September 17, 2008 at 2:02 pm

I found this talk interesting talk on TED. I’ve posted about TED before, but for those of you who haven’t a club about it, here is a description of it in a nutshell (from the TED site):

TED stands for Technology, Entertainment, Design. It started out (in 1984) as a conference bringing together people from those three worlds. Since then its scope has become ever broader.

The annual conference now brings together the world’s most fascinating thinkers and doers, who are challenged to give the talk of their lives (in 18 minutes).

It is a vast repository of knowledge, and I implore all of you to visit the site and watch some of the discussion. Some of the talks have opened my mind to a great many areas that I wouldn’t have explored before.

But back to this talk, specifically. It deals with the values that conservatives and liberals hold highest. It breaks down the stereotypes and presents real data. The talk weighs in at 18 minutes 42 seconds.

Jonathan Haidt: The real difference between liberals and conservatives

I love to hear from readers, so leave some of your thoughts!

For The Widows In Paradise, For The Fatherless In Ypsilanti

In Faith, Music, Readings, Video on September 17, 2008 at 1:43 am

I have been going on a Sufjan Stevens (pronounced soofyawn) binge as of late. And in case you haven’t heard, he has surpassed the Beatles as my favorite artist/group. I still love you Beatles, but Sufjan is just… he is just Sufjan: a lyrical genius capable of putting me in touch with the most distant of perspectives. I love how all of his songs are from different narrators; I don’t think any one of his songs has Sufjan as the narrator. All of his songs are so perfectly personal and emotional.

I recently heard ‘For the Widows In Paradise, for the Fatherless In Ypsilanti’ for the first time, and it has really stuck with me. I thought some of you might appreciate the lyrics, as well as some analysis from yours truly.

For the Widows In Paradise, for the Fatherless In Ypsilanti

by Sufjan Stevens

I have called you children, I have called you son

What is there to answer if I’m the only one?

Morning comes in paradise, morning comes in light

Still I must obey, still I must invite

If there’s anything to say, if there’s anything to do

If there’s any other way, I’ll do anything for you

I was dressed embarrassment I was dressed in whine

If you had a part of me, will you take your time?

Even if I come back, even if I die

Is there some idea to replace my life?

Like a father to impress, like a mother’s morning dress

If you ever make a mess, I’ll do anything for you

I have called you preacher, I have called you son

If you have a father or if you haven’t one

I’ll do anything for you, I’ll do anything for you

I’ll do anything for you, I’ll do anything for you

I did everything for you, I did everything for you

I did everything for you, I did everything for you

I did everything for you, I did everything for you

First off: who is the narrator? The answers I have seen pegs the narrator as Jesus, but there is more than that. The alternating of “I’ll do anything for you” and “I did everything for you” points to two separate narrators. The song begins with Jesus speaking to mankind, and then His followers answering. Christ did do everything for us, and we claim that we will do anything for Him. But will we?

Notice these lyrics:

If there’s anything to say, if there’s anything to do

If there’s any other way, I’ll do anything for you

We talk about doing anything for Christ, sacrificing everything that we have, but there is still something we won’t give up. “If there’s any other way;” we still can’t give everything for Christ like He gave everything for us.

I love how Sufjan really emphasizes Christ’s human nature: “If you had a part of me, will you take your time?” Sufjan makes Jesus much more personal:

I have called you children, I have called you son

…I have called you preacher, I have called you son

If you have a father or if you haven’t one

Christ wants to be our Father. The Father to the fatherless. Christ wants us to love Him, too; wants us to follow Him and be with God. It wasn’t that Christ sacrificed Himself and the world was saved; no, Christ is worried for our individual souls. And then Sufjan hits home with something Jesus might have struggled with: doubt. In the same vein as Jesus calling out on the cross “My God, my God, why have You forsaken me?” Jesus asks:

Even if I come back, even if I die

Is there some idea to replace my life?

Christ knew that when He was resurrected, He would still be rejected by man, and as Sufjan states previously, Jesus wants us to accept Him, therefore He is hurt by rejection. And to add even more to the human-nature of Jesus, He wonders if “there is some idea to replace [His] life?” What is His life worth to us? Is an ideal worth Christ’s life? Is the rejection of mankind worth His life? What is He sacrificing His life for; going through torture for, bearing our sin for? What do we give Him in return for His flagellation? For the spear in His side? For His victory over death?

Can we give Him enough? Can we ever repay Him? Of course not! We know this, but what is even more powerful is that Christ knew it. Christ knew it from the very beginning of time, yet He still chose to die. That is the everything that Jesus has done for us.

Instead of praying “I’ll do anything for you,” let’s pray “I’m doing everything for you.”

If you would like to hear the song, here is a youtube clip of Sufjan singing it.

Interpersonal Communication Assignment

In Uncategorized on September 17, 2008 at 12:58 am

Hello again! It has been a while since I last posted; school is still getting going (at least in my head) so I have been focusing on school work. I thought I would post a reading response from my Interpersonal Communication course. Enjoy!

When reading Leading from Within, a certain passage really grabbed my attention. I wasn’t sure to make of it, and, doing what I normally do, I compared it to my Christian upbringing to evaluate the merits of the argument. Palmer, referencing Annie Dillard’s Teaching a Stone to Talk, brings up the value of “rid[ing] these monsters down,” or, in other words, identifying and confronting one’s own personal issues, many of which are unseen by ourselves but apparent to others. The value in this is very obvious to me, with one small caveat: you can’t go it alone. It is a brave thing to do to battle your personal demons, but very dangerous to do unaccompanied. To me, Jesus Christ should be accompanying us in everything we do, especially something as dangerous as journeying “inward and downward.” To best do this, though, I believe we must set our eyes on the heaven, on Christ; “outward and upward.”

As a Christian, everything we do must be focused on Christ, for even if we decided to test ourselves and go it alone, even for a noble cause, it is distracting us from what is truly important, our ever growing personal relationship with Christ. Also, should we find victory in (seemingly) unassisted battle, we may pride ourselves on our own accomplishment. Our own, not ours with Christ. The danger of growing, it seems.

Another thought provoking passage was one which described how people place their identity in what they do, rather than who they are. I found this to be true as recently as this summer: I had no school work, not much volunteering for Habitat for Humanity, and only a summer job; I felt useless. Combine that with staying up to (over) the late hours of the night – or early hours of the morning, depending on how you look at it – and sleeping in, my days felt… empty. I don’t like that. Empty is not a good feeling. I was looking forward to school again because I knew that it would force me to do something again, to be something again. I know that what I do doesn’t change who I am; at least initially. But doing nothing for long periods of time can make you feel like nothing. Nothing begets no one, it seems.

Now, my case of nothingness wasn’t severe in any sense of the word, but I could tell that my mood and demeanor had changed slightly; perhaps more than I know, or am willing to let myself perceive. Now I am back in school and already feeling accomplished. It is a good thing to have a purpose, but it is not the only thing, I think. It is important, but not the end all and be all of human existence, mainly because we could be serving God’s Purpose without ever realizing it; being depressed at our state, when, in reality, we are doing exactly what we should be doing. Look for opportunities, but do not be upset when they don’t readily present themselves; perhaps you are exactly where you should be.