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October 2011

Song For A Healthy Soul - One by U2

The new documentary From The Sky Down tells the story of how U2 shifted from a band that was possibly over to a band that could record one of the most artistically creative records of all time. At the heart of the documentary and seemingly the key that unlocked the rest of Achtung Baby is the song One. When that one broke through so did the muse that informed the rest of a transitional set of songs. In other documents of the time the story goes that producer Brian Eno appeared in the studio and took Edge’s melody, playing a piano melody over the top. Bono watching the magic that was happening musically started singing “we are one but we are not the same and we carry each other...” A song was born and a family got to stay together! 

If ever a song grew up, it is One. On Achtung Baby it was maybe the song that most recalled the 80’s and the Joshua Tree that Bono said they were chopping down but over the years it has become U2’s best loved, most covered and the glue that sticks a lot of what they do together; it is uniting, it makes everything into One! Perhaps on closer more meticulous inspection we shouldn’t be so surprised as One is a song richly layered, ambiguous but with a plethora of meanings, all of which when given the chance gives more solidity and force to the song. It has unity at the soul of it. Unity of emotions and unity of people.

In its uniting of emotion it holds the beauty and ugliness of love side by side; the melancholy of it and its lovely hopefulness. U2 have always made it clear that it is not about the old hippy let us love each other philosophy but that it is much stronger and more realistic than that. Here are two people who have hurt each other, who need to forgive, who need to be Jesus to each other in the unconditioned healing he brought to people and relationships. This is a song about two lovers who should be turning their backs on each other, walking away without ever looking around yet they see that in the midst of their romantic angst they can make a decision to carry each other. It is a unity that eyeballs the differences and makes courageous, painful decisions to help one another. Edge was in the middle of a marriage break up during Achtung Baby and it is hard to believe that this is not about him and his first wife Aislinn.

In time though One has come to mean so much more, taking on political and economic divisions on a global scale. Bono mentions that the Dalai Lama had asked for a contribution to his Oneness project and how he’d not followed the easy hippy cliché chorus but had responded, “We are one, but we are not the same.” By the time the song had reached Live 8 and the Vertigo Tour it was not so much dressing the stage set as the rest of the stage set was being dressed upon it. With the Vertigo Tour’s intro being the haunting repeat of the word “Everyone” and its sense of unity from beginning to end, particularly on this occasion with the west and Africa, One was fully grown. Songs bring people together and if ever a song documents such a phenomenon then One is that song. It has indeed, over twenty years, come of age and was more than deserving of its accolade in Q magazine as being named the greatest song of all time.


Lyric For The Day 30.10.11 from Your Constant Love by Dave Thompson

Mr T

You say, my love is like dew falling,

When the day has just begun.
A mist that gathers in the morning,

Burnt off with the sun.
But you are constant in your care,
Unfailing as the sunrise that illuminates the sky,
Don't let this wonder pass me by,

Don't let me ever take my eyes
From looking to your constant love.
Let me stand, with my palms upraised,

As a sign of a heart engaged
And a mind inquiring after you.
Let me speak with sincerity,

Let me act with integrity,
Let the mercy I show be the worship I bring to you.

 -      From Your Constant Love by Dave Thompson

This is a new worship song that one of our Fitzroy writers Dave Thompson has written for our series in the Old Testament book of Hosea; it is set in chapter 6 of Hosea’s prophecy. I have come to love its holistic approach of heart and mind and actions and worship. It also brings out that juxtaposition of God’s unfailing love and the obligation of believers to respond in new living. The poetry is beautiful too and so is the tune that you sadly can’t hear!

Lyric For The Day 29.10.11 from Let The Lord Shine A Light On Me by Noel Gallagher's High Flying Birds

Noel G.

“When I feel like a drop in the ocean
But there's no one else at sea
And my body's bent and broken
Let the Lord shine a light on me

Now the voices in the distance
Trying to sing their soul to sleep
When I'm drifting in the silence
Let the Lord shine a light on me
Let the Lord shine a light on me”

-      From Let The Lord Shine A Light On Me

My good friend Gary Bradley tipped me off to this Noel Gallagher song which is found on the b-side of the single AKA... What A Life. For those who read my review of Gallagher’s album you will know how surprisingly impressed I was by the sound that his new found freedom from Liam has brought. This song reveals that liberty in all its fullness. It is a lush ambient sound, soft in mood and perfect for a song that seems to suggest that Gallagher is seeking God when he looks into his insignificance, needs interruptions of grace in his life and while counting his many blessings. No deep theology but a nod to transcendence and a chance for Noel to go Gospel! It’s a beaut!

(AHK-TOONG BAY-BI) Covered - Q magazine Free CD

Sometimes when the great works of rock become too familiar from years of perpetual listening you need to hear the songs afresh to get a new angle, see new hues, hear new sounds, pick up new thoughts. Sometimes it is the artist who obliges by releasing demos, different mixes or new live arrangements. The Twentieth Anniversary remasters of Achtung Baby in its deluxe box and uber box versions might allow U2 to do just that but before those boxes hit the recession with pre recession prices Q magazine provides the rock fan with a variety of services. Firstly a free cover CD worth listening to is a huge surprise; I usually keep them in the cellophane until I need the box. And... secondly a re-listen to an epic album is what you get from an array of big names doing specially commissioned versions of those great songs! 

It is a remarkable album that you can’t believe is available free with a magazine. If it is not sacrilegious the only wasted track is the U2 remix of Even Better Than The Real Thing; simply because it is too familiar in the midst of a bombardment of stimulus. Damien Rice gives One his beautiful ambient songwriter brooding; Snow Patrol bring space and electronic atmosphere to Mysterious Ways; Patti Smith has all the wild drama to take on the Judas and Jesus story of Until The End Of The World; The Killers make another hint at being the natural successors to the U2 crown with a typically clean Ultra Violet; and Jack White simply reshapes Love Is Blindness with a broken hearted riffed out rock rawness of pain. Elsewhere Trying To Throw Your Arms Around the World gives The Fray their best recording to date and if Gavin Friday sounds a little bit like U2 on The Fly it is because Bono was trying to sound like Gavin Friday in the original version way back when! 

I spoke at the outset about the chance in new recordings to hear songs afresh. What struck me in these new settings was how much this album really was about Edge’s first marriage breaking up. It would have to be remembered that Bono and his wife Ali were not isolated bystanders in that break up. Indeed neither was the rest of the band. This was a very closely bonded bunch of friends and Aislinn would have been part of their lives for years and as Edge lost her so did they all. The study of love, the secret’s of it working and the pain of it breaking down is here for all to hear. For Edge, a man of very high spiritual and moral values and very focused on doing the right things in work and life, this must have been a very dark night of the soul and his lyric writing buddy catches that darkness in these songs. The line that most caught the eye of my soul on listening to this version was from that Snow Patrol version of Mysterious Ways perhaps because it gets such room to breathe; “One day you will look... back/And you'll see... where/You were held... By this love....” If Achtung Baby and the nineties were about what U2 didn’t believe, as the eighties were about what they did, what they believed was never absent and this line suggests a pastoral care of a line from Bono to Edge that the Bigger Love is watching and caring as the earthly one in this case fails.

U2’s Blood On The Tracks revisited. It wasn’t just the sound and the incredible reinvention of a band that should be considered at this time of anniversary reminiscence. Thanks to Q and these artists we are reminded of how good are the songs. Go straight to the local petrol station/corner shop/newsagent and buy... NOW!


Brian Kennedy
There are a few fleeting moments in life that linger with you and teach you lessons. I had one such with Brian Kennedy on a stage at the Greenbelt Festival. For a number of years I used to host the mainstage on the Friday of the festival and on this particular year Belfast’s Brian Kennedy was to do a short acoustic between acts.

I had been a big fan of Kennedy’s first album The Great War Of Words in 1990 but had been a little disappointed by where his career had gone from there; it had moved from singer songwriter promise to the edge of cabaret. Meeting him backstage increased my respect. Many hide in their dressing rooms in places like this but Brian was happy to stand outside his and converse with whoever. He and I chatted about Belfast, our mutual friend Juliet Turner and what it was like to be a Chaplain at Queens University, which was my job at the time.

When it came to Brian’s time to take to the stage there were problems. Technical hitches, even on opening night, were not common at Greenbelt but they were tonight. Everything was running late and Kennedy’s short set was getting shorter. The act on before him Kevin Max was just coming out of his DC Talk phase where he was the biggest Christian rock act in the world and when he should have exited the stage he broke into Jesus Freak their biggest hit. They rocked it out, the noise getting louder, the crowd getting more hyped by the second.

I am standing behind the curtain with Brian and his acoustic guitar and I remarked, “not easy to follow this with just a voice and guitar” and Brian looked at me and with a gentle humble defiance, in his tidied up Falls Road accent said, “Just watch me!”

No doubt in my introduction I attempting to bridge the gap between the rocked out and the gentle strum before sending Kennedy out like a Daniel in a den of lions. If this was a tough gig it very quickly got worse as within a couple of strums Kennedy’s guitar strap gave way and his guitar crashed to the floor.

Without flinching Kennedy simply kept on singing. It was at the time of his Get On With Your Short Life record which is full of great songs and I think the guitar gave way during So What if It Rains. I found myself in an amazing spot, on the stage a few feet away from Kennedy, watching him fight the circumstances and able to look out from the stage to the crowd.

In that moment of possible professional humiliation Brian Kennedy brought that audience to silence and grabbed their fully focused attention with the beauty of his voice. It was unbelievable and I couldn’t help but hear his words echoing in my ear, “Just watch me!”

Kennedy totally gripped that Greenbelt audience for his fifteen minute set and left the stage having also played Christopher Street and maybe New York, I am not sure. He made no complaint about the timings or anything else. I looked at him and smiled, chuffed to be sharing a moment of sheer musical victory. I was in awe.

There are moments in my life when all the circumstances seem to be stacked against me. There are moments when what I am about to do seems to be bereft of a positive outcome; when people have sucked out my confidence or when life’s circumstances have given me no right to make my mark.

At moments like those when I am seeking God’s presence to calm me or his strength to rescue me, I am often drawn back to that moment at Greenbelt. When I am, I can hear a whisper that tells me to find confidence in the gifts God has given me and to remember when God has used those gifts in the past.

Then in humility, resisting the temptation to arrogance, I sense that defiance that Jesus showed so many times in his ministry and I hear Brian Kennedy’s words, “Just watch me.” Then I walk out, into whatever, with my head up and soul steeled, eyeballing the obstacles in the way of fulfilling my God given vocation!

Lyric For The Day 26.10.11 from The Bad In Each Other by Feist


“When a good man, and a good woman

Can't find the good in each other

And a good man and a good woman

Bring out the worst in the other,

The bad in each other”

       - From The Bad In Each Other by Feist

Human relationships, and the breakdown thereof, are a recurring theme in the Lyric For The Day series. The feisty Canadian Leslie Feist puts it blunt and puts it well. Of course those of us from a Christian faith will recognize that none of us are inherently “good” but it is also important for the Christian to recognize that the image of God remains, if tainted. What never ceases to amaze me is that when we claim that God has redeemed us in Jesus that we continue to miss the image of God in each other and continue to only find the bad. This causes us to bring out the worst in each other which is no sign of, or building up of, the Kingdom. Jesus spoke a lot about not being judgemental and about seeing the speck in self before pointing at the log in others. Loving neighbour as self seems an antithesis of Feist’s potent lyric.

Lyric For The Day 25.10.11 from Bad As Me by Tom Waits

Bad As me

“You’re the head on the spear
You’re the nail on the cross
You’re the fly in my beer
You’re the key that got lost
You’re the letter from Jesus on the bathroom wall
You’re mother superior in only a bra
You’re the same kind of bad as me”

-      From Bad As Me by Tom Waits

Right here in the opening verse of the title track of Tom Waits new record we have all that is Tom Waits; the crazy, the weird, the funny, the poignant and the theological. Tucked in there in the midst of these various images and they go on relentlessly through the rest of the song Waits uses “You’re the nail on the cross” and suddenly the theology of the overall theme that everyone is as “bad as me” gets its exegesis. Like everything else about the brilliant mystery that is Tom Waits I don’t know what Creed if any he believes but time and time again he comes back to the Christian idea that we are all bad and, from that hard hit on the rocks at the bottom of the fall, he sows just a thread or two of redemption into the tapestry.

The apostle Paul wrote that “all had sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.” He also believed that somehow Jesus on the cross was our hope of salvation – “God demonstrated his love for us in this that while we were still sinners Christ died for us.” Drawn from this has been the idea that the bad in me put the nail in Christ’s hand to bring about redemption. Waits puts it well!


Noel Gallagher
Never underestimate the chat show interview for selling records. On Friday night’s Jonathan Ross Noel Gallagher surprised me with his intelligence and wit to such an extent that I immediately purchased an album that I had promised not to buy! You see I have bought the last 4 Oasis albums brought them home and after two songs wondered why I had bothered. Without question, for me, they are the most over rated band in the history of music, stealing all their best riffs, lyrics and ideas from The Beatles and other sixties bands. If you like their sound, go back to the original artists and hear it better!

So when Liam’s Beady Eye appeared I was determined...  and so with Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds. Yet the subtlety of his interview with Ross, his quick and gentle wit, his honest and humble demeanour made me reassess. And... sure enough... this is the best piece of work that Noel Gallagher has put his name to. Without Liam’s grating whine and straight ahead 90s Ladism rock strut brother Noel has been able to be a little more refined, subtle and varied! Oh it is no radical rethink of template but it is seems to have a little more depth and breadth musically speaking.

Death Of You and Me is a fine example of Noel’s new possibilities; the Oasis DNA is there but other shades are being thrown on the canvas. (I Wanna Live In A Dream) In My Record Machine and AKA... What A Life are all Oasis but less bloated and over blown allowing Gallagher’s gift for melody somewhere to breathe. Soldiers Boy and Jesus Freaks is less familiar to the Gallagher canon, mining other sixties influences previously untapped and it works beautifully. AKA... Broken Arrow and Stop The Clocks takes the journey of the album a little further from its Oasis beginning. All in all this is a successful record. It won’t change the world but it might change our anticipation of what Noel Gallagher does from here on in. It is a sweet liberation!  


(wrote this awhile back but read it this morning as we looked at Hosea 4:1 in Fitzroy... the nation without acknowledgement of God...)

Fitz logo

It’s St. Patrick Day, in the Holy Lands

Students falling and crawling out of bars

Urinating in people’s doorways

Playing hurly on the top of their cars

Is this the evolution of the species

Have the fittest ones ended up here

Marinating in their own selfish preserves

And a culture of alco-pops and beer.


Christmas Day in the evening

She brings a blade to her wrist

To see the blood the baby bled

And find some kind of feeling in this

It’s the end of the nuclear family

We’ve broken it into a million pieces

Like the children caught in its convenience

As their anorexia and suicide increases.


A shopping mall on Easter Sunday

Another madman murder rampage

People enjoying a holy day off

Are the carnage of tomorrow’s front page

And the killer gets a tribute on Facebook

That’s the internet’s anarchic nerve

The expert on the late night news

Says we get the heroes we deserve.


There are some who still speak of religion

But we say that we couldn’t care less

We’ve long discarded those old fashioned notions

But we still seem to want godliness

We still seem to want godliness.

Ecarnation Pt 2; Making The Most of Every Opportunity

(this article follows Ecarnation Pt 1; The Need For Heightened Discipleship available at

Jesus and Twitter

In Part 1 of his article I suggested that social networking was where people were at today and suggested we needed to climb on board, be aware of its dilemmas but realise the mad potential! It seems to me that Paul was very strategic in his missionary intentions. He went to where people were at and also where he knew people would go out from. Whether Ephesus, Athens or eventually Rome Paul was using the networks of his day to fulfil Jesus commission to reach the ends of the earth with the Good News of the Gospel. The hundreds of millions of people on social media in 2011 suggest to me that this is a place for our missional intentionality.

Of course even before we get to Paul’s mission we find another reason o be in the web but not of the web. This was Jesus’ incarnational example. In the first verses of  The Gospel According To John we read, The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.” Jesus example was to “dwell amongst us” or as Eugene Peterson puts it in The Message “move into the neighbourhood.” Essentially God wanted to be where the people were and today the people are on social media sites. As the Father sent Jesus so Jesus said he sends us to be incarnational.

As a minister of the Gospel let me put it straight. I have, as I write this, 1676 Facebook Friends. I will admit I know these people at different levels of friendship. However, I have daily possibilities of interaction, whether it is responding to their status updates or sending them a birthday message or them using my updates or finding their way into my blog. Some of my Facebook friends live thousands of miles away and our friendship benefits from brief daily connections. Other people I have never met but through Facebook I would call one or two of them dear friends. If I had the opportunity of those 1676 people in my garden each day would I go out of the Manse to make a connection no matter how brief. Believe me I would. What an opportunity?

Let me quote again Ephesians 5, that we looked at in Part 1, 15 Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, 16 making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil. 17 Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is. 18 Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit...” Here Paul calls us to make the most of every opportunity but also gives us a clear behavioural pattern for how to.

How can I to sit with my the lap top or the iPad, be aware of their ability to connect across the world into millions and millions of people’s homes and not make the most of the opportunity. As I sit on a Saturday night, only half interested in the X Factor, I can be part of a communal family event and reach out across the world in meaningful conversation. As I watch the soccer on any given night of the week I have the ability to stay in touch with people, to listen to their lives, to inform them of mine and to build up relationship. What a gift!

Many suggest to me that social networking is breaking down real face to face friendships. Much as I can see where that argument comes from I would suggest the opposite. Radio, televisions, cars, modern crime and the need to keep your door locked are among the reasons why the neighbour no longer drops by and the front room music session or the story telling round the kitchen table are rare memories of a past time. My children don’t run free around the city the way I did and so to see them on MSN chatting to their friends face to face seems a better option than their heads stuck in some reality Wii game or another Television show.

Others will tell me they waste their time on Facebook. I know some friends who have come off it for Lent or withdrawn from it altogether. This is not the fault of Facebook or any other social networking opportunity. You can go for coffee with a friend and talk nonsense. You can spend all your leisure time watching empty trash or worse on TV. These are again issues of our making the most of every opportunity. Maybe it is because I am a minister, though I don’t think so, but I don’t see any of my engagement on Facebook as wasting time any more than I waste any time I spend with my family, friends or Church community. We are back to Paul’s instruction in Ephesians. Make the most of the opportunity and don’t be full of foolish talk. If we are intentional in friendship it will never be wasted; and so our Facebook time. We waste it at our peril!

I do not doubt the potential of the internet in general and social media in particular for causing harm. However, I also see and have known its potential for the good. If we live and use social media in thoughtless frivolous ways we could do real damage but led by the Spirit under the Lordship of Christ and Biblical direction this is a resource to reach the world with the grace and love of Christ. This is a challenge and an opportunity that we have never had in the history of the world so let us seek God’s Spirit to make us Christlike and then let us use what is available to us for the Kingdom.