Friday, September 27, 2013

Anything to Be Cool

Soul Asylum
Let's get back on track with our spiritualizin' of Soul Asylum's 1992 Grave Dancer's Union album. Song number eight, April Fool, is no laughing matter… and kinda funny at the same time.

Quittin' after one more last one
Tired of playin' the clown
If I want your opinion I'll ask ya
I can get myself down

Night driving without headlights
Wearing sunglasses too
Looking good but sure don't feel right
Anything to be cool
Doin' hopscotch with my legs tied
Jumping rope in wet cement
Black leather in midday sunshine
All your mother's money spent
Doin' time on the metal detector
I'd like to drown in your pool
Covering up everything that's defective
Anything to be cool

A burning heart could be so cool
Won't you be my fashion victim
C'mon I'm an April fool for you

Anything to be cool
Anything to be cool
Anything to be cool

A burning heart like an April Fool
Won't you be my fashion victim
C'mon I'm an April fool
I'm a mid-spring snowfall
Joke's on you I'm an April fool for you
I'm an April fool for you
I'm an April fool for you
I'm an April fool for you

Cool get-up, but is she comfy?
So… what's it all about? It's about going to extremes to look cool. Smoking, wearing black leather when it's really hot, sunglasses at night and lots of heavy metal studding. Anything to be cool. 

Not that I would know about this… except that I used to be a sort of punk/gothic girl back in the eighties. I didn't have any tattoos or inconvenient piercings or really painful things going on, but I did often wear unreasonably high and uncomfortable heels or too-heavy boots… and I had clothes that were so tight that I couldn't eat anything AT ALL if I was going to wear them. Also, I smoked for about two weeks just to blend in. Anything to be cool.

Also, this line resonated with me: "Covering up everything that's defective"… because I had lived all my teen and college years as "the fat girl." And when I started dressing up it was sort of a deflecting device: "Don't look at my huge thighs – look how many black dresses I own; look how pale I am and how much eyeliner I'm wearing!" Anything to be cool… and not fat.

And I'm not going to lie to you. It was FUN. Dressing up, and being noticed. It did make me feel COOL. That's why it was a bit disconcerting when Jesus butted in. It was kind of like he was singing the song's chorus to me: 
A burning heart could be so cool
Won't you be my fashion victim
C'mon I'm an April fool for you 
It was like God was asking me to lay aside my current foolish pursuits in order to be a "fashion victim" for Jesus! (And believe me, at that point, I definitely judged His people to be "fashion backward"!)

This Sunday school book pic of David
dancing nekkid makes me laugh.
Weirdly enough, when I first joined Jesus's band of merry pranksters, I was waaaay worried about how uncool I would look. But I got over it, mostly… and now I'm writing this stuff … and advertising to all kinds of people. Am I afraid of looking uncool or foolish? A little.

And surely there are people out there who DO think I'm uncool… a fool… an uncool fool! Baahaa! Anyway, I love the story about David in 2 Samuel 6, where he gets called out by his wife for carrying on and dancing for the Lord when they're bringing the ark to Jerusalem: 
“How the king of Israel has distinguished himself today, going around half-naked in full view of the slave girls of his servants as any vulgar fellow would!”
David said to Michal, “It was before the Lord, who chose me rather than your father or anyone from his house when he appointed me ruler over the Lord’s people Israel—I will celebrate before the Lord. I will become even more undignified than this, and I will be humiliated in my own eyes. But by these slave girls you spoke of, I will be held in honor.”
Michael Card
See? David is not worried at all about how he looks. Now THAT's cool. ("A burning heart could be so cool," as it were.) He's like, "You think THIS is foolish? Just you wait!" And we all know who David was a fore-warning of…well, you know… the guy songwriter Michael Card calls "God's Own Fool." That's right… the Son of David… AKA Jesus. Card's style of music is not exactly my bag, but he's a sincere dude, who can write a good song. (See, some crazy part of me wanted to make sure you knew I only like "cool" music!)

Here we have a guy who is actually God, but shuffled off His superpowers and put on itchy, uncomfortable man-skin… He didn't go to rabbi school; he partied with the unwashed, touched the untouchable, and pretty much pissed off all the wrong people… or the "right" people, as the case may be. He felt all our pain, carried all our sorrows, took all our punishment… was whipped and mocked and died. For us. 

"Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us." (Romans 5:7-8) See, dying for a righteous or good person might be not be construed as foolish… but dying for sinners…? Was that really wise?
I guess it depends on how you look at it. Paul saw it this way: "For the foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than human strength." (1 Cor. 1:25) and "God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise." (1 Cor. 1:27) 

Anyway, this kind of foolish love is something I can get on board with. Jesus put on the jester's hat for me, I can certainly look silly for him. So I'm a fool… and like David, I plan to get even MORE foolish.

Tom Baker (that's right - the 4th Doctor)
as Puddlegum
And what if I'm wrong? Well, I stand by this quote from Puddlegum the Marshwiggle in C.S. Lewis' The Silver Chair: 
"Then all I can say is that, in that case, the made-up things seem a good deal more important than the real ones. Suppose this black pit of a kingdom of yours is the only world. Well, it strikes me as a pretty poor one. And that's a funny thing, when you come to think of it. We're just babies making up a game, if you're right. But four babies playing a game can make a play-world which licks your real world hollow. That's why I'm going to stand by the play world. I'm on Aslan's side even if there isn't any Aslan to lead it. I'm going to live as like a Narnian as I can even if there isn't any Narnia."

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

And now… Cheap Thoughts

Cheap Trick on stage
(Let's take a break from our Soul Asylum series...)

Yeah, I saw Cheap Trick last night… and let me just say that these four fellows can still rock your checkered socks off. Here are just a few of the crazy thoughts running through my head during the show:

1. The Carolina Theatre's stage was decorated in the band's signature black and white checkerboard motif, and it still works for me. 

2. The crowd was predominately dudes… I still wonder why I like bands that dudes like. Am I a dude?

The checkerboard motif still works.
3. Rick Nielsen may be the the rad-est 66-year-old bald guy who EVER LIVED. The apparent leader of the band, it appears that he is in charge of every aspect: the style and look of the band, songwriting, emcee duties… He's a vital, energetic showman who plays guitar kinda like Keith Moon played drums – filling up every gap with licks and flourishes.*

4. Nielsen is known for his fantastic collection of guitars, many of which he played during the show. One had the Beatles on it. One was shaped and painted to look like himself. One had 5 necks (see photo above). Sometimes he would switch guitars in mid song!

Robin Zander and
his golden mane.
5. Robin Zander (who Nielsen describes as his "favorite lead singer in the whole wide world") sure has some pipes. Belting out with equal finesse show-stopping hard rock classics like I Want You to Want Me and plaintive power ballads like The Flame. He wails.

6. The other guy, Tom Petersson, was there too, playing his 12-string bass. He also wails and I like that he wears glasses on stage. He was and still is a good-lookin' fellow.

7. The drummer at this show was Daxx Nielsen, the son of Rick Nielsen. Bun E. Carlos was ill? Or…? There appears to be some question about why he doesn't tour with the band.

Tom Petersson
8. Speaking of fine-lookin' guys… I kept wishing Robin Zander would take off his hat. It was a police hat, I guess as in the "Dream Police that live inside of my head." Is that gorgeous golden mane of his thinning or gone…? Maybe he just likes hats.

9. My friend John Cole said that he lost his hearing temporarily at a Cheap Trick concert. I can see why. I'd say they created an impermeable wall of sound, and I do love me a wall of sound. Bombastic is what it was. With killer pop hooks... it's a winning combination.* 

10. I danced like crazy, and would like to apologize to my husband if he was embarrassed. I hope I don't dance like a middle-aged white mom, but I'm guessing I probably do. I shook my massive groove thing anyway. 

Cheap Trick back in the day
11. Rick Nielsen keeps his guitar picks on his mike stand and throws them out one by one with startling frequency. Toward the end he was tossing them out by handfuls. My seat was not close to the front so I missed out on this bounty. I so wanted to get one for Bill, and and it crossed my mind that if I could just get him to see me, he would definitely throw me one. You can go ahead and laugh – I wasn't THAT cute even when I was young! 

12. My husband, ever the critic, only attended the show as a favor to me… but he loosened up… and way before they sang Surrender he'd already given in to their unabating energy, sound and showmanship. And as for me – truly, if they want my love... they got it.

*Since I'm not really a musician, this is MY description of how it sounds. I have no idea if this is right.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Why Sit and Wait?

Soul Asylum
Song number seven in our quest to view Soul Asylum's Grave Dancer's Union album through my crazy Scripture goggles... It's another kind of strange one, but, honestly it's perfect for our purposes. I'm going to do this one in a slightly different style - providing the text in bursts, with commentary between. Click on the title to hear the song then dig my ramblings...

Lives in a lonely little town
No one's around
Except for the drinkin'
Nobody ever gets around
But those who leave the township sinking

May you rot in heaven
Gotta be home by seven
And the field burns away
The sky breathes it in
So why sit and wait for the new world to begin

Okay, so there's a lonely person living in ... well, the opposite of a boom town... (would that be a "bust town"?) It's all lonely and gray and nothing to do but drink. This puts me in mind of C.S. Lewis' book, The Great Divorce. In this theological fantasy, he actually describes hell as a grey town. The people in Lewis' grey town are given the option to get on a bus bound for the foothills of heaven. The song also refers to people who've left... for heaven, where the discouraged singer hopes they rot. For him, "Why sit and wait for a new world to begin" means "This is how it is, so get used to it."
I'm comin' out across your border
With new orders for you to take
I'd really like to take out your daughter
Down in the water, down by the lake
When the cold water's on her skin
I can feel how long it's been

And the neighbors will all be there
And no one will know what to wear
So why sit and wait for the new world to begin

And... here comes the evangelist! Maybe it's me! Or maybe it's one of those people who left coming back to tell our lonely, grim guy about the heaven he's found, "There's another way!" Then the water, of course, is a baptism reference. And it's so new and fantastic, we don't even know what to wear! For the evangelist, "Why sit and wait for a new world to begin" means "The new world is HERE. You can have it NOW."
I got a lot I gotta do just to get through
The end of the day
It hardly ever even happens
But I go to sleep the same anyway

And you can't believe in yourself
You can't believe in anyone else
So why sit and wait for the new world to begin

Then, our lonely, hurting sad sack... well, he just can't wrap his head around it. "I've got a lot to do," he says. Just like in The Great Divorce – most of the people on the bus decide to go home – giving all kinds of excuses and justifications. It just looks too daunting... this going to heaven business. In Lewis' story, the path is painful, and repentance is involved. 
And for sure, pain sucks and repentance is reeeally hard. However, they are assured by helpful "spirits" that as they travel toward this goal of heaven, the pain will become less and less. We have guides, too – every Christian that lived before, the Christians that enter our lives, and, most importantly, the Holy Spirit, who Jesus said would lead us into all truth. (John 16:13)
It helps to know that we don't have to win heaven for ourselves. That work has been done. It is already ours – if we could only see it... and grab hold of it! Another C.S. Lewis book, The Last Battle, one of the Chronicles of Narnia series, has this bit with a bunch of chronically nay-saying dwarves who are in a beautiful sunlit meadow but think they are in a stable. They are eating a feast, but think they are eating hay and manure. They just can't see it. No matter who tries to tell them or how, they WON'T see it. Just like that guy in the song.
New World is like a song
version of this book.
So it's a sad song. To tell you the truth, I used to think the second verse said, "And the fear burns away, the sky breathes it in." Which is sort of like the surrendering to the great unknown that is life in God. It takes awhile – maybe your whole life, but it IS part of the process, and completely worth it. Because, I assure you, NO ONE "rots" in heaven.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

The ground you walk on's sacred / The sky above awaits you

Dave Pirner, trying to shake
all those worried troubled
thoughts on out of his head
Moving right along with my next attempt to spiritualize an already pretty dang spiritual piece of art: Soul Asylum's Grave Dancer's Union album… Our sixth song is a driving declaration of resolve with grinding guitars and a speedy, desperate delivery:

I gotta get on
I gotta get on out
All these worried troubled thoughts gotta get on out of my head
Gotta get on out of my head

Will I be on the streets tomorrow
Will I have to beg and borrow
Will I have to go back to the job I left behind
Could you still make it
With a guy who never made it
Would you look into my eyes if I were to go blind

Gotta get on
I gotta get on out
All these worried troubled thoughts gotta get on out of my head
Gotta get on out of my head

Now will you leave me for another
Send me running back to mother
Will I have the time to tell you how I really feel
Am I just getting slower
Or are you just talking faster
Do we need bad disaster to make it plain to see

That all these worried troubled thoughts gotta get on out of my head
Gotta get on out of my head

Do I just feel like cryin'
Cause I'm sick and tried of tryin'
Trying to convince you this ain't how it has to be
The ground you walk on's sacred
The sky above awaits you
So cast all your frustrations to the bottomless sea

Gotta get on
Gotta get on out
All these worried troubled thoughts gotta get on out of my head
Gotta get on out of my head

More self-talk from our growing boy. First, he lists his fears and then declares his intention to expel them from his overworking mind. It's no secret that what we tell ourselves can make a big difference. We can go around thinking that we are one step away from disaster, or we can remind ourselves of what is good and hopeful... count our blessings, that kind of thing. Like Paul said: 
Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you. (Philippians 4:8)
Jesus telling them not to worry
What's really cool is that this follow quite soon after this line: "Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God," followed by this result: "And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus." (Philippians 4:6-7)

It's like what Jesus said in the famous Sermon on the Mount, 
"So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own." (Matthew 6:31-34)
So… if Jesus were talking to the writer of this song, maybe He would say, "This ain't how it has to be. / The ground you walk on's sacred / The sky above awaits you / So cast all your frustrations to the bottomless sea."

This guy, also, would rather you not worry.
Alternately, when I hear this song, I hear a guy telling his girlfriend about his insecurities, which may or may not be warranted. Maybe he's just paranoid… or maybe she's one of those mercurial folks who never want you to be sure of where you stand. So maybe it is he who is saying, "This ain't how it has to be." 

And he's right. Our relationships should not be like this. Sadly, though, they sometimes are… because our relationships are with imperfect human beings. Of course, it's healthier to seek out folks who are steadfast and true, but how can one know before getting involved? Plus, it's the crazy mercurial types who can be so dang exciting to be around!

I'm not really going anywhere with this… just… Our relationships with people are not going to be perfect or perfectly fulfilling... but we should probably try to seek out healthy ones. And ultimately, if I rely on a person or thing (job, money, accomplishments) other than God, the Perfect One… who knows what I need and will never let me go, then I might well feel a tad insecure. But if I fix my mind on Him… well, I have been promised mind-blowing peace... (Plus, He's pretty exciting to be around!)

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Woe Is Me! I Am So Homesick!

Expositing an album (in this case, Soul Asylum's Grave Dancer's Union) seemed like a good idea when I started… and I really love that I have ten blog topics that I don't have to rack my brain for. Not to mention that I really do like doing it. Like I said, it's my superpower. The only drawbacks I can see are that 1. you, the reader, might get kinda tired of it, and 2. I'm starting to wonder if I sound preachy… or more preachy than usual, anyway… 

That's absolutely not how I want to come off… so… I hope I am wrong about it. It's just the natural progression of my thoughts when I'm expostulating on the these tunes.

Anyway, next up… (Click the link to hear the song)


I want to live with you
In the fifth dimension
In a dream I've never had
Cause I just can't live like this
In a world like this
I just want a kiss goodbye

We are not of this world
And there's a place for us
Stuck inside this fleeting moment
Tucked away where no one owns it
Wrapped up in a haste,
And by mistake got thrown away
And oh, I am so homesick
But it ain't that bad
Cause I'm homesick for the home I've never had

I know I sometimes get annoyed
I know just where I'm at
This is my song of joy
And now I know there are no secret tricks
No correct politics
Just liars and lunatics

And we are not of this world
And there's a place for us
Stuck inside this fleeting moment
Tucked away where no one owns it
Wrapped up in a haste,
And by mistake got thrown away
And oh, I am so homesick
But it ain't that bad
Cause I'm homesick for the home I've never had

And though I would not take it personally
It's just the child in me
I never really knew how much I had
And woe is me, I am so homesick
But it ain't that bad
Cause I'm homesick for the home I never had


Let's go!
It's a lovely lament, a heartfelt cry of longing for heaven… that perfect world where everything will be… perfect. I totally dig where the singer is coming from, and I wrote here about that very thing. I would point out (again) that Paul wanted it too: "I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far…" (Philippians 1:23)

The singer knows that his yearning stems from the fact that "we are not of this world," which is just what Jesus said of His disciples:  "They are not of the world, even as I am not of it."(John 17:16).

C.S. Lewis nails it.
I'm not going to dissect the song and examine it too closely… It's not a statement of theology. In fact, the words imply that the singer may not cling to any specific creed: "And now I know there are no secret tricks. No correct politics. Just liars and lunatics." 

I do kind of agree with this ... after all, there ARE no secret tricks... I'M not keeping it a secret, anyway. That is, I'm telling you right now... it's just Jesus. And as for politics, I know devout, well-meaning Christians on each end of the political spectrum and at every point in between. It's just the following line I have trouble with... I mean, ever heard that adage that since Jesus said He was the Son of God, He was either 1. the Son of God, or 2. a liar, or 3. a lunatic? I think we know which side I come down on here.

So, I'm not going to dwell on that part of the song. I'm just going to say that the singer's longing for heaven is a "tell" in itself. C.S. Lewis says in Mere Christianity, "If I find in myself a desire which no experience in the world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world."

My lovely sister, Eve, posted this video, saying, "This is how I envision heaven…" and I couldn't agree more! Finally with the One we love in the home we never had.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Don't Stop Believin'!

Yeah, I'm still talking about these guys...
Moving right along with my exegesis of the Soul Asylum album Grave Dancer's Union… The record's fourth song is another no-brainer… for me, anyway! And it goes great with the previous song. 

My commentary on that one, Runaway Train, highlighted the beginning of the beginning of change – that is, the cry for help. This one is more about how yesterday's hypothetical person, having accepted the Change-maker's invitation to relationship, feels while change is taking place… That is… impatient and frustrated… but determined and hopeful. Click on the title to hear the song:

Keep it Up 
I'm down here waiting on a shattered heart
I'm gonna put it back together if it tears me apart
If I can keep it up.. If I can keep it up 
I been complaining like a broken record
Gonna get what I want, if it takes forever
If I can keep it up... If I can keep it up 
Though the rain weighs down your wings
Still the caged bird's got to sing
Singing "Na na na na na na na na na" 
I know it seem funny, try to understand
It's just that things don't always go the way you plan
Still you keep it up... Still you keep it up 
Nothing in the world's gonna keep me down
I'm just a holding out, and just a hanging around
Trying to keep it up.. Just to keep it up 
Though the rain weighs down your wings
Still the caged bird's got to sing
Singing "Na na na na na na na na na" 
Keep it up... Keep it up 
A seven forty-seven's gonna take us away
Take us up to heaven, gonna be okay
If we can keep it up.. If we can keep it up 
Though the rain weighs down your wings
Still the caged bird's got to sing
Singing "Na na na na na na na na na"

Here's how Winston 
Churchill said it.
When I hear this song, I can remember clearly those feelings of being mired in the Carolina red clay of my own crappiness, but determined to get out… and the sweet hope… someday… but not yet… The singer of this song is right there in it, feeling all those things to the nth degree… and he's urging himself onward… steeling himself for the long distance race ahead. 

This kind of motivational speaking is all through the Bible. Because times can be hard. Even if you aren't crawling out of a hole, you're likely to experience some suffering at one time or another… and at times like this, we can give up hope, or we can keep reminding ourselves (and one another) to keep going. Like this example from Hebrews 12:
And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart. (Hebrews 12:1-2)
Just so the guy in the song is giving himself a pep-talk… telling himself to "keep it up." During the "na-na-na" parts, I can just imagine him dancing with his fist in the air, in the face of that part of him that wants to quit – his own internal nay-sayer. I always love a fist in the air song. 
Tom Petty vows, "I won't back down.

Real change is hard, and a long process… and it's a worthy goal… digging your way out of a hole… becoming who you want to be. It will most likely make you feel better, and frankly, that's what I mainly wanted at first – some relief. But I soon learned that this is not the real goal. I think the ultimate goal is that tight relationship you develop with the Changer while you're going through it… and then, after all is said and done, that 747 trip to heaven the song mentions. 

Like Paul says:
I want to know Christ—yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, attaining to the resurrection from the dead. Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 3:10-14)
Paul really understood that things don't happen over night. 

Well then... what does it mean to "keep it up?" Does it mean keep justin' your butt trying? I don't think so. I'm not sure there is anything about the Christian life that hinges on our trying harder. It exhausts me to even think about it, but I try to remember that while there is a certain amount of clinging to God on our part, He's actually doing the bulk of the work – both in the fixing and in the relationship overall. Yes, despite our slowness to change and our lame efforts to love Him, He's got a tight hold on us.

...and Journey recommends that you 
"don't stop stop believin'"
which is really what it's all about, right?

So maybe to "keep it up" means… to "remain in Christ," like Jesus talks about in his spiel about the vine and the branches (John 15:5) "I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing." We just gotta keep being His, which is, again, mostly Him. Jesus said we are his sheep and NO ONE will snatch us out of His hands. And Paul says that NOTHING can separate us from God's love in Jesus. (John 10:27-28 and Romans 8:38-39, respectively)

And when I think about it this way, "keeping it up" becomes less exhausting. Seems like much more of a sure thing, doesn't it? We just need to keep reminding ourselves… like in the song.

Sunday, September 1, 2013

I was a key that could use a little turning

I been there, man...
So, if you're late to the party, here we are exegetin' the songs, one by one, on Soul Asylum's Grave Dancer's Union record, one of the shining gems of the 90s. Up next? Runaway Train. A really easy one. In fact, it's the hit I heard that prodded me to buy the album. I could tell right away it was a prayer… 

Back in the nineties I was kinda slack about following music trends, so it was a miracle that I managed to stumble over some stuff I liked. It was just one of the mysteries of providence that I met Soul Asylum (figuratively speaking, of course) through this song, and then the whole album just happened to be a rockin' church service of a record. So here goes... (Click on the title to hear the song/see the video)

Runaway Train

Call you up in the middle of the night
like a firefly without a light
you were there like a blowtorch burning
i was a key that could use a little turning

so tired that i couldn't even sleep
so many secrets i couldn't keep
promised myself i wouldn't weep
one more promise i couldn't keep

it seems no one can help me now
i'm in too deep 
there's no way out
this time i have really lead myself astray

runaway train, never goin' back
wrong way on a one-way track
seems like i should be getting somewhere
somehow i'm neither here nor there 

can you help me remember how to smile?
make it somehow all seem worthwhile
how on earth did i get so jaded?
life's mysteries seem so faded
i can go where no one else can go
i know what no one else knows
here i am just drownin' in the rain
with a ticket for a runaway train

and everything seems cut and dry
day and night 
earth and sky
somehow i just don't believe it 

runaway train, never goin' back
wrong way on a one-way track
seems like i should be getting somewhere
somehow i'm neither here nor there 

bought a ticket for a runaway train
like a madman laughing at the rain
little out of touch, little insane
it's just easier than dealing with the pain 

runaway train, never goin' back
wrong way on a one-way track
seems like i should be getting somewhere
somehow i'm neither here nor there 

runaway train, never comin' back
runaway train, tearin' up the track
runaway train, burnin' in my veins
i run away but it always seems the same

A Soul Asylum selfie
The song stands on its own as a sort of public service announcement, calling attention to the problems of runaway and missing children, and the abuse that can produce them. The accompanying video features actual missing children and a phone number for people to call if they are a runaway kid or have seen one. According to the song's Wikipedia page, some kids were helped. On the other hand, some may have been hurt… by being placed back in abusive situations. The band meant well, of course – and for such a serious and widespread problem, there is no easy answer. 

When I heard the song, I heard a heart-cry for rescue, relief and change of direction. It's about a person – we'll call her Julie – who has hit, or is plummeting speedily toward, what is commonly called, "rock bottom." That is to say, the lowest point she can possibly reach. Maybe she's suffering a soul-killing breakup and is on the verge of anorexic starvation… In this and hundreds of stories I've heard from recovering addicts and alcoholics, this hard, crunchy place is often the launching pad for change... which begins with asking for help from God above. (In AA I think they refer to a "Higher Power"... the One she cries out to is God, the Father of Jesus.)

And so it is that she, singing this song, recognizes that she repeatedly heads in the wrong direction, and can't figure out how to get turned around: "it seems no one can help me now / i'm in too deep / there's no way out / this time i have really lead myself astray… She knows it's crazy ("like a madman laughing at the rain / little out of touch / little insane") but she just can't seem to correct her course. Her pain is too great, and it's the only way she knows. 
Our hypothetical person might have
looked something like this. Sure she's
smiling for the camera, but she's going
the wrong way on a one-way track.

And yet… from this seriously dark, difficult place, she manages to eke out a cry to God for light and help, as it says in the first verse: "Call you up in the middle of the night like a firefly without a light / you were there like a blowtorch burning / i was a key that could use a little turning." She feels helpless, hopeless and worn out, ("everything seems cut and dry / day and night / earth and sky / somehow i just don't believe it.") But she somehow has the wherewithal to ask for help and hope: "Can you help me remember how to smile? Make it somehow all seem worthwhile…" she prays. 

Since all of this is completely theoretical, we have no way of knowing what happened to the "Julie" in our hypothesis. Except we do. She found, as the Prodigal Son did in Luke 15, that despite the minuscule amount of hope that she had, her Father turned the key and reversed the direction of the train... to bring her home. 

The Prodigal Son went home too.
She couldn't do it herself, but she did use her failing voice to call out to Him – and even that wasn't easy. She had to swallow her pride and ask again and again for His help. The work of recovery is grueling, but it was HE who was doing it... and the more she stayed out of the way, the faster it went. 

But that work order she turned in... the first prayer that began it all... it seemed to come out of nowhere... I guess you could say it was one of life's unfaded mysteries…