Archives For Sufjan Stevens

I hate clowns.  Perhaps you should too.

This weekend Brooke and I will go on our annual pilgrimage with the kids downtown Nashville to see The Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus. Yes, this is our third year of the madness. The kids absolutely love the animals and acrobats making death-defying flips in the air.  But every year we see those ridiculous clowns. We break out in a cold sweat when they approach us. I try to avoid hating anything but for some reason I am haunted by these crazies. For crying out loud there is a dedicated website dedicated to “clown hatred.”  It explains the rationale about clowns (my emphasis added):

They scare little kids (mine), they cause neurosis in some adults (me), they have big floppy feet (I have big feet, are they making fun of me?), they try to fit too many of their kind in a car, I could go on and on.

It was the movie Poltergeist (1982) that ruined me.  The scene where the clown disappears from the chair across from the boy and then attacks him is a recurring nightmare. I think after I saw that movie, I threw every stuffed animal clown I had in the house and quickly gave up watching Bozo the Clown.  Then Stephen King had to rub it in my face with the book/movie, IT.  Good grief.

I simply hate clowns. Sorry, it’s personal. There was a period of time as a kid when I was playing with my G.I. Joes and I would find unique ways to kill my stuffed animal clowns. I am sure some of them are nice and do some good things like attempt to cheer up children in hospitals. But I don’t buy it.

Truth is, I am a clown. I wear the mask of a clown too often. I make all sorts of facial expressions to make you think better of me. I try to entertain and show a lot of color but ultimately look just like every other clown out there. I hide behind the makeup. I try to be someone or something else.

The beautiful yet creepy song “John Wayne Gacy” written by Sufjan Stevens has a haunting line that always makes the hair on my arms stand up.  The notorious Chicago area serial killer John Wayne Gacy often dressed up as a clown to lure his victims. Sufjan saw something deeper at heart and expressed it in this line,

And in my best behavior
I am really just like him
Look beneath the floor boards
For the secrets I have hid

So I may not be a serial killer but what do I hide? As a culture, I think we spend a lot of time and energy analyzing the sin of everyone else. I am incredibly guilty of that.  The song is a reminder that this mask I put on each day represents the sin of my life. Until I take off this mask and makeup, I cannot truly be the person God wants me to be. I am just a floppy-shoed fraud until then.

I take splice in 1 Samuel 16:7

Man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.

I pray every day for an honest heart that shows compassion, love and the ‘real’ me God wants in this world.  May you as well. 

What about you?  Any clown stories you need to get off your chest?  

My Funeral Music Mix

August 2, 2010 — 33 Comments

I’m not dying so don’t worry.

I apologize for the morbid post but I love music and I always find it fascinating to think through life’s ending in its dramatic way.

A great friend and mentor, Terri Adams, reminded me that these blogs will be read by my little girls one day and they can perhaps learn a thing or two about me.  No pressure, huh?

I started to think about my favorite music and the type that inspires me more than anything.  When Brooke and I got married, we put together a music mix that we gave out to those attending the wedding.  It was so much fun compiling the music that most inspired us as a newly married couple.

Why not a funeral music mix?

Sorry but The Rolling Stones “You Can’t Always Get What You Want” didn’t make the list but have fun with me.

I Will Not Take These Things For Granted-Toad the Wet Sprocket. My sister Sarah introduced me to them when she went off to college in 1992.  This song provides such a beautiful way to live life with no regrets and to embrace every experience and relationship.  Thank you Sarah!

The Bud Light Commercials, especially “Mr. Giant Taco Salad Inventor.”  I’m from St.Louis so the tie in works. How can you not bust out laughing?  You need a laugh after a funeral.

Heartland by U2. There is something about this song that says “home” to me.  Beautiful and underrated song from U2 during the Rattle & Hum age.

Don’t Dream It’s Over by Crowded House: The title says it all.  Plus, I just love this band as they continue to evolve from the 1980s.

Remember the Mountain Bed by Wilco.  This song, written originally by Woody Guthrie and made popular by Wilco in their Mermaid Avenue albums.  It reminds me of falling in love with my wife up on the mountain in Sewanee, Tennessee.

A Sort of Homecoming by U2. This makes me think of a place in my heart coming home whether it be a physical place like Nashville, St. Louis, Kansas City, or Scotland where I have lived.  But, it’s also a powerful song about the struggle to move forward in Ireland despite its violent past 100 years.

Into The Mystic by Van Morrison.  Yes, both U2 and Van Morrison get multiple songs here.  This song is played on repeat during long driving trips. Listen to it and you’ll understand.

The Trapeze Swinger by Iron and Wine. When I first heard this, I felt it was much too long but looking through the lyrics it is quite authentic and just a beautiful piece to inspire by Sam Beam.  The lyrics are questionable in meaning to me but his voice and tempo of the song makes me smile, always.

In Christ Alone by Stuart Townend & Keith Getty.  I remember hearing this first at church and one of our Young Life kids played violin to it.  I was in tears then and everytime it hits Brooke and I hear it we look at each other and the tears come back.  The lyrics best capture my faith.  Read the story of the song here.

In Christ alone my hope is found
He is my light, my strength, my song
This Cornerstone, this solid ground
Firm through the fiercest drought and storm…

Jungle Love by Steve Miller Band.  Yes, why this song?  Oh…it was just the hippie theme song at Castaway, the Young Life camp I attended in 1994 when I became a Christian.  How could I forget this song?  It makes me want to dance everytime.

God of Wonders (Caedmon’s Call version).  This song always gets me pumped up for church or the start of a week and reminded me of the endless possibilities God provides.  Never doubt him, dream with him.

Count Thou Fount of Every Blessing (Sufjan Stevens version).  I used to hate this song in church.  When I heard Sufjan Stevens’ version, it came alive to me and the lyrics blew me away.  It reminds me of how much God blesses me in life by friends, family, shelter, and each moment in-between.

Both Sides Now by Joni Mitchell.  I didn’t discover this song until I heard it at the Opening Ceremony at the 2010 Winter Olympics.  How great is that?  The song is almost 40 years old now and people still discover it.  What a lovely song to help reflect on an honest life of hope while acknowleding some regrets.  By the way, I can only think of one regret, quitting Boy Scouts.  Funny, huh?  But, in the end I know that it all was for a purpose.

Take It Back by Pink Floyd.  This song just makes me want to fly.

Wild Mountain Thyme by The Silencers. I fell in love with this song when I lived in Scotland.  It reminds me again that I need to bring my wife back to Scotland.  Oh, my second home.

And we’ll all go together
To pick wild mountain thyme
All around the purple heather
Will you go?
Will you go?
Lassie will you go?

These Are The Days by Van Morrison. I love Van Morrison, I mean there are not many white people who understand how to incorporate “soul” into their music.  The Irish get it.  Van “the man” Morrison does that and this song in particular. Most don’t know much about his faith but you get the feel from these lyrics. They will carry me home one day.

These are the days by the sparkling river
His timely grace and our treasured find
This is the love of the one great magician
Turned water into wine

These are the days now that we must savour
And we must enjoy as we can
These are the days that will last forever
and you’ve got to hold them, in your heart

Dance on and live well everyone.

I’m pretty sure this mix will evolve throughout life as new music moves me but it was challenging to put  this together and I hope you enjoyed.

For my daughters, I hope you learned more about me in the process and make your own mix tape of life.

What do you see as your top song you’d like played at your funeral?

Why?

Is there a story behind that song to you?

—— additional song added September 18th, 2012 ——

Learn Me Right by Mumford and Sons with Birdy. Such a beautiful song featured in the movie Brave (2012). It makes me want to fly back and run through the hills and mountains of Scotland. It shouts out freedom and dreams. Mumford and Sons also recorded a wonderful sister song version on their 2012 album, Babel.