Posts Tagged With: gk chesterton

Freebies! New Sufjan Stevens track and free (well, almost free) Grace via Kindle &

The Age of Adz, Stevens’ first album of all-new material since his 2005 opus “Illinois” is described thusly:

The Age of Adz (pronounced odds) is Sufjan Stevens’ first full-length collection of original songs since 2005’s civic pop opus Illinois. This new album is probably his most unusual, first, for its lack of conceptual underpinnings, and second, for its preoccupation with Sufjan himself. The album relinquishes the songwriter’s former story-telling techniques for more primal proclamations unhindered by concepts: there are few narrative conceits or character sketches; there are no historical panoramas, no civic gestures, no literary maneuvers, no expository illustrations drenched in cultural theory, no scene, setting, conflict, resolution, or denouement. Sufjan has stripped away the fabric of narrative artifice for a more primitive approach, emphasizing instinct over craft. The result is an album that is perhaps more vibrant, more primary, and more explicit than anything else he’s done before. The themes developed here are neither historical nor polemical, but rather personal and primal (if even a little juvenile): love, sex, death, disease, illness, anxiety, and suicide make appearances in a tapestry of electronic pop songs that convey a sense of urgency, immediacy, and anxiety as never before seen in this songwriter.

Of course, the theme of unmitigated love (and affection) runs deepest, often with shameless candor. Whether singing about a sleepover, old age, illness, or the Apocalypse, Sufjan can’t help but render everything through the lens of love and affection, the desire for contact, closeness, and connection. Perhaps this reveals what we’ve known all along in spite of the conceptual pageants and epic displays: that Sufjan is fundamentally a sensualist. And a morbid one, at that. Death looms large, either as an oracle at the apex of a volcano or as a shadowy omen in the window at night. What are we to make of these emotional and romantic climaxes back-dropped by fuming volcanoes, alien space craft, and demonic deities dressed like Boba Fett?

The cosmic themes are only more augmented by the obvious sonic shift on this album, which is deliberately electronic, synthesized (and occasionally danceable!). Acoustic guitars and banjos have been replaced here by drum machines and analog synthesizers. Loops, samples, and digital effects gurgle and hum underneath every verse, chorus, and bridge. For those familiar with Sufjan’s earlier work (namely, the electronic album Enjoy Your Rabbit), this foray into the digital pop world shouldn’t be so startling. The difference here is that the electronic sound collage is transposed on a collection of songs, while the sounds themselves are given equal footing to the voice, washed as it is in a pedal board of effects. The album is also heavily arranged with brass, strings, woodwinds, and a lush choir of backing voices. These “live” elements create vivacious juxtapositions against the montage of synthesized sounds, evoking their own kind of literal “sonic theory”— that is, the conflict and resolution between Real and Unreal, or Ordinary vs. Extraordinary.

These themes are best illustrated in the album’s namesake. The Age of Adz refers to the Apocalyptic art of Royal Robertson (1930 –1997), a black Louisiana-based sign-maker (and self-proclaimed prophet) who suffered from schizophrenia, and whose work depicts the artist’s vivid dreams and visions of space aliens, futuristic automobiles, eccentric monsters, and signs of the Last Judgment, all cloaked in a confusing psychobabble of biblical prophecy, numerology, Nordic mythology and comic book jargon. Portions of the album use Robertson’s work as a springboard into a cosmic consciousness in which basic instincts are transposed on a tableau of extraordinary scenes of divine wrath, environmental catastrophe, and personal loss. In Robertson’s imagination, guns, lasers, gargoyles, and warring battleships upend the sins of mankind with the pageantry of a Hollywood B-movie. (A selection of Robertson’s work adds extraordinary color to the album art as well).

But Robertson was also a man of mundane circumstances (his primary media were poster board, magic marker, and glitter). Living alone in a trailer in near poverty, even his most fantastical work contains heart-wrenching references to hunger, fatigue, anxiety, food stamps, loneliness and the desire for intimacy, scripted with unabashedly affectionate grievances. In the same way, Sufjan sets his imagination on the splendor of high places (divine revelation, oracles, love, the cosmos, the Apocalypse) rending his heart in the mire of loneliness, self-doubt, or panic, while his body urges for the ordinary touch of a lover, a brother, or a friend.


  • The Kindle Store at has a number of  free (or 99-cent) downloads of classic books on the subject of GRACE. They include:
  1. Grace Abounding to the Chief of Sinners by John Bunyan (FREE)
  2. Concerning Christian Liberty by Martin Luther (FREE)
  3. On Grace and Free Will by St. Augustine (99 cents)
  4. All of Grace by C.H. Spurgeon (99 cents)
  5. The Everlasting Man by G.K. Chesterton (99 cents)
  6. Messiah by John Newton  (99 cents)

About Piper’s Amazing Grace:

“John Piper’s succinct and superbly perceptive study of William Wilberforce deserves to become an acclaimed bestseller. It not only tells the story of a great man’s life-it also tells us how to understand the ultimate source of his greatness and happiness. Moreover, that understanding goes far deeper than the abolitionist achievements for which Wilberforce is honored, astounding though they were. William Wilberforce’s secret, as revealed in this book, was that he made the journey from self-centeredness, achievement-centeredness, and political-centeredness to God-centeredness. And he made it with Christlike joy.”
-Jonathan Aitken

Against great obstacles William Wilberforce, an evangelical Christian and a member of Parliament, fought for the abolition of the African slave trade and against slavery itself until they were both illegal in the British Empire.

Many are aware of Wilberforce’s role in bringing an end to slavery in Great Britain, but few have taken the time to examine the beliefs and motivations that spurred him on for decades. In this concise volume, John Piper tells the story of how Wilberforce was transformed from an unbelieving, young politician into a radically God-centered Christian, and how his deep spirituality helped to change the moral outlook of a nation.

As world leaders debate over how to deal with a host of social justice and humanitarian crises, a closer look at Wilberforce’s life and faith serves as an encouragement and example to all believers.

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Powerful words on writing from
St. Freddie of Rupert

Speak What We Feel, Not What We Ought to Say
By Frederick Buechner

“It is Red Smith who is reported to have said that it is really very easy to be a writer — all you have to do is sit down at the typewriter and open a vein. Typewriters are few and far between these days, and vein-openers have never grown on trees. Good writers, serious writers — by which I mean the writers we remember, the ones who have opened our eyes, maybe even our hearts, to things we might never have known without them — all put much of themselves into their books the way Charles Dickens put his horror at the Poor Law of 1834 into Oliver Twist, for instance, or Virginia Woolf her complex feelings about her parents into To the Lighthouse, or, less overtly, Flannery O’Connor her religious faith into virtually everything she ever wrote. But opening a vein, I think, points to something beyond that.

“Vein-opening writers are putting not just themselves into their books, but themselves at their nakedest and most vulnerable. They are putting their pain and their passion into their books the way Jonathan Swift did in Gulliver’s Travels and Dostoyevsky in The Brothers Karamazov, the way Arthur Miller did in Death of a Salesman, and William Maxwell in They Come Like Swallows. Not all writers do it all the time — even the blood bank recognizes we have only so much blood to give — and many good writers never do it at all either because for one reason or another they don’t choose to or they don’t quite know how to; it takes a certain kind of unguardedness, for one thing, a willingness to run risks, including the risk of making a fool of yourself.”

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