Why do You fear the stars

I do NOT fear the stars
I fear the sky’s span, its depth and breath, its embrace that swallows everything my size and yours and makes them disappear into insignificance.
Do you have the slightest idea what the sky does to you, mortal man?
That scape up there, it makes you marvel. It lifts a smile unto your face, drives awe into your heart. Your feelings twinkle with the stars. You feel fly. Fly like a firefly, a little dot of light persevering in a dark world. You feel like a peacock, strutting its gaily colored stuff. Just before it gets slaughtered.
The sky’s beauty is a stolen garb woven from a trillion diamonds, the stars that hide the cold, dark, unfeeling universe beneath its ‘skin’. The rule of that universe is selfishness, its path is self-preservation, its goal is self-elevation. And no mortal has ever won against its brutish march.
Neither will you.

Neither will the stars.
Like you, millions have tried to soar past the skies. They pierced it with towers, crossed it with rockets, coursed about it with satellites.
Like you, trillions have burned bright, over eons unfathomable. They gave light and life to worlds innumerable. They were the suns of their age, the stars that stunned our forebears.
Today, they are gone. All of them. All shredded trillion bits, devoured by the same universe. And the sky, this pretty mask of a cold dark monster, keeps its sunlight front, its fraudulent smile.
And the world keeps spinning.
I do not fear the stars. I fear the wretchedness they hide.

Ikenna Nwachukwu Alexander
© 2019

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HELL IN THREE STANZAS

Hell is rebellion
Pulling plug on life source
Drifting off from Definition
Dissolving into nothingness
Like fading fragrance mocked
By the briefness of its glory days

Hell is silence, is crushing grieved cries
Of wild drunken raves, quiet robbery
And the cold indifference of a million Church pews
The stench of pious hatred
The rot of carousing infidels
And the carcass of juggling both these

Hell is bitter dead end to living sweet route mirage
Trap Disneyland, minus innocence
It’s the sick deal Christ scrapes off the table
Evil’s two faced grand joker
Swept aside by God’s deft Checkmate
Process reverse, death-to-Life card

Ikenna Nwachukwu Alexander
© 2019

GET YOURSELF THE CROC!

Croc bags have been brought to my notice and girl, they are oh so expensive; they don’t even look fancy. You won’t believe that such a plain Jane of a bag would cost over $150,000. I understand that there are budget crocs but I am really speaking of the premium ones, the crocs for those who set the trends.

But why is there such a fuss about crocs?

Crocs are a fashion staple, bags made from pure crocodile hide.

I am writing about croc bags because I want to get down to something about crocodiles. Crocodile hides are highly durable fashion pieces. Anything put in a croc is really safe from pocket pickers; a blade would have a hard time getting through. Anything you put in there is good to go, in the rain and in the sun.

Now let’s get to the nitty-gritty of this talk:

Genesis 15 vs 1b;

“…Fear not: I am thy shield, and thy exceeding great reward”- KJV.

So, how has that got to do with crocs?

Good question. Let me amplify with Strong’s concordance:

…Relax: I am your crocodile scaly hide of covering from the world’s worst and your extremely huge net worth; you have me, I am more than enough.

See? God knows how important we all need crocs, boys and girls alike. For Abraham and for anyone else who wants to appropriate that scripture into his life, Yahweh God of Israel is willing to be your croc.

Allow yourself to be a tiny little piece of fur hidden away in the right croc. I believe you know who the right Croc is.

 

© Favour Omeje, 2019

I HATE COOL AND SWEET

For some reason, I detest cool, sweet, and smooth. Here’s why: when they settle too long, they become lukewarm, sour, and ugly. They stink. They turn worthless.

Then they become poison.

I would rather carry live flames in my arms. I’d rather they burn and sear my delicate skin and roast my plump flesh to ashes.

I crave the blood to soak my bruised face, that front of handsomeness that assures me falsely, that flimsy foundation of confidence. I would give everything to be on fire, to be a lamp, a candle’s burning thread, consumed to give light to a world being killed by sweetness, sweetness of the kind that rots the soul.

My fear isn’t for the fire that sinks my swag and shatters my claims on being ‘cool’. What I do fear is the inferno of coolness itself, the molten dissolution the world considers sugary, the fraud that embraces the tongue with caramel lather, only to steal its sense of taste.

Don’t be deceived into thinking that love is sweet. It isn’t. It isn’t bitter either. Love’s very presence renders taste secondary. The stronger it is, the less interested we are in what is does to our taste buds- whether it makes them tremble with excitement, shudder in awe, or retreat in terror.

When we are so far gone in love, it is Love itself- not its sweetness or sharpness -that consumes our being.

When you think that love can only be sugary, you will believe that reproof and compassion do not belong together. You will believe that a loving God could never damn a sinner to eternal torment. You will be alright with replacing the one true God with a sky dwelling grand-daddy figure too cowardly to correct the wrongdoings of his grandchildren.

When you think that love is only hugs and kisses, without rules or toughness, you will more easily wander off into dangerous openness, that vast but counterfeit ‘freedom’ called hell, the eternal coldness which lies at the end of all pursuit of crowd-pleasing ‘coolness’ for the sake of it.

We can reach beyond shallow sweetness to take hold of the exhilarating, all-consuming roller coaster of intense joy and deep-cutting anguish that true living brings us. That’s because in the midst of it all we are sure that a God who loves us fiercely will give His own life to preserve ours. Even if it means snatching us from the flames of cool with some degree of compassionate force.

 

©Ikenna Nwachukwu

 

Your Star Doesn’t Even Come Close

His smooth tone feeds you feels
Sugar rushes, belly butterflies
And a heaven
Where you are night, and his eyes, stars

So when his gaze falls, your world wobbles
Glorious twinkles, violent flames, you’re there
Scorched when he scowls
And dimmed by him downcast

So when he wanes, you’ll wither
Be dying satellite, drifting in space
Till you’re drawn to another sun
Dependent orbit, all over again

But you want a better star
You need no fail, no light fades
You crave bright, steady and sure, no supernova stories
That’s God, your star doesn’t even come close

Ikenna Nwachukwu
© 2019

Death and the Imago Dei

God says
I AM; space
shape-shifts on
His constancy
swinging and swerving in
and out, like flames
lit, waned, relit
by undying hands

Existence is
His filling , pouring
His infinite into
finiteness, a
creating, a
gaining fade, a death
process climaxed on
a Roman cross

His dying is living
life, is glorious
process played out
In moulding perfect
man, with His blood and body for
water and clay, art
and sacrifice, creation’s
true portrait

Ikenna Nwachukwu
© 2019

MUSIC REVIEW: FEAR NO MORE by THE AFTERS

Album: The Beginning and Everything After

Release Date: October 19, 2018

Record Label: Fair Trade Services

Reviewer: Ikenna Nwachukwu

 

Christian music band The Afters released their latest album, The Beginning and Everything After in 2018. The album, a tribute to over ten decades of often brilliant melodies from the group of four, includes some of their most loved and widely played songs. It also features new material: two songs, Well Done and Fear No More.

At the time of this review, ‘Well Done’ charts within the top 30 of Billboard’s Hot Christian Songs, and has received regular airplay in the US for weeks. But Fear No More seems to be just as popular with fans who have heard it. That’s because it ticks a lot of boxes: a perennially relevant message of trust in God, delivered in easy lyrics, and with a nice contemporary tune.

Perhaps we might wonder a bit about the regularity with which ‘songs of hope’ are churned out in our times; maybe there’s already plenty of them playing on our stereos. But it could be a sign of the times, a response to the abundance of troubling news and perplexed hearts in our day. The Afters seem to have intended Fear No More to be “an anthem for trusting God.”

Josh Havens, the band’s lead singer, has made this point in interviews he’s had about the song.

“We wanted to write songs that you could proclaim over your life,” Josh explains about Fear No More, “[we wanted to write] an anthem for not living in fear, and fear no more came out of this”

The Afters Picture

The Afters

 

The Song: A Contemporary Anthem

The song itself does sound like a modern anthem, or at least a hymn written in contemporary language. And the melody in which it’s wrapped helps its delivery as well: a good dose of percussive beats adds some auditory weight to its general tune. All of these are brought together in a way that makes the song easy to sing along to, and lets the crux of it get to the listener as they do so.

If you’ve felt through the lyrics, you’ll probably detect a blend of a proclaimed trust in God and a boldness in the face of troubles, as these lines from the second stanza portray:

 

I will lift my eyes,

I will lift my cares

Lay them in your hands

I’ll leave them there

When the winds and waves are coming, you shelter me

Even though I’m in the storm, the storm is not in me

 

These lines are a fine description of the kind of faith and confidence which Christians all over the world seek to have. This perhaps explains why Fear No More has become popular with many. It’s a song with a call to that ideal, and they’re singing and praying it in increasing numbers.

 

The Story Behind the Song

Josh Havens admits that he’s long struggled with anxiety. He says that his battle with this, as well as other issues he and his band members have faced, motivated them to write the song.

“It was really bad fourteen years ago when I lost my dad,” Josh says, referring to his anxiety. “And Jordan (a band member) said he related to it.”

Jordan- that’s Jordan Mohilowski, the band’s drummer -also says he’s had to deal with intense anxiety.

“I remember when we were in the studio together, and just felt it (anxiety) so deep,” he recalls. “I had a child on the way, and all the unknown things that go on with that… I remember Josh encouraging me, and I remember us just saying ‘let’s write a sing that’s an anthem against anxiety.'”

And out of those discussions and honest sessions, Fear No More was birthed.

The Afters working on new music

The Afters working on new music

 

Reception and Performance

Since its release, Fear No More has gained significant traction. In four months, its lyrics video on YouTube has had over a million views. While current airplay focuses on The Afters’ other new song, Well Done, this reviewer expects Fear No More to do at least just as well as on the charts.

Beyond video views and charts, it’s the encouragement preached by the song that makes it such a great piece of art. It reminds us that our fears are defeated when we fully trust in God. He alone is the source of true, lasting confidence, and eternal victory.

MUSIC REVIEW: JOY by FOR KING & COUNTRY

Album: Burn the Ships
 
Release Date: 18 May, 2018

Genre: Christian Contemporary Music/ Christian pop

Record Label: Curb/Word Entertainment
 
Reviewer: Ikenna Nwachukwu
 
I struggle to keep a straight face while casting myself as an unbiased commentator on For King & Country’s Joy. I’m a fan! How do I try my hands at stabbing and slicing up this piece of melodic goodness?
 
Unless you’re a die-hard hymns-only fella who doesn’t fancy contemporary Christian music (and that’s fine), you’ll almost certainly find yourself bopping your head to the beat of this song. The more careful listener will warm up to its simple, brilliant and powerful lyrics. It’s not your regular stereotypical cliché stuffed Gospel song (For King & Country aren’t in that business), so you’re unlikely to get bored by it after just a couple of replays.
 
Now that I’m done with gushing, let’s see about having a proper music review.
 
Joy
Australian-American band For King & Country released Joy as a single in May 2018, as a foretaste of the band’s then upcoming album, Burn the Ships (the third they’ve produced thus far). Like the rest of the album, Joy draws on the everyday experience of our lives, and speaks of a hope beyond the troubles we face- a hope we should embrace.
 
Band members Joel and Luke Smallbone are keen to point out that Joy is a call to the faithful to defy the turmoil and uncertainty around them by choosing joy. They say they’re presenting an alternative to fretting and pessimism (perhaps even animousity) as reactions to the turbulent state of the world’s environment, politics, societies and the personal problems that besiege our individual lives.
 
As you’d expect of a well thought out song (more on this shortly), the message is kept afloat by the melody. Its rhythm and beat make it very danceable- and joy inspiring. It’s essentially an encouragement to rejoice in the face of trials and tribulations, wrapped in an exotic, almost festive sound that makes its optimistic content even more attractive.
 
The lyrics of this piece of music also hint at the source of the circumstance-defying joy that it invites us to. The bridge does justice to this, albeit in a covert way characteristic of much of contemporary Christian music:
 

“When I walk through the valley of the shadow of night

Oh with you by my side, I’m stepping into the light

I choose joy!”

 
My take on Joy as a work of art is that it’s expertly created. And when you realize that it took six months and more than 80 rewrites to come up with the current 3:53 minute version on the album, you appreciate the effort put in by the Smallbones and their co-writers to craft a sweet summon to joy for a world that sorely needs it.
 
The Story Behind the Song



Luke Smallbone has explained that the idea for Joy cropped up two years ago, while the band was having a discussion about what their next album would be. The discussion soon tended in the direction of encouraging people to be joyful in spite of the troubles they were facing.
 
“There’s a lot going on these days,” he said, in a video about the song, “and I think it’s really important for us to be people that have joy in our lives, no matter the circumstance.”
 
They finally decided on Joy as a theme when a friend also spoke to them of his strong belief that the world needed to hear the message.
 
The Music Video
The music video for Joy was also released in May. The mostly black-and-white video portrays a 1960s newsroom, and features Joel and Luke Smallbone, and Candace Cameron Bure, a well known TV personality in the US.
 
In the video (which starts off with Joel and Bure relaying news of a mega storm sweeping across the USA), Joel and Luke spread the talk of joy as they walk through the station’s premises. Eventually, their black-and-white environment turns polychrome as they lead the staff (including an initially pessimistic Bure) to dancing. The viewers (an old couple) join in the dancing when they see the gloomy broadcast replaced by live images of media people rejoicing.


 
The video’s symbolisms are, in general, easy to grasp (especially for Christians). Joel and Luke weave through the passages at the TV station and invite other workers at the station to join them; that’s an allusion to spreading the (joyous) Good News. The old tape which the brothers dump in the bin is a recording of bad news (fill this space with whatever trials and terrors you’ve faced). The new tape, which plays to display colour images (instead of the dull black-and-white in most of the video) is a reference to Christ; when it’s pushed to the ground in anger by Bure (i.e. when it dies) it gives out its colour (life) to everyone and everything- including Bure -and gets them all dancing for joy.
 
Chart Performance
Joy peaked at number 2 on the Billboard Christian songs chart, and is in the top five of the top Christian songs of the year for 2018. It’s safe to say that it would have done even better on the charts if it hadn’t been for the exceptional runs enjoyed by Cory Asbury’s Reckless Love and Lauren Daigle’s You Say this year.
 
My Final Note
Joy is a feel good take on a crucial aspect of the Gospel- or one of its benefits. It’s the sort of song that ages very slowly, and sparks life in you when it floats into your ears.