Monthly Archives: January 2010

disposable girl


Only for those people who like lo-fi recordings, bad quality videos and tormented protest songs. This is the only version I have of this song.

For my eskimo friend…

no-one is disposibe, and it’s a crime against humanity…

shalom

Bram

love stories and broken worlds…


…and then sometimes, when you don’t even expect it, you can shock people, christians even,  just by telling your own love story…I don’t tell it to be subversive, but it’s just how my life happened: I only had one girlfriend in my entire life, the one I’m married to now. And that was almost like how I would’ve planned it.

Though I never had  planned to stay single for 22 yeve me years or so… But it gave me lots of time to think and get serious about relationships. And also to observe what did not work, which was almost everything I could see around me… And then suddenly there was this girl who was my best friend and more, and it was just obvious we’d marry. So the only girl that I ever kissed happens to be my wife. And I think that it’s the best way to do it, just to discover everything together. And I’m really glad that I could experience it this way, and even more that I could give that to her… But none of this can be credited to me, it was God who gave us to each other.

But in the end, it’s just my story and how it happened. I’m glad that it happened this way, but I wouldn’t be able to distill any timeless principles for other out of our story. Except for being careful and being loving, and looking at the person always before looking at the body or listening to the hormones who say that you’re ‘in love’. The english language may be wrong about that sometimes, ‘being in love’ is no guarantee’ for anything, let alone love… I would anyone advise to marry someone you feel at home with, someone you can be best friends with, someone you can pray with…

So that was the story I told. I never was into sexual experimentation, and I never was into being obsessed with having no sex (which also is sex-obsession)… All of this is just irrelevant to me. To be honest i was so sick of everything around sex bye the time of my mid-twenties that I might have become totally desinterested in anything sexual or even worse anti-sexual if I wouldn’t have had the possibility to very slowly discover it in a safe context…

It may not be very male of me, but I’m glad that the whole context of sexuality for me is rooted in the relationship with my wife… And this holistic sexuality is such a breath of fresh air in this fucked-up world… But it does sound alien to a lot of peoples ears…

…and then after this talk the music in the background reminds me of something before I ever had a gifriend, something that might have been close, way too close… And it was surreal… And confusing… Too much in love, both knowing it wouldn’t work if we’d follow those feelings. Nothing really sexual, that would be so irrelevant. No I hadn’t kissed a girl before my wife, but yet I know the feeling of holding someone close, so close, so desperately. Knowing I’d have to let her go in the morning…

It’s been years now. And I’m luckily married to someone who makes a lot better combination than she would have. I should be totally over this… And still… when this song and the long pause in the conversation brings back something from this dark night when the same CD was playing.

We should’ve been friends. You shouldn’t have closed the door. It was just a matter of logic that we couldn’t be lovers, it’ would’ve been a disaster, and I loved you too much to do such a thing, it was just a matter of logic to not do anything with those ‘being in love’ feelings. It was consfusing and complicated, but I could handle it. I could’ve been able.

But when you closed the door and rejected my friendship, you broke my heart… And it has been healed. But you once asked a place in my head, subverting a depressing nirvana song. And It still can be only reserved to you, as a friend…

so peace & love 2 you, wherever you are, I sometimes do still pray for you…

And I wonder about friendship, love, andconfusion. And I’m so glad with the relationship I’m in. I don’t know why God gave this to me, but it had been very healing to me… We don’t understand how important love is, and how deep it goes… And friendship is love…

Bram

the brambonius top-25 albums of the noughties


everywhere on the web people are looking back on the decade that has left us, so here are my 25 best albums of the last 10 years (minus the ones I may have forgotten, my apologies to those artists)

25. woven hand – consider the birds
24. The welcome wagon – welcome to the welcome wagon
23. Sufjan Stevens – michigan
22. Woven hand – mosaic
21. danielson – ships
20. half-handed cloud – we haven’t just been told, we have been loved
19. 16 horsepower – secret south
18. mumford & sons – sigh no more
17. Br Danielson – brother is to son
16. Silver Mt Zion – He Has Left Us Alone But Shafts of Light Sometimes Grace the Corners of Our Rooms
15. Mark Knopfler – sailing to philadelphia
14. radiohead – kid A
13. mewithoutyou – brother, sister
12. Bob Dylan – modern times
11. grandaddy – the sophtware slump
10. Sufjan Stevens – Illinoise
9. white stripes – white blood cells
8. 16 horsepower – folklore
7. soul-junk – 1942
6. mewithoutyou – It’s All Crazy! It’s All False! It’s All a Dream! It’s Alright.
5. psalters – the divine liturgt of the wretched exiles
4. think of one – naft
3. spinvis – spinvis
2. sigur ros – Ágætis byrjun
1. sufjan stevens – seven swans

If you know them all you can consider yourself a music freak!!

shalom

Bram

personality types I: ‘hard’ music


Once I came up with a theory about personality types and certain types of music. It is just a personal theory, and not complete in any way, so don’t take it too seriously… If it is valid it will be only in part, but it may be interesting.

I noticed about different people having different ways of looking at the world. There are lots of ways to describe people and divide them into personality types (like Myers-Briggs; DISC, enneagram,…) but I’m not going into that for now. I just noticed that some people seem to think in straight lines, and other more in chaotic associative thinking. I clearly am in the second category, and I guess a lot of people would be at the middle, and no way to describe and pigeonhole people and their personality will ever do judgment to the uniqueness of every person, but let’s just go on with the simplified model in which people can be divided into ‘straigh thinkers’ and ‘chaotic thinkers’.

What I also noticed it that a lot of music can be applied to certain personality types, and I saw clearly that some styles of music can be easily put into my 2 categories. Lots of classical music (lik Bach and Mozart) are totally in the ‘straight thinking’ camp, as well as a lot of metal. On the side of the chaotic thinkers you’ll get more alternative rock, noise and lo-fi for example.

Let’s just take Iron Maiden and Radiohead for two examples. Iron maiden has a very structured way of composing, and technical qualities that can be easily recognized by people who are known with the craft of music making. The same with the lyrics: the have a certain structure and a certain meaning, which can be known. And it is quite fun.

Radiohead on the other hand, especially in later albums, can be anti-rational and purely intuitive sometimes. It is totally unpredictable. Even though some songs may be more or less ‘traditionally’ tonal in composition, others are pure chaos and dischord, or repetitive atmosphere more than composition and melody. And for the lyrics, God may know what some of them mean, but even Thom and co don’t, and they don’t care about it either…

Okay it’s not exactly hard music, this particular, especially not this one song, but it’s pretty intense if you get into it. And if you don’t get into it there’s no way you can understand what it is about. You cannot analyse the structure or the techniques, it’s purely intuitive… Another good example of the ‘chaotic’ thinking in music is this dEUS-classic, which is very big in Belgium…(it actually was #11 in the timeless 100 list on national radio ‘studio brussel’) :

I don’t mean that people who like Iron Maiden will never live radiohead and vice versa, but there still is a barrier between those 2 kinds of people sometimes. I’ve noticed that some musicians just cannot cope with anything that isn’t in their musical system on the one hand, and I’ve met others who are suspicious of anything that could be conventional. And I think that this has everything to do with what I’ve described. But I do like both, even though I take iron maiden as being just theater…

Also part of my theory, that I found interesting, was where the extremes go bad. Straight thinking goes to extremes in one direction, like extremism, fundamentalism, of Satanism. A lot of satanic music is blackmetal, but I’ve never heard of truly satanic noise or lo-fi… On the other had, the chaotic side will fall into nihilism, disbelief and ‘nothing makes sense’. There is a totally different danger here… Maybe you could call ‘straight-thinking’ right and ‘chaotic-thinking’ left, but I don’t think that would be entirely correct either…

The funny thing is, being on the chaotic side myself. I feel that there is a strong connection to my ‘postmodern thought’ and my chaotic thinking, my ADHD divergent thinking.

But that’s for the second post

Enjoy the music

Bram

innocense mission


And now for a musical interlude

I must confess, I’m jealous at this band. I wih that I had come up with that band name… But even then I would never be able to make such soft fragile beautiful music…So they deserve the name…

I really want to live an innocense mission, in the darkness and dirtiness and brokenness of this world. To show the possibility of love and simple friendship to the people that I meet, instead of all those broken sexual games, dog-eat-dog power games, hate and selfishness, consumerist self-absorbsion, and other things that aren’t fun at all and that complicate the human experience needlessly. Whatever their age or sex or income or musical taste or color or…

Each woman and man and boy and girl is created in the Imago dei, and our first calling is to love… If we’d be fully able to do that, the world would be different…

anyone who wants to join me?

shalom

Bram

For those wondering, a spiritual autobiography…


I grew up in a post-catholic country at the end of its dechristianisation process. After WW II Belgium had changed from a catholic country into a secular one, and when I was a kid in the ’80s the catholic school I went to was on its way from a dilluted liberal catholicism to some kind of secular nothingness. But that wasn’t my main influence for my faith: my father was active in a small pentecostel Church, and I’ve been going to pentecostel churches all of my childhood. To be complete I should add that my parents were not just pentecostals, they were originally converts of the catholic charismatic renewal movement coming out of a cultural post-catholicism.  All evangelical type churches I’ve seen were small (the biggest one in Antwerp is 250 people, most are around 30), and there are not much of them… And the catholic ones mostly have only have a small group of old people in it, and younger living groups are almost as rare as evangelical ones I think.

What I remember from the catholicism is that they did not seem to believe in anything very much; though I felt an outsider in school since I as a protestant wasn’t allowed to do my first communion. The faith in God that was presented may have been at the end of the slippery slope towards atheism, but the traditions were still very alive. But it was in my ‘real’ church that I learned about Jesus and started to believe. I can remember the atmosphere that only we pentecostels were ‘true christians’ because only we ‘had the Holy Spirit’ and were born-again. Another thing that I vaguely remember was the Jesus people influence, the last traces of the jesus hippie movement were still alive when I was young, and lost of people from the pentecostel scene were jesus people conversions…

When I was a teenager, my father, who had been a pastor (unordained, I hardly know any ordained pentecostel or evangelical pastor here) left the church we were in to get involved in a church planting project with Vineyard, which was a fairly new movement in the benelux at the moment. I don’t think I noticed the theological differences, but now I do. The Kingdom theology, and the relative eucemenical openness to the whole Church I readily accepted. It felt natural to me.

what I didn’t care for was the whole Toronto stuff… My father had been there in its early days, I think even twice (before the Toronto airport fellowship and the vineyard movement parted ways) and they did some holy-Spirit nights I think, but for adults, so I wasn’t there. And I never qualified for a good pentecostal, for till this day I never spoke in tongues… There were some controverses about the whole Toronto fire stuff in the flemish evangelical and pentecostel circles, but I do not remember well enough.

Also, it might sound strange for me as a musician, but I’ve never really been into the whole vineyard (or other) worship music hype. The thing is that I as a teenager had the opinion that music played towards God wasn’t something tolisten to and buy on Cd, but to play live to worship God. I must say that I only really got into worship with the discovery souljunks 1950 album, which may sound terrible to a lot of ears, but the honest, raw cries to God really resonated with me. I still am not fond of lots of woship and praise music (a style problem) but I appreciate its connection with God. But please keep your hillsong CD’s far from me…

As a young adult I was (and still am) active as musician and worship leader in our small vineyard congregation (10 years after we officially started it’s still just 30 people, but all evangelical churches are small here, and there are not exactly much of them -except for african and brazilian pentecostel churches in a few big cities, but that’s a third world enclave with not much connection to the flemish culture-) I tried to work out how to live out my faith, and out of my questions I started some kind of very primitive email-magazine ‘hallo medechristentjes’ (‘hello fellow christians’ in funny dutch), in which I wrote articles about thing concerning my faith, my questions, and stuff… I did that for several years; but it finally faded away when I ceased being the hopeless single and found the one girl who is now my wife… Relationships can take time, energy and inspiration…

but I started to broaden my spiritual scope. I first read a lot of evangelical, vineyard and pentecostel books, and a lot of C.S. Lewis, and then some catholic books. And then I got interested in a more radical Christianity, and discovered Christian anarchism (jesusradicals forum style) and read Jacques Ellul, and more stuff like that.  And I got married, in a controversial way for some, but that’s another story (part of it is contained in my emerging joneses and marriage post)
Then a few years ago came the memorable psalters concert here in Antwerp. I was the most impressive thing I’ve ever seen. And they were also extremely nice people with whom I had some theological discussions. They told me to read a book by one of their friends, called Shane Claiborne. Which really shaked me, and totally resonated with my way of thinking, though I’ve never been able to live it out until now. I need to work that out…

But from Shane Claiborne I came unto the ‘emerging Church’ discussion the last 2 years or so. I read some books and articles and blogs, and discovered I was more than 100% postmodern. I could read ‘a new kind of Christian’ as a native. I had words to describe my worldview and paradigm. I never was sure what ‘emerging church’ was, and I think I’m most attracted to the Kingdom emphasis, the neo-anabaptisch radical discipleship influence, the missional approach to faith, the humble postmodern epistemology and the new monasticism which still impresses me. I hope to one day join it…

But here in Flanders the whole emerging church is still under the radar, and even though there may be some influence in the mainstream of the NOOMA-stuff and some people reading shane Claiborne, most of it is still far away from our small isolated evangelical churches. And the world around is is so thoroughly secular, and the answers we have to give as a church and the questions people in the world have don’t always seem to match… So I pray that we’ll be able to find new ways to live out and bring the gospel, and bring a light to this society that is so lost sometimes…

Now I’m here… Still active in Vineyard (music and sometimes preaching) but looking for new ways to live my faith. I don’t know where we’ll go from here. I want to follow Jesus, and bring His Love and Life to these people… But it’s a long way to go…

Father

Let Your Kingdom Come

Let Yoy will be done

here on earth and in Belgium as in heaven

shalom

Bram

Post-human broken sexuality… vs the beauty in this innocence


Sometimes I feel like an alien on this planet… Maybe it’s not okay for some people to watch this, but otherwise, just watch this video, and ask yourself WTF???

And yes, the f-word is totally appropriate in this context. It is all so fucked-up, and broken, and degraded, and degrading… I’m not a specialist, bu I think it’s a lot worse even than regular porn, which is degrading to both men and woman, woman become objects, men become something less-than human that has to obey the dark side of their instincts. And I’m really I’m glad that all I feel when seeing this is a disconnect. This is far beyond anything that even the darkest evil part of my sexuality could enjoy… It doesn’t feel human anymore, it reminds me more of Marilyn Manson than of the oversexed videos they had when I was a teenager. Everything about her looks fake. There is nothing left of love and playfullness and human beauty.

I’m really glad that I’m not one of these poor teenagers who see this as a mainstream hit video on TV and without knowing for their view on sexuality based on this kind of shit. It is so destructive. I see nothing positive about sexuality in it. Se doesn’t even seem to care, she just gets taken by whoever is accidentally close to her. Her face reminds me of the girls in the red light street, whose eyes haunted me for long after I passed through there…

There’s no good news in sexuality to find in here… It’s so fucking empty!!!

Oh how I wish someone could just give her a hug, and be her friend…

Oh how I wish all of this nonsense is just fake, and that after her working day is over she’ll come home and sleep in the arms of a loving boyfriend, as was the case in the story of a stripper with whom I once heard an interview on the radio…

This one is a bit different, it’s just the consequences of rock’n roll I guess… She’s a human wreck, but I can still see human brokenness in it… But still I see no hope, no light at the end of the darkness, a description of a broken sexuality and a broken humanity. There’s nothing about it that could ever seduce me to ‘go over to the dark side’. Only a foretaste of hell…

All this brokenness makes me so sad and wanting to cry inside.

I know I am so blessed to not have to think that all this fucked-upness is all there is. Praise God!! I think about the way some people in this world are positively surprised by my own relationship. Being together for six years, married for almost 3, and still playful and in love and best friends. It is the opposite of all of this fucked-upness. Maybe not perfect, but there is trust and love and safeness…

shouldn’t we as Christians try to find a way to bring love as ‘good news’ in this sexually broken world? That sexuality doesn’t have to be pain and brokenness, but that it CAN be safe and intimate and loving and stuff, and that lifelong monogamous relationships are possible? It may require a priority and paradigm shift, but it’s worth it. It really is…

‘marriage’ is not about legal contracts, or institutions in the first place, or decadent wedding parties, and whatever. It is about a lifelong commitment, in which a new family is born. It also is about having a safe place for sexuality. Sexuality is something very powerful, and if it goes wrong, it breaks people, it destroys, it tears apart. That’s the message we should bring. Not that sex outside of marriage is wrong because somehow the bible says it, but that it is wrong because it hurts, and destroys, and degrades, and in the end you loose your humanity like the laday gaga character…

Love and Lifelong monogamous relationships are good news…

For a contrast I will end with the lyrics of a song that was recorded on our wedding ceremony. It can be listened at last.fm (look for the player) is a very lo-fi recording, sorry, and it’s just me and my wife performing.

the beauty in this innocence (Bram Cools)

before you touched my lips
i was unkissed
and so were you my love
a new world will open up for us
like an empty canvas
that’s only ours to paint
in a world of ugliness
in a world or lies
let’s paint something beautiful
let ‘s paint something true (my love)

to love means to give
and I gave myself to you my love
and I ‘ll give myself more and more
iust like you do
let God be our witness here
those promises we made
when we were lying on the edge of the world
breaking them wou! d be suïcide
the end of all we stand for

take my hand and come with me
let’s walk slowly
among those flowers
no need to hurry
let’s take our time
go there barefoot
with our toes through the grass
if we’d go there by car
we’d leave a scar in the landscape
and spoil this garden
and it’s the beauty in this innocence
that I’m in love with

it’s the beauty in this innocence
that I’m in love with

Isn’t only the possibility of this kind of relationships already very good news in the world of ‘bad romance’ and ‘I’m no good’???? We should not condemn those people, they are already in hell, we should bring them good new. Love does exist!!! But that means hat we have to live that good news, and show it to the world with our own lives and relationships. Like the gospel..

(And yes it may sound naieve, but is it not equally naieve to believe that this fucked-up brokenness is all there can be?)

shalom

Bram