Saturday, December 3, 2016

Another Merry Christmas--music

I LOVE listening to Christmas music. Some of my earliest holiday memories involve singing and dancing in the living room while listening to a vinyl 'All Star Country Christmas' record playing in the background. One of my favorite songs from the record was 'I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus', which was amusing but a little disturbing to my early elementary imagination.

I was a sucker for singing chipmunks wanting a hula hoop, and hearing about Grandma's tragic encounter with that reindeer. The Charlie Brown song still sets off a reaction of dancing side to side like the little curly headed twins that were part of the Christmas pageant (I was and remain a girl with hopelessly naturally curly hair.)

When I started driving, a new music component was added to the mix--cassette tapes. I usually liked to listen to the radio when driving (with the windows down and the T-top open), but every now and then a trip to the mall right after babysitting would line up just right, and I would purchase a tape.  And then proceed to play that tape over and over and over in my little red Civic.

I do not remember the FIRST tape I bought--I was a huge fan of mix tapes, and had plenty of them.  However, I do remember purchasing the Beach Boys Christmas tape and Amy Grant's 'Tennessee Christmas' tape at the same time (it must have been a GOOD babysitting gig beforehand), and quickly fell in love with Amy Grant's tape in particular. The tape is long gone, and I do not remember the specific songs, other than the title song, but I do remember playing it over and over, and getting all kinds of feels from it. Seriously, who would even think of choosing the parades and New Year's Eve tans of California over another tender Tennessee Christmas, where the love circles around me, like the gifts around the tree...?

That was over 30 years ago. (You have GOT to be kidding me!)   still love listening to Christmas music. While my kids listen exclusively to digital music on whatever little rectangle devices are in vogue, I still prefer hard copies, and have graduated from tapes to CDs.   have seen holiday music trends come and go, and tend to gravitate to old school (Rat Pack, Tony Bennett/duets, Dolly and Kenny). Needless to say, I was very excited to realize that Amy Grant has released another Christmas album, this one also called 'Tennessee Christmas'.

The first track immediately took me back THERE--the back roads and lakes and friends I grew up with. A good place. The song itself is slightly different, but not in a bad or distracting way for folks who loved the original. And sadly, it brings to the forefront images of the massive destruction of eastern Tennessee by wildfires that are currently still raging.

The next twelve tracks are an eclectic combination of songs with different feels and sounds and genres. I get the feeling that Amy Grant and the makers of this album just sat around and said, "OK, what ar some of our favorite songs that we sing at Christmas time?  'O Come, All Ye Faithful'?--Check.  'White Christmas'?--Sure. And don't forget "Baby, It's Cold Outside'."

My favorite songs are some of the ones that Amy Grant wrote herself, and that were new to me.  'Melancholy Christmas' kind of has a depressing feel about it (with lyrics about posting on social media and wondering if you will get any 'likes'), but was very real and raw. Christmas may be commercially promoted as all happiness and bows, but that is not the reality for so many that struggle with all the feelings that Christmas can bring up.

And "Another Merry Christmas'? Oh, my goodness. Simply beautiful.

Mary is in a nursing home
She puts her favorite records on
Reminds her of the years long gone
Another Merry Christmas

Billy's home from overseas
The pride of his whole family
Still fights a war that no one sees
Another Merry Christmas

It's happy and sad
The good and the bad
Someone's up, someone's barely hanging on
It's everything all at once
If we're honest enough
Everybody wants to be loved

Every year on Christmas Eve
Jill hangs four stockings
Now just three
Wonders if there'll ever be
Another Merry Christmas

Our painted old nativity
Is fragile like the lives we lead
Silently reminding me
God is with us

Another Merry Christmas 

I think this CD is a keeper.  

I THINK most of the audio tracks are available on YouTube.  This is a link to the second song, 'To Be Together'

“Disclosure (in accordance with the FTC’s 16 CFR, Part 255:  “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising”):  Many thanks to Propeller Consulting, LLC for providing this prize for the giveaway.  Choice of winners and opinions are 100% my own and NOT influenced by monetary compensation.  I did receive a sample of the product in exchange for this review and post.
Only one entrant per mailing address, per giveaway.  If you have won a prize from our sponsor Propeller /FlyBy Promotions in the last 30 days, you are not eligible to win.  Or if you have won the same prize on another blog, you are not eligible to win it again.  Winner is subject to eligibility verification.


Sunday, October 2, 2016

Weird Sermon Notes from a Gen-X Girl

For the past year or so, I have been taking a little journal to church with me. I do not take typical sermon notes in it. I keep up with all the times a churchy word is mentioned. What started out as a snarky activity to keep myself awake during an early morning service where I "already know all this stuff" very quickly (as in less than five minutes) turned into very tangible reminder of the awesomeness of the life and belief system I have daily access to. Words like 'grace' and 'faith' and 'believe' and 'pray' have been hijacked in popular culture, and it is so very easy for me to forget their power and purity. So, each week I write and reflect and reconsider the words of my life.

This morning started out the same way. My initial words included:


But as soon as the preacher began to speak, my churchy words list morphed into something else, from a place as foundational to me as all of my many Sundays and Wednesdays spent at Itty Bitty Baptist Church---music, specifically the '70s and '80s variety. Just about every point he made triggered a song lyric or title.

And so I present today's sermon notes, American Top 40 style:

--50 Ways to Leave your Lover--Paul Simon
--Is There Life out There?--Reba McEntire
--Let it Go--Frozen soundtrack
--Gotta Have Faith--George Michael
--You've Got a Friend in Me--Randy Newman/Woody and Buzz
--Rehab--Amy Winehouse
--I Can't Get No Satisfaction--Rolling Stones
--To Everything--Turn, Turn, Turn--There is a Season--
--You're So Vain--Carly Simon
--Open Your Heart to Me--
--La Bamba (Soy Capitan, soy capitan)
--You Can't Always Get What you Want
--We Didn't Start the Fire
--(One Hit Wonders)
--The Answer, My Friend, is blowing in the wind...
--Looking for Love, in all the wrong places
--Coke Adds Life (have a Coke and a smile)
--I go out walking, after midnight...
--Freak Out
--Help, I need somebody. Help, not just anybody--Beatles
--I Feel the Power--C. C. Music Factory
--Freedom--Aretha Franklin (specifically the Blues Brothers version)
--Take this Job and Shove it
--Don't know much about History...
--(Cause she's got) Personality
--Shut De Do, Keep Out the Debil--
--Alone Again, Naturally
--A Star is Born
--The Greatest Love of All--Whitney Houston
--Hey Ya! Shake it like a Polaroid (This was a tangent song.  He mentioned SHAPE, not shake.)
--Back to School-- Grease 2 soundtrack
--My Own Two Hands--Jack Johnson
--Walk This Way, Talk This Way...--Aerosmith
--Jesus is just all right with me
--I saw the light, I was baptized...
--Conjunction, Junction (another tangent.  His word was 'subjunctive')
--Manic Monday
--Never Surrender--Bryan Adams
--Walking on Sunshine
--Big John, Big Bad John
--Jesus Loves Me
--Discovery. Discovery. Dis-covery! (from Day of Discovery TV show from back in the day)
--Father Figure--George Michael
--Money Changes Everything--Cindi Lauper
--Longer Than -- Dan Fogelburg
--Yesterday (love was such an easy game to play)
--Bend me, shape me, any way you want me
--I Honestly Love You--Olivia Newton John
--That's Why We Pray (we've got to pray just to make it today)--M. C. Hammer

Seriously, these are the places my mind went today, all while tracking with the ultimate message, which was that in a world where normal leaves us unfulfilled, Jesus is about so much more.

Which brought more songs to mind from way back in the day.

"I am a promise. I am a possibility.
I am a promise, with a capital P.
I am a great big bundle of potentiality.

And I am trying, to hear God's voice.
And I am trying, to make the right choice. 
And I will promise to be, 
Anything He wants me to be."

And this one by Keith Green, which happened to be one of the Bible verses used today from Ephesians 2.  Oh, Keith Green....

We are God's Workmanship, 
Created for good works in Christ.
He calls us to offer up ourselves, 
A living sacrifice.


This little light of mine, I'm gonna let it shine.
This little light of mine, I'm gonna let it shine.
This little light of mine, I'm gonna let it shine.
Let it shine, let it shine, let it shine.  

And what true Generation X child would not be moved by this stirring message from Peaches and Herb?

Reunited, and it feels so good.
Reunited, 'cause we understood.
There's one perfect fit, 
And sugar, this one is it.
We both are so excited 
'Cause we're reunited. Hey, hey!!  

We live in a world where we need reminding of the love and power of churchy words, which is ultimately just a poor reflection of the true love and power of Christ. We need to be united and reunited with Him.

'Cause it feels so good.

As soon as this particular sermon is posted online, I will leave a link to it here. Aren't you even a little curious about checking out this rabbit trail?)


Friday, July 8, 2016


With the advent of social media, I have been able to discover the stories of many people who have had their lives changed in an instant, with a call--a diagnosis--a death. These stories are so fascinating to follow. Over time, many trends emerge.

--Stages of grief
--Outpouring of support (and over time, a marked decrease in visible support)
--Likes and Shares
--Expressions of shock and pain

And for the introspective (and those who are willing to be this open), there are questions.

Why me/him/her/them?

Again, such an interesting process to follow.

Earlier today I sat in the waiting room at the state University Hospital. It is a cross section of the sickest of the sick, the poorest of the poor, and the strangest (diagnoses) of the strange. It does not take long here before 'they' start to roll by--children and adults with various family members nearby that have hoses and tubes and braces and collars and wheelchairs or special carriers.

I may not know the specifics of their backstory, but I do know this:  Their lives have been forever changed. They have questions. They are tired.


As I was waiting with the masses, I happened to be reading a book by Andrew and Rachel Wilson called The Life We Never Expected, which they have written in response to having had two children diagnosed with regressive autism.  In the past several years I have sought out and have been given various "Coping With…" books.  And "Why Does God Allow…?" books, along with the "Been There, Doing That, and Please Buy My Fundraising T-shirt" books. Somehow this particular book touches on those themes, but in a much more real and realistic way than I have become accustomed to reading.

The Wilsons are undeniably Christ followers and their insights and experiences are shown through this filter. However, topics such as prayer and healing are not expressed with cookie cutter Bible verses or the "I am so grateful and blessed' response.  Their struggles are real and raw. And refreshing.

Their day to day physical struggles are portrayed in the same real way. Personal family situations are interspersed, but are not the main focus of the narrative. This adds to the merit of the book in that it deals with issues and feelings, not just specifics. This makes it so much more than parenting or autism book.

Causes and 'cures' are not addressed, which is refreshing in that people have very strong opinions on both subjects, and the conversation can quickly dissolve into meanness and idiocy in an open forum. 

There is so much to appreciate about this book. I had to stop underlining passages because the text just lends itself to non-stop underlining otherwise. When life does not turn out as expected, there are rarely any easy answers. Sometimes there are no answers at all. Stories like this serve as a comforting reminder that we are not alone or abandoned. And sometimes, that can make all of the difference.

You can find more info and reviews about The Life We Never Expected here.

"Disclosure (in accordance with the FTC’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising”): Many thanks to Propeller Consulting, LLC for providing this prize for the giveaway. Choice of winners and opinions are 100% my own and NOT influenced by monetary compensation. I did receive a sample of the product in exchange for this review and post.

Only one entrant per mailing address, per giveaway.  If you have won a prize from our sponsor Propeller / FlyBy Promotions in the last 30 days, you are not eligible to win.  Or if you have won the same prize on another blog, you are not eligible to win it again. Winner is subject to eligibility verification.”