Something About That Name

I love Christmas! I know, I know – lots of people say the same thing and yet it’s hard to see any evidence of joy in all the scurrying about and scrambling to find gifts. I myself am scurrying right now because we’re having an Open House party and the house is anything but ready for company. However, waiting until the last minute is my usual tactic. It’s how I roll. So if you look at it that way, I’m right on schedule.

One of my favorite things about Christmas is the special pleasure I get from knowing that even saying “Merry Christmas” is speaking aloud the name of Christ. People who all year long might never give Him a second thought still speak His name at this time of year. They may not think about what they’re saying but I hear “Christ” in it, and it gives me a little thrill to hear His name coming from some unlikely directions.

IMG_5086-001

Another thing I really enjoy at Christmas is the music. It runs the gamut from traditional carols to contemporary Christian worship tunes to fun songs about Santa to silly ones about murderous reindeer. (RIP, Grandma) And you can hear these songs on the radio or your Spotify playlist being performed by everyone from Mercy Me to Melissa Etheridge. But every year the same questions start to swirl in my mind and I struggle with a way to ask them without sounding judgmental, because at heart I know we’re ALL sinners and none of us is any better than the next.

What I wonder about is this: when a secular musician sings about the new King being born, does his or her heart speed up just a little bit? Does it make something in their spirit stir? Does it affect them at all? Do they even realize what they’re singing about? Is His name just another word in the lyrics? Do they think about the gravity of God Himself coming to earth in the form of a helpless baby to save all of us from ourselves?

When CeeLo Green croons, “Mary, Did You Know?” I wonder if CeeLo himself knows.

When Weezer sings, “O Holy Night,” I wonder if they know why it was so holy.

When Barenaked Ladies performs, “God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen,” what are they thinking when the words “remember Christ our Saviour was born on Christmas Day” pass their lips?

(Am I the only one who thinks of these things?)

I’m certainly in no position to gauge anyone’s relationship with Christ or lack of it, although I do believe that we can know people by their fruit.

So when I see people whose fruit (at least what’s made public) consists of self-glorification or partying or a lifestyle that doesn’t reflect Christ’s presence in their lives in any way, it can be jarring to hear them singing “Silent Night” to a newborn King it seems they’ve never met.

And if I’m totally honest, there is a part of me that wants to snatch back “my” holiday from people who don’t even know Who He is and don’t seem to care about finding out. Who are all these people who think it’s okay to sing about Christ the newborn King at Christmas and record songs with bleeped out lyrics all the rest of the year?

But what takes the starch out of my self-righteousness indignation is this: there is power in the name of Jesus.

POWER.

Wonder working power. And mercy. And grace. Everything we need, contained right there in the name of Christ our Lord.

The name that the Bible tells us will one day cause every knee to bow and every tongue to proclaim His Lordship. (Phil. 2:10-11)

There’s just something about that name.

And it doesn’t matter if the name is spoken by the most God-fearing man on the planet or the lowest sinner (and those could be one and the same person).

I’ve heard it said, and I believe it, that God can and will use anyone for His purposes.

Some of the people who will say His name or sing about Him this season have no idea of the power they are wielding.

But I do and one day they will too. And His name is beautiful music to my ears.

So you just keep on caroling, Billy Idol. Put the name of Christ out there on the airwaves. Make Him known far and wide. Someone out there needs to hear the name of Christ and it might just be from your lips that they hear it.

Keeping Thanksgiving Real

Rockwell Thanksgiving.jpg

Have you noticed the “holiday” editions of magazines at the checkout counter lately? I’m a sucker for magazines.  I shouldn’t be allowed to go to the grocery store any more because I regularly find myself seduced by the magazine cover stories: “101 Ways to Make This Thanksgiving the Best Ever”, “36 Adorable and Easy Table Decorations”, “Clean Your House Top to Bottom in 15 Minutes”. Every lifestyle magazine on the rack right now is slam full of tips and tricks to (supposedly) make your Thanksgiving one that your guests will remember forever, and for good reasons, not like the year the dog ate the turkey and then threw it up on the living room rug.

The one article that’s missing is the one I need most: the one on how to manage my expectations. I always seem to start the season with a grand plan and a head full of expectations, and I inevitably end up disappointed.

See, there’s a part of me that keeps thinking that one day I’m going to have that magically warm and festive Thanksgiving with the elegant table and the matching dishes and the Martha Stewart-y meal, with the fire burning merrily in the background, and the happy, smiling children, and I need to get over it already. I don’t even have a wood-burning fireplace and my table arrangements do not ever approach anything resembling “elegant”.  That’s just not my style. And all those nice little touches do not a Thanksgiving make. (If you do manage to regularly create that sort of celebration, well, my hat is off to you.)

Contemporary-Thanksgiving-Table

So I’m going to get real with you. Here’s how my Thanksgiving will likely unfold:

My family of four is going to drive several hours to get to my hometown, where we will stay in a hotel because there’s not enough room in my mother’s house for all of us to sleep. On the morning of Thanksgiving Day we will gather at my Mom’s modest home and my husband will watch football on the TV in Mom’s bedroom while my kids alternately watch the Thanksgiving Day parade on the living room TV, play with personal electronic devices, fight with each other, and whine about when the food will be ready. Mom and I will work together to make the meal and there will invariably be far more food than we need. My brother and his family of four may or may not show up before we eat, after we eat, or at all. We’ll leave the food in the pans on the stove instead of putting it in fancy serving dishes. Instead of sitting around the table we’ll fill our plates and take them into the living room, where we’ll eat while watching TV. Chances are very good that my mother will take charge of the remote control and the entertainment will be a movie on the Hallmark channel. After we eat, Mom and I will go to the kitchen and moan about how we cooked too much food, then we’ll put the leftovers away and wash the pots and pans by hand. Later we’ll sort through the Black Friday ads and decide if there’s anything on sale that’s worth braving the crowds. The rest of the afternoon will likely be spent looking through photo albums and catching up on what’s been going on since we saw each other last.

And so what if our family’s Thanksgiving is not much like the ones you see on TV, in the magazines, and on social media? It’s not “less than” either. Comparison is the thief of joy and I’m not going to sit by and let it steal my holiday joy this year. I’m going to choose to find the good, like I’m always encouraging my children to do.

We don’t have special place settings and fancy plates, but we’ll have more time to sit and chat because we don’t have to wash a lot of dishes.

We don’t have a large family and the huge table to sit around, but we’ll have the comfort of familiarity.

We don’t make gourmet meals with exotic (to us) ingredients, but I love the way my Mom and I fall into a familiar rhythm when we cook together. I’m all too mindful that one day this will be just a memory.

It’s not necessary to try to live up to some ideal image of what Thanksgiving Day should be. There are as many kinds of celebrations as there are families who celebrate. And that is exactly as it should be.

So, this Thanksgiving Day, you and I are off the hook. There’s no rule book or check list to follow, and it’s not a contest. In fact, the only requirement is found in the name itself: THANKS GIVING.

Serve turkey, or ham, or Chinese takeout.

Eat it around a pretty table, or sitting on the floor in front of the TV.

It doesn’t matter. The state of your heart is what matters.

On Thanksgiving Day, as on every other day, I want to find myself humbled and grateful for all the gifts God has brought my way.

Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.      James 1:17

What makes your family’s Thanksgiving Day different?

 

 

31 Days, Day 31: The Best of the Rest

photo credit: fotolog.com

photo credit: fotolog.com

It’s the end.  But not really.  There is so much great music from the 1970s that there’s no way I can show some love to all the songs that meant something to me.  I didn’t even get to touch on some of the country acts that crossed over, like Kenny Rogers, Crystal Gayle, and Barbara Mandrell. So I will leave you with a list of songs I wanted to showcase but then I ran out of time. And I’m sure I’ll find a way to bring up a song or two on the blog in the course of my regular writing. So, for your listening pleasure:

Silly Love Songs by Paul McCartney & Wings (Paul was always my favorite Beatle)

Heartbeat It’s a Love Beat by Tony DeFranco & the DeFranco Family (Teen idol alert!)

Blinded by the Light by Manfred Mann’s Earth Band (where’d they find that name?)

Two Out of Three Ain’t Bad by Meat Loaf

Afternoon Delight by The Starland Vocal Band (Scandalous!)

My Eyes Adored You by Frankie Valli

How Much I Feel by Ambrosia

Baby Come Back by Player (Ridge from “The Bold and The Beautiful” was in the this band. He’s in the orange/red shirt in the video.)

The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald by Gordon Lightfoot

Wildfire by Michael Martin Murphy

If You Leave Me Now by Chicago (Oh, Peter Cetera, you slay me!)

Sara Smile by Hall & Oates

The Logical Song by Supertramp (Genius!)

Black Water by the Doobie Brothers

Fooled Around and Fell in Love by Elvin Bishop

That should keep us all busy for a while. I hope you’ve enjoyed this little detour. I know I have. I chose this topic for my 31 Days series because I knew it was one that had a nearly endless supply of material and it would be easy for me. It was pretty easy except for all the links I had to find and add, and then sometimes I’d get mired down in YouTube watching more videos and YouTube likes to suggest similar videos and before I knew it an hour had passed.

This is the part where I should tie everything up neatly into a little bundle and talk about what I’ve learned. I don’t have any great wisdom to impart except to say that music is a gift from God and it is so much a part of my memories that I hear a soundtrack playing whenever I tell stories from my childhood. It amazes me how a tune can bring back sounds, smells, and feelings that I had long since forgotten, both good and bad ones.

So I’d like to sign off with the words of the inimitable Casey Kasem, whose American Top 40 countdown was so much a part of my childhood: “Keep your feet on the ground and keep reaching for the stars.” And I would add, “Keep the music playing.”

 

 

31 Days, Day 30: Soundtracks and Storytellers

photo credit; dreamstime.com

photo credit; dreamstime.com

I love movies.  Not as much as I love books, but both are a means of escaping from life into another one for just a little while.

Saturday Night Fever came out in 1976 and became a pop culture phenomenon, and with good reason.  I did see this movie in the theater despite the fact that it was rated R and I was only twelve years old.  Back then nobody really paid much attention to checking ID and if you looked old enough, you got in.  Mercifully I didn’t understand much beyond John Travolta! Dancing! Although I will say that when I saw the movie again as an adult I was a bit shocked at all the subtleties that went right over my head.

Anyway, SNF opened with a shot of John Travolta walking down the sidewalk carrying paint to Stayin Alive by the Bee Gees.  You Should be Dancin‘ and Night Fever kept the beat moving on the (lighted) dance floor, and How Deep is Your Love served as the sweet romantic ballad accompanying the love story (which I really didn’t get at the time).  More Than a Woman was another fantastic song in this movie – so fantastic that it was offered up by both Tavares and the Bee Gees.

Two years later, John Travolta was back on screen in another blockbuster movie musical called Grease. The big chart toppers in that movie were Summer Nights, Hopelessly Devoted to You (which I sang over and over into my tape recorder, thoroughly convinced that I sounded just like Olivia Newton-John. I totally didn’t.), and You’re the One That I Want.  I saw that movie without my parents too, but I was a little older and this time I *understood* the innuendo.  My favorite song was Beauty School Dropout and Look At Me, I’m Sandra Dee.  That’s not surprising when you remember that I love a good dose of irony and farce, plus I’m a big Frankie Avalon fan. I don’t want to ruin it for you, but the two leads in Grease were in their twenties when the movie was filmed and Rizzo was 33 at the time!  I want their makeup artists.

Another little movie came out in the 1970s that would change the world as we know it called Star Wars.  The composer John Williams also gave us the Theme from Close Encounters, and so many more.

Two adorable (or irritating, depending on your viewpoint) little tunes that I loved back then were You Light Up My Life (by Debby Boone) and the Theme from Ice Castles (by Melissa Manchester). And Ice Castles also had another one of my favorite things:  Robby Benson.

I could include all the music from The Rocky Horror Picture Show, which came out in 1975, but the movie didn’t hit my radar until the 1980s.

Elton John was the Pinball Wizard in Tommy, a movie I’ve never seen. Paul McCartney & Wings told us we should Live and Let Die in the title theme from the Bond movie and Carly Simon said Nobody Does It Better in a later Bond movie. Rocky Balboa soared to Gonna Fly Now, and Bette Midler gave us the sobfest The Rose. I did not know this, but the song Sky High by Jigsaw was used in a movie.  I’m so glad because I wanted to include it but wasn’t sure where to fit it in. Barbra Streisand sang The Way We Were and Evergreen. And finally, Maureen McGovern gave us hope that there would be a Morning After when the Poseidon sank. My parents took to me to see The Poseidon Adventure at least two or three times and frankly, it was pretty scary for a 3rd or 4th grader but I love Ernest Borgnine and Shelley Winters for some reason.

I’d like to end with a song that we sang in my high school choir that has stuck with me ever since:  The Rainbow Connection from The Muppet Movie. It may not be easy being green, Kermit, but you make being a green rock star look easy. And you’re way more wholesome than Tony Manero and company.

31 Days, Day 29: Get Up And DANCE!

Photo credit: meetup.com

Photo credit: meetup.com

It’s time to hang the disco ball and boogie down!  Let’s talk about dance music of the 1970’s. These are in no chronological order whatsoever, but then again I’m sure you expected nothing less from me.

A Dancing Queen was born in 1976. Was Abba not just the quintessential 70’s band? I think I read somewhere that when they first started recording in English they didn’t speak it, so they learned the lyrics phonetically, but when I tried to research it online I got conflicting opinions. It does make for a good story though.  Abba enjoyed a renewed interest in their music when first the play and then the movie version of Mamma Mia came out. I was and am a HUGE fan of Mamma Mia, but my love for musicals is a whole other kettle of fish.

Gloria Gaynor’s I Will Survive is so fun! Check out the roller skating girl in the video. Hello, satin pants! Anita Baker wanted someone to Ring My Bell and Amii Stewart was Knock(ing) on Wood. (that one’s a little psychedelic! And what’s on her head??)

Earth, Wind & Fire invited us to come to Boogie Wonderland and Rose Royce hung out at the Car Wash. And I hung out at the roller skating rink.  :-)

Van McCoy taught us to do The Hustle, The Village People extolled the virtues of the YMCA, and the Hues Corporation admonished us to Rock The Boat (or not. It’s hard to tell from the lyrics) The Bee Gees were Jive Talkin’ (more about them tomorrow) and Carl Douglas was Kung Fu Fighting. And try to listen to Le Freak by Chic and not..um..freak out.

The Commodores sang Brick House like it was a compliment. KC & The Sunshine Band just came right out with it and said to Shake Your Booty, while Peaches and Herb let us use our own imaginations in Shake Your Groove Thing, and Michael Jackson got a little more specific with Shake Your Body Down to The Ground.

I’m going to go off on a tangent here and include Rapper’s Delight by the Sugarhill Gang on this list even though it’s not exactly dance music but it does make you want to get up and dance. My friend Vicki introduced me to this song (except she mispronounced it as Raper’s Delight. Um, what??) and we learned it word for word. Yeah, because we were cool like that.

And finally, let’s have our Last Dance with Donna Summer, who was arguably The First Lady of Disco.

Whew!  I’m tired. There was so much more that I just couldn’t include for space reasons but I hope these songs got you up out of your seat and finding your groove again.

31 Days: Day 28: Funny, Cute, and Just Plain Weird

I had so many songs that I wanted to discuss but it seems I’m running out of time.  I seriously could write about 70’s music for a year and never run out of things to say.  But I do have other subjects to blog about so this series must eventually come to an end.

Today I want to remind you about some of the funny, cute and/or weird songs of the decade.  Hopefully you’ll end up with a smile on your face.

Nobody in the 1970’s did “funny” like Ray Stevens AND he was clean. Sort of. In 1974 he released The Streak and paid homage to a fad called “streaking”.  Don’t pretend you don’t know what it is.  My Grandma Tunie just loved this song, especially at the end when he was hollering for Ethel to put her clothes back on. I was only 10 in 1974 and thought the whole idea of streaking was mortifying so I didn’t fully “get it” until years later.  Ray Stevens also looked something like my uncle Wendell which further muddied the waters for me.

And then there was Tom T. Hall, who recorded I Love, a song celebrating, among other things, little baby ducks and old pickup tracks. He also did one about Sneaky Snake and Old Dogs, Children & Watermelon Wine, which wasn’t necessarily funny but is still a good story song.

Jim Stafford took his turn with the snakes on Spiders and Snakes.  I don’t like them either, Mr. Stafford. He sang one about My Girl Bill, which is not about what you think it’s about. And then he sang about Cow Patty and the Swamp Witch as well. I love that he sometimes gets the giggles while he’s singing.

I will admit to knowing every single word of Mac Davis’ ode to egotism, Hard to be Humble.(caution: mild language in that video)

Joe Walsh of Eagles’ fame put his own spin on the trials of fame in Life’s Been Good. I do admire his and Mac Davis’ ability to poke fun at themselves and their own celebrity status. And Joe Walsh is a fantastically talented guitarist.  I’m not going to comment on his vocal ability or his fashion sense in this video because my Mama always said if you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all.

And finally, because I have to end somewhere or I could go on and on, here’s one of my favorite underrated bands 10cc.  They make it into this post because their song I’m Not in Love is four minutes of flat-out sarcasm.  Or lying.  Or he’s just confused. I guess it depends on your point of view. I don’t know how “big boys don’t cry” fits into the whole concept though. They also recorded The Things We Do For Love, another of my favorites although it doesn’t fit into the “Funny” category.

Can you think of any other funny songs of the era?

31 Days, Day 27: Love Will Keep Us Together by The Captain and Tennille

captian-tennillePhoto Credit:  radaronline.com

Love Will Keep Us Together by The Captain and Tennille

I thought Tennille was such an interesting name I will admit to being a little disappointed when I found out her first name was actually Toni.  The Captain, however, had the uber-cool name of Daryl Dragon and it’s his real name.  Awesome!

If you remember 1975, you remember that this song was everywhere.  It was followed up with a string of hits, such as Muskrat Love (what is that even about??), Lonely Night, The Way That I Want to Touch You, Shop Around, and Do That to Me One More Time.  They also had a short-lived TV show, which ended when they asked to be released from their contracts in order to pursue their music and touring.  I do remember watching the show and listening for The Captain to say something – anything – because he rarely spoke.  I guess he is the strong silent (very silent!) type. Toni Tennille’s round bob was as iconic as the Captain’s hat, and all of my attempts to replicate her hairstyle were epic fails.  I never looked good in heavy bangs anyway.

Back in the day they both worked and toured with The Beach Boys, and Toni sang backup for some pretty heavy hitters, including Elton John.

In a stroke of irony, and not the funny kind, it turns out that love was not enough to keep them together because in January of this year, Tennille filed for divorce after 39 years of marriage.

I’m starting to panic a little here because I’m running out of days and I still have so much music to talk about!  So for the last few days I’m going to combine several songs/acts in each post.  Even so I’ll be leaving out a LOT of very good music. On Day 31 I’ll hit you with The Best of the Rest, so if you haven’t seen your favorite yet it may show up in the final blast.  Are we having fun yet?