Since it’s about time to take all of the Christmas music off of my iPod, I thought I would share with you the top 10 Christmas albums I enjoyed this year. They weren’t necessarily released this year, just ones I listened to most for the Christmas holidays in 2012.
1) North Point Christmas – This album was released in 2010. North Point Community Church is the main campus of the church I attend (Buckhead Church). It contains songs by several of the worship leaders at both campuses including Seth Condrey, Chrystina Fincher, Todd Fields, Eddie Kirkland, Casey Darnell, and Chinua Hawk. Whenever I listen to these songs, it makes me feel like I’m at church worshiping our awesome God!
2) PTXmas by Pentatonix – Pentatonix is an a cappella group that won the third season of the reality show The Sing-Off. Their unique sound blends pop, dance, and electronic music just using their voices.
3) A Very She & Him Christmas – She & Him is made up of Zooey Deschanel and M. Ward. This album to me is a representation of a “modern day classic.” It has a very nostalgic sound and feel…it reminds me of the Christmas music we listened to when I was a child.
4) A Myx’d Christmas by Scott Blackwell – Scott Blackwell was the first Christian DJ I had ever heard. This is just good Christmas music to which you can dance. It has classic Christmas songs everyone knows plus a few original tracks.
5) When My Heart Finds Christmas by Harry Connick, Jr. – It’s hard to believe this album was released in 1993 because it is so timeless to me. Harry Connick, Jr. has an amazing voice that is much like that of Frank Sinatra or Dean Martin. Listening to this album was the first time I had ever heard him. You have your classic Christmas songs along with original songs (my favorite track has to be I Pray On Christmas).
6) If Every Day Was Like Christmas by Elvis Presley – I can’t help but think of Elvis Presley’s Blue Christmas when I think of Christmas music. This album makes me think of a time when all was right with the world (so to speak)….the simpler times. You didn’t worry about the troubles of today…you just spent time with your family and friends enjoying Christmas and all that came with the holiday.
7) Christmas Songs by Jars of Clay – Dan Haseltine’s voice just puts me in a good mood no matter what is going on around me. Jars of Clay has been one of my favorite bands over the years and this is a great sample of the sound.
8) The Family Force 5 Christmas Pageant – Gotta show some love to the guys from the ATL! Family Force 5 has a unique sound that is all their own. This is just a fun album that mixes pop, rock, rap, and dance with Christmas music.
9) Christmas Remixed: Holiday Classics Re-Grooved – I am a big fan of remixes and mash-ups and this album is a great example of what makes Christmas fun and exciting. It’s the classic Christmas songs you remember, but with a twist.
10) Merry Mixmas: Christmas Classics Remixed – Another album that shows several examples of classic Christmas songs with a modern twist.
What Christmas albums were your favorites to listen to this year?
Photo Credit: By Amazon.com
To say that I haven’t been keeping my blog up to date lately would be the biggest understatement of the millennium at this point! Since it is Christmas Day and I love movies…I thought I would join the likes of AMC and IMDB by sharing my favorite holiday movies. Enjoy my top 10 favorite Christmas movies:
1) It’s A Wonderful Life – This movie is the epitome of Christmas for me. What would life be like if we had not had the opportunity to be a part of the lives of those we love most? The most memorable line for me is “Teacher says ‘Every time a bell rings, an angel gets its wings.’”
2) A Christmas Story – We can all relate to wanting that one special gift for Christmas. This movie has so many memorable scenes that just scream out the attempt of trying to celebrate Christmas as a family. Ralphie and the pink bunny suit, poor Randy being bundle up to the point he can’t move in his coat, the “triple dog dare” of licking a frozen flagpole, and the family Christmas dinner at the Chinese restaurant all bring me to tears from laughing so hard…regardless of how many times I’ve seen this movie.
3) Elf – This movie is Will Ferrell at his best (not to mention the fact that Zooey Deschanel is in it). One of my favorite parts of the movie is when he gets a job as an elf helping with Santa at the mall. There are so many quotable lines from this movie. I love “You’re not Santa! You smell of beef and cheese!” and “If you’re Santa what song did you sing to me on my birthday last year?”
4) National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation – The first scene that comes to mind when I think of this movie is when they ask Aunt Bethany to say grace at the dinner table.
5) The Santa Clause – Tim Allen transforms into Santa Claus…enough said!
6) The Nightmare Before Christmas – Tim Burton at his Christmas/Halloween strangest!
7) Jack Frost – Michael Keaton’s character doesn’t spend time with his son because he is always away. He is able to make up for lost time when he becomes a snowman. Sounds strange, but it’s actually good.
8) Surviving Christmas – When his family moves out of their old home, Ben Affleck’s character pays the new family that lives there to let him spend Christmas with them.
10) Emmet Otter’s Jug-Band Christmas – Another one that is not really a movie. We would watch this every year around Christmas when I was a child. This musical, puppetry take on the story The Gift of the Magi is one of the things I love about Jim Henson.
What are your favorite Christmas movies?
Photo Credit: By SqueakyMarmot
If you know me well at all, you know that U2 is my all time favorite band. I had the amazing opportunity to see them live the last time they came to Atlanta and it was well worth the price of admission. The fact that they sang one of my favorite songs, 40, made my experience “even better than the real thing” (sorry, I promise no more U2 song title puns). One of my life-long friends got me a book for Christmas several years ago and I just finally got around to reading it. One Step Closer: Why U2 Matters To Those Seeking God by Christian Scharen takes the reader through twelve different topics regarding Christianity and shows how different songs in the U2 music catalog fit within these topics.
The topics covered include: Singing Scripture, Psalms as Thanksgiving and Lament, Wisdom as Desire and Illusion, Prophecy as Judgment and Hope, Parables as Offense and Mercy, Apocalypse as Ecstasy and Healing, Singing the Cross, Faith (Not Sight), Hope (Not Possession), Love (Not Power), Now (Not Yet), and Singing the Truth. I learned so much about my favorite band as well as what motivates them to do what they do. They are not in it for the fame and fortune – they feel God has given them a platform to share via their music. Some categorize the band as “too Christian” while others label them as “not Christian enough” but the author likens the band’s songs to modern parables.
Here are just a few of my favorite quotes and take aways from the book:
- “We don’t get what we deserve; we get what God offers. As Bono put it in a recent interview, ‘It’s not our own good works that get us through the gates of heaven.’”
- “If we thought it was all about us, it would <expletive> us up. Something happens, but it is not something we make happen. It only happens when God walks through the room.” – Larry Mullen, Jr. (drummer for U2)
- “Great music, like great lives, moves us to see with more clarity.”
- “The band has always had the feeling – not unlike Flannery O’Connor in her writing – that revelation will come if they wait and pay attention.”
- “These relationships – to friends, family, and community – speak to a conscious effort to overcome the vertigo of being rock stars so that they can find ways to be normal people.”
- “They (the band) decided very early on that they would transgress the rule that rock bands don’t sing about religion and politics.”
- “It’s absolutely clear what’s on God’s mind. You just have to read Scripture. Those who read Scripture and don’t come away with God’s preferential concern for the poor are just blind given that there are 2,103 verses of Scripture about the poor.” Bono (lead singer of U2)
- “To make a difference, one must be different.”
I left this book with a better understanding of U2 and the thought process behind their lyrics. I highly recommend this book to anyone who loves U2 or is just interested in seeing how other believers in the world are making a difference.
Photo Credit: By Amazon.com
Music is an integral part of my life. I listen to just about any and every kind of music (although I just can’t get into country or southern gospel). Certain songs have had more significance in my life during a specific season. At church, from time to time, we sing Always by Kristian Stanfill. We sang it again last night at Night of Worship and it really spoke to me in a new way.
Oh, my God, He will not delay. My refuge and strength always. I will not fear, His promise is true. My God will come through always, always.
Up until recently, I was listening to the lyrics and thinking “God will not delay?! My God will come through always?! Yeah right! I don’t think so…He isn’t doing a thing in my situation.” I let my circumstances (being without a job for almost 16 months) determine my view of God’s movement (or lack there of in my mind). I couldn’t see who God truly was because I was blinded by what was going on around me.
Something happened on Wednesday of this week to change my view of the above lyrics. I had a job interview and later that day received (and accepted) a job offer. Thursday night when I went to Night of Worship, I focused intently on these lyrics and realized the error in my earlier mindset. I was using MY timeline to determine if God was delaying or coming through on HIS part. It felt like God was saying to me “You know…I was delaying until I thought you were ready. I wasn’t doing it to be mean or to hurt you in any way. Remember, I know what’s best for you!”
Watch the video below – may the lyrics of the song encourage you and help you remember God’s timing is perfect.
Photo Credit: By Blake Patterson
Meeting new people can be stressful, especially when you are an introvert. It’s not the new people that bother me. What bothers me is that almost every time I meet someone new, I get asked the dreaded question – “What do you do for a living?” Since I am still unemployed, I loathe being asked this question. I don’t want to be seen as Debbie Downer and bring everyone down. How do you respond to this question without being seen as “that guy” and have everyone avoid you?
For men, we often associate our identity with what we do for a career. We want to be the provider (whether you are single or married with a family) and without a job we feel like a part of us is missing. There is a great article on Relevant magazine’s website that talks about not letting our occupation (or lack there of) determine our worth. Unfortunately it’s easier said than done not to go down the path of doubt and depression when it comes being unemployed.
In a recent conversation with a friend, he reminded me that I am so much more than any job. When people ask me this question, his suggested response was to tell people the truth – that I am serving through world missions, leading others in discipleship, and using this time to grow spiritually. I know that I will eventually have a job title as an answer to this question, but lately it’s been all about what to do or say in the mean time. At times like these, I wish life had a fast forward button so you could move on to the next stage of your life (while still attaining the lessons you learned or unlearned during the “fast forward period”).
If you have been without a job, how did you answer the dreaded question?
Photo Credit: By Shannon Yeh
I will be celebrating (okay, maybe “celebrating” isn’t quite the right word…more like “dreading” right now) a milestone birthday in less than six months. Last night I was talking with my roommate about all of these things that I had hoped to have accomplished or done by this upcoming birthday. We all have our “bucket list” of things we want to do by a certain age and my list was more out of feeling a sense of entitlement (like I deserved these things) – “Why am I not married by now?” or “Why do I not have a house of my own now?” These ideas brought more questions, but no answers.
Donald Miller’s blog Storyline has a great post by Jeff Goins on this very topic – “When Life Doesn’t Turn Out the Way You Expect” and I felt like it was written specifically to me. Goins compares our life to that of a story where we are an important character, but not the MAIN character. God is the MAIN character in our story. Things happen in our life that we don’t plan – job loss, death of a friend or family member, car problems…and the list continues. We get frustrated because more often than not, we have no control over these situations.
One thing we are quick to forget – when we are on the other side of our respective situations, we will be stronger and a better person because of them.
How has your life turned out differently than you planned?
Photo Credit: By Wes Peck
It’s hard to believe that tomorrow (Friday) will be our last night in Londrina. The time has gone by so fast as it seems like we just got here. Tuesday night we helped them create an environment called Muvuka (our definition was “A relevant gathering for building community” but in Portuguese it means “a mob or large gathering”). This night was much like our Singles Gatherings at Buckhead/North Point Community Church, but it was geared more towards their culture.
Wednesday we had an amazing Brazilian BBQ (steak marinated all day and then cooked on the grill along with several traditional Brazilian side items) at the home of our Brazilian friend Ely and his family. On Wednesday, we also spent some time sight seeing in Londrina and were able to see a really cool Catholic church that is a big part of Londrina’s history. Tonight (Thursday) we ate dinner at a restaurant in the bus station (believe me, it was MUCH better than it sounds) and then we enjoyed fresh squeezed fruit juices while we talked for hours with several of our new Brazilian friends. Tomorrow (Friday) is a holiday in Brazil (their equivalent of our July 4th) and Capella is having a picnic and doing baptisms (around 15 people will be getting baptized – including our new friend Carlos).
We will be leaving Londrina at 11:00 PM Friday via bus headed to Iguazu Falls where we will arrive around 7:00 AM on Saturday morning. We will spend all of Saturday at the falls and then will begin our travels back to Atlanta. It’s been an AWESOME time seeing God at work in our Brazilian friends and their church…it will be very hard to leave them tomorrow evening, but we will be keeping in contact with them via e-mail and Facebook. We hate to leave Londrina, but we are exciting about getting back home to see our friends and family.
Please continue to keep our team in your prayers as we travel to Igauzu Falls and then back to Atlanta.
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