Coram Deo ~

Looking at contemporary culture from a Christian worldview


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THIS & THAT and Favorite Quotes of the Week

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Christmas:

  • Christmas Traditions. Enjoy this article that I wrote last Christmas season.
  • Free Downloadable Advent Readings. Download one or both of these books of Advent readings from John Piper.
  • Jesus’ Remedy to Holiday Loneliness. Scott Sauls writes “While being “the most wonderful time of the year” for some, the holidays can be lonely, alienating and isolating for others. Loneliness, alienation, and isolation often come from struggles related to family.”
  • The Problem with Our Holly Jolly Christmas Songs. Russell Moore writes “We have a rich and complicated and often appropriately dark Christmas hymnody. We can sing of blessings flowing “far as the curse is found,” of the one who came to “free us all from Satan’s power.” Let’s sing that, every now and then, where we can be overheard.
  • I. Packer on Having the “Christmas Spirit” and the “Christian Snob”. Randy Alcorn shares these challenging words from J. I. Packer about what it means to truly have a God-honoring “Christmas Spirit.” Packer states “The Christmas spirit does not shine out in the Christian snob. For the Christmas spirit is the spirit of those who, like their Master, live their whole lives on the principle of making themselves poor–spending and being spent–to enrich their fellow humans, giving time, trouble, care and concern, to do good to others–and not just their own friends–in whatever way there seems need.” http://www.epm.org/blog/2016/Dec/5/j-i-packer-christmas-spirit.”
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Doug Michael’s Cartoon of the Week

Christians and Culture:

  • Are Chip and Joanna Gaines Cultural Heretics? Trevin Wax writes “Pray for Chip and Joanna and their church. The cultural inquisition is coming.” See also Samuel D. James’ 10 Questions For Buzzfeed.
  • Grappling with the Fears of Technological Change. Tim Challies writes “We do not know the future, but as the saying goes, we do know the One who holds the future. And not only do we know that, we know what God is accomplishing in history. We know the end to which God is directing history. We know who will bring this world’s history to its beautiful conclusion.”
  • Are You Addicted to the Internet? David Murray offers these eight questions to help you with this question.
  • Why We’re Obsessed with the Hit Show This is Us. Russell Moore writes “The secret to This is Us is less about ogling some other, strange, dysfunctional family as it is about seeing in it our own.”
  • The Shack Movie. The movie version of the best-selling book The Shack by Paul Young will be in the theatres March 3. Here is the first trailer for the film. Though the book resonated with many, I had serious concerns with it. I’ll point you to this review by Tim Challies.
  • Freedom of Conscience on Hacksaw Ridge. In this episode of Breakpoint, Eric Metaxas, writes of the new film Hacksaw Ridge, one of my favorites of the year, which he calls an “amazing, powerful film about one man who was willing to give his life, but whose conscience and deeply held religious beliefs would not allow him to take the lives of others.”
  • Jesus Did Not Insist on His Rights. Watch this minute and a half video excerpt from Sinclair Ferguson’s wonderful teaching series Sermon on the Mount in which he examines how the gospel teaches us to be countercultural in exercising our rights.
  • People are Judging You Silently. Tony Reinke writesThe most effective advertisements tap into our deepest insecurities, if we let them. Ads promise us a new and better ‘me’ a million different ways. But Christians know a better promise and a better way.”

Christian Living:

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My Favorite Christmas Music

christmas-music-graphicI love to listen to Christmas music. Although I already have an extensive collection of Christmas music, I usually buy a few new albums each year to add to the collection. For example, this year I added Matt Redman’s first Christmas album.

I switch over to listening to almost entirely Christmas music a little before Thanksgiving all the way through to Christmas Day. I’ve built a Christmas playlist from my iTunes library which currently includes 233 of my favorite songs.

Christmas music is like the actual celebration itself – both secular (Santa Claus, snow, jingle bells and gift giving) and sacred (the greatest gift of all – the birth of Christ). I enjoy both types of Christmas songs. I enjoy the Christmas music from many artists, some new, such as Chris Tomlin, Keith and Kristyn Getty, Michael W. Smith, Steven Curtis Chapman and Michael Buble, and some classic, such as Andy Williams, Frank Sinatra, Bing Crosby, Perry Como, Tony Bennett, Elvis Presley and Dean Martin.

Here are my 10 favorite Christmas albums:

The Andy Williams Christmas Album This 1963 classic album has special memories for me as my Mom used to put this one on as we were going to bed when I was growing up.

The Andy Williams Christmas Album This 1963 classic album has special memories for me as my Mom used to put this one on as we were going to bed when I was growing up.

Behold the Lamb of God – Andrew Peterson Less a Christmas album and more a tour through the Bible about the coming of Christ. Looking forward to hearing this album performed live this week.

Behold the Lamb of God – Andrew Peterson   Less a Christmas album and more a tour through the Bible about the coming of Christ. Looking forward to hearing this album performed live this week.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Christmas Song - Nat King Cole This 1967 album features the title song that Nat King Cole is probably best known for. A great album to put on when wrapping gifts.

The Christmas Song – Nat King Cole This 1967 album features the title song that Nat King Cole is probably best known for. A great album to put on when wrapping gifts.

the-promise

The Promise: A Celebration of Christ’s Birth – Michael Card Biblically based lyrics from one of my favorite artists.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

James Taylor At Christmas – James Taylor This 2006 release is JT’s collection of holiday favorites. A later edition included two additional songs.

James Taylor At Christmas – James Taylor
This 2006 release is JT’s collection of holiday favorites. A later edition included two additional songs.

Christmas Songs – Jars of Clay Jars of Clay is one of my favorite bands. They always pursue excellence and that is displayed nowhere better than on this 2007 album.

Christmas Songs – Jars of Clay
Jars of Clay is one of my favorite bands. They always pursue excellence and that is displayed nowhere better than on this 2007 album.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Glory in the Highest: Christmas Songs of Worship – Chris Tomlin The first of two Chris Tomlin Christmas albums, the second being last year’s Adore: Christmas Songs of Worship.

Glory in the Highest: Christmas Songs of Worship – Chris Tomlin
The first of two Chris Tomlin Christmas albums, the second being last year’s Adore: Christmas Songs of Worship.

In the Spirit – Michael McDonald This 2001 release was the first of Michael McDonald’s Christmas albums, and still my favorite.

In the Spirit – Michael McDonald
This 2001 release was the first of Michael McDonald’s Christmas albums, and still my favorite.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Charlie Brown Christmas – Vince Guaraldi Who doesn’t love this music that we get to hear each year as we watch the classic cartoon A Charlie Brown Christmas?

A Charlie Brown Christmas – Vince Guaraldi
Who doesn’t love this music that we get to hear each year as we watch the classic cartoon A Charlie Brown Christmas?

A Christmas Song – Russ Taff Russ Taff took chances with this 1993 album, styled after Frank Sinatra, Bing Crosby, Ray Charles and Tony Bennett. It’s been one of my favorites ever since.

A Christmas Song – Russ Taff
Russ Taff took chances with this 1993 album, styled after Frank Sinatra, Bing Crosby, Ray Charles and Tony Bennett. It’s been one of my favorites ever since.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

These are my 10 favorite Christmas albums. You could also throw in any compilation by Frank Sinatra, Michael W. Smith, Steven Curtis Chapman, Dean Martin, Bing Crosby, Perry Como, Tony Bennett and Elvis Presley.

What about you? Please share some of your favorites by clicking on ‘Comment’.


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BOOK REVIEWS and NEWS

book reviews
hillbilly-elegyHillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis by J.D. Vance. Harper. 272 pages. 2016
****

The author admits at the start that it is a bit strange for a 31-year old who hasn’t really accomplished anything to be writing his memoir. But I respectfully beg to differ with him. He has accomplished something – a lot; J.D. Vance is a survivor.

He writes that he almost squandered all of the talents he had, until he was rescued, primarily by a few key members of his family. Admitting that he has a complicated relationship with his parents (his father gave him up for adoption, and his addict mother subjected him to living with man after man, many of them she would marry), he tells his and his people’s story of growing up in the Appalachian town of Jackson, Kentucky and then later in the Rust Belt town of Middletown, Ohio.  Because of the instability of his mother, he was primarily raised by his beloved (and foul-mouthed) grandmother (Mamaw), who claimed to be a Christian, but despised organized religion and didn’t go to church, and her husband Papaw, the most important man in his life. He would teach J.D. that the measure of a man is how he treats the women in his life. Papaw voted for Reagan, but after that, only for Democrats. His sister Lindsay, who once looked after both of them when she was just out of high school, is very dear to him as well, along with his Aunt Wee.

Vance, a political conservative, and professing Christian, writes of his people – Scotch-Irish (Hillbillies, Rednecks or Hill People), and their migration from Kentucky to Middleton along the “Hillbilly Highway”.  Poverty would follow them from Kentucky to Ohio.

As he grew up Vance would see Middleton and the neighborhood he grew up in deteriorate. As industry left town, shops closed. Armco, which he states pretty much built the town, was purchased by Kawasaki Steel Corporation in 1987.

Vance’s story reads like someone who has been in the foster care system. He had no overall stability, bounced from living with his mother (and various men), to his grandparents, and even his biological father, who was by then a devout Christian. But he never did go into the foster care system, writing that he once lied to a judge to save his mom from imprisonment, which allowed him to continue to live with her and his grandparents.

J.D. grew up amongst much irrational behavior (drinking, drug use, violence, etc.). His Mom tried to commit suicide and once threatened to kill J.D. At one time, she demanded that he provide a urine sample for her so that she wouldn’t lose her job.

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MUSIC REVIEWS and NEWS

IN THIS ISSUE:
MUSIC REVIEW ~ Keep Me Singing by Van Morrison
MUSIC NEWS   ~ Links to Interesting Articles
MUSIC QUOTES
SONG OF THE WEEK ~ His Name Shall Be by Matt Redman

Keep Me Singing - Van MorrisonMusic Review:
Keep Me Singing – Van Morrison
****

This is the 71-year old Morrison’s 36th studio album and his first for Caroline Records. He produces the album, his first of new material since 2012’s Born to Sing: No Plan B, which I really enjoyed. The album includes 12 new original songs, as well as a cover of the blues song “Share Your Love with Me”. Many of the songs show him in a reflective mood, looking back at his life. The musicianship is excellent and Van’s one of a kind voice sounds great here.  I really enjoyed this album and you can tell that Van loves making music. Below are a few comments on each of the songs on the album, one of my favorites of the year:

Let it Rhyme – The opening song has an easygoing tempo. It features some light horns, drums, piano, organ, backing vocals and excellent harmonica.  He sings that in time, you’ll be mine.

Every Time I See a River – This song has Morrison collaborating with lyricist Don Black. Every time he sees a river, hears a train or a sad song, it reminds him of a past love and he feels like he is back in love again. There are good horns and nice guitar and organ solos here. Van delivers a great vocal.

Keep Me Singing – This song is about his joy in singing. He references a few Sam Cooke songs. He wants to be singing when the day is done. He’s doing just what he knows what to do. The song features a nice harmonica solo.

Out in the Cold Again – This song features piano, strings, light percussion, and a nice guitar solo. He was “Mr. Nice Guy” for too long, playing the losing role. Now he’s standing all alone, out in a cold black night in this “dog eat dog world”. The focus is on Van’s expressive vocal.

Memory Lane – This song features strings, light guitar and percussion as Van is looking back at his past. He’s stuck here back again on memory lane, where it’s getting dark. He’s back with questions and answers standing in the pouring rain.

The Pen is Mightier Than the Sword – This blues songs is driven by guitar (including a nice solo), organ, light drums, some good backing vocals and Van’s strong lead vocal. Van’s vocal reminded me somewhat of Dylan from his Slow Training Coming album. He can’t tell you what you’re supposed to do, but he’s gotta live by his pen because it’s mightier than the sword.

Holy Guardian Angel – This song features strings, light drums, good backing vocals, and nice piano and guitar solos. He was born in the midnight hour.  He quotes the spiritual “Nobody Knows the Trouble I’ve Seen” – nobody knows the trouble he’s seen. Nobody knows his sorrow, nobody but him. He prays to his holy guardian angel in the witching hour (midnight to 2:00 am), long before the break of day. Van gives a strong vocal in this song that has a gospel sound.

Share Your Love with Me – This is a cover, and a tribute to Bobby Bland, who did the original recording of the song. The song was made popular by Aretha Franklin in 1970. It features a nice organ solo, light horns and drums. It features a great vocal from Van as he stretches his voice here more than on most of the songs on the album. It’s a shame if you don’t wanna share your love with me.

In Tiburon – The fog is lifting and he’s in Tiburon, a town across the bay, just north of San Francisco. Over piano, he sings about memories of places and people he likes there, including a place that Chet Baker used to play his horn. He wants to go back to Frisco. They need each other more than ever to lean on.  Features a nice sax solo.

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THIS & THAT and Favorite Quotes of the Week

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CHRISTIAN LIVING:

  • Navigating Family Tensions at the Holidays. Russell Moore writes “Here are a few quick thoughts on what followers of Jesus ought to remember, especially if you’ve got a difficult extended family situation.”
  • A Conversation with Rosaria Butterfield. In this episode of his Signposts podcast, Russell Moore sits down with professor and author Rosaria Butterfield to talk about her conversion to Christ, her previous life in the LGBT community, and what Christians need to remember when reaching out to the world around them.
  • Talking Tough Topics with Scott Sauls. Collin Hansen interviews on the Gospel Coalition podcast as they talk about angry emails, challenging friends, tough topics, the spirituality of the church, and more.
  • Glennon Doyle Melton’s Gospel of Self-Fulfillment. Jen Pollock Michel writes “To be sure, in this life we painfully persist in contradiction, doing what we hate and failing what we love. Our hearts aren’t fully given to God. But our “integrity” and “freedom” do not lie, as Melton suggests, in abandoning the discomfort of God’s revealed truth for self-soothing versions that placate the conscience and tickle our fancy.”
  • Why Christian Kids Leave the Faith. Tim Challies shares four prominent reasons that Tom Bisset has identified that people raised in Christian homes eventually leave Christianity behind.
  • Parents: It’s Time to Wake Up About Pornography, Sexting, and Your Children. Randy Alcorn writes “This is a battle for our children, with their lives and futures at stake. May Christian parents answer the Lord’s call to protect their children, and train them in the joys of purity.”
  • Covenant Student Athletes Take A Knee During National Anthem. I was disappointed to read that on November 15, 2016, some members of the Covenant College men’s and women’s basketball teams chose to take a knee during the singing of the national anthem before the start of their home basketball games.
  • The Difference Between Being Judgmental and Exercising Discernment. Watch this brief video from the 2014 Ligonier National Conference in which C. Sproul reminds us that Christians are called to make judgments regarding what is righteous and what is unrighteous.

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My Review of ‘Eight Days a Week: The Touring Years’ on DVD

eight-days-a-weekEight Days a Week: The Touring Years
****

Although I’ve seen Paul McCartney in concert twelve times, including this year at Milwaukee’s Summerfest (see my review here), George Harrison on his only U.S. tour in St. Louis in 1974, and Ringo Starr with his All-Starr Band in 2014 (see my review here),  I, unlike one of my aunts (who saw them at Comiskey Park in Chicago), never saw the Beatles in concert, as they had stopped touring the day before I turned 10 years old. Clips from that August 29, 1966 concert, at San Francisco’s Candlestick Park, are shown in this documentary from Oscar winning director Ron Howard and writer Mark Monroe, which focuses on the Beatles’ incredible touring years 1963-1966. Paul McCartney would return to Candlestick Park to play a final event at the stadium almost 48 years later on August 14, 2014, before the stadium was demolished in 2015.

In the film we hear the Beatles legendary producer Sir George Martin say that the Beatles would release a new single every three months and a new album every six months during the early stages of this period, an incredible creative pace. Martin’s son Giles was the music producer for the film and the remastered album Live at the Hollywood Bowl, which is considered to be the essential companion to the film. Read my review of the album here.

Howard, shows us (through photos, video and interviews), what the Beatles touring years of 1963 through 1966 were like when the band toured 15 countries. Though he focuses on the band on the road (concerts, press conferences, hotel rooms, appearances on television programs such as The Ed Sullivan Show), he does address important issues along the way, such as the Beatles refusing to play a Jacksonville, Florida concert if the audience was to be segregated, and John Lennon’s controversial 1966 comment that the Beatles were “bigger than Jesus” at the time. What Howard shows us is what was referred to as “Beatlemania”, specifically the young females in their concerts screaming (you can also hear this on the Live at the Hollywood Bowl album).

Howard tells the story chronologically, using current interviews with the two surviving Beatles Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr, as well as historical interview footage from John Lennon and George Harrison. McCartney states “By the end, it became quite complicated. But at the beginning, things were really simple.” Howard also includes interviews with people such as Whoopi Goldberg, who was one of the more than 56,000 who attended the 1965 concert at Shea Stadium, where the band’s sound came from tinny stadium speakers; Sigourney Weaver, who we see in historical black and white footage attending an early Beatles concert; and Miami radio station journalist Larry Kane, who travelled with the Beatles on their 1964 U.S. tour.

The film tells us that the Beatles had a poor record deal financially, and so made most of their money at this time touring. Unfortunately, due to the screaming, they could barely hear what they were playing. As they moved into 1966, they were more interested in experimenting in the studio with such songs as John Lennon’s “Tomorrow Never Knows” than they were playing on the road. As they finished their show at Candlestick Park, they all agreed that would be the end of their touring. Howard finishes the film with their last live performance, a January 30, 1969 rooftop concert that was recorded for their Let it Be film.

As a Beatles fan, I loved this film. I saw a lot of video that I had not seen before. For younger readers not too familiar with the Beatles, check out this film to get a glimpse of what Beatlemania was like.


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FAITH AND WORK: Connecting Sunday to Monday

Faith and Work News ~ Links to Interesting ArticlesRethinking Work

  • Serving Image-Bearers On and Off the Farm. Abigail Murrish interviews Nathan Jaeger, currently director of beef, equine, hay and forage, meat, goat, and sheep divisions for the Alabama Farmers Federation, about how he integrates his faith and work.
  • Immanuel Labor: God’s Presence with Us in Our Professions. Russell Gehrlein writes “Having a good understanding of what it means to be a co-worker with God as He works through us to meet the needs of our customers, fellow employees, subordinates, and supervisors, makes all the difference in how we approach our jobs every day, no matter what job we currently have.”
  • Five Concepts for Taking a Long-Term View of Calling. Hugh Whelchel writes “What is our role as we seek to be faithful to God in all that we do? How can we not only contribute, but truly play a leadership role in bringing about flourishing in our communities, our cities, our nation, and our world?”
  • The Perilous Sunday to Monday Gap. Watch this message that Tom Nelson delivered at a recent pastor’s lunch on the importance of connecting Sunday faith and Monday work.
  • The Glory of Obscure Work. Matt Rusten writes “The Bible is not shy about motivating us to do our daily work unto the Lord with the promise of future rewards.”
  • 3 Benefits of Trust [When Leading]. Eric Geiger writes “Trust is a prerequisite for leadership.”
  • Visioneering, Part 2. In this month’s Andy Stanley Leadership podcast, Stanley concludes a conversation around the building blocks of a compelling vision. Download our Application Guide for this podcast below for key takeaways, questions for reflection and/or discussion, and resources mentioned in the podcast.
  • Time Management. In this “Minute with Maxwell”, John Maxwell states that you can’t manage time, but you can make the best use of time. You can’t manage time, but you can manage yourself and your priorities.
  • 4 Ways to Recapture the Lost Art of Making People Feel They Matter. Dan Rockwell writes “On a scale of 1-10, how do you rank yourself on making others feel they matter? ‘10’ means people always feel they matter – heard and understood – when you listen to them, ‘1’ means almost never. This isn’t about your intention to make people feel they matter. It’s about actual behaviors.”
  • Redefining Work-Life Balance. Skip Prichard writes “Achieving balance will make you more productive in and out of the workplace.  It will enrich your relationships and allow you to achieve greater satisfaction in life.”
  • 7 Scheduling Tips Guaranteed to Increase Productivity and Enhance Fulfillment. Dan Rockwell writes “Productivity is about being effective with your time, energy, resources, and talent.”
  • Ex-Convicts Need Second Chances Too. Abby Perry writes “As we remember the One who drew near to us, walked alongside us, and won redemption for us—even when our sin had left a crimson stain—may we be agents of reconciliation in our organizations and companies, bridging the gap between inherently dignified workers and inherently dignified work.”

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