Not Your Average Christmas Videos

This Christian puppet-show takeoff on Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody” wins the 2012 Reiter’s Block award for best holiday video. Hat tip to John Shore.

What’s that you say? You didn’t know there was a Reiter’s Block award for holiday videos? Well, send in your suggestions and maybe you will win fabulous prizes. Or eternal damnation. Depends on the video.

In case you’re more in the mood for a Blue Christmas, I’m re-posting this video by The Pogues. There’s a certain kind of sadness that one can enjoy in New York City, and “Fairytale of New York” expresses it perfectly.

Saturday Random Song: Mark Schultz, “What It Means to Be Loved”


Last night I was listening to the Christian pop channel on Slacker Internet radio while feeding baby Shane, and this song brought tears to my eyes. Parenting has compelled me to slow down and appreciate the present moment, because that’s the only kind of time that my baby knows. Like the lilies of the field, he doesn’t worry about tomorrow, as far as I can tell. As for me, there’s so much I can’t control or foresee, from “when will he wake me up next” (predictably, sometime between 2-4 AM) to “what kind of person will he become” (our goal is “happy and not evil”). As the song says, love means savoring the mere fact of his existence, right here and now.



Sunday Non-Random Song: Whitney Houston, “The Greatest Love of All”


I was grieved to learn today that pop diva Whitney Houston died this weekend, at the young age of 48. Sadly, like many brilliant performers, she struggled with addictions and unhealthy relationships.

Her hit song “The Greatest Love of All” was a favorite anthem of mine in the 1980s. The theology of this song may offend some Christians, as too redolent of the “cult of self-esteem”, but personally I believe that you can’t hate yourself and love God at the same time. He made you, didn’t He? Was He wrong? Accepting yourself as lovable is a necessary part of believing that God loves you, not merely as an idea but as a lived psychological reality. Also, a certain amount of self-love protects you against making an idol of religious teachers, who can be a great help in proper perspective, but shouldn’t substitute for your own knowledge of God inside. Sometimes the Spirit will “lead you to a lonely place” where you must “find your strength in love”.

Sending God’s love to you, Whitney, wherever your soul’s journey takes you…



Sunday Random Songs: Scrooge Edition


All the forced good cheer and baby Jesus kitsch on the airwaves this time of year grates on my barren little heart. If you agree, you may enjoy these seasonal travesties that you’re not likely to hear in Macy’s anytime soon.

John Denver, “Please Daddy (Don’t Get Drunk This Christmas)
This is not supposed to be funny. But I am a sinner.

 

South Park, “Christmas Time in Hell”
String up the lights and light up the tree, we’re damned for all eternity!

Kinsey Sicks, “God Bless Ye Femmy Lesbians”
From their hit album, “Oy Vey in a Manger

Suggest your own favorites in the comments box!

Monday Random Song: Jason Bravo, “Isn’t Love Reason Enough?”


My good friend Jason Bravo wrote this beautiful song about being true to yourself. Maybe I’m biased, but I think it could be the next “Born This Way”. No YouTube video yet, but you can stream the MP3 from his website. Purchase Jason’s album Between Head and Heart at CD Baby or on iTunes.

ISN’T LOVE REASON ENOUGH?
(Words and music by Jason Bravo)

Remember that summer when you and I walked on the sand?
We talked about life in a heart to heart that was unplanned.
We climbed on the rocks and we followed them along the shore.
You talked in a way that I never heard you talk before.

And I could hear your words unsaid.
I could feel your pain.

CHORUS:
You’ve been looking for a reason not to hide it all away.
But ISN’T LOVE REASON ENOUGH?
You’ve been looking for a reason to be who you are someday.
But ISN’T LOVE REASON ENOUGH?

There are so many things that I wish you could learn from my past.
So many decisions that I’d change if I could go back.
I’d shake off my fear and my armor and let down my guard.
I wish someone told me life didn’t have to be so hard.

But I can’t live your life for you.
I can’t dream your dream.

CHORUS:
You’ve been looking for a reason not to hide yourself away.
But ISN’T LOVE REASON ENOUGH?
You’ve been looking for a reason to be who you are someday.
But ISN’T LOVE REASON ENOUGH?

The love that dares not speak its name
Is love just the same.

CHORUS:
You’ve been looking for a reason not to hide your heart away.
But ISN’T LOVE REASON ENOUGH?
You’ve been looking for a reason to be who you are someday.
But ISN’T LOVE REASON ENOUGH?

Love, love should be reason enough.

Murder Ballad Monday: Dixie Chicks, “Goodbye Earl”


Ever wonder why so many pop songs and folk ballads feature men killing their intimate partners? “Banks of the Ohio”, “Delia’s Gone”, “Jenny Was a Friend of Mine” (well okay, that one IS by The Killers, what do you expect)…they’re so catchy, I hear myself singing along, and then I cringe. Score one for feminism against fun? Nope, not according to the Dixie Chicks. Getting back at an abuser has never been such a blast. Even dead Earl can’t keep from dancing.


 

Murder Ballad Monday: Reba McEntire, “The Night the Lights Went Out in Georgia”


Last night I was thrilled to attend a concert by country diva Reba McEntire at The Big E agricultural fair in West Springfield. With her trademark Oklahoma twang, fiery-haired Reba sings about real women surviving life’s hard knocks: poverty, betrayal, falling in and out of love, making a fresh start in midlife. And, every now and then, an unsolved double murder. I spent several minutes on the drive home trying with limited success to explain the plot of this song to Adam. The official music video finally makes it clear. Whatever…I just love the chorus.



Sunday Non-Random Song: Keith Green, “Oh Lord, You’re Beautiful”


Some Christian friends and I were recently talking about what it means to “give your heart to God”. The one thing we could agree on was that we worried we weren’t doing it thoroughly enough! Perhaps, we thought, the first step is simply surrendering those spiritual performance anxieties into God’s hands.

Whether the object of our devotion is God or an earthly beloved or vocation, we sometimes confuse surrender with renunciation. Is devotion best measured by how much you push other things out of your heart to make room for God? Unless those affections have become disordered in some way (selfishly possessive or addictive), I would say not. The God of the Bible persistently asks us to rethink the scarcity mindset that makes us see interpersonal relations through the lens of desperate competition. In my Father’s house are many mansions.

Surrender, on the other hand, could be about trusting God to protect and give meaning to the life we already love, and thereby coming to see God’s presence in more and more places. We go from being Martha, who is anxious about many things because she thinks it all rests on her shoulders, to Mary, who sees that only God keeps the cosmos in existence from one second to the next.

For me, giving my heart to God starts with remembering that (1) I have a heart and (2) there is a God. That is, it’s about re-opening, yet again, to the vulnerability of joy and trust and hope, which requires me to rely on the God who has guaranteed that those qualities will ultimately triumph over cruelty and meaninglessness. I might think that that kind of God is a nice idea, but I can’t say I believe in Him until I actually act as if He were there to catch me when I fall (or am pushed).

That inward softening often happens when I sing worship songs. Something about opening to the flow of breath relaxes my emotional center as well. This simple, powerful song by Keith Green always moves me in that direction. I hope it warms your heart as well.

Read more about Keith Green on the Last Days Ministries website. He devoted his talents to spreading the gospel through music until a plane crash tragically took his life at age 28.

Oh Lord, you’re beautiful,
Your face is all I seek,

For when your eyes are on this child,

Your grace abounds to me.

Oh Lord, you’re beautiful,

Your face is all I seek,

For when your eyes are on this child,

Your grace abounds to me.

I want to take your word and shine it all around.

But first help me just to live it Lord.

And when I’m doing well, help me to never seek a crown.

For my reward is giving glory to you.

Oh Lord, please light the fire,

That once burned bright and clear.

Replace the lamp of my first love,

That burns with Holy fear.

I want to take your word and shine it all around.

But first help me just to live it Lord.

And when I’m doing well, help me to never seek a crown.

For my reward is giving glory to you.

Oh Lord, you’re beautiful,

Your face is all I seek,

For when your eyes are on this child,

Your grace abounds to me.

Oh Lord, you’re beautiful,

Your face is all I seek,

For when your eyes are on this child,

Your grace abounds to me.

(Lyrics courtesy of www.sing365.com)

Thursday Random Song: Talib Kweli, “Cold Rain”


Some of the most creative rhyming among contemporary writers can be found in hip-hop and rap music, but it’s a guilty pleasure because of the misogyny, homophobia, and violence that the lyrics often glorify. A welcome exception is rapper Talib Kweli, who fits within the social protest tradition of slam poetry. His album The Beautiful Struggle is in my frequent playlist. He recently appeared on The Colbert Report to promote his new album, Gutter Rainbows. Enjoy this clip of him performing “Cold Rain”. Lyrics below courtesy of killerhiphop.com.

Cold Rain


Lets try something new
It’s been a long time coming!
Let me try something brand new
Hey yo Ski!
What you ever do, man?
Come on!
Yo, what we doing it for?

This is for all the day-trippers and the hipsters
Whores and the fashionistas
Spiritual leaders practicing all the laws of attraction
The teachers who read the passages from the Bhagavad Gita
That be bustin off Dalai Lama’s or flashing heaters
the last of the boosters
With the shooting, the thugging and all the booning and spooning
and all the crooning, and cooning and auto-tuning, alive
You be tellin, peddlin’ to consumers I’m helping them to see through it
get with this new movement,
Let’s move it!

Feel the cold rain
Still I’m standing right here
Even the winter summer days

Yeah I’m a product of Reaganomics
From the blocks where he rocking a feds like J Electronica
drop and make this a lock
if he promises where the heart is
whether Jesus or Mohammad
regardless of where the Mosque is (word)
They hope for the Apocalypse like a self-fulfilling prophecy
Tell me when do we stop it?
Do they ask you your religion before you rent an apartment?
Is the answer burning Korans
So that we can defend Islamics?
The end upon us with a hash tag, a trending topic
You take away the freedoms that we invite in the game
Then you disrespect the soldiers; you ask them to die in vain
In a desert praying for rain
The music’s like a drug, and they tend to take it to vein
It ain’t for the well-behaved
The soundtrack for when you’re great but its more for when you’ve felt afraid
More than your average rapper
So you sort of felt the way
The brain is like a cage, you a slave, that’s why they lovin’ you
This is the book that Eli that start with a K-W.

I do it for the trappers, other rappers
the Backpackers, the crackers
the n-ggas, the metal-packers
the victims of ghetto factories
I do it for the families, citizens of humanity
Emcee’s, endangered species like manatees
I do it for the future of my children!
They the hope for the hopeless
Karma approaches, we gon’ be food for a flock of vultures
The end of the World
Ain’t nothing left but the cockroaches
and the freedom fighters
We’re freedom writers like Bob Moses
the chosen, freedom writers like Voltaire
For my block, my borough, my hood, my city, my state, yeah
My obligation to my community is so clear!
yeah, we gotta save them, this opportunity so rare!
We do it so big over here that it’s no bare
To the punks, bitches, the chumps, the snitches, the sneak in the game
We let them live with all they’re weak and they’re lame
The bozo’s and joker’s, promoting when they’re speaking my name