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Music Review: Light for the Lost Boy by Andrew Peterson

29 Aug

Sometimes it’s a couple of days or even weeks before I dig through the pre-releases in my “to be reviewed” pile to find the right mood music.  However, in the case of Andrew Peterson’s latest, Light for the Lost Boy, I gave a giddy shout and popped the album in my vehicle’s CD player as soon as I ran out the door minutes after checking my mail.  As the strings of the first song on the album flirted with my ears, I let out a gentle sigh and tried to relax.  But Andrew Peterson is one of the few artists whose musical proficiency and stunning use of lyric touch me on a level too deep to explain.  It’s hard to relax when my soul is so thirsty for the refreshing touch that Peterson’s music can provide it.

Counting Stars, Peterson’s previous album, was my introduction to this artist’s body of work, which not only includes an impressive line of music, but books and a website called The Rabbit Room as well.  Truly a visionary, Peterson is one of those creative I’d love to sit down with for a chai latte to talk music, literature, writing, and theology.  I’m sure the conversation would be nothing short of fascinating.

Therefore, my expectations for Light for the Lost Boy were very high, and I feared I would be let down.  Lost Boy certainly rises to the occasion with 10 beautiful tracks, each one as delectable as the next, though I have my favorites.  I purposely didn’t read the press release accompanying the pre-release, any early reviews, or even Peterson’s thoughts on the album because I wanted to present pure and personal thoughts on this my review of Lost Boy.

To me, Light for the Lost Boy, is a double entendre.  The light is not only for the lost “boy,” who is Peterson himself (or perhaps his children), but it is also light for a lost world.  The album repeats the message, “Yes, this word is cursed and it hurts, but God is with you.  Hope is ever near you, beside you.  And there is a reality that is so much stronger than all that you see and think you know.”  The album continually echoes the thought of one of my most beloved Bible verses found in Revelation 21:5, “He who was seated on the throne said, ‘I am making everything new!'”

So I wasn’t too far off…

My early favorite on this album was “Rest Easy,” which Andrew Peterson promoted through a contest, in which fans were invited to make a music video for this song (see winner). Spoken from the voice of Jesus (like a music version of the devotional Jesus Calling), the song starts out with the lyrics, “You are not alone/I will always be with you.” I was immediately drawn in.  All humanity feels alone, and this song speaks from God’s heart directly to that persistent aloneness, that ever-present separation from God that won’t be eradicated until see finally see Him face to face.

Yesterday, I listened to this song over and over again, letting the words soak into my trembling, sweaty body, for I needed the lyrics to speak to my heart, “You don’t have to prove yourself/You’re already mine/ You don’t have to have to hide your heart/I hold it in Mine/You can rest easy.”  How I long to rest easy!  I appreciate the ability of a song to help me settle down so I can open myself to God’s peace that surpasses all understanding.

Energy flows through another one of my early and consistent favorites, “Day By Day.”  From the first beat, the listener is propelled into an adventure of searching with child-like faith and a reminder that we are truly “children of eternity” who are fighting the curse of death. (Lyric: “Children of eternity, on the run from entropy.” Ahh!  Peterson’s use of language gives me chills!)  This song gives a nod to fleeting youth, but reminds listeners of the promise of eternity.  Referencing 2 Corinthians 4:16, Peterson sings, “Don’t lose heart, though your body’s wasting away/ Your soul is not, it’s being remade/Day by day by day.”  It’s so hard to explain how much this soul touches me.  It gives me hope as I watch a dear friend’s earthly body revolt against her, yet her faith is strong and her soul is ageless.  This song is for her, for all of us.

“Shine Your Light On Me” seems to be a biographical song about how God’s light shown into Peterson’s life when he was devastated, sick, and in the sloe of despair.  He talks about how he “drove into darkness” and “could hear the flapping wings of every devil” he has known.  This is a place I’ve been many times, and the same light that invaded Peterson’s car, floods me as well.  Again, this is another song which I have difficulty describing, yet I know the place from which Peterson writes.  It’s dark, scary, lonely, and almost hopeless.  The light of God’s grace shines into that darkness time and again, each time more beautiful than the last.  It’s these little glimpses of eternity that keep us going in our struggles.

A Facebook friend mentioned that “Cornerstone” was one of her favorite songs on Lost Boy.  The first few times I heard this song I liked the message pulled from John 6.  I found the music “hard”—more electric guitar and less easy acoustic.  That’s why albums must have multiple listens because this song has drawn me in.  With lyrics like, “You look me in the eyes and fix me with a permanent stare,” how can this song not be amazing?  This is one of the most profoundly Scriptural songs on the album, like it was ripped directly from the Gospels.

Wow!  Andrew explains these songs so beautifully.  Maybe I should’ve watched these earlier.

Then there’s “Carry the Fire,” which offers promises of what is to come in a place “where joy writes the songs and the innocent sing them” as well as the first track on the album, “Come Back Soon.”  To be perfectly honest, this song is an enigma to me, though the mystery becomes clearer with every listen.  I will most certainly read Peterson’s thoughts on the song, though it seems like a good summation of the album echoing, “We groan in this great darkness for deliverance/Deliver us, O Lord.”

This is the longest album review I’ve ever written in my 16 years of “music journalism” (hey, I could those clumsy days as a teenager with a ‘zine!)  Peterson’s music evokes one of my early faves, Rich Mullins, whose honest lyrics shaped my faith as a teenager (and in many ways, still do shape my faith).  Peterson, a great admirer of Mullins’ work, carries on his legacy.  Yet Andrew Peterson is very much his own artist, achieving a depth rarely seen but sorely needed.  While there are many catch lines I could insert telling you that you should buy Light for the Lost Boy, I won’t bow to cliché endings.  Andrew Peterson certainly wouldn’t. Give this album one listen, and you’ll see what I mean.  But, of course, you’ll want to buy it first because one listen simply won’t suffice.

Let’s chat!  Leave a comment below! What do you think of Andrew Peterson’s new album? What’s your fave song and why?  If you haven’t heard it, did I convince you that you NEED to listen to it?  Do you like how Andrew explains his songs?  Is this the longest music review you’ve ever read?

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Prone to Wander

15 May

When I first learned that I broke my foot, I comforted myself with the thought of lying about my apartment—in bed, on the couch—reading, watching documentaries on NetFlix, catching up on my mental to-do list, and writing my little heart out.  I haven’t finished one book, watched one documentary, written a to-do list, yet I have been writing…in my journal.  While these conversations with God are precious and private, I feel that my silence has added to my struggle with identity.  Oh, I know my identity is in God alone!  I know He created me and He defines me and He tells me who I am!  I know this!

But…sometimes it’s difficult to explain that to others when they ask me what I do.  It’s a long story.  A really long story.  Fortunately, my faithful family (which includes dear friends) knows my story as do you, my loving readers, because you’ve been on this journey with me for years.  Even though I’ve spent so much of the past year in silence, even though some of you have wandered to other blogs, know I appreciate you, pray for you, and cherish you.

Writing for you to make my joy complete (see post) has fallen by the wayside.  And part of that is my fault, for chasing after things that don’t add life.  Things which, in fact, break my heart.  God says, “No.”  Quietly, patiently, lovingly He says, “No, this is not my best.  You can have this thing you so desire, but I have something even better in mind.  Just you wait and see what I will do!”  I imagine a glimmer in His eye; I hear a hint of it in His voice.  And even though I don’t like surprises, I know whatever He’s planning, working, creating is good because God is good.

So I will wait.

Still, I really hate waiting.  My anxiety fights for control.  I understand matriarch Sarah’s confusion as she waited for her promised son, Isaac.  I imagine her wringing her hands, noticing the wrinkles, new age spots.  She stood up and her knees cracked and ached with each step she took. The laugh lines around her eyes—ha, what did she have to laugh about?!  Yes, God, You have promised something good…but is there something I’m supposed to be doing?  I mean, should I be vigilant about the process?  Maybe help You out a little?  What if I miss it?  As if Sarah could miss pregnancy!  As if I could miss my blessing from God!  (Side note: This blessing, though a mystery to me, will probably not result in immaculate conception and/or marriage.  I just know it’s something, and it may not even seem like a gift from God to anyone else…but I will know it’s from Him.)

As I wait for this good thing, I know I’ve missed the blessing of writing and the joy it brings—the complete joy.  Because I’ve been so busy “making it happen,” I didn’t factor in the time it cost me—time that could have been more effectively used to do things like read, watch documentaries, or even write for others!  Not that my free time has been a complete waste either.  I just know that I might have been blessed and been a blessing.  Oh, distraction will get us every time when we take our eyes off the prize! (God used Sara Groves’ song “Eyes on the Prize” from Invisible Empires to help me realize this.)

I’m sorry for not being there for you, for chasing after that which does not satisfy, for that which leaves me longing for more.  I told you I would write to make my joy complete, that I would let the Holy Spirit fill me with all joy…and I meant it then and I mean it now.  Sometimes I get distracted by the scenery on the side of the road; it comes when you write from the backseat, I guess.

“Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it…” I’ll try to keep the wandering to a minimum…as long as I’m wandering towards God, towards His joy, and towards the better, make that best, choices.

Let’s chat.  Like me, are you prone to wander?  What do you do when you realize you’re still on God’s path, but you’ve stopped to smell the roses for a bit too long?  Will you pray for me?  How can I pray for you?

Friday Faves: The Surprise! Edition

27 Apr

Aren’t you elated?!  It’s been months (or at least a month) since I did Friday Faves (FF) and I didn’t originally plan on putting together FF today, but some days I just surprise myself as well as my readers!  Since I just gave you an update on my life, I thought I’d share an amusing anecdote to fill up some space because just jumping into a bunch of links seems so impersonal.  However, I spend a lot of time sitting on my couch with my broken foot propped up on pillows, so it’s not like there are all that many stories to share.  Although when I  was using Stella the Walker to hobble up the stairs after returning from a doctor’s appointment this morning, the UPS man asked if I broke my foot after falling from drinking too much.  I informed him that I’m not a drinker (except for that wine cooler on New Year’s Eve).  He said that maybe I should start.  So, yeah, my UPS man encouraged me to become drop down drunk.  I guess what’s what brown can do for you.

What is up with our culture’s obsession with drunkenness?   I can think of several movies where drunken people get married or have one-night stands…and hilarity ensues.  I don’t understand the humor behind promiscuous sex or “accidental” marriages.  I mean, alcoholic drinks are expensive, so getting that sloshed isn’t cheap, especially if you can’t remember the “good time” you had last night.  Plus, I’ve heard about the upchucking and killer headaches that follow.  It makes me just want to stay home and watch “Fraggle Rock” on NetFlix streaming.  I am grateful to state stores for supplying me with free moving boxes. 

Oh, and for those of you who want to argue about the merits of drinking in biblical times, remember this–Apostle Paul told Timothy to take a little wine for his stomach, not become rip roarin’ drunk during a toga party.  The key is moderation, friends, and not to take advice on drinking from your UPS man.

A story and a lesson on morality–does Friday Faves get any better than this?

So, onto this week’s linkage…

*Lately, I’ve been listening to a lot of Sara Groves, particularly her latest album, Invisible Empires.  Those of you who have been listening to her for years are thinking, ‘Yeah, Amy, we know how awesome Invisible Empires is….where have you been?”  I decided to share the above video of Sara singing “Obsolete,” which is one of my fave songs from the album because it’s all vulnerable and emotional.  I think Sara paints beautiful word pictures with her lyrics and I like her gentle melodies.

*If you’re under 21, sometimes it’s hard to get find a pal (or UPS man) who will buy you alcohol.  Therefore, some teens have decided to make their own “moonshine” using hand sanitizer.  Yes, hand sanitizer!  My friend, Shari, who is a dedicated child care professional, first told me that the two year-olds in her classroom weren’t allowed to use hand sanitizer due to its alcohol content.  We laughed, thinking of all the moms who rub it on their kids like sunscreen.  But, apparently, the Pennsylvania Department of Health wasn’t too far off with this one.  For more information, on this alarming trend check out this article from The Morning Call.

*What do you get for the paparazzi who has everything?  A vintage camera fashioned into a tape dispenser!  It’ll only set you back $21.  Other vintage items available from A Mano Trading include an Ultraman Piggy Bank (sorry, it’s sold out!  What a hotseller!) and a needlepoint squirrel.  Personally, I like this closeout bag.

This is Big Red laying the eggs. Currently, all three eggs are now hatched.

*Finally, I want to tell you about a unique opportunity to spy on a red tail hawk nest thanks to CornellVia this link, you can check out Big Red and her mate, Ezra, as they  care for their three eyasses.  I spent a good hour watching Big Red feed her babies a vole carcass.  It sounds gross, but it makes for fascinating viewing. (Click here to view additional videos of the eyasses hatching, eating, and fighting like siblings do.)

As always, have a great weekend!

Because I just adore your comments, here are some discussion questions…I’m going to a book sale and church–what are you doing this weekend?  Have you ever tried to drink hand sanitizer?  With your UPS man (or woman?)What is your favorite Sara Groves song?  Which do you like best–Sarah, Sara, Sarai, or some other alternative spelling of the name?  What do you think of the goods at A Mano Trading?  Any good gifts for Mother’s Day?  Speaking of mothers, what do you think of Big Red’s parenting skills? 

Feature:: Paul Baloche: The Same Love

13 Mar

“There are a lot of songs about the Cross on this record. People are almost apologetic about it, and yet I feel challenged not to shrink from it. Our tendency is to make our language inclusive and seeker friendly. And I get that, but we also need songs that point to the truth of the new covenant.” – Paul Baloche

By Melissa Riddle Chalos  There’s a certain blanket of wisdom that, if you seek it, comes over time. It wraps around that place in your life where you’re settled in, a place where you’re surrounded by good friends and family and have nothing left to prove. A place where you know who you are, you know your purpose, and you’re content to leave the details up to God.

“If you do something long enough you uncover life lessons along the way,” Paul Baloche says.  “You aspire to be faithful to God’s calling in your life, pressing through even when you fall short. And when you hit a certain age, as you grow in your faith, you recognize the potential and the burden of being a leader, realizing ‘I’ve got to step up and be more intentional toward the people God has put in my life.’ And your prayer becomes, ‘Lord, give me grace to finish well.’”

After 25 years of marriage, 23 years leading worship at Community Christian Fellowship in Lindale, TX, 12 albums recorded with the same label, and hundreds of teaching resources provided free for church leaders (via his web site leadworship.com), one might think Paul Baloche had already qualified for a great finish.

But for this modern hymn writer, mentor and teacher who once aspired to be a priest, ministry is not a sprint, but a marathon, a long series of obedient steps in the same direction. A path where every aspect of life is forged in fires of passion for Jesus and His Church, and the result is almost always an honest prayer for the Church to sing.

All this is at the heart of The Same Love, an organic collection of worship songs from the worship leader best known for such modern classics as “Above All,” “Open the Eyes of My Heart” and “Your Name.” The Same Love mirrors Paul’s love for the Church and gives new expression to the complete faithfulness and overwhelming mercy of a gracious God.

The same love that set the captives free

The same love that opened eyes to see

Is calling us all by name

“One of the reasons I love the process to this day is that it’s a bit of a frontier, a mystery,” Paul says of the creative process behind The Same Love. “You can’t put your finger on it. Nobody can. It has a sense of adventure, a Lewis & Clark kind of thing. All explorers, over time, are trying to go places they’ve never been. Writing for worship is a lot like that. You’re trying to go places you’ve never been, deeper into ancient biblical truths, stirring up your modern soul, if you will. You’re testing the tension and the harmony of several things, combining that with what’s going on musically at the moment… And you end up with all these different elements — harmony, chords, lyrics, melody, vibe — and out comes something new.”

Co-produced with longtime collaborators Ben Gowell and Michael Rossback, The Same Love continues to walk a modern edge musically, while delivering unforgettably rich lyrics composed in the context of community.

“From project to project, I try to wipe the slate clean, to consider what’s happening right now, in my church, in my own soul, in the church at large and to ask ‘What do I sense in the hearts of the next generation, how do they perceive God, the church, fellowship and community?”

Grammy Award-winning engineer Chris Lord-Alge (U2/Switchfoot) mixes the title track and first single of the project, co-written by Paul and Michael Rossback. This is the touchstone for the entire collection.

“God is not this impersonal force,” Paul says. “The truth is that from creation to the crucifixion, God has been calling us – by name. He’s giving us a challenge, calling us to the cross, asking, ‘Are you ready to give up your way of doing things? Come as you are, pick up your cross daily and I will transform your life.’”

The four songs that follow—the anthemic, Coldplay-esque “We Are Saved” (co-written with Jason Ingram and Ben Fielding), bluegrass tinged “King of Heaven,” “All Because of the Cross” (a modern spin on “Nothing But the Blood”) and “Your Blood Ran Down”— follow a path often resisted, even in worship. “There are a lot of songs about the Cross on this record. People are almost apologetic about it, and yet I feel challenged not to shrink from it. Our tendency is to make our language inclusive and seeker friendly. And I get that, but we also need songs that point to the truth of the new covenant.”

We are children of your mercy, rescued for your glory,

we cry Jesus set our hearts towards you

that every eye would see you lifted high…

“Look Upon the Lord,” co-written with Kari Jobe and Jason Ingram, began as a time of worship, an effort to linger and focus on Jesus and His sacrifice. “We felt such a strong presence from God as we were writing it that we decided to record the song around our original demo, keeping Kari’s worshipful vocal and Jason’s keyboard part.”

I don’t know where You’ll take me

But I know You’re always good…

 “My Hope,” featuring Kathryn Scott and co-written with Ed Kerr, with whom Paul has written over 100 songs, gives voice to the spoken and unspoken prayers of people in times of need. “Life is hard, people are looking for hope, and there’s not much to be found outside of the hope we have in Christ,” Paul says. “My prayer is that this song will help others express to God what they really feel and point them to His promises.”

In each and every one of these church-tested songs, perhaps even more intentionally than ever before, Paul Baloche continues to draw from deep roots of devotion and ministry to feed the fire in his spirit. To create songs in community with like-minded worship artists who understand the hearts and prayers of those they serve, the people in the pew… and those who are still seeking.

“I can’t deny what I’ve seen and experienced in the presence of God,” Paul says. “I can’t deny that I’ve witnessed His goodness and faithfulness over and over again. God is alive. The same God who created the world calls us by name.”

The same God that spread the heavens wide

The same God that was crucified

Is calling us all by name

 “When I meet people who are full of the Spirit—despite their present circumstances, beyond their temperament or attitude—I’m inspired. I want to be that kind of person, to be in His presence, to read and digest his Word, to make it part of my DNA, to walk it out – to live it out. In the end, I want my life, my music to facilitate a conversation about God and who He is.”

For more information on Paul Baloche’s ministry, go to www.leadworship.com. AAAAAAAAAAAnd head over to Paul’s Facebook page to download a FREE song from The Same Love.

Coming Home: Thoughts on my church membership

3 Mar

Clearly, this is not me.  This is just how I feel.  🙂

Sunday.  For the past 7 years, it has been the day I perused the newspaper ads, the afternoon I went shopping or ran errands, the evening I feared what the week could hold.  But it was NOT the day of the week I attended church, though for 24 years of my life, that’s exactly what I did.  Every. Single.  Sunday.  (And many other days/nights of the week as well.)

In the fall of 2004, after moving out of my hometown, I just stopped.  Devastation, brokenness, heartache, and a long string of failures followed after me as I tried to live a life apart from God, apart from the Church.

I could never really get away, as friends, near and far kept in contact with me—at times, saving my spiritual and physical life with a phone call, a card, or even a trip to Friday Harbor, Washington (thank you Bill & Shannon, you saved my life.)  I thought that BFF Sarah was my only constant in ever-changing circumstances.  But, no, God was with us both—guiding, directing, wooing His daughters.

Earthly fathers fail.  Mothers turn their backs.  Dreams get broken. Hearts are crushed.  How could God let this happen?  God, how could You let this happen to me? It was my angry prayer as I shoved Him away.  He “deserved” my rage, my bitterness, my hatred.  I shook my fists, and still He calmed me when I let Him near.

It became a game—I’d let myself get so close to God, but then I’d run away, like a scared puppy trying to find its home.  The puppy wants to trust the kind stranger who can offer safety and security, yet she runs close and dashes away, comes closer and dashes further out of reach.  I thought, God, You cannot reach me.  You cannot have me.  You’ve ruined my life and I will not let it happen again.  I know You’re God, the Lord of Heaven and earth, I just can’t surrender my life, my all to You…what will You ask of me?  What will you take from me?  How will I survive it?

In September, I started to come apart—physically, emotionally, and spiritually.  A tangled mess of humanity, I sought healing in all these areas.  Strangely enough, these intertwined issues led me to discover my spiritual crisis—I had no idea who I was [in God]!  My spiritual sickness trumped all my other issues (though admittedly, they were painful and horrible as well).  My hope was scant, but I know what God can do with just a tidbit of faith.  So it continues to this day.  He continues to breathe life into dead areas of my life, heal infected, pussy wounds…for He makes everything new! (And one day He will make ALL things new.)  Most of all, He makes beauty from ashen dreams and builds on the ruins of our broken lives.

God has given me a new beauty for a handful of ashes, and has shown me that ruins are truly redeemed through His power.

Tomorrow, Sunday, March 4, is a culmination of the past four months—the search for a church, being found by Bethany Church, and belonging to a loving congregation that empowers women!  After how I’ve hated the “church,” been spiritually abused in the past by church leaders, and experienced panic attacks when I set foot in a church, I can’t believe that I am once again becoming a member of an actual, physical church tomorrow!

I am so excited I can barely contain myself!  I am jumping around my apartment, singing loudly, smiling from ear-to-ear, and ready to explode with joy.  I’m not sure that anyone can really understand what choosing to become a member of Bethany United Methodist Church means to me.

Lyrics from Bebo Norman’s song, “Ruins,” keep flitting through my head:

“This is my holy hour, This is my world on fire
This is my desperate play, This is where I am made
This is my kingdom come, This is my freedom song
This is my helpless state, This is where I am saved

Let my ruins become the ground you build upon
Let my ruins become the start
Let my ruins become the ground you build it on
From what’s left of my broken heart”

I’ve quoted “Ruins” before, but only the chorus.  Right now, my focus is on the pre-chorus (though the chorus is too lovely and meaningful to leave out!)  If I burst out in song during our reception into the church (not likely to happen), you will understand why. (See YouTube video with lyrics below.  It was made by some random Bebo-lovin’ person out there in the world!)

So this Sunday is no ordinary Sunday, at least for me.  I’ve found a home and the people in my home are giving me an official welcome—dorky name tag and all—thank you, God, for my temporary place amongst Your people, in Your Church (and church!)

It’s good to be home.

Amy’s Christmas Playlist

21 Dec

Every year I make an iTunes playlist of my favorite Christmas songs–some have been on the album every year since its inception, while others are happy new editions.  There are several versions of my playlist before choosing the 20 or so songs that will fit on a CD for the enjoyment of my friends and family.  (And I make like 6 copies of the epic mix album for people.  Don’t get the piracy police after me!)

So, here it is…my 2011 mix, which I call “Joy Is Born.”

Joy Is Born Christmas Mix 2011

1. “Star Of Wonder” – JJ Heller, Wake Up The World [My good friend, Shari, told me that about JJ’s Christmas album and we both love it!  JJ’s version of “Star of Wonder” is the perfect lead-in to any album.  She imagines to capture the wonder of seeking Christ–“Messiah was worth every mile.]

2. “Heaven’s Got A Baby”-The O.C. Supertones, Happy Christmas Vol. 3 [This song is a cheery proclamation and it’s on the mix every year.  Sometimes it’s first, but I’m going for awe and wonder this year, so I needed something a little more subdued.]             

3. “Born to Die” -Bebo Norman, Christmas: From the Realms of Glory [As if I would ever make a playlist without a Bebo song.  That would just be ridiculous! I assume you already own this album, so I’m not even going to tell you to buy it because you already know how awesome it is!]

4.  “Adorn” -Alli Rogers, The Silent Stars [If you don’t own The Silent Stars or anything by Alli Rogers, you need to rectify that RIGHT NOW!  Go, buy, download, and prosper!]

5. “Ring The Bells” -Travis Cottrell, Ring The Bells [Did you know that Travis Cottrell is the worship leader at Beth Moore’s church?  Or at least he was.]

6. “I Celebrate The Day”- Relient K, Let It Snow Baby…Let It Reindeer [Relient K’s Christmas album is one of my favorites, so this song is ALWAYS on my playlist.  Let It Snow Baby is available as a $5 download on Amazon right now!]

A bunch of fans made this music video for “His Favorite Christmas Story.” Love it so much I had to share it here!

7. “His Favorite Christmas Story”- Captial Lights, X Christmas- Various Artists [I haven’t heard anything from Capital Lights since their debut album.  This song tells a cute story that make me tear up.  Every. Single. Time.]

8. “You Gotta Get Up (Christmas Song)”- Rich Mullins, A Liturgy, A Legacy & A Ragamuffin Band [I play this song as soon as I get up every Christmas morning for as long as I can remember.]

9. “Feliz Navidad”- David Crowder Band, X Christmas- Various Artists [David Crowder Band + silly Spanish = mucho bueno.]

10. “A Christmas Song For All Year Round” Aaron Sprinkle, Happy Christmas Vol. 3 [I wanted to marry Aaron Sprinkle so I could be “Amy Sprinkle,” as it turns out Aaron is already married.  I suppose I could legally change my name to “Amy Sprinkle” anyway.  Santa, bring a name change for Christmas!]

11. “How Many Kings”-Downhere, How Many Kings: Songs For Christmas [I’ll be talking more about this song on Friday Faves.  I. Love. It.  So much that each word was its own sentence.  I played this at my small group’s Christmas party “reflection time” and they loved it, too.]

12.  “Welcome To Our World”-Chris Rice, Deep Enough to Dream  [What is Chris Rice doing these days?  Has anyone heard from the guy since he got married?  He needs to make more theologically relevant music for the masses.]    

13. “The First Noel (Instrumental Version)”-Josh Wilson, Sing: A Christmas – EP [Josh Wilson + instruments of any kind = magic.]


14. “Hallelujah (Light Has Come)”- BarlowGirl, Home For Christmas [The Barlow sisters are always wonderful, and this song is exceptional. Their vocal arrangements make my heart happy.]

15. “What Child Is This”- PLUMB, (Free Download) [Sometimes the best things in life really are free!  Plumb’s version of “What Child Is This” is an older version than the one we usually sing.  Personally, I prefer this version.  It was prettied up to celebrate the birth only, and completely revised of the implication of the cross Jesus was to bear.]

16. “Bring A Tourch, Jeanette, Isabella”-Downhere, How Many Kings: Songs For Christmas [It’s Downhere again!  Their version of this classic makes me want to grab a torch and look for the Christ child myself.  I mean, there is a plastic Baby Jesus in the nativity down the street.  But I just don’t that elicits the joy of the actual event.]         

This is the version from his self-titled album, not the Christmas EP.  I put the Christmas version on the mix. Josh makes the best facial expressions when he sings.  Love, love, love his guy and his beat-up gee-tar!

17. “Sing”- Josh Wilson  Sing: A Christmas – EP [What a shock!  Another song by my friend, Josh Wilson.  I played this at small group two weeks ago when we talked about the LONG-AWAITED joy and expectation of God’s timing.  “We could never get back home with broken hearts, so Home has come to us.” Lyrical genius!]

18. “Snow Globe”- Matt Wertz, Snow Globe [We had a whole Friday Faves dedicated to the hilarity that is this song.  See “Friday Faves: Snow Globe Living Edition.“]

19. “Mary Did You Know” – Spoken, Happy Christmas Vol. 4  [All punked up like it should be.]      

20. “Drummer Boy”-Jars Of Clay, Christmas Songs [I never truly appreciated this song until Jars of Clay recorded their version.  Then I researched how the drummer boy is the lowliest of all shepherds, and still he came, and offered what he had–the gift of his playing.  I mean, I’m not sure how drumming helps a newborn baby.  I would think that would elicit much screaming and sobbing. But I still like the song.  It’s not like Baby Jesus didn’t cry either, so “Silent Night” is a farce, too.  And  yet I enjoy both songs.]

21. “Jesus, King Of Angels”- Fernando Ortega, Christmas Songs [Oh, Fernando, I love your music.]

This is the video that launched Straight No Chaser into a music career years after graduating from college.

22. “The Christmas Can-Can”-Straight No Chaser, Christmas Cheers [Because I like to end things on a hilarious note, I included this song from acapella group, Straight No Chaser, who became “famous” after their “12 Days of Christmas” video from college re-emerged on YouTube years later.  So they recorded a second album, Christmas Cheers.]

I was going to tell you why I chose each and every song, what the song means to me,but that’s entirely too much work, so I added a few notes, a bunch of links, and a handful YouTube videos for your viewing enjoyment. 

Have a question about why I chose a song, leave a comment!  Tell me what songs are on your “list.”

Friday Faves: OK to NOT be OK Edition

9 Dec

How are you doing?  By that I mean, how are you *really* doing?  Yesterday the receptionist at one of my doctor’s office (two appointments with doctors in one!!!) asked me this question and I was tired, tearful, and a plain ol’ mess.  I thought about saying, “OK,” which would have been a bold-faced lie.  I was clearly *NOT* OK.  I told her that I was having a rough day. She smiled sympathetically, talked to talk to me about my dogs (usually a great topic), but I wouldn’t budge.  I was not OK, and I couldn’t pull it together to have fake cheerful small talk.  Sometimes small talk just seems so, well, small. 

I needed someone pastoral to talk to, and since I don’t know the pastor at my new church that well, I decided to call my buddy, Brently, at First Pres in Bethlehem.  He was OK with me not being OK, listened to me, and then he prayed for me.  He told me that I totally need to check out the Christmas rock concert at the church next weekend and promised to give me two of the worship bands CD’s (I’m holding you to that, Brently).  Thank you, Brently!  After praying for me (over the phone, nonetheless) , I felt the Peace that surpasses all understanding–all because Brently took the time to listen to me when I was not OK.

Therefore, I want to offer a bit of advice for you when you’re not OK:

1.  You’ve heard “fake it until you make it.”   If I’m truly glum, faking it just makes it worse.  Be honest.  “Today I am not OK.” “Bad day.” “Dealing with some stuff.”  And remember, if the person asks you if you want to talk, you aren’t required to talk.  Just say, “No, thank you.” 

2.  God’s OK with you not being OK.  He longs to comfort His child.  Not being OK drives us to His arms.  The world is brutal; we need God’s comfort.  I like to journal my little heart out and read Psalms.  All of them. 

3. Talk to a safe person.  Don’t give away pieces of your heart to people who can’t be trusted with it.  Find someone who’s OK with you where you’re at and just let loose.  It’s one of the best things you can do–to find God’s peace. (If you don’t have a safe person, pray that God will provide someone…or take a risk on someone you think could be safe.  I mean, you could fall flat on your face.  That will hurt, but it’s worth risking to find that person that will point you to God.  And it’s not easy at all.)  Be wise about this, though.  Talking to the wrong person can be horribly painful.

4.  Listen to Bebo Norman, lots of Bebo Norman.  I’ve said in previous posts that Bebo Norman’s music has this incredible quality to calm me down and provide peace in many different moods.  Find your “Bebo Noman”–an artist, a book, a Bible passage, whatever, that comforts you and draws you into the heart of God, that calms your spirit, that helps you with not being OK.

I know these tips aren’t earth-shattering or anything.  They probably won’t change the world.  You probably know and utilize them already, but this is what’s on my heart.  And maybe, just maybe, there’s someone out there who needed to be reminded that it’s OK to NOT be OK as much as I did this morning.

I’m thankful to report by my NOT OK has returned to OK, thanks to the prayers of faithful friends.  I love you, guys!

Now that we’ve had our little affirmation session for the week, let’s get on to those Friday Faves, shall we?

*Last week I told you about the splediferous Jason Gray CD giveaway I’m doing here on Backseat Writer to celebrate “Remind Me Who I Am” hitting #1 on iTunes.  Apparently, you didn’t get the message, so I’m extending the giveaway a little bit.  GO ENTER THE GIVEWAY FOR AN AUTOGRAPHED COPY OF A WAY TO SEE IN THE DARK!!!  Even if you already own the album, enter if you know someone who NEEDS this album.  Seriously.  I want this album to go to a person who needs it.  Enter so we can make that happen.

*Earlier this week, Jenny Jones posted this video from Preston Leatherman I just had to re-share it here. The videos this character does are hilarious. Check out his version of “Footloose.”  Looks like he’s at Target, Wegman’s.  The mall.  And wearing Tom’s Shoes, which I can’t wear because I have wide feet, but I’m glad Preston can wear ’em. And getting folks to dance with him.  Preston reminds me of Sue Heck’s “boyfriend” in “The Middle.”  This just makes me smile–might be a good thing to watch on those not OK days.  You gotta give Preston Leatherman mad props for the creative promotion of his music, which I kind of like.

*’Tis the season for FREE CHRISTMAS MUSIC!  Amazon always offers free downloads (25 days of Christmas songs–a new one each and every day), but there is a plethora of Christmas selection, including MXPX’s “Punk Rawk Christmas.”  While I’ve outgrown my punkish MXPX days, maybe you haven’t!  (And if you have, there are lots of other songs to make your days be merry and bright, like Leigh Nash’s “O Holy Night!  How I adore Leigh Nash.  You can also snag Eisley’s version of the songIt’s my very favorite carol, so I can never have too many copies of it.).  Also, my favorite site for checking out new artists, NoiseTrade, has a bunch of great music, which you can get for exchanging information, telling your pals about what you’re downloading (and leave a tip if you enjoy the music, so that artists can keep doing it).  Personally, I’m enjoying Folk Angel’s three-song sampler as well as Merry Christmas, Good Night, which is a smattering of various artists, and A Child Is Born by Sojourn (though somehow I obstained Advent Songs, which I can’t find on NoiseTrade right now).

*Musician Shaun Groves wrote an excellent post on his blog called, “Fan Mail,” about how he thought he was going to save the Christian music industry, but then realized how music, even the music some disdain, has the power to change people’s lives because of God.  Great post!

*My friend, Amanda Danziger, makes indie documentaries about the plights of impoverished people.  So far, she’s talked about street kids in Africa, women living in the slums of India, and now she’s taking on the City of Brotherly Love with her latest project,The Backyard Philly Project.”  The video above explains what the project is all about, and I’d like you to consider giving to this project.  I know I will!

I have more to share, but our attention spans are so short in this day and age.  I know I’m already tired of reading this post, so have a wonderful weekend and do leave a comment because it makes me more than OK. (And you don’t have to answer all of the questions, or any of them.  I just write them to invite conversation.)

What is something you read, saw, encountered that intrigued you this week?  How do you deal with not being OK?  How’s the Christmas shopping going?  What kind of cookies are you making?  Would you dance in the mall with an iPod?  Are you ready to fall asleep from exhaustion? (I am!)

Friday Faves: Snow Globe Living Edition

2 Dec

I’ve been going back and forth on bringing back Friday Faves.  Am I ready?  What if I do it this Friday and not next Friday?  I mean, do I even have any readers left besides my mother? 

Then I thought, if you write it, they will come.

So I fooled around on Facebook for a while (yes, those games I used to think were stupid are highly addictive and somewhat entertaining), scoped out Thursday’s online deals, goofed around on Twitter, played some more Facebook games (The wheat needed to be harvested).  And here I am, staring at my computer screen thinking of all the great things I read, saw, and experienced this week.

How could I keep all this awesomeness to myself?  Why, that would be selfish!  I don’t know what’s going to happen next week or the week after or the week after, but I’m sure God does.  I’ll keep the future rightly in His hands and focus on the matter at hand—this week’s Friday Faves.

I seem to listen to a lot of music or read a lot of books—not usually at the same time, though occasionally my loves do intermingle.  Currently, I’m in a music phase and with so many exciting things happening in the industry (like the GRAMMY Award Nominations…congrats, everyone!), there is much to share.

*I can’t stop singing “Snow Globe” by Matt Wertz, even though I don’t know all (or most) of the lyrics.  Mostly, I just prance around singing, “Sometimes I wish I lived in snow globe,” mumble, and then pick it up again on the “la-la’s.”  Therefore, I need to share this song with y’all.  And, as luck would have it, Matt Wertz was kind enough to make an enchanting music video for us to enjoy together. (Amy’s note: Matt Wertz must be very secure in his masculinity to wear long-johns in that video!) 

I always wished I lived in a snow globe, and I’m glad I’m not alone.  I’m sure someone’s going to form a Facebook group about this very topic, and I’ll probably join in. But under no circumstances will I be appearing in any music videos in my PJ’s.  Some things are just private, know what I’m saying? You’ve got to be a good friend or family member to see me in my scrubby night duds. 

For a limited time, you can download “Snow Globe” along with his album 23 Places FOR FREE on NoiseTrade: GO DOWNLOAD IT!!!  And while you’re out there LEGALLY downloading music, hop over to your fave music buying site, and check out Matt’s brand spankin’ new-this-year Christmas album called…wait for it…SNOW GLOBE!!!  I only wish the album came with a FREE Matt Wertz snow globe.

But, wait, you can head over to Matt Wertz’s website and get your very own snow globe necklace for $40, complete with an 18” sterling silver chain.  Cute idea, but kind of pricey, especially since I have to assemble the mini-snow globe myself AAAND I prefer 22” chains.  Now you know what to get for the person who has everything—a snow globe necklace!

Only 5 BUCKS, baby!  Like dollars, not male deer!

*While we’re on the topic of legally purchasing music…have you checked out some of the $5 digital music downloads on Amazon lately?  The “regular” album choices for December are pretty paltry, but the special Christmas music section is great!  For ONLY five dollars, you can treat yourself to some of my favorite albums including Christmas Spirits by Straight No Chaser, Wintersong by Sarah MacLachlan, A Very Merry Christmas by Dave Barnes, Christmas by Rebecca St. James (which I got as a Christmas present in 1997.  I love this album!), and one of my most loved Christmas albums, Let It Snow Baby… Let It Reindeer by Relient K.  Since I already own this great music, I’m thinking of purchasing Mindy Smith’s My Holiday–what do you think?

Jillian Edwards = one of the many reasons I love Noise Trade!

*NoiseTrade co-founder Derek Webb (he sings, too!) wrote a tantalizing post this week about why he’d rather give his music away for free than allowing it to be streamed on Spotify.  Check out, “Giving It Away:  How Free Music Makes More Than Sense.”   I’m a habitual NoiseTrade download junkie.  I mean, what won’t I do for free music?  Plus, I can discover amazing musicians without feeling pressured by a publicist. (Darn my people-pleasing tendencies!)  In fact, I recently discovered Jillian Edwards on NoiseTrade, and I think you’ll love her!

I might wear Long-johns in a music video for a Kindle Fire…

*Because we’re all about the free, I mean, all about the music, I want to you how to get FREE MUSIC from Plumb!  Ever since Plumb released her first album when I was in high school, I’ve adored her and her music.  Well, you can download TWO Christmas songs when you like Plumb on Facebook, and then if you tell your friends about Plumb’s awesomeness, I mean, her music (and how could you not?), then you will be entered to win some cool prizes like a Kindle Fire (drool!), an iPod shuffle, Plumb-y gear, or a personalized profile pic of Tiffany holding a sign thanking you!!! (I want one of her thanking me while wearing the wings she wore while singing “Send Angels” at Creation ’97!)  Now I’ll refrain from entering this contest (probably) because I’ll blow you all out of the water with my gazillion Facebook friends.  I mean, it wouldn’t even a fair contest.  But I really, really, really want a pretty Kindle Fire, uh, I mean, the other prizes that aren’t a Kindle Fire.  Love, I mean, like Plumb on Facebook, download the songs (Plumb’s version of “What Child Is This” gave me chills.  Beautiful), and WIN [me a Kindle Fire]!

Wowser!  If I didn’t already own one of these…

*You know what makes a great Christmas present? Jason Gray’s latest album, A Way to See in the Dark!!!  Know what makes it better?  If Jason Gray personally autographed it!  Know what makes ME the best ever?!  I’m giving away a copy of that very autographed album for FREE!!!  All you have to do is enter!  Deets hereYou know you want to enter!

Welcome back, Friday Favers!  Hmm….we need to work on a better name for you guys. 

Who wouldn’t want to go sledding with an eReader?

Amy’s Update:  I just learned about another great deal…a $25 gift card to Barnes & Noble for only $15 at SaveMore.com (This is my unique referral linkage, BTW.  I get $5 for every new person who signs up!)  Because I’m a first-time user, I got a $10 sign-up bonus, meaning that I can get my gift card for $5 (I think).  If not, I’m totally getting those Fandango tix (two tickets for $12, or rather $2 with my $10 bonus.  Woot!  I can see Breaking Dawn in theaters.  I mean, a mature adult movie that doesn’t involve werewolves and vampires.  Actually, your credit can only be applied to certain purchases and Fandango is not one of them.  Boo-hoo).  And in case you didn’t know, Barnes & Noble dot com has WAY cheaper books and like Amazon, they offer free shipping when on spends $25 or more. (I like to check out the after-Christmas sales at B&N to get pretty journals so I can write down my most private thoughts) Do the deal! (Take note that your gift card won’t be available until 12/12 or 12/13.)

Be honest–do you ever wish you lived in a snow globe?  Do you ever think you *do* live in a snow globe? (If so, I have a counseling degree; I  can help you.  Or at least run the peer support group!)  Would you wear an adult onesie in public, even if you were a TOTALLY famous musician like Matt Wertz?  Do you want to win a Kindle Fire?  Do you want to win ME a Kindle Fire?  Isn’t Plumb a fantastic dresser?  (If I dressed like her, I’d just look silly.)  Do you use Spotify?  NoiseTrade?  Buy a $5 Amazon album?  Breathe?  How is your Christmas shopping going thus far?  Are you thinking about getting a snow globe necklace for anyone on your list?

GIVEAWAY!!! Jason Gray’s “Remind Me Who I Am” is #1 on iTunes!

30 Nov

Wednesdays are killer, right?  Last weekend is a distant memory and this weekend seems like it will never arrive.  And to make matters worse, we’re in the holiday season—shopping, decorating, baking, avoiding Salvation Army bell ringers. I love the Salvation Army and all they do, but I could do without the bell ringers.  I wish you could give them $20 to stop ringing the bell for five minutes or at least until you make it to the car.

But this morning whilst performing my daily ritual of checking out what happened in the cyber world as  I slumbered, I learned something VERY EXCITING from Jen RoseJason Gray’s single, “Remind Me Who I Am” is #1 on the Christian & Gospel charts on iTunes!  Now “Remind Me Who I Am” will always be one of my favorite songs because of the impact it had (and continues to have) on my life,  so I would love to see it get stay at #1. (Note: I like Casting Crowns’ “Courageous” and Laura Story’s “Blessings,” too.  But neither song has hit me in the heart like “Remind Me Who I Am”).

Did you hear *that*, er, read *that?!  I’ll type it in CAPS for emphasis:

JASON GRAY’S “REMIND ME WHO I AM” IS CURRENTLY #1!!!

Personally, I believe you should buy “Remind Me Who I Am” because it’s a great song AND it’s only 69 cents on iTunes, but to help you in your music buying decision, I’m gonna back up this song with a  giveaway.  If you purchase “Remind Me Who I Am” on iTunes, you will get a chance to win an autographed copy of Jason Gray’s latest album, A Way to See in the Dark (and, yes, this is the album “Remind Me Who I Am” is on!) 

Maybe you already own the song or just can’t afford it right now, that’s OK.  I would never exclude anyone from a giveaway.  So everyone gets one entry, BUUUUUUT, if you buy the single on iTunes or gift the single to friends with an identity crisis, you get TWO extra entries for EACH purchase, and if you review the song on iTunes (I’m talking at least two sentence here, not “This song rocketh.” Put a little meat in that review), you get another TWO entries.  That means, you get ONE entry just for being alive, and TWO entries if you buy the song for yourself and TWO more if you leave a review of “Remind Me Who I Am” on iTunes, which gives you SIX chances to win!  (Or if you enter and buy the song for your Aunt Mabel, you have EIGHT your chance of winning A Way to See in the Dark!)

I funkified the photo because it looked subpar due to my messy desk background.

Just fill out THE FORM, tell me how many copies of “Remind Me Who I Am” you purchased on iTunes, write a smashing review, and [hopefully] win!  Remember, you get an entry just for being alive, so everyone can enter, but only one can win.  I mean, maybe I can get Jason Gray to send each one of you a hair follicle or something (by the way, JG did not ask me to run this contest, but I watched him personally autograph the CD, so he has foreknowledge that a giveaway would happen!)

Here are some links in REALLY BIG LETTERS to help you:

1. Buy “Remind Me Who I Am” by Jason Gray for 69 cents. 

(Or don’t and enter anyway.  But you get TWO extra entries for each copy of the song you purchase. (You’re on the honor system.  I mean, I love this song, but if you tell me you purchased 109 copies, I’m going to need to see that iTunes receipt.)

2.  Write a short, but meaningful review of “Remind Me Who I Am” on iTunes for another TWO entries.

(By the way, you can review the song without buying it on iTunes, so by being alive AND writing a review, you can get THREE entries.)

3. Then enter to win an authographed copy of the WHOLE album, A Way to See in the Dark by Jason Gray, right here!  I’m instituing use of THE FORM!

*FILL OUT THIS FORM*

The giveaway ends at 11:59 PM EST on December 7, so you have a whole week to snag this deal.  The winner will be emailed and if he/she does not respond within 3 days, a new winner will be chosen.  I am not responsible for prizes that are lost by the USPS, though it would be very sad and I would cry with you should that occur.  Oh, and if you buy more copies of “Remind Me Who I Am” or decide to write a review AFTER you’ve already entered do come back and tell me so I can give you even more extra entries.

Even if you don’t win this amazing album, and I hope you do, you still win by getting a copy of “Remind Me Who I Am” by Jason Gray.  And I do encourage you to purchase A Way to See in the Dark, for it is a phenomenal album…and it makes a great Christmas present! (I heard Aunt Mabel really wants a copy!)

Still not sure about the song?  Read WHY Jason Gray wrote “Remind Me Who I Am,” find out why I’m thankful for Jason Gray, and read a little about how “Remind Me Who I Am” has helped me (though I only mention the song as an afterthought, I realize it really helped me to come to terms with my identity in God and inspired this post). Learn more about Jason Gray and his awesome self at JasonGrayMusic.com.

Amy’s Random Aside:  I believe in Jason Gray and his music so much that I changed my Twiticon and my Facebook profile pictures to “Remind Me Who I Am.” (I added “Beloved” to the Facebook pic because Amy means “beloved.”)  If you just love Jason, his music, or what people to remind you who you are, email me and I’ll change your Twitter or Facebook book to look similar to mine. (Text may be different.  We are all unique creatures.)

(Click on my image to follow me on Twitter for tantalizing updates!)

OR


(Feel free to friend me on Facebook, too!)

Tell me, once again, why you like this song, why you like this song? (Sing that to the chorus of “Remind Me Who I Am”)  How have you deal with a spiritual identity crisis?  Jason Gray has great hair, so why do you think he’s wearing that hat in the music video for “Remind Me Who I Am”?  Do you recycle your cardboard boxes, make signs from them, or just throw them out in the regular trash?

I’m thankful that Five Iron Frenzy is back!!!

22 Nov

Did ya hear, did ya hear?! 

Two years ago, I shared that I will always be grateful for Five Iron Frenzy (read insightful post), particularly Leanor Ortega Till and Reese Roper…and now I’m even more excited about the band’s planned 2013 album!  Five Iron Frenzy is currently raising funds via KickStarter, but the pledges are already over the estimated $30,000 that it would take the group to make the new album (somewhere around $50,000 last I checked), but of course, other costs always come up, so support my beloved Five Iron Frenzy.

Oh, and check out their new song, “It Was A Dark and Stormy” night.  My free download didn’t work, which would make me cry if sobbing didn’t tighten my jaw causing TMJ pain, but you can watch this video repeatedly.  I love saying, “Did you hear the new FIF song?”  And I’ll get to say that a whole lot more in a couple of years.

Are you a Five Iron Frenzy fanatic?  What’s your fave FIF song?  How did the band impact your life?  Are you psyched about the 2013 album?

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