Monday Morning Humor: “Harses, Harses, Harses…”

Meg Ryan’s take on “Jingle Bells.” I don’t know why, but this always makes me happy:


Top 5 New SG Songs of 2012

Some people like to include all recorded songs as potential candidates for year-end best-of lists. I’ve always restricted my pool to songs written and performed specifically for projects released that year.

These are some of my personal favorite new southern gospel songs of 2012. I’ve provided links for listening where available. I wish I could have listened to and reviewed more projects. Somehow the year slipped away and I only churned out a handful. But I think I’ve come to a lot of the same conclusions as various other bloggers anyway.  First of all, I’ll rank my top five. Then I’ll name some others that I really liked as well.

1. The Song of Heaven (Tribute Quartet):

When the dust settled, I decided this was my favorite new song of the year. I can’t think of a single lyrical or musical complaint. It’s perfect in every way. Barbara Huffman is the writer of this song. All credit to her!

2. Sometimes I Wonder (Ernie Haase & Signature Sound): Co-written by Wayne Haun, Joel Lindsey, and Ernie Haase, this was actually put together a few years ago. They just didn’t get around to recording it until this year. I still love this tender meditation on death and heaven.

3. I Want to Be That Man (Brian Free & Assurance): I think the 2nd verse could have used a little lyrical tweaking, but this was a very memorable song, with an incredibly strong chorus. I was torn between this one and “Calvary’s Cry,” which has a lyric that I love, but I ultimately settled on the one that stuck in my mind better. I think it’s so neat that Ricky Free co-wrote this with Lee Black, then submitted it without Brian’s knowing who wrote it.

4. The Church Will Overcome (the Talleys): Written by Dianne Wilkinson, this is a perfect new barn-burner. Just a great song.

5. I Can Still Pray Through (Barry Rowland & Deliverance): You’ve probably seen lots of bloggers talking about how good Barry Rowland & Deliverance’s debut album is. That’s because it’s really good. I never had time to contribute my own review (is anyone still interested to hear what I think?), but I did listen to several songs and was very impressed by this new group. This song emerged as my personal favorite, and one of the best of the year. It takes its time, but the gospel organ gives it great richness, perfectly complementing Tammy Rowland’s passionate alto vocals. The lyrics are very meaningful, well-written, and uplifting.

[Note: Every word I said about this song is absolutely true, but Brian has kindly pointed out that I picked a cover song (after all that!) So I guess I would probably replace this with “Fool’s Gold,” by the Gaither Vocal Band.]

Here are more notable favorite songs from this year, not listed in any particular order. Some artists may be named more than once.

Good News From Jerusalem (Tribute Quartet)

Revival (Brian Free & Assurance)

Calvary’s Cry (BFA)

Fool’s Gold (the Gaither Vocal Band)

Make Way for the Master (the Talleys)

Broken World (the Talleys)

Singing in the Midnight Hour (Ernie Haase & Signature Sound)

Love Carried the Cross (Ernie Haase & Signature Sound)

I Played in the Band (the Booth Brothers)

What were your favorites?

Savoring the Incarnation

At this time of year, we celebrate the beginning of Jesus’ life on earth. But in an effort to make sure we don’t forget the grander story behind the story of Bethlehem, many Christians write and speak about how the manger is only the beginning of Jesus’ entire redemption journey. They see the shadow of a cross over the manger, reminding us of how Jesus was born only to die.

This is true. And yet sometimes I wonder whether in our eagerness not to lose sight of the whole picture, we fail fully to appreciate the beauty of the Incarnation all by itself. True, it’s difficult to escape the shadow of the cross. But just for one moment, can we concentrate solely on the awesome miracle of God in fragile flesh? Can we look upon the face of the Christ child and love him as he is, even before we remember what he will do for us?

For one moment, let us defy the logic of our minds and try unsuccessfully to grasp the truth that this is the Son of Man—the same one who appeared to Daniel in terrifying glory, who wrestled with Jacob, who spoke the stars into being and counts the islands as a very little thing. Let us linger at the manger for a little space of time, straining to catch the silent pleading of the unspoken Word.


If the lost word is lost, if the spent word is spent
If the unheard, unspoken
Word is unspoken, unheard;
Still is the unspoken word, the Word unheard,
The Word without a word, the Word within
The world and for the world;
And the light shone in darkness and
Against the Word the unstilled world still whirled
About the centre of the silent Word.

T. S. ELIOT, Ash-Wednesday

Monday Morning Humor: Suzy at the Mall

A brilliant little parody of the classic “Casey At the Bat.” From Kevin O’Brien, a talented Christian actor and comedian. I think there’s some Rex Harrison in this one. Merry Christmas Eve!

When suddenly, I spy a sight

That raises my sad spirits

Who is this come barging in?

Who is finally here it’s

Suzy, yes it’s Suzy!

Toting packages galore

For Suzy, shopping Suzy

Has burst into the store!

Movie Review: The Hobbit—An Unexpected Journey (Part II)

THE HOBBIT: AN UNEXPECTED JOURNEYClick here if you missed yesterday’s Part I, in which I discuss clear pros and cons of the film,  Today we’re exploring pro-cons, important elements of the film that are worth talking about and not altogether good or bad. I’ll also offer some closing comments and look ahead to what we can expect in film two, The Desolation of Smaug. Enjoy, and if you still haven’t read the book, we’ll wait right here. It’s okay.


1. The Necromancer thread

Here I must confess that I misjudged Peter Jackson. I wasn’t sufficiently familiar with Tolkien’s appendices and hence didn’t realize that there is some key behind-the-scenes action involving the Necromancer, the White Council, and Dol Guldur. Clearly I needed to do a little homework. Continue reading “Movie Review: The Hobbit—An Unexpected Journey (Part II)”

Movie Review: The Hobbit—An Unexpected Journey (Part I)

Martin Freeman Bilbo small sizeSo I went to see The Hobbit the other day. Be honest now, you’re going to see it too (if you haven’t already). I mean who isn’t, if only just to see the glorious, sprawling landscape of Middle Earth on the big screen one more time? And if you’re a homeschooler, or used to be homeschooled… well then.

Okay, so we already knew it would look fantastic. The question is, what about, y’know, the movie? Is it any good?

I was curious, so I went to see for myself. I’m pleased to say that while it definitely has its drawbacks, the answer is… yes. So without further eloquence, here is the scoop in the form of Pros, Cons, and Pro-Cons (a movie’s bigger than a music album, so sometimes you need a category for things you’re ambivalent on). In the spirit of the new movies, it seemed fitting to split what maybe could have been a one-post review into two posts (ahem). The pro-cons and final thoughts in particular ended up a bit long. So here is Part One. Come back tomorrow for Part Two. Today we’ll discuss pros and cons, tomorrow the pro-cons and final thoughts. Enjoy, and please do feel free to chime in with your own thoughts if you’ve got them. Comments are nice, precious.

[Note: On the off-chance that you’re reading this and have NOT read the book… go read it before reading another word of this post.]

Right, so let’s start with…


1. Martin Freeman as Bilbo

2. Martin Freeman as Bilbo

3. Martin Freeman as Bilbo

4. But seriously… MARTIN FREEMAN AS BILBO!

All right, I’ll explain. Continue reading “Movie Review: The Hobbit—An Unexpected Journey (Part I)”

Original Christmas Songs: Your Favorites?

We all know the old Christmas carols, but every now and then an original Christmas song comes along that’s so good we’re not embarrassed to listen to it right alongside those classics.

In Southern Gospel, we happen to have one of the most beloved of these modern classics: “Mary Did You Know?” Contemporary Christian boasts the standard “Breath of Heaven.”

What other original Christmas songs do you think have special merit? For purposes of this post, we’ll focus on the sacred versus the secular.

StowTown Records to Sign Classical Broadway Tenor

Ernie Haase posted a video on twitter today featuring classically trained tenor singer J. Mark McVey, who has toured the world singing on Broadway, including the role of Jean Valjean in Les Miserables. Ernie said that McVey was “an upcoming StowTown artist.” I’m excited to see such talent coming into the southern gospel fold. Here is a sample of what McVey can do. Can I just say, at the risk of being lambasted, that I like him better than David Phelps:

[Edit: I included the above video because it’s one of his most recent performances—here’s a slightly older one showing him in his element on Broadway itself.]

Rachel Will Not Be Comforted By Hypocrisy

Well, I’m sure all of you have heard the devastating news from Connecticut. And I’m sure all of you have been forced to watch what President Obama has to say about it on just about every media outlet there is.

His speech-writers worked fast on the day of the murder to produce perfectly banal gems such as this: “I know there’s not a parent in America who doesn’t feel the same overwhelming grief that I do.” Or this: “This evening, Michelle and I will do what I know every parent in America will do, which is hug our children a little tighter, and we’ll tell them that we love them, and we’ll remind each other how deeply we love one another.” Or this: “May God bless the memory of the victims and, in the words of Scripture [really?], heal the brokenhearted and bind up their wounds.”

More recently, they polished up a speech specifically for the mourners, offering up more banalities: “Whatever portion of sadness that we can share with you to ease this heavy load, we will gladly bear it. Newtown, you are not alone…we bear responsibility for every child, because we’re counting on everybody else to help look after ours, that we’re all parents, that they are all our children…” And this, my personal favorite: “This is our first task, caring for our children. It’s our first job. If we don’t get that right, we don’t get anything right. That’s how, as a society, we will be judged.”

Indeed, Mr. President. They say that Herod was eager to come and worship the child also. Continue reading “Rachel Will Not Be Comforted By Hypocrisy”