I have six months to reshape my life. I can do this.

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Pale In Comparison

Man, God works in strange ways, eh? Just in the midst of some pondering over how frustrating it is to be in ministry, I got a sobering text message from perhaps the dearest friend I have.

The message was highly personal but it ended with these words: "We need a miracle."

So it is time to pray, again. Time to lift up these souls to the Father. Which means lifting them up out of my personal crap. My family junk. My job frustrations. My lack of motivation to really do anything today. All that is shallow compared to the depth of pain my friends are feeling. So it really isn't that hard to reach up out of the shallow end of hurt, especially when I have finally gotten a glance at how far down the deep end goes.

Lord, I don't know what you think a miracle is. I don't know what your plans are. But I know that you have a clearer vision. Bil was right. The King James version of 1 Cor. 13 is beautiful. Where you have sightlines from eternity, we see through a glass, darkly. Today the glass seems darker, murkier than yesterday. I swing out into faith hanging precariously to the rest of that verse - soon I will be face to face and have the answers. Somehow that has to comfort me, it has to mend the cracks that are fracturing a soul. Knowing now only in part has to be enough, as long as the part I know now is that God holds my friends closer to his heart than I hold to mine.

So, I look through the glass, darkly. I pray and think and wonder and regret and hope all at the same time. Faith is so simple while at the same time it is so intense and difficult. Such a wonderful and terrible mystery. C.S. Lewis was right. Jesus is dangerous. Good, yes. But dangerous too. I forget that too often. Miracles can be scary when they come from a dangerous Savior. But they are always good. And then the glass gets too dark, the only thing to do is close your eyes and wait. Soon enough the miracle will come. And most of the time it never looks like we want it to look.

Thursday, December 22, 2005

Not Prepared for THAT

I just read a report by one of my oldest friends. He and his wife were prepared to bring a new face into their homes and open their lives up to a precious one who needed a fair amount of love, time and attention.

They were ready, willing, able and anxious. And then it sort of fell apart. Bureaucratic red tape just sucks golf balls through garden hoses. What took them months of preparing, writing and praying literally fell apart in a matter of days. Only in America.

And my thoughts also rest on Ty. Yesterday would have been his 16th birthday. This is his mom's first Christmas without him. Of course she is still dealing with those grief echoes. I love hearing people tell me how to work through grief. Like there is a 14 step guide to dealing with grief (maybe Rick Warren can find forty unrelated verses taken out of context about grief, mourning, death, life, heaven, grace and mercy and write the latest trend-setting book about purpose-driven grieving). Many of my teenagers are also dealing with with Ty's empty chair right now as well.

And I think about Bone's group out there in Owasso, dealing with the death of a friend. After thinking about these things, I remembered someone talking on some talk show about how the American way of life does not teach us to deal with death, loss and grief at all. Those are three things that are in total opposition to what we as American's strive for. We are never really taught how to handle loss. We are never really exposed to those death, gut-wrenching, stomach-punches to our souls. The real problem is that nobody even tries. We can't so we don't.

I wonder if back in the times when people wrote on scrolls and not online if they had these same problems. Death was probably so common to them. Loss and hurt, frequent. I am sure they had a better grasp on it then we do. Then I do.

The worst part of my thinking: the only way to get better at it, to get a handle on it, is to go through it. So as I look at my ailing grandmother who may not make it to a new year, I remember back to holding her hand as she cried over my dad's (her son's) casket. That is sobering. To hear your grandmother tell you how you shouldn't be able to outlive your children. And I think about Korey's honesty to look God square in the eyes as he burns with a rage and a frustration that I have never really felt. And I know God honors our honesty. I know God walks with us.

But to quote Calvin (the boy with the stuffed tiger not the reformer) "either death is mean or it's arbitrary." So God, remind me that loss and hurt and pain and grief and tears are not arbitrary. Help me think that it is just not "my turn at mourny-go-round." Be with Korey as he bears his wounded soul when he comes into your throne-room. I would have already worn out my welcome there if I was in his shoes. I can barely handle a simple drive down I-30, let alone dealing with the anchors weighing his soul down. My heart flies its flag at half mast for him.

Give us rest. Give us peace. And an answer would be great every once in a while too. Boy, would an answer be nice.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Upcoming Lists...

I have been mulling the prospects of posting more lists. I like that list thing. So I am working on some other lists. They are:
- coolest men named Harold I have ever known
- five most important people in pop (rock) music history
- acts who should be in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame
- things that bother me about the Relgious Right
- coolest names of God

Those are some things I am mulling. The Harold List is almost done and I am really enjoying thinking about the most important people to pop/rock music. The rest is sort of floating around. Have a great Christmas. More updates to come after we find out some things about the family. Is mom crazy? Is grandma going to make it to New Year's Eve? This and more. Soon.

Monday, December 19, 2005

The First List

I LOVE lists. I like to think about how I would rank things. And since it is almost Christmas and this new blog DESERVES a list, here are the ten best Christmas songs ever. But first...

...let's talk the importance of Christmas music. Sure it is mostly goofy, older pap but it encourages me. It is the one time of the year that people allow music from another time, another generation, to be played on the airwaves. I don't have to hear that crappy, programmed music targeted for the reality-tv generation. I get a few weeks of Bing, Gene, Burl, Johnny, Dean, Frank, Brenda and Tony.

So to the ten best. I will do my best with my limited collection and knowledge to give you who I think recorded the DEFINITIVE version. In some cases that could be the original. In others it will be a cover. If it IS a cover, I will try and give you who recorded the first version. If it is the original I will try to give you my favorite cover of the song. And remember, this is my list. You disagree? Let me know. And then make your own list.

10. "Santa Looked a Lot Like Daddy" - by Buck Owens. What? Who has ever heard this song? It is my favorite song based on that catching-daddy-dressed-as-Santa theme. Sure, you are used to the tired verson catching mommy acting less than lady-like. But I prefer to think that not everyone's mother would give it up to a jolly old man in a sleigh.
Notable Covers: I don't think that anyone has ever really covered this one. But they should.

9. "Nuttin' For Christmas" - by Stan Freberg (with Dawes Butler). I am sure you have heard the more watered down, less humorous version by _________(fill in the blank). But this version is superb. Freberg plays the troubled tike in a way that the Brits would call "perfec." You will recognize the voice because Stan voiced many 50's cartoon shorts for various studios, most notably for the Warner's Loony Tunes/Merry Melodies line. But the kid not being able to hold the "sooooooooo" long enough for the backup singers to spell him into the chorus, the kid swallowing to get a breath because the pacing of the song is so fast, the fact he is in-cahoots with the cat burglar at the end of the song all work together to make the best novelty Christmas song. Avoid songs about stoned out grandparents being mauled on Christmas Eve and enjoy this timeless Freberg classic.
Notable Covers: This is a cover, to be sure. I have NO idea who has covered it, although every grade school music teacher has had some precocious, toothless rowdy belt it out every December.

8. "The Christmas Song" - by Nat King Cole. Everyone has heard it. Everyone loves it. I love it too. I don't think it is the best Xmas song ever. Cole does give the seminal and definitive performance of it though. But every diva who has churned out a Christmas album has included this song.
The Original: Mel Torme wrote this song, so I am assuming his original lies around somewhere. But Cole made this song his own. A classic.

7. "Frosty the Snowman" - by Harry Connick, Jr. Okay, this song sung by Harry on his second Christmas album (both of which are the greatest Christmas albums of all time ranking up there higher than the Beach Boys Christmas album) called Harry for the Holidays is amazing. That New Orleans brass literally slaps your face off to start the song and brings a bounce to this song that really grooves. There are hundreds and hundreds of versions of Frosty. This is the best. By far.
Other Great Covers: Burl Ives did a nice one. Gene Autry as well. But other than Harry's version, the best version of Frosty is one from the 80's by Dr. John and Leon Redbone. I dig it too.

6. "Wonderful Christmastime" by Paul McCartney. I think this came on the London Town album. Macca brings a memorable Christmas tune. It is happy. Lively. Loaded with synth beats. I list it this high because I am a HUGE Macca fan. Three of the four Beatles recorded some holiday songs. This is one of two recorded by Macca ("Rudolph the Red-nosed Reggae" is the other) and the superior Christmas offering. It is fluffy and froo froo. But I still love it.
Covers: There are a few out there. None that really work, though.

5. "Rockin' Around the Christmas Tree" - by Brenda Lee. Great song. I have always liked it. Lil Brenda Lee is a Christmas must each year. And I am always surprised at how many teenagers love this version too.
Great Covers: I have heard a lot of good ones. My favorite cover is Brian Setzer's version.

4. "Little Saint Nick" - by the Beach Boys. Their Christmas album is underrated. I think it is one of the three best ever. I love most of the songs on there. But this is the one we all know. And for good reason. It is a great song. Brian Wilson is a genius. Mike Love is perhaps the second-most opportunistic performer in pop music history. Only one other person has been luckier and ridden someone's coattails into history more effectively.
Great Cover: The best cover is by none other than Dr. Teeth and the Electric Mayhem. Yes. Muppets. Animal brings it home.

3. "Happy Xmas (War is Over)" - by John & Yoko and The Plastic Ono Band. John Lennon sings a Christmas protest song. That first line "And so this is Christmas..." is just a classic. A great contemplative look at life, living, war and Christmas. Remember what I said about Mike Love? Here is #1 on the Golden Coattailers List: Yoko Ono. Never has someone's last name been so apt a decsription. What do you say when you find out a Yoko song is playing? Oh no. EDIT: I had more to say here. But someone pointed out that a youth minister should not have said that someone should have been shot. So I certainly do not want to offend someone's delicate sensibilities. I will withdraw the offensive statement and get back to playing ping pong, learning how to play "Over the Mountains and the Seas" on guitar and learning more wacky games you can play with marshmellows. Excuse me.

2. "Blue Christmas" - by Elvis Presley. Everyone's favorite. Elvis proved he was still the man by bringing this song exactly what it needed; that sort of depressed moan. Every cover since cover's THIS version, not Ernest Tubb's original. When you sing this, you copy Elvis. You do not try something original. You copy the King. For good reason. Great song.

1. "White Christmas" - by Clyde McPhatter and the Drifters. What? Where is the Binger's version? Certainly HIS is the best version? Not so fast, Mr. Morimoto. Even though the Drifters lineup probably changed three times during the recording sessions that brought us their version of WC, absolutely NOBODY can replace Clyde McPhatter. His voice is golden. Taken too soon, to be sure. This version is the greatest Christmas song ever. The Drifters float us into the song. They ease into Clyde's moaning and moving vocals. Has there been a better doo-wop, black vocal group lead than Clyde? Sure eventual Drifter Ben E. King was good. The Orioles' Sonny Til is amazing. Earl "Speedo" Carroll (The Cadillacs) is wonderful too. Johnny Maestro (The Crests), Dion (The Belmonts), Maurice Williams (The Gladiolas, The Zodiacs), Sollie McElroy (The Flamingos), Nate Nelson (The Flamingos), Bobby Lester (The Moonglows), Harvey Fuqua (The Moonglows), Frankie Lymon (The Teenagers), Little Anthony (The Imperials) were all great. But there was no Clyde. His tenor soars. You can hear his heart break in each song. Great. The best ever. Agree?