Keep the CHRIST in Christmas

MERRY (early) CHRISTMAS!!! This will be my last blog for the year 2014 and I wanted to leave you with a simple message. Keep the Christ in Christmas. With the commercialization of Christmas, it’s easy to get caught in the superficiality of Christmas and totally miss the substance. Three examples of things that I’ve noticed in the last couple of weeks leading up to this Christmas are as follows:

1) Of course we know about the Christmas sales at your local retail store, but the lengths that they are going to to get your hard earned money is staggering. I brought a Christmas gift for my wife and apparently earned $15 of store credit that I could only use in the store between a Tuesday and a Thursday on a given week (which didn’t benefit me AT ALL since I get paid—much like everybody else—on Friday’s).

2) On my local radio stations, I KNOW I’ve heard more Christmas songs (or at least Christmas-based songs) on the non-Gospel, light music radio station than I do on the ACTUAL Gospel station. Christmas has the word CHRIST in it and, logically, the Christian’s on the Gospel station should be playing some sort of Jesus-based Christmas songs for the holiday season. Definitely something wrong with that.

3) As I was watching TV the other day, I saw a commercial for a new movie coming out at the top of January titled “The Woman In Black 2 Angels of Death” and I was like “Seriously? You’re going to put a horror movie out RIGHT AFTER CHRISTMAS???” Definitely something wrong with that too.

So what does all of this mean? When we remove Christ from Christmas, all we have is time off from work with no real significance. Therefore I urge you to take a little time out and say “HAPPY BIRTHDAY JESUS!” Put yourself in Jesus’ shoe for a second. What if every time your birthday came around, people gave gifts to everyone else EXCEPT YOU? How would you feel?

Bottom line, keep the Christ in Christmas! Why? Because there ain’t no Santa Claus coming down your chimney tonight.

Better yet, you should hear the “No Santa” musical message from YPJ (Youth Pastor J) and FVC.

MERRY CHRISTMAS AND HAPPY NEW YEAR!!! More blogs to come in early 2015!!! Stay tuned…


“Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” Analyzed

My regular day-to-day, 9-to-5 job is data analysis. This skill has helped me immensely especially when it comes to writing these blogs. Therefore, I thought I would pull on that skill once again to do a real world analysis of one of our most beloved Santa Clause-based songs, “Rudolph The Red Nosed Reindeer”. If you don’t know the song, check it out here (as sung by one of my favorite groups “The Temptations”):

So now let’s analyze this stanza by stanza.

Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer
Had a very shiny nose
And if you ever saw it
You would even say it glow

If I ever saw this phenomenon, I probably would say that it glows… but I’m sure I wouldn’t JUST say that it glows, I’d probably be yelling to everyone and anyone who would listen that I saw a mutant reindeer with a red glowing radioactive nose.

All of the other reindeer
Used to laugh and call him names
They never let poor Rudolph
Join in any reindeer games

So basically, the other reindeer were jerks to poor Rudolph with the red glowing radioactive nose. I would almost ask the question “What grade are we in?” but then again we are talking about reindeer… who aren’t human… and don’t go to school…

Then one foggy Christmas Eve
Santa came to say
“Rudolph with your nose so bright
Won’t you guide my sleigh tonight?”

It’s funny how Santa was never mentioned as keeping order when the other reindeer were laughing and calling young Rudolph names… but I digress. It seems that, at this point, there was an impossible situation happening that could only be solved by making the most hated of the reindeer group the leader of those who hated him.

Additionally, being that Santa asked a question, shouldn’t that line be “Then one foggy Christmas Eve, Santa came to ASK”???

Then all the reindeer loved him
As they shouted out with glee
Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer
You’ll go down in history

First and foremost, reindeer are not only jerks, but they’re superficial jerks. They hated Rudolph for his disability, then all of a sudden they loved him when they figured that he could provide a service to them. Moral of the story, fake friends have no problem using YOUR talents for their benefit. Get some REAL friends.

Also notice that Santa asked the question “Won’t you guide my sleigh tonight?”, but it never mentions whether or not Rudolph answered “Yes”. We automatically assume that Rudolph said “yes”, because of the gleeful reaction of the other reindeer… but I theoretically submit to you that:

  1. Perhaps Rudolph didn’t say “yes” and the other reindeer were happy that Rudolph wasn’t leading them ANYWHERE with that radioactive bio-hazard snout of his.
  2. Perhaps Rudolph didn’t say “yes” and the other reindeer were happy that Rudolph stood up to Santa Claus… who could have been the tyrant of the North Pole region (and we just didn’t know it).
  3. Perhaps Rudolph didn’t say “yes” because REINDEER DON’T TALK. Ergo, Rudolph wouldn’t have answered Santa in the first place.

Either way, those three reasons are a pretty good reason to go down in history.

(after all… we still sing this song to this day… pretty historical to me)

DISCLAIMER: As a Christian, I don’t believe in Santa Claus as the figure that shows up magically and does magical things once a year. I DO, however, believe in Nikolaos of Myra, who actually did live in what is now modern day Turkey and had a reputation for secret gift giving.

Want to learn more, check out the full story here:

Tastes Like Musical Chicken

I don’t know if I’m getting older or what, but the more and more I hear Christmas music (which is only one month out of the year), it seems to be homogenizing into this Hip-Hop/R&B/Pop musical fruitcake. With the exception of those Christmas classics from decades past (think Burl Ives, Jose Feliciano, Nat King Cole, and the like), it seems that Christmas music is not quite Christmas-y enough.

For example, I heard “Oh Holy Night” this week. I know this song from the hymn book and have played it numerous times. This version, however, was the Kelly Clarkson/American Idol version and I was like “WHY ARE THEY MAKING THE BIRTH OF JESUS ALL SULTRY???” Singing a Jesus-related Christmas song with the phone-sex operator voice is NOT a good match.

Therefore, I am putting my foot down and making an official statement:

(It just ain’t right)

Unless you’re Isaac Hayes singing “Mistletoe and Me”. THAT is the only exception.

Time to L.E.A.R.N.!

TODAY’S CLIP: In keeping with this weeks “three generations” theory, I wanted today’s musical post to encourage you to continue to work. The scripture in Philippians 4:13 says that you can do ALL things through Christ that strengthens you. Therein lies today’s song title, “I Can Do All Things Through Christ”. As far as I can tell, the original was done by Dr. Mattie Moss Clark. If someone out there in Blogland knows of an earlier version, let me know in the comments section. I love this video because it’s a big, old school choir led by Dr. Clark with “Twinkie” Clark on the organ… and then Bishop G.E. Patterson gets up at the end. What a combination. This version tickles my Baptist ear. Check it out and be encouraged… old school style!


I was originally introduced to this song through the remix by Earnest Pugh featuring Bishop Rance Allen. It’s lyrically the same repackaged in a neo-soul-ish music style. This version tickles my musical ear. Check it out and enjoy… new school style!

(Just so you know where I stand, I don’t agree with the “D’Angelo anointing” line in the beginning JUST because it stylistically follows a similar “D’Angelo” style. It’s God’s music and the message of the song is powerful enough. Does it really need a label beyond that??? I’m just sayin’. Anyway… enjoy…)

As a musician, 90% of what you do is listening. Music is too much of a universal language to get stuck on one dialect. Therefore, today’s blog is dedicated specifically for you to LISTEN (to the clip provided), EXPAND (your thinking on music in a way that you may not have considered before), AND ROCK NOW (with more musical knowledge added to your repertoire)!

DISCLAIMER: I do not own the rights to this song. The videos included in this blog are only intended to bring musical awareness to the reader.

From Rags to Riches… To Rags Again [Part 2/2]

What would happen if we hold the “three generations theory” up to Biblical illumination? Let’s find out. The main thing to remember as we dissect this theory to find out what the Bible says about it is to whittle the three parts down into a “researchable chunk”. Let’s take the first part of the theory:

THEORY (1/3): The FIRST generation works hard to achieve wealth.

A slack hand causes poverty, but the hand of the diligent makes rich. -Proverbs 10:4 (ESV)

The English Standard Version (ESV) says this verse so pretty. Check out the New Living Translation version.

Lazy people are soon poor; hard workers get rich. -Proverbs 10:4 (NLT)

So this verse is pretty straight forward. Do nothing, get nothing. Do something, get something. The FIRST generation has this concept of “hard workers get rich” and this is where our “three generations theory” cycle begins.

THEORY (2/3): The SECOND generation reaps the benefits of the first generation, but loses the work ethic.

For simpletons turn away from me—to death. Fools are destroyed by their own complacency. -Proverbs 1:32 (NLT)

But I have this complaint against you. You don’t love me or each other as you did at first! -Revelation 2:4 (NLT)

The Proverbs scripture is another one of those straight forward and to the point thoughts, but I don’t want you to miss the Revelation scripture. Let’s read it in context (and pay careful attention to how it fits in with SECOND generation complacency):

“Write this letter to the angel of the church in Ephesus. This is the message from the one who holds the seven stars in his right hand, the one who walks among the seven gold lampstands:

“I know all the things you do. I have seen your hard work and your patient endurance. I know you don’t tolerate evil people. You have examined the claims of those who say they are apostles but are not. You have discovered they are liars. You have patiently suffered for me without quitting.

“But I have this complaint against you. You don’t love me or each other as you did at first! Look how far you have fallen! Turn back to me and do the works you did at first. If you don’t repent, I will come and remove your lampstand from its place among the churches. But this is in your favor: You hate the evil deeds of the Nicolaitans, just as I do.

“Anyone with ears to hear must listen to the Spirit and understand what he is saying to the churches. To everyone who is victorious I will give fruit from the tree of life in the paradise of God.

-Revelation 2:1-7 (NLT)

Doesn’t this letter sound like it’s written to a church that “gets it” BUT could lose it because their love at the beginning has, over time, decreased. “You don’t love me or each other as you did at first!” is a hard pill to swallow, but in this passage there is a way to get back to where things need to be: “Turn back to me and do the works you did at first.”

So, in essence, the SECOND generation is a DECISIONAL generation. They could never do what the FIRST generation did as far as “establishing a vision”, but if they don’t maintain the love and zeal that the FIRST generation had, that will lead to the “destruction of the original vision” in the THIRD generation.

THEORY (3/3): The THIRD generation squaders, spends, consumes the wealth with no concept of working for it.

Lazy people are soon poor; hard workers get rich. -Proverbs 10:4 (NLT)

So we’re back at the Proverbs 10:4 scripture yet again because it is one of those complete thoughts. Do nothing, get nothing. Do something, get something. The unfortunate part about THIRD generation mentality is that if they consume all of the FIRST generation money, they’ll have to go to “Part the First”… WORK (and more than likely, not work that their family originally established… just working a 9-5). For a generation that doesn’t understand WORK or “the value of a dollar”, that’s going to be a very rude wake up call.

So what is our ultimate conclusion here? In three generations any wealth that has been acquired can be lost. The Bible backs that up. So what are we to do? Perhaps if we were to visualize it, we could think of it like this:


The bottom line is simply this: KEEP WORKING. If you’re working to establish a vision KEEP WORKING. If you’re working to maintain a vision KEEP WORKING. Even if you haven’t achieved all of your goals KEEP WORKING. As long as you you’re working, God can continue to work through you. When you get complacent or give up is when you run into THIRD generation trouble.

On a personal note, it’s interesting that most of the verses related to the “three generations theory” are found in Proverbs, the Biblical book of wisdom. What that tells me, in addition to everything that’s already been mentioned, is that a wise man continues to work hard and a fool lets it all fall apart.

Don’t be foolish.

From Rags to Riches… To Rags Again [Part 1/2]

I know it’s December and I promise to get to the ooey gooey Christmas bloggy goodness, but this has been on my mind recently and I decided to do a little research on it. I either read or heard a while back that “the third generation loses what the first generation worked so hard to build”. Couldn’t tell you where I read or heard it, but it stuck out in my mind so much that I had to research it and check it for myself to see if there was any validity to it.

So I started with a simple search that went like this:

“1st generation works, 2nd generation maintains, 3rd generation is spoiled”

That lead me to and an article written by Douglas Tong titled “From the Teacher’s Corner 24: Three Generations”. There Mr. Tong explains the very thing I’ve been looking for in great detail.

For the full article, please go to:

The actual proverb is a Chinese proverb that says:

Fu bu guo san dai
Translated: “Wealth does not pass three generations”

(I don’t speak Chinese so I sure hope that’s what it translates to…)

That has been transliterated into numerous cultures each placing their own spin on it. For example:

“Shirtsleeves to shirtsleeves in three generations”
“Rags to riches to rags in three generations”
“Clogs to clogs”
“Kimono to Kimono”
“Rice paddy to rice paddy”

You get the picture. The general theory of these sayings go like this:

The FIRST generation:

Works hard to achieve wealth.

The SECOND generation:

Reaps the benefits of the first generation, but loses the work ethic.

The THIRD generation:

Squaders, spends, consumes the wealth with no concept of working for it.

Pretty clear cut, right? Not to mention a pretty vicious cycle (if you find yourself on the wrong side of this cycle). This “three generations theory” is well known around the world and throughout time. From my research, it looks like it’s been the underlying cause of the destruction of families, businesses, kingdoms, and empires.

But what might we find if we hold this theory up to Biblical illumination?

5 Things I’m Not So Fond Of About Thanksgiving

As we all know, Thanksgiving was this last past Thursday. Amid the turkeys, gravies, stuffings, various side dishes and desserts, I took a lot of observations. Usually I’m pretty observant, but, knowing that I have to write a blog, I try to kick my observations up a notch (so I’ll have something to write about). Therefore, I’d like to share with you “5 Things I’m Not So Fond Of About Thanksgiving” (in order of “this bugs me” to “this makes me pull my hair out of my head”).

Are you ready for the countdown?… Let’s go!

#5 – The Guilt… Oh The Guilt

So Thanksgiving is one of those days where you eat, eat, eat, and eat some more. Because you don’t get that level, quality, or capacity of food on a regular basis, it leads to overeating. Overeating leads to tummy aches. Tummy aches lead to remorse. Remorse leads to (drumroll please) GUILT!

(Oh yeah… I definitely felt guilty last week.)

#4 – Traveling

Not that any of you out there in blog land would know this, but I travel a lot. Everything from the morning commute back and forth to work, the weekly commute back and forth to church, or to the many places where I teach music (which can vary depending on the time of year). Needless to say, I travel all the time, but there’s just something about traveling when I should be resting that’s just… uncivilized.

#3 – Traveling with Non-Drivers

So to add to all of this, there’s nothing worse than traveling on the road with non-drivers (or, as my parents like to say, drivers who got their driver’s licenses from JCPenney). They either drive too slow, incoherently, or don’t think ahead (making them cross over 3-4 interstate lanes to get to an exit). Lord have mercy!

#2 – Traveling with Non-Drivers Who Have Nice Cars

So this is a new pet peeve of mine, but it’s creeped up my “Not So Fond Of” list pretty quickly. In #3 I mentioned drivers that drive too slow. Well add to that those same drivers are in cars that are KNOWN to “run”. For example, WHY OH WHY are you driving a (take your pick):

Any vehicle with a V8 (or even V6) engine
Any vehicle with a Hemi
(add additional fast cars here)

…and going 10 UNDER the speed limit? Anytime I can pass you in my aging vehicle as you plunk along make me… impatient.

#1 – The Commercialization of the Holy Days

Did you know that the etymology behind the word “Holiday” comes from the combination of “Holy Day”? Even if you didn’t know that, Thanksgiving is a day set aside to give (drumroll yet again…) THANKS. Therefore, it’s hard for me to watch the commercialization of Thanksgiving and the even greater offense of the commercialization of Christmas (but that’s a blog for another time). Black Friday, Cyber Monday, and I recently learned about Small Business Saturday. Ultimately three days to help you skip the entire point that if it weren’t for Thanksgiving Day, none of these “commercial holidays” would even exist. It diminishes the meaning of Thanksgiving because if you think about it, what are you really saying?…

“I am thankful… but as soon as I buy that 99% off TV that I have to fight my fellow family, friends, neighbors, and strangers over I’ll be even MORE thankful.”

5 Things I Absolutely Love About Thanksgiving

As we all know, Thanksgiving was this last past Thursday. Amid the turkeys, gravies, stuffings, various side dishes and desserts, I took a lot of observations. Usually I’m pretty observant, but, knowing that I have to write a blog, I try to kick my observations up a notch (so I’ll have something to write about). Therefore, I’d like to share with you “5 Things I Absolutely Love About Thanksgiving” (in order of pretty important to super important).

Are you ready for the countdown?… Let’s go!

#5 The Christmas Holiday Kickoff

Let’s start here. The timespan between between Thanksgiving Day and Christmas Day is the ONLY time where you can play the same 25 Christmas songs over and over and over again and it’s OK. Any time before that OR after that is OUT OF ORDER. Therefore, let the commence music COMMENCE (but don’t get crazy with it).

#4 The Food

I’m an eater… I’ve been one all my life… I eat everyday… and I would say that I’m pretty good at it… but there’s something about the span between Thanksgiving and New Years that’s just full of awesome dinners. Sure there’s the traditional Turkey, but if you’re from a family like mine, you get copious amounts of all kinds of food AND depending on who’s house you’re visiting, you might even get an adventurous and tasty suprise… or two… or twenty.

#3 Family and Friends

Just because “family and friends” is in the #3 spot DOES NOT, in no way, diminish it’s significance (because once you see what’s in the 3 through 1 spots, you’ll understand). I love my family dearly and because I don’t live closeby, that makes holiday times like these that much more special.

#2 The Fellowship

Why is this different and seperate from #3? Simple. I’ve learned over my lifetime that just because you’re related doesn’t mean that you have to love/like your relatives. Family members can be in the same room and hate each others guts. I’m blessed to say that’s not the case with my lovey dovey ooey gooey family. Fellowship, which to me is being able to have an awesome time laughing, joking, kidding around, eating, and sharing saying what you’re thankful for, is a MAJOR thing I love about Thanksgiving.

#1 The Actual Giving of Thanks

The Bible says that we should give thanks continually (1 Thessalonians 5:16) because it’s God’s will for us in Christ Jesus. That alone is enough for me to end this section, BUT, for me, the actual giving of thanks in a public forum (at least it’s pretty public with my family) gives me the opportunity to tell a lot of people how God has kept me throughout the year and how I’m looking forward to what’s in store. I think that’s awesome!

What are some things that you absolutely loooooooove about Thanksgiving?

Splicing the SACRED with the SECULAR [Part 6/6]: Conclusion

If nothing else, I hope that this blog series has caused you to think about what you do and why you do it. Of course, this is geared towards my fellow church musicians (pianists, organists, keyboardists, etc), but as a little bit of a conclusion, I want to submit this thought:

If you sold vaccuum cleaners, would anybody care about any of this stuff?

The short answer: Probably not.

Fortunately, we’re not talking about vaccuum cleaner sales, we’re talking about soul business through the medium of music. In the first blog of this series, I mentioned that I was guilty of splicing the sacred with the secular. As a musician, it comes with the territory IN THE SENSE THAT you want to put your best foot forward and display your best abilities in any and all musical situations. Sometimes when you’re digging for musical things to do in the middle of a performance, you revert to what’s comfortable (and comfort levels vary from musician to musician).

The turning point for me was when I started really studying my Bible (not to be a preacher or a minister of music or any kind of church official… just to be a better Christian). One thing that I’m continuing to learn is that we are all interconnected on this planet. One person has the ability to affect many, many others either directly or indirectly. Even if you just affect one person, that one person can affect others in what is commonly referred to as “The Butterfly Effect” (where small changes can have astronomical effects; aka Chaos Theory).

I suggest that when it comes to sacred music that you just be conscious of what you’re doing. This is NOT to negate any musical knowledge that you have outside of the church (because real musicians listen to a lot of different styles of music). Sure, you can splice a secular song in and nobody would even know what it is. In fact, in today’s church you would probably get a commendation from the older crowd and a head nod of agreement from your counterparts, but WHAT IF one person was thrown off? WHAT IF one person stumbled because of the music you played? WHAT IF one person turned away from Christ because they heard “the club” in the church? Would that be enough for you to remember the words in 1 Corinthians 8:11?

So because of your superior knowledge, a weak believer for whom Christ died will be destroyed. (NLT)

Is it really THAT serious?

Could you live with yourself if it was THAT serious?

(just a thought)