Tuesday, December 30, 2008


Happy New Year to my blogger friends. I have been reading quite a few retrospectives on 2008 the last couple of days, almost all of which lament the disastrous economy. I work for a bank and believe me, I am tuned in to how bad it is.

I still have many blessings to count, though. We've had some great times at my house over the past week, laughing, playing games (we are a competitive bunch here), eating great food and enjoying this season. As I have stated previously in this space, I am immensely blessed by a wonderful wife and three children who continue to love me "because of and in spite of." I am blown away by these people.

Wife and I have a quiet New Year's Eve planned. We'll get together with two other couples for an early dinner, then play cards for a while. Since I am on "holiday time" I might even make it to midnight. It will be an enjoyable evening and I am thankful for little blessings that times like these provide.

I am thankful to each of you, my faithful blogger friends, listed to the left on my blog page:

Kelly -- my lifelong friend who introduced me to blogging. We share a lifetime of memories and now have this connection. You are a true blessing in my life.

Pam -- Kelly's sister, who I probably met years ago, with whom I have become re-acquainted.
Your devotion to your daughter and your special grandsons, and to those children you have made a part of your life, is inspiring. I long to be as unselfish as you.

Hal -- You bring to life what it's like to be a pilot. I am always excited when I see a new post from you. And wow, what an example of a devoted husband and dad you are.

Bob B. -- Ditto what I said to Hal about learning about the life of a pilot. You possess a wit and a zest for life that comes through in everything you write. Your post about BILLY MAYS is still my favorite.

Michael --The wisdom you have at your age is nothing short of amazing. I am educated and challenged each time I read something you have written.

Quid -- We don't agree on politics but we share a love of reading and writing. I appreciate your consistent wit and wisdom. Still waiting to hear about the cat phobia thing.

Debby -- If I had the authority to give a "Blog of the Year" award, it would go to you. Your unfolding story about your battle with cancer -- and your humor, candor, optimism and faith in the midst of it -- is always an upper.

So, a big "Cheers" to you, good friends, as we close out this year. Best wishes for a happy and healthy 2009. I look forward to our continued friendship.

Friday, December 26, 2008

The Year in Review in Books

As of today I have read 27 books in 2008, which is an average of two and a quarter books per month. I don’t set any goals of how many I will read and, obviously, they are of varying lengths and I have more time to read during some periods than others. So there is nothing scientific about my reading and recordkeeping. I just like to keep track and it helps when I am asked for recommendations. I also like to look back and see what kind of trends I am seeing in myself as to my preferences. (I started my Shelfari bookshelf in the left margin of my blog midway through the year, on which I now list every book I read. It does not, however, include every book from 2008 and the first seven are ones I had read previously).

The definite trend this year was toward nonfiction. Of the 27 books I read, only ten were fiction. I also read a lot of sports books this year. No particular reason other than they were gifts or recommendations and I do like sports.

For this post I set out to do a Top Ten List, but it has ended up being a Top Dozen instead. Here they are in no particular order, i.e. there is no favorite of the favorites:

1. Joshua, by Joseph Girzone. This is the first of a series of several about a man named Joshua who is a modern day incarnation of Christ. The author is a Catholic Priest. I loved the very personal human/divine element that Girzone gives the main character. The resounding themes of unconditional love and grace capture the essence of Christ’s divine nature but the Joshua character is as human as I am. I plan to read more of the series next year.

2. The Blind Side, by Michael Lewis. The best sports book I read this year, Lewis tells the poignant story of Michael Oher, a 350-plus pound African American boy who was taken in as a teenager off the streets (literally) of Memphis, Tennessee by a wealthy white family who sent him to a private Christian high school and eventually adopted him. Oher, who had never played football, became a star left tackle on his school’s team and was sought after by major colleges nationwide before eventually settling on Ole Miss, alma mater of his adoptive parents. (Now in his senior year, he is All American and will be a top NFL draft pick). As a parallel to the Oher story, the author traces the development of the left tackle position, the quarterback’s “blind side,” from whence comes the book’s title. If you are a football fan, I can almost guarantee that you will love this book. If you are not, and you can get past all the football stuff, you will love the story of Michael Oher and the family that helped change his life.

3. Bringing Down the House, by Ben Mezrich. The inspiration behind the movie Twenty-One, this is the story of a group of MIT students who made millions, legally, from counting cards in casinos in Vegas, Atlantic City and smaller gaming venues around the country. I am not a gambler and have never set foot in a casino but this book was nothing short of fascinating for me. In addition to the in-depth explanation of card counting (much of which, I admit, went way over my head) and the methods the casino bosses use to weed out the big winners, Mezrich gets inside the mind of the main character who was originally talked into playing, then became addicted to, the game of Blackjack. I enjoyed the movie too, but as is so often the case, there were liberties taken that were not true to the book’s storyline. I highly recommend reading the book then renting the movie.

4. Freakonomics, by Stephen D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner. The subtitle to this amazing book is “A Rogue Economist Explores the Hidden Side of Everything.” An outgrowth of a New York Times profile on Levitt, an economist and college professor, that was written by Dubner, the two joined forces to create this work which now has somewhat of a cult following. I hardly even know how to describe it other than to tell you it is about much more than economics and is very much about weird theories that seem to make perfect sense when you read about them. Levitt proudly admits there is no unifying theme, but yet, some unknown force seems to pull it all together. I loved this.

5. God’s Politics: Why the Religious Right Gets it Wrong and the Left Doesn’t Get It, by Jim Wallis. Wallis, founder of the Sojourners organization and magazine of the same name, has made much of his life’s calling providing an alternative to – if not a resounding criticism of – the so called Religious Right. He calls Christians to a high standard of standing for justice and peace for all. He pulls no punches as he highlights his differences with some modern Evangelicals but pleads for common ground. Although I do not concur with all of his views, I found myself agreeing with many of his frustrations with the likes of Falwell, Robertson and Dobson. But he is equally critical of the extremists who want to take God out of every facet of public life. He demonstrates great personal humility and recounts with great regret a media battle years ago with Campus Crusade for Christ Founder Bill Bright. The two eventually reconciled in what few could deny was a series of divine appointments. For me, Wallis confirmed once again that God’s Kingdom is quite diverse and I should be very careful about judging who does and does not reside there. (As an aside, I also read The Woman Behind the Collar by Wallis’s wife, Joy Carroll Wallis, an Anglican Priest from England. I enjoyed it enough, but was put off by her contrasts between American and British life in which she often took critical and defensive positions. It was an interesting read, but definitely not in my Top Dozen).

6. Surprised by Joy, by C.S. Lewis. I am a longtime C. S. Lewis fan and he ranks among the few writers whose works I will read over an over. In this largely autobiographical work he conveys genuine testimony without being preachy. Although a noted apologist, he shows here how simple faith truly is a belief in things unseen. Says Lewis, “Joy must have the stab, the pang, the inconsolable longing” -- words I can neither read nor write without feeling chill bumps. I think I’ll go read this again.

7. When We Get to Surf City, by Bob Greene. Greene, with whom I began an infrequent and unlikely e-mail relationship after reading one of his prior books (he actually responded when I wrote and now e-mails me when he has a new one coming out), pens a great story about traveling with the sixties duo Jan and Dean. It’s a fun and interesting look into rock and roll and the author’s dream come true of playing in a real band.

8. Lou Holtz: Wins, Losses and Lessons, by Lou Holtz. An autobiographical piece that mixes Holtz’s philosophy of life with his trademark self-deprecating humor, this is a real upper. I know Holtz has his detractors but I am not among them. Holtz has great things to say about overcoming adversity and achieving lofty, unrealistic goals while adhering to old fashioned principles like integrity. You don’t have to be a sports fan to enjoy this one and to appreciate Lou Holtz’s unique gift as a communicator.

9. Miracle at Speedy Motors, by Alexander McCall Smith. This is the eighth in the “Number One Ladies Detective Agency” series, each of which has been equally fresh, funny and insightful and each of which I have gleefully devoured. When I read the first of these, I had hardly heard of Botswana. Now I long to go. If the people there are as endearing as the characters Smith has created, it’s got to be a remarkable place. If you like light hearted, feel-good fiction that is extremely well written and not the least bit sappy or repetitive, and you have not started this series, you are in for a treat. And I am jealous.

10. Mudbound, by Hillary Jordan. Jordan’s first novel, set in 1946 in the Mississippi Delta, tells the story of a young woman from Memphis who follows her husband to a farm and struggles to raise daughters in an environment clearly not her natural habitat. Told from the points of view of different characters in alternating chapters, a compelling story develops with recurring themes of racism, cruelty and misconceptions typical of the era.

11. The Shack, by William Young. I struggled with whether I should list this among my favorites of the year. I am always skeptical of the “latest and greatest” in Christian circles and thus for many months resisted picking this up. But the more I read and heard about the author (a missionary child who set out to do nothing more than put something in writing for his family), and the more I heard from friends and family who had read the book (with differing reactions), the more curious I became, and finally gave in. In spite of my skepticism, I enjoyed this a great deal and found the message of hope highly compelling. At the same time, I struggled some with the metaphorical account of the Holy Trinity. But, with all objectivity, this was a page turner for me and I would highly recommend it for believers and non-believers alike. It is quite a story.

12. West with the Night, by Beryl Markham. As I write this I am still a few pages short of completing this memoir by a remarkable English-born woman who grew up in and lived most of her life on the African continent, mainly Nairobi, Kenya. Markham, who was born in 1902 and died in 1986, first published this work, her only book, in 1942 and it was not well received. It was, however, re-published in 1982 after someone found an obscure review written by none other than Ernest Hemingway, in which he praised Markham’s prose and lamented the fact that he would never write as well as she. This has not been one of those “I can’t put this down” types of books for me. In fact, it is only about 300 pages long and it has taken me almost a month to read it. But I would not think of not completing it. As I read the story of this rogue farmer-turned-horse-trainer-turned-pilot, I am fully aware that I am reading beautifully written narrative that is totally worth the effort.


Post Script: On my list for 2009 (would appreciate hearing from those who have read any of these and would welcome other recommendations):

-- Two Cups of Tea, by Greg Mortenson and Oliver Redin.
-- Transplant, by Bill Frist.
-- The Maltese Falcon, by Dash Hammett (can’t believe I’ve never read this).
-- More in the Joshua series by Joseph Girzone.
Post Script 2: Can't decide if I'll go see the movie Marley and Me, which opened yesterday, or not. I loved the book and am afraid it won't do it justice. Anyone seen it yet?

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Christmas Thoughts

Merry Christmas to all. Some random thoughts on Christmas Eve:

-- Wife and I are celebrating our 25th Christmas together as husband and wife. Our first Christmas we were still very tied to our respective families' traditions. We went to church with her parents on Christmas Eve, then had dinner, opened gifts and spent the night with them (even though we lived in the same town). We got up at 6 a.m. and drove to South Arkansas in time for breakfast with my folks. After the day there with them and my brother and his family we drove back to Little Rock for turkey sandwiches with Wife's parents. It was exhausting.

-- Our second Christmas, Wife was pregnant with our first child. We thought she was going into labor Christmas Eve and even went so far as to pack a bag before going to church. HA! The pains subsided and exactly one month later, three weeks past her due date, she delivered Daniel via Caesarean section. He was in no hurry whatsoever.

-- One memorable Christmas was 1988 when our daughter was about seven weeks old. On the afternoon of December 23rd she would not stop crying, which was not uncommon with our colicky babies, but Wife and I could both tell it was more than just the normal fussiness. Wife took her to the pediatrician and within a couple of hours she was in the hospital and that's where we spent Christmas that year. We tag-teamed staying in the hospital with her and spending time with her older brother at home. Turned out she had a little problem with her immune system and two more hospitalizations followed over the next few months. Everything eventually kicked in, though, and she's stunningly beautiful and healthy today.

-- The first Christmas after losing my mom was a sad one. She died in October 1996, two weeks after her and my dad's 50th anniversary. Dad was lost without her and decided to just stay home and get through it on Christmas Day. My brother and I said we would come with our families and put up a tree as we had always done but he would not hear of it. We respected his wishes and I called him Christmas morning. He was OK and had decided he would go to lunch at my brother's house. We all got through it and it was fine, but ever since then I have had a very keen awareness of those who are hurting at Christmastime. It's not always happy for everyone.

-- I lost Dad in January of 2006, less than two weeks after he had, at 83 years old, made the 8-hour drive to Nashville to spend Christmas with us. He was not always an easy guest but we really had a good time that year and I'll always be thankful for that Christmas with him. I think a lot of both of my parents at Christmas. I still miss them, but it really is true that good memories comfort you. I am very thankful that Wife's parents, both of whom turned 80 this year, both still join us for Christmas.

-- I love Christmas but I tire of the gift-giving. I enjoy giving special gifts when I want to, but I do not have the "gift" of giving and any type of shopping stresses me out. I also do not receive gifts well and am painfully embarrassed opening gifts in front of people. I realize this is a character deficiency and after years of discussions with Wife about this, I have made some progress. But I still don't like it very much.

-- I don't get all worked up over the "Merry Christmas" vs. "Happy Holidays" vs. "Season's Greetings" stuff. Political correctness drives me insane and why it bothers anybody for someone to wish them a Merry Christmas is beyond me, but hey, I won't say it to them if it bothers them. Wish me a Merry Christmas, a Happy Hannukah, Happy Holidays or anything of the sort and I'm just fine. As Christians we do in fact celebrate the birth of Christ at this time of year and noone can take that away from us, so, as I said, I am not getting too excited over all of this. Many of the traditions around the Christmas celebration actually are derived from the old pagan celebration of the Winter Solstice and if I remember the facts correctly, that's how bringing a tree and other greenery inside got started. I know that in all likelihood Jesus was not born in December but I still think it's very appropriate that we make a big deal out of God sending His Son. And if we have tied some other traditions and practices to that that do not have Christian origins, and vice-versa, I am totally OK with that. We can all chill out and not major in the minors.

-- We're making some changes at our house this year for Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. We are having a "Mexican Fiesta" for Christmas Eve dinner -- enchiladas, fish tacos, chips and salsa. We're going to string up pepper lights in the dining room. If everyone likes, this, we're going to pick another country for Christmas Eve next year and maybe start a new tradition. Tomorrow we're having beef tenderloin and salmon (two of us are non-beef eaters). For years it's been turkey and dresssing and Wife said, if it's all the same to the rest of us, she gets a little tired of doing it again so soon after Thanksgiving. We're all cool with it.

-- We go to a non-denominational church which is rather contemporary and we have three services on Christmas Eve. We, however, do not attend on Christmas Eve. For a number of years now we have gone to a Methodist Church for an 11 p.m. Candlelight and Communion Service that is very traditional and has beautiful music. I love the pipe organ and brass that accompanies the traditional Christmas Carols and I love the choir. It is a highlight of Christmas for me.

-- To anyone who is reading this, I hope you have a blessed Christmas season and that, whatever it means to you, you will have some special times with those you love. If you are hurting this Christmas, I hope you get through it and I will join you in praying for better days ahead.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Coming Together

Kudos to President-elect Obama for choosing Rick Warren, noted pastor of Saddleback Church, and Rev. Joseph Lowery, civil rights activist, to pray at his inauguration.

These choices, representing two strong leaders who represent different factions of Christianity, demonstrate Obama's commitment to bringing together opposing forces for the greater good. When questioned about the picks, he said, "we can disagree without being disagreeable and then focus on those things that we hold in common as Americans."

The "Amen" you hear is coming from this Republican.

Unfortunately, the Gay Rights extremists are shouting their criticisms of Obama for picking Warren, who is a supporter of California's Proposition 8, banning gay marriage. Warren is no homophobic, having spent untold time and resources on fighting the spread of AIDs around the world, an issue which, of course, has a huge impact on the gay community. But he still has strong beliefs in how marriage is to be defined and he is not backing down.

Obama, reiterating his commitment to "agreeing without being disagreeable," has stood by his choice. Obama remembers that Warren invited him to speak at his church a couple of years ago at a conference on AIDS. Warren was at that time strongly critized by his parisioners and other conservative followers but refused to budge, reminding his critics that Obama had done much in the AIDS battle and deserved to be heard. Obama and Warren forged a friendship which has lasted.

Now Obama is taking the heat for extending the invitation to Warren.

In his wildly popular book, The Purpose Driven Life, Warren's first admonition to readers is: "It's Not About You." Those words are simple yet profound, words that would be well taken to heart by those so quick to criticize.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Christmas Tree Hell

Putting up a Christmas Tree at this time of year is a cherished tradition in families across the country and my family is no exception. The distinguishing factor in my family, however, is that putting up the tree is anticipated not with awe, but dread. And that is all because of me.

For some reason, putting up the Christmas Tree brings out the worst in me. I have long held out for having a real tree, not an artificial one. So every year we go to one of the local stores, pick one out (when the children were younger, we would go cut one down), bring it home and put it up.

Would that it were that simple.

I really thought it went well last weekend when we got it in the house and in the stand. After a few maneuverings, it stood in the stand with no exterior wires. Mission accomplished. The Season of Good Cheer had officially arrived.

But about an hour later I noticed Wife was not cheerful. Most men know when they are at fault for their wives being a bit out of sorts. And, just like always, I had to go through the "What's wrong?" - "Nothing." - "No, really." - "Nothing." - "OK" - "Well if you don't know . . ." ordeal before finally figuring out I had once again offended her while carrying out the family tradition.

While lying on the floor turning the little screws on the tree stand with one hand and trying to hold the tree erect with the other, with her saying, "Turn it just a little, no that's not it, no it's still leaning, no, maybe you need to cut off a little branch, no, it's just not right, well, if you want a tree that's leaning," apparently I asked her to "hush." No, apparently it was more of a command.
Honestly, I don't remember it. But neither do I deny it. For, as I said, something about bringing a live tree in the house sends me into a funk.

I appropriately apologized and was forgiven. Wife's nothing if not understanding (and she has been down this road before).

The best way to explain myself is to print my Christmas letter of 2002. I have written our family Christmas letter for a number of years now. I always try to make it more of a humorous, satirical piece, to give the recipients a little comic relief amidst the ones that pour in touting the various accomplishments of the author or the author's family, particulary the author's unusually bright and outstanding children.

So, here it is, from six years ago, with my best wishes for a safe and happy holiday season:

December 2002

We continue to follow the cherished family holiday traditions. Here's a rundown from my journal of what we affectionately call, at our house, Christmas Tree Hell:

Sunday, Dec. 1: We take the whole family to Home Depot to get the tree. They are already sold out (on December 1st?!) except for the pitiful Charlie Brown trees. We go to a lot that would have required me to put a second mortgage on our home in order to purchase a tree there. I suggest we go to Kroger. Daughter says she won't allow tree from Kroger (??). Wise wife says let's wait a couple of days for Home Depot to get second shipment.

Tuesday, Dec. 3: Wife and children come home from Home Depot with tree that would indicate that second shipment came from Redwood Forest. Not to worry, Wife says, observing my look of unbelief. She has purchased the "Miracle Christmas Tree Stand," with "One Person Setup" -- what we have always needed, she says. Picture on box shows smartly dressed woman in high heels placing tree in stand, using her foot to adjust the patented swivel feature which dares any tree not to stand straight. Yes, Dear, I say, this year will be different, even though trunk of tree is near my waist size.

Wednesday, Dec. 4: Almost 17-year-old son and I carry Christmas Tree into house. (If the gal in the picture on the box could do this by herself, she shouldn't be modeling for Christmas Tree stand boxes; she should be a body builder). I ask children not to videotape this event as in years past as it could be used against me should our state ever allow children to divorce parents. Wife prepares "Miracle Christmas Tree Stand." Son and I lift and heave. Miracle doesn't happen. Tree falls to floor. Wife reads instructions. Oh, she says, we forgot to trim the trunk so it will "wedge" into stand. I wonder if maybe Wife should have dressed more like woman on the box. I utter words under my breath and go get my saw. Younger two children fight back tears and retreat to playroom. Son and I begin to make tree trunk resemble "wedge." Room resembles forest as sawdust and needles blanket carpet. I lean back against the wall in exhaustion, perspiration pouring. Hours later, Wife again prepares "Miracle Christmas Tree Stand," we heave and hoist, Wife "swivels" stand pursuant to instructions and lo and behold, Praise God from Whom All Blessings Flow, it really is a miracle, the tree stands. I have triumphed over nature. No need to tie it to the wall this year, I say. Maybe just for security, doubting Wife says. NO!!! I say . . . sweetly.

Thursday, Dec. 5: Family decorates tree. Angel is placed on top. All three children comment that tree seems to be leaning. Don't be cute, I say. Angel looks like she is about to take flight, or nosedive, from top of tree.

Friday, Dec. 6: Wife hosts church staff Christmas dinner at our home. Christmas Tree stands majestically, beautiful lights and ornaments hanging gracefully as fifty people gather 'round. I get choked up as I smugly relate how easily it went up this year, thanks to my skill and the "Miracle Christmas Tree Stand."

Sunday, Dec. 8: Tree has survived the weekend. I deny hearing creaky popping sounds from that end of the room that children point out. I threaten to return their Christmas presents if they continue to make reference to tree leaning.

Tuesday, Dec. 10: Angel at top of tree at right angle, pleading with us to give her some relief if she is to reign over Christmas this year. In private I get the ladder and put her out her misery. Again, I deny hearing any kind of creaking or popping sound as I lift her off the tree. I tell Wife I'm giving angel a rest and will put her back up at a later time.

Wednesday, Dec. 11: Wife calls me at work at 10 a.m. Tree has fallen to floor, she says, smashing lights and ornaments. What to do, she asks. I'll come home, I say, tree will be thrown into back yard, "Miracle Christmas Tree Stand" will be returned with instructions on what they can do with it and we will purchase a fake tree, or have no tree at all. God never intended for us to have trees in our houses in the first place, I say. Stay at work, she says, we'll deal with it tonight. When I arrive at home, I observe tree lying prostrate on the floor and decide once again that it will not defeat me. Armed with wire, hooks, nails and a hammer, son and I pick it up, put it back into former miracle stand, and it is wired to the nail in the wall as in years past.

Thursday, Dec. 12 (today): Christmas Tree stands naked in our den as we try to muster our enthusiasm for decorating it again. Wife says we will one day laugh about it. Children will remember annual battle between Christmas Tree and crazed father as highlight of Christmas season.

If anyone in the world should surrender to an artificial tree, it is yours truly. But by this time next year this will be a faded memory and we'll do it again. I shall return.


And yes, we've done it every year since. I will say it has gotten better and we have finally learned to pick out more reasonably sized trees. Only one real disaster since 2002, and that year we finally surrendered and used an artificial tree that Wife's parents had handed down to us. We had about 80 dollars' worth of greenery from the mammoth real tree that just refused to participate.

Saying "hush" to Wife only one time during the whole process this year, and that being the extent of the tension, is progress, my friends. Merry Christmas -- and a joyous Christmas Tree -- to all.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Like No Other

For me, the holiday season is not complete without hearing at least a recording, if not a live presentation, of Messiah, George Frederick Handel's famous oratorio which he wrote over a period of 24 days in 1741.

The score includes orchestral pieces as well as both choruses and solos. The words are entirely from Scripture. Although most often performed at the Christmas season, the works encompass the prophecy, birth, crucifixion and resurrection of Christ. Some of the better known portions include "For Unto Us a Child is Born" and "Hallelujah."

I was first introduced to this magnificent work as high school sophomore chorister in South Arkansas. Our combined high school choirs and youth orchestra performed at our local municipal auditorium. It was a challenging task for high schoolers but I thought it came off beautifully. A vinyl record album was even made of our rendition, which included all the shuffling and coughing that came with the performance. I played it so much I think I finally wore it out.

I have participated in and heard a number of Messiah performances since that time. I now have a CD of one performed by a London choir and orchestra. Older Son and Daughter have both participated in performances. No matter who is performing, professional or amateur, I am always moved and get chills down my spine from the time I hear the overture until the last piece, usually the Hallelujah chorus. It is a complicated work, yet paradoxically simple as it tells the timeless story of Messiah coming to earth. I am at once moved by the beautiful music as well as the words.

There are few things about which I am a purist, but Handel's Messiah is one of them. None of the pieces should ever be changed or shortened in any way, nor should they ever be performed as a contemporary chorus or "praise song." I have heard some horrible take-offs on the Hallelujah Chorus and have, unfortunately, over the years occasionally heard a modern artist include one of the beautiful songs from Messiah jazzed up as part of a Christmas album. This is nothing short of blasphemy and cheapens Handel's incredible masterpiece. There is a place for every style of music, but there is never a reason to so chop up a creation as to be insulting.

Tonight one of our local churches hosted a "Messiah Sing-Along" where a choir, orchestra and soloists performed the work, but audience members were given a score and invited to sing with the choruses. Older Son and I went and enthusiastically lent our out-of-practice voices to the timeless pieces. I was again in awe of the beauty and wonder of the glorious music and was reminded anew of how God sent Messiah as His amazing gift to the world.

"For Unto Us a Child is Born, unto us a son is given, and the government shall be upon His shoulder and His name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, the Mighty God, the Everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace."

To that, what can a person say, but Hallelujah?!