Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Top Ten Christmas Specials: Animated

Charlie Brown, Rudolph, the Grinch, Frosty and Santa all make my list of the top animated TV Christmas specials.

We wait for them every year. They've become as integral to our Christmas celebration as tinsel. They're animated Christmas specials. My Top 10 does not include special holiday episodes of regular series, so there is no Simpsons or Scooby Doo on this list.

The Year Without a Santa Claus (1974)
One of the many Christmas specials by Rankin/Bass, The Year Without a Santa Claus is perhaps best remembered for its introduction of the characters Heat Miser and Snow Miser. The story goes that Santa is sick and on doctor's orders is canceling Christmas. Mrs. Claus sends two elves on a mission to find some Christmas cheer to help revive Santa. Shirley Booth provided the voice of Mrs. Claus and Mickey Rooney played Santa.

Santa Claus is Comin' to Town (1970)
Fred Astaire plays the postman who tells the story of Santa Claus, an orphan adopted by the Kringles. Santa, played by Mickey Rooney, must battle Burgermeister Meisterburger and an evil wizard named Winter. This special is another of the Rankin/Bass Christmas classics.

A Garfield Christmas Special (1987)
Garfield, John and Odie travel to John's family's farm for Christmas. While there Garfield starts to understand the true meaning of Christmas. Lorenzo Music plays the voice of Garfield.

Shrek the Halls (2007)
Shrek wants to provide the perfect Christmas for Fiona and the kids. When Donkey and friends show up all of Shrek's plans are ruined. Most of the stars from the Shrek movies reprise their voice roles, including Mike Meyers as Shrek and Eddie Murphy as Donkey.

A Claymation Christmas Celebration (1987)
Hosted by dinosaurs Rex and Herb, the Claymation special features a number of songs all performed by clay characters. Rex is looking for the meaning of "wassail" throughout the special. A highlight includes the California Raisins performing "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer".

Frosty the Snowman (1969)
Frosty, a snowman made by a group of children, comes to life when the kids put a magic silk hat on his head. Failed magician Professor Hinkle threw the hat away. When he sees that the hat is really magic he begins chasing Frosty to the North Pole to get it back. Jimmy Durante narrated and sang the theme song.

A Muppet Family Christmas (1987)
The cast of The Muppet Show drops in unexpectedly on Fozzie's mom for Christmas. The Sesame Street Muppets show up as carolers and Kermit finds a Fraggle Rock hole in the basement. A snowstorm strands everyone in the house for Christmas. This is the first production to feature Muppets from all of their major franchise shows. Jim Henson makes a rare cameo.

Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer (1964)
Rudolph, the misfit reindeer, and his equally misfit elf friend, Hermey, leave the North Pole in search of a place where they'll be accepted. They return to the North Pole just in time to save Christmas. Burl Ives, a late addition to the cast brought on to add star power, plays Sam the Snowman who narrates and performs several songs. This was the first Rankin/Bass Christmas special. Rudolph is the longest running Christmas special on network TV.

How The Grinch Stole Christmas! (1966)
Based on the Dr. Seuss children's book, the Grinch is the story of a grumpy hermit who attempts to steal Christmas from the village of Whoville. When Christmas comes anyway the Grinch undergoes a change of heart. Boris Karloff provided narration and the voice of the Grinch.

A Charlie Brown Christmas (1965)

It's Christmas time and Charlie Brown is depressed. He just can't seem to get into the Christmas spirit, and the overwhelming sense of commercialism isn't helping matters. According to IMDB, A Charlie Brown Christmas defied many of the conventions of animated holiday specials, it didn't use a laugh track, the producers used real children instead the voices of adults, and it used Biblical references.

The producer, Bill Melendez, actually tried to talk Charles Schulz out of using the Biblical reference in Linus'speech. Schulz reportedly responded, "If we don't do it, who will?" The speech remained in tact. This is the second longest running Christmas special on network TV, behind Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, which premiered one year earlier.

Catch Them This Christmas
Most, if not all, of these specials show up like clockwork every holiday season. And many are available on DVD. Check listings in your area, and don't neglect those cable TV networks you usually don't watch, many of them may be the homes of your favorite specials this year.

And I'd love to know if your favorite was on or off the list.  You can comment here, on my personal Face Book page or the Prevenings with Jerry and Shannon Face Book page.  Merry Christmas.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Top Ten Christmas Carols

Christmas carols have been sung since the 12th Century. They are a beloved type of Christmas music and central to religious Christmas celebrations.

Christmas music is an important part of the Christmas season. Christmas carols are Christmas songs whose lyrics deal with the Nativity of Jesus. Musically they are often based on medieval chord patterns, which gives them their distinctive sound.

In this Top 10 I'll consider only those Christmas songs that fall solidly within the carol tradition of being religious in nature.

10. "O Come, O Come Emmanuel" Traditional
Some sources place the origins of this Christmas carol as early as the 6th century. It has ties to the ancient "Antiphons", one of which was sung in medieval churches each night of the week leading up to Christmas. English priest John Mason Neale translated a version of the original Latin hymn, "Veni, veni, Emmanuel" around 1850 as the song we know today.

9. "What Child Is This?" lyrics by William Chatterton Dix, music Traditional
The music for this Christmas carol dates back to at least 1580 when "Greensleeves" was registered to Richard Jones. Some sources place the tune even earlier, and many credit it to England's King Henry VIII. William Shakespeare used it in his "The Merry Wives Of Windsor" as the music that accompanied the hanging of traitors. In 1865 William Chatterton Dix wrote a poem, "The Manger Throne". Three stanzas of that poem were put to the tune of "Greensleeves" and published as "What Child Is This?"

8. "God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen" Traditional
Though the author or authors of this carol remain unknown, it is generally agreed that "God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen" dates back to 16th century England. Municipal employees called "waits" sang it in city streets. Like town criers, the waits were employed to perform certain civic duties, including singing seasonal songs publicly for the edification of the "proper people". Charles Dickens refers to this Christmas song in his "A Christmas Carol".

7. "Away In A Manger" Traditional
For years people believed Martin Luther to be the author of the lyrics to "Away In A Manger". This is because it was first published in 1887 in James R. Murray's "Dainty Songs for Lads and Lassies" under the title "Luther's Cradle Hymn". Murray also added his own initials to the work, leading many to believe he had written the tune. At least the first two verses of the lyrics were probably published in 1855 in a Lutheran Sunday school publication.

6. "The First Noel" Traditional
Most sources trace the origin of "The First Noel" to the Miracle Plays of 13th century Europe. "Noel" is French for Christmas, from the Latin "natalis", so that leads many to believe this Christmas song originated in France. William Sandys is credited with first publishing an English version in 1833 in his "Christmas Carols, Ancient and Modern".

5. "Angels We Have Heard On High" Traditional
Sources give a variety of possible origins for this Christmas carol. Some place it as early as A.D. 129 when Telesphorus, Bishop of Rome, proclaimed the "Angels Hymn" be sung on Christmas Eve. Others trace it to the medieval French countryside where on Christmas Eve shepherds would call to each other with the Latin phrase "Gloria in excelsis Deo." And others cite the traditional French carol "Les Anges dans nos Campagnes" or "Angels in our Countryside" as the source. James Chadwick is most often credited with translating it to English in 1862.

4. "O Holy Night" lyrics by John Sullivan Dwight, music by Adolphe Charles Adam
Sources disagree on which came first, the words or the music, but all agree on the sources. French wine merchant, Placide Cappeau de Roquemaure wrote the original French text as a poem, "Cantique de Noel" in 1847. His friend, Adolphe Charles Adam set it to music. Adam is best remembered for his ballet "Giselle". In 1855 American clergyman and abolitionist John Sullivan Dwight translated the song into the English version we sing today.

3. "Hark! The Herald Angels Sing" lyrics by Charles Wesley, music by Felix Mendelssohn
Neither Wesley nor Mendelssohn would have approved of the combination of their work, but the result is one of the most loved Christmas carols. Wesley wrote the lyrics in 1739 in his Hymns and Sacred Poems. The first line was originally "Hark! How all the welkin (Heaven) rings, Glory to the King of Kings." Wesley's colleague George Whitefield changed the opening line to what we sing today.

Mendelssohn wrote the music as part of a cantata honoring Johann Gutenberg and the invention of publishing. William Cummings adapted the tune and put it to Wesley's lyrics to finalize the song we sing today. Neither of the authors would have approved; Wesley had suggested a slow, solemn tune would best fit his lyrics, and Mendelssohn believed his tune to be unsuitable for sacred lyrics.

2. "Joy To The World" lyrics by Isaac Watts, music by Lowell Mason
Isaac Watts wrote the words for "Joy To The World" in 1719 in his book "Psalms of David", they're based on part of Psalm 98. In 1839 Lowell Mason set the words to music and added a note crediting the lyrics to George Frederick Handel, composer of "The Messiah". For over a century Handel was believed to be the lyricist, until music historians uncovered the true origin of the words.

1. "Silent Night" lyrics by Joseph Mohr, music by Franz Gruber
Tradition holds that Joseph Mohr, the parish priest at St. Nicholas Church in Oberndorf, Austria, wrote the words to "Silent Night" and had Franz Gruber, the church choir director, write the music for it and then performed it for the very first time all on Christmas Eve 1818. The song was written for and performed on the guitar because, as the story goes, the church organ was out of commission. Other accounts report that Mohr actually wrote the words in 1816. Some sources, including music historian Joel Whitburn in his "Pop Memories 1890 - 1954", claim that "Silent Night" is the most recorded song in history.

Christmas Music Makes The Season Memorable
All of the Christmas carols on my list are full of lyrics that inspire hope and goodwill. There are literally hundreds of other Christmas songs and carols that will add to your enjoyment of this special time of year. You can listen to recorded versions of them alone, participate in a religious service or join a group of carolers in spreading the joy of the season in a children's hospital or nursing home. Whatever your preference, Christmas carols will make your holiday celebrations more merry.

I'd love to get your opinions on this Top Ten.  You comment hear or on my Face Book page or the Prevenings with Jerry and Shannon Face Book page.  Merry Christmas

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Top Ten Theatrical Christmas Movies

Christmas is one of the richest seasons for storytellers and moviemakers. Hope, redemption, joy, regret, innocence and the loss thereof are all emotions and themes that have inspired these stories for centuries. Add to that the classic music of the season and some of these stories seem to write themselves.

Top 10 Criteria
Before I reveal my Top 10, let's set a few ground rules. First, this is a list of movies, not television specials or holiday themed episodes of TV series. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been disappointed by a so-called movie list that includes A Charlie Brown Christmas.

Second, to make this list the movie had to debut in a theater where people had to buy a ticket. No made-for-TV movies on this list.

And finally, these are films that have Christmas as a central theme or plot device. The fact that the story of a movie happens to take place on or around Christmas isn’t enough to get that title on my list. So you won’t see Die Hard here.

The Top 10

10. The Nativity Story (2006)
This is the only film to make our list that deals with the very first Christmas, a subject that curiously has not been explored very often in feature films. Starring Keisha Castle-Hughes as Mary and Oscar Isaac as Joseph, The Nativity Story focuses on the discovery of Mary’s pregnancy and her journey with Joseph to Bethlehem where Jesus is born.

Castle-Hughes caused a minor scandal when she revealed during filming that she was pregnant with her boyfriend’s child. This is the first movie to premier at the Vatican. It opened in the U.S. on December 3, 2006.

9. Babes In Toyland or March of the Wooden Soldiers (1934)
Originally released in 1934 as Babes In Toyland, this Laurel and Hardy classic was reissued in 1950 as March of the Wooden Soldiers. While not one of the best films made by Laurel and Hardy, its holiday theme has made it a perennial favorite on TV between Thanksgiving and Christmas.

Laurel and Hardy play Ollie Dee and Stanley Dum, employees in a toy factory who mistakenly take an order from Santa Claus for 100 wooden soldiers at six-feet high. The order was supposed to be 600 wooden soldiers at one-foot high. But the mistake saves the day as Silas Baranaby and his army of bogeymen attack Toyland. It opened in the U.S. on December 14, 1934.

8. Scrooge (1970)
Albert Finney plays the title role in this musical version of Dicken’s A Christmas Carol. Sir Alec Guinness plays the ghost of Jacob Marley. It made its U.S. debut on November 5, 1970.

7. White Christmas (1954)
Bing Crosby, Danny Kaye and Rosemary Clooney star in this musical set in a struggling inn in Vermont. Crosby and Kaye’s old army commander operates the inn. White Christmas debuted on October 14, 1954.

6. The Muppet Christmas Carol (1992)
Another musical version of Dicken’s A Christmas Carol, this one stars Michael Caine as Scrooge. Kermit the Frog is his hapless employee, Bob Cratchit. The Great Gonzo, as Charles Dickens, tells the story. The Muppet Christmas Carol made its U.S. debut on December 11, 1992.

5. The Polar Express (2004)
The only animated film on our list, The Polar Express stars the voice and likeness of Tom Hanks in six roles, including Santa Claus. It’s the story of a young boy who is starting to question the existence of Santa Claus and the magical train ride he takes one Christmas Eve. The Polar Express had its general U.S. debut on November 10, 2004.

4. Miracle on 34th Street (1947)
Maureen O’Hara, Edmund Gwenn and a young Natalie Wood star in this classic. The movie opens on Thanksgiving at the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. Macy’s Santa turns up drunk, but luckily a bearded old man, Kris Kringle, with his own padding and Santa suit happens by to save the parade.

Things get complicated when Kris claims to be the real Santa Claus. He faces a sanity hearing that’s set to end on Christmas Eve, just in time for Kris to make his annual deliveries. One of only two Christmas movies to make the American Film Institute’s Top 100 Inspirational Movies of All Time (coming in at #9), Miracle on 34th Street debuted on May 4, 1947.

3. A Christmas Story (1983)
Starring Darren McGavin, Melinda Dillon and Peter Billingsley as Ralphie, A Christmas Story has become a classic due in large part to its day-long exhibition every Christmas on cable TV. Based on the story by Jean Shepherd, who contributed on the screenplay, it’s the tale of a young boy’s quest to get an official Red Ryder BB gun for Christmas, despite the belief by every adult in his life that he’ll shoot his eye out. It debuted on November 18, 1983.

2. A Christmas Carol (1951)

Charles Dicken’s classic story of redemption and hope has been adapted for film since the 1920s. The 1951 version starring Alastair Sim as Ebenezer Scrooge is the best of them all. Released in the U.K. on Halloween 1951, A Christmas Carol made its U.S. debut on December 2, 1951.

The last scene from this movie (see the video above) contains a line by Scrooge that crystallizes how I often feel, especially at this time of year, when I consider the richness of the blessings God has so generously showered me with--"I don't deserve to be so happy...but I can't help it."

1. It’s A Wonderful Life (1946)

Not an instant classic, the copyright on was actually allowed to lapse and it fell into the Public Domain in 1974. That meant that TV stations could air the movie for free, and it become a staple of holiday television marathons until Republic Pictures restored its copyright in 1993.

Jimmy Stewart stars as George Bailey, described by his nemesis, Mr. Potter, as “a warped, frustrated, young man.” George comes to the end of his rope on Christmas Eve and is about to jump off a bridge so his family can collect on his $5,000 life insurance policy. Angel Second Class (A-S2) Clarence comes to the rescue and shows George how much poorer a place the world would have been if he had never been born.

It’s A Wonderful Life also stars Donna Reed with Lionel Barrymore as Potter. It was named #1 on the American Film Institute’s Top 100 Inspirational Movies of All Time. It debuted in New York City on December 20, 1946.

What's On Your Top Ten?
I'd love to hear your comments on my Top 10 list.  You can leave a comment here, or on my Face Book page or the brand new Prevenings with Jerry & Shannon Face Book.  (There's a link to it to the right of this post).  Whatever your favorite Christmas movie is, I hope you get a chance to watch it this season with family and friends.  Merry Christmas.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

I Have Called You Friends

Someone once asked me if I had many close friends.  My reply was, perhaps, a little too quick and definitely a little too cynical.  I said, "Friends are overrated."

Looking back on that conversation (and, for some reason, I have done so often) I didn't really mean it that way.  OK, maybe I kinda did.  I'm just as happy on my own as with a group of people, maybe even a little happier.  But I would like to retract that statement.  Friends aren't overrated, but I think friendship may be undervalued.

I recently made a plea on the air for people to "friend" me on Face Book so I could get to the 200 friend plateau (see the J93.3 Morning Show blog entry for Wednesday 9/28/2011).  I surpassed the goal handily.  It's pretty easy being Face Book friends.  One person makes a request, the other person clicks "confirm" and badda bing, badda boom, you're friends.  It's kind of nice.  You get to meet people who share similar interests, get to know them, at least virtually, and get exposed to some points of view that you might otherwise miss.  And you get to see who you share as mutual friends.

But true friendship is costly and comes with a good deal of responsibility.  Jesus outlines some of what it means to be friends in John chapter 15.  He starts off by saying that His command for us is that we love each other as He loves us.  So far, so good.  But then Jesus reveals the costly part when He says, "Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends."

We know that ultimately Jesus did lay down His life on the cross to demonstrate that greatest love.  And while some of us may be called upon to make that once in a lifetime gesture, for most of us the laying down of our lives for our friends is a much more daily, sometimes mundane and inconvenient demonstration. The cost of friendship is often paid in things like airport pick-ups, late night phone calls or spending a Saturday making change at a yard sale.

A little earlier in that passage in John Jesus talks about one of the results of being His friend, joy.  His joy in us that our joy may be full.  And then, later, Jesus once again states "I have called you friends."  And He implies that friendship with Him means, by extension, friendship with everyone else He calls friend.  That's the social network I'm excited about being a part of.  Now Jesus does go on to warn what friendship with Him may mean, as far as persecution by the world.  But that's a topic for another day.

For now it's enough for us to realize the importance and gravity of our friendships, face-to-face or virtual.  Especially with those with whom we share Jesus as a mutual friend.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Remembering Sheila

Sheila is finally Home.

Her husband Jimmy called me on Tuesday, August 30, 2011 at 6:20 AM and told me, "She's gone."

We all knew it was coming.  Somehow that didn't make it any easier.

Dave Cruse, who does the morning show at our sister station, the Joy FM in Florida, put together a tremendous audio tribute.  I've added a few pictures.  The video/audio is below.

Thank you for all your wonderful thoughts, prayers and memories shared on this blog, the J93.3 Face Book page and through phone calls on the air.  Please continue to pray for Jimmy and the rest of Sheila's family.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Standing In The Driveway Waving Good-Bye

I have left.  And I have been left.  Leaving is usually easier.

When we're the ones doing the leaving the journey lies before us.  There is often a sense of expectation, excitement.  Maybe a little anxiety.  But our attention is fixed on our destination.  When we're the ones being left there's little we can do.  In those instances where I've been left I find myself standing in the driveway, watching until the car is out of sight and then reluctantly returning to a house that suddenly seems too empty, too quiet.

Sometime in late 1995 or early 1996 I was sitting in my office at a radio station in Louisville, Kentucky.  I got a phone call from a woman who introduced herself as the new morning show host at a cross town radio station.  She told me she was a Christian, was originally from Louisville and had just recently moved back from Shreveport, Louisiana where she had been honored with a Country Music Association Disc Jockey of the Year Award.  She wanted to know if I could get her tickets to an upcoming Carman concert, and maybe get her backstage to meet the singer.  That was my introduction to Sheila Richards.

A few months later I was working with her, doing the morning show at that mainstream station across town.  When I came to Atlanta to be program director and do the morning show at J93.3 Sheila was my first choice as a co-host.  By then she had moved back to Shreveport to her old radio station.  It took a little convincing and a few phone conversations with a local pastor who told her to think about where she could have the biggest impact for the Kingdom of God.  Sheila liked that idea and accepted the job here.

Sheila loved lighthouses.  For her they were a reminder to "Let Your Light Shine."

When you start your day with someone as many times as I did with Sheila, you get to know that person pretty well.  She was never afraid to ask for anything.  As her faith grew over the years she asked less often for herself and more often for others.  If there was a listener in need, a family going through a tough time, a single mom who needed a break, Sheila would ask on their behalf.

Looking back it's hard to believe that it's been some 16 years since that first phone call I had with Sheila. And now here we are, all of us who love her, who listened to her, standing in the driveway, watching as she gets ready to roll out of sight.  When she does, this old world is going to seem a little too empty, too quiet.  But we know her destination, and our hope and comfort comes in the knowing that one day we'll be there with her.

Keep Jimmy and the rest of her family in your prayers in the coming days.  Our hope is sure and real.  But sometimes that quiet can be almost more than we're able to bear.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Sheila's Husband Jimmy Calls In

We aired this conversation with Sheila's husband Jimmy this morning (Monday 8/22/11).  It was not an easy phone call for Jimmy to make.  Sheila is not doing well.  Keep praying for her.  I don't know what else I could possibly add to what Jimmy has to say here.

Monday, August 8, 2011

A Phone Call From Sheila

Sheila called in on the air this morning (Monday August 8).  Here's that phone call so you can have the latest update from Sheila herself.

Friday, August 5, 2011

The Latest From Sheila

I spoke with Sheila last night (Thursday 8/4/11) around 8 PM.  Got a good news/bad news report.  First the good news.  The pain is finally at least tolerable.  Sheila reported that there was vast improvement on Thursday compared to the two weeks or so before then.

The less than good news is that the blood clot in her leg doesn't seem to be responding as the doctors had hoped it would.  They are keeping a close eye on it and keeping Sheila on blood thinners to try and counter it.

Sheila is scheduled for another round of chemo later today (Friday 8/5/11), so she will remain in the hospital until at least sometime on Saturday, but perhaps longer.

We'll keep you updated on her progress as we hear more.  Please remember to pray for both Sheila and her husband Jimmy.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

I Never Prayed For Amy Winehouse

I don't know much about Amy Winehouse.  Though since her death on July 23, 2011 I've learned more about her than I ever knew while she was alive.  I was aware of her, had heard her name in passing.  But I couldn't have picked her out in a crowd.  Never listened to her music, never visited her website.  Never prayed for her.  Now she's dead.  Too late for Amy.

Amy Winehouse: September 14, 1983 - July 23, 2011
In the summer of 1977 I was still living at home with my parents and brother and sister in Wheeling, West Virginia.  We had moved there from New Jersey three years earlier.  We received a letter in late August from a friend back in Jersey, Kay Knight.

Kay was my first (non-relative) hero of the faith.  She'd been a missionary in India through much of the 50s and 60s.  When she returned to the States she attended the church my dad was the pastor of.  Kay was the only person in that church who had the courage to scold me.  One Sunday morning she was sitting right behind me and a couple of other young boys, I was maybe 11.  Apparently we weren't sitting still and getting a little loud during the service.  Kay leaned forward, poked me and stared down the other guys and said in her best church whisper, "You, especially, ought to know better."

So years later we got a letter from Kay.  It was within a week of the death of Elvis Presley.  And in her letter Kay wrote, "Elvis is dead.  I never prayed for him.  How far does our responsibility go?"

Now whenever I hear about the death of a celebrity those three short sentences echo in my head.  I still don't know the answer to Kay's question, how far does our responsibility go?  I'm pretty sure it goes further than what I'm doing.

I don't know what Amy Winehouse's relationship was with God.  To be honest, that was not my responsibility.  But a prayer for her may have made a difference.  She was such a non-factor in my life, like I said, I was only vaguely aware of her existence, that I think I'm off the hook here.  But what about other celeb-types?  Those whose work in movies or TV or music or sports or politics I admire?

That prayer list keeps getting longer.  No wonder the apostle Paul told us to pray without ceasing.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Update On Sheila

I spoke with Sheila's husband, Jimmy, around 5pm today (Tuesday 8/2).  Sheila was released and came home from the hospital yesterday, Monday.  However, she had a very rough night and the medicine she was sent home with did little or nothing to relieve the pain.

On her doctor's advice she returned to the hospital and was re-admitted this morning.  That's about all Jimmy knew at this point.  Keep Sheila in your prayers, this battle with pain has been going on now for several weeks and has to be wearing her out, though her spirits remain quite good.  Also remember to pray for Jimmy as this is also wearing him down emotionally and physically.  Thankfully Jimmy's mom is able to be at the house and help out.

We'll keep you updated as more information becomes available.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Nuclear Physics And God's Sense Of Humor

A friend and former Sunday School teacher of mine, Jeff, posted on the J93.3 Face Book page and used the phrase, "He held me together when I felt torn apart."  That got me thinking about a topic that's been rattling around in my brain since grammar school science, one that occasionally works its way back to the front of the line of stuff I wonder about when I really ought to be doing something more productive.

Actual X-Ray of the files in my head

It was fourth or fifth grade.  The teacher handed out a bunch of magnets marked with "N" and "S".  She had us hold the north sides together and then the south.  The magnets exerted a force strong enough to push one magnet away from the other.  Then she told us to hold the north side to the south side and the magnets snapped together.  Wonderful way of visually demonstrating the law that states that opposite forces attract and like forces repel. 

Like forces repel, opposite forces attract
A month or so later we had moved on to the atom.  We learned the basic structure and parts of the atom, negatively charged electrons orbiting around the nucleus which is made up of positively charged protons and neutral neutrons.  "Wait a minute," I thought to myself.  "Something doesn't jibe here," remembering our magnet experiment.  I raised my hand.

"So all the protons are positive?"  I asked
"Yes, that 's correct."  The teacher answered
"And they're all in a tight little ball in the middle of the atom in the whatchamacallit..."
"The nucleus, yes that's right." She said.  You could almost feel the excitement welling up inside of her as she thought she had finally gotten through to one of us.
"And like forces repel?" I asked.
"Umm.  Yes, they uh, well what I mean to say is..."  She could feel it coming and she knew she was going to have to pull off some fancy intellectual footwork to dance her way around this one.
"So why don't the protons repel each other and go shooting all over the place?  And if opposite forces attract, then why don't those electrons get attracted to the protons?" I asked.
"Hey yeah.  How come atoms aren't blowing themselves apart all over the place?"  A couple of other kids chimed in.

The oxymoronic atom
She swallowed hard enough that it could be heard out in the hallway.  Then all of the color drained from her face.  She was stymied.  She closed her eyes and, in direct violation of then recent court rulings and school policies, she said a silent prayer, asking the Lord for some escape.  He heard her.  The bell rang and we didn't return to the subject of the atom for the rest of the semester.

Quick disclaimer here:  I am not a nuclear physicist.  I have not studied nuclear physics.

I have done a little research on the subject (the operative term here being "little") and discovered how scientists have attempted to explain what holds the atom together.  The force of the protons is pretty strong, so the force that holds them together must be even stronger.  So they call it "the strong force" or "the strong nuclear force" or "the residual strong force".

Apparently the "strong force" is generated by something called quarks.  There are other particles in the nucleus of the atom, smaller than protons and neutrons.  These include some that exist for about a billionth of a second.  There are leptons, mesons, croutons and bacon bits (which have about the same shelf life at my house).  One scientist, in an attempt to differentiate between atoms with varying degrees of stability came up with the idea of "magic numbers".  Those atoms with the "magic number" of protons are the most stable.

Hmmm.  Now I see why my fifth grade teacher was so shaken up.  

Let me go way out on a limb here.  I know I risk the ridicule of the scientific community, armed with their magical quarks and periodic tables, but here I go.  Do you suppose that the "strong force" may be related to what Paul was talking about when he wrote, "He (Jesus) is before all things, and in Him all things hold together."?

I'm really not one of those either/or type guys.  I'm perfectly happy to allow the scientists their quarks.  But I also believe that the quarks or croutons or whatever you want to call them could very well be God's way of making all things hold together.  And I suspect that He may have done it that way just to confound us.

I imagine the scene in Heaven at the dawn of creation something like this.  The angels are looking over the plans, double checking them against the various laws of nature that God has ordained.  One of them sees the apparent contradiction I discovered in the fifth grade and takes it to the Lord.

"Umm, Lord?  We may have a small problem here."
"What is it Benny?" the Lord answers.
"Well, uh, we have this like forces repel rule, " Benny starts to explain.
"Yes, that's right." the Lord says.
"But this plan for the atom has all of these positively charged protons crowded together in the nucleus."  Benny goes on.
"And the problem is..." the Lord replies.
"How do we keep all of these atoms from exploding all over the place?" Benny blurts out.
"Don't worry Benny, I'll hold it together." The Lord tells him.
"But Lord, won't that cause mankind all kinds of confusion once they discover these rules and the makeup of the atom?" Benny asks.
"Yes, Benny.  Yes it will."  the Lord says with a smile.

The angels working on the atom get God's joke about the nucleus

To some, the thought that God holds the nucleus of atoms together is foolishness.  They neglect another principle though.  That God uses the foolish things to confound the wise.

And if He made and holds together all things, then we can trust Him to hold us together when we feel like we're being torn apart.  Thanks Jeff, for reminding me of that.  Now I really do need to get back to doing something a little more productive.

Friday, July 15, 2011

What I've Learned In 33 Years Of Marriage

Thirty-three years ago today my wife Teri and I said "I do."  I have spent more than 60% of my life as a married man.  Married to the same woman.  This monogamy business can be hard work.  It has been easy at times, though not often and never for very long.

Thirty-three years ago today.  Happy anniversary darlin'.  I love you.
You do anything for 33 years and you're bound to learn something about it.  I don't know if I qualify as a marriage expert, but I have learned a thing or two.  I share some of what I've managed to learn here.  Ladies, hopefully you'll find a gem or two in here, but this is really targeted at the guys.  (Feel free to print this and leave it on your husband's pillow if it'll help.)  It's for the men for two reasons.  First, I'm a guy and view life and marriage from that masculine perspective.  Second, one of the things I've learned is that I still have a lot to learn about women in general.

This is not an exhaustive list.  (If I shared everything here then you wouldn't buy the book when/if I ever get around to writing it.)  Just 10 nuggets.  Tips if you will, on marriage based on my own experience and observation of other marriages, some not as successful as others.

10 Tips For A Happy Marriage 
  1. Emotions can't be trusted.  I'm not saying that emotions are bad.  Just that they are not subject to the law of rational thought.  Emotion is an important part of love and marriage.  That whole falling in love thing is largely emotional.  But emotions can be affected by many things.  And they tend to swing.  Don't base any big decisions on your own emotions.  Or, for that matter, on any emotional display, good or bad, from your spouse.
  2. Emotions Follow Actions.  If you've been married for longer than 18 months then you know that the initial head-over-heels in love feeling will eventually fade.  That doesn't mean you no longer love your spouse.  It doesn't even mean that you're no longer in love.  It's just proof of rule #1.  You can regain some semblance of that feeling, or any feeling or emotion.  Just do the things you used to do when you felt that way.  If you want to rekindle the old flames of romance then DO something romantic.  Bring your wife flowers in the middle of the week for no reason.  Send her a card in the mail (yes, with a stamp and envelope and everything) that says "I love you" when it's not your anniversary or her birthday or you haven't done something incredibly stupid that you need to make up for.  You get the idea.  If you want to feel a certain way then DO the things that people who feel that way just seem to naturally do.
  3. No, You Could Not Have Done Better.  On occasion I've heard people wonder "what if..."  What if I'd married my high school sweetheart or a super model or that cute check out girl at the supermarket.  I've known people who have looked for old flames on Face Book.  That never ends well.  The grass may look greener over there, but it still needs cut and is probably hiding all types of weeds.  No, you could not have don better in the spouse department.
  4. Consider Yourself Blessed.  Love and marriage are wonderful gifts from God.  If you've managed to find someone that you love and who loves you in return, someone who can put up with you when you're not at your best, who will tolerate your morning breathe, morning hair and various bodily noises, then cherish that person and that relationship as a gift from God.
  5. Time And Gravity Can Be Cruel.  It's an unhappy truth but chances are neither you or your spouse are ever going to look any better than you do right now.  Your hair will recede.  Parts will begin to sag.  That dashing young man you used to be...he's gone, never to return.  The physical, like the emotional, is subject to influences outside of our control.  But this isn't a problem if you've based your relationship on more than just the physical and emotional.
  6. Remember Who You Are.  If you claim to be a Christian then you are a man of God.  Two operative terms there.  "Man," so grow up, man up, quit whining and be one.  Protect your relationship, cherish your wife, take care of your family.  Suck it up, take out the trash and stop thinking about your own needs once in a while.  And "God," so honor Him in the way you treat your spouse and your marriage.
  7. Have A Plan.  This is easier if you sit down with your spouse before you get married.  But even if you've been married for years you can still develop a plan.  Decide who's going to be responsible for what in the relationship.  Who pays the bills every month.  Who does what share of the housework.  Who picks the movie or restaurant. 
  8. Share A Passion.  When you first fall in love it seems like all you want to do is bask in each other's presence.  That's not going to last.  And your kids are going to grow up and move out too.  You're going to need something to talk about, to do together.  Find something that you both enjoy and do it together.  Maybe it's something that one of you already likes and you can teach the other.  Maybe it's something brand new that you both learn about together.  Teri and I took up motorcycling about four years ago and it's become something we love to share.
  9. Never Go To Bed Angry.  The Bible tells us to never let the sun go down on our anger.  Anger (another one of those pesky emotions) is not bad, it's not wrong.  But like any emotion, you can't let it control you or your relationship.  So go ahead and get angry, express that anger in a controlled and rational way.  And then resolve it, BEFORE you call it a day.  Unresolved anger will fester and left unresolved it can kill a relationship.
  10. Love Is An Act Of The Will.  You may have gotten married because you "fell" in love.  But now that you're in the midst of it you have to make up your mind to actually love your spouse, every day, every moment.  Love, the kind God intended when He cooked up this whole husband and wife cleaving together thing, requires a conscious effort and sacrifice.  The willingness to sacrifice isn't enough, you actually have to sacrifice.
  11. BONUS TIP:  LAUGH.  You have to have fun.  Laugh together.  Do something silly once in a while.  Marriage, love and God's presence in our lives is meant to be joyful.  So have some fun.
I hope there's something in there you can use.  You can leave a comment below if you'd like.  Once again, I have to tell Teri "happy anniversary" and thanks for putting up with more so long.  I can't wait to see where we are after the next 33 years.

I've included a little video below.  It's one of my favorite versions of "Happy Anniversary" and an example of Tip #11.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Pizza, Fishing, A Donkey & Mysterious Ways

Sometimes I think that I should never be surprised by the ways God works and the things He chooses to use to accomplish His purpose.  After all, if He could open the mouth of a donkey to reprimand a wayward prophet (see the story of Balaam in Numbers chapter 22) then I shouldn't be amazed (or so I tell myself) when He uses a pizza or a fishing trip to work in someone's life.

Balaam, his donkey and the angel of the Lord.
About 10 years ago we did a contest called "The Street of the Day."  Every day we'd announce the name of a particular street somewhere in our listening area.  If you happened to live on that street you could get a free pizza.  That was pretty much the extent of the contest.  You didn't have to register or perform any kind of zany stunt.  You just had to live on the street we picked that day and you could get a free pizza.  Of course you had to listen to us on the radio to hear the name of the street.  Not the biggest prize we've ever given away.  I admit I wasn't crazy about this contest.  It wasn't terrible, but it really wasn't the type of flashy big ticket kind of thing we were so fond of doing back then.
Then the amazing happened.  I took a phone call in the studio from a lady who was on the verge of tears, but the good kind, happy, joyful, thankful tears.  She had been in the car worrying how she was going to feed her kids that day.  Times had been rather tough for her, the money was about gone and she was nearing the end of her rope.  She happened to be listening to us when we called out the "Street of the Day."  Yeah.  She lived on that street. 

Now if you have an ounce of cynic in you, I know what you're thinking--cause I have about a pound of it in me.  How much difference could one pizza possibly make?  Well, to this lady, quite a bit.  For her it was much more than a pizza and something much closer to the miraculous than to happenstance that her street happened to be chosen that day.  For her it was an answer to prayer and a reason to hang on to hope.  By the time she was done talking we were both crying.  As I retold her story to other staff members later in the day there were more tears and a sense of awe at how God had taken something we believed to be so trivial and used it to accomplish His will and demonstrate His love.
Right now we're doing another contest.  This one is "The Summer To Remember."  We have a couple of different prize packages we're giving away.  All listeners need to do is go to our website (shameless plug here--j933.com--) and register.  Every couple of weeks we do a random drawing and then start registering people for the next prize package.  Pretty simple.  Our first prize package was a fishing trip for a dad and his kid with a B.A.S.S. fishing pro.  Nice prize package if you fish.
We drew the winning entry and then tracked him down on the phone.  The winner was a 12-year-old young man named Colt.  His mom and dad had divorced about three years ago.  So now Colt usually only sees his dad on the weekend.  Oh, Colt has three younger sisters and all four them spend the weekend with their dad together.  That leaves precious little opportunity for Colt and his dad, Steve, to have any one-on-one guy time.  I've talked with Colt once or twice and had the good fortune to get to meet him in person.  He's a fine young man.  But if you know anything about 12-year-old boys, even the fine ones like Colt, then you know they need, on occasion, the undivided attention of their father.

When we told Colt that he'd won he said, "I've been asking my dad to take me fishing for weeks, and now this...this is amazing.  Thank you so much."

Colt and his dad and his sisters were at the studio with me this morning, helping announce the winner of the latest prize package in "The Summer To Remember."  Both Colt and his dad had a great time on the fishing trip.  Colt caught over a dozen fish and had a day alone with his dad that he'll always remember.

Steve and Colt Dooley

And once again, there's that sense of awe.  You'd think I'd expect this kind of thing by now.  But maybe it's good that I can still be amazed by God's mysterious ways, so much higher than our own ways.  This kind of thing is what makes ministry so rewarding.  Hearing the quiver of in a voice about to break from sheer joy.  Seeing the smiles on the faces of a father and son who love one another.  And what awes me the most is that God is so merciful that He allows us to play a part in how He accomplishes these things.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

The More Things Change...

We've been doing a lot of reminiscing this summer.  At J93.3 we're promoting it as "The Summer To Remember," with some great prize packages targeted at helping listeners make memories.  A few weeks ago on the morning show we did a "Flashback Friday," playing a boatload of old songs that triggered memories of a more innocent time (we'll be doing another Flashback Friday this week, 7/8).

All of this memory lane stuff has me thinking about my Grandma Williams.  Grandma was born at the turn of the last century and went home to be with the Lord just a month shy of her 94th birthday.  Grandma saw a lot of things change during her lifetime.  She lived through two World Wars, multiple conflicts in southeast Asia and the Middle East, the Great Depression, Cold War, energy crisis and 18 U.S. presidents; McKinley was president when she was born and Clinton was in the White House when she died.

Grandma witnessed the beginning of air travel, radio, television, mass production of the automobile, the space program and man's first steps on the moon.  She claimed the weather was never the same after Neil Armstrong took that "one giant leap for mankind."  Not all the changes she lived through were good.  And whenever some new fangled technology would fail to live up to its promise she would say, "Well, that's progress for ya."

The one change that Grandma always welcomed though was the change wrought in someone's heart through the grace of God in Jesus.  She couldn't get enough of that, especially when it happened to family members.  Through all the "progress" of the 20th century, through all the change and innovation, Grandma was secure in her faith.  Because she based it on the promise found in Hebrews 13:8, that Jesus is the same yesterday, today and forever.  And that fact, Grandma always taught us, was worth always remembering.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Money Saving Tips Have A Limit

I broke down and turned on the AC at home on Sunday, 7/3.  We managed to get through over 21 straight days of 90 degree plus weather, but on Sunday the humidity coupled with the heat was too much for some in my household to bear.

Now some may not think running the AC isn't such a big deal, and others can't bear to live without it.  For me it was a budgetary thing.  We had made it through all of the summer of 2010 without it, and I was shooting for the same low utility bills this year.  But we do have young children living with us now, so I bit the bullet and flipped the thermostat to "cool." 

There are other ways we're trying to be thrifty at my house.  We're making a real effort to consolidate our trips to save a little money on gas.  We've cut back on the premium package on our cable TV service and we're looking at dropping the land line home phone all together, since we all have cell phones.

 Here's me, saving money on gas and having a great time doing it.

My favorite money saving move is the motorcycle.  Granted, that's not the main reason I bought it.  It's not even the main reason I ride it still.  But it is nice to get 58 miles per gallon while having a great time.

I guess I'll have to find somewhere else to cut back to make up for running the AC this summer.  But I do have to admit it's nice to be able eat dinner without working up a sweat.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Reflections on God's Love

It was this past Friday, June 17, 2011.  I was sitting in the J93.3 tent at Atlanta Fest.  The rain had come and gone and thousands of people were making their way back to the main stage area, waiting for the music to begin again.

I was intrigued by the diversity of the crowd.  (Not so much the diversity as it pertained to ethnicity, cause for an event in a place as ethnically diverse as Atlanta this one was pretty homogenized, but that may be a subject for another post.)  There were people of every shape and size.  Some had obviously gone to great lengths to perfect their "look" while others, well others made me wonder if they even owned a mirror.  Every age was represented.  There were families, older couples, younger couples, single parents with the kids for a special weekend, and groups of teenagers and twenty-somethings.

As I thought about how different all these people were I also pondered the things that they had in common, beyond being in the same place at the same time.  The first two things are so closely related as to be nearly indistinguishable:

1. God loves them.
2. Jesus died for them.

And the next two are corollaries of the first two:

3. Not one of them could do anything to make God love them any less.
4. Not one of them could do anything to make God love them any more.

These things are true not only of those who were at Atlanta Fest this past week, but of every person who has or will ever walk this earth.  God's love for us is not dependent on us.  It is totally dependent on God.  No matter what you look like, what you've done or what you want to do, God loves you.  And the level or intensity of that love will not change, no matter what you say or do, because God's love is based on who God is, not who you are.  And since God will not change, neither will His love for you.

I've heard it said that God's nature is love.  I'm not sure I totally buy that, at least not the way I understand the use of the term "nature".  It's a fish's nature to swim, a bird's nature to fly.  They can't help it.  And to say that God "can't help but love you"  seems, in my thinking, to render Him less than god-like.  If God "has" to do something, if He has no choice in the matter, then that something He has to do isn't really so special after all.  And if God is subject to anything, even His own nature, how then can He be God?  

I love the line from the Humphrey Bogart movie "The African Queen".  Bogey plays gin-soaked river boat captain Charlie Allnut, who is taking missionary Rose Sayer, played by Katharine Hepburn, down a river in Africa to escape the Germans during World War I.  At one point Rose verbally objects to Charlie's drinking, and Charlie says, "A man takes a drop too much once in a while, it's only human nature."  Rose responds with, "Nature, Mr. Allnut, is what we are put in this world to rise above."

So I'm not too sure about limiting the miracle of God's love for us by calling it His "nature".  I think God made the conscious decision, the willful choice to love us.  He didn't "have" to love us, but He chose to anyway.  And, in the words of the apostle Paul, "God demonstrates His own love for us in this:  While we were still sinners, Christ died for us."  (Romans 5:8)

Since God's love is based on who God is and not who we are, we have great hope and security in that love.  Nothing we do can change that love or cause us to lose it.  Once we realize that it begins to free us to love as God loves, with a love that is not based on those we love but on the One who loves us.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

The Lost Are Found

I was maybe seven or eight.  We were living in New Jersey and shopping at Two Guys, a department store chain that went out of business in the '80s.

  Two Guys department store, a pretty big deal back in the 60s and 70s in north Jersey and greater NYC.

Somehow I got seperated from my parents.  I turned down aisle after aisle and couldn't find them.  I started running, and remember some corny music playing over the PA system that made me say out loud, "Great music to play when you're lost!"

One of the employees must have noticed my distress.  He came over to me and asked if I was lost.  No, I thought, I always run around department stores like a maniace, crying my eyes out.  "Yes," is what I uttered.  A few minutes later that corny music was interupted by an announcement, "We have a little lost boy..."  Within a couple of minutes I was joyfully reunited with my family.

Being lost like that is one of the worst feelings I've ever experienced.  Losing someone ranks right up there too.  Many years after my Two Guys adventure, after I'd gotten married and had a son of my own I was again shopping.  This time at a mall on Long Island.  My wife and I were in different sections of a store, each believing our son was with the other parent.  When we came back together and realized that neither of us had Caleb, panic set in.  I don't think I've ever run faster, up and down that entire mall, twice.  What seemed like an hour later, though it was probably five minutes at most, Caleb, around three at the time, came wandering out of another store.  That initial panic was replaced by relief and joy.

The Lost Sheep, the first of three "lost" parables of Jesus from Luke chapter 15

Whether we realize it or not, we've all been lost.  Some of us still are.  The sad part is that many folks don't even know they're lost.  But there's someone looking for them nonetheless.  It's easy to look down on the lost once you yourself have been found.  That panic of seperation fades pretty quickly once you've been safely reunited with those who have been looking for you.  Remember how the older brother reacted to his younger sibling in Jesus' parable of the Prodigal Son.

The Lost Son, or Prodigal Son, is the third of three parables about things lost and found that Jesus tells in Luke chapter 15.  Jesus knows what it feels like to lose someone, and He knows the joy of finding us again.  And the truly amazing thing is that He allows us to share in that joy of "finding" the lost.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Oh The Games We Played

In keeping with the spirit of the last post on Vacation Memories, today I thought I'd share some of the games we used to play in the car to help pass the time.  As a parent I've employed some of these games on long road trips with my kids, when they were much younger of course, and look forward to playing them with my grandsons.

Let me first paint the picture of the typical Williams family vacation when I was kid.  We'd pile Mom and Dad, three kids and a dog into the '63 Rambler.
A close approximation of the Williams family Rambler

Nine hours, 400 miles and seven tunnels on the Pennsylvania Turnpike lay between us and our destination.  Remember now, this was before FM radios were standard in automobiles so all we had was an AM radio with one speaker.  It was before iPods, the Walkman; even before cassette tapes.  (I did have a little AM transistor radio with one of those hard plastic single ear earphones.)  Summer heat and no air conditioning in the car.  We were barely on the Garden State Parkway before the "Mom, he's on my side of the seat," ruckus would begin in the back seat.  So we played games to pass the time and keep the peace.

Car Colors:  Easy game, especially when we were younger and not all of us were of reading age.  We would each choose a color and then count the number of cars on the highway that were our color.

The License Plate Game: Everyone tries to spot as many different state license plates as possible.  Once a state has been spotted and claimed by someone no one else can claim it.  Extra points for foreign plates.  Alternately you can play as a family unit and simply try to spot one plate from every state.

The Minister's Cat:  The first player describes the minister's cat with an adjective that begins with the letter "A", like "The minister's cat is an adventurous cat."  The next player has to come up with another adjective beginning with the same, and so on until one player either repeats an already used word or can't think of one.  Then you begin with the next player and the next letter in the alphabet.

The Alphabet Game:  The object of this game is to be the first person in the car to complete the alphabet by "claiming" words on billboards or road signs that begin with each letter of the alphabet.  You have to go in order and can only claim words that begin with the letter you need.  So around here you'd hope to see a sign for "Atlanta" to get you started.  Then you'd want to see something like "Birmingham" and so on.  We didn't allow letters from license plates unless it was the state name or a vanity plate that spelled out an actual word (though back when I was a kid there weren't vanity plates).  You couldn't claim words that were inside your own car and the game was paused during rest stops whenever you got out of the car.

Who Can Keep Quiet The Longest:  When we'd tired of all the other games Dad would revert to this old "game".  To be effective there really needs to be some sort of prize.

The Jujube Game:  When even the "Who Can Keep Quiet The Longest" game didn't work, Dad (and I have to admit that I've used this tactic a few times myself) would pull out a box of Jujbes or other chewy candy and give each of us a mouthful.  Very tough to argue with your siblings with a mouth full of Jujubes.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Vacation Memories

My dad had a knack for finding out of the way vacation spots.  Now most years we did the visit the relatives in Ohio and/or Wisconsin thing, which was a pretty major undertaking, driving from New Jersey in the days before the Interstate system was as accessible as it is today.  Back then it was mostly the Pennsylvania Turnpike and then the state routes.

But every few years we'd try someplace a little different.  Often my Grandma Williams and Aunt Margaret would accompany us.  We did the Poconos one year.  In 1969 we were on the Virginia side of the Chesapeake Bay.  We saw Neil Armstrong walk on the moon during that vacation.

One summer we rented a little cottage on Lake Hopatcong, NJ.  The largest freshwater body in the state.  We rented the place from a lady named Beatrice Brady.  I don't remember why, but she rubbed Grandma Williams the wrong way.  Sometime in the autumn of that year my dad sent Grandma a letter, purportedly from Beatrice.  He laid it on pretty thick, saying how much Beatrice had enjoyed having us rent her place on the lake and hoping we'd be back the following summer.  Grandma thought it was a nice gesture and began rethinking her opinion of Beatrice.  That is until my dad called her and asked, "Hey Mom, you hear anything from Beatrice Brady?"  That, of course, gave him away.  We laugh about that every time we get together and tell stories about Grandma.

And then there was that one summer when dad rented an old farmhouse in Hope, PA.  To this day I don't know how he found it.  It was advertised with a "swimmin' hole" on the property that turned out to be an algae covered cow pond.

But the weirdest thing about the farmhouse was that one of the rooms in the middle of the house was locked and a phone in that room rang at all hours of the day and night.  I do remember perfecting my knuckleball in the backyard of that old farmhouse that summer though.

There are many more stories I could tell, but I'm saving them up for my next book ;)  The crux of all my vacation memories is really centered more on the "who" than the "where" or "what" or "when".  This summer we're celebrating a Summer To Remember on J93.3.  We hope you take some time to make memories with the people who matter most to you.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

What If...The South Had Won The Civil War?

In the interest of full disclosure, allow to start by saying I am not a Southerner.  I live in the south, but that doesn't make me a Southerner.

This year marks the 150th anniversary of the beginning of the Civil War, or as some here in the south still refer to it, the war of northern aggression.  The History Channel is running a week of specials under the banner Civil War Week.  So far "Gettysburg" and "Grant and Lee" have been very interesting, though some of the experts have leaned a little to the left in their analysis; this is the History Channel after all.

I've been thinking about how things may have been different had the south won the Civil War (cause I have that kind of time).  I've actually researched this a little bit, but as a history buff I'm entitled to express an opinion without needing to fully support it with the facts.

A couple of interesting opinions I've seen include:
  • Our involvement in World War I would have been much more limited, which may have meant that Germany wouldn't have been so convincingly beaten and the Treaty of Versailles would not have been so harsh.  So Germany would not have fallen onto the desperate times that paved the way for Hitler to come to power, which may have averted World War II, at least the European portion.
  • Slavery would have been abolished in the south anyway.
  • The south (or CSA for Confederate States of America) may very well have established a government much closer to what the authors of the Constitution had in mind, placing much more power in the hands of individual states with a weaker federal government.
If we had become two separate nations, the CSA may have remained more conservative politically.  South of the Mason-Dixon line prayer in schools might have remained a reality.

We're taking your calls on the air this morning on this topic.  You can also post your feedback in the comments section below, or on our Face Book page.

Monday, May 23, 2011

False Alarm, But How Would You Spend Your Last Day

Saturday May 21, 2011 6:00 PM came and went.  No Judgement Day materialized.  Here we are, Monday May 23, 2011.  Life goes on.  The recent prediction of the end of the world got us thinking, if you knew it was your last day, how would you spend it?

I'd gather as many family members together and sit around telling stories, remembering the good times and the Lord's blessings.  Maybe I'd take a last motorcycle ride and have a last dinner of spaghetti.  How about you?  Tell us how you'd spend your last day, either here in the comments section, on the J93.3 Face Book page, or by calling us on air this morning.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

If I Knew Then What I Know Now

I have no regrets.  Not really.  Sure, I kind of wish I'd started riding a motorcycle 30 years ago, but I'm making up for that lost time by riding as often as I can now.

This time of year many people find themselves facing major life changes; graduating from high school or college, starting new jobs, starting college, getting married, moving away from home for the first time; big life transitional kind of stuff.

This morning on J93.3 we're talking about those kind of events and advice for those going through them and what you wish you knew back when you were going through them that you know now.  You can also post your comments on our Face Book page (there's a link over on the right hand side of this page).

For your edification I offer a few nuggets of advice, culled from my more than half a century of living.
  • Pray like it's all up to God (it is)
  • Work like it's all up to you (it isn't, but God often waits for us to start moving)
  • Every once in a while order something off the menu that you've never eaten before
  • Remember who you are and from where you've come
  • Be passionate about something
  • Don't begrudge anyone their good fortune
  • Hug your kids, your spouse, your parents every chance you get
  • Be reckless in demonstrating your love
  • At least once in your life ride a motorcycle in the rain
  • You can pray to win the lottery, but YOU have to buy the ticket
  • We each have two ears and one mouth, we should use them proportionately
  • Enjoy the ride, it's often more fun than reaching the destination

This list is far from exhaustive, but hopefully it'll get you thinking.  One of the best such lists of advice I've ever seen was in the form of a song, "Everyone's Free To Wear Sunscreen".  A little history on that song, along with the lyrics, is here.  A video version of the song is below.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

The Case of the Garden Stalker, or The Great Rose Con, or Maybe It's Chutzpah

Would you walk up to a stranger's home, knock on the door and ask if you could have some clippings from their rose bush?  Sheila Richards would.  Sheila Richards did!

Sheila had been driving past this particular house every day on the way to and from work.  She'd been admiring the yellow roses since they'd begun blooming.  She'd admired them so deeply that some might call it stalking.  Sheila stopped on several occasions and went up to the door and knocked, but never found anyone home.

Earlier this week she passed the house again and saw a neighbor out in the yard.  She stopped and talked to the neighbor, who just happened to be an in-law of the yellow rose owner.  The neighbor called the yellow rose owner, who was home for a change, and had the lady come out to meet Sheila.  Instant new BFFs!

Sheila got the lady's family history, and several clippings from the prized yellow rose bush.  Now she's angling for YOUR help in making sure the clippings take root and sprout more prize winning yellow roses.  That'll be among the topics for tomorrow's morning show--but I'll be asking if you would have the chutzpah to walk up to a stranger's home and ask for something like that.  Or how you'd respond if a stranger came knocking on your door begging samples from your garden.  It ought to be fun.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Wrap Up From Friday & Help Still Available Through FEMA

There are still hundreds of folks trying to sort through the aftermath of the tornadoes that hit Alabama and Georgia a few weeks back.  We had the opportunity to speak with Bill Lindsey from FEMA.  If you were affected you can still register for aid by calling 800-621-3362, they're open 8:00 AM till 8:00 PM.  There are programs for home owners and renters.  FEMA can also assist you with replacing items you lost or that were damaged in the storms, including tools, hearing aids, prescription medication and cars.

On Friday Paige was filling in on the Morning Show for Sheila.  Sheila showed up unexpectedly when she heard that Paige had posted pix of Sheila's junk room on the J93.3 Face Book page.  As the morning progressed Paige nominated Sheila for the TLC show "Hoarding, Buried Alive."  The producer of the show called Paige and expressed interest in covering Sheila's story.  Stay tuned for future developments.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Good Friday and Easter Weekend Music

It's been way too long since I've posted here.  It's the day before Good Friday, the most solemn day on the Christian calendar.  I had the opportunity to speak with Michael Card the other day.  He's a long time singer songwriter and author.  He's in concert at Macedonia Baptist Church in Newnan on Good Friday at 7:00 PM.  There was a nice write up on Michael and the concert in the Newnan Times-Heral the other day, I've linked to it here.

Macedonia Baptist is at 1504 Macedonia Road in Newnan.  That's at the intersection of Macedonia Road and Roscoe Road, or GA 70.  Their phone number is 770-253-7222, you can call them for ticket information.

We played some of the interview with Michael on the morning show on Thursday.  We weren't able to play it all, so I'll try to post some of that audio here later today.

Also on Good Friday, Christian Music Weekend kicks off at Six Flags Over Georgia.  Newsboys, Kutless, Matthew West, Jeremy Camp and others will be performing on Friday and Saturday.  Full details are here.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Digital Diversions

There's a video that's been making the rounds on You Tube the last couple of weeks.  It shows a woman at a mall, leaving a store while texting on her cell phone.  She walks across the floor and directly into a fountain.  She falls right in.  She was oblivious to her surroundings, so intent on that tiny keyboard and screen.  There are a number of versions of the video, I've posted the shortest here.

I've been thinking about the fine metaphor this poor woman provides for us, especially us Christians.  So often we are sidetracked from what is really important by those things that don't really matter.  We miss so much because we are preoccupied with what we think is urgent.  We have our eyes focused on the  wrong things.

One of my favorite stories from scripture is Matthew 14:22 - 36, the story of Jesus walking on the water.  It's night and the disciples are in a boat.  The sea was rough, high winds and choppy waves.  Jesus suddenly appears walking on the water towards the boat.  The disciples at first think they're seeing a ghost, but Jesus told them not to be afraid, "It is I."

Peter said to Him, "Lord, if it's you, tell me to come to you on the water."  Jesus told him, "Come."  So Peter hopped out of the boat and started walking on the water toward Jesus.  But after a few steps Peter took his eyes off of Jesus and started looking at what he thought was urgent, the wind and waves and the fact that his feet were not on firm ground.  He started to sink.  "Lord, save me!" he cried out.  Jesus took him by the hand and they got back into the boat.

How often is that us?  Taking our eyes off of Jesus and what He's called us to do because we get distracted by the tempest going on around us?  My prayer today is that we keep our focus on the things that actually make a difference.

We'll be taking your calls on your experiences with digital diversions and how you keep your focus on that which matters.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Valentines And Land Mines

There's a commercial I've seen this Valentines season that says something to the effect of, "Valentines Day isn't about 'I love you,' it's about 'I love us'."  Valentines Day is a day about romance and love.  It's a little idealistic, especially when you consider all the implications of true love.

Not long ago I reconnected with an old friend on Face Book.  I met him and his wife over 18 years ago and they were very much "in love".  They are no longer together.  Good Christian people both of them.  I've found quite a few long lost friends through Face Book and many of them have called it quits on marriage. 
It would seem that love, at least the romantic kind, is not all you need.

I met my wife, Teri, in September of 1977.  We were married in July 1978.  We were very much "in love".  More than 32 years later we are still together, and still "in love".  And while the romance has ebbed and flowed, the love has remained constant.  It's been hard work, but worth every tear.

 The two best pieces of advice I ever received on marriage both came from grandfathers, men who knew the value of commitment and hard work, especially when it came to marriage.  My grandfather told me, "A lot of people will tell you that marriage is 50-50.  It's not.  It's 100-100."

And during the celebration of their 50th wedding anniversary Teri's grandfather told me, "That's a long time to spend with one woman."

Determination and endurance are crucial to a succesful marriage.  The kind of will required to sustain a marriage is an act of the will.  God ordained marriage largely as an example of His love for us in Jesus.  And so it would do us well to consider how He views the institution.  On the night before Jesus went to the cross, which was necessary to make the relationship with us possible, Jesus sweated blood.  That should give us an idea of the level of consideration marriage deserves.

Andrew Peterson compares marriage to dancing in a minefield.  His song Dancing In The Minefields says it better in three and a half minutes than I could in an entire book.  Marriage, like Jesus' love for us, is about sacrifice.  The Gospel is full of paradox, like "to find your life you have to lose it."  It kind of complicates the relationship that so often starts off with the promise of romance.  But, as Andrew says in the song, "that's what the promise is for."

We'll be taking your calls on Valentine's Day about your marriage and mine field experiences.  Hope to hear from you on J93.3.  You can listen live on http://www.j933.com/.