Christmas Music: Mary and Joseph

I just wanted to share a few thoughts on Mary and Joseph. They are such an important part of the Christmas story, and even they are starting to get the politically correct treatment lately from spiritual skeptics and naysayers. But, they were good, righteous people who willingly accepted the will of the Lord and bore and raised Jesus Christ. They were chosen to be the earthly parents of our Savior — what a humbling assignment to have.

The first song, I’m sharing with you today is called Mary’s Lullaby, by Wanda West Palmer. Sister Palmer was actually in my ward growing up. She and my mom used to write award winning road shows. She was a fun person, and always invited you to sit at her piano and sing when you came over to her house. The words to the song were adapted from a poem by Bertha A. Kleinman called a “A Yuletide Lullaby”. Sister Kleinman also wrote the words for the Primary song, “I Have Two Little Hands”. Sister Kleinman gave the poem to Sister Palmer because she thought it would be nice if it were set to music. Sister Palmer carried the paper with the poem around in her purse for two years, trying to come up with a tune, to no avail. One day she figured it out, just put the refrain to music, and Mary’s Lullaby was written. If you’ve ever been to the Mesa Easter Pageant, this is the song Mary sings right after she gives birth to Baby Jesus. Here is your assignment for today, go and read Luke 1. This is the chapter where we hear the most from and about Mary — who she was, and how willingly she accepted her job at the mother of the Lord.

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Baby, it’s cold inside

Why is it that many good movements start out well, but end up running off the tracks. Black Lives Matter, MeToo, environmental groups, political parties, and other groups often begin with good purposes, but end up one cat shy of crazy.

It’s almost like some secret conspiratorial cabal is intentionally destroying what little common sense is left in the country.

the most recent problem comes from radicals on the fringes of MeToo. Our rape culture is terrible, and I applaud those speaking out against powerful people (like Harvey Weinstein, Bill Clinton, and Bill Cosby) who abuse their power.

But placing a charming song, Baby it’s Cold Outside, written years before I was born, in the line of fire. Really?

So many powerful directions the movement could take, such as combat the woman and child sex trade (tens of millions of sex slaves worldwide). Instead, they take on Dean Martin and Michael Buble singing a popular holiday song, along with major woman singers, no less!

Why do such movements switch from truly important issues to such irrelevant actions, causing them to lose credibility. Just like PETA insisting we no longer use animals phrases in our speech (dog day afternoons, stubborn as a mule), such attacks on innocent songs can leave us cold inside. Words and actions matter, but only in the correct context. Imagining up monsters under every bed does not stop rape culture. It makes it meaningless, just as declaring every cop shooting as racist. After a while, if everything is racist or sexist, then nothing is racist or sexist.

With real issues to fight, why is so much energy wasted on such insanity? Thoreau noted that for every thousand hacking at the leaves, only one or two chop at the roots of real problems. “Baby, It’s Cold Outside ” is a leaf.



Christmas Music: The Bells of Christmas

I love Christmas bells — they are the sound of Christmas to me. One of my earliest Christmas memories was hearing the song “Silver Bells”. I felt so grown up when I’d memorized the words from a song book we had a home, and could sing along when the song came on the radio. There are so many songs about Christmas Bells, it was hard to choose which songs to choose to write about. Here are my top three.

Christmas Bells Are Ringing — from the Children’s Songbook. Every recording of this I found was not very musical, so I apologize for that, but I still love this song. My mom was the Primary song leader for most of my time in Primary, she always made song time so fun. One year, she had my dad make these bells/chimes out of plumbers pipe for all of the kids — which were my siblings, and our cousins that lived across the street. And one year the First Ward Primary learned to play the pipe bells. We used them when we sang this song as a round. I remember learning and singing this song as being a very joyful time.

All Bells in Paradise by John Rutter. If there is one person that I associate with good choral music it’s John Rutter. Singing his Christmas songs especially hold very dear and sweet memories and experiences for me. This is one of his newer songs The words really bring in the Spirit and message of Christ’s birth. I’ve just included verse one, but look the song up for the rest of the words, it’s worth a few clicks on google.

Verse 1: Deep in the cold of winter,
Darkness and silence were everywhere;
Softly and clearly, there came through the stillness
a wonderful sound to hear:
All bells in paradise I heard them ring,
Sounding in majesty the news that they bring;
All bells in paradise I heard them ring,
Welcoming our Saviour, born on earth a heavenly King.
All bells in paradise I heard them ring:
‘Glory to God on high’ the angel voices sing.

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Psychology finally finds God

It turns out that religion can help unhappy people be more happy and find meaning in their lives. Who would have guessed it? For many decades, apparently not the field of psychology. But, according to this article, that is changing.

For anyone who took a college course in psychology more than a decade ago or who is even casually acquainted with the subject through popular articles, a close examination of today’s field would undoubtedly prove surprising. The science that for most of the 20th century portrayed itself as the enlightened alternative to organized religion has taken a decidedly spiritual turn.

Bowling Green State University professor Kenneth Pargament, who in 2013 edited the American Psychological Association’s Handbook of Psychology, Religion, and Spirituality, notes just how dramatically his profession’s attitude towards faith has changed in recent times. As a young academic interested in the connection between mental health and religion, he would “go to the library once a semester and leisurely review the journals” only to be disappointed by how little his colleagues had to say about it. But “no more,” Pargament happily reports. In fact, he adds, “it is hard to keep up with the research in the field.”

Today’s psychology tells us that faith can be very helpful in coping with major life setbacks, including divorce, serious illnesses, the death of a loved one, and even natural or human-caused disasters. A study by the RAND Corporation, published in the New England Journal of Medicine just after the 9/11 attacks, found that 90 percent of Americans coped with the trauma by “turning to God.” During the week that followed, 60 percent went to a church or memorial service, and sales of the Bible rose more than 25 percent.

Other studies have shown that religious people are less prone to depression and anxiety, are less likely to abuse alcohol and drugs, and have above average immunity to physical diseases. As a result, psychologists are now developing faith-based approaches to treating chronic anger and resentment, the emotional scars of sexual abuse, and eating disorders.

As a convert to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, I can attest that I am much happier now than before my conversion. So, it is encouraging to see my experience — and the experiences of so many other people I know personally — being validated.

Christmas Music: In The Dark Streets Shineth: a 1941 Christmas Story

One of my favorite books of all time is “In the Dark Streets Shineth: A 1941 Christmas Story” by David McCullough. It’s a short book and mostly pictures, but it tells the story of Christmas 1941, right after the US had been attacked at Pearl Harbor. It was a very dark time in our nation’s history. This book also tells the story of how the Christmas hymn, “O Little Town of Bethlehem” came to be and how that song, written in the 1850s, had a part in the Christmas of 1941. I think I also want to nominate David McCullough to narrariate the Ken Burns 9 part documentary on my life (haha).

Some of my other favorites by David McCullough are: 1776, John Adams, Harry Truman, The Great Bridge, and The Wright Brothers. Go HERE to see all of his books.

You always feel smarter after reading a David McCullough book. But seriously, I really hope you enjoy this short clip of Mr. McCullough telling this story.

Oh Little Town of Bethlehem