Thursday, December 22, 2005

Merry Christmas to all who visit my blog...

I'll be taking a blogging break after today, hopefully returning (Lord willing and if the creek don't rise, as they say in Texas), on January 4th, 2006.

I'd like to take this opportunity to wish heartfelt Christmas blessings to those of you who take the time to stop by this blog. May you have a wonderful Christmas!

In my absence, I'd also like to invite you to check out some of my posts from this past year. Some are serious, some are fun--kind of like my blog itself!

Following the list of links to past blogs, as a Christmas card to my readers, I'm posting the lyrics to the wonderful Chris Rice song, "Welcome to Our World."

Best of 2005

My interview with Joni Eareckson Tada: The danger of "Million Dollar Baby"

Of Bill Maher and suffering and faith

My most admired women

Worshipping the goddess of anorexia???

I was evacuated out of the U.S. Capitol

And more harrowing adventures...

My interview with Schindler family attorney David Gibbs III

The debt I owe John Glenn

"Faithful Women":--my interview with Noel Piper

I'm in love with Taylor, the Latte Boy

What I have in common with Cindy Sheehan

My top 25 books of all time

Is anything as gripping as Handel's "Messiah"?

My favorite Christmas music

Welcome to Our World...
(For a sound clip of Chris playing the song on his The living Room Sessions Christmas CD, go here.)

Tears are falling, hearts are breaking
How we need to hear from God
You've been promised, we've been waiting
Welcome Holy Child
Welcome Holy Child

Hope that you don't mind our manger
How I wish we would have known
But long awaited Holy Stranger
Make yourself at home
Please make yourself at home

Bring your peace into our violence
Bid our hungry souls be filled
Word now breaking Heaven's silence
Welcome to our world
Welcome to our world

Fragile finger sent to heal us
Tender brow prepared for thorn
Tiny heart whose blood will save us
Unto us is born
Unto us is born

So wrap our injured flesh around You
Breathe our air and walk our sod
Rob our sin and make us holy
Perfect Son of God
Perfect Son of God
Welcome to our world--Chris Rice

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Quote o' The Day

On political correctness at Christmas: "This overuse of the word 'offensive' is driving me out of my mind. Excuse me, sir, which part is more offensive, the 'peace on earth' or the 'goodwill toward men' rhetoric?"--Brad Stine

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

I created my own puzzle...

This is a pic of my daughter and my niece. Play! You can also create your own puzzle by clicking on the link.

Some of my favorite Christmas memories

Are there any Christmases past that stand out in your memory as especially wonderful, for whatever reason?

I have a few.

On Christmas Eve or Christmas Day (I forget which!) of 1973, I was in my senior year of high school and my sister who lived in Utah at the time had just had a baby girl. My parents, my younger sister and younger brother and I were traveling up to Utah for Christmas, and we stopped for lunch at a ski resort in Monarch Pass, Colorado (pictured above.)

I will never forget the beauty of that Christmas lunch. We were seated near a fireplace, facing a window with a gorgeous view of people skiing down the slopes in the gently falling snow. Having lived most of my life in places where it didn't snow at Christmas, this was like walking into a live Christmas card. Beautiful! I was so filled with Christmas spirit, I was almost bursting.

One of the happiest Christmases I've spent in recent years was Christmas 2002. My oldest son was working in Ohio, and since he worked in a mall, he had Christmas Day off, but had to work both Christmas Eve and the day after Christmas. We decided to take Christmas to him.

He lived in a little Victorian house in Cedarville, Ohio, where he had attended college at Cedarville University and where my second son was a student. All Jonathan's house-mates had gone home for Christmas, so we moved in. We stayed up for hours watching DVD's of Sports Night. I made Christmas goodies and we finished up our shopping at the mall where Jonathan worked.

On Christmas Day, I cooked a turkey dinner with all the trimmings, and after dinner we drove around and looked at Christmas lights in the falling snow. It was wonderful...and it was the last Christmas we spent as just our immediate family, since Jonathan got married in January 2004.

Last Christmas, 2004, was also wonderful because I got to spend the holiday with my family in Texas. It was bittersweet because it was the first Christmas without my dad, who passed away in July 2004.

But it was also lovely, because I was surrounded by loved ones I normally don't get to be with at Christmas. One of the highlights was my mom taking all us "girls" to the see Ballet Austin and the Austin Symphony perform "The Nutcracker." That was truly a special occasion!

My niece Katie, my daughter Elizabeth, my beautiful mom, me, and my daughter-in-law Daylyn at "The Nutcracker"

I'm planning another trip to Texas this holiday season, and I can't wait to see my loved ones there.

What about you? Any special Christmas memories? I'd love to hear them...

Monday, December 19, 2005

Can anyone help this lady?

Looking for suggestions from lawyers, charitable workers, etc.

I got an e-mail and a phone call today from a listener who is in a rather desperate situation. She financially supports her half-sister, who lives with her. Bottom line is, the woman who lives with her has a trust fund that she is unable to freely access, apparently because of the attorney who handles it.

The woman who wrote me the e-mail has a good job, meaning she doesn't qualify for most government assistance.. but her resources are being drained and she has had to go bankrupt because she supports her half-sister completely.

If anyone has any suggestions I can pass along to this lady, I would be extremely grateful! Following is the e-mail, with names deleted.

"Dear Cindy. My name is P_____. I was at the West Riverside Walmart, where your dj's are doing the radio promotion thing today (Sunday). I told them of this situation, and they suggested to contact you, while giving me your name, telephone number and email address. They also said, if you couldn't help, you might know someone who could help. Thank you for your time and attention.

At this festive time of year we all like to think that God's in his heaven and all's right with the world. It's not. My friend,[actually her half-sister] L____ and her son--who live with me, are living below the poverty line. In one of the sub-sub basements. She's looking for work, but without money for transportation(monthly bus pass), she'll be lucky to find any place willing to hire her.
(There are places that won't touch you for employment unless you CAN answer 'yes" to having reliable transportation)

L____ does have money but she'll never have direct access to it. She has a trust that was set up by her grandfather over a decade ago. I'm not sure how much its worth(nor do I really care). With a trust L____ will never have driect access to, she'll never qualify for any government assistance program, LIHEAP, or even food stamps.

When L____ isn't working, as now, I have and do totally support her and her son 100% financially.

L_____ has never been judged unfit to handle her own affairs, and the reasons for the trust set up as it is, can't be logically explained.

L_____ has a trustee by the name of attorney S_____ R____.

I can't say R_____ hasn't given her anything ever. Over the course of nearly ten years, when L_____ approaches , hat in hand, attorney R____has given L___ either checks in the precise bill amounts, or money in the precise bill amounts. But regular help for L____, from her trust, doesn't occur on a regular basis. Every time L____ has had to beg, she's had to wait around 3 weeks for an answer about a request. On a couple of occasions, L_____ has had to wait over a month for an answer to a request.

I"m not too sure about the conditions of the trust. But this is getting to a point beyond ridiculous.
It's a strange situation for L_____. She's a middle aged woman, seeking more employment and she has a trust, with which she should be able to pay bills regularly. But L____ has learned to be extremely patient when dealing with Rudy, and hope for a positive response to any request from the trust.

We had the gas shut off from May until September of this year. Even though we had been paying on it. The ONLY reason we got the gas back on,
is L____ begged a freind of hers in Michigan to loan the money to pay the gas bill.
Her friend is mailing her a copy of the paid Nicor receipt somettime this week.
(Lynn wnats the receipt for her own records, to keep track of the loan).

We're coming close to Christmas, and although L____ has requested money to pay for particular bills over the next several months, she knows, from experience, that she won't get an answer from R____ before Christmas.

The times that L_____ has requested money, it's always for the bills. It's not for spending money. I doubt if she's ever asked for spending money.

After years of watching Lynn go through requesting anything from attorney R____, I'm not holding my breath for a timely response for L____. This is just going to be a Christmas where L_____ can't pay for anything, will worry about if she'll be able to pay the upcoming bills, and she knows she won't be able to do something even vaguely special for her now nearly legally grown son. [Her son is 17.]

We have house repairs we need to make, like fixing a few roof leaks before they destroy the inside of our house. The water heater died and needs replacing. But all of our priorities right now are just to survive.

I've been forced to file bankruptcy this year. While I"m paying the legal fees from that, there will be even less money to support myself, much less help L____ and her son J_____.

Thank you for reading this."


Again, any suggestions would be gratefully accepted. If you have any ideas, please e-mail me--you can click on my contact button on my sidebar.

Friday, December 16, 2005

It's FRIDAY!!!

...and yes, I'm doing the Fridays Feast meme! Join me if you will...and post your answers here, or on your own blog.


What is a word that your family uses that would not be considered common?--Ever since I was a very little girl, my sisters and I have called a certain hair-do a "cricket." It's when you take both sides of your hair and put them up in a pony-tail, leaving the rest of your hair down...kind of a half-ponytail? (See the pic above--that's Hayley Mills with her hair in a cricket.) You see, there's no good way to describe that hairdo--it needed a name, so my sisters and I gave it one, and to this day, that hairdo, for us, is a cricket.

An actress playing "Clara" in the Nutcracker--wearing a cricket!


What theme of calendar do you have on your wall this year?--"Castles"--actual photographs of castles, mostly in Ireland, Germany and France. Really beautiful pictures, considering I got it at the dollar store!

Name 3 people you speak with on a daily basis.--My husband Doug, my daughter Elizabeth,and God. :)

Main Course
If you could put a new tattoo on someone you know - who would it be, what would the tattoo be of, and where would you put it on them?--I wouldn't. I really don't like tattoos.

What is the last beverage you drank out of a glass bottle?--Grape juice. Love it!

And since this is Friday, and all about frivolity...

I leave you with a quiz. Have a blessed weekend!

You Belong in Rome

You're a big city girl with a small town heart
Which is why you're attracted to the romance of Rome
Strolling down picture perfect streets, cappuccino in hand
And gorgeous Italian men - could life get any better?

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Favorite Christmas Movies?

Dianne at Unfinished Work recently blogged about her favorite Christmas movies, and it got me thinking about my own favorites--movies that instantly put me in the Christmas spirit.

Last night, I watched the Patrick Stewart version of "A Christmas Carol" on TNT, and really enjoyed it. No matter how many times I see that story, in whatever version, I never fail to be delighted when Scrooge wakes up on Christmas morning, a changed man!

Following is a re-run of something I posted last year about my favorite Christmas movies. And I certainly invite you to tell me yours!

My radio co-host Darren Marlar got ahold of Blockbuster's top 10 holiday rentals (my faves on the list are in boldface):

1. The Santa Clause
2. How the Grinch Stole Christmas (the 2000 live-action version with Jim Carrey)
3. A Charlie Brown Christmas
4. White Christmas
5. How the Grinch Stole Christmas (the 1966 animated version)
6. Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer
7. It's a Wonderful Life
8. A Christmas Story
9. National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation
10. The Santa Clause II

It's a Wonderful Life, is in my opinion one of the best movies of all time, let alone Christmas movie. It definitely makes my top 5 list of best movies ever.

A few of my absolute favorites that didn't make the list:

Holiday Inn--Bing Crosby, Fred Astaire, the debut of "White Christmas"--what more could you ask?

Scrooged--Bill Murray at his best--a little over the top, but definitely fun and ultimately heartwarming.

Home Alone--a classic...never fails to put me in the Christmas spirit. I can't hear the theme song, "Somewhere in My Memory" without getting all emotional (click here for a sound clip.

The sequels fail to engender the same magic as the original. Home Alone 2 was all about how much pain could be inflicted on the two criminals played by Daniel Stern and Joe Pesci, and I didn't even bother with Home Alone 3.

What are YOUR favorites?

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

The one in which I'm super-blessed by Superblessed

I am the very honored recipient of the Superblessed Blog Award for Most Enjoyable Female Christian Blog (International, Non-Filipino)! Actually, I tied for the award with Shalom's Web.

Ganns of Superblessed writes: "Cindy Swanson is a great encourager who uses her gifts to testify of God's goodness, and Jan Bishop's musings on life and her faith have always served to encourage me and challenge my own faith in positive ways."

Thanks so much, made my day! Congratulations to the other Superblessed winners, as well.

More Christmas music stuff...

I'll admit it...some Christmas music is just awful. I hate it when people take a perfectly good Christmas carol and destroy it by making crazy, totally unwarranted changes.

However, sometimes an artist is able to put his/her flavor into the song, making it even better. I found a couple of comments I made during past Christmases about favorite Christmas music, which I now re-post:

You're a mean one, Mr. Grinch!

My very favorite version of this song is the one by Sixpence None the Richer, which we play here on 101QFL. Leigh Nash's oddly lovely and lilting voice, and almost childlike quality in the speaking parts, really lends itself perfectly to this whimsical tune.

Apparently this reviewer of the 1999 Christmas compilation album, Happy Christmas Volume Two, agrees with me: "If you buy the CD for only one song, it would have to be Sixpence None the Richer's 'You're A Mean One Mr. Grinch.' Their oddball rendition is just too much fun..." (12/17/03)

Heard Enya's version of "Silent Night"...

...on the way into work this morning, and it was eerily beautiful. It was in Gaelic, which I find strange and lovely. When I hear Irish music, something calls out to me on a deep and primitive level. Some people think there is a something deep within us that connects with the country or countries that figured prominently in our ancestry. I think there may be something to that...else why have I been inexplicably drawn to Ireland ever since I was a little girl? I have strong Irish strains on both sides of my family tree.

Enya, by the way, is the sister of Christian singer Maire (pronounced Moya)Brennan, whose voice and style is much like her sister's, but has a lot more Christian and spiritual content. I have one of her CD's, "Perfect Time," and like it very much.--(12/11/03)

Monday, December 12, 2005

A Very Brady Christmas?!?

Your Christmas is Most Like: A Very Brady Christmas

For you, it's all about sharing times with family.
Even if you all get a bit cheesy at times.

OK, just thought that would be a fun thing to do on a Monday morning.

I've been enjoying this Christmas season immensely so far. I have totally enjoyed decorating my new home (we've lived here since March). It's the first place I've ever lived that had a fireplace, so decorating the mantel and having an actual place from which to hang stockings has been cool.

Contributing to the overall Christmassy effect has been the fact that we've already had a few lovely snowfalls of the most picturesque, picture-postcard variety. Gorgeous!

And as always, I've been enjoying Christmas music to the hilt. We had our Christmas cantata at church last night...Doug and I both sang in it, and I think it turned out great. It was "If Jesus Had Not Come," by Mac Lynch and Ken Collier. Really beautiful songs, and a touching readers' theater that takes the "It's a Wonderful Life" premise and applies it to the Christmas story--what if Jesus had never been born?

Please don't ask me about Evie...

I've been getting inundated with requests for Evie Tornquist Karlsson music, lyrics, guitar chords, CD's, you name it...but the sad reply is "I don't know!"

Yes, I was able to interview Evie a year ago, and it was a great experience. In the interview, Evie mentioned that she had recorded a new Christmas album and hoped to have it available this Christmas. Unfortunately, I have not been able to get ahold of her to confirm anything. I've e-mailed her repeatedly and have not gotten a reply. Also, I really know nothing about how to find her music. I've suggested E-bay and, but other than that, I'm stumped.

I promise, if I hear from Evie, you'll be the first to know.

Thanks for the birthday wishes...

I have to say this birthday (Saturday) was one of the nicest ones in recent memory. I got to spend a lot of quality time with my hubby, and he made it a very special day, as did other friends and loved ones.

Friday, December 09, 2005

Burlap to Cashmere's Johnny Philippidis resting at home

I've been following the situation with the B2C guitarist/vocalist who was brutally beaten and left for dead November 17 . A few days ago I reported that Philippidis had been released from Brooklyn's Lutheran Medical Center.

Well, I just got off the phone with Johnny's sister Nicole, who tells me that her brother is dividing his time between rehab and resting comfortably at his mom's house.

"I'm just so happy that so many people are praying for him," says Nicole. "I really think the prayers are working; it's almost a miracle that he's been healing so rapidly."

She's especially amazed at the success of a seven-hour reconstructive surgery, which she says "went beautifully."

Nicole is asking for continued prayers for a full recovery for Johnny, including for one of his eyes that is still swollen shut.

She says the first couple of days after Johnny emerged from a medically-induced coma were "scary," as her brother was not himself. But then, she says, "things started processing." She says Johnny has only a hazy memory of what happened to him, but doctors say that memory could easily return.

(In the meantime, authorities continue to investigate the criminal aspect of the incident. 25-year-old Jonathan Goody is a suspect in the beating.)

As for the re-uniting of Burlap to Cashmere at some point in the future, Nicole says, "Oh, yeah, that's definitely going to happen." She says a friend brought to the hospital the demo that Philippidis and his cousin Steven Delopoulos had just completed before the accident, and she says it was exciting to hear it.

Known as a wonderfully gifted guitarist, Nicole says Johnny Philippidis has only picked up a guitar once in recent days--and that was to tune the guitar of a friend. But we can all continue to hope and pray that his talents will be fully restored in the not-too-distant future.

Happy Birthday to Me!

Well, it's actually tomorrow, but since I normally don't blog on the weekennds, I thought I'd jump the gun a little. This may be the last birthday that I claim, so I'm going to milk this one to the hilt!

Everyone have a blessed and joyful weekend!

Thursday, December 08, 2005

2005 Carol of the Year

Every year, Christmas carol expert William Studwell declares a "Carol of the Year." This year, Studwell's choice is "Angels We Have Heard on High."

Studwell, a Northern Illinois University professor emeritus now retired and living in Indiana, knows his stuff when it comes to Christmas carols.

Christmas carol expert William Studwell

A family Christmas gift exchange in the 70's started Studwell on his path to carol expertise. When the exchange called for handmade gifts, Studwell put together a pamphlet about carols, doing the research and creating the book himself.

Since then, Studwell has written four books and more than 50 journal articles about carols. I was able to interview him earlier this week for my interview show, "Weekend Rockford." Studwell tells me that I have been interviewing him for about 15 years now--time flies!

What qualifies "Angels We Have Heard on High" as 2005 Carol of the Year? Says Studwell, "It has a very fine main melody--aesthetic, sensitive, graceful--sophisticated, actually. It's high quality, and has a tremendously elastic refrain that you can do so much with. And the words are good just kind of carries you over the mountains, over the clouds...and the 'Gloria in excelsis Deo' just elevates you!"

Studwell says, other than it being French and probably from the late 18th century, the exact origins of the song are unclear. He believes it was probably written, not by a peasant or a troubadour, but by someone with some education and musical knowledge.

The song was first published in 1855, probably some 100 years after it was written.

Will Christmas carols survive political correctness?

I had to ask this Christmas carol expert what he thinks about the current trend of either replacing or butchering traditional carols in the interest of political correctness. Predictably, he's disturbed.

"Very much so," says Studwell. "I'm a centrist--I'm not one of those left-wing crazies or right-wing crazies--but political correctness is absolutely ridiculous...It's getting worse, but there's a big counter-offensive, and I believe it will ultimately fail."

Studwell says there's already a "tremendous backlash" to the attack on Christmas, and he believes Christmas carols will survive. "Carols should live on for many, many years. Long live the carol."

What's YOUR favorite traditional Christmas carol? I love many of them, but I think I have to go with "Hark the Herald Angels Sing." I find it soul-stirring, joyful, and packed full of theology all at the same time!

Go here for more information on the history of "Angels We Have Heard on High."

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

And the Grinchiness goes on...and on...

John Whitehead

I never thought I'd see the day that it was deemed politically incorrect and intolerant to say the word "Christmas" at CHRISTMAS, but folks, we're there.

Not a day goes by that we don't hear about some large retailer refusing to use the word in their brochures or in-store signage, and public schools continue to think they have to change the lyrics of Christmas carols beloved for centuries and forbid kids from exchanging Christmas cards.

There are stirrings of a major backlash, though. Americans are famous for not wanted to be told what they can and cannot say. Even Saturday Night Live had a skit last week obviously poking fun at the Christmas nay-sayers, with a choir singing "Silent night, regular night," and "How Ya Doin'?" instead of the Hallelujah Chorus. We can only hope the backlash gains momentum.

Meantime, the Alliance Defense Fund has launched a campaign they're calling Say Christmas: "ADF wants all Americans to know the Truth—that they have the freedom to celebrate Christmas publicly, joyfully, and without fear—for generations to come! We are launching our annual national Christmas Project™ to spread the message, “Merry Christmas. It’s okay to say it.™”

And in the spirit of the season--yep, the CHRISTMAS season...I'm re-posting an interview I did last year with John Whitehead of the Rutherford Institute.
It remains timely!

My interview with John Whitehead of the Rutherford Institute

CINDY: John, thank you so much for being with us today.

JOHN: Thank you for having me on.

CINDY: We're having some people call in and tell us some things that are
going on around the area in relation to Christmas programs in local public schools, specifically the Harlem School District [in northern Illinois.]

And apparently they had a Christmas program and some parents called us upset because the use of the word Christmas was specifically banned, apparently, from the the extent that instead of singing "We Wish You a Merry Christmas" they changed it to "We Wish You a Happy Season"..."O Christmas Tree" changed to "O Turkey Dear"...and "The Twelve Day of Christmas" they actually changed to a cute little song about McDonald's.

And it got us thinking, what exactly is allowed? What can be done as far as Christmas?

And that took me to your website, John, to the Rutherford Institute website. You have a thing there called The Twelve Rules of Christmas that goes into detail explaining about that. And I want to get into that, but first of all, John, for people who may not be familiar with it, what is the Rutherford Institute?

JOHN: It's an organization I started a little over 20 years ago to fight in the courtroom and educate on public issues.

We've taken on literally thousands of lawsuits over the years since then, and when we take a case we do not charge, that was the idea. I raise money from public donations and when we take on a case we make sure the client doesn't have to pay, because most people can't afford lawyers and they can't afford a court battle. We use attorneys across the country in all 50 states that donate their time, and without that, we couldn't move forward.

So that's what we do, and we specialize in religious freedom over the years and have won number of cases.

CINDY: Well John, it seems to me--maybe it's just my imagination--but it seems to me that this Christmas is worse than it's ever been, as far as the thought police and the politically correct police being out and about making sure that this holiday, which is in fact the celebration of Jesus' birth, is completely taken away from Christ and from any mention of Jesus.

Is that my imagination or do you see it getting worse in some quarters?

"...more ludicrous and crazy each year"

JOHN: It's happening all over the country. It's not getting better, it's getting worse, you're absolutely correct. You know, we really started seeing these cases worsen in the mid-90's. And I thought, with some Christian resurgence in the country and those kind of things, that maybe things would get better. But the thing is, it has worsened; the cases become more ludicrous and more crazy each year. There is, in my opinion, and I don't know where it's coming from, but if you want to use the word "agenda" in the public schools of America to completely secularize the public schools,and specifically, do away with any Christian references.

We had a weird case four or five years ago where in a Christmas play a child wore in a green and red scarf and the child was told he couldn't wear the scarf because it was the "Christian" color. So, it's gotten worse, I mean, just some of the examples you've given me of what's happening in your area. The "O Turkey Dear" is one of the craziest things I've ever heard, or singing hymns to McDonald's of all places.

So it's gotten worse, yeah. And the thing is that we emphasize with our Twelve Rules of Christmas, is that none of this stuff is illegal. You can celebrate Christmas in the schools, you can do all kinds of things.

"Offend no one"

What it is, and you nailed it, is political correctness, and the golden rule of our public schools which is "Don't offend anyone...offend no one." So that's what's happening. But I think, unfortunately, a lot of schools allow Hannukah and Kwaanza (but) at the same time they don't allow any kind of Christian references in songs.

CINDY: You were saying their mantra is "Don't offend anyone," but they ARE offending a sizable group of people, and that's the Christians.

JOHN: Exactly. I think the one group they don't care about offending is the Christians.

CINDY: Tell me far as the Christmas songs...what is allowed?

JOHN: Well, you can have Christmas songs and Christmas plays, as long as it's part of a larger program where you have the so-called secular songs. You can sing "O Come All Ye Faithful" or the traditional Christmas songs. You can teach about it in the classroom, the Christmas can mention the baby Jesus and Joseph and know, Luke 2, in the New Testament--you can tell that, that's history. As long as it's taught objectively and it's part of history. So there's all kinds of things teachers and students can do.

Yeah, you can have Christmas programs in the schools. The only reason they're not occurring is that the schools just don't want to do it.

CINDY: What should parents do to battle this kind of political correctness that's run amuck?

"What it takes is a fight"

JOHN: Get educated, number one. I'd get a copy of "The Twelve Rules of Christmas" which you can download from our website, or call our toll-free number (1-800-225-1791) we can give you a free copy of the pamphlet. Take it to your teacher, take it to your schools right now, get it right away, and say "This is legal, why aren't you doing it?" I'd pressure 'em, get together a group of parents that are concerned...go to them in a group.

Usually it takes one parent that says, "Hey, I don't like these Christian Christmas songs," and they cancel 'em. Unfortunately, the Christians very seldom stand up.

So, what it takes is a fight. You have to get educated and go in armed with your pamphlets. You know, we've actually written schools and threatened to sue them, and the reason they back down is it's not against the law. And the reason we
send those letters or call schools is because parents call us and say, "We want you to stand up for us," and you have to stand up and fight back.

"One parent can change history"

CINDY: Do you know of instances where parents have gone to the school board and actually gotten things changed, just through being vocal?

JOHN: Yes. That's the key, being vocal. To show you, we just won a case in northern Virginia where the PTA ,to raise money, the parents could buy bricks to put around the flagpole, and they could put names or symbols. So a few parents bought the bricks for 25 dollars and put a little cross on them and their child's name, and one parent complained that they didn't like the crosses... and the school went out and took metal plates and put over those bricks.

We sued the school and won in court, but it took that one parent to change, then we had to go in and file a lawsuit to get those right back. But like I said, one parent can change history.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Burlap to Cashmere's Johnny Philippidis released from hospital

Johnny Philippidis of the recently reunited Burlap to Cashmere was to be released from the hospital yesterday after being brutally beaten and left for dead on November 17.
Neil Gorman, public relations director of Lutheran Medical Center in Brooklyn, NY, left a voice message for me yesterday saying the Philippidis family was busy arranging his discharge yesterday. Gorman says he spoke with Johnny yesterday and that he was "looking good." He says the discharge is good news, as Philippidis will be able to continue his recovery at home.

I'm hoping to hear from a member of the Philippidis family to get more details about Johnny's condition, but until then, we can hopefully construe his discharge as a positive sign. Please continue to pray for his recovery.

Monday, December 05, 2005

You have GOT to see this...

A man in Mason, Ohio got incredibly creative with his Christmas lights, choreographing them to music in an amazing display. Go to my colleague Darren Marlar's website and click on the link there.

And in case you're cynical (like me), confirms the veracity of the story here:

"This display was the work of Carson Williams of Mason, Ohio, who spent about three hours sequencing the 88 Light-O-Rama channels that control the 16,000 Christmas lights in his 2004 holiday lighting spectacular. The musical accompaniment is broadcast over a low-power radio station so that it is only audible to visitors tuned in to the correct frquency and doesn't disturb the neighbors."

The music Williams used is the Trans Siberian Orchestra's "Wizards in Winter." Which reminds me...although I'm not crazy about all of the Trans Siberian Orchestra's stuff, I really do like "Christmas Eve in Sarajevo" and "A Mad Russian's Christmas"--they're so wildly, in-your-face joyful!

I've loved your comments so far about your favorite Christmas music. Some of your favorites prompted a "how could I have forgotten!?" reaction for Steven Curtis Chapman's "The Music of Christmas." Steven has a new Christmas CD out this year, "All I Really Want for Christmas." Don't miss the track in which one of Steven's adopted daughers, Shaohanna, recites the Christmas story. Adorable.

And it only seems appropriate at this time for me to post my pic with Steven, taken a few years ago at the Gospel Music Association Convention. As I've said many times, Steven is the real deal when it comes to Christian musicians who authentically live out their faith. I've been delighted to be able to interview him a couple of times.

Please keep the Christmas music suggestions and favorites coming...I'm lovin' it!

Friday, December 02, 2005

My favorite Christmas music...

OK, I have to say, I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE Christmas music! There are certain Christmas albums that are staples for me during this season. More on some of those in a moment...but first, to tell you about a few newer ones that I'm now enjoying.

My Radio 91 co-worker, Charmel, was kind enough to give me a copy of Point of Grace's new CD, Winter Wonderland. Now, as you'll read in a moment, the first POG Christmas CD is one of my all-time favorites, but after just a few listens to this new one, I can tell it's going to take its place among my favorites as well.

Another one I'm enjoying for the second year is the soundtrack to the movie "Elf." It includes a lot of happy, lighthearted classics sung by the likes of Ella Fitzgerald, Lena Horne, Jim Reeves and Eddy Arnold--including a song my son Jonathan absolutely detests: "Santa Baby," sung by Eartha Kitt.

For a more contemplative and worshipful mood...My husband surprised me the other day with Handel's Messiah, performed by the London Philharmonic and boxed with a lovely Thomas Kinkade print. I've never had a really good recording of Messiah, which I've always loved (and recently blogged about), so I was thrilled.

James Taylor has always been one of my favorite singers, so I'm really enjoying his Christmas CD...several favorites sung in his inimitable laid-back, folksy style. His version of "Go Tell it on the Mountain" is vintage James. I love it.

Another of my favorites this year can't be bought in stores. My son Justin compiled a CD that he calls "Soulful Christmas." It includes Donny Hathaway's "This Christmas," a few from Kirk Franklin and the Family, Stevie Wonder, Take 6 and others. I'm loving it!
Here's something I wrote a few years ago about Christmas music, lifted from my website:

The Soundtrack of Christmas

Christmas music I love...

There are certain musical sounds that have formed the backdrop of Christmas for me...some in years past,and some in more recent years. I can remember growing up to the lilting sounds of Brenda Lee's "Jingle Bell Rock" and "Rockin' Around the Christmas Tree"! In junior high,I was introduced by an incredible music teacher to the majesty and wonder of Handel's "Messiah." The strains of "For Unto Us a Son is Born" never fail to stir me, and I could make a good case for "The Hallelujah Chorus" being sung in Heaven!

When I was in Bible college, Evie Tornquist was all the rage. I still enjoy Evie's "Come On,Ring those Bells"!

Years ago,my sister gave me a Christmas tape of the Oak Ridge Boys. I've since lost it, and would love to have the CD. I can remember playing it for my little sons at night while they went to sleep during the Christmas season.

Some of my favorite Christmas music is more contemporary, but several have quickly become standards in our home. Here are a few:

For the fourth year I'm thoroughly enjoying Michael W. Smith's "Christmastime." I heartily recommend it.

No one is going to pretend Smitty is an awesome vocalist, but he is, in my opinion,a musical genius, and there is something endearing about his voice, too. The arrangements and orchestration are absolutely gorgeous as well. This is one of my very favorite Christmas albums. It is the perfect, joyous blend of the lighthearted and the reverent. Now I can't imagine the Christmas season without it.

His first Christmas album (I believe it was just titled "Christmas"), also remains a Christmas season staple for me, but it has a much different tone. The first album is more quiet and worshipful overall.

All of Amy Grant's Christmas albums are great,but my personal favorite is "Home for Christmas." It has become a seasonal classic in our home.

Also once again enjoying Point of Grace's Christmas C-D...I believe it's called "A Christmas Story." Lush, shimmery, angelic female four-part harmony, with a nice balance of the sacred and the secular.

And one of the best Christmas albums EVER...4Him's "Season of Love". I can't come up with enough superlatives for this one. . 4Him's version of "Little Drummer Boy" is one of my favorites...and "Strange Way to Save the World" is beautiful and poignant. A must-have!
Ok, time to share. What are YOUR favorites/recommendations?

Thursday, December 01, 2005

I've been tagged again!

David Fisher of Pilgrim Scribblings tagged me with what he calls a Trinity of Questions:

1. What comes to mind/what is your heart's response when you think of or hear the word..."CALVARY"?--Amazing love, grace and mercy of which I am so unworthy but for which I am eternally grateful.

2. What would you like to have inscribed on your tombstone?--Probably just something like "loving wife and mother." I wish I could come up with something really clever, like Benjamin Franklin's:

"The Body of
B. Franklin, Printer
Like the Cover of an old Book
Its Contents turn out
And Stript of its Lettering & Guilding
Lies here. Food for Worms
For, it will as he believed
appear once more
In a new and more elegant Edition
corrected and improved
By the Author"

3. Which attribute of God do you find yourself revelling in the most? --The fact that He is Love...because that's what I need the most. I also love the sovereignty of God...I take great comfort in the fact that everything in my life happens according to His plan. Nothing takes Him by surprise.

Wednesday, November 30, 2005

I was nominated and I didn't even know it!

...and, I've been tagged with Seven Sevens

Well, I just found out that I was nominated for a blog award! The bad news is, I didn't become one of the finalists for the Blogs of Beauty Awards, hosted by Two Talent Living...but as they say in Hollywood, hey, it's an honor just to have been nominated!

Notes in the Key of Life was nominated in the "Best Variety" category. What an honor! I plan to go vote for the finalists as soon as possible. Thanks to Two Talent Living for hosting this award; it just goes to show how many wonderful blogs out there are being written by Christian women.

And now, She Lives has tagged me with the "Seven Sevens" meme.

Seven Things to Do Before I Die.

1. See all my children marry and have kids (one is married already)
2. Go to Ireland/Scotland/England
3. Write a book
4. Go to Paris
5. Learn to speak Spanish
6. Learn to speak French
7. Visit New York City with my mom and sisters

Seven Things I Cannot Do
1. Play the piano
2. Play any kind of team sport without looking like an idiot
3. Whistle--I don't know why, I'm just incapable of doing it!
4. Make a decent pie crust
5. Program a VCR or DVD player--or maybe I'm just too lazy to learn
6. Cut hair--even bangs!
7. Sew

Seven Things that Attract Me to My Husband [romantic interest, best friend, whomever]

(not necessarily in this order!)

1. His (sorry, there's no other way to say it) sexy speaking voice
2. His beautiful blue eyes
3. His hands
4. His character and integrity
5. His loyalty
6. His love for God
7. How he's great at all those sports I'm terrible at

Seven Things I Say Most Often

1. Y'know?
2. Amazing
3. Awesome
4. Give me a break!
5. Oh my goodness
6. That's ridiculous
7. "crazy" as an adjective for anything that's amazing or awesome :)

Seven Books (or series) I Love
1. The Bible
2. Jane Eyre, by Charlotte Bronte
3. The Chronicles of Narnia, by C. S. Lewis
4. Pride and Prejudice, by Jane Eyre
5. The Emerald Ballad Series, by B. J. Hoff
6. The Mark of the Lion Series, by Francine Rivers
7. Wuthering Heights, by Emily Bronte

Seven Movies I Would Watch Over and Over Again
1. It's a Wonderful Life
2. Braveheart
3. Gone with the Wind
4. Gladiator
5. A Christmas Story
6. When Harry Met Sally
7. Ferris Bueller's Day Off

Seven People I Want to Join in Too:
BUT...I will totally understand if you don't. I know this is a busy time of year for everyone...but do it for fun if you get a moment!

Julie Anne
Mei Flower

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

My interview with Steve Beard of

"Thunderstruck has always been a spiritual hangout for those who are curious, confused, or confident."--Steve Beard

One of my regular stops on the Web is, the blog of Christian film critic Steve Beard. As a news person, I view the site as a wealth of links to things I need to know in order to keep in touch with what's going on in our culture.

I got curious about how Steve compiles all those links, and how he ended up being a film critic, so I requested an e-mail interview with him. Steve graciously agreed, and here's the interview:

CINDY: First of all, tell me about yourself. What is your background, and how did you become a movie critic?

STEVE: I grew up the son of a preacher man in Orange County, California (the poor version of what is seen on television). My friends and I surfed, skateboarded, and played in a roots rock band called the Belvederes. Shortly after college, I moved to Washington D.C. and was a research assistant at the Institute on Religion and Democracy and the Ethics and Public Policy Center.

Fourteen years ago, I moved to Lexington, Kentucky, to edit Good News magazine. As a writer, I began to turn my attention to the way in which faith emerged in pop culture – television, rock music, film, and comics. Doors opened up for me to write for publications such as Charisma, Risen, The Washington Times, and World. I began writing on film and music for, The Phantom Tollbooth (,,,, and

Two years ago, I wrote lengthy biographical essays on Bono, Johnny Cash, and Al Green for Spiritual Journeys: How Faith Has Influenced Twelve Music Icons (Relevant, 2003).

CINDY: I've called your blog,, sort of a Drudge Report from a Christian worldview. How did it come about?

STEVE: You are very generous. Originally, it was merely a collection of my own writings. Soon, I started posting articles that I thought friends of mine should check out. What began as a trickle of articles dealing with faith and pop culture in “secular” or mainstream publications is now steady stream – enough to keep me very busy. It did not take long before the articles and the website was being checked out by more than my friends and I began getting notes from fellow travelers from all over the place.

Thunderstruck has always been a spiritual hangout for those who are curious, confused, or confident.

"What you see on there is what I am reading about"

CINDY: The variety of links on your blog is amazing. How do you find those links? Do you invest a lot of time in searching for them?

Depending on my deadlines, I spend several hours per day checking out all kinds of websites that may have something that fits within my interests.

Are there any specific criteria you use when seeking links for your blog? Anything in particular that makes you go, "Yep, that's going on the blog!"

Although the blog is focused on faith and pop culture there are all kinds of articles that do not fit within that category. I love fashion, BBQ joints, Oakland Raiders football, traveling, and Cajun food. I’ve had articles on the history of the bikini, record reviews of Social Distortion, the ministry of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., as well as Krispy Kreme Donuts. None of those subjects fit into a particular category but they are all things that I love. There is nothing clinical about Thunderstruck. What you see on there is what I am reading about, whether it is regarding the legalization of pot for medicinal purposes or the rise of teenage pregnancy. On the same day, I posted an article by Andrew Sullivan supporting gay marriage, as well as one from Mitch Romney opposing it. I was reading both and I thought that everyone else should. Just because I post an article does not mean I support the ideas behind it. It simply means that I think it is worth reading.

"Thunderstruck is devoted to pointing out the way in which faith expresses itself in art and culture"

CINDY: Your site is all about the popular culture. Why should Christians care about what’s going on in the popular culture?

STEVE: Our culture has a voracious appetite for spiritual engagement – even in our entertainment. We are far more mystical than we realize. The music, the movies, the TV shows that we watch reflect that. There are tons of programs that deal with heaven and hell, murder and justice, sin and redemption. We may not agree with them all, but at least they are bringing up these important topics. Thunderstruck is devoted to pointing out the way in which faith expresses itself in art and culture—The Matrix, Switchfoot, Bruce Almighty, U2, Lord of the Rings, P.O.D., Joan of Arcadia, and Johnny Cash.

I began the site about five years ago and it has just kind of taken off. There is an entire generation out there that blurs the line between the sacred and the profane in a way that previous generations didn’t. It seems to me that Christians should be able to engage our culture regarding movies such as Walk the Line, books such as The Da Vinci Code, The Purpose Driven Life, or Kanye West’s hip-hop or the latest album of The Black Rebel Motorcycle Club.

Some of my church going friends get angry and frustrated when Hollywood does not act like the church. Whoa, who ever said it was supposed to? Hollywood only cares about one thing: Money. Unfortunately, some preachers are the same way.

CINDY: Your list of musical favorites includes very few "Christian" groups. Do you think contemporary Christian music is inferior? What could it be doing better?

STEVE: Ouch. Ironically, I became a believer because of the friendship with some guys in a rockabilly group called Wild Blue Yonder and a punk group called Undercover. I like to blur my worlds. Perhaps that is more indicative of the state of my soul than the quality of Christian music. I have some friends that really hate Christian music. I don’t; I just don’t listen to it. But when I listen to Buddy Miller or the Black Rebel Motorcycle Club’s new record, it sounds like worship music to me. The same goes for Johnny Cash, hard rock-rap like P.O.D., Switchfoot, Lifehouse, or even some of Elvis’s gospel stuff. I still find certain U2 songs to be the kind of transcendent jump start I need every day. I listen to Dylan’s gospel albums and a lot of the Blind Boys of Alabama or even old blues stuff from Blind Willie Johnson or the Rev. Gary Davis.

I appreciate what Jars of Clay did when they played at Live8 in Philadelphia. We need more of our faith-based bands to mix it up with the mainstream artists.

CINDY: What's wrong with Hollywood today? What's right?

STEVE: Great question. I tend to see the glass more full than empty. Hollywood is far more responsive today than they have been since I have been a movie buff. I know that the some writers remember a time when every script was given a thumbs up or down by a Christian agency in Hollywood. Those days are long gone. Make your peace with the past and move on.

Wasn’t it great the way that Nightcrawler could be a fully Christian superhero in X-Men 2 without everyone breaking out in hives? I loved that. He was blue with pointy ears and a tail and quoted the 23rd Psalm and the Lord’s Prayer. No one poked fun at him. He was not a superficial, stereotypical Christian. It was so organic.

There is only going to be one Passion of the Christ, but there are many more Matrix-style movies to be made.

OK, this is a biggie, but maybe you could give me an in-a-nutshell kind of reply. How should Christians most effectively be sharing their faith in today's world?

It is very rare that a painting, book, film, or television broadcast actually brings someone closer to God. However, they can all nudge, probe, prod, entice, or inspire. We need to be able to use the world around us –nature, entertainment, sports, philosophy, politics— to engage our culture with the big questions. Why are we here? Where do we go when we die? Does it matter if we tell the truth?

In all actuality, it is very rare to find someone who made a decision to follow God based on some form of media. Usually, people are drawn to God in tragedy or despair or in rare, quite moments of contemplation. They are often introduced to God through someone around them who loves them and loves God.

Does the single mom down the street know that she could call on you to watch her kids in an emergency? Does your alcoholic brother-in-law know that you will come pick him up at a bar so that he does not drive home drunk? All I am saying is that we need to be vulnerable, available, and grace-filled to those inside and outside the four walls of the church.

I believe in making our case in the public arena but I shudder when I see some of the preachers who get picked to represent our side on television. We share our faith with open arms and smiles and winks, not with wagging fingers, swinging Bibles, or clenched fists.

CINDY: What do you hope your readers get from your blog?

STEVE: The reason I began Thunderstruck was to show my friends—those who believe and those who do not—that the entire world (even The New York Times) is writing and pondering stories that used to get ignored or relegated to the “Religion Page” found at the back of the sports section on Saturdays. I hope that they use the articles on the site to think about the big questions in life. I know that she is extremely unpopular with everyone in the Church, but what are we supposed to do with this comment from Madonna: "I'm constantly trying to figure out what my place in the world is. That search was obviously instigated by the birth of my daughter. In my film, I talk about how I woke up one day and thought, 'my God, I'm about to have a baby; how am I going to teach my child what the meaning of life is when I don't know myself?' If she asks why she's here and who is God or why are people suffering, I want to have answers. And I want to ask those questions, too."

Do we ignore her because she has offended us in the past? Jesus would be bummed if that were our response.

Has your blog changed your life in any way?

STEVE: I’ve met a lot of great people along the way. It has been a blessing, I am told. I’m glad.

Monday, November 28, 2005

Is anything as gripping as Handel's "Messiah"?

"Across the span of 250 years, Messiah still holds its extraordinary grip on musician and audience member alike. It reaches us with its directness of expression and its infinite capacity for self-renewal. It bestows on us the special gift of aesthetic and spiritual grace."--Henley Denmead

To my shame, I had never yet attended the Rockford Lutheran Choral Union's annual performance of George Frideric Handel's "Messiah," despite having lived here for over 26 years. But this past Saturday night, my daughter Elizabeth and I made our way to Trinity Lutheran Church, entered the beautiful sanctuary, found a good pew, and waited in anticipation.

I have loved music from "Messiah" since I was first really introduced to it, in junior high. Every year, Vidor Junior High School's choir performed what was no doubt a simpler version of the oratorio.

We had an outstanding choir director who taught me most of what I know about sight-reading and singing harmony, and the music program was excellent. Mrs. Sowell ran a tight ship, but she was fun and lively and I remember her fondly. She must have been at least in her mid-50's then (in the early 1970's). (If anyone from Vidor, Texas stumbles on this, I would love to know whatever happened to her.)

I remember being thrilled to get a solo in the performance in what was probably my eighth grade at VJHS. It was "He Shall Feed His Flock." (Interestingly enough, I had all but forgotten that fact until we listened to the aria Saturday night. My sister later confirmed it.)

George Frideric Handel

"I did think I did see all Heaven before me, and the great God Himself!!"

The story of Handel's composing of "Messiah" is fascinating. Apparently, Handel composed the oratorio in an amazing 21 days, never leaving his home and often refusing food and water. According to this site: "While writing the 'Hallelujah Chorus', his servant discovered him with tears in his eyes. He exclaimed, 'I did think I did see all Heaven before me, and the great God Himself!!'"

But back to Trinity Lutheran. Finally, the lights were lowered, and the small orchestra began the overture. I was instantly captivated.

The first song sung by the choir is "And the glory of the Lord." As soon as it began, and the beautiful voices wafted over us in stately and gorgeous harmony, I started crying and didn't stop for the entire length of the song.

It was not only the beauty of the music that caused my awestruck was the power, the majesty, the dignity, the authority. "And all flesh shall see it together...for the mouth of the Lord hath spoken it."

I love "The Hallelujah Chorus," and it also has a powerful effect on me. But probably my favorite song from Messiah is "For unto us a child is born," and has been since I was in junior high. I don't know what it is that captivates me so much about this piece. I love the intricate harmonies, the amazing run-on vocal phrases that spiral skyward, the joyful elation of the violins. (Do listen here if you have a few moments and have any appreciation at all for classical music.)

I honestly don't think I've ever heard any music with the power to transport me to the heavenlies like Handel's Messiah. If the music in heaven is even slightly more amazing and awe-inspiring--and I believe it will actually be much more so--then we certainly have a lot to look forward to!

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Happy Thanksgiving!

I will be taking a blogging break during the Thanksgiving holidays. Lord willing and if the creek don't rise, I'll be back on Monday.

Let me also take this opportunity to express my deep gratitude to God for all His blessings, including my beloved family!

In the meantime, enjoy this:

Thanksgiving Forecast

Turkeys will thaw in the morning, then warm in the oven to an afternoon high near 190F. The kitchen will turn hot and humid, and if you bother the cook, be ready for a severe squall or cold shoulder.

During the late afternoon and evening, the cold front of a knife will slice through the turkey, causing an accumulation of one to two inches on plates. Mashed potatoes will drift across one side while cranberry sauce creates slippery spots on the other. Please pass the gravy.

A weight watch and indigestion warning have been issued for the entire area, with increased stuffiness around the beltway. During the evening, the turkey will dimish and taper off to leftovers, dropping to a low of 34F in the refrigerator.

Looking ahead to Friday and Saturday, high pressure to eat sandwiches will be established. Flurries of leftovers can be expected both days with a 50 percent chance of scattered soup late in the day. We expect a warming trend where soup develops. By early next week, eating pressure will be low as the only wish left will be the bone.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Just for fun...

Your 80s Heartthrob Is

Kirk Cameron

Update on Burlap to Cashmere's Johnny Philippidis

my interview with Johnny's sister, Nicole Philippidis

I blogged yesterday about former Burlap to Cashmere guitarist/vocalist Johnny Philippidis being in a medically-induced coma after being beaten and left for dead following a car accident in Brooklyn, N.Y.

Reportedly it happened on November 17th, and I've had a tough time finding an update on the Internet.

I contacted Neil Gorman, public relations director of Lutheran General Hospital in Brooklyn, and he put me in touch with Johnny's sister, 32-year-old Nicole Philippidis. She is Johnny's only sibling and is understandably upset, but she was very gracious and agreed to a short phone interview. Following is a transcript of the interview.

CINDY: First of all, Nicole, can you just give us an update on how Johnny is doing right now?

NICOLE: Sure. At this moment, he's in stable condition. He had an operation...the first day he was here, to remove a clot from his head. Luckily, thank God that clot was removed, and we believe that his brain is OK. But right now, all his bones are broken in his face, and he cannot breathe because too many things are in the way of his breathing.
So they have him in an induced coma, and they have him on a respirator so that he doesn't have any problem with blood and stuff getting in the way of his breathing.

His face is split in half...he has developed a bit of pneumonia yesterday; he was supposed to go in for the reconstructive surgery yesterday, but because of the pneumonia they had to postpone it. They are looking to do the surgery tomorrow (Wednesday) because the pneumonia, because they believe, and hopefully with prayer and the power of prayer the pneumonia will clear, and he will, God willing go in for a successful surgery tomorrow at noon. It's a a four-hour procedure.

CINDY: By saying that his face is split in half, what exactly do you mean by that?

NICOLE: Well, uh, the bones. The bones are just kinda, if you can imagine that, that's how they described it to us. The eye sockets are broken, the nose, the jaw...that's how they explained it to us.

CINDY: I called you, as I mentioned earlier, because I couldn't find any further information about it on the Internet and there are people, as I said, all across the country that are praying for him...people that love Burlap to Cashmere's music and remember Johnny from those days.

Can you explain how you found out about this, and what the reaction was?

NICOLE: Well, they called my dad up, because on Johnny's cell phone Dad was the first on his list of calls. And they called up my dad and told him, "Your son was in an accident, and he's OK, just come to the hospital." 'Cause they didn't want to tell my dad that they didn't think Johnny was gonna make it. You know, obviously the parent has to drive here; they don't want to kill the parent too, you know, from making themselves sick.

So my father, he didn't call anyone else, because he just thought that he was going to come here, and OK, Johnny's gonna have a couple bandages, or whatever. And when he got here they took him over to the side and they explained to him that, "You know, listen, this is really bad, and we don't know if he's gonna make it, but we are gonna give him that emergency operation, and just pray..." And my father said, "I've gotta go see him first," and they said, "Please don't," and my father ran in, of course, and was bad. Actually, the police thought he was shot in the face.


NICOLE: They said, there's no way this is somebody beating him up, and if they did beat him It had to be with with an object, you know...

CINDY: Is it true that a baseball bat was used?

NICOLE: Well, the doctors do not believe that human hands could have done this much damage, so we believe there was an object, but the police have not found one.

CINDY: The newspaper said that a passerby found him and is the one who is responsible for...

NICOLE: A detective found him. A detective was just passing by.

CINDY: Oh, wow...That's a blessing from God that he was found by this man...

NICOLE: Oh, you don't even know...I can't even tell you how many blessings from God there were that night. First, the detective found him right on time, because, any longer, who knows? Second, EMS was already around the corner...they were already there, they didn't have to travel far.

The third thing that was another blessing was that when he got here, it was coincidental that both the head of trauma and the head of neurology of the hospital were here together. That's very unusual for the heads of trauma and neurology to be here at the same time, so he got the best of the best that this hospital--and this is supposed to be a very good hospital--could offer.

CINDY: Also the newspaper mentioned that he had been coming from a studio where he was recording? Can you tell me anything about that?

NICOLE: Sure, sure. I don't know if you know this, but my cousin Steven Delopolous and Johnny came back together again, and got signed again to do another Burlap album. So, luckily they had just finished the demo. The demo has, I believe, three or five, I'm not sure, new Burlap songs. And we were happy that he got to finish that, because...well, you know why...

CINDY: Right, right.

NICOLE: Because when he does wake up--and I know he will, because God is with him--at least he won't have to worry about the demo. He can say, "Well, OK, I had just completed that," y'know.

CINDY: Well, Nicole, everyone in the Christian community that loves Burlap to Cashmere is praying for Johnny. And please pass that along to your parents.

NICOLE: I will, yeah. And that's why he's getting better.

CINDY: Is there anything else that you'd like to add?

Just keep praying, and if everyone keeps praying, I truly believe that he will recover, stronger than ever.

Monday, November 21, 2005

Former Burlap to Cashmere guitarist beaten and left for dead

pray for Johnny Phillipidis

This is a very sad story.

Phillipidis was an immensely gifted guitarist and vocalist with Burlap to Cashmere, whose lone album, "Anybody Out There?" is a classic. If you listen to Christian radio at all, you'll remember "Basic Instructions Before Leaving Earth."

Phillipidis and lead singer Steven Delopoulos are first cousins, and their close harmony and amazing guitar work were trademarks of Burlap to Cashmere.

This story was dated November 17th, and I haven't been able to find an update.

Friday, November 18, 2005

It's FRIDAY!!!!

...and I answer the Friday's Feast quiz...

You know the drill...answer these here, or on your own blog.

When do you feel impatient?--When I'm in slow-moving traffic and catching all the red lights when I'm running late for something important.


How many times in your life have you had a broken heart?--I'm not sure I ever have...


Name a book you would like to see made into a movie.--I recently read Anne Rivers Siddons' Sweetwater Creek. While reading, I often thought, "This would make a great movie." The main character in the book is a 12-year-old girl, though, so you'd have to find a really good child actress--a la Reese Witherspoon in "Man in the Moon."

I always used to want to see "The Chronicles of Narnia" on film, but that's come true!
Main Course
If you could thank one teacher for what they taught you, who would it be and what would you thank them for?--I would thank Mr. Jerry B. Moseley, my history teacher in sixth and seventh grade at Vidor Junior High School in Vidor, Texas--for making learning fun, and for believing in and encouraging my writing ability. Mr. Moseley, if you're out there somewhere, I will never forget you! Thank you.

What is your favorite kind of pie?--Pumpkin! So, lucky me, huh? I'm about to enter the biggest pumpkin pie season of all.

Have a blessed weekend, everyone!

Thursday, November 17, 2005

The Evangelical Blog Award nominations are underway

Here's your chance to go here and nominate blogs in several categories.

Here are the categories, and my nominations:

Best Evangelical Teen Blog
Best Evangelical Group Blog--Stones Cry Out
Best Evangelical Youth Pastor Blog
Best Evangelical Missionary Blog--And I Shall Yet Praise Him
Best Evangelical Blog-Humor--I Drank What?
Best New Evangelical Blog--PyroManiac
Best Evangelical Blog-Pastor--Whirled Views with Dan Burrell
Best Evangelical Blog-Apologetics
Best Domestic Evangelical Blog (U.S.)
Best International Evangelical Blog--Pilgrim Scribblings
Best Evangelical Blog-Ministry--Chapelcino
Best Evangelical Blog-Politics--La Shawn Barber
Best Designed Evangelical Blog--Unmerited and Karagraphy
Best Overall Evangelical Blog
Best Evangelical Home Education Blog
Best Evangelical Business Blog
Best Evangelical Video Blog
Best Evangelical Heretic Blog
Best Evangelical Family Life Blog--Amy's Humble Musings
Best Evangelical Mother Blog--Blest with Sons
Best Evangelical Father Blog--Caffeinated Adventures

Now, I admit I would love to even get nominated for one of these awards. However, my blog doesn't easily fit into any of the niche categories. I was going to suggest a new category: "Best Evangelical Culture Blog," but I was too late--Eric Ragle isn't considering new categories now, since nominations are already underway.

My wish for a "culture blog" category isn't just selfish, either. There are so many wonderful blogs that could fit in that category...blogs like Lisa Samson's Author Intrusion, B. J. Hoff's Grace Notes, Word Praize, Write Thinking, A Life in Pages, Charis Connection, Fidler on the Roof and Miss O'Hara, to name a few. Blogs that encompass a variety of topics, but tend to focus on things like the culture, media, entertainment, music and books/writing.

According to the site: "Nominations will end January 5th. On January 6th the voting will begin and the winners will be announced January 16th."

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Early reviews call Narnia movie "thrilling"

"Neither the fans of the book, nor the fans of the story behind the story, will be disappointed.”--Ted Baehr of Movieguide

According to an article on the ASSIST Ministries website, Baehr said, "The great news is that the Disney movie version of THE LION, THE WITCH AND THE WARDROBE is not only very entertaining, but clearly retains the deeper truth and essence of C. S. Lewis’s great novel, the first in his great seven part CHRONICLES OF NARNIA redemptive fantasy series.”

The story says Baehr was among the audience at the Director’s Guild just eleven hours after the final edits.

Baehr acknowledges there are some differences between the book and the movie, but he says, " have to be very close to the book and very theologically astute to notice the changes...In fact, the movie is a very clear Christological allusion, or imagining, of the story of Jesus Christ."

As a lifelong fan of these books, I've always yearned to see them brought to life on the screen in a way that does the stories justice. I certainly hope that's true of this movie.

NOTE: "Movieguide is a ministry dedicated to redeeming the values of the mass media according to biblical principles, by influencing entertainment industry executives and helping families make wise media choices." --from Movieguide's website

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Dr. Adrian Rogers home with the Lord

"Whether the discussion is compassion, mental alacrity, sense of humor, prowess in the pulpit, passion for Jesus and for lost sinners, or just faithful encouragement of the brethren, Adrian Rogers brought it all to Southern Baptists. If we Baptists had a Hall of Fame, Dr. Rogers would be enshrined tomorrow."--Paige Patterson, president of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth Texas,

Southern Baptist pastor and leader Dr. Adrian Rogers passed away this morning. Read more here and here.

Rogers was a key figure in what was called the Conservative Resurgence, aimed at bringing Southern Baptists back to their historic biblical roots. Rogers recently told the Florida Baptist Witness: "I look back on my life and there are a lot of things that have happened. I have written books, pastored churches, preached on radio and television around the world. But I think the part that God allowed me to have in the turning of the SBC may have the longest-lasting effect and be the most significant."

Dr. Rogers' radio show, Love Worth Finding, airs on Radio 91., and I've often enjoyed catching bits of it as I worked here at the station.

Others blogging about Dr. Rogers today: Mind and Media, Chris Meirose, View from the Pew, Writing Right, Wayward Wretch.

Monday, November 14, 2005

Monday, Monday...

It's hard to get my thoughts focused today, because as on all Mondays, I'm really, really tired.

But a few random thoughts are floating around:

Scrabble is fun

Members of the adult Sunday School class my husband teaches got together Saturday night for chili and games. Athletic types like my husband played volleyball; I was one of those who, in childhood, was always picked last for any team sport, and I stuck with board games. Scrabble in particular. (Yes, Scrabble has its own website.)

I had forgotten how much I enjoy playing Scrabble. Truth to tell, I had never owned the game before, and in past years I played it mainly with my step-mother-in-law, who was the Queen of Scrabble. In fact, it was when I began to beat her at Scrabble that I began to worry about her.

Shortly after this began occurring (me beating her at Scrabble), she was indeed diagnosed with Alzheimer's, and passed away this past March...not long after we bought the house she and my father-in-law lived in.

My father-in-law left a few things at the house, and one of them was his wife's Scrabble game. It was this game that I grabbed off a shelf before heading out the door for the activity. I kind of felt like I was paying a bit of a tribute to Charlene by playing the game, using the very board at which she had spent a lot of happy hours.

But have you noticed something about Scrabble? It really doesn't matter how great a vocabulary you have. I believe I have a fairly extensive vocabulary, but that doesn't do me a lot of good. What counts in Scrabble is knowing a lot of exotic words that contain high-point letters, and having the skill to combine words in all sorts of ways.

I played Scrabble with two people, Mike and Beth. Mike won; I came in second. But I really enjoyed playing. Another nice thing about Scrabble is, it's slow-paced enough that there is time for conversation. Often while one of us was trying to decide our next move, we were able to talk.

The whole evening was so pleasant, my husband and I decided we really need to have more times like that with fellow-believers. It really is refreshing.

By the way, do you have a favorite board game? Let me know in my comments section!

The best banana bars ever...

Besides a pot of chili, I took these amazing banana bars to the party. This is the second time I've made them, and they fly off the pan like hotcakes and get tons of compliments.

Credit where credit is due: I got this at, although it is exactly the recipe my friend Toni (one of the best cooks I know) has made for years. She tries to keep the ingredients on hand at all times, because she's often stuck with bananas that have ripened too much to eat.

1/2 cup butter, softened
1 1/2 cups white sugar
2 eggs
1 cup sour cream
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup mashed ripe bananas
1 (16 ounce) container cream cheese frosting


Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Grease a 10x15 inch jellyroll pan.
In a large bowl, cream together the butter and sugar until smooth. Beat in the eggs, one at a time, then stir in the sour cream and vanilla. Combine the flour, baking soda and salt; stir into the batter. Finally, mix in the mashed banana. Spread evenly into the prepared pan.
Bake for 20 to 25 minutes in the preheated oven, until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Allow bars to cool completely before frosting with the cream cheese frosting.

NOTE: I do one thing differently...I actually buy two containers of the cream cheese frosting and put about one-and-a-half containers of frosting on the bars. It just seems to make them more luscious. But they're great with just the one can, too, especially if you're not a big frosting fan.

Friday, November 11, 2005

What obsolete skill are you?

Songs of Innocence, Introduction
You are 'regularly metric verse'. This can take
many forms, including heroic couplets, blank
verse, and other iambic pentameters, for
example. It has not been used much since the
nineteenth century; modern poets tend to prefer
rhyme without meter, or even poetry with
neither rhyme nor meter.

You appreciate the beautiful things in life--the
joy of music, the color of leaves falling, the
rhythm of a heartbeat. You see life itself as
a series of little poems. The result (or is it
the cause?) is that you are pensive and often
melancholy. You enjoy the company of other
people, but they find you unexcitable and
depressing. Your problem is that regularly
metric verse has been obsolete for a long time.

What obsolete skill are you?
brought to you by Quizilla

(Hat tip to Marla of Always Thirsty.)

Grrr! I can't stand stories like this...

UNDATED (AP) Wal-Mart officials say they meant no
disrespect when a company e-mail described Christmas as a mix of
world religions and suggested that its employees say "Happy
Holidays" instead of "Merry Christmas."

Read more here.

Folks, it is OK TO SAY MERRY CHRISTMAS. Go to the Alliance Defense Fund's for more info.

I suspect we'll be seeing more and more stories like this as Christmas approaches.

Hats off to Veterans

I'm sure many of you have seen this Veteran's Day piece before, but it never fails to touch my heart:

What is a Veteran?

Some veterans bear visible signs of their service: a missing limb, a jagged scar, a certain look in the eye.

Others may carry the evidence inside them: a pin holding a bone together, a piece of shrapnel in the leg - or perhaps another sort of inner steel: the soul's ally forged in the refinery of adversity.

Except in parades, however, the men and women who have kept America safe wear no badge or emblem.

You can't tell a vet just by looking.

He is the cop on the beat who spent six months in Saudi Arabia sweating two gallons a day making sure the armored personnel carriers didn't run out of fuel.

He is the barroom loudmouth, dumber than five wooden planks, whose overgrown frat-boy behavior is outweighed a hundred times in the cosmic scales by four hours of exquisite bravery near the 38th parallel.

She is the nurse who fought against futility and went to sleep sobbing every night for two solid years in Da Nang.

He is the POW who went away one person and came back another - or didn't come back AT ALL.

He is the Quantico drill instructor who has never seen combat - but has saved countless lives by turning slouchy, no-account rednecks and gang members into Marines, and teaching them to watch each other's backs.

He is the parade - riding Legionnaire who pins on his ribbons and medals with a prosthetic hand.

He is the career quartermaster who watches the ribbons and medals pass him by.

He is the three anonymous heroes in The Tomb Of The Unknowns, whose presence at the Arlington National Cemetery must forever preserve the memory of all the anonymous heroes whose valor dies
unrecognized with them on the battlefield or in the ocean's sunless deep.

He is the old guy bagging groceries at the supermarket - palsied now and aggravatingly slow - who helped liberate a Nazi death camp and who wishes all day long that his wife were still alive to hold him when the nightmares come.

He is an ordinary and yet an extraordinary human being - a person who offered some of his life's most vital years in the service of his country, and who sacrificed his ambitions so others would not have to sacrifice theirs.

He is a soldier and a savior and a sword against the darkness, and he is nothing more than the finest, greatest testimony on behalf of the finest, greatest nation ever known.

So remember, each time you see someone who has served our country, just lean over and say Thank You. That's all most people need, and in most cases it will mean more than any medals they could have been awarded or were awarded.

Two little words that mean a lot, "THANK YOU".

"It is the soldier, not the reporter, Who has given us freedom of the press. It is the soldier, not the poet, Who has given us freedom of speech. It is the soldier, not the campus organizer, Who has given us the
freedom to demonstrate. It is the soldier, Who salutes the flag, Who serves beneath the flag, and whose coffin is draped by the flag, who allows the protestor to burn the flag."

--Father Denis Edward O'Brien/USMC

Happy Friday, everyone!
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