Song of the Week: Smile

On Michael Jackson's album, HIStory, he did a remake of Charlie Chaplin's song "Smile." I think it's absolutely beautiful and when I was depressed as a teenager, I would listen to this song, hoping it would give me strength. I smiled for as long as the song was on. When it was over, I was empty again.

Thank you, Mike, for making me smile many times in my life. "I will never let you part, for you are always in my heart."

R.I.P. Michael Jackson

My childhood pop star has died. I am grieving for his family. May God have mercy on his soul.

Song of the Week: Look What You've Done by Bread

I’m laughing as I write this post. My song of the week makes me feel like an old soul in a young body. It was made nearly half a decade before I was even born.

BreadBut I must admit, one of my favorite bands of all time is… Bread. Unless you’re a soft rock junkie like me, you likely have never heard of this band or you’ve heard their music but never knew who they were. (I was part of the latter for a long time.)

Despite the fact that Bread was popular soft rock group in the ’70s, I grew up being subjected to “lite music” in my mom’s car in the 80s. Hearing artists like Neil Diamond, Barbra Streisand, and Journey give me flashbacks to my childhood when I would sit in the backseat of our gray Honda Accord below the speakers that aired 106.7 lite fm. Yes, I am an anomaly. While my cousins grew up listening to Slick Rick, Biz Markie, and Doug E. Fresh, I preferred the soft sounds of Frank Sinatra, Foreigner, and Gloria Estefan. I still would take The Carpenters any day over Lisa Lisa and the Cult Jam.

So my song of the week is a throwback to my childhood. Soft rock, for some reason, has always given me a sense of peace and security. (It might have to do with the psychological aspect of me being strapped down by a seat belt while listening to it.) I don’t have any bad memories associated with many of these songs so I’ve chosen my latest obsession for this week: “Look What You’ve Done” by Bread. You can listen to the full song here.

Read the rest of this entry »

Song of the Week: In Christ Alone by Keith & Kristyn Getty

My husband and I are still working through Transforming Grace which emphasizes that the Bible says people cannot earn heaven on a merit-based system but on a grace-based system. I often revert to this “merit” mindset. It’s inconceivable to me that God doesn’t want me to work on getting to heaven or pleasing him; he simply wants me to depend on Christ’s finished work on the cross—and that alone.

The song of the week is called “In Christ Alone” performed by Keith & Kristyn Getty. It’s my new favorite song and reminds me that only in Christ alone am I set free from trying to be a perfectionist to please God. Christ is perfect and through him, only him, am I perfect.

Irish-born Kristyn starts out the video by reading from Chapter 1 of the Book of John (vv. 1-4, 14, 16). You can hear her thick Irish accent as she reads and then she just busts out into song and sounds American. Why is it that most British people sound American when they sing? It never ceases to amuse me. The video is below and lyrics behind the cut.

Read the rest of this entry »

Song of the Week: Pretty Amazing Grace by Neil Diamond

I don’t think Neil Diamond is a Christian — as far as I know, he’s still Jewish — but he wrote a song called “Pretty Amazing Grace,” which blows my mind because it has some strong Christian concepts behind it. Maybe he’s resolved things between him and God? Who knows?

I’m currently reading a book called Transforming Grace by Jerry Bridges. The book focuses on reminding Christians that God draws people to him based on his grace and mercy and not based on our merits or works. The Bible teaches there is nothing people can do to get to heaven. (Ephesians 2:8-9) I accepted Christ as my Lord and Savior and became a Baptist 16 years after being a Roman Catholic. Coming from a Roman Catholic background, I’d view my standing with God based on a “points” system. For example, let’s start at zero. If I was nice to or complimented someone, I’d give myself a +1. But later on, if I told a white lie to my parents, I’d give myself a -1 putting me right back where I started. So I’d go back and forth on this points system trying not to reach a deficit. The new church I joined taught that there was no points system, people couldn’t earn their way to heaven, and that one had to rely solely on God’s grace — the gift he gives the people who believe in Jesus Christ.

not good enoughAfter a few years though, being a Christian became burdensome — not because of God — but because of the rules the church I attended would begin to impose in my life:

  • you’re in sin if you don’t wear a skirt past your knees
  • if you don’t go knocking on doors and proselytizing to people, you’re in sin
  • if you’re not in church every time the doors are open, you’re in sin
  • working on Sundays is a sin unless you’re a doctor or a nurse (it’s OK to heal people on the Sabbath)

The church taught one thing but did another. I began to feel as though I was never doing enough for God no matter how hard I tried. I was back on the points system.

Transforming Grace is a book intended to blow legalism out of the water. It takes legalistic concepts and casts them into the depths of the sea (Micah 7:19) or puts them as far as the east is from the west (Psalm 103:12). It reminds Christians that any blessings they receive or any favor they find in God’s sight is not based on what they do, how good they are, or how many “points” they’ve racked up. After years of bashing myself as a bad Christian, this book reminds me that in and of myself, I’m a pretty bad person. (Romans 3:10-12) But with a belief in Christ, God doesn’t see me as bad; he sees Christ’s righteousness. So there’s no more points to earn. There’s nothing I can do to make God love me any less or any more.

And this is where Neil Diamond’s song “Pretty Amazing Grace” steps in. I don’t know what Neil Diamond’s spiritual belief is but somehow, he’s grasped the concept of God’s grace quite well. As a result, I’ve chosen “Pretty Amazing Grace” for the song of the week as I continue my studies in learning more about Transforming Grace. You can listen to the full song here, and the lyrics are behind the cut.
Read the rest of this entry »

Song of the Week: Soar by Christina Aguilera

Because I’ve been feeling like “Epic Fail” lately (I’m trying to convince myself that I’m really “Colossal Success”), here’s a great song by Christina Aguilera called “Soar” that I think is incredibly inspirational.

Read the rest of this entry »

Song of the Week: Hiphopopotamus vs. Rhymenoceros by Flight of the Conchords

I've been feeling silly all week so I've been watching this video over and over and over. Flight of the Conchords is a two-man group that makes comedic music. The band has a show on HBO based on the premise that they're a crappy music group from New Zealand trying to make it in the Big Apple. Whenever the band has a planned performance, they're terrible but when they break out into random song during each episode, it's usually pretty good (and funny). Flight of the Conchords isn't for everybody but some of their songs never fail to amuse me. (One of my other favorites is Leggy Blonde with a random thong song thrown toward the end.) The song of the week, Hiphopopotamus vs. Rhymenoceros, is basically the guys rapping about absolute nonsense. I've posted the lyrics below the video.

Read the rest of this entry »

Song of the Week: It's Going To Be Alright by Sara Groves

Another regular feature that I’ll try to do is post songs each week that really mean something to me and apply to my life during this week. One of my favorite artists is Sara Groves who writes so many songs that have helped me through different periods in my life.

This past week, I suffered from severe social anxiety on Tuesday and ended up having a panic attack. (I thought I was going to die; I couldn’t breathe!) My husband and I were on our way to counseling that night and Sara’s song “It’s Going To Be Alright” came on. I sang along with the song, fighting back tears the entire time. Finally my husband asks, “What does that song mean to you?” Immediately I burst into tears and told him I was fighting back tears, especially toward the end of the song where she urges the listener to “cast your cares.” That specific line is based on I Peter 5:7 where Peter writes, “Casting all your care upon Him, for He cares for you.” I’ve been really struggling with trusting God in the midst of all this, freaking out about what my coworkers think of me. I’ve been going through a “Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret” phase. Where is God in the midst of my social anxiety? Where is he when I’m feeling alone and abandoned because my coworkers go out to lunch and don’t invite me? Where is God when I’m on the outskirts of forming close bonds with my coworkers just like they’ve formed close bonds with each other? Why am I the weirdo and the freak? What makes me so socially repulsive?

Then I hear Sara sing to me (it felt like it anyway), “I believe you’ll outlive this pain in you heart, and you’ll gain such a strength from what is tearing you apart” and those lyrics just GOT to me. It was as if God was speaking to me through the song and said, “Hey, it’ll be okay. I’m here for you and you’ll only get stronger from this situation. Marissa, you’ll be fine. It’ll be alright. Just talk to me. Tell me what you’re feeling. Tell me all about your pain. I’m here to listen and give you strength each day.” After feeling like God’s been like my dad for the past few years—not alive but up in the heavens somewhere, it’s like the silence was broken and He finally just communicated to me to turn to Him instead of running straight to my husband first. Talking to God is easier (and cheaper!) than talking to my husband.

Enough of the backstory. But now you know why I’ve chosen this particular song for Song of the Week. It seems like a good way to end the week on a good note. You can listen to the full song here. The lyrics are included below the cut.

Read the rest of this entry »

The Boxer: Fighting Depression

John over at Storied Mind wrote a post on fighting depression that really hit home. It had a profound thought that I know but often overlook.

Fight it.

If I can step aside for just an instant from the full assault of the symptom, long enough to glance sideways at it, I can spot what’s happening and immediately see myself experiencing that particular bend of mind or feeling. Here it comes, here it is, I’m feeling miserable because I’m depressed. Or I’m tearing myself down with every other thought – I don’t have to do that so you in there, you shut up, I’m not listening anymore – you’re just a disease, and you will not get me to believe what you’re saying. Of I see obsessive thinking taking hold, sizzling my mind and gut with something, invariably, that I did wrong. I see that I’m replaying it over and over, and I have to step back and just say to myself, you’re obsessing, that’s another symptom, so stop!

boxingWhich reminds of a song (“The Boxer”) from one of my favorite Christian artists, Sara Groves:

When you said this was a fight, you weren’t kidding
When you said this was a fight, you weren’t kidding, kidding
Cause my ribs are bruised and it’s just round two

When you said this was a fight, you weren’t kidding
When you said this was a fight, you weren’t kidding
Cause there’s a cut on my eye and it’s just round five

And I used to be quick I used to see it coming
I used to know how to move my feet
Now I can’t duck and I can’t land nothing
And I forgot how to bob and weave
Bob and weave

When you said this was a fight, you weren’t kidding
When you said this was a fight, you weren’t kidding, kidding, kidding
Cause this room’s in a spin and it’s just round ten

If you care at all take that towel from your neck
Cause I’ve reached down deep and there is nothing left
I’ve got nothing
I’ve got nothing
I’ve got nothing

Greater is he who is in me
Greater is he who is in me
Greater, greater
Greater, greater

Okay, okay

Bob and weave
Bob and weave
Bob and weave

And I can’t just know it I’ve got to feel it
And I can’t just feel it, I’ve got to believe it
And I can’t just believe it, I’ve got to live it

I need to put up a fight and I won’t be successful without God’s help. I can’t just *think* I have to fight and leave it as head knowledge, I have to put it into action. I have to — as John put it — “glance sideways at it” and watch those punches, see it coming, then — as Sara put it — “bob and weave” to dodge it before it knocks me down completely.

The Puppini Sisters

An oldies station the other day featured Beyoncé’s song “Crazy In Love” as covered by The Puppini Sisters. I was incredibly confused because I was pretty sure that Beyoncé’s song was original and not a remake of an old song. I did some digging and apparently The Puppini Sisters (who aren’t really sisters) do covers of songs ranging from Wuthering Heights and the Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy to Walk Like An Egyptian and Crazy In Love in a swing format a là The Andrews Sisters. I discovered their most recent single — a cover of Dusty Springfield’s “Spooky” — and now it’s an earworm. I share it with you as I get ready to embark on my vacation. The video is cheesy but I think the song is kinda groovy. Enjoy.

Loose Screws Mental Health News

ABC News covers the potential legal wrangling that might occur for Internet users as a result of the MySpace suicide case. I mentioned this in a recent post.

In some sad news after this Memorial Day weekend, Greg Mitchell at the Daily Kos reports that Chad Oligschlaeger, a 21-year-old Marine suffering from PTSD, committed suicide. According to family members, he was taking 8 different kinds of medication to control the disorder. Mitchell has an update on the story.

In some (somewhat) good news, mental health specialists from across the board are offering free services to current troops in an effort to help out with the shortage of mental health assistance in the military.

My Chemical RomanceAlso in a recent post, I also mentioned how people (namely in the UK) have been in an uproar over the fact that some people are equating “emo” music with the glorification of suicide, cutting, and death. My Chemical Romance (MCR), the band seen at the forefront of the emo music scene, has released a statement concerning the uproar and 13-year-old Hannah Bond’s death:

We have recently learned of the suicide and tragic loss of Hannah Bond. We’d like to send our condolences to her family during this time of mourning. Our hearts and thoughts are with them.

My Chemical Romance are and always have been vocally anti-violence and anti-suicide. As a band, we have always made it one of our missions through our actions to provide comfort, support, and solace to our fans. The message and theme of our album “The Black Parade” is hope and courage. Our lyrics are about finding the strength to keep living through pain and hard times. The last song on our album states: “I am not afraid to keep on living” – a sentiment that embodies the band’s position on hardships we all face as human beings. If you or anyone that you know have feelings of depression or suicide, we urge you to find your way and your voice to deal with these feelings positively.

I blame MCR for Hannah’s death about as much as I blame Nirvana and “grunge” music for making me suicidal. (I don’t blame Mr. Cobain at all.) Granted, Nirvana’s music put me in a mental state where I was much more open to depression but I can’t blame a band for my actions. Besides, every generation has the band that every parent feels the need to hate. Nirvana and “grunge” music were “it” for the 90s. MCR and “emo” will soon be out for the 00s. We’ll see what the next band and music genre will influence teenagers in the next decade.

Emo + Music = Suicide?

Here’s an interesting post from Lightning’s Girl on the matter.

How is this for a startling number when you put in emo + suicide in google?
1 – 10 of about 4,010,000 for emo suicide

UPDATE: The New Zealand Herald has an article about how young emo listeners are fighting back. Apparently, the Daily Mail in England went a tad bit too far and called emo music a "sinister teenage craze that romanticises death." Emo fans in England are planning a peaceful march to protest the Daily Mail’s – in what they call – an unfair characterization.

Voices

Voices start to ring in your head
Tell me what do they say
Distant echoes from another time
Start to creep in your brain
So you play madness like it’s convenient
You do it so often that you start to believe it
You have demons so nobody can blame you
But who is the master and who is the slave?

— Madonna, "Voices" —

DISCLAIMER: No, I don’t hear voices. But this song always makes me wonder what my father heard when he suffered from schizophrenia.

Loose Screws Mental Health News

VNSCyberonics has its vagus nerve stimulator (VNS) while Neurontics is attempting to promote its Neurostar. The Food and Drug Administration will consider whether Neurontics’ device will be able to compete with Cyberonics’ device on Jan. 26. The VNS, according to FDA standards, is the only device that has been proven to show efficacy in depression treatment for those who do not respond to drug treatment. While the VNS is surgically implanted in the chest and stimulates nerves in the neck to alleviate depression, Neurontics claims that Neurostar is not surgically implanted and uses magnetic pulses over the course of three to six weeks to stimulate a patient’s brain.

In the most shocking news ever, the Australian Mental Health Council has found that marijuana can induce mental illness. [sarcasm] Former Federal Police commissioner Mick Palmer has noted three significant conclusions from the MHC report: Cannabis use can:

  • increase the risk of mental illness in young adults, namely with those who have a family history of psychosis
  • make any current mental illness worse
  • induce poor education and employment outcomes

This report once again reminds us, kids, that we must always say no to drugs. Especially if you’re mentally ill.

Girl, InterruptedAn article from the UK Guardian points out that Hollywood’s depiction of mental illness is NOT what people experience on a normal basis. Tim Lott states the reality of mental illness quite well:

“Genuinely accurate depictions of mental illness are still rare in all the art forms. Why? For the very good reason that real mental illness is boring. Depressives are toxic and dull. Manic depressives are irritating. People with schizophrenia or autism are largely indecipherable.”

Just in case you didn’t know, depression can be a problem during the holidays. Oh and p.s. from the article: those who abuse anti-depressants are more likely to commit suicide. You know… just in case you were wondering. Amy Alkon at the Advice Goddess Blog rightly shoots down the holiday-suicide increase myth.

NBC5 in Chicago has reported that “brain music” can help fight depression. Brain waves are recorded through an EEG (electroencephalogram) and then the recordings are turned into a music CD containing two files. According to Dr. Galina Mindlin, who introduced the therapy to the U.S. from Russia, says one file helps a patient relax and the other file helps increase “concentration, performance and productivity.” Mindlin adds that the “relax” music helps decrease anxiety levels in a patient and helps the patient fall asleep and stay asleep. The treatment, according to NBC5, has been used in Europe for the past 15 years, but is not widely available in the U.S. BUT if you’re itching to try it, you’d better have some dough in your pocket: it’s not covered by insurance and costs $550.

Listening to upbeat music

“She’s gonna step outside / Uncover her eyes / Who knew she could feel so
alive / Her M.O.’s changed / She don’t wanna behave / Ain’t it good to be a brave girl tonight?” — Britney Spears, “Brave New Girl”

Paris HiltonListen to upbeat music you like. Avoid depressing, moody lyrics, rhythms or melodies.

I have a confession to make: I bought Paris Hilton’s debut album.

In my opinion, it’s not the awful atrocity people claim it is. But that’s mostly because she had the money to buy some of the best producers in the music industry to mix and fix her average (not bad but not good) singing.

Her album is a mix of pop and R&B. Think Hilary Duff and Jennifer Lopez songs on the same album. And yeah, yeah, even through in some Puerto Rican Fat Joe.

While people would mock me for such an atrocious purchase (it was under $10 — I wasn’t willing to pay more), it made me happy. Paris’ music, while focusing on how sexy she is and how all the guys want her, make me kinda happy. The melodies and rhythm lift my spirts and make my less than happy moods a little bit brighter. Not to say that’s true of everyone — the music would provide sheer annoyance for my husband.

On the contrary, however, I choose my music to match my mood. Aimee Mann’s songs and lyrics tend to be a staple for my depression. When I’m depressed, the last thing I want to hear is about hope, joy, fun and how everything is so bright.

But these are the very words I need to hear during my dark days. Instead of having lyrics like “You don’t look like anyone that anyone would care about,” I should be listening to something more like “It’s all gonna be OK” or “Spread your wings and soar.”

This makes me wonder if pop music is my cure-all… or at least part of my experimental therapy… But I can’t get rid of my Nirvana Unplugged CD. It’s more nostalgia than holding onto depressing music. (I succeeded in giving away my very much coveted Nine Inch Nails Downward Spiral CD. That album DROVE me to pure suicide.)

P.S. I don’t particularly like most pop stars themselves — Paris Hilton included — but as an honest person, I’ll pay my dues to listen to something I like.