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."

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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.

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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.

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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.
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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.

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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.

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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.

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