“I just blogged to say I love you…”

“…I just blogged to say how much I care.”

Hi friends.

Just stepping in to say hello. Things are busy at the moment, but I am doing okay. Keeping my head above water, with the occasional salty slosh and gasping breath. Not the best state of affairs, but not the worst.

My hope for this year was to cross-post my Sunday School notes on Mondays, but I think I’ll hold off on that. They need some refinement and I just don’t have time to do that. Someday, sure. Maybe I’ll write them, revise them, and post them next year as a weekly feature to support folks who may be doing a chronological Bible reading plan.

In the meantime, there’s just too much on my plate for me to produce any other good writing lately. (At this very moment, I have two toddlers jabbering at me, and my wife is calling me to come out for dinner.)

But I wanted to stop in and say hi. Hope your January is going well. I hope to come back in a week or so with something worth reading.

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In case you don’t get the musical reference in the title:

My 2022 Reading List

It’s sad, gang. (Funny, I basically began with the same comment last year, but it’s even more true this year.)

Every year, I post an end-of-year list of the books I’ve completed reading over the previous 12 months. Most of them are books I started reading in the same time frame, though occasionally there are volumes I’ll pick back up after a hiatus.

This year’s list is positively anemic–the lowest yearly total I’ve posted since I started counting maybe 15 or 20 years ago. You could point to various reasons why, but really it just comes down to the fact that my free time is getting shorter and my priorities are shifting. As such, my leisure reading has been fragmented and infrequent. There are over a dozen books I’ve begun this year but never finished because I ran out of time, got bored, or just moved on. However, those don’t count at year’s end, so here’s the actual finish list. Commentary to follow:

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January

>>Klara and the Sun – Kazuo Ishiguro

February

>>Invincible Vol.4, 5, 6, 7, 8 – Robert Kirkman

>>The Gospel  – Ray Ortlund

>>The Murder of Roger Ackroyd – Agatha Christie

March

>>Invincible Vol. 9, 10, 11, 12 – Robert Kirkman

>>Death on the Nile – Agatha Christie

May

>>Strange New World – Carl Trueman

June

>>Sermons of the Great Ejection – Various

August

>>The Mysterious Affair at Styles – Agatha Christie

September

>>The Midnight Library – Matt Haig

>>The Daring Mission of William Tyndale – Steve Lawson

November

>>Preaching and Preachers – Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones

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Like I told you: sad.

The Invincible books are a series of graphic novels (about 175 pages each) about superheroes that just got a bit too graphic for me to enjoy them in good conscience. I probably should have stopped much sooner, but I was intrigued by the storyline (a father and son superhero team is broken up when the father, who is essentially Superman, turns evil). No excuses, and I wouldn’t recommend it in good conscience to anyone. But there it is.

Not counting the comic books, I completed a grand total of 10 books this year: 4 books about theology/ministry, 1 book about sociology/worldview, and 5 novels. This year’s list marks the biggest swing toward fiction in my reading in easily a decade. Clearly, I was looking for escapism.

Typically, I’d give you a top-five recommendations from my list, but in a field so small, that seems almost self-indulgent. So I’ll just recommend two books, one fiction and one non-fiction, that I’m glad I finished this year:

  • On the fiction side, I’m going to say Death on the Nile by Agatha Christie. I decided to seek out more Hercule Poirot stories after enjoying Murder on the Orient Express last year, and this one is the best so far. I almost said Roger Ackroyd but I was a bit frustrated by the reveal at the end; it was cheeky and innovative but annoying as well. I think I’ll try to seek out more Poirot this year, as palate cleansers from some of my heavier reads on the horizon.
  • On the non-fiction side, I have to say that Preaching and Preachers by Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones has made and will continue to make the most impact on me, both in the practical nature of pastoral ministry as well as my perspective on the act and art of preaching. I had read portions of it in the past, but I was finally able to read it from cover to cover, and it’s worth the time for anyone who has the privilege and responsibility of preaching and teaching in a local congregation. It’s a book I’ll return to often, I think.

Next year’s reading list is obviously overly-ambitious given how I’ve been doing lately, but if I can’t shoot for the moon with my reading goals, what is even the point, right?

Anyway, there you go. The4thDave’s reading-year 2022 is in the books and best forgotten. Onward and upward!

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Your turn: What’s your favorite read of 2022? What are you looking forward to reading next year? Let me know in the comments.

A box of Christmas Crackers.

As promised, here are the rest of my 2022 Christmas Songbook selections for your post-Christmas enjoyment. (C’mon, we can still enjoy these until Epiphany, right?) Minimal commentary, because we’re here for the music, right? So let’s get right into it!

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The Christmas Shoes – FM Static

I think I have exhaustively explained my extreme dislike for Newsong’s hit “The Christmas Shoes.” But as I stated on my “Terrible to Bearable” post back in 2018, FM Static’s version is less awful. So there you go. If you’re a fan of the original, maybe you’ll enjoy the remake. If you hate the original, maybe you’ll hate this less.

Joy to the World – The O.C. Supertones

I just heard this version recently, and man, I love me some Supertones. That’s all.

I Want a Hippopotamus for Christmas – Gayla Peevey

It’s terrible, but I love singing along and cheesing it up as much as possible. So sue me. Bless that little girl’s Ethel-Merman-sounding heart.

I Hate Christmas Parties – Relient K

It’s an unbelievably emo Christmas song, and I kinda love it, even if I’m long past my “sad emo boy” phase.

Tennessee Christmas – Amy Grant

This song is forever linked to Christmas for me. I remember my parents playing the vinyl album (and later the cassette) of this record every year. The cover art of Amy in her patterned Christmas sweater with the snowy backdrop is as indelibly burned into my brain as Mariah Carey’s red snowsuit (though obviously for different reasons). Anyway, this is a great track and a Christmas classic.

White Christmas – Bing Crosby

I love this movie, thanks to my wife. And as such, I love this song. Here’s the big finish, and it’s gorgeous.

You Gotta Get Up – Rich Mullins

Any excuse to put Rich Mullins on a list, I’ll take it. This song is great, the album it comes from (A Liturgy, A Legacy, and a Ragamuffin Band) is one of my all-time favorite Christian albums, and the vibe just makes me smile.

I Celebrate the Day – Relient K

Okay, a lot of Relient K on this list, but their Christmas album (Let It Snow, Baby, Let it Reindeer) is pretty much in constant rotation at my house each year. And whatever their current trajectory, this song is worshipful and well done.

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Right, I believe that catches us up. So what now?

I’ll post maybe 1 or 2 more times this week, and then starting next week, my 2023 posting schedule will be probably something like Mondays and Fridays. Maybe I’ll try another posting-every-day streak again in the fall, but for now, let’s set our expectations a bit lower.

I have to say though, I’m proud of myself for posting over 100 times since September 1st. That’s a big deal for me. While I know that the quality of posts has certainly varied, the goal for me was just to publish as much as possible and stretch these neglected muscles. I’m glad to say I’ve started doing that. This month got a bit too busy to do that on a daily clip, but I’m still way ahead of where I was even a year ago in terms of post frequency.

Looking ahead, I’ll definitely be shifting to “less often, but better written” goal. I don’t want to just churn out junk and get random hits. For your sake, dear reader, and for mine, next year will be about going a bit deeper and giving you a better return for your time and attention. All the same, I hope you’ve enjoyed this year’s posts. I have enjoyed the challenge.

Check back Friday for a post about the books I’ve read this year (spoiler: not nearly as many as I would have liked).

Packing up my Christmas leftovers…

Hi friends.

I did indeed have posts planned for the last ten-plus days to close out the Christmas Songbook well, but there was more to do than I expected, and I had to choose the necessary things.

Since today is Boxing Day, I’m packing up my leftover Christmas goodies for you to enjoy once more, but that will have to wait one more day. Don’t worry, they’re like fruitcake; they never go bad!

All that to say, I’ll have a few more posts for you this week. Stay tuned. And a belated Happy Christmas to you and yours!

Can’t think of a better way to end the post than this:

Christmas Songbook Day 15*: “Simply Having a Wonderful Christmastime” by Sir Paul.

You need to watch the video in its entirety for this to make sense.

This song landed on my “Eggnog” list when I went through my top-five beloved, hated, “eggnog” (guilty pleasure), and “terrible to bearable” lists of Christmas songs back in 2014.

The original is still on my “Eggnog” list. It’s weird but I kinda love it. If there were an Island of Misfit Christmas Songs, this track would be voted President for Life.

Where to begin? The juxtaposition of Doctor Who-style synthesizer with jingle bells? The weird constellation person? The fact that the constellation person suddenly summoned a party of people dancing and drinking and singing along with a charismatic central figure who’s the focus of the…

This is “Must Be Santa” all over again, isn’t it?

Paul McCartney appears via cosmic magic (?) and starts the party in that older couple’s living room. Everyone’s going nuts, including the previously staid house owners. As he’s singing, suddenly you see that Paul (or his doppelganger!) is singing simultaneously on the television, and we are transported to that jam session. Everyone’s face is stretched with a sort of manic glee. It’s clearly sorcery.

So the question we must ask: Are Paul McCartney and Bob Dylan both Christmas wizards? Are they aware of each other? Are they IN LEAGUE with each other? Are they different classes/degrees of wizard, like Gandalf and Radagast? Or is it more like Gandalf and Saruman, since Dylan seems more chaotic and reckless, while McCartney is more playful?

Also, SPACE KEYBOARD HANDS! STAR PEOPLE SINGING! FLYING LIGHT ORBS! A HORSE! IN SPACE!

I mean, the revelers are dancing around a bonfire singing, and at one point, Paul is singing back and forth with a doppelganger. There are angels leaving Christmas graffiti on walls. It’s pretty much a fever dream. (Come to think of it, the pre-roll ad that YT assigned to this song was for a chewable supplement that was made using that wacky tobaccky, so draw your own conclusions.)

I gotta admit, though, Paul’s bowler-and-scarf combo are pretty snazzy (and vaguely Tom-Baker-ish).

Bottomline: The video is wild, the song is an inane puff of peppermint cotton candy, and I don’t care. I’m simply having a wonderful Christmastime, too.

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All of that said, here’s a fantastic version of the song, featuring another great scarf:

Christmas Songbook Day 14*: “Little Drummer Boy”

Let’s start off with the baseline: on its own, when performed in a traditional, choral way, this song gets on my nerves.

The droning bass part of either “Drum, drum, drum, drum” or “pum, pum, pum, pum.” The dragging tempo. The tediousness of the lyric. I just don’t care for it in its basic/classic form.

That said, I don’t hate the idea of the song, so I’m down with versions that change things up. So, here are some of the versions I enjoy the most or have discovered recently that I dig:

Bowie and Bing’s Duet is classic TV and I don’t acknowledge the parody

The pre-song patter is sometimes considered cheesy and unnecessary, but it seems fitting for an era of musical/variety television, so it’s a nice time-capsule of that moment. And I legitimately love the weaving of the two melodies by two master vocalists. I’ll find myself suddenly humming the Bowie part as I’m going through my day. This clip is wholesome and I love it.

For King And Country, because of course

It’s a song about a drummer. It’s practically an international crime not to include these drum-centric songsters. The cinematic nature of the music video is also pretty rad.

Johnny Cash sets his own tempo, you hear me?

It’s so strange, but I still dig it. All the extraneous “pa-rum-pum-pums” are gone, the whole thing’s a little off-kilter, and the image of the little drummer boy opening his mouth to speak and Cash’s voice coming out is just bonkers, and I love it.

ETW – Drummer Boy (from Yo Ho Ho)

Okay, here’s the deal: I love this track for many reasons, but 3 come to mind immediately: 1) You have that nice harmony on the initial chorus, giving you a little Boyz II Men throwback vibe; 2) Once the beat drops, you can clearly hear some Run-DMC influence; and 3) there are a ton of samples from my favorite (and arguably, the best) Christmas movie of all time, It’s a Wonderful Life. While the title track of the album is a lot of fun, I think this one is actually the star at the top of the early-90’s CHH tree.

Christmas Songbook Day 13*: “Yo Ho Ho!” by DC Talk

Travel back in time with me to the long-forgotten era of 1990.

The US was on the precipice of war with Iraq in Kuwait. Cheers, Roseanne, and A Different World dominated the TV airwaves. And somewhere in the great state of Texas, little 4thDave was in 4th or 5th grade, discovering Christian Hip Hop for the first time right around Easter.

My favorite cassette tapes on constant rotation were DC Talk’s self-titled debut album and Nu Thang. I was getting into fellow Forefront Records artists ETW (End Time Warriors). (This would be the extent of my childhood rebellion until my high school years when I was smuggling mixtapes into the house with Collective Soul and the Cranberries on it.)

My parents didn’t get my fascination with hip-hop but, according to my mother, “at least it’s not the Beastie Boys,” which were her reference point for secular rap. (Not that I think she could even name one BB track, because she certainly never ch-ch-checked it out.)

So, imagine when to my wondering eyes did appear a Christmas album heavily featuring my two new favorite hip-hop groups. Enter Yo Ho Ho.

I love this album cover. And yes, I still have the functioning cassette tape.

I should let the song just speak for itself, but I want to highlight just a few key things:

  • Dig that pure late-80’s drum-machine and synthesizer beat. I mean, I’m *thisclose* to breaking out in some Cabbage Patch or Kid-n-Play steps. This was the era of “fun” hip-hop and Fresh Prince, right?
  • I appreciated that DC Talk was explicitly Christian in their lyrics. I mean, they always were to some extent, but there’s just no embarrassment about it in their early stuff.
  • The ad-libs! So many ad-libs!
  • The breakdown when the drums fade out, and it’s just the vocals and the synth. Love it.
  • The “little drummer boy” call-out at the end before the fade-out is actually a teaser of the next track (and our next entry in the songbook!).

So, without further ado, let’s keep this party going with one more track from this musical masterpiece.

Well…stink.

Missed my window to post today, and it’s now past midnight. I’m not gonna cheat and backdate a post I’m not even starting until the next day, so my posting streak ends here. Oh well.

I’m just under the gun in a lot of ways right now, gang. I have a list of posts to write in this #ChristmasSongbook series, but at the moment, my holly-jolly is being swallowed up in a sea of not-so-fun responsibilities.

At this point, I may not even be able to put together a Wednesday post, so you’ll just get a stack of music posts at some point a bit later in the week. Hope that’s okay.

In the meantime, here’s a fitting send-off for missing my (self-imposed) blog deadline.

Christmas Songbook Day 11: “Mary, Did You Know?”

Hey friends, quick post today, something different.

I had the privilege of preaching at our church this morning. My text for the day is Luke 1:26-56. My sermon title was the song’s title.

Here’s the video of the morning service, including our worship team’s cover of the song. I hope the service and sermon are an encouragement for you. If you watch it and have questions or comments, feel free to share those below!

Thanks for reading and watching. See you tomorrow!