A few months ago my family stopped for lunch at a little small-town diner while traveling home from visiting my parents. The menu was endlessly entertaining because of the outrageous number of spelling, grammar and punctuation errors. We started counting and then gave up halfway through the menu after finding 25 mistakes.
One of the errors that we particularly liked was the description of “chicken strips saved to perfection” – a phrase that raises three important questions in my mind:
First, how exactly does a chicken get saved? And does “saved” chicken taste better than “unsaved?” Finally, is it morally wrong to eat a chicken that has been saved?
I have to admit, we felt a little smug as we counted up the mistakes. And then . . . I overheard the owner speaking rapidly in another language and I realized that this menu actually represented a pretty amazing accomplishment for someone whose “heart language” is not English.
In my travels outside the English-speaking world, I have frequently been the one whose communication is limited. I know a little Mandarin and Spanish and Swahili (to be honest, this amounts to little more than simple greetings, please and thank you and “where is your bathroom?”). So I’m certain that I’ve sounded ridiculous to native speakers whenever I’ve tried to communicate in a language not my own.
I’ve realized that my mockery of this small diner’s menu highlights an ugly truth about myself; namely, that I can be very quick to find fault with others – while simultaneously giving myself a free pass.
Now don’t get me wrong – I still care about getting spelling and grammar right. But my default setting appears to be set to “criticize” and that needs to change.
In honor of Memorial Day (today only – May 30 2016), I’d like to give you guys a free download of “Mrs. Taylor” from my CD “Act of Surrender.” **NOTE: this free MP3 is no longer available**
“Mrs. Taylor” is not really a song with a particularly happy ending, but with it I’d like to honor all those who have sacrificed so much for our freedom here in the U.S. (and to honor their loved ones as well).
She left him at the station / Small town Illinois He’s 6-1 and 205 now / But he’ll always be her little boy She knew this was his calling / She was strong as she could’ve been She prayed for extra angels / To bring him home again
So if you raise your glass to freedom / And this land we hold so dear If you don’t know what it’s like / Living every day in fear If you raise your voice to city hall / ‘cause you’re free to speak your mind And sing Amazing Grace on Sunday / With your family by your side Remember Mrs. Taylor’s son / And pray he’s somewhere safe tonight
She carries a faded picture / From when he was only two And remembers how she melted / When he said his first “I love you” Some think he’s a hero / And some make picket signs She just turns the TV down / And thinks of better times
They fired 21 guns on Tuesday / And laid a flag in the trembling hands Of one more American mother / Who gave all a mother can
Remember Maggie Taylor And pray that she finds peace … tonight
When I decided to record a CD of hymns, the very first song I chose was “When They Ring Those Golden Bells.” I’ve never heard anyone sing it in any church I’ve ever attended, and when I ask people about it not that many people seem to know this song.
But all of my life, I’ve heard my dad singing it. It’s the song that’s always on his lips – which was, honestly, kind of traumatic as a teenager walking into the mall with my dad singing at the top of his lungs . . .
So I knew I had to record it for my Dad.
As I was selecting the hymns for Deep Roots, I found something really interesting. For the most part, these songs don’t shy away from heavier themes. Fear and doubt, hardship and loss – even death. But at the heart of the best hymns, there’s a fierce joy, a determination to persevere and remain faithful in the face of hardship.
Easter is a truly inconvenient time for a worship pastor to lose his voice. So of course, last Easter, I was sick and (you guessed it) lost my voice.
As I was trying to nurse my voice back, I drank a lot of Throat Coat Tea, and I found it comforting to drink from my favorite mug. It’s an elegant work of art with remarkable craftsmanship that rewards close examination.
In fact, if you look closely, you’ll notice things like 1) Flying Saucers attacking a quaint village, 2) a Giant Robot, 3) an angry Sea Monster, 4) Pterodactyls, 5) Bigfoot (I think), 6) a Giant Frog, 7) an approaching Pirate Ship, and my personal favorite 8) a Zombie Poodle. In fact, if you take the time to look, you’ll find many more threats carefully hidden throughout the artwork.
According to Don Moyer (the artist who designed them) they’re called “Things Could Be Worse” Mugs. He says, “No matter how bad your day is going, [these mugs] graciously remind you things could be much worse.”
I have to say that I admire both his craftsmanship and his sense of humor.
I suppose there’s a reason that I’ve never recorded any non-religious holiday songs; even though I love “I’ll Be Home For Christmas” and “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” (etc.), I guess I’m mostly drawn to songs that speak to the mystery of the Incarnation – the incredible story of God putting on flesh and living among us.
“Once In Royal David’s City” is a carol that dates back a little over 150 years. Though it isn’t often recorded, it deserves to be more widely known. It reads like a simple children’s sermon, as if explaining to a small child about Jesus’s birth and early life: “Day by day, like us He grew / He was little, weak and helpless / Tears and smiles like us He knew.”
For the music, I had a very clear idea; I wanted a very percussive guitar paired with a melodic cello and violin arrangement. The goal was to have very simple instrumentation that still felt complete and full.
As always, I’d love to hear what you think, so please comment below!
It’s not too late to buy some great gifts for the music lovers in your circle of friends and family! And to make it easier (and more affordable), here are some great deals!
Combo deals, steep discounts on close-out t-shirts (only $5!) – there’s something here for all y’all. But hurry – quantities are limited and Christmas is almost here! We’ll ship things out ASAP, but don’t wait too long… Continue reading →
Nine years ago, my manager introduced me to someone that she thought I’d enjoy working with – an artist and songwriter named Staci Frenes. Ever since that day, I’ve been a true fan. In honor of the Christmas season, I’d like to recommend to you Staci’s CD “Wise Men and Angels” – a record that has become a regular part of my personal holiday soundtrack.
Christmas records can go off the rails in several ways; familiar classics arranged in ways that are just too safe and cliched. Or, conversely, songs so extremely re-worked that they are beyond recognition. Here, Staci and producer Nate Sabin have carefully – and inventively – arranged the requisite classics (What Child Is This, O Come O Come Emmanuel, Silent Night, etc.) along with one very good original song (the title track).
Acoustic, inventive arrangements. Warm instrumentation. Staci’s effortless voice. It’s a perfect little gem of a Christmas record.
One of my all-time favorite songwriters was Rich Mullins. Although I don’t think Rich intended his song “Boy Like Me, Man Like You” to be a Christmas tune, I think it works perfectly.
The song asks the questions that I’d never thought to ask, but in retrospect seem so obvious. What does it mean that God became flesh – that Jesus was truly a little boy? Did the boy Jesus ever get scared playing hide and seek? Or try not to cry when he scraped His knee? I believe so. Jesus was fully human. Just like any little boy, He would’ve taken pleasure in skipping rocks and making snow angels (or maybe sand angels?) and He probably wondered why the girls were always giggling.
In Philippians 2, Paul writes that Jesus was “in very nature God” but chose to “empty himself” and become a man. This is the heart of Christmas – Emmanuel, God with us.
Check out “Boy Like Me” below – and please comment below to let me know what you think!
Save $10 when you buy 3 copies of "Remember: The Scott Riggan Collection." Includes 15 songs including the #1 single "I Love You Lord" plus recent Top 20 hits "I See You" and "I Will Stand (The Solid Rock)." Get it now for just $35 (Visit the online store for other specials)