The other day I received a message with a video of the Little Drummer Boy” which was pretty appropriate as we now come into the Season of Advent with Christmas carols and Nativity scenes. The video is below and is by a group called “Gentri” and although it is now two years old, it just warmed my heart and I thought I would share it with you. Previously my favourite version (which I also share below) had been by the group “Pentatonix” and which was a Billboard no one hit.
Listening also made me interested in the song’s history as it does not refer, as do most carols, to Shepherds and Wise Men. In the lyrics, the singer relates how, as a poor young boy, he was summoned by the Magi to the Nativity of Jesus. Without a gift for the Infant, the little drummer boy played his drum with approval from Jesus’s mother, Mary, recalling, “I played my best for him” and “He smiled at me”.
I discovered the “Little Drummer Boy” was originally titled “Carol of the Drums” because of the repeating line “pa rum pum pum pum,” which imitates the sound of a drum. The song lyrics are said to be based on an old Czech carol.
It’s not certain who wrote the song although most believe it to be Katherine K. Davis in 1941. However, according to some reports, Henry Onorati and Harry Simeone penned the lyrics to the song. It was recorded for Decca as “Carol of the Drum” by the Trapp Family Singers in 1951 and credited to Davis.
The song has been covered over 220 times and in 7 different languages. Artists who have recorded it include Johnny Cash, Johnny Mathis, David Bowie and Bing Crosby, The Supremes, Stevie Wonder, Jimi Hendrix, The Temptations, The Jackson 5, Ringo Starr, Bob Dylan, Whitney Houston, Ray Charles, Black Eyed Peas, Justin Beiber and Susan Boyle.
I hope you have time to listen both the “Gentri” and “Pentatonix” versions – they are both great.
Quote for the week
Faith is believing before what will only make sense after.
Walking with Jesus featuring the Mustard Seed Soul Band from the album Heart and Soul recorded and produced by Ross Gill
I have been reading “Every Day with Jesus” since I first became a Christian in 1997. On a number of occasions, I had the pleasure of meeting its author, Selwyn Hughes and his words have inspired many Mustard Seed Songs.
Even though Selwyn died in 2006 his “Every Day with Jesus” daily devotions have continued to be published, albeit with some small revisions. Apart from still inspiring song lyrics, I find its pages encouraging and full of wisdom. Here is an extract from Monday’s devotion:
Yesterday we said in the Christian life, hope and resilience are not apart from, but in all things. Living the Jesus way does not bear things in the way of stoicism; nor make you indifferent to things; nor deny the reality of things; nor buckle under things; nor expect to escape from things by trying to earn God’s favour through a performance- based religion; nor become immersed in things as in materialism. Rather, it offers us the possibility of using everything that comes – good, bad or indifferent, as we say – and making the most of it.
We are not blinkered by things or blinded by them. In walking with Jesus there is no escapist mentality, no playing tricks on the universe, no side stepping of any issues. Our spirituality can be shown to be in relationship to things. Those who try to be spiritual by ignoring the real issues of life possibly end up with a pseudo- spirituality. They are so heavenly minded that they are no earthly good.
Quote of the week
Faith does not eliminate questions. But faith knows where to take them
Father Let Your Spirit Fall Upon Me featuring Lucy Stimpson Maynard from the album I Look Up To The Heavens recorded and produced by John Hodgkinson
Referring to the vastly different views expressed for the Democrat and Republican candidates for the USA Presidential Election, a friend wisely said “Beautiful Christian hearts abide on both sides of the aisle, but equally, each can be blind to its own biases.” So, I am not wishing here to discuss the merits or de merits of either side but just to take some extracts from what I have read re Joe Biden’s faith.
President Elect, Joe Biden is a practicing Roman Catholic and will be the second Catholic President of the United States. The first was President John F. Kennedy,
Biden was raised in an Irish-Catholic family and has said that his faith helped get him through tragedies, such as losing his son, Beau Biden, to brain cancer in 2015. He said the Catholic rituals gave him an enormous sense of solace.
He also says “My faith implores me to embrace a preferential option for the poor and, as President, I will do everything in my power to fight poverty and build a future that moves us closer to our highest ideals—not only that all women and men are created equal in the eyes of God, but that they are treated equally by their fellow man. Jesus Christ is the human embodiment of what God wanted us to do. Everything Jesus did was sort of consistent with what generically we were supposed to do: treat people with dignity.
However, in 2012 he admitted that he struggled with anger at God after his first wife and his daughter were killed in a car wreck in 1972, He said he would get angry at God and think there was just no way that God could possibly be good. He said that he understood why some people turned to suicide, not because they were crazy, but because “they had been to the top of the mountain, and they just knew in their heart they would never get there again.”
Following Beau Biden’s death at 46, Biden’s wife, Jill also struggled with her faith, writing in her memoir: “Where I once felt that peace that surpasses understanding, I now feel hollow silence. One day, I hope I can salvage my faith.” She later said that she did find her faith again. She said a woman came up to her in South Carolina at church when she and Biden were campaigning and asked to be her prayer partner. She said that woman helped give her back her faith.
Biden says that his faith has kept him grounded “and humbled in times of triumph and joy.” He said his faith provided him comfort and taught him to love his neighbours. “My faith teaches me to care for the least among us.”
When Biden was young, he briefly considered becoming a priest. He was a student at Holy Rosary parochial school and Archmere Academy. Biden usually attends Mass at St. Joseph on the Brandywine Church or St. Patrick’s Church in the Diocese of Wilmington. He is known to carry rosary beads in his pocket on the campaign trail.
Quote of the week
God will meet you where you are in order to take you where He wants you to go.
Genna with her friend Scout ( Edward Baker- Duly’s Red Fox Labrador)
I’m A Believer (Diamond) featuring the Mustard Seed Soul Band from the album “Heart and Soul” recorded and produced by Ross Gill
My daughter’s dog died recently and she is heartbroken. Will we see our pets again in heaven?
We often hear these sorts of questions asked by children, but it’s just as important for many adults who regard pets as part of the family. (as do Caroline and I !)
I was interested to read what Tom Wright has to say on the matter. Tom is an English New Testament scholar and Anglican bishop. He was the Bishop of Durham from 2003 to 2010. He writes in “Premier Christian Media”
First, we need to establish what we mean by ‘heaven’. There’s a Far Side cartoon that pictures a man sitting on a cloud in heaven, looking bored and thinking: “I wish I’d brought a magazine.” Fortunately, many people are starting to rethink that traditional view. The whole narrative of the Bible reveals that the God who made the world wants to bring heaven and earth together, and to come and live with us in that new creation. That’s not boring!
The point is not to leave this world and go somewhere called heaven. With Jesus, and through his Spirit, heaven has come to earth and we are called to join in the heaven-on-earth project now. But we also look forward to a future resurrection in the ultimate new creation, which is a heaven-and-earth combination, a total transformation of everything.
Then there’s the question of whether animals have souls. The idea of the ‘soul’ as an immaterial ‘me’ that is separate to the body is a Platonic concept that you don’t find in the New Testament, so none of us has a ‘soul’ in that sense. When the Bible talks about ‘the soul’, it refers to the Hebrew word nephesh, which is more like what we would mean by a person or a personality – the real me.
So, will we see animals and pets in that new creation? The Bible doesn’t have much to say on this, but I think we can carefully respond: “Yes.” When a human being loves and cares for an animal, and when that animal responds to that love and care, there is a bond between them, which is part of who that human being is. Just as when somebody loves God, there is a bond between them and God, which we call the Holy Spirit, and the Holy Spirit looks after that person until the resurrection. I don’t see any reason at all why looking after that person shouldn’t include, by a kind of overflow of grace, looking after all of the animals, birds and whatever that person has loved and brought joy to in this life.
You could start the question from the other end and say: “If God the creator made a world that included giraffes and whales and grasshoppers, and all the other weird and wonderful creatures, is it likely that the new creation would be boring and flat and wouldn’t have any creatures like that in it?” It seems to be far more likely that there will be an abundance of all sorts of creatures being gloriously themselves and sharing in all kinds of relationships with God’s human creatures.
And in the middle of that, perhaps there will be an older woman who will recognise among the plethora of delighted creatures a dog to whom, as a little girl, she once gave love and companionship and who returned that favour. I don’t see why that shouldn’t be so.
I would query some of what Tom Wright asking “What happens if the animal(s) in question are not loved”? However, I would love to think that Tom has got it spot on!
Quote of the week
A wise person is someone who thinks twice before saying nothing
“Don’t Be Ashamed of Jesus” featuring the Mustard Seed Soul Band from the album “His Story” recorded and produced by Ross Gill
I am sure that during lock down you will have received many messages via social media – some intending to be humorous, some informative, some challenging and some inspirational.
Here is a video I received – which I hope you will watch, but if not the essence of the concluding part is this story which I felt to be thought provoking.
An old man in Italy had just recovered from Co- Vid and the doctors asked him if he would pay 5000 Euros for the cost of one days use of the ventilator he had been on. When the old man started crying the Doctors reassured him that he did not have to pay the money if he could not afford it. However, the man told the Doctors that he was not crying because he could not pay the money – the money was not a problem. What he then said made all the Doctors cry –the man said “ I am crying because all my life I have been breathing God’s air for free and I have never paid for it and now it costs 5000 Euros to use a ventilator for one day –I owe God so very much and I have never thanked Him for it.
Quote of the week
When you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change
We Can Do Anything – featuring Lucy Stimpson- Maynard from the album “Precious” recorded and produced by Ross Gill
If you have been following this blog for any length of time you will know that a major Mustard Seed Songs’ project has been the construction of The Risen Christ Central Chapel, (R.C.C.C) in Cross River State, Southern Nigeria.
Just to explain again the background to the project:
On the death of his Grandfather (his father had already died) Patrick Oki was about to become Chief of his village in Nigeria. However, the elders wanted him to denounce his Christian faith and return to the native religion which had been practiced before his Grandfather was Chief – this included human sacrifice. When he refused his life was in danger and so he sought asylum in England. It was in Haslar Detention Centre, Gosport that I first met Patrick some twelve years ago. Unfortunately, his asylum claim was rejected and he was deported to Nigeria where he had to re locate a long way from his village to stay safe.
Patrick tells me that when he returned from England, he was ill for two years, not being able to walk or even stand; having been rejected and abandoned by his family and friends- he was left to die, with no one to care for him except his son Emmanuel. Sometimes they had no food to eat, and he even prayed for God to take his life- all this because he had denounced the religious tradition of his people to follow Jesus. Patrick says “I made a vow that if the Lord healed me, I would serve him all the rest of my life and one day the Lord sent a servant – Evangelist Lady Lizbeth who prayerfully joined hands with me and the Lord set me free. Praise the Lord I became born again to the glory of God.”
Patrick is now indeed serving God and is an unpaid Pastor in Cross River State, Southern Nigeria. His congregation, which includes a number of orphans, had been worshiping in a hired hall but Mustard Seed Songs have been fundraising for a number of years and the result is the completed R.C.C.C. (as seen in featured photo)
We have also recently been able to purchase a small minivan to help transport the elderly and infirm to and from from their village to the R.C.C.C. (see featured photo)
The third photograph shows members of the congregation (with Pastor Patrick and his wife seated in the right of middle) with signs thanking those who had sponsored the purchase of the minibus.
Next an electric generator is needed and then a bore hole for water!
Quote of the week
Not all of us can do great things but we can do small things with great love
“Jesus You Are Everthing” featuring Lucy Stimpson- Maynard from the album ” I Look Up To The Heavens” recorded and produced by John Hodgkinson
Blog October 15th “Christians in Sport”
Two weeks ago, I shared some information on the new US Open Golf Champion – Bryson DeChambeau. Part of that was Bryson’s Christian testimony. This reminded me of when my very dear friend Bob Milliken – then Head of RE at Crofton Secondary School – kept putting in my pigeon hole ( I was Head of PE at the time) leaflets on Christians who were top sports persons. I remember at the time feeling somewhat surprised to hear that the golfer Bernhard Langer was a committed Christian.
Since writing this blog I have pointed out a lot of currently famous sports persons who are Christians- recently, the golfer Zach Richardson, the rugby player Maro Itoje, the Liverpool Football Manger Jurgen Klopp and the footballer Romulu Lukaku.
I googled who else in sport was a Christian and here is a list of some that I knew – I wonder if you are as surprised as I was with some of the names on the list?
1) Usain Bolt
2) Christine Ohuruogu
3) Danny Surridge
4) Bubba Watson
5) Lewis Hamilton
6) David Luis
7) Thiago Silva
8) Rhaeem Sterli
9) Edison Gavani
11) Andres Iniesta
12) David Silva
13) Philippe Coutinho
14) Jose Mourinho
15) Marcelo Bielsa
16) Christiano Ronaldo
17) Lionel Messi
Quote of the week
One person cannot change the world
but we can change the world for one person
One of my favourite songs is “I Can See Clearly Now” which topped the charts in US 1972. In fact, I like the song so much that the Mustard Seed Soul Band once sung it for a concert held at St Marys Church, Porchester. The song was, of course composed and recorded by Johnny Nash who sadly died yesterday of natural causes in his hometown of Houston, Texas aged 80.
His son, Johnny Nash Jr., told The Associated Press:
Nash’s career began in the 1950s covering standards and by the mid-60s, he was co-running a record company. He was among the first artists to bring Jamaican reggae to US audiences and he also helped launch the career of his good friend Bob Marley.
He peaked commercially in the late 1960s and early 1970s, when he had hits with Hold Me Tight, You Got Soul, an early version of Marley’s Stir It Up and I Can See Clearly Now, which remains his signature song.
The upbeat track with its pop-reggae groove was reportedly written by Nash as he recovered from cataract surgery.
The song promised a ‘bright, bright sunshiny day’ and had a gospel-style exclamation midway in ‘Look straight ahead, nothing but blue skies!’
The rock critic Robert Christgau would call the song, which Nash also produced, ‘2 minutes and 48 seconds of undiluted inspiration.’
‘I Can See Clearly Now’ was covered by artists ranging from Ray Charles and Donny Osmond to Soul Asylum and Jimmy Cliff, whose version was featured in the 1993 movie Cool Runnings.
It also turned up everywhere from the film Thelma and Louise to a Windex commercial, and in recent years was often referred to on websites about cataract procedures.
‘I feel that music is universal. Music is for the ears and not the age,’ Nash told Cameron Crowe, then writing for Zoo World Magazine, in 1973. ‘There are some people who say that they hate music. I’ve run into a few, but I’m not sure I believe them.’
Was Johnny Nash a Christian? I am not sure – I do know that he was brought up singing Gospel music at the Progressive New Baptist Church but I cannot find any information on his faith. So, I just hope and pray that he is now in heaven and can most definitely exclaim “I can see clearly now!”
Quote of the week
You are the only Bible some unbelievers will ever read.
Put Your Hand In The Hand Of God featuring Lucy Stimpson-Maynard from the album “Precious” recorded and produced by Ross Gill
Last week I shared a little of Bryson DeChambeau, the 27 year old American who recently won the US Open Golf Championship. The information I gave was probably only interesting to a golf enthusiast (like me) but it was only meant as a prelude to the fact that Bryson is a Christian and that I wanted to share his testimony with you. So here it is:
For much of my life, I was a churchgoer—not a steady one, but enough to tell people I went. But when I left my California home to play college golf at Southern Methodist University, I found myself surrounded with some people who had important things to say to me. I’d heard some of these before from my coach back home, Mike Schy, but I’d never paid serious attention.
In the weeks leading up to the 2014 Western Amateur, and while I was there, I found myself reading a book that one of those influential people had recommended. It was called The Handbook of Athletic Perfection, by Wes Neal, and what it talked about all the way through was how to play sports like Jesus would play sports. It captured the dynamic between being ultra-competitive and being as gracious and kind as possible, and it resonated with me.
When I got to the tournament, I said to myself, “OK, I’m going to give my life to Christ and try to act like him in every single situation and do my best for him in every single situation, whatever comes about. If it’s a bad situation, I’ll look at it as an opportunity for me to show my patience, my resilience, my grace. Or if I do something great, I’m still going to be patient and graceful and kind and respectful to others.”
I said that to myself, but here’s the truth: I expected things to go my way.
What I did not expect were three amazing miracles.
First, I had never been able to eat breakfast on the mornings of a tournament. But that first morning of the tournament, I went and decided to try to have breakfast again. All of a sudden, I could eat, and a full breakfast, too! I said, “What? I can eat? This is crazy!” I don’t know the reason that God allowed me to eat that day—and every day since—but it is a huge part of my being properly nourished for the day.
Second, I had always been super nervous playing big tournaments. When I showed up at the first tee, there were the usual spectators around watching, but all of a sudden it wasn’t about the audience. It was about me doing it for God, doing it as a servant, and trying to hit every shot with as much dedication as possible and with as much grace as possible, knowing that whatever happens happens for a reason. It’s always an opportunity to point others to Christ.
Third, I had never been good with my emotions on the course, and this came out in the way I talked. I would get angry and cuss. But now my emotions were held in check. They were the correct emotions, the emotions that Christ would employ. Sure, I hit bad shots, but now I was gracious and kind and never said anything. I stopped cussing.
Those three miracles represented a huge change in my life. But there was still a big tournament to be played, with the best amateur competition in the world.
The Western Am was played at Beverly Country Club in Chicago that year, and as always the match play was preceded by four rounds of stroke play. I played well, finishing runner-up to the medalist. More than that, in the fourth round I struggled on the front nine, shooting three over par. But for the first time I realized it wasn’t the end of the world. I stayed gracious, and I shot four under on the back nine. I’m not saying God allowed that to happen because I was gracious, but I am saying that the steady emotions and the constant focus set me up to do my best.
When we moved to the match play rounds, my first match was against a fellow Californian, Xander Schaufelle. I followed the same plan: be gracious, be kind, be caring. But when we came to the eighteenth hole and I was one down, I didn’t understand it. I thought I would be winning, that I was supposed to win. I thought all this change in me was about ultimately winning the event.
We both hit our drives on the par-5 into the right rough. My next shot, though, was one of the worst shots I could possibly have hit. It was a pull chunk that went about 70 yards into the left rough. Walking to that ball, I kept telling myself, “I’m done.” I had conceded the match in my mind. But then it hit me: That’s not the way Christ would act. That’s not what he would do. He’d try and do his best on this shot. So I reamped and said, “Look, you’re going to do your absolute best.”
I measured out the shot in my mind. It was 200 yards under some trees, over a bunker, and running up to a very difficult green. But I did it. I pulled off the shot. It bounced onto the green, nearly hit the flag, and rolled off the back of the green, about 40 feet from the hole.
All the while Xander was doing what he needed to do. He laid up to the middle of the fairway, then hit a shot from about 150 yards to 30 feet.
I knew I really had only one chance. I had to chip it in. But for the first time all week, I was extremely nervous. I was walking around and couldn’t hit the shot for maybe two minutes. My caddie finally said, “Hey, dude, you’ve got to hit the shot. I got over it, still extremely nervous, heart pounding, and hit the shot. It bounced once on the fringe, once on the green, rolled, hit the cup, and went in the hole! I high-fived everybody. I was super excited and jumping in the air. I thought, Cool! This is how I’m going to win. He’s going to miss the putt, we’re going to a playoff, and I’m going to win it.
When Xander hit his putt, it looked like it was going six feet by. But it hit the back of the cup, bounced up, and fell in. I lose.
I did all the right things, then. I had my hat off and gave him a hug and shook his hand and was very gracious. I went over and thanked the tournament director and was gracious and appreciative even though I had lost.
But when I went to lunch, I became bitter. I couldn’t understand why it had all happened this way.
To get myself out of my funk, I decided to walk out and hit some chip shots. On my way over, I called Mike, my coach back home. Immediately, when he answered the phone, boom, the Holy Spirit hit me. I finally understood what it meant to be playing golf and why I was here. It wasn’t to play golf to win tournaments, or to be in these cool situations where I chip in to win or do something crazy. It was for the exact opposite reason. It was about the character I had employed in that particular situation. It wasn’t about me winning a trophy, it was about me winning in regards to God’s favour and how he would work things out. I did not win that tournament, but I sure as heck won that day.
There was a time in my life, before that tournament, when I was severely depressed, because golf was consuming my life. Now I had complete freedom. It was by far the best moment in my life, better than winning the U.S. Am, better than winning the NCAAs, anything.
There’s nothing that compares to the feeling that the Holy Spirit gave me that day. I’ve never experienced it since; I don’t think I ever will until I go to heaven. But I’m telling you, there was something that happened, something that I can’t explain, something that I hope everybody can experience one day, because no other feeling compares. That was the change that allowed me to start understanding God’s love for me and Jesus’ love for me as well, and what he truly did by coming down here and saving all of us.
Wow ! That’s me saying “Wow” not Bryson!
Quote of the week
Fail early, fail often – and always fail forward
A Worship Song featuring Lucy Stimpson-Maynard from the album Where Would I Be Without You ? recorded and produced by Ross Gill
Today Joffy our brilliant Musical Director is coming from Bristol to record more of Acts The Musical. So, Nicola Poustie is singing “This is not Heaven” for our forthcoming Showreel. Edward Duly – Baker is singing a new piece of recitative for his role as Theophilus – “But Paul came face to face with the Lord” and Mei- Ling Thomas is singing “I Will Exalt You”.
More of that in future weeks but today I decided to share a little more of Bryson DeChambeau, the 27 year old American who won last weeks US Open Golf Championship. Bryson is changing the face of golf by hitting the ball further than anyone thus making the game little more than drive- pitch and put.
Here is some basic information about him:
Bryson James Aldrich DeChambeau (born September 16, 1993) is an American professional golfer. He has won seven times on the PGA Tour including one major championship, the 2020 U.S. Open. As an amateur, DeChambeau became the fifth player in history to win both the NCAA Division I championship and the U.S. Amateur in the same year. With his U.S. Open victory he became the third player to have won those three championships, after Jack Nicklaus and Tiger Woods, and the sixth player to win both the U.S. Amateur and U.S. Open.
Renowned for his analytical approach to the sport, DeChambeau has acquired the nickname of “The Scientist”. His clubs are specially designed to his specifications, with thicker than normal grips and irons that are all the same length. In 2020, he became the longest driver on the PGA Tour after gaining 40 pounds in weight.
At the 120th U.S. Open at Winged Foot, he came from two strokes behind at the start of the final round to win his first major championship. His 6-under par total gave him a six stroke victory over Matthew Wolff. He was the only player under par in the final round, with a three-under par 67 and the only player to finish under par for the tournament. With the win, he became the third player in history, after Jack Nicklaus and Tiger Woods, to win the NCAA Individual Championship, the U.S. Amateur and the U.S. Open during a career. The win moved him to number 5 in the Official World Golf Ranking, matching his previous best, first achieved in November 2018.
All very interesting (if you are a golf fan) however you may have already guessed why I am featuring Bryson today – yes he is a Christian!
Next week I will share with you his story of faith.
Quote of the week
Success is getting what you want- happiness is wanting what you get.