Thursday, November 19, 2015

Christmas Eve and Other Stories by Trans-Siberian Orchestra

THE STORY OF CHRISTMAS EVE  Written and Presented by Trans-Siberian Orchestra

The following short story will help you understand the theme of The Story of Christmas Eve and Other Stories and when you follow the lyrics as you listen the first time, it will cement its message in your heart.  

On a snow blessed Christmas Eve a young man found himself alone in the back of an old city bar in the rundown section of town. Using his solitary drink as something of a moat between himself and the rest of the world, he was surprised when an elderly gentleman asked to join him at his table. Reluctantly, he nodded his permission but within minutes he found himself engrossed in a story that the old man related to him; a story about another Christmas Eve when the Lord looked down from above at all his children. It had been nearly two thousand years since the birth of His son and turning to His youngest Angel the Lord said, “Go down to the Earth and bring back to me the one thing that best represents everything good that has been done in the name of this day.”

The Angel bowed to the Lord and spreading his wings, descended from heaven to the world of man, all the while contemplating his mission. So much had been done in the name of honoring the birth of the Christ Child. For this day wars had temporarily ceased, cathedrals had been built and great novels had been written. With so little time, what could he possibly find to represent all this?

As he soared above the Earth, he suddenly heard the sound of church bells below. Their tone was so beautiful that it reminded him of the voice of God.

Looking down, he saw a small church whose bells were ringing out the carol, “Silent Night.” As the final note died away, it was replaced by one lone voice singing inside the church. It was shortly joined by a second voice that embraced the first in perfect harmony, and then another and another until a choir of voices rose through the night. Enchanted by the magic of what he was hearing, the Angel found himself listening until the song was finished. As he resumed his flight through the night, he was delighted to hear these sounds everywhere, from the largest cities to the smallest villages. He heard melodies from massive orchestras and in the voices of single soldiers alone at their posts. And any place where he heard these songs, he found hope in the hearts of men. Grasping a song out of the air, he held it in his hand (angels are able to do this) and thought that maybe, these songs could be the one thing that best represented Christmas. They seemed to give voice to man's greatest joys as well as hope to those deepest in despair.

But, though at first glance it appeared to be the answer he sought, his heart told him that this music was not enough. There had to be something more. So he continued his flight through the night until he suddenly felt the touch of a father's prayer on its way to heaven. Once again looking downward, he saw a man who was praying for his child; a child whom he had not heard from in a long time and who would not be home that Christmas. Seizing upon the prayer, the Angel followed it until it reached the lost child.

She was standing on a corner, in a quiet snowfall, looking very small in a very large city. Across from her was an old city bar, the kind that only the lost seemed to know how to find.

The patrons of this establishment rarely looked up from their drinks and so seemed not to notice the young girl. Now, the bartender in this bar had been working in there longer than anyone could remember. He believed in nothing except his bar and his cash register. He had never married, never took a vacation and as a matter of fact, had never been seen out from behind his counter by most of his patrons. He was there when they arrived and he was still there when they left. He gave no credit and for seventy-five cents, served shots of un-watered whiskey to people who used their drinks like a wall around their lives. For them, he provided a safe, unchanging world.

Suddenly, the door opened wide and into this world walked a small child. The bartender could not remember the last time that a child had been in this place, but before he could ask the child what he was doing there, the child asked him if he knew that there was a girl outside their door who could not get home. Glancing out the window, he saw the girl standing across the street. Turning back to the child, the bartender asked him how he knew this. The child replied: "On this night of all nights, if one could be home, they'd be already there.” The bartender looked back toward the young girl as he reflected on what the child had said. After several seconds of thought, he slowly went over to the cash register and removing most of the money, came out from behind the bar and followed the child across the street.

Everyone in the bar watched as he spoke with the girl. After a few moments, he called over a cab, put the girl inside and told the driver, "J.F.K. Airport." As the cab pulled away, he looked around for the child, but the child was gone. And what was stranger still, even though his own tracks leading from the bar were still clearly marked in the snow, the child's were nowhere to be found. Returning back inside, he asked if anyone had seen where the child had gone, but like himself, no one had, for they also had been watching the departing cab. And then, some would later say that the most miraculous thing of all happened, when for the rest of the night, no one paid for a drink. Later that night the Angel returned back to heaven and placed in the Lord's hand, the wish of a soul for the happiness of another. And as the heavenly host looked on, the Lord smiled.

At the end of his story the old man then told the youth that he had enjoyed their time together but that it was time for him to leave. After the old man had left, the youth found himself rushing out the door only seconds behind the elderly gentleman's exit so that he might ask his name, but not only was there no one in sight but there wasn't even a single track in the snow. The young man stood there for a moment perplexed but then he suddenly felt a sense of gentle peace and contentment flow through his body. Buttoning his coat the youth slowly walked home where for the first time since his childhood he dreamed a Christmas dream.

Lyrics & Poetry

















An angel came down
One night to the earth 
A mission from God
To find out the worth 

Of everything that
His children had done
Since that winter night
The birth of His son 

And then a sound filled the night
In the cold winter air
And in the midst of his flight
It was holding him there 

And as he looked toward the earth
For the source of this sound
On that cold winter night
It was pulling him down 

To bring something back
This angel was told
That no one could touch
But angels could hold 

So on that night
When the sky had cleared
Among all the stars
An angel appeared 

And then a sound filled the night 
In the cold winter air
And in the midst of his flight
It was holding him there 

And as he looked towards the earth
For the source of this sound
On that cold winter night
It was pulling him down


The sound that he had heard
Was the ringing of the bells
But now inside that night
There were voices there as well 

God rest ye merry gentlemen
God rest ye merry gentlemen
There up in the sky a star to follow
There up in the sky a star to follow 

Await the coming of the Lord
Await the coming of the Lord
Await the coming of the ...

Lead and we'll follow
Hope and tomorrow
Magic and dreams
You are all this and more now
Childhood recalls how 

You are
Visions and...
We are your children 
You take us back when
Ever we call

Each year we are here waiting
As the snow starts to fall
Merry Christmas
Merry, Merry Christmas
Merry Christmas
Merry, Merry Christmases 

Ornaments and evergreens
With packages as yet unseen
All wrapped in paper
Colored bright
Reflecting candles in the night 

With carolers and mistletoe
And stockings all hung in a row
Or fireplaces glowing red
With children safely sent to bed 

Ring the bells, Ring the bells
Let the churches ring the bells!
Joy to the world, the Lord has come
Let his light shine on everyone
Christmas lead and we'll follow 

From London, Rome and Paris
To Berlin and Tokyo
Winter never really starts
Until it's given its first snow



As he flew over the Urals
He came upon a little town
Shining in the Arctic darkness
So the angel he set down 

Then he walked among the people
In a fitting earth disguise
So no one recognized him
Though they wondered at his eyes 


Then he asked a village peasant
What do Russian hearts desire
He answered peace on earth, of course
and a little, "Stolichnaya" 


In the middle of a forest
There's a clearing by a stream
Where a mother holds her newborn
And the child begins to dream 

And he dreams of hopes unspoken
When the tears of man will cease
And his mother holds him closer
For he is the Prince of peace 

And the moon is looking downward
Casting shadows through the trees
And the stars are shining brighter
As they whisper what they see 

How the emperor and the pauper
With the lion and the lamb
Kneel down before the infant
For his peace they understand 

Hark, the herald angels sing
Glory to the newborn king
Peace on earth and mercy mild
God and sinners reconciled 

Glory all ye nations rise
Join the triumph of the skies
With the heavenly host proclaim
Christ is born in Bethlehem 

Hark, the herald angels sing
Glory to the newborn king 

Let the bells ring out these tidings
Let it echo across the land
That a king is born in Bethlehem
And his kingdom is at hand 

Let the world rejoice together
As it looks upon the stars
Knowing every man's our brother
And that every child is ours 

As he flew o'er Sarajevo
There were scars upon the land
There were scars upon the people
It was hard to understand 

And the deepest scars of all
Which to humans are unseen
But the angel could see clearly
Were the scars upon the dreams 

Like Belfast and Burundi
Rwanda, Palestine
The only decorations here
Had been awarded for their crimes 

And in gardens where the children played
Now soldiers only trod
And stranger still, he heard some say
That they were killing for their god 

Now the angel heard god speak many times
And he had always paid attention
But this killing of ones neighbor
Was something the Lord had never mentioned 

But as he neared the earth
Of a recent battleground
From among the ruins
He once more heard the sound 

It was a single cello playing
A forgotten Christmas song
And even on that battlefield
The song somehow belonged 

And as he flew away
The angel did take note
That where he found this music played
One always could find hope


As He flew over the countryside
He was still listening
When from a little church below
He heard a voice begin to sing 

Joy to the world
The Lord has come
Let earth
Receive her king

Now it was long ago
When it all began
Back in Bethlehem
In the promised land

When a single star
Appeared in the sky
And three kings saw
And they each asked why 

And they checked the books
Full of prophecy
And the one king said
Why it's plain to me 

You see it means
That a king is born
Who will save mankind
On this blessed morn 

So they packed some gold
Myrrh and frankincense
On some old camel
With some fancy tents 

Closed down the house
Set the servants free
And three kings rode
Into history 

It was long ago
In a foreign land
When the Lord looked down
Said to make a stand 

So He sent His son
And said, 'through him you'll know me!'
Then the angels came
And when they start to sing 

All at once the past
It doesn't mean a thing
And the star comes out
And the wise men say, Hey show me! 

And they followed it
Over hills and sand
Til' they found the child
Like it all was planned 

And as they knelt before
The newborn king
The angel's were singing
In their angel style 

How all of our hopes
Had come down to this child 

Then he reached for the song
And he held it in his hand
(It was something that he did
Because angels can) 

And he wondered to himself
"Is this the answer that I sought"
But something was still missing
Or at least so he still thought 

And so he journeyed on
Through the midnight winter air
When all at once our angel
Felt the touch of a man's prayer 

And looking once more to the earth
To determine whence it came
He felt a million souls below
But one was not the same 

For there he saw a man alone
Though he was walking in a crowd
And though this man had rarely prayed
Tonight his head was bowed 

For even in a crowd, you see
A heart can feel alone
When the night is Christmas Eve
A child is not at home 

So from a father to the Lord
A prayer did swiftly race
But the angel saw it first
And he listened to its case

There is an ornament
Lost inside the night
There on a Christmas tree
With a thousand lights

No one can see her
She's standing all alone
Somewhere she glistens where no one can see
I don't believe I can say what had happened 

All of those words that we put into play
No longer matter, I should have known that then
I just know you're far away
On this Christmas day 

On this Christmas day
On this Christmas .... 

Somewhere the wind
Carves moments in the snow
And if he sees her
He never lets it show 

He just drifts behind her
Erasing every step 

Tinsel and garland are whispered
through trees
I don't believe I can say what
had happened 

All of those words that we put
into play
No longer matter, I should have
known that then
I just know you're far away
On this Christmas day 
On this Christmas day
On this Christmas ....
Come, Christmas
Stay, Christmas
Watch over her this day 

Keep her
Protect her
From harm now in every way 

Shelter her
There in your arms she'll be 

Until the day
When you
Bring her back home to me 

There is an ornament lost inside the night

After he had heard the prayer
The angel gently set it free 
And followed it to the father's child
In a far away city 

And there the girl in desperation
Was searching through the sky
For a star that she could wish upon
But stars were in short supply 

And the only light that she could see
There shining all alone
Was a neon sign on an old bar
And so on this,
she wished she was home


Every light can be a star
Just depends on where you are 

And the distance that you're looking
Past the places you have been

In an old city bar
That is never too far

From the places that gather
The dreams that have been 

In the safety of night
With its old neon light 

It beckons to strangers
And they always come in

And the snow it was falling
The neon was calling 

The music was low
And the night
Christmas Eve 

And here was the danger
That even with strangers 

Inside of this night
It's easier to believe 

Then the door opened wide
And a child came inside 

That no one in the bar
Had seen there before 

And he asked did we know
That outside in the snow 

That someone was lost
Standing outside our door 

Then the bartender gazed
Through the smoke and the haze 

Through the window and ice
To a corner streetlight 

Where standing alone
By a broken pay phone 

Was a girl the child said
Could no longer get home 

And the snow it was falling 
The neon was calling 

The bartender turned
And said, not that I care

But how would you know this?
The child said I've noticed 

If one could be home
They'd be all ready there 

Then the bartender came out from behind the bar
And in all of his life he was never that far

And he did something else that he thought no one saw
When he took all the cash from the register draw 

Then he followed the child to the girl cross the street
And we watched from the bar as they started to speak

Then he called for a cab and he said J.F.K.
Put the girl in the cab and the cab drove away 

And we saw in his hand
That the cash was all gone 

From the light that she had
wished upon 

If you want to arrange it
This world you can change it 

If we could somehow make this
Christmas thing last 

By helping a neighbor
Or even a stranger 

And to know who needs help
You need only just ask 

Then he looked for the child
But the child wasn't there 

Just the wind and the snow
Waltzing dreams through the air 

So he walked back inside
Somehow different I think

For the rest of the night
No one paid for a drink

And the cynics will say
That some neighborhood kid 

Wandered in on some bums
In the world where they hid 

But they weren't there
So they couldn't see 

By an old neon star
On that, night, Christmas Eve 

When the snow it was falling
The neon was calling 

And in case you should wonder
In case you should care

Why we're on our own
Never went home

On that night of all nights
We were already there

Then all at once inside that night
He saw it all so clear

The answer that he sought so long
Had always been so near

It's every gift that someone gives
Expecting nothing back 

It's every kindness that we do
Each simple little act

Christmas time
On a cold December morning 

All is calm
And the world is still asleep 

Christmas lights
That have been caught without warning 

Gently glitter on
Stars to wish upon 

All the world is at peace
Christmas time and the year will soon be leaving

Cloaked in time till it's just a memory
Christmas stays if we don't forget its meaning

Days go quickly by
Years they multiply 

And we go searching for thee
And the dream is still alive

From that first December morning
And it always will survive 

As long as we can see
That the dreams we find in life 

Are the dreams we tend to seek
And Christmas has its promises to keep

Christmas time
And the moments just beginning 

From last night 
When we'd wished upon a star 

If our kindness
This day is just pretending 

If we pretend long enough
Never giving up 
 It just might be who we are

And so it's good that we remember
Just as soon as we've discovered 

That the things we do in life
Will always end up touching others 

So from a fading neon star
Somewhere shining in the night 

We find a father far away
Now reflecting in its light

So, tell me Christmas
Are we wise 
To believe in things we never see

Are prayers just wishes in disguise 
And are these wishes being granted me 

For now I see
The answering 
To every prayer I've prayed 

She's coming home this
Christmas Day 

So tell me Christmas
Are we kind
More this day than any other day 

Or is it only in our mind
And must it leave when you have gone away

It's different now
It's changed somehow 

And now you're here to stay
She's coming home this Christmas Day 

All at once the world
It doesn't seem the same 

And in a single night
You know it all has changed 

And everything is now as it should be
I have the ornament 

I have the perfect tree
I have a string of lights 

I have a chance to see
Everything that my heart thought could be 

For of all the dreams
You were the first I knew 

And every other one
Was a charade of you

You stayed close when I was far away 

In the darkest night
You always were the star 

You always took us in
No matter who we are 

And so she's coming home this
Christmas Day

So the girl had reached her home
And the bar was closing down 

As the angel started back
To bring his Lord what he had found

An angel returned
That night through the sky 
But time it was short
He had to decide 

And so as he flew
Back over the land
A gift for his Lord
Was there in his hand 

It was the glow of a light
It was the heart of a song
It was the tear of a child
Where they never belonged 

It was the wish of a soul
On an old neon light
And the Lord smiled at him
On that cold winter night 

Hear as they ring through the night 

Kyrie among nations
Kyrie among nations
Kyrie among nations 

Here the bells ring through the night 

Kyrie among nations
Kyrie among nations
Kyrie among nations 

Hear as they ring through the night
Listen to the bells as they ring 

Listen to the message they bring
Listen to the sound
As they sing as one voice in the night
Hoping that we'll all understand 

Every dream we have's in our hands
And for every bell
May they ring all through the night

Kyrie among nations
Kyrie among nations
Kyrie among nations 

Hear as they ring through the night 

Kyrie among nations
Kyrie among nations
Kyrie among nations 
Here as they ring through the night 

Listen to the bells as they ring
Listen to the message they bring
Listen to the sound as they sing 
As one voice in the night 

Hoping that we'll all understand
Every dream we have's in our hands
And for every bell
May they ring all through your life

And so with his story over
And our bottle nearly through
I asked, did this really happen?
He swore every word was true 

Then he said I see you're puzzled
For your mind tells you to doubt me
That my story can't be true
But your heart tells you, it might be 

He then asked, did it entertain me
And I admitted it had charm
Then he said perhaps you have learned something
Or at worst I've done no harm 

Then he rose up from his chair
And he said it's time that he should leave
But may God keep and protect you
This and every Christmas Eve 

Then he left through the front door
And I ran out to ask him back
But he was already gone
And stranger still he left no tracks 

So I walked back to my home
Recalling all I've heard and seen
And for the first time since my childhood
That night I dreamed a Christmas dream 

Merry Christmas!


Thursday, November 12, 2015

Saints and Strangers on NGC Nov 22-23

I love American history. I fully enjoyed reading about it in school and studying it in college. But I usually don’t enjoy watching American history presented on TV. Until now! Saints and Strangers is literally the best presentation of any period of American history I have ever seen on screen. I strongly urge you to watch it with your family.

No political agenda. No gratuitous sex scenes, no excessive scenes of violence, no profanity – just the true story of the first Thanksgiving based on primary sources. We have often heard that those who came over on the Mayflower endured hardships, but to most Americans “endured hardships” is an innocuous phrase that doesn’t come close to telling the whole story.

This National Geographic Channel’s two-night movie event, Saint & Strangers, premiering this Nov 22-23 at 9 p.m., goes deep inside the familiar historical account of Thanksgiving, revealing the tribulations of the first settlers at Plymouth and their complex relationship with the Native Americans and with each other.

I am relieved that the producers didn’t make it a “soap opera” with fictitious love triangles, and I am just as pleased that they didn’t gloss over the Pilgrims’ dependence on God and their desire to propagate religious freedom in this new land. In fact, they emphasized it.

I felt that I was watching an illustrated version of early Puritan diaries and journals, which I was. These men and women intrigued me. First, they made a perilous 66-day journey to find religious freedom, depending on God every step of the way. But they weren’t the only passengers on the Mayflower. Another group of people made the journey. The Pilgrims referred to themselves as the “Saints,” the others passengers as the “Strangers.” The “Strangers” were motivated by real-world material objectives and adventure as opposed to the spiritual objectives of the “Saints,” hence the title Saints and Strangers. 

Finding out about this other group of “Strangers” making the voyage with the Pilgrims was the first indication that this series would be special. They didn’t have to add to the true story of survival, sacrifice, alliances and betrayals. It had my interest from the first minute as the story unfolded over two nights and answered many questions; such as How did they survive the winter? How did they get along with the Native Americans and with each other?

The storyline isn’t padded with “extra” non-essentials such as “soap opera” romances or manufactured hostilities. The simple true story has plenty of intrigue with a strong message of God’s faithfulness even in time of deep sorrow. I found myself emotionally involved with the settlers as they struggled to make wise decisions, to survive the hardship of a bitter winter, starvation, and disease.

The significance of Squanto, the former captive and slave of English explorers, was a crucial component of survival for the settlers. He helped them adapt to their new land as well as translated for them with the local Native American tribes. The last time I heard of Squanto was in a Sunday school lesson that taught how God provided for the Pilgrims. This series doesn't try to "hide" how absolutely critical Squanto was to their survival.

By showing the Native American tribes speaking their native tongue, the film gave the impression that we were actually there, looking over their shoulder and into their minds as they negotiated treaties, traded, and fought with the settlers. For the first time I was able to understand their fear of the English as well as the fear the English had for them.

I can’t give a higher recommendation for a television production. It is historically accurate, the production is first-rate, the acting is superb and believable, and the storyline was gripping. I was also pleased that this story of the Pilgrims isn't being promoted as a “Christian production" but is simply presented a true account of the beginnings of our nation – which happened to be based on Christian principles.

After watching Saints and Sinners you will have a new appreciation for Thanksgiving. Don't miss it. 

Sunday, October 25, 2015

(Pat and Daphnelynn Major, Rick and Janie Hagin, Jeff and Norine Woodcock, and Al and Jan Menconi have been friends since they they were young teachers at Christian High School in the early 1970's.  We always dreamed of taking a trip together.  This is our story.)

2015 Fall Foliage Trip by Daphnelynn Major 

The idea for a Fall Foliage Road Trip began from the bucket list of one and quickly grew to include four retired couples. All of us had traveled to many parts of the world but had never witnessed the beauty of New England leaves changing color in autumn. It had been 40 years earlier and younger when we met and taught together at Christian High in San Diego. Since then God had led our paths to many different cities and jobs spread over and even out of California. None of us had traveled together previously but all felt quite sure that we were ready to commit to this adventure as reunited friends.

So, the planning began. Many months before our early October “window of opportunity” to see leaves of color, we met to pray and plan our route. We then each researched, secured and paid for private homes to rent, talked it to death and tweaked plans up to the last minute. We booked a “mini-bus” that would be comfortable to hold at least 8 adults and a minimal amount of luggage. We held out hope that we could convince another couple to join us. Though there was the uncertainty of planning that many months in the future, we chose to trust God for the timing of our health, our grown kids’ needs and that of our many grandchildren and elderly parents.

Then, before we knew it, October was here! We met in Boston ready to enjoy the history, the food, the landscape and colors that were seen by our forefathers. As we waited for each flight to land, some toured the Freedom Trail, Paul Revere’s Old North Church and of course, Fenway Park, resulting in another check-off on that same bucket list. Once the mini-bus was secured and we were all together, we caught up over dinner in Little Italy and saw the city by night.

After a great nights’ sleep in our first AirBnB just outside of Boston, we ferried from Woods Hole to Martha’s Vineyard. It was a beautiful and sunny day to tour each of the six unique cities of the Island, before driving to Plymouth to see the “1620 Rock” and some sights of the historical city. Seeing the “quintessential” charm of New England we chose our first “word of the day.”

The next morning we drove up to Salem, then Kennebunkport with lunch at “The Clam Shack” and through the picturesque small towns and rapidly changing leaves as we traveled north to “Bah Hahbah”, Maine, for the night. Who will ever forget Robins’ Trailer Park Motel?? In the morning, although we didn’t quite arrive in time for sunrise, Cadillac Mountain in Acadia National Park gave us a breathtaking panorama of the east coast. Traveling back south we saw lighthouses and charming seaside resorts, but none that compared to our stop in Camden, on which the girls had insisted.

It was suggested that we would be eating our way through New England and we had no trouble sampling the best of the area with Boston Cream Pie(donuts), Lobster, NE Clam Chowder, Fresh Market Fish, Ben and Jerry’s, and the sought after Maine Blueberry Pie. We quickly took sides when it came to Starbuck’s vs. Dunkin’ Donuts and the type of fish we would eat!

Our route then took us west, going through New Hampshire on highways lined with vibrant colors and streams before arriving in our North Conway home for the next 2 nights. Morning was cold, very wet and socked in as we drove through the White Mountains to ride the ride the famous Cog Railway to the summit of Mount Washington, site of “the worst weather in the world.” Brrr…17 degrees with wind chill! Crossing the Appalachian Trail as we drove toward Montpellier, Vermont, the foliage grew brilliant with harvest hues and the covered bridges were more frequent. We appropriately listened to “Christmas in Vermont” type music and sang “How Great Thou Art” and other hymns and choruses in praise.

Leaving our comfy North Conway, New Hampshire AirBnB, we set out on a mission to find the Vermont Country Store, near Woodstock, before heading south again to Massachusetts. It was beautiful driving the scenic Mohawk trail entering the Berkshires and seeing Williams College, before arriving in South Lee, in the Stockbridge area, for our next house.

 A wonderful relaxing home awaited us on this last leg of our journey. The beautiful, spacious and lovingly converted 1893 school house reminded us of simpler times with handmade quilts in each room. The feeling continued as we walked the Stockbridge annual harvest faire and picked many apples from the Norman Rockwell Museum grounds. The result was a delicious hot apple crisp enjoyed around the table on our last night together. The next day we would each again go our separate ways, some driving through quaint Sturbridge on the way to the airport, others staying on the East Coast longer to visit with friends and family.

Months before, as we had met to plan, our prayer was to have a great road trip and to stay friends even through the unknown of traveling together. Those prayers were more than answered! Our disagreements were few but when emotions began to surface, we were wisely reminded that “we were moving on.” For the most part we deferred to each other. We patiently waited while we took turns being late and searched together for various misplaced items! In fun, we randomly gave our drivers points for good choices – or negative points for questionable moves! Good job to both drivers and navigators! We shared our food, our personal space, the bathrooms and even co-mingled our loads of wash.

Hours spent in our mini-Bus were filled with prayer, songs, stories, laughter, much snacking and good-natured ribbing. We had time to share our stories of life journeys, our families, job struggles, pain and health concerns. We praised God together for his miracles; when news came from our kids of a life spared after a horrific car crash and the announcement of twin boys!

So after visiting 4 states and driving nearly 1500 miles we can say it was even much more than we hoped. It has been said that “an experience shared is an experience doubled.” In every way, ours was an experience quadrupled! Our hearts were filled with not only the beauty of our Creator, but with gratitude for friendships that have remained through the years. “How Great Thou Art!”

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

The Movie Review for Woodlawn, the Film you Don't Want to Miss

After watching the faith-based film “Woodlawn,” My first response was “Wow!” I have never seen a clearer presentation of the Gospel in a film that will also appeal to nonbelievers.

We often like a film, not because of its intrinsic quality but because of the message it brings to nonbelievers. That's not what you’ll see when you watch “Woodlawn.” It provides an inspiring story that will thrill your heart and challenge you AND nonbelievers at the same time.

This is the true story of Woodlawn High School in Birmingham, Alabama that was experiencing racial tensions in 1973 because of new integration policies that bused blacks into a formerly all- white high school. The 500 African American students didn’t want to be there, and the white students certainly didn’t want them there.

As you can imagine, racial tensions invaded every facet of the campus, especially the lackluster football team. But at one point a “motivational speaker” challenged the team to let Jesus get rid of the hate and anger and follow Him instead. To the surprise of the administration, the whole team made a commitment to follow Jesus that day and thus began to work together instead of against each other.

As Woodlawn played as a unit, they demonstrated to their community that the “love of Christ” made a difference at their school when racial tension was infecting the rest of Birmingham. Their school led to spiritual renewal at other high schools in Birmingham and eventually throughout the whole community. Woodlawn learned that there was more to life then winning football games.

This film mainly follows the life of Tony Nathan, the star running back for Woodlawn who went on to become one of the first African American football players at the University of Alabama.  Nathan then went on to fulfill his dream as a star running back for the Miami Dolphins for nine years.

Don’t be misled; this is not a simple story about football. It is a story about hope, inspiration, commitment, and faith in Jesus. You don’t always win when you do the right thing, but it is always right to do the right thing.

Yes, I was pleased with the clear Gospel presentation, but just as important for me was the quality production with a story line that will appeal to believers and non-believers alike. The acting is professional with stars such as Sean Astin, Jon Voight, and Nic Bishop with a solid supporting cast. The story is believable and interesting, offering a spiritual message that is spot on. 

I left the film asking, “Why don't they make more movies like this?”  I expect it to get good "word of mouth,” so don’t be afraid to invite your non-believing friends. You won’t be embarrassed. And you probably will come away with a foundation for some interesting conversations.

Watch the movie trailers #1 here: 

and trailer # here:

Spread the word and share this review and the trailers on your social media. 

Friday, September 25, 2015

Story of Jesus in the Stars

Video review by Al Menconi September 25, 2015

What if I told you that God created the Zodiac for our benefit? I haven’t gone “liberal” nor am I spiritually off base. But I have just watched Story in the Stars, a video documentary by Joe Amaral, author, speaker, and amateur astronomer.

This fascinating film uses biblical, historical and scientific knowledge to reveal how each constellation of the Zodiac actually points us back to Jesus, and that the message of salvation is written in the stars for all of mankind to see.

There are 48 signs, or constellations in the sky and every major civilization not only has the same figures, but the same names. At one time, each culture understood these figures to be symbolic in nature, to serve as signs, to point them to a coming Redeemer!  But over time, people began to worship the stars instead of the creator of the stars.

The Bible says in Genesis 1:14: “And God said, ‘Let there be lights (sun, moon and stars) in the vault of the sky to separate the day from the night, and let them serve as signs to mark sacred times, and days and years.’” The Hebrew calendar uses the sun, moon, and stars to properly line up their feasts and festivals.

In Job 38:31 and 32, God explains to Job that the signs of the Zodiac were made by God and He brings them out in their season.  Read Job 38 and you will wonder why you didn’t see this before. Story In The Stars has convinced me that each of the twelve zodiacs were created and positioned by God to point us back to Jesus, and the message of salvation for all of mankind to see.  This video explains the purpose of each sign. 

This documentary is not only eye-opening for Christians, but also for people who need to know the truth about horoscopes and astrology.

I'm convinced that Story In The Stars needs to be seen and understood by every Christian in the world and should be taught in every Bible class and science class at every Christian school in the world. This isn’t just an interesting documentary, it is a biblical way to understand what has been right in front of our eyes for thousands of years.  It's another evidence that our Bible is the Word of God.  Even the stars proclaim its truth. 

You may order your download, DVD, and/or book at or on Amazon.

Watch the official trailer here:

Let me know what you think about this here.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Why Do We Need To Watch That Trash??

The following is my response to a friend who asked me why I recommended the MTV Video Music Awards for the past couple of years.  He couldn't understand why he NEEDED to watch that “trash” when all he had to do was read the information on the web?  He was also concerned about the fathers who struggle with porn subjecting their eyes to the skimpy outfits most of the performers wore. 


Thank you for your interest and for taking the time to express your concern.  Please let me try to respond.

I’ve been recommending that parents watch the MTV Video Music Awards (The VMAs) since 2003, to help parents learn and experience the culture that influences their children so deeply.

It’s more than just watching trash. You are right that there are many ways parents can learn which artist or program their kids watch and listen to, but there is no better way to experience the depravity of the entertainment culture that is teaching our children these values. 

Sometimes I, too, am unable to watch the complete program and nearly every year I literally cry for our children and our nation. It breaks my heart and disturbs my soul to see the depths of depravity the entertainment industry teaches our children. To be honest, it usually takes me a full day or two of listening to worship music to keep me from becoming depressed by the “culture” that I just experienced.

Youth culture is not our culture!  I meant what I said in my letter to parents, "we may live in the United States of America, but our children live in the United States of Entertainment.”  I believe we live in different societies than our children - even if we live in the same house! The 2004 Super Bowl illustrates this dichotomy. 

The Super Bowl committee wanted to attract the youth market so they invited MTV to produce the halftime show. What could go wrong? MTV brought a bigger audience, but that was also the year Janet Jackson had her “wardrobe malfunction” and exposed her breast on TV.  The parents were shocked and offended, but the youth didn’t think it was a big deal. Why? This was the first time most parents were exposed (literally) to the culture that their children experience daily and have gotten used to seeing everyday. By the way, nearly every Super Bowl halftime show since has featured a MTV type of extravaganza, but parents no longer complain because we’ve slowly gotten used to it.  And most of us haven’t even noticed the change.

(I sincerely believe that empty values have enveloped our whole society.  And I believe I can prove through Scripture that America really is the “Whore of Babylon” that is prophesied in the “last days.” And I sincerely believe our nation is rapidly being entertained to death.  But this is a digression from my response to you, so I will be writing a blog on this topic in a future newsletter.)

I don’t want parents to ever just accept the mind pollution that our nation has become addicted to.  And a good way to actually shock them into reality is to “experience” this depraved value system by watching the VMAs.  Why?  Because our children are in a completely different society, with a different language, customs, and very different values.  If parents are ever going to learn to communicate with their children, to reach their children with Truth of the Gospel, they MUST first fully understand this “foreign culture”.

For example, suppose you were to lead a team of men on a mission trip to Uganda. What would you do to prepare?  First, you would bring in an expert on Uganda to help familiarize your team with Ugandan society. The idea is not just to help your team avoid social faux pas (which is definitely important!) but to help your team to understand their culture, customs, and values.

Understanding their society would give you a “heart” for the people, then when you see and understand Ugandan culture your heart would probably be broken and you would begin to see Ugandans in a different perspective and with a new and an unconditional love.  When you “visit” another society with a humble heart and love, then those people will more likely listen to your message.

The same holds true for parents “visiting” their children’s culture in today’s society. You can hide your children for a while.  Or you may say your children never watch nor have they ever watched MTV, but MTV is the society that tells them what is “cool” and socially acceptable if they watch MTV or not.  In effect, MTV is writing the constitution for the society of the United States of Entertainment.  And if the parent hasn’t taught them how to think biblically, who knows how they will think when the parent isn’t looking over their shoulder?

Of course, I believe Christian parents should always use caution.  Of course, I believe parents should pray that God would open their hearts, eyes, and minds to the needs of their children. Of course parents should commit their heart and mind to the Lord, and ask for His wisdom and protection before watching the VMAs.

But I also believe that Christian parents can learn by experiencing the VMAs.  Watch with a pen and notebook to take notes.  One caveat. Some men who struggle with pornography may have a difficult time watching the VMAs and shouldn’t subject their mind to this or any type of activity outside of marriage that may be sexually stimulating.

I’m not above being tempted with sexual sin, but in the thirty plus years I have been studying this topic and the 20 years or so that I have been watching the VMAs I don’t see the performers as someone to be envied and desired.  All I see is a generation that has bought into the LIE, dancing on the road to Hell and like a pied piper leading our children to join them. And that breaks my heart!

And that’s exactly why my ministry is dedicated to helping parents and leaders deal with the issue of entertainment from a biblical perspective. As you know, entertainment is a key weapon in the battle for our minds and for our families.  We must get involved with our children and help them see “their world” from a biblical perspective. We can’t accomplish this from a distance.  

I hope my emails, suggestions, or this letter doesn’t offend you. I write this in love.  I never discount criticism and it always causes me to look inward.  This time, I am very confident this is what God would have me do.  

Your friend always,


Thursday, August 20, 2015

MTV Is Changing Our Culture And Values

You and I live in the United States of America, but our children are being raised in the United States of Entertainment and MTV is writing the Constitution The MTV Video Music Awards (VMAs) this Aug. 30 at 9:PM/8:PM central will become the topic of conversation in many of the homes in America.  A quick perusal of the VMA’s from their beginning in 1984 to today will show a gradual regression of our nation's moral values to a point where literally "anything goes."
The highlights of the first VMAs in 1984 were Madonna singing "Like A Virgin" to ZZ Top singing about girls with good looking "Legs" to Michael Jackson dancing to Thriller. It all seems so innocent by today's standards. Who changed? God's values haven't.

For the next twenty years or so, sex, drugs, and rebellion were the key themes of choice. Little by little we learned to accept as normal what used to be sinful.

However, in 2003, the Madonna / Britney Spears kiss during a simulated Lesbian wedding seemed to move the "values" needle to a new level of "shock." And the past ten years or so, homosexuality and "angry sex" became a major focus. In 2011, Lady Gaga tried to convince us that she was "Born This Way." And in 2013, Miley Cyrus felt that she had to teach us how to perform a perverted "lap dance." The following year she tried to top her previous performance by riding in nude on a wrecking ball. It didn't work.

By no means have I covered all the shocking events shown on the VMA "highlights” (lowlights) through the years, but I wanted to give you a smattering of the value system that illustrates "cool" to our youth.

If my theory of our children being raised in the United States of Entertainment is true, that means our children live in a "foreign culture." How do you communicate with someone in a foreign culture? Consider, if you were going to be a missionary overseas, how would you reach the native people? You would take time to try to understand their culture, customs, values, and language. Why? So these people would know that you loved and cared about them as individuals. When someone knows you care and love unconditionally, they may even give you time to share the Gospel.

The same principle holds true for reaching your children. The MTV VMA’s simply provide you with Cliff Notes of the culture, customs, values, and language.

So how should we deal with this onslaught of immorality on families? 

1. Don't bury your head in the sand. Be aware of the entertainment culture. It's always more than "just a song or a good beat."

2. Watch this year's VMA’s on August 30 at 9:PM and throughout September (check local listings for times) WITHOUT YOUR KIDS. You may have to DVR it, but don't make a "big deal" about watching.

3. Every year that I suggest watching the VMA’s, I receive letters from parents who don't want to have "this filth" in their home. That's okay, but you will be missing a wonderful opportunity to pick up a lot on the youth culture, customs, values, and language.

4. I'm not telling you to do this for enjoyment. I doubt if you will enjoy the evening's presentation. In fact, I'm counting on you being shocked and your heart being broken. I often cry for our nation when I sit through this show. You begin to realize that this is more than entertainment.  You will be watching "live" the war against the values you know to be true.  Some years, my soul is so broken that I am unable to finish watching. I strongly believe that your heart has to be broken by the values of this world to effectively communicate your concerns with others.

5. Don't assume that your children are not influenced because you don't allow MTV in your home. Our whole youth culture is based on the values of MTV and illustrated during the VMA’s. Read Colossians 2:8.

6. Use to look up the lyrics to the songs during the VMA’s and whenever you hear a popular song title. All you need is the artist's name and the title of the song.

7. Pray for your children to have the strength to live for Jesus in a culture that is going to Hell.

8. Pray that you will NOT JUDGE your children's entertainment choices but will love your children unconditionally. Most children identify so closely with their entertainment choices that when you criticize their entertainment, your children feel you are criticizing them.

9. Use the insight you picked up from the VMA’s and Colossians 2:8, Romans 12:2, Colossians 3:1-2 and to ask open-ended questions when the opportunity presents itself.

10. Preaching is NOT communicating. Communication takes listening. Don't raise your voice or get angry. You may have to bite your lip.

11. Set a positive example with your entertainment choices.

12. Make certain you are presenting a clear picture of Jesus to your children. They know you aren't perfect, so quit pretending in front of them. When you blow it, ask for their forgiveness.

13. Invest in Christian music. There are many excellent resources, but the one I use is a Christian music streaming service called You can try it free for a week and then it's only $4.95 a month for all the Christian music you want.

14. Never give up hope. No one is out of God's reach. My mother prayed for me until the day she died, and she died before she saw her prayers answered. I'm a living miracle, and if you are living for Christ, you are as well.

15. Post your responses to me, or this article, on our Facebook “Al Menconi Ministries” page.

16. Please pray for Al Menconi Ministries to continue to be bold for Jesus Christ.  Thank you. 

Thursday, July 9, 2015

Nugget of Truth #12

Are we mocking God?  The Bible says God will mock the mocker when he cries out for help.  This doesn't seem to be God's character.  Why would Proverbs teach this?  This Nugget of Truth video from the Book of Proverbs may help you understand.   

Let me know what you think on our ministry Facebook page

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

We Lost the Cultural War – Now What?

We Lost the Cultural War – Now What?

by Al Menconi, with input from David Blyth
The Supreme Court’s decision on gay marriage last week hit me with the kind of impact that I have not experienced since the 9/11 terrorist attacks.  And just as 9/11 made us understand that a group of people we didn’t know hated us and treated us as their enemy, the gay marriage decision shows that a segment of our own society hates Christian values and wants to destroy them.  Both instances unalterably changed our lives.

You may think that I’m overreacting, but consider this.  Jesus in Matthew (19:4+5) gives a very clear description of marriage when He states, “Haven’t you read that at the beginning the creator made them male and female?  And God said, ‘Because of this a man should leave his father and mother and be joined together with his wife, and the two will be one flesh.’  So they are no longer two but one flesh...”  

Marriage was ordained by God at the creation of Adam and Eve (Gen.2:24).  But in recent decades the homosexual community has made marriage a political “civil right,” and now, after we have lived for 5,000 years with God’s definition of marriage, the Supreme Court has changed it to fit its belief system and chose to overrule God!  What hubris!

I will not take time to argue the definition of marriage or debate the homosexuality issue in this paper.  That is for another time and place.  Either you believe God or you don’t.  It’s your choice.  In the meantime, the majority of Americans agree with the President and the Supreme Court.  Polls show most Christians are in the minority on this issue. 

Frankly, I believe this proves that we have lost the cultural war.  The days of Christians living in a society that supports our basic beliefs is over, and they won’t be restored until Jesus Christ returns for His bride. We may not be thrown to the lions, burnt at the stake, or (as we have seen recently) have our heads cut off by radical Muslims, but difficult times will come.  

What will “difficult times” look like for most Americans?  I’m guessing that the changes will probably appear in small increments. 

·      Perhaps a fine for refusing to bake a cake or photograph a gay wedding.

·      Being forced to pay for medical procedures that are contrary to biblical values. 

·      Labeling churches and other religious organizations as racist or homophobic for only hiring Christian employees who hold biblical truths. 

·      But how long will it be before these “homophobe” organizations lose their tax-exempt status or worse for following and teaching the Truth of Scripture?

It can never happen?  Consider how quickly our nation has done a one eighty on the gay issue.  When I was in college in the 60’s, homosexuality was considered an aberrant behavior in my secular college psych textbooks.  Today it is not only considered normal but honored with its own definition of marriage. 

This is all happening with less than 4% of the population identifying as homosexual.  Can you imagine how that percentage will increase in the next few years when this lifestyle is given open honor and respect with equal marriage status?

So what should be the Christian response? To quote Francis Shaffer, “How then shall we live?”  To me it’s the same as it has always been - just follow Jesus.  Or to be more precise:

1.     Remember that God is in control.

2.     Stay faithful.

3.     Remember that this is a spiritual battle, not an earthly one.

Let’s consider each of these in greater detail.

God is in control:

Do you think the Supreme Court decision surprised God?  Of course not.

We are not alone. Just as God has not abandoned the Christians around the world who experience prison, beating, rape, and beheading, God has not abandoned us.  God cares.  We may have lost the battle for the hearts and minds of this world, but we must realize that this isn’t a political battle, and thus the Christian’s response should not be political.  God calls us to do His work, not the government.  God is in control, not the government, not terrorists from a false religion, and not some political action committee.

Stay faithful:

Do you remember the context in which Daniel lived his entire life?  Rather than being a resident of Jerusalem, where the majority believed like him, he was taken to a land where the majority hated him.  Yet the king trusted him enough to make him a leader.  His enemies had him thrown to the lions, but God rescued him.  Daniel was faithful to his God and his king.

God does not promise that the Christian walk would be easy.  Remember three of Daniel’s contemporaries were thrown into a fiery furnace when they refused to bow down to false idols (As with Daniel, God chose to rescue them).  They were ready to accept the consequences of following God in our fallen world as should we. 

Thousands of Christians are being brutally murdered by radical Muslims, even today, yet they bravely stay true to their faith.  We must not forget, to follow Christ is to swim upstream.  “Going with the flow” will always lead to heartache and regret.

This is a spiritual war:

We live in a fallen world that is ruled by the god of this age.  Therefore every effort to obey Christ has been and always will be opposed by Lucifer.  Yet we must respond as Christ commanded: let the world know we are His disciples by our love (John 13:34+35).

It all sounded so easy just a week ago.  We’ve read that verse a thousand times, nodded our head and said “Amen.”

But in fighting a cultural battle, are we apt to lose the spiritual battle?  Are we showing others a true image of Christ, or have we been giving others a distorted image of Him by our lives?   How are we preparing our children to grow up in this new hostile environment?  Will they succeed if they follow your example? 

Jesus advised that the world should know we are Christians by our love, not by our “righteousness.” WWJD is more than four letters on a wristband.  “What Would Jesus Do?” demands a vigorous, self-confident response!         

So what did Jesus do in the Gospels? Consider His treatment of the woman at the well, or Mary Magdalene, Zacchaeus, tax collectors, and all the other sinners.  Jesus went out of His way to show them love and respect without validating their behavior.  Are we to do less with the homosexual community?

The Supreme Court decision has given us a great opportunity to reveal to the world the same love that God showed us.  As Martin Luther King said many times, hate will never defeat hate.  Only love will overcome hatred. 

Have we really been showing “the world” love? Really?  Could I suggest that we begin by cleaning up our own houses – removing the planks from our own eyes – before we ask others to clean up theirs?  The church is far from perfect.  Christians may be despised because we may not have been showing a true image of Jesus to the world by our love for others. 

“Oh, I hate the sin but love the sinner.”  You do?  How does the “sinner” feel when he hears those stinging words?  Remember, we no longer live in a Christian society.  We are not addressing Christians when we say that; we are talking to a society that only hears “I hate you” because they so seldom see us really love the sinner unconditionally. 

“They shall know we are Christians by our love” – not by our judgment.  We are to love sinners – and that includes gays and lesbians and even Bruce Jenner – without judging them.

“But how do I love someone whose actions I despise?”

Simple.  Do what Jesus did – He socialized with them and he partied with them!  Is it really against our religion to bake a cake or photograph a gay wedding?  If you wish to emulate His response in the Gospels, bake the best cake you know how and take the best photos.  Welcome the new couple to your church; introduce them to others who will also show them love; worship God together.  Who knows? Your love for them may be breaking down their walls of resistance to the Gospel.  And the Holy Spirit may work a miracle in their lives just like he did in yours. 

God does not ask us to approve of or support gay marriage, but He COMMANDS us to accept and love the homosexual community.  “Love your neighbor as yourself” is still in effect when your neighbor is gay.

Admittedly, the New Testament principle is quite exacting, but when we fail, we must not quit. Remember Paul’s words in II Tim 4:7,  “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the course, I have kept the faith.”  We must remember to faithfully show others the love of Christ at all times. 

To summarize, I strongly disagree with the Supreme Court decision for a number of reasons. But we have a higher calling, and we should never sacrifice the eternal for a temporal victory. My mother used to sing, “This world is not my home; I’m only passing through.”  I’m beginning to understand what those words really mean. 

“They shall know you are Christians by your love.” We must always ask ourselves, Will winning this temporal political or cultural battle hinder us from sharing the love of Jesus with a dying world? 

When you love someone, only two things can occur.  Either the sinner will want to know more about Jesus, or just like Daniel, he may just want to throw you to the lions.

It’s a win-win situation.  For me to live is Christ.  To die is gain.