Baroque composer Georg Friedrich Händel (1685-1759) wrote Judas Maccabaeus. Many might know this opera by the familiar melody See the Conqu’ring Hero Comes. But it is the piece that follows that prompts me to praise God with fervent desire.
As a budding composer in the mid-Eighties, The Great Choruses of Bach and Handel has comforted, encouraged and motivated me to look to God for answers to my problems. While the decades passed, the song Sing Unto God has been my inspiration during those trying times.
I have not found a better version than that sung by the Mormon Tabernacle Choir in 1984:
Sing unto God, and high affections raise, To crown this conquest with unmeasur’d praise.
The song is in a constant crescendo, always growing bigger and bigger, leading to an ultimate exultation of God. When I think about the words “unmeasured praise”, I think about how the flowers in nature extend their pedals and swell with color as a tribute to their awesome creator. I think about how heavenly bodies scream across the night sky declaring God’s omnipotent reign. I think about how all the gigantic suns burst with flares throughout the universe, giving glory to his name. And I think about how I, without restraint, raise my hands to worship whenever I am in his presence.
Psalms 68 says—a portion of which Händel based Sing Unto God:
“Sing to God, sing praises to his name;
lift up a song to him who rides through the deserts;
his name is the LORD;
exult before him!” (Psalms 68:4)
God is always there with us in the desert, ready and waiting for our praise. Let us give him that praise without measure. For all that he has done for us, giving his son Jesus as a sacrifice for our sins; he deserves all of our worship.
Therefore, let us give thanks to the one who made us so wonderfully and a little lower than the angels for now. For he is the one who will ultimately crown us with glory and honor (Psalms 8:4-5).
No one likes a sourpuss. If you do not know what that is, a quick Google search reveals it is a person who is bad-tempered or habitually sullen. For someone like that, it may take some effort to snap out of the blues. It would have been far better not to fall into a mindset of negativity in the first place.
How can we do that? How can we avoid the vortex of a swirling drain when there is just so much more to gain by living a life filled with hope?
1. Keep Moving
As cliché as it sounds, it is hard to hit a moving target. Isaac Newton put it another way, “A body in motion stays in motion. A body at rest stays at rest.”
When we are on the move, we expend energy—energy that we would have otherwise consumed for other things. Sometimes, and this happens more often than we think, those other things are not conducive toward our betterment as human beings.
The solution is to keep moving. Our focus should be on volunteer activities. Community programs are a great way to lift the spirits. The moment we see others suffer is when we become aware of our own blessings.
That is not the end of it, though. The very act of providing for the needs of others changes our attitude and makes us humble. Attitude plays a big part with maintaining a positive outlook. We can own the world, but really, what good would it do if we lose our souls?
2. Enjoy the Music
Music calms the savage beast. Is that not a saying from somewhere?
Have we ever thought how our mood changes when we listen to music? It would be a difficult thing to do to be happy if a sad song is playing in the background of a restaurant. How many times have you heard Mozart’s Requiem while wolfing down a pizza at some bar and grill?
Music plays such a big role when it comes to setting a mood. Music can make us happy. Music can make us sad. That is why it is so important to pay attention to what goes into the ears. All it takes is one song to change our attitude.
Have fun with music. Create mixes that inspire creativity. Listen to music that challenges our very being. If after hearing a song we feel awful, it may be time to forget that song ever existed.
Let us allow music to give life to our bones. The right kind of music will make us grow for the better.
So much time goes to waste playing the “he said, she said” game. So what if he or she said something bad about us. If we are happy with who we are what difference does it make what others think?
Bringing God into the conversation will help with this point:
“You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Mat. 5: 43-48 NIV).
As much as it is opposite to how we, mere humans, think, forgiving an enemy releases us from the perils of hatred. Would it not be more beneficial to live a life without enemies than to spend time thinking about how we can do harm to those who have harmed us?
Even more so, forgiving those who are not worthy is more of a testimony on us. For when we forgive, we release ourselves of negativity from our lives. No longer are we captive to the chains of evil, but we are free to do good works inspired by the gifts of grace.
It may be hard to understand at first, and that is fine, however, the blessings that come with forgiving someone go beyond the forgiver to touch the lives of everyone involved.
With That in Mind
Once these techniques become part of our routine, it will be difficult to fall into a dark or glum state. We will find life more fulfilling, more rewarding and rich in positive experiences. No longer will we have to hide behind a fake smile or a performance laugh. We can be ourselves and live a happy, abundant life bursting with joy.
So keep moving, enjoy the music and let things go. After all, it is far better to be a role model than to become a case study.
Given it’s Freedom Friday, I figure the best way to maximize positive thought is to provide you a peek into what excites me. Later in the comments, you can tell me what excites you. How does that sound?
A Good Song: First up, nothing can really replace a good song. You know when it happens as soon as it hits your ears. Your feet begin to shuffle, your fingers begin to tap, and you’re off bobbing your head to the rhythm of the beat. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been in a lousy mood only to rise from the dumpster when one of my favorite songs is playing on my earbuds. My secret weapon for curing the blues is three hits of AC/DC, two chasers of Led Zeppelin and one shot of John Williams.
Good Food: How can I describe the feeling I get when sitting at the table anticipating my mom’s home-cooked meal? There’s a whole method to the act of patiently waiting. I’m Italian, so a meal doesn’t only consist of the main course but it includes the antipasto, the salad, dessert and other foods I can’t bare writing about without eating part of my anatomy. The whole experience is reminiscent of a grand opera served on a platter. Delicious.
Good Exercise: I love taking walks. I love doing my stretching exercises. I love physical activity outside. Actually, let me qualify that last bit. I love physical activity outside if there’s a goal to achieve. Cleaning up a garage is not my idea of a physical activity I like. I’ll do it, but it’s far and away not on my Top Ten list of things I love doing. Okay, back to my walks. When I go for a walk, I grab my phone, plug in my earphones and soak the tunes while I perform a half-hour jaunt around my neighborhood. The music helps me focus and my love for my neighborhood allows me the convenience to say hello to all my neighbors. The activity is also great on the heart.
Good Friends: Lastly, meeting with good friends over a meal or a ball game makes for one of the most wonderful times ever. I’ve known my best friends, those people who I can call on and say they are my friends, since I was a single. We go to each other’s houses, have BBQ’s, picnics, etc. and we simply enjoy each other’s company. What’s not to like? People change, but the friendship always remains. That time together will one day become a memory worth talking about.
These things excite me. They thrill me, lift me up and inspire me to do better in all that I do.
Over a year ago, I wrote a post called My Playlists that went on to describe my affinity for obsession with music playlists. After rereading the post, I thought I could add more to it in terms of what other kinds of playlists I have, and the reasons I created them. Since it’s for my Freedom Friday series, I might as well have some fun along the way.
In my original post, I talked about mixtapes and what made them so special back in the day when cassette tapes ruled media. A perfectly designed mixtape is a form of expression that captures the essence of a feeling or of a moment in time. Nowadays, the mixtape is a playlist on a music player tailored with songs that have a connection with each other. In other words, a playlist brings together songs that mean something to someone when played together in a certain order.
For instance, I have a playlist dedicated to my college years. These are songs I was listening to while in college that if I played them today would spark those memories of my trips in and out of class, the school library and study hall. I also have a playlist called High School that I love playing whenever I want to remember the times when I sat on the football field with my friends, looking at the sky while dreaming of who we wanted to be someday.
Recently, I’ve added a slew of new playlists to my collection that I could only describe as representing a feeling:
Lounge—A series of smooth jazz songs that transport me to a lounge at the top of a luxury hotel, minutes before midnight while I take in the sight of the city lights below. Yeah, pretty specific, huh? Autumn—Songs that have a nostalgic, melancholy vibe that remind me of the reflection I go through when fall arrives. Whenever I find myself in this playlist, I’m instantly walking through the leaves as the rain pours. Winter—I came up with this playlist as a way to enjoy the solitude of the season. Those cold winter days when the wind is blowing and no one’s around makes for a peaceful time. These songs bring those moments together in a way that enhances the frost of the season. Love—Ah, yes. It’s all about love. My choice of songs vary, but the theme remains the same. On this playlist I’ve added songs for the tender heart. Sports—Unlike the name of the playlist, the songs evoke inspiration. It’s the one playlist I can go to for a “You can do it!” jolt of adrenaline to spike my productivity. Summer—Fun tunes featuring Beach Boys and anything with the word summer in its title. I’m playing this now as I write. They’re the songs that epitomize youth, fun in the sun, and explode with energy. Power—This playlist features tunes with only one thing as its purpose—to blow away anything in its path. I mixed soundtrack songs from various superhero, car and summer blockbuster flicks in one neat little package that would evoke a big sense of adventure. I came up with this playlist as a way to kick me into action. A couple of these songs is all I need to press me to running with the bulls.
Anyway, I love my playlists. I really do. Whenever I need to focus on a certain period in my life or take an emotional journey, my music has been there for me, saving the day and pulling me to keep creating.
What about you? Do you have playlists that inspire you?
This is one movie I’d love to spoil—but I won’t. If you’ve seen Back to the Future then you’ll know how wonderful a film it is. Shot in the mid-1980s, the flick features a time machine, plutonium, terrorists and a smart story wrapped in a catchy tune by Huey Lewis and the News called Back In Time.
Thirty years later, we have yet to have a working hoverboard, but that’s getting ahead of the story. [Edit: The hoverboard is real and you can see Tony Hawk riding it here!]
Michael J. Fox plays a kid who travels back in time to save his best friend’s life. The story takes a comedic turn when he actually spends a good chunk of it playing matchmaker to his teenage parents. Through Marty’s eyes, the audience enjoys the treat of working through multiple plot connections between timelines and characters. What happens in the past does not stay in the past.
What I find fascinating about the film is how it possesses the ability to stir the imagination with a simple story that grows more complex by the minute. I call it the mushroom effect. Like a mushroom cloud that begins with a small impact so does this story propel the viewer into a world of hilarity. If you’ve seen a rendition of The Barber of Seville, then you’ll know what I’m talking about.
The film also deals with time in an interesting way. The theory that someone could go back in time is not new. Einstein proved time is relative. We are now receiving images of supernovas that have long since disappeared from the universe all because their light has finally reached our telescopes after nine billion years. When we look into the sky, we’re looking at a snapshot back in time. The Back to the Future series presents the idea of parallel universes based on a changed time continuum. Star Trek deals with the same idea, but I digress.
Marty McFly’s special nervous way about him makes him the ideal candidate to suffer through the nonsense of a time breach. His witty comebacks allow for unexpected results where they insult the class bully, but also attract the wrong kind of female attention. His love for music also brings a new twist to the theme of who really invented Rock and Roll. If anyone needs to relax, it’s Marty. He expends enough energy on the screen to power several nuclear power plants.
But overall, when picking my favorite Top 10 movie characters, I would choose Marty. No matter how bad a situation gets, he’ll always end up making me laugh.
One of my very favorite things I like to do is listen to music. Allow me to rephrase. What I always love to do is immerse myself in awesome music. There, the universe is whole again.
Since y’all know I use my Freedom Friday post to talk about—well—anything, I figure I’d talk about some of my favorite song lyrics. Don’t you worry, my musical tastes border on eclectic, so you shouldn’t have to fear of not being able to recognize the tunes.
I’m feeling wound up and free. And if you don’t know who Blink-182 is, then head on over to youtube to find out. They are one incredible band.
All right, having dispensed with the introductions, here they are—Blink-182. I’ll provide a snippet of the song, then I’ll tell you what it means to me:
White stones of hollow eyes Death comes you better hide Never rest in town (Fall in my arms again) Full moon on a rotten night Eighteen and a wind came by Not a soul around (Fall in my arms again)
What it means to me: If I didn’t know better, Blink has a fascination with vampires. To me, though, I take it to mean zombies on the prowl. I don’t think vampires have white stones for eyes. Zombies, on the other hand, do. They are a dreadful kind, ready to tear apart anything resembling human. I wish this song would play somewhere on The Walking Dead. This would fit perfectly.
This air is too thick to breathe So just drive These eyes are too sick to see Don’t leave me behind Something’s swimming in my blood Something’s rotting in my brain When I’m smothered from the flood I can’t recognize your face I need to leave So just drive
What it means to me: I can’t help but think of the desert laid waste by its sand and heat. I can’t also help think of a virus rotting the brain turning everyone into zombies. Okay, so that last part just came to me, but I’m listening to this song and it’s reminding me of that specific impending doom awaiting humans if, and when, a zombie apocalypse should take place.
You’re right. My mind is in one place. Let me change it up a bit.
Yeah I I saw your ghost tonight The moment felt so real If your eyes stay right on mine My wounds would start to heal
What it means to me: Mourning the passing of a loved one is an intense process. I’ve gone through it, as I’m sure the majority of you also. For me, this song represents healing from a past loss in order to move on. Every so often when the ghost reappears, making the moment seem so real, I allow it to heal my wounds. I then go about my day knowing several months from now it’ll probably happen again, but to a lesser degree.
Maybe, this is not what I had in mind when I meant I wanted to change it up a bit. Let me leave you with this song instead:
I’m not sure how much interest this post will garner, especially knowing that some folks are not too keen on Apple these days. But I’ll write it from my perspective in order for you to understand where I’m coming from. This is my Freedom Friday post about my iPod classic.
First off, this is not an ad campaign for Apple. Nor is it a way for me to gain a following from all the audiophiles out there. Even more so, nor is it a plea for Apple to listen to its customers. I leave that fight to the activists, of which I’m in no way a part of.
Last month, Apple quietly discontinued the iPod classic, the company’s former highest capacity portable media device.
Yes, I did shed a figurative tear, in spite of the fact I saw it coming for a while now.
Let me make one thing clear. I don’t consider myself a die-hard Apple fan. I say this with the knowledge I’ve never stood in line for one of their products or sat in front of the computer waiting for the next iOS release. I’m one of those guys who buys stuff, regardless of company, for what that stuff represents in technological progress. If that stuff works and does what I want it to do, I will raise the praises no matter what anyone says to me.
Okay, now with that out of the way, my big confession is I love my iPod classic. I do. You’re reading those words from a guy who’s been around. I used to listen to music on vinyl, which, by the way, sounds amazing. I progressed to purchasing my very first Sony Walkman with its ability to carry a whole album on cassette tape. I then moved on to my first MP3 player called the RioVolt, a CD-based MP3 player featuring hundreds of songs at my auditory disposal. From there I graduated to an Apple shuffle—the original “white stick” version. I couldn’t believe I could finally carry a few more hundred songs with me.
Then the Apple iPod classic came. In 2007, I’d spent $350. I still can’t believe I’d spend that much for a device. Then again, for my RioVolt I’d spent $200 in the early 2000’s, so it goes without saying that if a device is worth it, I’ll buy it. That player lasted me a couple of years before it became obsolete.
My classic? It’s still going strong.
What do I love about it? Everything. I’m serious about this. Its ability to fit my entire song library, which is extensive, has me carrying my entire music collection with room to boot. That feature alone has me at the word go.
I’m also an avid playlist creator. I have over a hundred playlists for almost every mood I can think of. I even have playlists to remember specific events in my life. I’m a playlist maniac! The sweetest thing about the iPod classic is that it allows Smart Playlists to work as intended with Live Updating.
For all of you who are not familiar of the feature, Live Updating simply allows a playlist to populate dynamically without much interference from me. That means if I have a playlist with the criteria of picking rock songs I haven’t heard in the past two weeks, the playlist will rotate my library to do just that. Once a song finishes, the iPod classic kicks the song off the list and a new one then appears in its place. Live Updating is that amazing. The thing is it doesn’t work on the iPhone or any of the newest iPods. It does work on the iPod classic, and that’s all that matters to me.
The other great feature about my iPod classic is its ability to create Genius playlists on the fly. Let’s say I’m listening to a song I really love, I click on the center button, choose the Genius feature, and the iPod classic quickly creates a playlist with all the songs that work well with the song I’m listening to. The perfect mix. The feature works so well that I sometimes save the generated playlist for later use.
Last but the most important feature the iPod classic has that no other Apple device currently possesses is the click wheel. I suppose Apple thought this archaic functionality belonged in the past and decided music listeners didn’t need it. In reality, it’s the most useful feature for us folks who listen to music non-stop.
How does it work? If I slide my finger on the click wheel left, I’m turning the volume down. Go right, I’m turning it up. If I press the bottom of the wheel, I’m pausing the song. If I press right, it skips to the next song and vice versa when pressing left. The kicker? I can do it all without looking at the device. Try that with an iPhone where you have to look at the screen to perform the simple function of pausing the song.
Like I said, I love my iPod classic. I love it so much I bought two—the original 2007 and the 2009 versions. Both of them are still going strong. The 2007 version I have hooked up to a docking station in our bedroom where I turn on the music before going to bed. Although some may wonder how I can prepare for sleep if I have Blink 182 blasting on the speakers. Trust me—I sleep right through the night without any trouble. The 2009 version is with me all the time, cranking out the tunes.
Anyway, enough of my rambling.
The biggest drawback of the iPod classic is that it has a hard drive to hold its music. However, I wouldn’t be surprised if Apple turns around one day to release another version of the device featuring a big fat solid-state drive.
I wouldn’t be surprised at all.
RANGER MARTIN AND THE ALIEN INVASION, on sale October 21.
What devices do you own? Are you someone who sports an attachment with a device?