Music Review: Warmer in Winter by Lindsey Stirling

My music collection might be considered somewhat eclectic by most of my peers. I listen to a lot of modern instrumental music, quite a bit of instrumental jazz, and a lot of contemporary Christian.

Somewhere in there, I discovered Lindsey Stirling. I admit, like most, I first found her on YouTube. I played video after video but nothing ever really stuck. Then I stumbled upon her three original albums and simply fell in love with her music.

Warmer in Winter is Ms. Stirling’s latest release and is, as might be apparent from the title, a holiday album.

The track list is as follows:

Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy
You’re a Mean One, Mr. Grinch (featuring Sabrina Carpenter)
Christmas C’mon (featuring Becky G)
Carol of the Bells
Angels We Have Heard on High
I Saw Three Ships
Let it Snow
Warmer in Winter (featuring Trombone Shorty)
What Child is This
All I Want for Christmas
Time to Fall in Love (featuring Alex Gaskarth)
Jingle Bell Rock
Silent Night

Warmer in Winter is definitely different than much of Ms. Stirling’s earlier work. Gone is the heavy electronica influence on most of these cuts. Instead we have everything from orchestra, to big band, to plaintive acoustically pure sounds. Some songs are a melding of influences (Dance has a classical sound with a electronic drum rhythm, Grinch is a wonderful swinging electric bluesy mess that Ms. Carpenter simply nails, Carol almost sounds like something from TSO with the guitar being replaced by Ms. Stirling’s violin).

Regardless of styles, every single cut is simply amazing. My favorites are many. Dance, Grinch, Carol, Warmer and Silent Night would all qualify, but this is one of those rare albums for me where not a single song would be skipped.

As we enter the time of year when Christmas music once again becomes socially acceptable entertainment (what? are you telling me you always adhere to convention?), Warmer in Winter will definitely be making it into my regular rotation.

Move over Bing. There’s a new girl in town. And she’s packing a violin.

I really don’t want to love … may I please not?

I admit, there are times (many times), when I want to lash out. When I want to despise someone, or even a group. I try not to though. I hope I’m not failing more often than I think I am.

Because…

As much as I would like to find out that it is okay to really “not love” someone from a biblical perspective, well…. I just can’t find that justification anywhere in the Bible.

Sometimes I want to scream, “But you don’t know what they did to me!!!”

Besides this obviously not being true, it still doesn’t give me an excuse.

And this is what I see today. Over and over. If we’re fighting on the side of today’s morally sympathetic side (which I am not condemning), it seems like we feel it is right to spew vitriol over those that hold the old values. Of course, those that hold the old values have spewed that same vitriol for years, and continue to do so towards anyone that doesn’t believe as they do.

And there’s the rub. It doesn’t matter whether we’re part of the old conservative faith or the new socially acceptable leanings, I still find know justification for not showing love to all.

If you believe something is sinful, I understand. But to treat someone that practices that behavior with anything less than love is simply not something I can find justification for.

God bless you all.

Post Script: I am amazed a still have a few subscribers to this blog as I have so radically changed its primary scope. Regardless, if you’re reading, I hope you find something of value in my random thoughts and studies.

How large were my problems?

As I mentioned in my last post, I had a testing of faith a bit over five years ago, when my world as I knew it simply ceased to exist. I turned to friends, church members and the normal outlets. Each well wishing person had advice, biblical or secular, and many I believe truly empathized with me.

Nothing helped though. It was the first time in my life I truly felt inconsolable.

Then one Sunday, sitting in my regular seat at my regular church for my regular service, the pastor said something that hit me like a stone from a sling. The following is as close to a quote as I can remember.

“If you’re talking to others about your problems more than you’re talking to God about your problems, your problems aren’t as large as you would like to believe.” (Of course, I should state that this was directed at Christian believers.)

I feel like I should state, even though the statement is pretty self explanatory, that I am not condemning any for seeking help outside of God. The “more than” is the portion that rocked me.

It changed my world. It changed me.

What was going on in my life didn’t change. My world did end as I knew it. God chose not to rock the foundations of the earth and allow me the happy ending of my own desire (though I’ll never give up hope).

What He did was allow me to see a picture larger than myself. Allow me to see that loving an enemy is so very, very hard, but still possible. It also allowed me to discover there truly is a peace that passes all understanding. And you can’t know what peace is without experiencing turmoil and heartbreak. And while I can attest to regularly falling into traps of “me”, I can also say thanks to God for all He has given me. Regardless of what has chosen to leave or been taken away.

Goodbye Social Media

A few folks that read this blog entry might have followed me on one social media platform or another at some point in the past. A decade ago, I lived on Twitter. I enjoyed a lively group of followers that varied widely across cultures, political beliefs and national borders. With a mix like this, it was obvious that not everyone shared common beliefs, goals or values. However, by and large, we all played nicely and chose to get along.

Eventually, I became disillusioned with social media and spent more time off-line and in the company of my children (who were now of an age to play and converse with) to a much larger degree. When I dipped my toe back on to Twitter, I found it had become a much more commercialized platform and I chose to look into Facebook.

While there were many things I hated about Facebook, I found enough of value to begin finding my old Twitter pals and reestablishing some of those connections. If these friends never really noticed I’d gone missing, that was fine and really didn’t bother me. After all, I had purposefully kept my social media circle of friends to only overlap people I knew in the meat world by maybe 10%. Overall, people still played kindly, with the majority of disagreements being heated, but between friends.

Over the last 8 years or so, this had changed dramatically. Political bias has become divisive to the point of being its own hate language. People I have loved and respected now behave abhorrently towards those that hold different political beliefs than their own. The diminished respect and the superior attitude is truly disheartening. On both sides. Yes… even those sticking up for the disenfranchised should still be civil. If you don’t agree with me, that’s okay, but I’ll admit that I think we might have a hard time finding any common ground. The gloating the pride in saying “mic drop” (indicating that I refuse to even listen to your side, it simply is a tragedy to me.

Unrelated to any of the above, I have gone through a rough couple of years personally. Through this time, I have become much more reliant on my faith. I have spent much time in biblical study and research. I have changed. Much of what I thought had value was chaff.

I was raised a very conservative baptist in a small northern community. Much of what I was then taught bordered (or went over the border) on racist and sexist interpretations that I cannot find any biblical foundation for. That being said, I do believe many of todays churches are refusing to call sinful practices sin.

So, the last straw for me on social media? People I valued, trusted and held in high esteem, that I do believe are Christian and have a desire to share Christ’s love, have become so conceited, so overbearing, so harsh that I simply couldn’t take it any longer.

And to my surprise, it isn’t the Christians that are holding the older more conservative beliefs. I have many friends on FB from over the years that believe more conservatively than I do that refuse to speak up about their beliefs any longer because they are tired of being pilloried. Not by atheists or other non-believers, but by modern liberal believers. And those are the ones that have driven me from social media. (In this context I am not using liberal and conservative to correlate to their political beliefs, but in their interpretation of the Bible.)

Those believers that could vote for the current president, that could ignore the vileness that was without a doubt coming out of his mouth, that could look the other way from his obvious sexist and racist views, were still overwhelmingly courteous and polite (in my stream, I have no knowledge how they behaved in yours). This doesn’t mean I could agree with them. Far from it. I still have no idea how any Bible believing pastor or congregation could support our president in his bid for the Whitehouse.

I am far from able to cast the first stone. My sin is as grievous as any other. As someone living in adultery. As someone practicing a homosexual lifestyle. As someone that is a habitual lier. As someone is a murderer. (Yes, I do believe all of these are sinful practices.) The issue isn’t that people sin. We all sin. That doesn’t mean any sinner is unworthy of love. Choosing which portions of the bible to believe isn’t something I care to do, but the example of Christ is hard to deny. Love should not be based on race, sex, sexual orientation, perceived value, or anything else.

And yet…….. the ones showing the least love (in the most hateful manner) everywhere I look these days are the ones that are purporting to stand up for those that have for years been denied love. Standing up for others is good. Doing it in a way that shows hate to others is not. If liberal Christians cannot show love to conservative Christians while trying to stand up for those that have been denied love, they are guilty of the same actions they are railing against. If conservative Christians don’t show love to those they believe are guilty of sin, they are far from living up to Christ’s example.

I can’t take the hate anymore. From people that I feel should know better. From people that I trusted. I am not saying I’m right. I’m not saying I have the answers. I am saying hateful words coming from a friend are still hateful. And often hurts the more for it.

I flippant answer to an honest question occurs sometimes, but when the questioner continues to express open and honest thoughts and is met with disdain, it begins to be hard to see value in continuing the conversation. And hence, I say goodbye to social media. Thanks for the good times, but at this point, I can’t say you’ve been missed.

A change of direction

For many years I’ve run this blog as a literary review journal. While this use may continue from time to time, this is not likely to remain VfV’s sole purpose.

I have, like many others, been aghast at what I see happening in our country. Unlike many others that feel this way, I come from a more conservative background and have lived my entire adult life aligning myself as a non-voting member of the Republican party. Having said that, I am not likely to talk much about politics.

Instead, I will be occasionally talking about how I am trying to live my faith as a Believer of Christ in the modern world. I know this will probably limit the reach this blog has enjoyed in the past, and though that saddens me, I cannot in good conscience make any other choice.

Sooo…. if you’ve decided to stick with me beyond this post, thank you. I will make you these promises: I will quite possibly disagree with many comments. I will not promise to post all comments. I will treat you with love. Regardless.

Talk to you soon!

Echo Burning (Jack Reacher, #5)

Echo Burning (Jack Reacher, #5)Echo Burning by Lee Child
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Well, I’ve tried. Really I have. Lee Child has an interesting character in Jack Reacher, and if you’re knowledgable about firearms, and are forgiving about a writer that doesn’t do his research, you’ll probably enjoy these novels.

I can’t do it anymore. Mr. Child repetitively writes about things he doesn’t seem to have a clue about, and rather than do his research, he spouts nonsense.

In every novel, Reacher also is in a position of having to save the woman. It gets old. I can’t do it anymore. At least not for a while. Maybe I’ll try later if I can’t find a series to hook me.

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Running Blind (Jack Reacher, #4)

Running Blind (Jack Reacher, #4)Running Blind by Lee Child
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

My actual rating would be closer to a 3.5 stars.

I’m wanting to like Lee Child and Jack Reacher. I really am, but I think I’m about to give up.

Child simply doesn’t know how to write in “American” English, which wouldn’t be a big deal if he weren’t writing about someone that had been in the U.S. Armed forces.

He also seems to know very little about firearms. Again. It wouldn’t be a big deal if he didn’t choose to write about them. One sentence near the beginning of the book almost induced me to throw in the towel. “He clicked the trigger to free the slide…”

I’ve never read a better example of poor writing and editing.

As far as the story itself goes, this is the first of the series that wasn’t transparent, and (to be honest) that was partly due to some cheap tricks by the author to disguise the antagonist.

Still, the best so far and I’ll give the next one in the series a shot.

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Tripwire (Jack Reacher, #3) by Lee Child

Tripwire  (Jack Reacher, #3)Tripwire by Lee Child
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

So, I’ve figured something out. According to his bio, Lee Child is British. He’s chosen to write about an American MP and he hasn’t mastered a lot of the lingo. Things that are silly but tend to take me right out of the story. Things like calling an Oldsmobile 4×4 a jeep. Repetitively. Terminology about weapons and calibers. They just don’t ring true.

However, tripwire was by far the best story in the Jack Reacher books so far and I’ll read several more before I decide one way or the other. Yes, I’m a glutton.

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The Revenant: A Novel of Revenge by Michael Punke

The Revenant: A Novel of RevengeThe Revenant: A Novel of Revenge by Michael Punke
My rating: 1 of 5 stars

Simply stated, The Revenant is one of the worst books I’ve read in a long time.

I admit, I didn’t know the book existed until I saw the trailer for the Leonardo DiCaprio movie. Now, I admit, I really don’t like Leo, but the movie trailer looked very interesting to a boy that grew up in the Rocky Mountains and have always enjoyed tales set in the days of the fur trappers.

So, what didn’t I like about it?

Characters: The way Mr. Punke wrote each of the characters left nothing for me to like. I could sympathize with the young Jim Bridger, but even here, I felt that the character was acting outside of the the author has set up for his motivations to work on him. All of the other characters I couldn’t even sympathize with. Well, maybe the bear.

Plot: Ok, probably my fault here. I should have realized a book that includes “a novel of revenge” in it’s title probably would be pretty bleak, but (spoiler alert) it was. However, the thing that was the most annoying is that the lead character didn’t even follow through and there was no reason given. Change of heart? Don’t know. Bored? Well, I don’t know if he was, but I sure admit to it.

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Die Trying (Jack Reacher 2) by Lee Child

Die Trying (Jack Reacher, #2)Die Trying by Lee Child
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Lee Child’s Jack Reacher series is quite popular amongst a certain crowd. I’m just a bit perplexed who that crowd might be.

While I’m enjoying elements of the stories (enough to keep me reading at least a couple more) there are incongruous bits that leave me wondering what research the author has done.

In this story, a random act of kindness sets up Mr. Reacher to be kidnapped and for the duration of the book it seems like Reacher is in as much confusion as what is actually happening around him as the reader is. And not in an intended way.

I would have actually scored the book much lower if the story in itself didn’t hold my interest in a way the character wasn’t.

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