Monthly Archives: December 2016

What’s on Your Christmas Playlist? (With help from Alistair Begg)

Friends!  It’s Christmas Week!   I pray your heart is at peace, your mind is at rest and not in frenetic motion, and you’ve got a skip in your step.


If you’re saying, “Yeah, right.” I bring you good news along with some mighty fine tunes. Hang with me…

Few things help my mood more than music.  You? Our grown children talk about their playlists non-stop.  Little country here, little soul/dance-band-college-song there, sprinkled with a little worship music. (See their favorites at the end of this post.)

Hubster and I enjoy a little bit of everything.  We had friends over for dinner this week and he put on a “dinner party” tract, thanks to Pandora, that was perfect. Think Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Nat King Cole, ahhhh.

Some mornings when I’m about half awake, I have three go-to worship songs which almost immediately transform my mood from “ho-hum” to “let’s go!” Give these a try when you have time:

#1 – We Will Feast in the House of Zion by Sandra McCracken

Here’s the chorus:

“We will feast in the house of Zion.  We will sing with our hearts restored.  He has done great things, we will say together, We will feast and weep no more.”

#2 – O Church Arise by Keith and Kristyn Getty

Favorite part:

“Come, see the cross, where love and mercy meet, as the Son of God is stricken; Then see His foes lie crushed beneath His feet, For the conqueror has risen! And as the stone is rolled away, And Christ emerges from the grave, This victory march continues till the day Ev’ry eye and heart shall see Him.”

#3 – In Christ Alone by Keith and Kristyn Getty

Two favorite stanzas slay me every time:

“In Christ alone my hope is found; He is my light, my strength, my song; This cornerstone, this solid ground, Firm through the fiercest drought and storm….My comforter, my all in all—Here in the love of Christ I stand.”

“There in the ground His body lay, Light of the world by darkness slain; Then bursting forth in glorious day, Up from the grave He rose again! And as He stands in victory, Sins’ curse has lost its grip on me; For I am His and He is mine—Bought with the precious blood of Christ.”

On the rare occasion when Nancy Aguiar and I are in the same room hearing the above song (usually sung by Travis Cottrell at a Beth Moore Conference), puddles of tears splash about our feet. We are undone, 100%.

So where does Alistair Begg figure into this equation?  Oh, I’m so glad you asked. Big smile.

Alistair has written a clever-while-petite Christmas book, perfect for one’s stocking:  Christmas Playlist – Four Songs that Bring You to the Heart of Christmas.  You could read it in an afternoon over a cup of coffee.  Or, you can savor it during this Christmas/winter season, and the next, and the next. (How cute is the cover?)


Alistair hails from Scotland.  If you’ve ever heard him on his radio program, Truth for Life (, you love his accent and his preaching like the rest of us.  Alistair pastors Parkside Church in Cleveland, Ohio.  He’s been there since 1983. ( )

He was recently on The Eric Metaxas Show which is how I learned about Christmas Playlist.  ( ) Hearing Eric attempt Alistair’s brogue is worth the effort above and beyond the program itself!  Alistair says Eric sounds like a very sick Mrs. Doubtfire.

Two very fun surprises from Christmas Playlist blessed me before I dove in:

First, Webb Simpson wrote the Foreword.  You golfers know him.  I had to call our resident golf expert, our middle son, Gordy, to find out about Webb. Gordy said, “Oh yeah, Mom.  I know him.  He’s a great golfer.  Won the U.S. Open in 2012.” Awesome.

Webb tells us, “This book is about eternity…Allistair takes us to the first Christmas and to what, or who, that first Christmas was truly all about—Jesus.  In Him, I’ve found a sense of fulfillment and peace that no number of major golf championships could ever bring me.”

Webb adds, “On the 17th hole of the final round of the 2012 U.S. Open, when I was…just a few shots from winning the golf tournament I’d dreamed of winning, I had a conversation with my caddie, Paul Tesori. We reminded each other that if we won that day, it would not make any difference to our sense of satisfaction, because we couldn’t take the trophy with us beyond this life anyway. There was a more important contest that would matter for all eternity, and the one who was born at that first Christmas had already won it for us.”


Second surprise will shock your socks off.  One of Alistair’s endorsers is Alice Cooper!  He says, “Connecting the Bible’s songs to modern songs makes this book come alive.”  (Checkout his Christian testimony)

Back to the book…Alistair’s Christmas Playlist walks us through:

Mary’s Song: What is God like?,
Zechariah’s Song:  Why do you need God?,
The Angel’s Song:  How did God come?, and
Simeon’s Song:  How did God do it? 

Alistair tell us these four songs of the first Christmas “were heard before, during and after the birth of the baby who lies at the heart of the real Christmas…This is a playlist that helps us to prepare for Christmas properly, and to celebrate Christmas joyfully.”

We readers journey through the Gospel of Luke in Chapters One and Two, plus Twenty-three and Twenty-four as Alistair points out the importance of the crucifixion and resurrection. He notes, “Luke’s Gospel finishes in a very similar place to where it began. We began with angels appearing, and we finish the same way. We began with an angel announcing the presence of life where it is, humanly-speaking, impossible—in the wombs of a woman who was infertile and a woman who was a virgin. We finish with angels announcing the presence of life in a tomb—the resurrection of a crucified criminal to eternal glory.”

In the conclusion, Alistair reminds us, “Christmas provokes a decision. At the first Christmas, Jesus came to you. Now you must decide:  Will you come to Him?”

Rick Warren said in a recent Daily Hope email, “We have a hard time missing Christmas as a cultural phenomenon, however we can miss the very point of Christmas.  Take the innkeeper for example.  Are you too busy with your work to make room for Jesus this Christmas?  Is your schedule, your plans, or your budget too tight to let Jesus in this Christmas?”

Let’s keep those questions in our hearts while we praise the Lord for another Christmas season…


I pray you and your family have a most Blessed Merry Christmas and a Happy, Healthy New Year.  As we used to say on the last day of school before Christmas Break, “See you next year!”

P.S.  Wednesday, December 14th was a banner day in the Hoagland Household for two reasons:

First, it was the 33rd anniversary of Hubster proposing to me. We celebrate our engagement almost as much as our wedding date.

Secondly, we were blessed to attend “The Big Reveal Party”, hosted by our oldest son, John Jr.  and his lovely bride, Diana.  See the amazing-after-thirty-years-of-boys results below…

Merry Christmas from our family to yours:


Coming May 4, 2017, Lord willing:  Claire Elizabeth Hoagland

We’d covet your prayers for a healthy pregnancy and baby! (Pictured left to right:  Woody and LT, Hubster and Yours Truly, Diana, John Jr., Lauren and Gordy)

P.S. Again!  (Oh, you’re so glad I’m not blogging again until January…)

I polled our family for their favorite songs/genres/playlists FYI:

John Jr. says it’s a two-way tie between country music and audio books.

Diana says it’s a tie between country and Christian music.  She especially loves the group NeedtoBreathe.

Gordy’s current favorite song is the classic New York, New York by Frank Sinatra. (They just returned from a fun trip to the Big Apple this month.)

Lauren loves country and Christian music with her favorite artists being Lauren Daigle and Thomas Rhett.

Woody’s current fav is Love Me Now by John Legend.

LT loves the worship group Bethel along with John Mayer, Johnny Swim, and pop music.

Hubster parks mostly on country channels while I flip back and forth from Christian to jazz to classical to songs from our college days in the ‘80’s.

I cannot be still if Earth, Wind, and Fire are playing.

I maintain Phil Collins is one magically talented musician.

However, after seeing and hearing Nicole C. Mullen sing My Redeemer Lives in Nashville this summer, I’m a forever fan. Mercy.

Please comment and tell me your favorite artist, song, or genre?

‘Til next time!


Filed under Book Reviews, Friends, Holidays, Music

Calling All “Fixer Upper” Fans…(Make it a Merry “Magnolia Story” Christmas!)

Friends! Are we really in the month of December?  Translation: The countdown to Christmas has arrived. As of this writing, it’s early in December, however many folks have had the nerve to reveal they’re done with their Christmas shopping.

Herein lies the challenge to “rejoice with those who rejoice”…I fear I must be related to Scrooge. Very distantly, of course.


Good news is there are plenty of delightful distractions to detour one’s potentially foul mood. Bigger bonus: My cousin Bonnie, a/k/a Bow Creator Extraordinaire, has moved right up the street from us. I can magically appear in her foyer in three minutes, tops, begging for a bow. Smiling with relief while typing…

One of my favorite distractions is a wildly popular TV show, Fixer Upper, starring Chip and Joanna Gaines. Their new season has just begun, and there are plenty of other seasons to catch up on.  Just ask my friend, Val, who “caught up” on all of them while recovering from surgery. She’s newly hooked.

Before we talk about the show, surely you’ve seen the Gaines’ new book, The Magnolia Story. It landed lickety-split on the New York Times’ Bestseller List and hasn’t left.


Now that I’ve read it, I also learned Chip and Joanna recently recorded the audio version which would be a total hoot. The book uses two different fonts, helping us readers distinguish whether Chip or Joanna is the one writing. The audio version where one could actually hear them would be stellar.

Mark Dagostino is who helped Chip and Joanna write the book. He has completely captured their personalities. We can literally envision them bantering back and forth. While it’s their story, as in non-fiction, it’s quite the page-turner.

The book also takes us down memory lane via a large section of adorable pictures. You can see their childhood pics, wedding pics, and of course, Fixer Upper pics.

I learned of their show from one of our daughters-in-love, LT. She was wildly blessed by one of her friends last fall who invited her to go to Waco, Texas for the Grand Opening of the Magnolia Market at The Silos. (Silobration)


LT’s friend, Jamie Marshall Dorr, happened to register to win tickets to the Opening, never thinking she’d win. Lo and behold, she not only won, she won four tickets! Jamie took her sister, Randy, plus LT, and LT’s sister, Chelsea. We could hear them shouting many miles away they were so excited.

They got to go to the Grand Opening, attend a concert by Johnny Swim, meet Clint Harp, the fab furniture maker, and even spend some time with Chip and Joanna:


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Left to right:  Joanna, Jamie, Randy, LT, Chelsea and Chip

And don’t miss the identical leather jackets Joanna and LT are sporting. (Thank you, Anthro’….)


In addition to learning how Chip and Joanna built their business (you’ll be stunned to learn at one point, they nearly went belly up financially), you’ll connect with a beautiful theme within the book: Their steadfast faith in God. They consistently give God the glory in their endeavors while never waivering in their faith or trust in Him, even in the hard times.

Being a huge fan of Billy Graham and his family, I was excited to learn Chip credits Billy Graham and Danny Lotz (Anne Graham’s husband) with leading him and his family to the Lord. His Mother attended a Billy Graham Crusade in 1975.  Her newfound faith trickled down to her children.

Later while attending college at Baylor, Chip met the Lotz’ children and got to spend time in their home.  He said Danny took an interest in him and mentored him, showing him what a relationship with Jesus Christ looked like. (This came from an article in Decision magazine this past May.)

Both Chip and Joanna are very candid in their book.  They reveal lessons they’ve learned which have the potential to open our eyes to our own foibles.

For example, one home Chip and Joanna bought was what they then considered their dream home. It was in a lovely area of Waco. Joanna worked her creativity to perfection. Problem was they had little bitty children who naturally made messes, leaving trails of who-knows-what behind.


Joanna said she was constantly fussing at them, straightening, picking up, forever exhausted and frustrated. Her “aha!” moment finally came when they moved to a much smaller home where she purposefully created fun, livable spaces for her kids to just be kids, spill milk, squish play-doh, etc.

She said, “If all I’m doing is creating beautiful spaces, I’m failing. But if I’m creating beautiful spaces where families are thriving, then I’m really doing something. Doing that became my new calling…It’s not just about pretty anymore. It’s about practical.” Stunned, she said, “I saw my family come alive in ways I’d never quite felt before.”

When their Magnolia Market at the Silos opened in October 2015, Joanna said she felt like they’d come full circle. She said, “If ever I needed proof that I should trust God with my dreams, this was certainly it.   He turned my little dream, my mustard seed of faith, into all this.”

What a visual of Matthew 17:20!


Joanna concludes, “Not even a decade after I made that difficult decision to close my shop to stay home with my babies, God delivered on the promise of making my dreams come true in ways that were bigger than I ever imagined.”

This is where I hear Ephesians 3:20 blessing the Gaineses plus us readers:


Lastly, my favorite thing about Chip and Joanna is they are complete WYSIWYGs. (What-you-see-is-what-you-get.) The folks at HGTV capture their authenticity which is the main ingredient that draws us viewers in. (It’s throughout the pages of their book as well.)

Joanna says, “We love our kids, we love each other, we love this town, and we love our clients. That’s the heart behind our show.”

If you need another Christmas gift idea this season, your friends would enjoy reading the The Magnolia Story. It’s a fascinating journey.


Meanwhile, enjoy this Christmas season and may we all remember the reason for the season.


‘Til next time!




Filed under Book Reviews, Family, Friends, Holidays