Unopened Gifts

sgnscoops1213_sm B&WOur gift to you…. December’s Issue of SGNScoops Magazine! Our Christmas edition is stuffed with Christmas goodies, so join Scott and his friends as they open their gifts and celebrate the holidays! Enjoy the cover story on the Brooklyn Tabernacle Choir and also enjoy reading about the ministries of the Old Paths Quartet, Hope’s Journey and Gold City Quartet.

Christmas is about giving, so don’t miss special guest writer, Kelly Nelon’s story about the Nelons latest mission trip. Also don’t miss the story about Steve Ladd’s sharing! This issue includes Christmas Music Reviews as well as Christmas Inspirational articles on Unopened Gifts and Christmas Traditions.

Check out concert stories in the Isaacs and the Lesters and don’t miss Ben Wolfe’s younger perspective on things. Get caught up with Christian Country News, enjoy Life, Love and Legends with Lou Hildreth and read about plans for 2014 Creekside Gospel Music Convention and Diamond Awards. To make this Christmas Season special for our readers, we have surveyed many of your Southern Gospel Favorites and collected their favorite lines of Christmas carols and songs. December’s issue is most definitely a joyful one! Please read and share with your friends, families and fans and also let our staff know how much they are appreciated! Merry Christmas from the SGNScoops Family!

Special Guest: Donna King

Donna King B&WDear Life, I think I’ll have Christmas instead…

Dear Life,

Only 17 Shopping Days until Christmas and I have only purchased one present so far… There’s so much to do!  First, I need to finish putting up the glorious and impressive trees throughout my house, then, I need to plan meals and map out everything I can do to help my family and me to feel as “Christmassy” as possible. Of course, I need to shop for all the perfect gifts, buying things I do need and things I don’t need (with money I don’t have).  And, in and around all of that, I need to be awesome enough to do the cookie exchanges, send out the greeting cards, and wrap the presents, well in advance, (so they can look all LOVELY and ANTICIPATORY under the tree).  Ok…deep breath…NOW, I need to create a masterful Christmas ambiance, with an extensive musical playlist, piping melodies throughout the house, along with Christmas candles burning, wafting evergreen fragrance into our senses. And, of course, I need to attend every possible Christmas event I can squeeze into the calendar. Oh…all of this is sounding So wonderful!, right?!


Where is Jesus…?  Where is the sweet sense of the presence of CHRIST?  What is this celebration about?

When Jesus came, the INN was full…It was TOO full for him…Too full for a young woman who was about to give birth after what was likely a painful journey on a donkey… THE INN WAS TOO FULL..

Dear Life, after many Christmases and many wrapping paper extravaganzas, surrounded by over stimulated family and friends, rushing from one “pseudo celebration” moment to the other, I am asking myself WHERE IS JESUS?…and, IF I was the INNKEEPER, would I also miss the opportunity, amidst my overly FULL life, to welcome the SAVIOR into my world…

I fear the answer is yes… and I ask myself, what if my advent was celebrated differently this year… What if, each day, I walked my heart to the manger and stopped long enough to listen…To listen to the crickets in the fields surrounding the stable and whinny of the horses, awoken in the night, as Mary and Joseph quietly slipped in.  What if I could hear the whimper of Mary in labor, as Jesus entered the world.  What if I looked around and saw the messy stable…realizing there is no ambience in here, but there is LOVE…SO MUCH LOVE…What if I could just stand at the door of the stable, with gratitude, and breathe in the miracle that’s occurring before my eyes…Knowing that without this moment, I am hopeless and without a Savior… I am doomed…BUT realizing…I am not… HE CAME.  Yes, HE CAME and, now, I have HOPE.

There isn’t a Christmas tree in the world that can save me.  There isn’t a twinkling light, a glimmering mantle, or a delicious holiday cake (although I won’t deny that my mother-in-law’s Christmas fudge doesn’t come awfully close) that can rescue me from my deep need for a Savior… ONLY Jesus, ONLY the SAVIOR, who came to bring PEACE and GOODWILL to men…and, specifically, to each and every one of us, individually.

You see, the world may have little room for HIM this Christmas, but HE has ALL the room in the world for us… That’s why HE came, because of HIS great love, mercy, and grace…All of which cannot be found under a tree, but only at HIS feet.

I have a new Christmas album this year… I am SO grateful to have had the blessing of recording it.  It’s been a dream of mine for years.  I chose songs that mean something to me, some classics and some brand new…And, I wrote songs that I pray will mean something to those who hear them…

Here are the lyrics to a FUN tune on the recording, that, although it’s meant to be somewhat silly and tongue in cheek, has a deeper message and one that I pray I can live up to over the next 17 days…

By the way, if you might like to add the new album, entitled SONG OF NOEL [by Donna King], to your Christmas song collection this year, you can do so on iTunes or on my website

Now… Dear Life, I think I’ll have Christmas instead…

Christmas Instead

Donna King & Rachel Morgan Perry / ©2013 Journey Press Music/BMI/Cut Out Hearts Music/Blonde Hair Blue Eyes Music/SESAC.  All Right Reserved. Used by permission.

Hustle and bustle, it’s that time of year

Deckin’ the halls, the season is here

Spending more dollars than quality time

Waitin’ for hours in shopping lines


Maybe we’ve gone a little crazy in the head

And we should have Christmas instead


Mistletoe and Holly’s kissing someone tonight

It just never seems like it’s Mr. Right

Here comes Aunt Millie with her favorite cake

It’s time to pretend that we think it’s great


All this puttin’ on is packing pounds we’re gonna dread

Oh, we should have Christmas instead


Lately I’ve been wondering what it’s gonna mean

To wake up to everything that’s underneath the tree

Are these the kind of gifts they were offering

To a baby, born to be the KING


A star shined brightly in the eastern sky

Angels sang Glory to GOD on high

Just a simple stable and a bed of hay

And a SAVIOR who came to give HIS life away


I don’t want another year spent SO FAR from Bethlehem

I think I’ll have Christmas instead


Visit Donna’s websites at and

Follow Donna on Twitter at @mrsdonnaking

And on FACEBOOK at

Follow her blog at


See/Hear a preview of Donna’s new album, SONG OF NOEL, HERE

If Only In My Dreams

It was early Thanksgiving morning when I gently pulled back the drapes and peered across the back yard into the mile-wide valley below. The upstairs hall window of my boyhood home provided the perfect vantage point to see not only a part of my old neighborhood, but a good portion of the small, coal-mining community where I spent a majority of my life. My mom and dad purchased the house in the fall of 1974 and while gazing out the hall window soon developed into a morning ritual, it quickly evolved into a lifestyle and a part of everyday life.

When local fire sirens would blare, declaring a fire emergency or accident, we’d go to the hall window. When thunder and snow storms blasted across the summit of the Laurel Highlands, threatening the security of our surroundings or delivering the promise of a day off from school, we’d go to the hall window. When we spent the night watching yet another lunar eclipse, we’d go to the hall window. When spring arrived, we’d go to the hall window. When my sister and I wanted to communicate with our friends, we’d go to the hall window. When my mom and dad wanted to voice their displeasure with my actions in the back yard, they’d go to the hall window!

I can’t tell you exactly how many times I’ve visited the hall window during my lifetime, but I can tell you it is different now. The old, original window was replaced and the view is now altered. There’s no longer an old garage in the back yard. Many of the trees I used to climb are gone. Some of the houses look the same, although a few were torn down or remodeled in some way. Several of our dear neighbors have passed away, taking their eternal rest. A handful of landmark buildings were demolished and various businesses no longer exist. The town of Nanty-Glo, Pennsylvania has transitioned from an industrial era mining machine to a quiet, quaint, and unassuming community.

They say you can’t go home again and for the longest time I shrugged it off as nonsense. I could go home again! The house was there! My parents were there! The town was still there! But, I can tell you it is different now and as I gazed out the window once more I sadly witnessed scenes, images, and people fade into the dimension of yesteryear. I desperately called out to my friends to gather once more in the back yard for a game of baseball, but no one answered. I knocked on a neighbor’s door with an offer to shovel snow from the walk, but the faces appearing were those of total strangers. I leafed through the phone book to look up the names of people I knew and they were nowhere to be found. I waited patiently by the mailbox for our trusty mailman to bring me one last piece of life-changing correspondence, but he had long since retired and passed away. With tears streaming down my face I watched as familiar people, places, and events fundamentally morphed into nothing more than a distant memory. I can’t really go home again. Nothing will truly be the same as it was years ago.

It’s the holiday season and like many of you I will make my way home once again, but this time with a divergent perspective. I will cherish the present – every moment with my family, friends and neighbors will be meaningful because these times will never come again. I will look boldly to the future and embrace the Hope of Christmas for a bright tomorrow.  I will relish the past by remembering the wonderful memories of my family, friends, neighborhood, and hometown. Yes I’ll be home for Christmas Nanty-Glo, if only in my dreams.


“Christmas Eve will find me, where the love light gleams.

I’ll be home for Christmas, if only in my dreams.”


©Copyright 2013 Scott Rhoades/Ivory Hill Studios

Pumpkin Cranberry Bread

Are you tired of the traditional Christmas cookies and pies? Looking for a new and savory dessert to add to your holiday menu? Want to bring something different to that holiday party? Here’s one we recently put to the test and we think you’ll agree – it’s a winner!

Pumpkin Cranberry Bread

Serving Size – Makes 2 loaves


3 Cups – All-Purpose Flour

1 Tablespoon Plus 2 Teaspoons – Pumpkin Pie Spice

2 Teaspoons – Baking Soda

1 1/2 Teaspoons – Salt

3 Cups – Granulated Sugar

1 Can (15 oz) – Pumpkin Filling

4 Large Eggs

1 Cup – Vegetable Oil

1/2 Cup – Orange Juice or Water

1 Cup – Sweetened Dried, Fresh or Frozen Cranberries


Preheat oven to 350F.

Grease and flour TWO 9 x 5-inch loaf pans.

Combine flour, pumpkin pie spice, baking soda, and salt in large bowl.

Combine sugar, pumpkin, eggs, vegetable oil, and orange juice in large mixer bowl; Beat until blended.

Add pumpkin mixture to flour mixture; Stir just until moistened.

Fold in cranberries.

Spoon batter into prepared loaf pans.

Bake for 60 to 65 minutes or until wooden pick inserted into center comes out clean.

Cool in pans on wire racks for 10 minutes; Remove to wire racks to cool completely.


©Copyright 2013 Scott Rhoades/Ivory Hill Studios

Home For Christmas

The Christmas Season has arrived in southwest Ohio and we’re ready to celebrate. The tree is decorated, the fireplace is lit, the smell of seasonal spices and baking is in the air, and the classic holiday sounds of Bing Crosby, Perry Como, and Andy Williams are streaming from the radio. Christmas is such a special time!

While we are aware that many of you have special traditions and meanings in your holiday routines, here are some of our own creative customs and practices that have made this time of year so festive for us:

1.  Home Decorations

Over the years we have discovered that “less is more.” Balancing the quantity of decorations (both inside and out) may provide you more quality – less stimulation and more room to relax, breathe, and discover some real “peace on earth.” Natural and/or country-style garnishes and trimmings may soften your home, making it warm and inviting. You may also explore a house-wide “theme” and/or a theme for each room where decorations meet the everyday styles and colors.

2. Seasonal Traditions

Christmas celebration comes early at the Rhoades’ house, at least in the form of music. Scott customarily pulls out the holiday music in mid-September as a creative way to imagine and capture the meaningful depths of the season.

For the past several years, we’ve also enjoyed attending and participating in Christmas Eve church services as a means to focus ourselves on the true meaning and spirit of our celebrations. This is often followed by a quiet evening at home where we enjoy a course of dried meats, cheeses, and crackers, and an exchange of smaller “stocking” gifts. Major gifts are reserved for Christmas morning.

Just as the music begins early, so the decorations stay up longer. Scott grew up in a very diverse ethnic and religious community, so it was not uncommon for everyone to continue celebrating up until the Russian Orthodox New Year. So, if you visit the Rhoades’ home in January, be prepared for some extended “comfort and joy.”

3. Seasonal Wishes

Whatever your customs and traditions, may your home serve as a haven for family and friends and may your holiday be filled with peace and goodwill. Merry Christmas!

©Copyright 2013 Scott Rhoades/Ivory Hill Studios