Prayers for Choirs: No. 11

Prayers for Choirs: No. 11

It's not a church holiday, I know, but there's something inherently spiritual about the practicing of giving thanks. This week, many of us will celebrate Thanksgiving, a day we gather around the table; share our favorite food, stories, and traditions; and count our blessings. We'll reflect on God's good gifts in our lives: the gifts of health or healing, provision or guidance, good friends and neighbors, grace and freedom. We'll reminisce about years past - perhaps those who are no longer with us - and celebrate another year of love and life and laughter with loved ones, far and near.

How do we show our gratitude? How do make it a daily practice?

2016 Reading Session Picks: Adult Choir

2016 Reading Session Picks: Adult Choir

It's always a joy to return to the beautiful Lake Junaluska, nestled in the Great Smoky Mountains of Western NC.

I've been attending Music and Worship Arts Week off and on since high school and I have so many memories of chilly morning walks to worship in Stuart Auditorium, evening concerts by the Junaluska Singers, simply suppers at the Allgood House, and stopping to admire the roses along the Rose Walk.

In case you haven't been, the week-long conference includes daily morning worship, several performance tracks for people of all ages and abilities (choir, handbells, dance, instrumental ensembles, and drama), a variety of helpful seminars and reading sessions, and evening concerts.

Like last year, I thought I'd share my reading session picks. Here are my favorite new adult choir anthems - hot off the press!




It's that time of the year when people seem to become a bit more intentional about counting their blessings and naming things they're thankful for. A time when people gather together from near and far to share a special meal around the table. A time when people google things like "how to cook a turkey" and "watch macy's parade online" (No? Am I the only one?).

Maybe it's the time of year, or maybe it's a response to the chaos of life the past few months, but I find myself needing to take a step back, needing to create space for thankfulness. Eugene Peterson said it best:

"We stop, whether by choice or through circumstance, so that we can be alert and attentive and receptive to what God is doing in and for us, in and for others, on the way. We wait for our souls to catch up with our bodies." -Eugene Peterson, The Jesus Way

Top 50 Favorite Anthems for Children's Choir

Top 50 Favorite Anthems for Children's Choir

Ever since I wrote this post with my top 50 favorite anthems for small church choirs, I knew I wanted to create a similar list for children's choirs. This list includes only unison and two-part music. There are some tried-and-true favorites and some newer publications, so I'm sure you'll see some titles that you recognize! Choosing anthems is an individual process and everyone has their own approach. When searching for children's choir music, I tend to look for the following:

- singable melody + good range
- good text (rich meaning, age-appropriate, good declamation)
- accessible two-part writing
- interesting, but supportive accompaniment
- teachable moments! (musical form, minor mode, new meters, etc.)

Now that you know a little more about my process, here is my Top 50 list!

Happy Thanksgiving!


Ashley_Danyew_Thanksgiving I know I've said it before, but Thanksgiving really is my favorite holiday.  We're spending the weekend in Connecticut with SD's parents and we have big plans for cooking together (SD and I are responsible for the stuffing, corn pudding, and cranberry conserve), making music, and decorating the Christmas tree.  So, so grateful for this life.  God is good.

Wishing you and yours a wonderful Thanksgiving!

Grounded in Gratitude

Oh, y'all.  The past few weeks have been hard.  The unrest and turmoil in the government.  A great loss in the Eastman community.  The stress of work and school and teaching and trying to find a proper balance.  The pressure to succeed and make a mark.  It's easy to succumb - to complain and get frustrated, to give in or give up.  It's also easy to become immobilized by these challenges and feel incapable of moving forward.  I write these words from lived, personal experience. But I believe there is more to life than the pressures of our daily lives.  From the midst of these challenges, we can be grounded in true, sincere gratitude.

Let&#8217;s do a little gratitude comparison, shall we?</p><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /> <p>Your websites have been attacked by hackers all week and they are wearing you and everyone else out VS you have a really happy healthy baby (who will attack said hackers in her Bumbo if you ask her).</p><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /> <p>Your inbox decided to fail and go to email heaven for good this time so you have to start over and try to remember all the emails you missed during maternity leave VS you have a wonderful caring husband who is rubbing your back as you type this in bed right now. He also fixed the drain tonight and made your happy healthy baby smile a lot.</p><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /> <p>You&#8217;ve had a headache for a week and can&#8217;t take anything but Tylenol because you are breastfeeding VS you are breastfeeding. </p><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /> <p>Your house suddenly has an ant problem VS you have a house - a roof over your head. </p><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /> <p>Gratitude instantly turns overwhelming into &#8220;well, that just sounds ridiculous.&#8221; Gratitude gives perspective wings. Be grateful. Actively. It takes work to change your thoughts and it will humble you like nothing else. Pursue it with passion and gusto. It&#8217;s there right now, in every moment, waiting for you to soak up life as it is supposed to be lived. In ALL things give thanks.

Image Credit: Lara Casey

Do you believe these words?  Does the seemingly simple act of giving thanks really have the power to change things - big, daunting things?  I believe it does.  So, I'm starting over.  I'm starting with gratitude.

First, this is my favorite time of year.

There are so many wonderful things I love about the fall season - the crispness in the air, the crunch of leaves beneath my feet as we take an evening stroll, the need for scarves and boots, hot apple cider on a chilly evening, and the beautiful colors that greet you at every turn.  It's glorious.

With fall, comes my very favorite holiday - Thanksgiving.  I love the traditions, the hustle and bustle of gathering together, cooking, preparing a meal together, serving each other, and visiting with friends and family.  And I love that though we've progressed as a society since that first Thanksgiving, it's name hasn't changed.  Thanksgiving - a time to give thanks.

Here's what I'm doing to stay grounded in gratitude this season - making a gratitude list (you can download the [download id="1" format="6"] here).  Hang it above your desk, print it out and add it to your planner, or if you're like us, post it in your kitchen so that you see it every day.  Make a list of everything you are grateful for in life and add to it each day.  Look for the little things, the things we tend to overlook in the hustle and bustle and business.  Live a life of gratitude.

Love, Speak, Give

The phrase, "Love, speak, give with intention" appears on my lock screen as a constant reminder to be more intentional about life.  It reminds me to do small deeds with great love, choose words carefully and intentionally, and give with joy.  This month, I've been intentional about gratitude and really acknowledging the good gifts we have been given.  As we celebrate Thanksgiving and families and football and turkey and cranberry sauce this weekend, I hope you sit a little longer, hug a little tighter, speak with intention, and give to others as much as you are able.  "Now thank we all our God with hearts and hands and voices..."

Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours!

Happy Thanksgiving!

The hustle and bustle of the season is upon us! As much as I love the fall, I love the chillier weather that comes around this time of year. The holidays just wouldn't be the same without cozy hats and gloves, mugs of hot chocolate, and long evenings by the fire.

Thanksgiving is one of my very favorite holidays. I love the festive afternoon meal, the time with family and friends, and the focus on thankfulness. I grew up with many wonderful Thanksgiving Day traditions. We used to start the day by baking sweet potato biscuits, cooking the turkey, reheating casseroles, and making a batch of wild rice soup (Mom's favorite). In between "helping" in the kitchen, we'd watch the Macy's parade while busily unwrapping the silverware for dinner. In the afternoon, we greeted friends and family, watched Dad carve the turkey, and gathered around the table (or two, depending on the number of guests!) At each place, there were three kernels of dried corn and before dinner, we took turns speaking our blessings aloud (one thing for each kernel). It was always a wonderful opportunity to pause -- contemplate what it means to be thankful -- and share three of our many blessings.

This year, I'm exceedingly thankful for sweet friends and family who blessed us with thoughtful cards and gifts and celebrated our wedding day with us, for Steve - the love of my life - and the life God has set before us, and for the gift of grace.

Tomorrow, we'll begin our holiday weekend - we're spending a few days down at Steve's parents' home in CT for a time of feasting, fellowship, and Christmas tree-hunting! Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours!

Actions Speak

"Actions speak louder than words." I think we often pause to "think before we speak" (at least we try to) but are we as careful and intentional with our actions? If our actions truly speak louder than words, then what kind of message are we sharing with those we encounter? What kind of impression are we leaving behind?

In this week leading up to Thanksgiving, everyone seems to be talking about counting their blessings, living a grateful life, and ways to give back to the community. The church is in full stewardship swing, the grocery store is doing a food drive for the local food pantry, and Christmas organizations are already asking for donations for those in need (as an aside, does anyone else think Christmas is coming a bit early this year?).

I think it's wonderful that people recognize Thanksgiving as a time to be thankful and reflect on God's abundant faithfulness but aren't these things we should strive for every day of the year? I want to count my blessings multiple times a day. I want to live a grateful life every day of the week. Every time that there is an opportunity, I want to give what I can to help those who are less fortunate. Actions speak louder than words. How will you show your thankfulness this week and in the weeks to come?