giving

Music for Stewardship: 40+ Songs, Hymns, and Anthems

Music for Stewardship: 40+ Songs, Hymns, and Anthems

"Christian giving is a responsive act. It represents gratitude to God. It is a symbol of self-giving. Therefore, giving is not a once-for-all event, but a regular part of life. It is a spiritual discipline that reminds us who we are and whose we are.” - Herb Mather (source)

Stewardship is about taking care of the gifts God has given us. This includes managing our earthly possessions and monetary gains, but it also includes tending to the relationships we have and caring for the world around us.

Many churches spend some time during the fall months talking about stewardship. Centered around themes of gratitude and giving, stewardship is a time to talk about God’s abundant blessings and ways we can be good stewards of the gifts we’ve been given.

Stewardship often culminates in a Commitment Sunday or a time to make a pledge of time, gifts, and financial contributions to the work of the church.

It’s important that stewardship not just be about financial giving, but how we can give ourselves to God’s work, commit our lives to God’s service, and use God’s gifts to bless those around us.

25 Random Acts of (Musical) Kindness

25 Random Acts of (Musical) Kindness

We see lots of posts this time of year with ideas for random acts of kindness:

"Smile at someone on the street"
"Say thank you to our service men and women"
"Tape change to a vending machine"
"Pay for the person behind you in the drive-through" 

Treating each other with kindness and being intentional about the ways we serve others is important all year round, but the holidays are a good excuse to do a little something extra.

As musicians, we have the opportunity to treat people with kindness and spread a little holiday cheer by sharing the gift of music. After all, as Buddy the Elf says, "The best way to spread Christmas cheer is singing loud for all to hear!"

Today, I'm sharing 25 ideas for random acts of (musical) kindness. Some are easy enough to do on your own, others would work well with the help of a few friends, and others would be perfect group projects for your choir or studio!

The Season of Giving + A Giveaway!

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Ashley Danyew | Share Give Love A few weeks ago, I found out that my Grampy needed semi-emergency foot surgery.  All went well but he has a long road of recovery in rehab ahead of him (prayers appreciated!).  SD and I had already planned to visit my grandparents in NJ over the Thanksgiving holiday (and surprise them with a short holiday-themed saxophone/piano concert) but given the recent events, we ended up with the opportunity to spend part of the day visiting with them in the rehab facility... and we brought our music with us.

Love is something we do, something we show with our actions, not just our words.  Love does things.

The facility was thrilled to feature us as "special guests" and at 2:00 p.m., they wheeled residents from multiple floors into the Dining Room to hear us play.  We had a 30-minute program prepared - a mix of art song transcriptions, holiday classics, and more modern reflections on the season.  I thought some of the residents might know some of the things on our list so we encouraged them to sing along!  And they did.  Melt my heart.

Ashley Danyew | Holiday Program

For those of you who are interested, here is a list of what we played:

Danyew 2013 Holiday Program

Simple Gifts (arr. Copland) Dank sei Dir Herr (Ochs) Ave Maria (Schubert)

Silver Bells (Livingston/Evans) White Christmas (Berlin) The Little Drummer Boy (Davis)

Listen to Christmas (Hayes) The Christmas Song (Chestnuts Roasting) (Tormé/Wells)

Ashley Danyew | Sharing Our Gifts

This is what it's all about, y'all.  Sharing what we have with others.  Giving of ourselves, our time, our talents, our resources to others.  Loving on others.  This is what matters.

Christmas is two weeks away (TWO WEEKS!) and in the spirit of love and giving, I want to challenge you to go and do something this season that shows someone you really love them.  Bake cookies for your neighbor.  Write a note to a loved one who lives far away.  Be a good listener to someone who needs a friend.  Dust off the hymnal in the piano bench and gather friends and family together for an evening of singing around the piano.  Hug your loved ones a little tighter.  Writing this post made me realize that it would be fun if we shared some of the meaningful ways that we are sharing our love and gifts with each other.  To help encourage this sharing, I'm hosting a... drumroll...

Holiday Giveaway! Win a set of eight hand-lettered note cards with matching white envelopes for thank yous, love notes, or thinking of yous (two of each design: "love," "joy," "thanks," and "hello" with blank inside).

Ashley Danyew | Holiday Giveaway

Enter any (or all!) of the following ways:

1. Leave a comment below with one of your favorite holiday memories or traditions or a way that someone has blessed you this holiday season. 2. Follow me on Instagram, post a photo of your sharing/giving/loving in action, and tag me. 3. Follow me on Twitter, share your story, and tag me.

Giveaway runs from today, December 11, 2013 through December 25, 2013.  Winner will be chosen at random and announced here on the blog.  Yay!

7: An Experimental Mutiny Against Excess

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With the recent holiday weekend and a long car ride on either side, I finally finished reading 7 by Jen Hatmaker (please be impressed that I stuck with this bit of pleasure reading throughout the spring semester). The book chronicles the author's seven month experiment: seven categories (food, clothes, possessions, media, waste, spending, and stress) stripped down to seven essentials for a month.  Seven food items.  Seven articles of clothing.  Seven items to give away each day.  Seven forms of media to do without.  Seven ways to reduce waste and become more environmentally responsible.  Seven places to spend money.  Seven prayers a day to remind us to pause, give thanks, reflect, and focus on what matters.

My heart has been challenged by this "mutiny against excess" - our lives are so full, so busy and yet we strive for more.  We live with more than we need and yet we buy more.  We value our abundant wardrobes, earthly possessions, and excessive lifestyle spending habits.  Consumerism and the need for more has become part of our societal identity.  Whatever happened to that life of simplicity, abandon, and giving that Jesus talked about?  It's easy to lose sight of what we really need in our lives versus the things we want.

Where are our priorities in life?  What do we value?  Do our spending habits reflect this?  Are we responsible with the things we've been given?  Do we freely give away what we don't need or do we feel the need to hold onto it?  Have we ignored opportunities to help those in need?

If you're looking for a witty, easy-to-read book that will challenge you to live a more fulfilling life, I encourage you to read 7!

Have you read this book?  I'd love to hear your thoughts!

Read More: The Go-Giver

The Go-Giver

Over the holidays, I read a book, digital cover to digital cover in just two sittings.  If you know me, you know this is by far the fastest I have every read a book.  I started it on our plane ride out to Utah (read more about our trip here) and finished it on our way back home. 

"The Go-Giver" by Bob Burg and John David Mann is a simple story about a powerful business strategy: giving.  The story shares five "Laws of Stratospheric Success," all relating back to these key ideas: add value, serve others, give of yourself, and make an impact. I loved the entrepreneurial spirit in this book and it's positive message about giving. 

Here are a few of my notes:

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?