Inspiration

2018 Book List

2018 Book List

One of my favorite things about beginning a new calendar year is choosing which books I want to read in the coming months.

I like to read one book at a time and one book per month seems to be a good pace for me. I also like to read slowly and take notes as I go (these are my favorite journals for book notes) so I can go back and review the highlights later.

I lean toward books that challenge me to think in a new way or look at the world from a new perspective; books that teach me something or inspire me or help me grow in some area of my life. I use the following categories as a basic framework:

Health/Lifestyle
Spiritual
Personal
Business

Why What We Are Doing Is Important

Why What We Are Doing Is Important

Today's post is written by my church musician friend, Janis Maxwell. She's the Director of Youth Music Ministry and Organist at Athens First United Methodist in Athens, GA. I hope her thoughtful perspective on ministry encourages and blesses you in your work this season.

- Ashley

"Serve the Lord with gladness; come before his presence with singing." - Psalm 100:2

As I reflect on the topic, “Why What We Are Doing Is Important”, this Bible verse pops into my head.

Are You Running On Autopilot These Days?

Are You Running On Autopilot These Days?

Are you running on autopilot these days?

You know the feeling: distracted, absent-minded, forgetful, foggy, disengaged, disconnected.

It's easy to slip into this way of living without even realizing it, especially during months like December (can't imagine why!).

But what does running on autopilot really do for us? And how can we switch back into manual mode?

Shauna Niequist, in her book, Present Over Perfect, describes the soul as our connection point - to God, to life, and to the world around us. It’s with our souls that we really feel, that we love, that we ache, and that we feel God’s presence the most.

34 Meaningful Quotes for Music Educators

34 Meaningful Quotes for Music Educators

Sometimes, it's important to remember why we started.

Indulge me for a moment and ask yourself the following:

What first drew you to music?
When did you know you wanted to teach?
What are the pivotal moments that stand out in your memory - those particular students or experiences or revelations that propelled you forward, that fed your soul, that inspired you to keep going?

We all have our own answers and a whole collection of stories we could tell. This is one of the things I love most about teaching.

It's the heart behind what we do and the reasons why we do it that make teaching such a wonderful, life-giving profession (but maybe I'm a little biased?).

Four Reasons Why Playing Your Instrument for Fun is Vital to Your Music Career

Four Reasons Why Playing Your Instrument for Fun is Vital to Your Music Career

When was the last time you sat down at your instrument and played music for fun? I mean, not music you had to practice or prepare, but music you chose to play for yourself, for your own enjoyment?

So often as professionals, we don’t make time for this. We assume that all the music we’re being paid to learn and practice will also count as the musical satisfaction we need to keep going in our career. Kill two birds with one stone, right? I mean, who has time to play for fun?

But the problem is, this can become stifling. Instead of making music as a form of expression and creativity, making music becomes something we have to do, a task on our list. In short, it becomes work.

And when it becomes work, we lose that spark of inspiration, we miss the connection to the creative process, that feeling of making something personal, real, and deeply authentic. We lose some of the meaning behind why we started playing in the first place.

But, the good news is, it doesn’t have to be that way.

Six Things I Wish I'd Known When I Started in Ministry

Six Things I Wish I'd Known When I Started in Ministry

Hindsight is 20/20, right?

If we knew then what we know now, we probably would have done things differently, handled that situation another way, said “yes” instead of “no” (or vice versa).

But the thing about life is we can only live going forward. We can’t go back and edit our choices later on, though hopefully, we take the time to reflect and learn from our experiences as we go along.

I’ve been doing that lately with ministry. What have I learned over the years? How have I grown and changed? What would I tell my younger self? We all have different answers to those questions, but they’re important to think about and perhaps even voice from time to time. This is how we learn. This is how we grow.

In the spirit of all that, here are six things I wish I’d known when I first started in music ministry:

An Inside Look at My Creative Process

An Inside Look at My Creative Process

Creativity is one of those illusive things that’s hard to wrap your mind around sometimes. What is it? Does everyone have it? Can it be developed?

One of the big things I’ve learned about creativity over the past few years is that, more than anything else, creativity is a way of thinking. It’s a way of looking at the world, interacting with it, challenging it; studying things, testing things, and a relentless desire to explore new territory.

Some people naturally tend to think this way, but that doesn’t mean creativity is limited to certain individuals. Creative thinking is a strategy; it’s a skill that can be developed.

Let’s delve into theory for just a minute:

Creative thinking (in any context) has four main components: Flexibility, Fluency, Originality, and Elaboration (source). 

2017 Book List

2017 Book List

One of my favorite things about this time of year is reading everyone's book lists. I love seeing what other people are reading, hearing about new releases, and connecting with others over shared interests.

Over the past few years, I've built a little time for reading into my daily routine (usually in the evening as we wind down from the day).

As I've shared before, I like to have variety in what I read, so I tend to choose books that cover all of these categories:

Health/Lifestyle
Spiritual
Pleasure/Personal
Business

Here are the books I plan to read (or re-read) this year:

Eight Festive Advent Calendars

Eight Festive Advent Calendars

Advent is just a few short weeks away (it begins the Sunday after Thanksgiving this year). It's a season of hope, patience, expectation, waiting. The people were walking in darkness. They knew the Light would come one day, but they didn't know when. Instead, they walked in faith, believing that redemption was near.

Every year, we remember (in some small way) the waiting - the walking-by-faith part of the story. This is why I love Advent calendars - a tangible way to count the days, to journey through Advent with a spirit of hope and expectation.

When I was growing up, we had a large felt Advent calendar shaped like a tree with a small ornament for each day. We also had an array of paper calendars with doors to open and Scripture verses to read (some even had chocolate inside!). For the past few years, SD and I have displayed this lovely Scripture card Advent calendar by Oh My Deer (included in the list below).

In the Face of Violence

In the Face of Violence

I had another post scheduled for today, but given the tragic events of yesterday, it just didn't seem appropriate. It's easy to stand by quietly, to be sad in our hearts but keep our thoughts to ourselves. But in the face of violence, we need to be bold. We need to stand up. We need to say something. --

Another day. Another mass shooting. More fear. More hatred. More confusion.

Can I be honest with you? My first reaction to the tragedy yesterday was polite sympathy - sadness for all who are hurting, but only from a distance. When did that become okay? When did acts of violence become so commonplace that we stopped feeling their weight? When did the shock and daze and heartsickness wear off?

I'm tired of mass shootings becoming one-day news cycles. I'm tired of feeling helpless and numb and indifferent. 

I'm afraid that violence is becoming more and more the norm. That tomorrow we'll go back to our normal lives, eating our normal breakfast, reading normal headlines about the election and the Tony Awards, thinking about our normal (crazy) week ahead. I'm afraid that hate is growing stronger. That the world is growing numb to it