Posts Tagged ‘music’

The church especially remembers the life and message of Francis of Assisi with his feast day on October 4. For a previous year’s feast I reviewed Francis of Assisi in His Own Words, an excellent collection from Paraclete Press. May this review inspire a trip to your local bookstore, and quiet time with the words of Francis.

In honor of Francis teaching love toward all creatures, churches in many communities celebrate a blessing of the animals on this day. It is an opportunity to recognize the special place companion animals have in our lives. I experienced with this special observance at a community fair, a tender and beautiful experience, when a minister gave a vocal blessing and laying of hands to my German Shepherd. May we remember always to extend kindness and mercy to all living creatures, and may this feast day be an occasion to affirm commitment to caring for God’s creation.

When thinking of Francis of Assisi, the song “Make me an instrument of your peace” begins playing in my mind. From childhood, this was my favorite song at church. While this prayer for peace captures the spirit of Francis’ teachings, it was not his composition. According to the Franciscan Archive, this prayer first appeared on a prayer card during the first world war. This prayer continues to offer comfort and inspiration to many. It is my heartfelt prayer for all of us today.

Lord, make me an instrument of your peace.
Déan gléas chun síochána díom, a Thiarna.
Señor, hazme un instrumento de tu paz.


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Photo credit: Jim McGuire

I have been listening to the music of Carrie Newcomer, finding her lyrics to be uplifting and a soothing balm. Over the years several friends have mentioned her music to me, and I have seen her lyrics quoted in essays and sermons. One song from her latest recording is “Help in Hard Times”:

I invite your comments with a favorite uplifting song or artist. What music restores your hope on hard days? What song brings sunshine into your home or soothes your spirit?

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I have been loving this beautiful rendition of Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah,” performed by Sarah Yaseen with the band Kashash. May it be a blessing on your day. Peace be upon each of you.


If you have a favorite uplifting song, I invite you to share in the comments.

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coloring-calendarWith social obligations, consumer pressures, and family celebrations, Advent often becomes a season of busyness rather than a holy season of contemplation. Many of us could use help to reorient our minds and hearts to respond to this season in a thoughtful way.

To my delight, Paraclete Press has produced a beautiful Advent Coloring Calendar, a prayerful way to settle the mind and relax during this special season. The designs are hand-drawn by monastics from the Community of Jesus, an ecumenical community in the Benedictine tradition. Each is reminiscent of the geometric patterns in stained glass, and the facing page includes a brief verse, inspiring quote, or excerpt from a seasonal song. The website of Paraclete Press includes sample images to view before purchase.

Bringing prayerful music into your home can contribute to finding the joy in daily life. As a counter to the Santa Claus-filled songs in the hectic shopping districts, you might choose to listen to Advent carols from Gloriae Dei Cantores, or Gregorian chants sung by the Gloriae Dei Cantores Schola. The uplifting recording Keeping Christmas celebrates the traditional Service of Readings and Carols, and includes a 28-page insert with song lyrics and scripture citations. From the comfort of home you can be transported to the Church of the Transfiguration, amidst a welcoming Benedictine community, where Gloriae Dei Cantores are accompanied by the Extol Handbell Choir and Elements Theatre Company.

The Advent Color and Sound set would make a welcome gift for a loved one, or a personal treasure to enhance this holy season of expectant waiting. Through art and music we can find a path toward slowing down and noticing the beauty in the world around us. May you have a blessed Advent!


Disclaimer: A review copy was provided by the publisher. No fee was received for this review.

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Each of us bear witness to the lives of people who try with all their heart and soul to be encouragers. These encouragers are people who build up, who reach out, who open themselves to others. Who do you know who daily inspires with their determination, their positive attitude, their deep faith?

I want to lift up a book by Stanley Porter, an ordinary man who grew up near me. I reviewed Stanley’s book, Every Song Has a Story, soon after it was published. Stanley is a musician, inspirational speaker, husband, and father. He is a person who strives to do his best to encourage and uplift others. I invite you to read my review, and to share the word about this inspiring book.

I would like to reinforce Stanley’s message of hope by giving someone a copy of Every Song Has a Story. To enter the giveaway, please leave a comment below. Share with us a person, a song, or a piece of writing that lifts you up. A winner will be chosen at random next Thursday, October 9.

May your day be full of joy and abundant blessings.

Disclosure: This review is freely given. No fee was received.

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Singer and recording artist Stanley Porter has written a beautiful testimony to the power of God’s love at work in his life. In Every Song Has a Story, Porter takes readers on a deeply personal journey that is honest, relevant, and hopeful. My prayer is that, through hearing the author share that he trusted God and received help, readers also will grow in trust and feel their suffering lifted.

I learned of this book because the author and I were high school classmates. We both grew up in Boston during the 1980s and 90s, and witnessed the traumas caused by violence, drugs, and poverty in our communities. The gangs and guns were not on my block, but I knew the pain of hearing the news and fearing that a classmate was lost to a stray bullet. When I read Porter’s chapter on those struggling with addiction, and the words from the gospel of Luke that God has sent Jesus “to heal the brokenhearted,” my tears flowed. My own heart continues to break from the violence and poverty in our communities, and I am grateful for those who are called to work in a healing capacity with people who are hurting.

In each chapter, after sharing his own testimony on a particular topic, Porter draws upon the riches of the Bible to further encourage readers. He shares stories of Joseph, Daniel, David, and the prodigal son to help us remember we are not alone in our struggles. It is powerful to have someone say, “I was in a place of darkness and my prayers were answered.” Through his honesty, Porter goes beyond pious language or feel-good sentiments. Clearly he does not wish merely to evangelize, but to truly reach hearts that are suffering.

I found the testimony of healing from the wounds of racism extremely compelling. Personally, I pray for more honesty in all our religious communities regarding racism, and I offer praise when I hear of congregations working toward restoration in this area. While I was lucky to grow up in one of Boston’s more integrated neighborhoods, the pain of racism was ever-present. In this past year I had a memorable opportunity to worship at an AME church in my old neighborhood, where my pink skin put me in the minority. I was welcomed warmly by those who shared my pew, and invited to visit with fellow worshipers. While I know that worshiping side by side is only the beginning of healing, I was grateful to be present among a congregation that strives to heal racial divides at all levels, working for peace and social justice inside the church and throughout the community.

The songs mentioned in this book come from Porter’s popular recording “Square One,” produced by his 4:12 Records Inc. Most recently Porter was the featured artist at the Haley House’s Summer Gospel Jamboree and he was nominated for an Angelic Award this past April (for Best Artist). This September he will be starting as the Chapel Team Music Director at Eastern Nazarene College. Stanley Porter is currently consulting and performing throughout the Northeast.

[This giveaway now is closed.] I am happy to offer a giveaway so that a lucky reader can have a chance to read this book. In order to enter:
1. Leave a comment on this post. Be sure to include your email (to be used only for contacting the winner).
2. Subscribe to this blog to receive an additional drawing entry. Please leave another comment so I know you subscribed.
3. Follow the blog on facebook, or share the blog with friends, and receive another entry.
A winner will be chosen on Monday, September 10, and contacted by email. Good luck, and thank you in advance for helping me spread the word about this book.

Disclosure: The opinions expressed in this review are my own. No fee was received for this review.

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light to listen by:

La Señora Mercedes Sosa (1935-2009)

“Sólo le pido a Dios”


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