Friday, April 22, 2011

"Let not your heart be troubled. You are trusting God, now trust in me." John 14:1

As I reflect upon worship services I have attended through the years to celebrate the Resurrection of my Lord and Savior, many memories come to mind.

While raising our family, there were many Easter Sunrise services we attended early in the morning - it wasn't easy getting up from a warm toasty bed only to be greeted by a dark, cold morning.  And waking up three children to accompany us was kind of a hassle.  But, I don't think there was ever a time when we were not blessed by attending one and were so glad we had taken the time to remember what the Lord had done for us.  

Some sunrise services we attended were just down the road from our farm.  On a grassy hilltop stood an old rugged wooden cross our neighbor and brother in Christ had made and placed there.  It was a perfect location because just as the sun rose, it peeked over the hill and shone on all of us believers standing near the cross - as if we were bathed in the light of the Lord himself.

Wrapped up in blankets and stocking caps, we worshipped the Lord on that hilltop. We sang hymns, we listened to the Word, prayed and took communion. Some sat on straw bales, or lawn chairs and others stood. There was a brief message to ponder and sometimes special music, readings or skits.

 Two particular services at this spot stand out in my mind.  One included a reenactment of Christ carrying the cross up the steep hill - accompanied by some powerful dramatic music.  It was very touching because a few men from the church struggled to carry the heavy structure  - none of them could carry it alone.  They had to help one another to get it to the top.  But they would not give up - they got it to crest of the hill and positioned it in the dirt - it was hard work. And it was just a tiny glimpse of what  Jesus chose to endure to carry out His Father's mission. . . . for you and for me.  The whole scene brought tears to my eyes.

Why?  First of all, their determination reflected God's love for us and their devotion to the Lord and one another. What if they would not have made it and gave up?  But they didn't and neither did God.  He did send His only Son to die for us so that anyone who believes in Him will be saved and not perish. And Jesus willingly carried out His Father's mission even though He could have asked a thousand angels to rescue Him from the pain and agony. But He chose not to. Have you ever thought about that?  

Second, as I watched the men strain and labor, I thought of how that struggle reflects men's battle with sin  And how Jesus who was without sin, took the sins of the world upon Himself, so that we could be forgiven and not have to wrestle with sin alone. In fact, we can be free from the strife sin can cause if we can give it to Christ and leave it there. That is sometimes a challenge but Jesus is there for us. And once we believers reach eternity - no more sin at all - how wonderful that will be!

Finally, when the men from our church finally reached the top, the great reflection of our Lord's victory over sin and death  - the fact that the cross was empty made an enormous impression. He was no longer hanging on a cross or in a tomb - He had risen from the dead and was no longer there. In fact, through the power of the Holy Spirit, He was right there with us - amazing!

Another touching service at this same location was when we wrote down sins or burdens we were struggling with on small pieces of paper.  Then we were given nails and each one of us nailed those paper notes to the cross, believing that God would give us the strength to overcome them, to be forgiven and have a fresh start. Literally giving our burdens to God.  As I reflect upon that, I think a sense of peace came over the group as one by one, they gave their troubles to the Lord.  We left those notes on that cross and only God knew what they said.

After each service, we all joined together for a warm breakfast back at the farm house - it was wonderful fellowship and a time of rejoicing. All because of what Christ did for us and the promise of eternal life in heaven one day!  Praise and thank you Jesus!

These are just a few of the experiences I have had.  What reflections do you have of past Resurrection Sundays?

God's reflection of our heavenly hope in a cross shaped pole of foilage.

Copyright Carole S. Amateis Lebruska 2011

Friday, April 8, 2011

"Wake up, O harp and lyre! We will meet the dawn with song." Psalms 108

It has been said that "music touches the soul like nothing else" and  also "music is the same in any language."   That is so true!   I, for one, am so thankful God gave us this marvelous blessing in this temporary place we call home.

Have you ever noticed how the music you listen to or play affects your mood?  This is how deeply it affects the human soul, your body, and feelings.  In fact, there have been studies done on how music can calm an anxious or depressed spirit much like David's playing of the harp comforted a distressed Saul. A melodic flow of notes from the scale can actually help bring relief from physical pain or help one sleep. Pretty remarkable!

Music certainly plays an important role in my life's journey. It's been a part of my life since I was a child, as my mother played the piano by ear and she made the keyboard on our old upright piano come alive and fill our household with music! These are fond memories!

And it probably made more of an impact on me than I realized.  Now, for example, if I am struggling to exercise, whether it be simple walking or riding a stationery bike, if I turn on my CD player and listen to upbeat music, it definitely makes a positive difference.  My body seems to get more energized, I feel like moving and before I know it, 30 minutes or more have passed.  Silence in this case, would make my exercise session drag and a 15-minute ride would seem like an hour!  But if walking, there is one exception- when strolling through nature - songbirds chirping among the trees can offer quite abit of  inspiration to take more steps than you may have planned.

I can be driving to town and listening to a favorite CD - most classical music just soothes my soul and I am one relaxed, calm driver.  The miles just fly by. The sky looks more blue, the sun is more bright and the world outside my car windows seems so peaceful.  I even look forward to running errands that I might otherwise dread.

Bluegrass and Irish upbeat music can make me feel like dancing as does some rock and roll.  If I listen to hard rock, I feel chaotic inside and beyond uncomfortable. Love and Gospel songs with meaningful words stick in my memory bank -  each word, each note, bringing feelings to the surface that were perhaps hidden before.

Some music makes me excited, other compositions, sadden my heart - even bringing tears to my eyes.  Still there are melodies that just bring an instant smile to my face and joy to my soul. Some songs from the past spark memories.

I have, with the help of God,  written quite abit of music over the years.  Right now I am in the process of recording it on CD.  Some of the songs I composed on the piano were during difficult struggles I was experiencing at that time in my life - you can hear the sadness and strife in the melody lines.  Others are happy and upbeat when days were brighter.  Some are simple lullaby's that I sang to my babies (now all in their 30's) .  Many are songs I wrote for Sunday School kids and children's choirs to sing, with catchy rhythms.  And they tell about the love of the Lord and God's plan of salvation via tunes and lyrics.

There is one particular instrumental I have written that  has brought tears to more than one person who has listened to it as I play it on the piano or clavinova.  Those notes and how I express them on the ivory and ebony are touching souls in a special way.  I would say this is through the power of the Holy Spirit - who worked through me to compose the melodies in the first place. I give Him all the glory!

It is definitely true that music can define our mood for the day, the hour, or even the minute. Next time you watch a movie, listen to the music and what an impact it has on the storyline and on you.  Imagine a scene with different music or no background score at all.  It is a  real eye opener!

Let's face it - music is one of the most awesome gifts our Heavenly Father has given us.  It is powerful.  And it influences us when we do not even realize it.  That is why it is important to listen to music that is good for the soul and what God would want us to listen to.

  I used to emphasize this fact to my Senior High Sunday School students and our youth group who are exposed to music probably more than any other age group. Our brain does not forget what we hear and without even realizing it, it is planted in our conscious. For example, think of commercials - I can repeat several words and jingles from radio or television word for word just from listening to them day after day.

 Some music and lyrics are not the best for our moral convictions - we have to be aware and make good choices.  Choices God would want us to make.  Not en easy thing to do when the radio is blaring in our car stereos.  And some of what is "out there" is okay and other music is "of this world" and does not honor our Lord.  It is so important to make good choices - and feed nourishing music to our precious souls and minds.

Something to reflect upon. . . . . can you imagine the world without music?  What would it be like?  And what kind of music lifts your heart?  What kind of music will you choose this week?