Autumn’s Annual Abashment

fall+picFor me this time of year, autumn, fall, whichever word you choose to use, is filled with a sort of discomforting or unsettledness in my soul.  I’m not really sure why, but when I found this quote, it helped me to at least start to understand this annual event and how it affects me so deeply.

It was Stanley B. Horowitz, a prominent leader and humanitarian in the Jewish community, that said, “Winter is an etching, spring a watercolor, summer an oil painting and autumn a mosaic of them all.”

As the calendar seems to tumble quickly into the autumn season, a kind of melancholy mood mixes with the elation of seeing the glorious fireworks of nature that are on display this time of year.  I’m not sure why that with the rainbow-colored sunsets, the crispness of the air, the first smell of smoke from fireplaces and the rich depth of brilliant color all around, I being feeling this way. Each autumn, I experience a convergence of the entire year that has passed and quickly realize that we’re staring winter in its ugly face.

It might possibly be the sadness that another summer has faded away.  Or, maybe it’s the thought of winter’s icy grip coming just around the corner.  Perhaps it’s that the serene images of spring have long ago left my memory, who knows.  What I do know is that autumn has become kind of reckoning of all things regarding life for me.

In autumn, you see the death of things living, but in their death there is glorious beauty.  Isn’t it that way with us mortals as well, especially when that one knows they will be with God after leaving this earth?  It is certainly a spiritual event when a person passes from life unto death.  We don’t understand it, we cry, we grieve, we ask why, but how many times have you heard loved ones, who gather around the bedside of someone who has just been ushered from this world into the next say, “They had such a peaceful expression on their face when they passed.”  I know I have, and maybe a bit of that is reflected in nature during this time of year.

Yes, a lot of things that were vibrant and alive during spring and summer are now dying.  Yes, winter will continue complete this process and freeze nature until the warmth of spring will allow it to burst forth with life once again.  So we see it in a person that is passing from life unto death when they have secured their glorious eternal future through Jesus Christ.

I’ve found that it’s this convergence of all the seasons of the year, and what they each represent, that creates this annual discomforting, or discontentment in my soul.  It is nature’s visual representation of our mortal lives passing from life to death.  It is not unlike the fact that when someone dies, you often hear them talk about their entire life passing before eyes.  So I get it more now than ever before!  We see all the seasons of the year crammed into autumn because we experience the passing of spring and summer and nature preparing itself for the winter to come!

It is often said that ‘art imitates life’, I would like to suggest that ‘nature imitates life’ on a much deeper, yet often unnoticed level.

 

 

We Play Like We Think

This is going to be a musicians post.  It actually will apply primarily to musicians who play in a church, or religious setting.  It doesn’t mean if you’re not an instrumental musician, instrumentalist if you will, or maybe just a musical person, you can’t read it.  But be forewarned, you might not ‘connect’ to it if you’ve never been in the heat of a performance playing a musical instrument.  
 The reason this applies primarily to instrumentalists and not vocalists (singers) is that, well, just read the article, I think you’ll figure it out!

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Our worship pastor shared in a seminar recently about the importance of ‘watching our words’ during worship.  The premise was thinking through the lyrics we sing and making song choices that center on God, His characteristics, attributes and His glory.  I started thinking about this verse, Psalm 19:14, in light of hearing him speak, “Let the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart, be acceptable in Your sight, O Lord, my strength and my Redeemer”, and how what he was pointing to, and what this verse says, might apply to instrumentalists during worship, or any setting for that   matter.

So I started talking about this last week in rehearsal and challenged our instrumentalists to think about what they think about while they are playing.  Are they meditating on the lyrics?  Are they focusing on the God as they play? Are they thinking about the next note(s)?  What is on their mind and in their heart as they play.

Personally, I find myself almost ‘day-dreaming’ at times when I play during worship.  I’m a little ADD so that doesn’t help! It’s easy for me to be singing, or playing and my mind is a thousand thoughts away from ‘the moment.”  Sure, I get it, we can almost be mechanical or rote if we’ve played a tune many  times before.  It’s also easy, as musicians, to get caught up in the chord structures (or lack of at times), or the harmonic progression, or groove, or what the guitar playing is doing.  Of course we all wonder what the guitar player is doing at times!

But you see, it’s easy to be distracted by anything and everything during worship.  This is especially true as instrumentalists.  I remember a friend of mine saying he used to have his players write the lyrics in their music to help them focus on the message.  Great idea!  Whatever it takes to get the ‘meditation of our heart’ moving in the right direction is worth the time!  During the ‘heat of the moment’ in a service it’s easy to forget Who we should be focusing on, I believe this is especially true for instrumentalists given all of the technical things that can, and often do distract us.

einstein_thinking

I know I’m challenging myself with this and also our players and hope it sinks in more and more.  Verse 14 in Psalm 19 follows beautiful descriptions of the heavens proclaiming God’s glory even though we never hear it audibly, at least not with human ears, and how they also reveal God’s glory.  The Psalmist also recognizes the absolute sovereignty and purpose of God’s Word, and His eternal and never-changing truths.  All followed up by a prayer-like response of repentance and humility.  Do these go hand in hand?  Absolutely!  When we direct our mind’s focus and our heart’s desire solely on God’s glory and worship of Him, we will desire to live according to His Word and be humbled by His great power and glory!  We will be changed!  Even while playing an instrument!

So it should be during worship.  If our focus, as we play, is on anything else but God and His greatness, what we give to Him will not be acceptable in His sight.  The challenge for us, and our players, is to keep that thought at the forefront of what we ‘present’ to Him in worship each week.  In fact, it doesn’t even have to be during a worship service!

My prayer, the Psalmist’s prayer, is that everything I say and do and think about during Sunday worship, and my daily worship, will be acceptable and pleasing in His sight.  Nobody else matters, including, most of all, myself.