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What is your very first thought upon awakening? To do list? Coffee now! Does hope factor into your initial awareness or your daily life at all? Because the theme of hope will be the central message during the upcoming Easter sunrise service at the beach on Marco Island.

More: 30 years of Easter on the beach: Thousands turn out for sunrise service

Pastor Steve Schoof will be giving the message and says, “Today’s culture, with its negativity and despair, feels as if life is now lived in a minor key – overshadowed with sadness. Yet, through the resurrection of Jesus from the dead, our lives can be lived as if in a major key – resonating with joy and hope.”

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Continuing with the musical analogy is this year’s musical guest, renowned tenor and soprano saxophonist Eirinn Abú, who will be performing “Old Rugged Cross” and “Because He Lives.”

Seen through the eyes of a musician and a believer, Abú believes the motivation for understanding the true meaning of Easter can be discovered within the latter song choice.

“The lyrics written by Gloria Gaither give us hope and understanding that because of the resurrection, (‘Because He Lives’) we can face tomorrow no matter what struggles we might be facing,” said Abú.

The musician, who has recorded with Dolly Parton on three different renditions of “I Will Always Love You” and is accompanied frequently by the group Miami Sound Machine, is no stranger to life’s difficulties.

“Ten years ago when my music career was so called ‘soaring like an eagle.’ God delivered me from my own personal storm. My heart became very humbled and my music took on a different shape.” Now, he says, “I feel the Lord placing His hands on me at times, which translates into playing from my heart.

“I believe my music touches people in a very deep way allowing them to reminisce about their lives both looking back and into their current situations,” continued Abú, who founded Music for Life Ministries, lives in Venice, Florida.

“As an instrumentalist, I experience the gift of people feeling the same emotions as if I were singing with a voice, and the biggest blessings I receive from my audience are the comments of feeling the Holy Spirit and the presence of God when I’m performing.”

At 6 a.m. Easter morning, from all directions, people begin to quietly walk onto the beach. The condo lanais fill with people having their breakfast and listening to the 6:45 a.m. prelude; boats have anchored and settled into their own unique experience. Eventually over 5,000 people are sitting on the beach.

Dressed in shorts, bathing suits or pajamas, as people look up to the stage and the sun arising behind the beautiful JW Marriott Marco Island Beach Resort, one can only wonder what this early morning experience will bring into their lives.

And maybe author Barbara Kingsolver's quote from “Animal Dreams” says it best: “The very least you can do in your life is figure out what you hope for. And the most you can do is live inside that hope. Not admire it from a distance but live right in it, under its roof.”

Jill Yris is an established writer of magazine features, web and business work as well as ghostwriting and editing books. Her portfolio includes national subjects such as actress Shirley Jones, Wall Street Journalist Foster Winans, renowned artist Taylor Oughton and Coach Johnny Majors. www.JillYrisWriter.com; cjill2day@gmail.com.

If you go

Marco Island’s 31st Annual Easter Sunrise Service on the Beach

  • When: 7 a.m., Sunday, April 21, prelude begins at 6:45 a.m.
  • Where: JW Marriott Marco Island Beach Resort, 400 S. Collier Boulevard, Marco Island
  • Beach access: North of the Marriott Spa and the public access north of the Madeira Condominium; Resident's Beach parking lot will open at 6 a.m. for member parking.
  • Parking: The Marco Police and volunteers will direct traffic and assist with parking, including double parking along Collier Boulevard.
  • Guest music: Tenor and soprano saxophonist Eirinn Abú; flutist Sandy Stein; pianist John Stein
  • What to bring: Blanket or chair
  • Special needs: For those who need assistance, handicap parking will be available near the Marriott Spa with golf carts to assist to the edge of the beach.
  • Information: 239-394-8186
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