Tuesday, August 28, 2007

A Community of Worshippers

That's what Wheaton College is. A community of worshippers.

Both tonight and last night, I participated in some very intense worship services. Last night was just new students, held in Pierce Chapel. In addition to being led in worship by the gospel choir and chapel worship team, the orientation committee administered foot washing to all the new students and prayed individually for us while doing so.

And not a day later the whole student body gathered in Edman Memorial Chapel for the first all-school communion. This event is held at the end of each month. The service featured intense worship, devotional thoughts from two students, and, of course, communion.

There is no question in my mind that Wheaton College aims to foster community. Some might say that the orientation is too long (six days), but I value each day I have had between arrival and starting classes to meet and spend time with new people and participate in several worship services. A week ago, there was only one person in my freshman class I would have actually considered a friend (that being Heidi Jahns, who also grew up at Calvary and was involved in Allied Force these past few years), but after spending time worshipping with all my new friends, I really feel at home here.

Classes start tomorrow, and I'll continue to be busy, though in more routine ways. But feeling at home here will probably even make that seem exciting at times. As one student leader mentioned tonight, even classes at Wheaton are an effort to glorify God. There is no higher calling, and I am excited to be able to do so as a member of this awesome community of worshippers.

This is Rubio, over and out.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Wheaton College - The First Few Days

Well, I made it. I am sitting at my desk in my dorm room in Traber Residence Hall on the campus of Wheaton College. I just finished registering on the campus network, so it's the first chance I've had to use the Internet in my room. Fortunately, though, I wasn't completely cut off from the world, as Buswell Memorial Library has public Internet access.

It's been an exciting two days and a bit. My mom drove me out here Thursday around midday with a full carload of clothes, bedding, books, my trombone, piano, and personal possessions (well, okay, I guess everything in that list could qualify as a personal possession, but I wanted a more sophisticated term for "other stuff"). I checked in and got unloaded with no trouble. My roommate, Sam Ostransky of Iowa, arrived shortly after I did, and we got busy moving in. There were notices on the doors informing residents that the building was without air conditioning or hot water. In fact, the pipe that normally allowed us to have hot water had just burst this week.

Not too much later, the hot, sunny skies turned dark and stormy. We actually had a power outtage in my residence hall, and then a tornado warning forced us to take shelter in the basement. It could have been worse, though; Fischer Hall had a fire alarm concurrent with the storm and tornado warning, so they had to evacuate.

But, the weather cleared, although the area showed signs of some damage. Dr. Duane Litfin, our president, mentioned that his Wheaton-area home had some flooding. In the evening we had an orientation kick-off. The orientation committee (a very lively group) welcomed us, and then we broke up into "Big Sib" groups. My group has two sophomore "Big Sibs" and ten freshmen, evenly split between men and women (no more boys and girls at college!). The evening ended with time to relax in Beamer Student Center.

Yesterday, Friday, I attended an orientation meeting for all the new music majors (53 freshmen and six transfers). That meeting I really enjoyed. The Conservatory faculty and student leadership introduced themselves and presented some information pertinent to my tenure as a music major.

Friday afternoon was the orientation opening program. It differed from the kick-off in that the administration were there and it was a more formal official welcome to Wheaton. Dr. Liftin spoke to my class as a whole for the first time. I have to say, Dr. Liftin is an amazing speaker. I don't think he had speech notes with him at all! And besides that, I can tell that he has a heart for leading this amazing community of believers. We also had a presentation on academic life at Wheaton, with a panel of professors representing the four undergraduate division (Bible and theology, humanities and social sciences, natural sciences, and the Conservatory).

In the evening we had a presentation from student development on student life and the Community Covenant, our school's statement of how we live together. The RA's performed some humorous skits about dorm life, which did get their points across. Friday evening, too, concluded with time in the Beamer Center.

Today, Saturday, has been just as busy. We had an orientation to computing and the campus network this morning, followed by a presentation on the multicultural experience at Wheaton. Things calmed down a bit this afternoon, as evidenced by the time I have to write this.

Words cannot adequately describe how grateful I am to be here at Wheaton, and how much I love the school. Actually, I am still trying to get used to the fact that this is my school, and that I am here to stay. Being at Wheaton is a dream come true for me. And I am having a great time.

This is Rubio, over and out.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

The Gift Card

I would like to take a few minutes to reflect on one of the most ingenious ideas in commerce: the gift card. That little piece of plastic is quite an amazing concept.

Physically, a gift card is about six square inches of thin plastic, with a logo and/or design on one side and a magnetic stripe and fine print on the reverse. But within that piece of plastic are many things. They may be collectively called Options.

For example, suppose you have a Starbucks gift card, something that occasionally appears in my wallet. With such a card, your options include various hot drinks, cold drinks, and pastries. Or suppose you have an iTunes gift card. Now your options are limited only by your taste in music and movies. And Starbucks and iTunes are only two of a vast number of different gift cards available.

Then there are gift certificates, available from restaurants and independent businesses. Gift certificates make the possibilities even more endless.

Well, that's my discourse on gift cards. I don't know why that was on my mind while I am busy packing for college. Only two days, now. I may be offline for a day or two when I move in, so no promises as to when I'll blog again. Until then, GO CUBS!!!!!!!

This is Rubio, over and out.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

As Summer Was Just...Ending

I have indentified three signs of the end of summer, which are as follows.

1. It is sixty-eight degrees, overcast, and rainy in Oak Park. Folks, it looks and even feels like the middle of October. Which would be nice, because in the middle of October, I will have just celebrated my nineteenth birthday and be looking forward to a few days at home over fall break. But no, all I get from this fake mid-October is the weather. It's put me in a very lazy, unproductive mood.

2. I have finished my summer job as a pool maintenance technician for the Park District of Oak Park. Given that it is a seasonal position, I am required to voluntarily resign at the end of the season, which I did, effective today. It was a good summer at the pools. Certainly much more interesting than last summer.

3. My friends are either going or gone. New undergraduates arrived at the University of Illinois (all campuses) this past week, so that's probably a good two dozen people I actually know. My class's departure dates are fairly spread out, actually. I know a few people leaving this weekend, a lot leaving sometime next week, at least two leaving next weekend, and even one friend who isn't leaving until the weekend after that!

So, that's life at the end of this last summer before college. I shall probably blog once more before leaving for Wheaton on Thursday. Until then,

This is Rubio, over and out.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Private vs. Public vs. Both

My mother has a subscription to WORLD Magazine, and I read it, too. One of my favorite "departments" is the weekly column by Joel Belz, the founder. He always has something interesting to say. This week, he offers a theoretical solution to the poor quality of government-financed and -operated "parts of the infrastructure."

Belz begins with the recent collapse of the heavily-trafficked bridge over the Mississippi River that connects Minneapolis and St. Paul. He says that, almost counterintuitively, there are private companies who would like to buy the damaged property, rebuild it, and operate it. In fact, the same is true for damaged roads across the nation. Belz gives statistics about the state of Indiana autioning off the Indiana Toll Road and getting more than twice as much as they expected from private operators. But this concept is not just limited to the transportation system. Belz writes,
The real point of all this, however, is not about bridges and roads. ... The issue is instead how folks should respon when the government demonstrates that it doesn't have a clue how to handle the important facets of our lives that have become so badly broken.

Belz mentions several of these "important facets," including one that I deeply care about - a "shattered educational system." Reading that made me think about what it would be like if public education in America became privately owned and operated. Allow me to consider the possible ramifications.

Obviously, many thousands of private schools are currently in operation in the United States. (I am going to one starting in eight days, in fact.) Private schools can be and are efficiently run, with qualified faculties, responsible financial procedures, and strong success rates. But private schools are not completely subject to the standards set by the government. Most private schools, on the whole, meet or exceed these standards anyway to attract students, but there is little parents can do to change policies of which they do not approve.

And I agree that there are some problems in public education that lead back to the government. A combination of poor financial resource management and too many legislative loopholes that allow underqualified candidates to secure teaching posts are just two of the factors. But public schools do have a good point. They are affordable. Some families are not able to afford costly, if quality, private education. If education were privatized across the board, families would be exchanging part of their property taxes for tuition bills, but tuition would undoubtably be higher. That circles back around to educational vouchers, and you haven't really solved a problem if it just takes you to another one.

So, would privatizing education work? Let me say, first, that I do not think Mr. Belz is suggesting that to an extreme. But I do not think that privatizing all educational institutions would help when all the ramifications are considered.

This is Rubio, over and out.

Friday, August 10, 2007

Billy Graham

I just watched 20/20 on ABC. Tonight's subject was the Rev. Billy Graham and his personal relationship with every president since Harry Truman. An excerpt from the transcript:
He's preached to every president since Harry Truman. It is one of the most unique series of friendships in modern politics, counseling these leaders under the tremendous stresses of war, politics and personal scandals. But evangelist Billy Graham simply refers to the last 11 presidents as his "friends."
Graham has been a personal interest of mine for a year or two now, partially because he is one of the most famous alumni of Wheaton College. He was the subject of my junior theme. On of my primary sources for that paper was Graham's autobiography, Just As I Am. It's a thick book, but he covers in detail his life and ministry around the world over the past sixty years. I highly recommend it.

What impressed me most as I researched Graham's life and ministry was the consistency across the decades. He admits to mistakes and changes he has made, but throughout his autobiography he consistently gives God the glory for the success of Graham's ministry and many personal blessings. It is probably that humility that has attracted recent presidents to him. George W. Bush, interviewed on 20/20, credits Graham with leading him to Christ.

I had the opportunity last fall to see the Billy Graham Center Museum on the campus of Wheaton College. It was just before my Conservatory audition, so I probably wasn't entirely focused on the exhibit, but I do remember that it was an excellent showcase of Graham's ministry, and at the same time pointed visitors to Christ. If you are ever in the Wheaton area, set aside an hour or so to visit the museum.

This is Rubio, over and out.

Wednesday, August 8, 2007


I like summer. I really do. And I am enjoying this one. I've made a good amount of money, done a good bit of traveling, seen some good movies, and in general relaxed (thank God for air conditioning; it makes relaxing a lot more comfortable).

However, I am presently fifteen days away from moving in to Wheaton College, and I am getting a bit impatient. I have this nagging feeling that I have a lot to do before I go. Like packing, for instance. I can't really start that in full until a few days before I go, because the majority of the items I will pack are things I use everyday at home, like clothes, my computer, my toothbrush, etc. I'm a tiny bit worried that I'm going to forget something small but important, like my cell phone charger.

Then again, if I do forget anything, it's less than twenty miles away. Some people would be in quite a jam if they forgot something important.

So, that's my current dilemma. It keeps me from getting bored.

This is Rubio, over and out.

Thursday, August 2, 2007

"Tied for First" and "Three More Weeks"

Good morning, world. I have two things to blog about today.

First, after last night's victory over the Philadelphia Phillies and the Milwaukee Brewers' loss to the New York Mets, the Chicago Cubs have moved into a tie for first place in the National League Central Division. If you want to get really technical, the Cubs are actually in first alone, because they have a slighty higher winning percentage. I must admit, I'm excited. This could be an exciting last third of the regular season. I firmly believe that the Cubs can get a good lead and hold it until the end of the season.

In other news, I am now down to three weeks before embarking on the next chapter of my life: college! That's right, in exactly three weeks (give or take a few hours), I will move into Traber Residence Hall on the campus of Wheaton College.

Naturally, I still have lots to do before then. I have to get myself over to Best Buy or some similar store sometime soon (alliteration not intended), I have to call the College itself and clarify a few things about the orientation schedule, and make sure that I say goodbye to all my friends properly. All that while working three shifts a week for two more weeks. It's going to be a busy August.

I did talk to my roommate the day before yesterday by phone. His name is Sam Ostransky; he's an English major from Iowa and a die-hard fan of the Chicago Cubs and the Chicago Bears. So this year should be fun.

This is Rubio, over and out.