Saturday, December 19, 2009

Reflections on Celebrating Christmas

I returned to Oak Park for a three and a half week break just a couple days ago. As is my custom, I like to reflect on some of the experiences of the past term.

One major highlight in the second half of the semester was the annual Wheaton College Christmas Festival; this year, titled Rejoice! The Symphonic Band and Symphony Orchestra alternate performing on this event from year to year; as a result, I was again performing on the festival this year as a member of the Symphony Orchestra. However, I was also assigned to stage manage the event. It worked out rather well: the orchestra only performed on the second half of the program, so I was free during the first half and before curtain to run the backstage operations. Putting together such a large and complex production like the Christmas Festival is never easy, and a couple of the rehearsals during the week before the concerts were moderately stressful, but in my opinion (and judging by the reactions of the audiences), we pulled off two very successful performances. You can watch a video of the Christmas Festival here (look for “Christmas Festival – December 5, 2009”).

More than once, the idea that events like Wheaton’s Christmas Festival detract from celebrating the birth of Christ has come to my attention. I definitely agree with the argument that one can become so involved in producing such an event that he or she is unable to focus on Christ, and that is a very real danger. But if we begin each planning meeting and rehearsal and performance with prayer, as we do at Wheaton, then our hearts are more likely to be properly focused. And I happen to think that the productions themselves are very valuable to a Christian community’s celebration of Christmas.

Some might argue that Jesus came in extreme humility and thus we should avoid extravagance in our observance. I respect that point, and if simplicity brings you closer to Christ than extravagance, then far be it from me to suggest anything that would hinder your relationship with the Lord. My argument, however, is that we can have extravagant productions and still model Christ’s humility. The key is obvious – the production has to be about Christ, and about sharing his love with the audience, rather than about showing off our skills. And furthermore, does not the King of kings deserve all our talent and resources? (And who gave them to us in the first place?) What better way to give them to him that by pooling the talents and resources of an institution like the Wheaton Conservatory to produce such an event that not only celebrates the birth of Christ but also testifies to the birth of Christ to an unbelieving world? I consider it a great privilege and honor to have been so involved in this year’s production, and it is and was my prayer that all the work I put in may be used for the advancement of Christ’s kingdom.

Christmas has always been my favorite time of year. The commercialization and secularization of the season in the Western world is a bad sign to some, but I believe that God is yet at work, and that Christmas is perhaps the best time of year for Christians to share the love of God with the unbelieving world. To return to my main discussion: everyone likes a Christmas concert, so why not use that event to tell of the Incarnation? I have never investigated this question, but I would be interested in knowing whether or not churches have more seekers in December than at other times of year.

May our Lord bless you and your loved ones this Christmas.

This is Rubio, over and out.

Monday, October 19, 2009


This weekend was Wheaton College’s fall break. It is the first chance all semester that I have had enough time to sit and write a thorough reflection on the school year thus far. I should like to sum up my first two months as an upperclassman with a metaphor of my own invention: I am drenched by all the blessings God has poured out on me.

In my last post, I wrote about my early arrival on campus due to a retreat with the Symphonic Band Cabinet. We had a great time at Wisconsin Dells, and since then we have had a great time working together to assist Dr. Tim Yontz, the music director, in implementing the band program. One of the other cabinet members said that we (the cabinet) “are like family,” and I agree completely. It has been a real joy to be a part of the leadership team.

In my role as chaplain, I was privileged to join with the other ensembles’ chaplains to plan an informal worship service for the Conservatory’s All-Ensemble Fall Workshop over Labor Day weekend. We put together a program of songs, Scripture readings, prayer, and a devotional from Dr. Kathy Kastner (the Conservatory’s percussion professor) that I think everyone enjoyed.

Wheaton College is, of course, a school, which means that approximately one quarter of the student body is new each fall, and my department was no exception. This year’s new music majors are a great group of young musicians, and I am humbled to find myself in a big brother role to many of them. They are all passionate about using their gifts for the glory of God, and I am excited to see how they will all grow as Christian musicians in the two years I will spend in school with them.

Wheaton College is, of course, a school, which means that substantial time is spent studying. My classes this semester have all been fairly challenging. Two-thirds of my credit hours this semester come from non-music classes, which is new for me. The immediate effect is that I spend a lot more time reading. It can be a big of a drag for me at times, but on the whole I am enjoying developing that part of my intellect. I finished two classes at the end of A quad, so I will have a somewhat lighter schedule B quad; I hope to be disciplined enough to use the extra time to give more attention to my remaining classes.

Going back to the beginning of the semester, I am happy to say that I won a seat in the Symphony Orchestra for this season. I now have twice as many performances, but I am really enjoying playing with the orchestra. We had our first full concert two weekends ago and it was a great success. One friend who was in attendance said that we sounded as good at the beginning of our season as last year’s orchestra did at the end. [You can watch the archived video of the concert here.]

This semester has not been without substantial challenges (beyond the challenges of my coursework itself). About three weekends ago, I felt myself running out of energy. It concerned me at first, for normally I do not run out of energy after only five weeks of a semester. That weekend, though, happened to be the orchestra concert I just mentioned. After the concert, I discovered that the “burned out” feeling was gone. I concluded that I had lacked a sense of accomplishment until that point. The concert was my first performance of the year in all senses of the word – I had not even had any major papers, exams, or projects yet in any of my classes. I suppose that the cycle of doing homework and then going to class (or, alternatively, practicing and then going to rehearsal) had started to seem endless, but God provided a performance opportunity that, as Dr. Dan Sommerville, the orchestra director, said, was more than we could ask or imagine, and that I found immensely refreshing.

Finally, as I mentioned in my last post, this school year marks the One Hundred and Fiftieth Anniversary of Wheaton College. From the redesigned College letterhead to the year verse on banners all over campus, we are in full celebration of God’s hand in the institution’s history this year. President Litfin is using his series of chapel sermons this year to reflect on the administrations of each of his predecessors and how God has used them to make Wheaton what it is today.

It occurred to me that it has not yet been five years since I decided to pursue music in college. It was maybe four years ago that Wheaton College became my dream school, just less than three years ago that I auditioned for the Conservatory, three years less two months and a week I received by mail an offer of admission, and two years and two months ago I began my freshman year. I wonder from time to time what exactly I did to deserve this blessing of going to Wheaton College. Then I answer my own question – I did nothing to deserve it. It is a gift from God, pure and simple. Sure, maybe I qualified for admission, but I owe those qualifications to God as well. Looking back on the last two months and seeing all of God’s blessings only confirms for me that God does indeed want me at Wheaton College, and I can only hope to use my time there to strengthen my relationship with Him and serve the community there for His glory.

This is Rubio, over and out.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Top of the Third

I started packing this week. By “packing,” I do not mean filling a suitcase with several changes of clothes and a toothbrush in preparation for a short excursion. No, by “packing” I mean that I am once again preparing for a change of residence – I am once again moving from my childhood home in Oak Park to the campus of Wheaton College.

For my third year, I am moving in a full nine days before classes begin, on August 17, this Monday. I had the option of moving in ten days in advance, but it is still the earliest by far. As some know, I have been elected to the Symphonic Band Cabinet (the student leadership team) for the 2009-2010 performance season, serving as chaplain. The entire Cabinet has recruiting duties during freshman orientation, which begins next Thursday, August 20. Prior to that, the Cabinet is taking a retreat, to the Kalahari Resort and Convention Center in Wisconsin Dells, which accounts for the other three days. (Can I just say that I have the best major department ever? What other department would send its student leaders to Wisconsin Dells?)

The reader can probably surmise that I will have a very busy first week after moving in (and might not finish the moving in process until the end of that week anyway). It will be a whirlwind first week, but once it is over and the semester begins on Wednesday, August 26 (at eight AM for me!), I have quite a few other things to look forward to.

I have two classes this fall that I am particularly looking forward to. The first is Christian Thought, a general education requirement. According to the catalog, the course is “an investigation into the beliefs of the Christian faith.” My instructor for the course is Dr. Paul Kirbas, one of the department’s adjunct instructors. I had Dr. Kirbas for Gospel, Church and Culture, the first in the Bible/theology general education sequence, my freshman year, and really enjoyed that class, so I was very pleased to get a seat in his section of Christian Thought.

The other is Introduction to the History of Christianity. It is an elective for me, and some who know me well might wonder why I am taking a history elective, when history has never been a strong subject for me. I wondered too, when I realized what I was doing. But it is a subject that interests me, I have room in my schedule, and I figure that it might complement Christian Thought.

Something else I am really looking forward to is this year’s Artist Series season. As it happens, 2009-2010 is Season 60, and we have an impressive list of seven events to match. Seven events equal seven exciting evenings at Wheaton College.

A little bit later in the school year (January 9, to be exact) is the One Hundred and Fiftieth Anniversary of alma mater herself. From what I have heard, special events are scheduled throughout 2010. I am quite looking forward to the fun.

And, of course, I am looking forward to that which makes Wheaton College what it is – its people. I have had the privilege of seeing a handful of my Wheaton friends over the summer, as well as keeping up with many others long-distance, but there comes a point when one wants to be able to wake up in the morning and know that he will see friends all day long. Two weeks and that will be my daily experience!

This is Rubio, over and out.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Ignite College Discipleship

One of the biggest blessings for me this summer has been regular attendance at my home church, Calvary Memorial in Oak Park. It was literally the weekend I moved back to school last August when Calvary called its new senior pastor, Dr. Todd Wilson. I had heard him preach when I was home from school on various breaks, but this current summer vacation was the first extended period in which I could listen to his preaching regularly. I have really enjoyed being back at Calvary for these three and a half months.

During the past school year, Calvary instituted a new ministry for the college students in its congregation, called Ignite College Discipleship. At first, one might think that this “college ministry” focused on students attending Calvary during the school year, but Calvary’s college ministry instead focuses on the college students who call Calvary their home church.

The program consists of Sunday morning Sunday school, Wednesday night discussions (seminar-style), and occasional social events. During our Sunday morning meetings, we have studied the Gospel of John, closely examining what it means to be a disciple of Christ – rather than just a Christian. We have not had time for every chapter, but we have gone through at least half a dozen, including Chapter 3 (the concept of being born again), Chapter 10 (the Good Shepherd), and Chapter 14 (Jesus as the only Way to the Father). Wednesday nights have been discussions of the practical manifestation of that Sunday’s topic (e.g., prayer, entertainment). My work schedule has unfortunately kept me from the majority of the Wednesday evening meetings, but I have had perfect attendance on Sunday mornings.

And Ignite has an excellent leader. Aaron Reyes is a Wheaton alumnus (so of course I give him extra points for that) who has given a lot of his time this summer leading our study of John. His passion for becoming like Christ is evident in each of our meetings.

We have just one more Sunday morning meeting this weekend, in which we will finish our study of John. I am looking forward to it. As I have written before, I have spent my entire summer at home, but I have found my three and a half months in Oak Park immensely refreshing, and Ignite has been one of the most refreshing parts of my summer.

This is Rubio, over and out.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Summer Reading II

On May 24, at the beginning of the third week of my summer vacation, I wrote about some books I had started reading at the beginning of the summer. As expected, I have read a few more. Here are three more highlights from my Summer 2009 Reading List.

The Confessions of St. Augustine
I have two reasons for picking this famous work up, and both reasons presented themselves in pairs. I have two friends who mentioned that they were reading Confessions this summer, and I have two classes this fall in which it is quite likely that I will have to read at least parts of Confessions. I am glad I started it this summer: it is not the easiest book to read.

British History for Dummies
Seán Lang
I will probably be going to London next summer with Arts in London, the Conservatory’s biannual study abroad program. I have always had a moderate interest in the United Kingdom, so this summer I finally got around to getting my bearings on the place. This particular book is a through if lengthy survey of the history of the region of the world that is the modern-day United Kingdom.

This Is Your Brain on Music: The Science of a Human Obsession
Daniel J. Levitin
I borrowed this book from a friend at school near the end of the spring semester (I happened to be in his room while he was packing and he offered it to me while clearing his bookshelves), but it took the recommendation of another friend for me to start reading it. This book discusses music (both listening and performing) from the perspectives of neurobiology and psychology. I took a survey course in psychology in high school, so it has been interesting to see some of those ideas applied to my major field of study.

As you can tell from this post and from the May 24 post, I have not read much fiction this summer. I actually just realized that myself when writing this post. Thinking back, I realized that the only substantial works of fiction I have read besides Follett’s Pillars of the Earth (mentioned on May 24) are Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince in preparation for seeing the movie of the same name and Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows because it was sitting next to the former on my shelf. (Both authors are British, incidentally.) The small amount of fiction on my reading list might be proof that I should not be an English major.

I have no problem with fiction, of course, and certainly not the masterpieces of English-language literature (my high school English classes were all a challenge for me but in retrospect I can see that I learned a lot) – living with an English major for a year may have had something to do with that. I guess I just have the kind of mind that leans toward nonfiction. Perhaps now that I have identified it, I can make a more active effort to pursue fiction in my leisure reading.

So, there you have it – part two of a summary of my summer leisure reading. It is interesting to note that with the exception of the two Harry Potter novels, none of books I have mentioned in these two posts are books that I actually own. So the library was definitely a good invention.

This is Rubio, over and out.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

In Defense of Public Transportation

In the two-plus decades I have been part of this world, I have ridden in a number of private vehicles. The first family car I remember is a 1989 Volvo, and my parents currently own a 2003 Toyota Matrix. I have also been a passenger (and sometimes even a driver) of my friends’ assorted cars and similar vehicles. I have ridden in limousines and even a jaguar. Cars are a worthy invention.

But I have no desire to own a car. I feel that, for where I see myself in my early adulthood, the costs outweigh the benefits. I dislike the thought of scraping together money to initially buy a car, and then the regular expenditures for gas, repairs, parking, and insurance.

Instead, I would rather avail myself of public transportation. I consider it to be an essential industry. And thankfully, even mid-range municipalities have such an industry to some degree. A major metropolis like Chicago, where if I have my way I will end up after college, has an equally massive public transportation system.

My personal favorite elements of Chicago’s public transportation system are the Chicago Transit Authority’s rapid transit system and Metra commuter rail. The former provides quick access between most major points in the city itself and several of its closest suburbs (I use it mostly to get from Oak Park to downtown); the latter provides regular access from the city to epicenters within the six-county area (I use it mostly for transit between Wheaton and Oak Park or Chicago). It is all really quite simple. Get on, take a seat, and get off. It provides a handy opportunity to catch up on some reading, too.

In my adult life, I would much rather spend a few hundred dollars a month on public transportation than probably a thousand dollars a month on the costs of owning a car. Public transportation may not take you from portal to portal, but a few blocks’ walk on either end is an easy way to get a bit of exercise.

This is Rubio, over and out.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

In Defense of the Arts

Take a look at this article from Christianity Today’s website. Titled “Saying More than We Can Say,” it defends the value of the arts even in light of ever-shrinking spending habits as a result of the current recession. I was personally very glad to read this article, and not just because my future career depends on the existence of a demand for the arts, but also because I genuinely believe that the arts are the best ways to declare the glory of God.

First a word to my friends in the sciences: I have always been a strong believer of science’s ability to soften some of the effects of sin (e.g., medicine, psychiatry, technology), and I it was in my high school math classes that I realized how strongly the simplicity behind the complexity in mathematics reflects the majesty of the Creator. I have no end of gratitude for the brain God gave me that allowed me to study the sciences at an advanced level in high school and foster my appreciation for them.

Which leads to what I believe is science’s shortcoming: it is somewhat inaccessible. A physician can see for himself or herself the “fearfully and wonderfully made” nature of the human body, but how many people are able to go to medical school?

I would argue that the arts are not so inaccessible. To be sure, just as not everyone can go to medical school, not everyone can be a professional sculptor or violinist (but I am Facebook friends with some future professional violinists, so I am perfectly content with not being one myself). The difference is that the threshold for engaging in the sciences is higher than for the arts. A child at play will far more likely be doing something of an artistic nature than of a scientific nature.

(Allow me to pause to define the two adjectives artistic and scientific. For my purposes, artistic is synonymous with creative, and scientific is synonymous with investigative.)

Because the arts are so accessible, the Church can more readily use this medium to point people toward Christ. And one can quickly see that local churches do in their music ministries, which in some churches may include or be augmented by drama and other creative arts ministries (and what would Vacation Bible School be without craft time?).

Last fall, I began the music history sequence as part of my major requirements at Wheaton College. My professor for Baroque and Classical Eras in the fall and Nineteenth Century Music this past spring, Dr. Jonathan Saylor, showed us that the hearts of many composers in the classical literature were focused on Christ, resulting in some of the most beautiful music in history. Their compositions were their cries of adoration to their Savior. And what (Who) else would have inspired the medieval church to build soaring cathedrals? What (Who) was behind the painters and sculptors of the Renaissance when they painted and sculpted images from the gospels?

Engage the arts…for the glory of God.

This is Rubio, over and out.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Early Summer Musings

The people who know me well will roll their eyes but will not be at all surprised when I state that I know exactly how long my summer break is: 98 days (which is exactly fourteen weeks). Today, Tuesday, is day 29, or one day past the four-week mark.

My obsessive counting skills aside, this first almost-month seems to have gone rather fast, despite the fact that my prediction in my last post was correct: I have only had a handful of days where I had scheduled activities between getting up in the morning and going to bed at night. I do at times miss the incessant pace of classes, rehearsals, meetings, and everything else that (very colorfully, as I use iCal) fills my schedule during the school year, but I have enjoyed the chance thus far this summer to read for pleasure, watch movies, and sleep. The first four weeks were not without its highlights.

As I mentioned in my last post, for the fourth summer in a row, I am in the seasonal employ of the Park District of Oak Park. To be honest, the weather has not been kind to us thus far: we have had more than a few days on which the outdoor air temperature was too low to open the pool. But (speaking for myself), the quieter work environment has given me a chance to reorient myself to the procedures, some of which have changed for this season.

Also, thank God for communication technology. Keeping up with friends scattered across the country and around the world (so many of my friends are spending time in Europe at some point this summer) is never easy, but it is made less difficult with such efficient technology that my generation really does take for granted. I have also been privileged to see a few of my friends from school in person since the end of the spring semester, and I hope the trend continues.

This Sunday, Oak Park and River Forest High School will celebrate its One Hundred and Thirty-Third Commencement. One of the distinguished members of the Class of 2009 is my younger brother, Paul. (The reactions of many of my childhood friends on realizing that Paul is graduating from high school were quite amusing.) And the forecast looks good, so the ceremony should be outside.

Todd Wilson, senior pastor at my home church, Calvary Memorial, started a new sermon series on the Book of Titus three Sundays ago. Pastor Todd was called to the pastorate quite literally the weekend I moved back to school in August, so I have only had sporadic exposure to his preaching in the nine months of the school year. I am really pleased that I will be in town and in the pews for the entirety of this series, which so far has been good.

And, as always, my summer involves following the triumphs and trials of the Chicago Cubs. I went to a game at Wrigley for the first time in a few years with an old friend two weeks ago, and quite enjoyed myself.

In short, my summer is going well. Nothing overly dramatic, but God forbid I ever underestimate the value of rest.

This is Rubio, over and out.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Summer Reading

This summer looks to be substantially more laid-back than last summer. Last summer I had two summer classes at a community college, two week-long trips, and work. This summer, all I have on a rigid schedule is work (I am once again working in pool operations for the Park District of Oak Park). As a result, I have substantially more “free time” to pursue personal interests, see friends, and relax (and practice). Knowing that I would have more time on my hands at the outset, I decided that the first thing I should do is to find a good book.

I have only been home from school for thirteen days, but already I am in the middle of reading four different books. Allow me to mention each and explain why I am reading each.

Christianity through the Centuries: A History of the Christian Church
Earle E. Cairns
I made some adjustments to my course schedule for the fall semester last week, which resulted in the addition of an elective course, Introduction to the History of Christianity. I had been looking around for an interesting elective course to make my schedule a little fuller, and when I came across this one and saw that it had several seats open, I quickly registered. I have never been a particularly strong student in history courses, so in preparation for taking a college-level history course, I picked up Cairns’ book to familiarize myself with the material before actually studying it. Thus far, I am finding it to be an excellent survey of the history of Christianity.

Economics for Dummies
Sean Masaki Flynn
Yes, I am a nerd. But I like to use my summers to obtain a cursory understanding of some disciplines that interest me but will not fit into my four-year plan at school. I am a big fan of the For Dummies series, so if ever I have an interest that I am unable to pursue as a student, I see what For Dummies has to say. I now have a basic knowledge of macroeconomics, and am looking forward to learning about the particulars of microeconomics.

Non-Profit Kit for Dummies
Stan Hutton and Frances Phillips
In my last post, I mentioned my new career interest of performing arts management. I figured that I might want to invest some of my leisure time this summer into familiarizing myself with that industry and related disciplines. I was browsing at Borders last week (armed with a Borders Rewards 40% off coupon!) and struck gold with this For Dummies book. It covers everything: starting a non-profit, management, and fundraising. The authors probably did not write the book with a performing arts organization in mind, but nonetheless many of the principles and certainly most of the information about nonprofit law will apply to whatever future career I might have. (Additionally, nonprofit law applies in some ways to schools, as well, where I will almost certainly start my career.)

The Pillars of the Earth
Ken Follett
Of the four books, Pillars is the only novel. I picked it up last summer and used it as reading material on the four different plane flights in July and August. I decided to read it again this summer, but in the comfort of my beanbag chair. It is a fictional account of the building of a cathedral in twelfth century England, set against the backdrop of the political drama of the time; most notably, the Anarchy. It is a long novel, covering a period of some forty years, and the follows the adventures and interactions of five characters, rotating perspectives.

And I still have some twelve weeks left before I return to school: plenty of time to read a few more books. Once I finish The Pillars of the Earth, a little British history might be next. Or maybe I will see about getting a head start on the teacher education course I have this fall: Introduction to Special Education. No promises, but I might publish another blog entry later in the summer on this same topic.

This is Rubio, over and out.

P.S. Happy Memorial Day!

Sunday, April 19, 2009

My New Career Interest

This past Saturday evening was the final event of the 2008-2009 season of The Artist Series at Wheaton College. Composer Marvin Hamlisch and actor-singer Joel Grey, joined by our own Wheaton College Symphony Orchestra, performed major stage and screen music from the heights of the mid-twentieth century to an enthusiastic audience in Edman Memorial Chapel. I was privileged to serve as acting head stage manager for the event, and I had one of the best days of my life working the show.

Working for the Artist Series has been a huge blessing in my life the past year and a quarter. Readers of this blog will remember my enthusiastic recap of the April 2008 Artist Series presentation of Hector Berlioz' Requiem, for which I also served as acting head stage manager. In the 2008-2009 season, I have been backstage for four of the nine events: Branford Marsalis with the Filharmonia Brasileira, the National Acrobats of China, the Dublin Philharmonic Orchestra, and of course Marvin Hamlisch and Joel Grey.

My experience with the Artist Series has exposed me to the world of performing arts management which, as anybody who has been around me during an “Artist Series weekend” will know, is something that really excites me, to the point of being a second career interest for me.

I say second because I am not for a minute abandoning my passion for music education. And music education and performing arts management are not at all mutually exclusive fields. In fact, the Artist Series seems to be the perfect marriage of the two in a unique program that brings world-class performing arts events into a world-class academic institution, providing a rare opportunity for exposure to the performing arts. What excites me about music education is the unique way it brings people together when they collaborate to produce a concert that in turn brings together an audience. High school students (my preferred level of teaching) are by no means the only demographic who can profit from exposure to and experience in the performing arts.

At this point, I am continuing work toward completion of a Bachelor of Music Education. My own opinion and the opinion of various Conservatory faculty are that music education is an excellent undergraduate degree for a career in performing arts management, especially for one interested in the education and outreach side of the industry. As for what happens after I graduate, I will wait for the Lord’s leading. At this point I want to start my career as a school music teacher, and probably work toward a master’s degree in performing arts management. But for now, as I said, I will continue to work toward my BME and to stay involved with the Artist Series. If it is possible, I encourage you to come to some of next season’s events (great deals on subscription packages are available!). They are:

Alison Balsom (October 2)
Virsky Ukrainian National Dance Company (October 24)
The King’s Singers (November 13)
Russian National Ballet Theatre (January 23)
Band of the Irish Guards and Royal Regiment of Scotland (February 5)
Moscow State Radio Symphony Orchestra (February 27)
Festival of Voices (March 20)

This is Rubio, over and out.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

In Local News

What is your reaction when you hear or read that phrase? If you are watching the news on television (or listening on the radio), do you change the channel (or station)? If you are reading the news headlines on a news website, do you scroll past?

This question came to mind yesterday. I am living at home on spring break this week, and yesterday, while I was in my house for most of the day, I found myself three houses down from a crime scene and evening news cover story. (Read all about it here.) As anyone might, I watched the local news to see the coverage.

I honestly cannot remember the last time I watched the local news. When I am at home on breaks, I watch the national news (my personal preference is NBC Nightly News with Brian Williams). I also keep up with the news online when I am at school via My personal settings on that website provide me with a local news feed, including weather and sports scores, but I rarely even stop scrolling at that section of the page. My focus is generally on the national and international news.

And I suspect that I am not alone. Unless a local event earns national attention (actually, all “national” events are local events – even if that locality is, say, the floor of the United States Senate), lots of people pay little attention. The only exception to this rule, unfortunately, is gossip. Do you fall into this category?

And what might a Christian perspective be on this topic? Does our Lord care about local news, or does He care more about the grand scheme of world events? I think the correct answer is that He cares about both equally.

Consider these two famous phrases from the Psalms: “He determines the number of the stars” (147:4) and “You know when I sit down and when I rise up” (139:2). What greater difference of concerns can there be?

Similarly, in the New Testament, Jesus shows concern for both local events, in his individual interactions with the sick, and events on the larger scale, when he speaks to his disciples of the signs of the end of the age (Matthew 24, Mark 13). I think this contrast, if nothing else, demonstrates what the Christian position should be. Christians, like Christ, ought to care about both ends of the spectrum, and everything in between. We must care about the events in the lives of our families, and we must care about the worldwide Church.

Now, quite obviously, one person cannot care about everything. And, in fact, I do not believe that God calls anyone to such a task. One person’s calling might be to business, another to teaching, and another to the arts. Each calling comes with its own set of challenges, and its own unique ways to glorify God and advance His kingdom. But I think the same spectrum of local events to global events applies, and thus the broad responsibility. The businesswoman must care about her individual customers, partners, and so forth, but must also be aware of market conditions and the economy. A teacher has a responsibility for his students, but must also keep himself abreast of developments in his particular discipline. And so forth.

Turning back to my original thought: should we watch or read the local news? I suggest the question is a step further back. Will knowing what is going on at a local level aid us in glorifying God and advancing His kingdom? I think the question must be answered individually. And I think that our preexisting tendencies might point to that answer. We often concern ourselves primarily with what the Lord has laid on our hearts. Perhaps all we need to do is prayerfully follow His leading as we set priorities, and also remember the commands of Scripture, which we know the Holy Spirit will never contradict.

This is Rubio, over and out.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Round Four

I returned to Wheaton College early yesterday afternoon, and have spent the last twenty-four hours settling back into my dorm room, catching up with the friends who have already returned, and waiting for the friends who are on their way. I am also looking ahead to the start of classes tomorrow. Allow me to share briefly what I have on my academic schedule this semester.

My first class tomorrow is Basic Conducting. In my senior year of high school, I took an independent study with my band director, in which I learned the fundamentals of instrumental conducting, as well as other areas of instrumental music education methods. It has been a year and a half since the end of my senior year, and I am excited to study conducting again. My professor for the course is Dr. Daniel Sommerville. Dr. Sommerville is the music director of the Wheaton College Symphony Orchestra; as such, I have gotten to know him professionally on the occasions when I have served as stage manager for orchestra concerts. I have not yet had him as a classroom teacher, however, and I am really looking forward to finally doing so this semester.

I have two classes tomorrow afternoon. The first is Jazz Theory. When I made my decision to study music education at Wheaton, I initially thought that I would not have any time for elective classes. The Bachelor of Music Education degree plan actually has no required elective hours. But, when I sat down and worked out a four-year plan last year, I found that I actually did have room for a few electives after a few semesters filled with required courses. Jazz Theory is the first elective course in my four-year plan. I chose it for two reasons. First, I figured that as a band director (my immediate career goal upon graduation), I may have the responsibility to work with a jazz ensemble. I gained practical experience in jazz during high school, but as a director I would need a more thorough understanding of jazz music, and Jazz Theory seemed like the perfect way to obtain that knowledge. And second, Dr. Howard Whitaker, whom I had for Music Theory III this past fall, is teaching the course. I really enjoyed studying classical theory with Dr. Whitaker, and I am excited to study jazz theory with him.

The other class tomorrow afternoon is 19th Century Music with Dr. Jonathan Saylor. The course will pick up where Baroque and Classical Eras left off in December. Music history thus far has been a challenge for me, but at the same time, I have really enjoyed it, and I see no reason why that should change.

Later tomorrow afternoon is the first Symphonic Band rehearsal of the semester. The band only has two performances this semester (although we will probably have an additional performance in chapel at some point this spring), but Dr. Yontz has assured us that he will provide us with enough challenging literature to keep us busy.

Tuesday is a lighter day than Monday. First thing in the morning is Aural Skills IV. I ended up with a better grade than I expected in Aural Skills III (after a disappointing finish to Aural Skills II), so I am hoping to continue the trend.

I have a morning break, and first thing in the afternoon is the next course in the teacher education sequence, Learning and Development: The Psychological and Developmental Contexts of Education. The length of the course title is directly proportional to the number of good things I have heard about this course. I really enjoyed the first course in the sequence, The School and Society, so if Learning and Development is the course that gets talked about so much, I expect to enjoy even more. In my AP Psychology course in high school, I learned the fundamentals of developmental psychology, which I expect Learning and Development will cover from a more practical perspective.

And, of course, Tuesday would not be Tuesday without my private trombone lesson. I finished my private lessons last semester quite strongly, so I hope to continue right where I left off. Additionally, for the first time in my college career, trombone is the only instrument I will study during the semester. I hope to use the extra time to accelerate my study.

All of the above is just my academic schedule. Knowing me and knowing the institution, I have no doubt that my schedule as a whole will soon be filled with many more events and activities. But, as I have said before, I thrive on having a busy schedule. I think that this spring will be a good semester. Expect some thoughts on that subject sometime in May.

This is Rubio, over and out.