Saturday, September 29, 2012

Articles of the Week - 9/29

I had quite the variety this week, both in terms of my scheduled activities and in my blog reading. Here is a sampling of the latter.

First, in education news and commentary

  • Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel wrote an op-ed in the Chicago Tribune challenging the city to not shy away from education reform
  • Former Florida Governor Jeb Bush discussed digital learning at NBC's Education Nation Summit
  • Lindsey Burke of The Heritage Foundation outlines movement in the public debate over education, in part due Heritage's opposition to national standards. (For me, I am not opposed to national standards, I am just opposed to them being law.)
  • Amy Payne, also of Heritage, discusses a new feature film highlighting parental involvement in education
In case you missed it, there was some interesting news in arts and entertainment. The Musicians of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra went on strike last weekend. John von Rhein and Mark Caro (of the Tribune) reflect on the national implications of this move, and Mark Caro reported on the eventual outcome - and what may come. In the broader topic of the arts, I found an interesting piece about an artist moving from the city to the country (part of Christianity Today's This is Our City project).

Plenty of good reads on matters of faith and theology this week as well:
On matters of public policy and politics, I came across Jesse Eaves' update for World Vision on the fight against trafficking, David Azerrad's call in The Foundry for a "real opportunity agenda," and Lexington's analysis for The Economist of the voting culture in America.

Finally, Carrie Muskat reports for MLB that Dale Sveum's first year with the Chicago Cubs had elements of success, John Hubbach discusses moving from one suburb to another, and a young professional violinist offers seven tips for time management.

What articles, blogs, or columns caught your attention this week?

Monday, September 24, 2012

Faithful with a Little

Part of the "Devotional Thoughts" series. Go to the list of Labels in the right sidebar and click "Devotional Thoughts" to browse the entire series. Scripture quotations are from the English Standard Version.


In the second half of the Olivet Discourse (Matthew 24-25), Jesus tells three parables. The second of these three is the famous Parable of the Talents. A man goes away on a journey, and leaves three of his servants with five, two, and one talents each; the first two servants use the money to end up with twice the original amount while the third servant buries the money for safekeeping. Upon his return, the man rewards the first two servants and condemns the third.

I have recently been very convicted by this story. As readers who know me are aware, I have had continuous professional employment in my field of training since I graduated, though I have not yet secured full-time employment (or full-time equivalency in part-time jobs). This has been a source of some frustration for me, because my feeling is that not yet having a full-time job in my field is inhibiting my career advancement, delaying the time when I can start graduate school, and so on.

In the meantime, as I have been convicted, I do have substantial responsibilities, even if they are not full time. I do have students who need teaching and many other commitments that I need to meet. How can I ever expect to advance in my career if I do not demonstrate competency with these part-time commitments? And really, at least I am working in my field, a situation not shared by all my young adult peers. And I happen to like all the various things I am doing. (This was the gist of the pep talk I have given myself a lot recently.)

I see myself as either the servant with the two talents or with the one. At this point in my life, I have not been entrusted with a full-time job, but I have been entrusted with many part-time engagements. I can either bury the talent ("wait" for a full-time job to drop into my lap), or I can apply myself diligently and faithfully with what I have. My prayer, naturally, is that I will do the latter, like the servant with the two talents. After all, he ended up with four talents, which is not far from having the five with which his fellow began.

What "little" things has God entrusted to you - and will you be faithful with them until God entrusts you with more?

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Articles of the Week - 9/22

Though it seems longer ago thanks to the news media having moved on from headlining with it, the Chicago teachers' strike ended within the last week. I will begin with a few highlights from that event and the broader topic of education reform.

This past week also contained Constitution Day, and, not surprisingly, The Heritage Foundation had a number of related pieces.
I had quite a wide variety of highlighted pieces on matters of faith and theology, which I will organize by publication
Finally, two more pieces:
What have you read this week that you feel is worth sharing? Please share a link below!

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Articles of the Week - September 15

I must admit: when I first heard that the Chicago Teachers Union might strike, I had no idea it would become national (even international) news. I guess I am so used to Chicago that I forget, sometimes, that it is (to paraphrase Jonathan Blanchard and Phil Ryken), a world-stage city.

All that to say, I read more than a few articles and columns about the strike. The highlights are James Sherk's factual and theoretical analysis of the situation for The Foundry and three editorial pieces from the Chicago Tribune: the editors' support for the mayor, Clarence Page's assessment of shifts and conflicts within the Democratic Party, and Jeb Bush's take on inevitable trends in education reform (the former governor of Florida is now chair of the Foundation for Excellence in Education).

In matters of faith and theology, I found the usual wide mix of thought-provoking or challenging pieces. Randy Newman draws a distinction between complexity and mere confusion in presenting the gospel. Paul Tripp offers some advice for facing each new day of ministry (written mostly for readers in professional ministry, but I think the advice is wholly applicable for those of us ministering in other vocations), Keith Johnson offers two pieces of advice for good "theological thinking," and Mitch Chase offers some advice for how to read the Bible's many layers. Jon Acuff reminds readers that God is there, if only we would stop and see.

In arts and entertainment, Perri Klass reports for The New York Times on studies showing lifelong benefits of early music lessons, not just music exposure (be sure to read all the way to the end of the article), and The Economist tracks changes in perceptions of classical music in the age of recordings.

Finally, Laura Tremaine provides a helpful explanation of how World Vision child sponsorship works (this is something I would like to do, hopefully starting within a few years), and Verlyn Klinkenborg considers yet another sign of the changing seasons.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Gifts of Grace

Part of the "Devotional Thoughts" series. Go to the list of Labels in the right sidebar and click "Devotional Thoughts" to browse the entire series. Scripture quotations are from the English Standard Version.


Read: Romans 12:3-8

This is one of many Pauline passages that celebrates diversity within the body of Christ. Here, Paul calls his readers to use their gifs, which "differ according to the grace given to us" (v. 6). Does this mean that some believers receive different amounts of grace? I think not. Justification is an all-or-nothing phenomenon, and sanctification is a process, but I think it is clear from Scripture that complete sanctification is promised to all who claim Jesus as Lord and Savior.

But that grace, while given without discrimination, may differ in its manifestation. Paul lists several ways grace may manifest itself in the life of a believer: prophecy, service, teaching, exhortation, generosity, leadership, and mercy. What intrigued me most when I read this passage a few days ago was an ESV footnote to a phrase in verse 8: "[let] the one who leads, [lead] with zeal." The footnote is to "leads," and the alternative translation offered is "gives aid." While of course a true definition of leadership includes a dimension of serving, this alternative translation reinforces the gracious nature of all the actions in Paul's list.

In sum, while grace may manifest itself differently in the life of each believer, each has received grace from God, and it is thus fitting (actually, commanded) that the same grace be shown to others, in whatever way God may empower.

How has God shown you grace, and how might God have empowered you to show grace to others?

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Articles of the Week - September 8

As with last week, I will begin this week's highlights with presidential politics. Three pieces from the Chicago Tribune to begin: Daniel Byrne cautions readers against "the Obama hype," Rex Huppke bemoans campaign tactics' effects on impressionable young children, and the editorial board looks beyond the scripted and rehearsed conventions to the presidential debates. In The Foundry, Julia Shaw reacted to the Charlotte convention's soundbite, "we all belong to the government," and on a related subject, Rich Tucker champions George Washington's model of presidential leadership.

I also came across a few good articles on education. Amy Payne, writing for The Foundry, outlines "The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly of a New School Year," and her colleague, Virginia Walden Ford, praises Condoleeza Rice's comments on school choice. In the Chicago Tribune, the editorial board voices strong support for merit pay and school choice (two concepts I personally and professionally support also).

In arts and entertainment, Mark Ellen of The Guardian reviews David Byrne's new book, How Music Works and The Economist looks at the usefulness of conductors

The rest of this week's highlights are a bit of a smorgasbord, so I will present them by publication rather than topic.

In addition to the pieces already mentioned, the Tribune includes Mary Schmich's call for "appreciating other people's work" and Sebastian Swett's reflections on the larger reality reflected by the history and controversy over the Pledge of Allegiance.

For The Gospel Coalition blog this week, Eric Tonjes writes an insightful piece on engaging the culture, Mary Kassian provides a very helpful summary of complementarianism (I certainly found her explanations clarifying), Douglas Wilson analyzes the worldview of The Lord of the Rings, and Owen Strachan celebrates the rise (or return) of the pastor-theologian.

Speaking of which, the pastor-theologian Jason Hood writes on the SAET blog about "A Wrong Way to Do Theology." Jon Acuff muses on the difficulty of grace. Chuck King of College Church in Wheaton talks about classic hymns that have structure-defying refrains and "well-crafted modern hymns." Finally, the editors of The New York Times reflect on the season-marking nature of Labor Day.

Share what articles caught your attention this week in the comments section below!

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Three Bucket List Musical Experiences

Most of my professional musician peers have bucket lists of musical experiences. The experiences include learning (and performing, usually) the most well-known concerti (or arias) for one’s instrument (or voice) and meeting (and having a lesson with) the most well-known performers on one’s instrument, as well as such exotic side shows as visiting the home of J.S. Bach, going to a Proms concert, and so forth.

Music aficionados (which may of course overlap with the above demographic) often have bucket lists of musical experiences as well. The top of these lists is generally occupied by the desire to see one’s favorite artist live in concert.

As I was reflecting this summer on my life as a professional musician, I realized that some of my most fulfilling musical experiences were as a listener, rather than a performer. That is not to say that I think little of performing experiences. I am, after all, a music educator, and I am paid, in part, to prepare students for public performances. I also have many great memories of performing myself, particularly from my time as an undergraduate at Wheaton College, and I am grateful that performance was a core part of the Conservatory curriculum. But there is great value in simply listening to music, especially through attending live performances.

But where to begin? In some ZIP codes, there are probably dozens of concerts occurring nightly. I want to recommend three live musical experiences that I believe every person should add to his or her bucket list. Feel free to add to this list in the comments section.

1. Training Orchestra Concert

Young people have a lot of energy. This will not surprise anyone who has spent any time with children, but young adults too have a lot of energy. This energy is often particularly evident when young people begin the first exciting years of their careers. The excitement of finishing college, getting a job, and doing what one loves combine into high levels of productivity.

I have seen this phenomenon in training orchestras. These young adult musicians bring a different kind of energy to the stage than their elder colleagues. With their whole careers yet to unfold, these twenty-something orchestral musicians fill the concert hall with an excitement that is hard to describe – and the performances are simply suburb.

Training orchestras in the United States include the Civic Orchestra of Chicago, the New World Symphony (Miami), and the Symphony in C (Camden, New Jersey).

2. Outdoor Classical Concert

Outdoor classical music festivals are seriously one of the best ways to spend a summer evening. When and where else can you hear major choral, orchestral, and/or wind repertoire performed by professional musicians and have a picnic at the same time? For those of us who cannot afford to hire the Irish Tenors to sing at our private backyard barbecues, summer outdoor concerts fill this void. You can even take pictures and talk to people during the performance (but please keep it to a minimum).

Outdoor classical concerts in the United States are almost limitless during the summer months. Some examples: Grant Park Music Festival (Chicago), Hollywood Bowl (Los Angeles), the Ravinia Festival (Highland Park, Illinois, just north of Chicago), the Tanglewood Festival (Lenox, Massachusetts, outside Boston), and Wolf Trap National Park for the Performing Arts (Vienna, Virginia, outside Washington).

3. Performance of a Sacred Masterwork

I was a little spoiled during my undergraduate years, and even after with my continuing connections to Wheaton, because the Wheaton Conservatory presents a lot of sacred masterworks. But Christian colleges are not the only places to hear these pieces, though there is something extra moving about watching these young Christian musicians present this music that speaks explicitly of their faith. (Perhaps more on that subject later.)

Performances of sacred masterworks are even more limitless than outdoor classical concerts, so I will instead suggest pieces rather than ensembles or venues. Some suggestions: Bach’s Mass in B Minor, Handel’s Messiah, and the Requiems of Brahms, Mozart, and Verdi. And those five are seriously only a very small portion of the worthwhile repertoire.


This is Rubio, over and out.

Monday, September 3, 2012

When to Pray

Today I am beginning a new series on my blog, "Devotional Thoughts." (Some of you may know that during my junior year at Wheaton College, I served as Symphonic Band Chaplain - some of the devotionals I wrote in that role will appear here, as well as new ones based on my personal reading of Scripture.) They will all be tagged under "Devotional Thoughts," so eventually you will be able to browse the whole series by selecting that tag from the right sidebar. Scripture quotations are from the English Standard Version.


Read: Daniel 2:1-30

Synposis of the text:

  • Nebuchadnezzar is greatly troubled by a dream. He demands its interpretation from magicians, sorcerers, et al., in his court, though he refuses to actually tell them the contents of the dream. When they are unable to fulfill his command, he orders their immediate execution. (verses 1-13)
  • Daniel, informed of the recent events behind the king's decree by the captain of the guard, requested an audience with the king, "that he might show the interpretation." (verses 14-16)
  • Daniel gathers his companions and asks them to "seek mercy from the God of heaven" in Daniel's task. That very night, God reveals the dream's interoperation to Daniel, and Daniel in turn offers a hymn of praise. (verses 17-23)
  • Daniel is brought before the king, and when Nebuchadnezzar asks whether Daniel can offer an interpretation, Daniel replies that only God can do so, and God has chosen to reveal the interpretation to Daniel that Daniel might give it to the king. (verses 24-30)
Consider the actions of Daniel. When his task is set, his first action is to gather his companions and ask for their prayers (v. 17-18). When God provides aid, his first action is to offer the hymn of praise (v. 19ff). Only then does Daniel go to offer his services to Nebuchadnezzar.

How often, when set a task, do we immediately start using our own knowledge and skills to find a solution, instead of first taking even a moment to ask God for wisdom and strength, let alone the solution itself? Do we instead wait until after we have asked the audience, phoned a friend, and searched Wikipedia? In his letter to the Philippians, Paul tells us to "let [our] requests be known to God" (4:6), with no instructions whatsoever to do anything else first.

And then, when God in His mercy provides aid, how often do we immediately go to implement the solution, without again taking even a moment to offer thanks? Sure, we may offer thanks once things have settled down and we have filed our final report, clocked out, driven home, had dinner, and watched TV, but what does our relationship with God lose when we do not immediately turn to give Him praise? In the first letter to the Thessalonians, Paul tells us to "give thanks in all circumstances" (5:17). (In fact, I just realized as I was writing this the similarities between the concluding passages of Philippians and I Thessalonians.)

Today, if you face a difficult task (or really, any task) will you ask for the strength and wisdom that only God can provide? And will you offer your own hymn of praise and thanksgiving when God does provide?

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Articles of the Week - September 1

This time of year is both "back to school season" and "political convention" season, so I will begin this week's digest with articles and posts from those two topics.

Back to School: Lindsey Burke compiled "Some Surprising Education Numbers" for The Foundry, Romanita Hairston writes for World Vision about the need (and simple ways) to empower child success in education, Sean Kennedy calls in the Chicago Tribune for decertification of the Chicago Teacher's Union (and, even as an educator myself, I agree with him, as CTU has gone beyond ensuring a safe working environment for its members to burdening taxpayers with its demands for luxuries), and my friend Allison J. Althoff interviews Geoffrey Canada, founder of New York City's Harlem Children's Zone, for This is Our City - this man understands how to commit to ensuring children have a chance at a successful future!

Political Convention: In The Foundry, Lee Edwards explains the role and often-overlooked significance of the conventions, and Amy Payne, writing as the Republican National Convention wrapped, highlights the issues raised in this first convention and the significance of this election to America's future course. The Economist muses over the case for a second term for Barack Obama, and John Dickerson reflects in the Chicago Tribune on the effect of Ann Romney's speech to the RNC.

I had a handful (a potpourri, more accurately) of articles having to do with music this week. Ben Sisario wrote for The New York Times an interesting piece on recent developments in electronic dance music (EDM) and its relation to the larger music industry, Donna Perlmutter summarized some of the jokes musicians have about each other in the Los Angeles Times, Chuck King wrote two pieces, one about re-packaging classic hymns and the other about "the joy of just simply making music,"and Niels Swinkels interviews Klaus Heymann, founder of Naxos, for San Francisco Classical Voice.

Now to pieces about faith and theology. Jason Hood writes for the SAET blog about learning how to read the Bible (advice intended mostly for academic settings, but could be useful in personal devotions as well), Leslie Leyland Fields wrote a sobering column on our identity in Christ, and Jon Acuff writes about his experience of unlearning God. For the blogs of The Gospel Coalition this week, Chris Costaldo summarizes current challenges to gospel ministry, and Tim Keller proposes that, when sharing Christ, one should start with the beauty of the gospel before moving to the rationale for it (or put another way, making it personal before making it reasonable).

And finally, two more pieces from The Foundry, Dominique Ludvigson's summary of the news that Wheaton College's lawsuit over the HHS preventive services mandate had been dismissed on technical grounds (the College and its lawyers are deciding on their next move) and Ed Fuelner's attribute to Neil Armstrong, Ray Pritchard discusses packing and moving, and Kevin Purdy suggests not checking email until 9 AM, along with other beginning-of-the-day advice.