Saturday, May 31, 2014

Life Update

Careful observers may have noticed a few changes to the biographical information on my social media profiles in the last week. Indeed, the past few months have seen a number of significant changes. Because I can no longer keep track of who I have told about all these changes, the following is a consolidated summary.

The story of the changes really begins with this most recent winter, which in Chicago was historic for its own reasons. Amidst all the snow and cold, I started giving serious consideration to the reality that I was juggling three jobs. I felt successful in each and appreciated the fact that all allowed me to apply my professional training in slightly different ways. However, I knew that given my own limitations, I simply could not continue to be successful in each for much longer. Each demanded, rightly, that I expend considerable mental and emotional energy. My reservoir is not bottomless. So after much prayer and consultation with my parents and other mentors, I made a very difficult decision.

I have resigned from the faculty of Faith Christian Academy, where I had served as Band Director since the fall of 2012. I will deeply miss the close relationships I had with those students. Of the four schools where I have taught to date, the closest relationship I have had with a group of students was there at Faith. I am very proud of all that they accomplished during my time with them, from the main home concerts to solo and ensemble festivals to recitals and everything in between. I hope to cross paths with all of them again.

Ending my service at Faith does necessarily mean I will be equivalently less busy. A few more responsibilities have been added to my work at the Wheaton College Artist Series. My position (Assistant Manager) as first created a year ago originally focused on audience development. I am now, in addition, directly responsible for concert production. It is very thrilling to see a concert event develop from the artist contract all the way to sending my notes in on the Monday after each event. Beyond that, I really enjoy the opportunity to lead and invest in the student staff and volunteers. Ministry to college students is not something I ever imagined I would do, but that essentially is what it is. Pre-production and promotion for the 2014-15 season is well underway, and we are looking forward to many exciting events. It is challenging yet rewarding work, and I am glad to be part of it alongside some great Kingdom servants at Wheaton College.

I have also assumed a few more responsibilities at church. We were saddened at Calvary by the departure of Caleb Widmer as Pastor of Worship and Music at the end of April. The elders have called an Interim Pastor of Worship, who will begin leading services in mid-June. During the vacancy, and an on open-ended basis in to the interim year, I have been promoted to Ministry Associate of Worship and Arts. In addition to continuing to provide direct leadership to the Chamber Orchestra, I now provide leadership to the entire worship and music ministry and administrative support to the worship service planning process. It too is challenging yet rewarding work. I am sad to no longer be working with Caleb, but I have received numerous affirmations that God has prepared me specifically to fill this role, and that is a humbling reality.

One of the effects of those changes is an increased flexibility to my work schedule, because my two remaining jobs are primarily flexible hours. I do have a handful of meetings and rehearsals that are consistent from week to week, but on the whole I will have a much greater degree of flexibility than ever before. I hope this will allow me to take more freelance opportunities – performing, writing, traveling, studying, and who knows what else. I am confident as ever of God’s guiding my life. The next stretch of my life will be unlike any previous stretch, that much is certain. I hope to see you along the way!

Saturday, May 10, 2014

Day of Rest

On the evening of the first Sunday in the spring semester if my freshman year of college, the resident assistant led a floor fellowship meeting. I remember us going around the room, mentioning highlights from our winter breaks, and meeting two new residents. He then gave us a challenge for the semester: observe the Sabbath by refraining from doing homework on Sundays.

I was a music major in college, so a substantial portion of my homework was my practicing. In addition to my primary instrument, I also had various secondary instruments to practice, so practicing required many hours each week. It was easiest for me to complete my practice hours in the music buildings, and since all the academic buildings were closed on Sundays, I had already been refraining from that particular part of my homework on the Sabbath when my RA gave this challenge.

Upon returning to my room after floor fellowship, I thought about what completely taking this challenge would mean. On the surface, it simply meant that I would not do written homework on Sundays, either. But beyond that, it would mean a little extra discipline to get all my weekend homework done by the end of the day on Saturday. I decided to go for it.

I am proud to say that I virtually succeeded in not doing any homework on Sundays for the duration of my college years. I also extended my observance of the Sabbath to include any work for the on-campus jobs I had during college. Sometimes it was necessary to do some work on a Sunday, generally when I had collaborative projects and schedule constraints of other group members necessitated meeting on Sunday, but on the whole, every Sunday was been a day off for me.

That does not mean that I sat around all day watching movies. I attended church in the morning and then spent the afternoon refreshing myself for the week ahead. I usually managed to get a nap in after lunch, and then spent the rest of the day relaxing, sometimes with friends and sometimes just by myself. I might read for personal pleasure, listen to music, or journal. One thing I always liked to do on Sunday evenings, generally not too long before turning in for the night, was go for a walk along the campus perimeter. During the week, I certainly went to many different places on campus, but I was usually more concerned with where I was going than the actual journey.

America is a very active nation. The reputation of New York City as “the city that never sleeps” might well be applied to the whole country. I am not certain that this is the best inclination. Hard work is very noble, and I am sure that it pleases the Lord when we spend our time in our studies and jobs. But we would do well to remember that God Himself rested at the end of the creation week, and that He commanded the fledgling nation of Israel to observe the Sabbath. Even construction of the Tabernacle halted on the Sabbath (Exodus 35).

I challenge you, particularly if you are a college student, to take what one might call the Sabbath Challenge. Refrain from anything related to your studies or job on Sunday, and instead focus on worshipping, relaxing, and preparing yourself for the week ahead. If you are a church employee or in some other job that requires you to be on duty on Sundays, pick a different day for observing a day of rest. Try it for at least a month.