Standing among Giants

I can’t explain just how it felt–but there were definitely a lot of goosebumps involved and nonstop smiling.  It’s the kind of feeling you get when you’re peering over the edge of the Grand Canyon, or holding a brand new baby, or eating mangoes.  But I wasn’t doing any of those things–I was standing in Carnegie Hall.  On the stage.

MAJOR DISCLAIMER: I was part of a 210 member back-up choir in Carnegie Hall which one buys into and does not have to audition for.  I was not personally performing in Carnegie Hall.  That in no way, however, diminishes the fact that it was awesome, epic, indescribable.  Best. Senior Trip. Ever. 

I was standing in the footprints of giants.

As we entered through stage right, I was walking where the world’s finest musicians have inspired audiences for the past 125 years.  I could imagine Yo-Yo Ma, Jascha Heifetz, Ella Fitzgerald, or Renee Fleming filling this breathtakingly regal dome with sound–the same space that our voices would soon penetrate.

I was standing behind giants.

As we began our sound check for that evening’s sold out concert for Keith and Kristyn Gettys’ concert, An Irish Christmas, we were standing almost close enough to touch these history-makers.  While far from a household name, the Gettys are well-known in protestant churches as resurrect-ers of hymn writing.  They create Biblically-sound, singable, timeless hymns for communal and energetic worship.  The heart of their music pulsates to an eternal beat that makes you want to take part in it.  They do not leave behind them only collections of timeless songs, but a community-focused philosophy of church music that is desperately needed in a world of spotlights and superstars.

But I was not just standing behind giants, nor in their footprints.

I was standing among giants.

I glance around me as the conductor and pianist confer.  Two seats down on my right is the professor of Elementary Music Education at Purdue.  To my left is a high school choir director and composer.  Somewhere behind me is a married couple that have taught private voice and instrument lessons for years.  In the row in front of me is my own college choir director who is also my voice teacher.  While I have met most of these only in the past 24 hours, I know from my teacher that he pours his life into his work.  He has devoted his time and energy since his high school years into studying and teaching music.  I am certain the same could be said for the many others I met.  Singing with these often unseen giants was one of the most musically-formative moments of my life to date.

As a college senior studying music, I hear “So you’re going to teach, right?” a lot.  Don’t get me wrong: I love teaching.  I currently teach a handful of students, and watching them progress and develop as vocalists, violinists, or pianists is incredibly rewarding.  However, a month ago I would have answered that question, “Mmm… maybe part-time.”  I like teaching, but until now I haven’t had the conviction that teaching is what God wants me to be doing.  I’ve never had a “calling,” and that has bothered me at times.

Something happened in NYC, though–walking through the streets of Manhattan after the concert, talking to one music teacher in particular.  He reminded me that because music is a gift of God, Christian musicians are responsible to pass it on; it’s a sort of specialized discipleship.  Listening to him, I observed how intrigued he was by the latest child prodigy, the polychord at the end of one of our pieces, a recent excellent performance of Vivaldi’s Gloria.  He left me with the feeling that he couldn’t not teach music, because he loved it so much–and somehow he passed that bug on to me, too.  I can’t explain the feeling, the burden, the… calling?  The pressing need to teach music, to pass on what I have been given, hit me like a train hits a stalled car that has been sitting on the tracks for months, hoping to be hit by a train (don’t overthink it–every blog post needs at least one really bad metaphor).  The motivation created by this new-found, God-granted purpose has already filled me with so much freedom and direction.  And I know from the teachers I talked to that this God-given purpose keeps them going through the long hours and stubborn students.

These teachers are the link between music’s history and its future.  They pass on the precious gift that they have been given.  If the soloist in Carnegie Hall is the pinnacle of the musical mountain, music teachers are the massive, steadfast base which lift that soloist up.  Music teachers make music history happen.  They turn the listener of music into a creator of music.

We turn the listener into a creator.

I’m excited to join the ranks of music teachers–I’m privileged to share my passion–I’m blessed to have been granted by God the calling to join the giants.

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Things I Don’t Understand about Bible College

 

I have some thoughts about college.  Bible college.  My Bible college.  If you’re on of my fellow classmates, hey!  How’s break?  Evidently pretty lame since you’re reading my blog.  Do you like how I just insulted you AND me there?  Clever, aye?  Well, that will be pretty much the rest of this post–stamping on my own feet, and, if you’re anywhere close to me, you might be stamped upon as well.

These are three things I hate about what I’ve seen of college and why.

1. Students who are at college solely for the degree 

We all know this guy.  He wouldn’t say that he’s just in it for the degree (actually, maybe he would…), but it’s pretty clear if you really look at his actions.  He doesn’t study all semester, then crams to get good grades on the exam.  He fluffs up all of his papers to meet the page limit.  He works on other assignments in class instead of listening to the instructor.  WAIT WAIT WAIT.  That’s me.  But that’s not me at all.  Yeah, I do a little fluffing/cramming, but that doesn’t mean I’m just here for the certificate.  I just… don’t always care about learning.  Which is exactly the same thing.

This would be a heinous enough crime if I were at a secular school.  But at a Bible college?  Training for ministry?  If I’m not learning, what am I paying for?  A piece of paper to go on my wall that says I’m qualified to help you with your spiritual problems/teach your children/preach the Word of God to you/praise God through music/spread the Gospel throughout the world.  This is a little more weighty than fudging my way through a business degree.  Don’t fluff papers.  The teachers assigned them so that you could learn more about ministry.  Unless your teachers are…

2.   Teachers who don’t even know what they want their students to learn

Seriously.  Why?  Why be a teacher if you don’t have a passion for your subject, a passion for passing it on to the next generation, a passion for them to really learn and live?  And if you have that passion, why not express it in your lesson plans and assignments?  I value so much teachers who are so burdened for their students to understand how the Bible affects their lives that they assign hard projects, not just for the sake of hardness, but to cause them to grapple with the deep questions.  They expect students to learn and remember information for tests, because they know what they want students to learn and they expend their teaching energies on those important things.  These are the super teachers, who live and breath history, theology, communication, whatever their field of study; who have expectations and communicate them.  Unfortunately, when they expect hard, important things, the students give way to…

3.  Constant complaining about homework

I pay a lot of money to go to school.  My parents pay a lot of money for me to go to school.  The government pays a lot of money for me to go to school.  Anonymous donors pay a lot of money for me to go to school.  Extended family members pay a lot of money for me to go to school.  My school pays a lot of money for me to go to school.

All those people–myself included–do not invest all those resources in me so that I could sit at school and complain about how much I hate it.  That’s just plain stupid–you whine about how you don’t like school and you whine about how much it costs.  Newsflash: Choose a different school.  Oh, you do like it?  Then stop whining.  All that money, all this time, is going for you to learn.  What you’re learning depends upon your college and program, but it was evidently something you decided to pursue as a course of study and wanted to learn.  [If you didn’t, maybe you should re-evaluate why you’re there]  Part of learning is homework, because teachers can’t do everything in class.  They try to set you on the right track to learn the rest by yourself.  So do it, and stop whining about how much you hate reading/writing/projects/review.  It’s part of the learning process–learn to love it, force yourself to make it your thing.

 

 

One of my teachers called this The Great Swindle, or some such title: college is the only institution where the supplier and the consumer work together to cheat the consumer.  If such must be true of college as an institution, may it not be said of those seeking to train Christians to enter the ministry.  If it is true that the world genuinely needs what we have to offer–the Bible–then we must earnestly pursue that knowledge of the Bible, of the world, of service.  We must not rejoice over canceled class periods.  We must not thrive on open book tests.  We must not give any less than our greatest efforts in all of our work.  May our desire for knowledge exceed our desire for the easy route.

 

 

Work

Work (wurk)

noun
1. exertion or effort directed to produce or accomplish something; labor; toil.
2. productive or operative activity. 
5. something on which exertion or labor is expended; a task or undertaking. 
7. the result of exertion, labor, or activity; a deed or performance.
[Credits to dictionary.reference.com, and yes, I did just skip 3, 4, and 6. They were typical employment-ish definitions–one aspect of work, but not the one I wanted to talk about. You can look them up if you really want to know.]

It’s effort.  It’s activity.  It’s an undertaking.  It’s results.

Why do we work?  Why do we engage in productive activity?
I had a thought on work the other day.  I was thinking about God’s work in me, and then just God’s work in general.  His work seems to be twofold–creative work (example: creation), and transforming/restoring work (example: ME).  He both made all things, and then when sin destroyed, rather, twisted, his work, he worked (and still does work) to restore it by transforming it to what it should be.
So what about my work, whatever it be?  My daily activities?  What should be the focus of them?  I certainly can’s create from nothing.  I’m not God.  But, with his help, we can all be involved in the works of transforming and restoring–changing the universe one mess, one hungry tummy, one broken cupboard, one broken heart at a time.
It’s kind of a cool–

work has purpose, meaning, and an element of God-likeness.

[And by the way, I know I’m missing something, because Adam and Eve worked in the garden before sin, and I’ve always been under the impression that we’ll work in heaven, after sin.  If you have thoughts to hone and develop my infant theology of work, I’d be very interested to hear them. ]