Friday, December 22, 2006

Christmas in Ohio

I'm here in Bellbrook, Ohio for Christmas with my parents. I'm writing this blog with my dad looking over my shoulder because he wants to see how I do it. I'm trying to convince him to start a blog of his own so I can look at it every day, too.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Book Review

Tonight, after I returned home from a long day, with a still-sore foot from my fall yesterday that left me hobbling all day, I was frustrated by a minor personal irritation, so instead of ruminating over it I looked for something to just get my mind off of it. I had on my table great works of philosophy and inspiration. But I bypassed them and settled down for the next hour with the great classic The Bobbsey Twins On A Houseboat, by Laura Lee Hope (reprinted 2004, Grosset & Dunlap). (One of my twelve-year-old students had left it on the table after his last lesson.)

Plot synopsis: The Bobbsey siblings, two sets of twins--twelve-year-olds Bert and Nan and six-year-olds Freddie and Flossie--find a houseboat for sale on the lake near their home. They try to convince their father to buy it, which he promptly does in the next chapter. Soon, along with cousins, parents, a politically incorrectly-characterised cook (first edition: 1955) and the dog and cat, they are on their way down the river on a houseboat vacation. Along the way, they put out fires and escape storms and drowning. Snap the dog rescues Snoop the cat when he falls overboard. Tall, red-bearded Capton McGinton scolds Harry mildly for disobeying orders and swimming alone, then promptly gives all the children candy bars. I got as far as Dorothy saving the lifeboat singlehandedly, when I finally gave up on it.

Rating: one to five stars, depending which side of 12 years old you are on.

Monday, December 04, 2006

'Tis the season

Here's an open invitation, for whomever of my friends might happen to be reading this (including my dad, but it would be a long drive) to come to the Arden Hills SDA Church in Highland this Sabbath (Dec. 9) for church, because my new ensemble, Loma Linda Vivace Violins, will be having their debut church performance. We played our very first performance at Loma Linda Academy for the string department winter concert yesterday, and this Sabbath will be our first time doing a church service. I'm conducting! Never thought I'd be a conductor. Even of 15 elementary and junior high school violinists.

Yesterday morning at 10 AM was our annual winter perfomance with all the group classes, including my Vivace and Book 1 groups. Then I took off for a 12:00 rehearsal and then performance of Messiah in Palm Springs, then back again to play in a string ensemble accompanying the choirs at Cal State San Bernardino. I made it through the day, but I think December for musicians is quite a bit like March for tax accountants.... Next Sunday I have to report to a Presbyterian church to help out with the Palm 7:30 AM.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006


It has been said by scholars that monotheism "emerged" gradually into more and more well-developed human civilizations, as a reflection and indication of a more highly organized political and social system.

It has also been said by "enlightened" scholars of academia today, in the 21st century, obviously the pinnacle of highly-developed societies, that monotheism is a myth, fit for "unenlightened" fools from the Dark Ages. Now we must believe that our origins are from gobbledygook, more disorder than even polytheistic religions teach.


Thursday, November 23, 2006

What I Am Thankful For

Praise ye the LORD. Praise God in his sanctuary: praise him in the firmament of his power.
Praise him for his mighty acts: praise him according to his excellent greatness.
Praise him with the sound of the trumpet: praise him with the psaltery and harp.
Praise him with the timbrel and dance: praise him with stringed instruments and organs.
Praise him upon the loud cymbals: praise him upon the high sounding cymbals.
Let every thing that hath breath praise the LORD. Praise ye the LORD.

Psalm 150

Just thought I'd throw that in because it's Thanksgiving today. So here's a short (perhaps trite, but true) list of what I am thankful for.

1. My parents, for always loving me and helping me with everything. Although they are across the country, I can always count on my mom for her Friday morning call, and my dad for his periodic email commentaries. I'm also thankful that I have somewhat of an extended family, not large, and scattered about, but I think of them often and pray for them.

2. My friends--I still can't believe I have so many wonderful friends, especially because of Advent HOPE. They are not only wonderful people who are loving and loyal, but a good influence as well. I've made a lot of good decisions the past few years because of their influence. Today I'm going to my friends Minnette and Ben's home for supper, along with a large group of our Bible study girls.

3. Especially my best friend Monica, who strangely enough doesn't seem to get tired of going to Target with me and putting up with my craziness and lack of coherent speech.

4. A big fluffy cat who loves to curl up on my lap when I'm reading. What more can you ask for?

5. A nice place to live in a terrific community, a little garden, nice things, plenty of food and clothing, etc. Sounds cheesy but you can't neglect that.

6. Living in a place where you can enjoy the mountains, ocean, desert, big city, gardens, museums, concerts, everything within about an hour's drive.

7. All my cute students who are growing up to be lovely people. They work very hard (most of them) and are developing great skills of concentration and intellect in the process. And most of their families are great to work with, too.

8. The sun. The atmosphere. The balance of oxygen and other elements. The angle and speed of the earth's rotation. The fact that no enormous comet has yet crashed into the Earth. Think about it.

9. Just open an anatomy book or any nature book and try to tell me that all this just happened. Show me someone who actually believes in evolution over millions of years, from single cells into frogs and monkeys, etc., and I'll show you someone who really does believe in myths and fairy tales!

10. Through prayer, I have been able to overcome some bad habits this year. (hope it sticks)

11. Again through prayer, I have been able to overcome some of the difficulties and depressing things I've dealt with for much of this year. (hope it sticks, too)

12. Sea otters, pandas, penguins and African pygmy falcons.

13. Target.

14. Wonderful music, like Mahler symphonies, Brahms chamber music, etc. etc. etc.

15. My violin, to play them on.

16. I'm halfway done learning the Glazunov violin concerto!

17. Down comforters.

18. Blogger with a large storage capacity because this could go on for a while.

19. Friends who love me enough to keep reading this far.

20. And for the most important thing: God, who loved the world so much that He gave us His only Son. I heard the best quote at church last Sabbath: "The love of God is like the Amazon River flowing down to water one daisy." (author unknown) Not only did God give us everything we have on earth, He created the entire universe, and we have no idea what wonders are out there for us to enjoy eventually. Also He gave us His Law, so we have not only a standard but a divine standard to live by, so we can learn to grow up in His character. And if that wasn't enough, He has done and is doing everything possible to avoid destroying us along with our sins, and that is to come personally to live with us, and even be killed by us, so He died instead of us, just simply because He loves us and also, oddly enough, probably even likes us, because He wants to be with us. Compare that with all the other world religions, of various gods killing each other and generating bastard children in soap-opera style, or forcing people to sacrifice to appease the volcano, or tantalizing people with paradise if you do good and eat your vegetables or all kinds of hell if you don't, or of frogs losing their tails and turning into monkeys and eventually your uncle Charlie. I've made my decision.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Steph the Violist!

I've been undertaking an interesting project lately--I've become a violist! No viola jokes, please! Yes, I'm battling the enormous beast (see picture).Thanks to my co-worker April's husband, I have a viola on loan. It's not too hard to play, although it's a little more tiring because it's huge. I can hardly reach the pegs! The hardest part, though, is reading the music. (In case you're interested, viola music is usually written in alto clef, which basically means that middle C is smack dab in the middle of the staff, rather than just under it as in treble clef or just above it as in bass clef. It's pretty much just used for violas. However, sometimes it changes to treble clef, too.) I'm starting to get the hang of it, though. I've been playing chamber music with my friends Jenn, David, Adrian and Jolene. In fact, we are having our first performance this Saturday night, at the Loma Linda Villa. My debut as a violist!

Thursday, November 09, 2006


A great example of the gullibility of the American Consumer...

The other day I joined the usual crowd of thousands of worshippers in the Shrine to American Capitalism (Target) to buy a comfortable pair of headphones for my iPod for exercising. I found a pair I liked, and there was another pair of the same brand and style in white--it looked at least, for all the world, like the exact same headphones, just a different color. But the price tag for the white pair: $11.98; for the black: $4.99. I searched and searched the box for any hint of difference, but everything was exactly the same, word for word. I even hailed a young shrine priest in the traditional red-and-khaki garb and asked him if he knew of a difference besides the color--and price--and after investigating the boxes thoroughly as well, he reached the only obvious explanation for the discrepancy: the white headphones match the iPods. (iPod headphones are traditionally white. Of course.) Who could be caught listening to their iPod with black headphones?! Horrors!

I am the proud owner of a pair of black headphones. Which match my iPod just fine, thank you. (It's black.)


I've been having trouble adding pictures to my blog, but this time it worked...I had to add my favorite panda picture I took at the National Zoo. Pandas, along with racoons, penguins, and Asian small-clawed otters, are some of my favorite animals, and I will gladly make a pilgrimage across the country to see them (although I guess I can just go to San Diego, huh...) This is the superstar celebrity Tai Shan. All of us spectators were in agreement that the tree was a bit too thin for him. We got to watch him climb this tree and settle in for a nap--two hours later when we came by again, he was approximately in the same position.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Maryland and Washington DC

A couple of weeks ago I took a trip to Maryland and Washington DC to visit several friends, see fall colors (for the first time in 5 years...boy, did I miss them), and attend a National Symphony concert.

The first friends I visited were Kyle and Amy, who used to live in Redlands but moved to Frederick, MD this summer. Amy is a violinist and used to be my RSO (Redlands Symphony Orchestra) buddy. I visited with them and their 3-year-old daughter Madilyn for a few days, and we went to the National Aquarium in Baltimore, the zoo in DC, and Harper's Ferry.
(Yes, there was a glass wall between Madilyn and Amy and the sloth bear.)

On Sabbath I visited another Amy, with her husband Dan. This Amy is Monica's sister-in-law, who also happens to have been one of my closest friends during my freshman year of college at Southern. We went to the Spencerville SDA church, then to potluck (very similar to the potlucks we're used to here at Advent Hope), then for a walk around a small lake to see more fall colors.

Saturday night I took Amy and Kyle to the National Symphony concert at the Kennedy Center. I was very excited to go because they were playing a piece my friend James Lee composed, called Beyond Rivers of Vision. It was an exciting piece, filled with amazing orchestral colors, using every instrument you could imagine. I'd definitely have to listen to it several more times to catch all the intricacies of it, but it was easy to follow how the themes developed, especially in the first movement. The first two movements were powerful and driving, and the last movement ended in a beautiful, flowing gesture that kind of just disappears into eternity.

But the most exciting thing about James' piece to me was the ideas behind it, and how he had the courage to describe them all in the program notes. The piece is about rivers in the Bible (especially the Tigris) and the prophets associated with them (Daniel), also the great river that flows from the Throne of God (he mentions Rev. 22:1-5 in the program notes!). Here's a little quote from the notes: "It is, however, the deep and sincere importance of the vision received that takes precedence over the location of the particular river." He goes on the explain how the visions deal with eschatological subject matters, then says, "we must look beyond the rivers themselves and study the vision." Then he quotes Gen. 2:10-14; 3:7, 24; Daniel 10 (especially vs. 1-6); and Rev. 22:1-5. All of this for an audience of several thousand in a major concert hall in America's capitol city. Go James!! (I'd recommend reading the entire program notes.)

Sunday, October 08, 2006

"Too Good To Be True"

I signed up to teach the Sabbath school lesson study this coming week at Advent Hope. I'm starting my study of it now, and I haven't even read through the whole week's lessons, but as I was thinking about Genesis 1 I came up with some thoughts I'm looking forward to sharing with my class. In fact, I couldn't wait, so I'm writing about it now. (For those of you who may be reading this and are planning on coming to my class next Sabbath, please don't give it away. Just kidding.)

The topic this week is Creation. A literal, 7-day creation. I was pretty excited to teach this lesson. First of all I'll probably qualify that I am a violinist, not a scientist, so I don't want to get deeply into the scientific evidence or lack thereof. That's really not what I'm interested in anyway in this particular lesson. What I'm more interested in is: how our knowledge about the character of God leads us to faith in real, literal creation.

There are a couple of great questions that arise with the study of the first chapter of Genesis. First of all, why do so many people, Christians as well as atheists, disbelieve the literal 7-day creation story? The answer, I guess (but what do I know what they're thinking) is that when you read it, it looks like a myth. It's written too simply. It looks too easy. It looks too good to be true. Compared to what scientists, as well as 6th grade Life Science students, know, God's account is no more believable looking than the story of the god who laid and egg which hatched and became the earth and sky.

We've been continually cautioned since childhood that "if something looks too good to be true, it probably is." The idea of a god or even God looking at some formless void and simply saying "Let there be..." and there is--in one day--is silliness. This is as far as it gets to the atheist. But to the Christian, it could be a struggle, because they believe other things in the Bible, but they can't believe in the Creation Story because it's simple and silly. So, how much of the Bible should they believe? Which parts? How do you know? Come to think of it, read Revelation 22, regarding the end, and if anything else seems too good to be true, that's certainly it!

To answer this, let's look at the answer to a seemingly unrelated question. As a musician, when I tackle a new piece of music to learn or teach my students, do I start with the hard parts in the middle, or do I start at the beginning, or what? What's difficult about this piece, what makes it hang together? If I start at the beginning I often get hung up on the first page, and it takes me a long time to get to the middle or the end of the piece. Sometimes I start at the end and work my way backwards, but it's often hard to get a real picture of the whole piece unless I find the central form.

Students of the Bible should look at this question, too. Here's my suggestion: Start in the middle. Let's say, the Gospels, also the prophets. Work your way out to the beginning and the end, Genesis 1 and Revelation 22. Why? Because it's the middle of the Bible where you really get to know God's character. The character of a God who would be willing to take on human, really human, characteristics and go through really human situations. There are no mythological fantasy ideas about a normal-looking man (we have no particular physical description of him) from a small town who worked in his father's carpenter shop and whose brothers made fun of him. No fantastic descriptions dazzle us when we read about how Mary rode on a donkey and went into labor so quickly that she had to make a makeshift delivery room out of an average barn. Nothing spectacular about a man who had enemies powerful enough to get him executed.

But there is something supernatural about a man who never made mistakes. Who loved the brothers who mocked him. Who was not afraid of what people think if he touched a leper. Who let his enemies kill him, even though he did nothing to deserve it. And who proved that death has no power over God's power.

There's also a lot to learn about a God who could influence a person to leave everything he had and move to a new land (Abraham), follow her mother-in-law out of respect for her family (Ruth), risk her life to beg the king for the deliverance of her people (Esther), preach for years warning the people about something called "rain" that would destroy the entire earth, then get into the boat (Noah), or cut the corner of his enemy's coat off with his sword when he was vulnerable, but not kill him (David).

When you start by studying God's character through the lives of His beloved people and through His own life on earth, then you can work your way out, and suddenly the stories become more believable, because you realize that "with God all things are possible" (Matt. 19:26). And nothing is too good to be true.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Talking Cats

Talking Cats

by Scoob

Thursday, September 28, 2006


I changed the name of my blog, to reflect the novice-philosopher direction it's taking, and also partly as a direct homage to Dr. Koobs' book.

This morning I was contemplating the hymn "At The Cross," also known as "Alas! and did my Savior bleed."
"Alas! and did my Saviour bleed
And did my Sovereign die?
Would He devote that sacred head
For such a worm as I?"

I love Issac Watts' words, but somehow I'm really bothered by the refrain. Doesn't seem to fit.... Turns out the refrain wasn't written by Watts at all, but someone named Ralph E. Hudson. Why did he add that? "And now I am happy all the day." So cute, aww, so happy, let's all plant flowers and have an herbal tea party.

So, the subject of today's musing: If you're a Christian, are you really happy all the day?

Well, if you read the Psalms, you certainly aren't. If you read the Gospel record of Jesus' life, you certainly aren't (was Jesus a Christian?). "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?" Psalm 22 pretty much covers it all.

Once upon a time, or two or three, some more recently than others, I have been led through a situation which did not turn out OK for me. I was not happy all the day. Some of the day? Sure. Do I believe that difficult situations can turn us closer to God if we chose that route? Yes. Will I be unhappy about it the rest of my life? Of course not. Am I the only Christian who has to go through this kind of thing? Definitely not. But did that situation turn out OK, and am I happy about it? No. Let's just say even the excellent cardiac team at LLUMC could not have done much to repair my heart. (In one case, long long ago, they were more of a hindrance than a help. But that's a different story.)

We are called to give 100% to God, as Elder Skeete said in the evangelistic series. It made me think, what do I still have to give up? We need to have 100% faith, not 95%. The devil sneaks through the last 5% like a cat sneaks through that door you opened just a crack and thought, he can't possibly get through there.

Sometimes I'm pretty good at qualifications for answers to prayer. I can get pretty creative. God cannot go against a person's free choice. He must answer prayers only as according to His divine will and it must fit with the divine law. This logically turned into The Ifs. The Unlesses. The Except-if's. The What-Abouts. They all seemed perfectly valid to me, and I think they still are.

But one day, after I was contemplating giving 100% to God, not 95%, I was impressed by this thought: "Don't think about The Ifs. Am I a God who is too small to deal with them? Do I need your help? If it's My will, it will happen, despite the Ifs, the Unlesses, and the What-Abouts. You have no idea how I can do this, but I can. So why don't you just deal with what you are responsible for, and let Me deal with the rest?"

One night I was lying in bed, not expecting to sleep for a while, while I felt extremely restless and the What-If's crawled into my ear (a la Shel Silverstein), but God intervened again and said again, "Have faith in Me. Can you trust Me, even if it has not turned out OK in the past? Do you believe I have to power to make it all OK in the end?"

I said Yes. I have no idea how a secular scientist or psychologist could explain the immediate calm and restfulness I felt right then. I drifted gently and quickly to sleep.

Here's the conclusion I've come to all along: No, I don't really believe that every Christian is always "happy all the day." But a Christian is someone who, at the end of the day, both he and God know that they can talk.

Continuing with Issac Watts...

"But drops of grief can ne'er repay
This debt of love I owe:
Here, Lord, I give myself to Thee,
'Tis all that I can do."

Maybe that's why Psalm 22 ends, "My praise shall be of Thee in the great congregation."

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Other people's blogs

I've been reading other people's blogs. People I don't know. Just click the "Next Blog" button. I think it's random; different people every time. Maybe it's not such a great idea; you never know what you'll run into (some people are not too clean in their language). But it's interesting to see how people live. There are a lot of pathetic people out there. Most of the blogs I've seen are written by single women like me in their 20s and 30s, but their contents include: 1) problems with men, 2) how many tequila shots they drank last night, 3) despair over men, or 4) how many tequila shots are required to get a guy to sleep with them. Well, I'd have to say it makes all of my problems look fairly tame, almost insignificant. Makes you understand what people share (apparently the despair is not such an uncommon phenomenon), and what they don't need to if they choose not to (the drinking and bed-hopping part. Why bother?)

Meanwhile, I guess I'll just go to bed and read Early Writings. Highly recommended.

I'm still trying to decide whether or not to go to GYC--anybody want to room with me??

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Prayer request, part II

Please pray for my friend Sarah and her family; she lost her mother to pancreatic cancer this morning.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006


Here is the recovery of the mulberry tree in my front yard. The first picture was taken in April, and I bemoaned the loss of my lovely tree for weeks. That is, until I realized what a crazy tree this is. The second picture was taken this week, after I trimmed quite a few branches which were hanging into the sidewalk and down to the ground.

Friday, September 08, 2006


OK, I can be a bit dense sometimes...

Last Monday was my birthday, which was not a special birthday in terms of years (the big 2-5 or 3-0 or whatever), but it was special in that it fell on Labor Day Monday, a holiday (I sometimes say it's called Labor Day mom was in labor?), which means that for the next several years it will be on a weekday again, not much fun for celebrating. So a few friends and I planned a day off to go explore LA (including two of my co-workers who live there). Since we had a whole fun day planned, the idea of another party never crossed my mind.

So Sunday, the day before, Monica and Shannon and I ran some errands--the usual Costco etc., where they bought the usual groceries, including chips and bags of celery, broccoli, baby carrots, and fruit each as big as my cat (those who have met my cat know how large this is). Monica insisted that she liked to bring vegetables for lunch at work, although I kept saying as we were checking out, "Wow, with all these fruits and veggies and chips and dips it looks like we're having a party!" At that point I guess Monica insisted I had found out what they were planning, but guess what, I had no idea.

Back at Shannon's house, her backyard pool was looking extremely inviting in the 100+ degree heat, but she oddly didn't want us to come over and swim because she had "stuff to do in the afternoon." What a hard-working young lady! So Monica and I, inspired by her industrious spirit, spent the rest of the afternoon taking care of the important business of watching dumb videos in the Internet (, the cat video on the first page is great!) and driving halfway to Palm Springs because we saw a cloud that looked like it was raining there.

Shannon had said earlier that day that we were invited to her house for supper later, so fortunately I decided to change out of my shorts and tanktop to pants and a shirt. We went to Shannon's house and the food she set out didn't look like normal dinner, more like a party. I still had no idea until a bunch of my friends jumped out from behind the kitchen counter and yelled, "Surprise!" yes, I was surprised. I'm sooooo blessed to have so many wonderful friends around here! I'm so thankful for Advent Hope.

It's amazing how someone can go grocery shopping for their own surprise party and have no idea.

By the way, Monday was lots of fun, too. Maybe I'll post some pictures of both events when I get some good ones (not of me being surprised...)

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Letter to the editor

I did something novel today--I wrote my first letter to the editor! I was reading my latest issue of Smithsonian Magazine, as is my tradition, and I read a very interesting article about native cannibals in New Guinea. The reporter ventured into an extremely remote place to visit a tribe--he was the first light-skinned person they've ever seen there. All others were far too scared to go into that territory. This is one of the only existing cannabalistic tribes left. Read the whole story in the Sept. 2006 issue of Smithsonian.

The part that struck me and inspired me to write the letter was where the people (the Korowai) told of "a powerful spirit, named Ginol, who created the present world after having destroyed the previous four...." (vaguely reminiscent of the Flood) The tradition continues, "white-skinned ghost-demons will one day invade Korowai land. Once the laleo [what they call the white-skinned ones] arrive, Ginol will obliterate this fifth world. The land will split apart, there will be fire and thunder, and mountains will drop from the sky. This world will shatter, and a new one will take its place." Another part of the article quotes a Dutch missionary who declined to penetrate the Korowai land after he heard the story that "'a very powerful mountain god warned the Korowai that their world would be destroyed by an earthquake if outsiders came into their land to change their customs.'"

Here's the letter I emailed to the editor:

It's amazing that the remote Korowai people, who have never had contact with Western people, much less Christian missionaries, could have in their religious tradition a prophecy that a powerful god would cause fire, thunder, and land to split apart and end the earth when outsiders with other traditions come to their land. Have they really never read the apocalyptic vision in Revelation 16:18-20--"and there were noises and thunderings and lightnings; and there was a great earthquake, such a mighty and great earthquake as had not occured since men were on the earth....Then every island fled away, and the mountains were not found"--along with Matthew 24:14--"And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in all the world as a witness to all the nations, and then the end will come"?

I'm sure it won't be published. Smithsonian is a scientific institution, very proud of its athiestic positions and evolutionary teachings. But maybe it would be interesting from an anthropological point of view. Probably not, though--Satan works hard to intercept any light of truth from institutions such as that. But God is more powerful. Pray that the Gospel really will be preached to all nations soon.

Sunday, August 27, 2006

Quote for the day

Just wanted to share a beautiful quote today. I hope whoever reads this will find as much comfort in sorrow as I have.

"The Saviour longs to give us a greater blessing than we ask; and He delays the answer to our request that He may show us the evil of our own hearts, and our deep need of His grace. He desires us to renounce the selfishness that leads us to seek Him. Confessing our helplessness and bitter need, we are to trust ourselves wholly to His love." Ellen G. White, The Desire of Ages, p. 200

P.S. If you are ever sad about anything, open up pretty much any page EGW has written and you will find God's comfort more beautifully described than you could ever even dream up yourself.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006


Sometimes I wonder why I play the violin.

Most people have useful jobs, such as a doctor or a bricklayer or a mailman or salesman or air conditioner repairman.

But what is the point of playing a musical instrument?

If I were a singer, people would remember the words to my songs, and if they were good words, they could remember a good message from them. But my music has no words, therefore no meaning, good or bad.

But there is absolutely no purpose for playing a musical instrument.
Which is exactly why I do it.

Evolutionists can think up purposes for so many things on Earth: photosynthesis, plate tectonics, hydrogen, DNA, and so on. But they often get hung up on music. The human ear is profoundly complex--years of study cannot fully give a comprehension of exactly how sound waves are transformed into signals in the brain which are interpreted as meaningful sounds. Evolutionists can make a case for the sociological advantage of communication in verbal language. But what about musical sounds, which do not have any symbolic meaning and cannot be identified with any other sense?

I can't think, off the top of my head, of anything else on earth that does not have any other meaning through any other sense besides instrumental music. I suppose you could count the kind of gas that you can only smell and not see or feel (although sophisticated devices may be able to measure their weight). But most objects can be perceived through a combination of senses--sight, touch, smell. Spoken words are only perceived through the ear, but they symbolize things that can be perceived some other way: if I say "chair" you would have the sensual experience of an object with legs and a platform to sit on, perhaps with a smooth or soft feel, and the smell of leather or rubber. And concepts such as "kindness" are equated with physical actions and physical objects, such as giving a glass of water to a thirsty enemy.

If you are aquainted with music, you understand what I mean by the emotional, even physical, response to a certain arrangement of harmonies--that the stimulus is communicating something, but not something clearly defined such as a "chair" or "strawberry" or even "kindness" or "hope." The communication draws us to something unknown.

"Physical pleasures are subdivided into two types. First there are those which fill the whole organism with a conscious sense of when we eat and drink.... However, there are also pleasures which satisfy no organic need, and relieve no previous discomfort. They merely act, in a mysterious but quite unmistakable way, directly on our senses....Such is the pleasure of music." (Thomas More, Utopia)

C.S. Lewis describes this well in Mere Christianity: "Creatures are not born with desires unless satisfaction for those desires exists....If I find in myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probably explanation is that I was made for another world."

In The Great Divorce, Lewis describes an angelic citizen of Heaven talking with a painter visiting there: "'When you painted on was because you caught glimpses of Heaven in the earthly landscape. The success of your painting was that it enabled others to see the glimpses too...Light itself was your first love; you loved paint only as a means of telling about light.'"

If the visual arts exist to give humans glimpses of light through what can be seen and felt with several senses (and what can at least attempt to be explained through naturalistic theory), how much more can music, otherwise completely useless as it is, give us a glimpse of something even less humanly explainable?

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Prayer request

To all my friends who like to pray for prayer requests, I have a personal request: I just found out that they changed the rehearsal schedule for the Redlands Symphony Orchestra this year to have Friday night rehearsals. The RSO is the only orchestra I play with anymore and one of the last ones to not have any Friday night or Saturday services; I used to play with the San Bernardino Symphony but I let that one go because they have Saturday afternoon rehearsals. Those who know me know how much I love playing in orchestra; music is my career and my passion, and although I get most of my income from teaching, playing in orchestra is one of my favorite things to do. I've played in orchestras every year since fifth grade, and it's been the foundational thing in my musical life. I can't forsee any orchestras not having any Sabbath conflicts. Satan is working overtime on God's people who "keep the commandments of God" (Rev. 14:12), especially the overlooked fourth commandment. I know I'm not alone in these kinds of struggles--my recent study of Daniel 9 taught me that we ought to pray for our people, for all believers, because we are all in this together. May God strengthen us for whatever conflicts we have ahead of us in our communal struggle to live according to God's commandments.

Monday, July 31, 2006

July 31, 2006

It is RAINING IN SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA. It's July. Not just a little drizzle that evaporates before it hits the ground, but real rain--all morning. This is weird. Of course, it's also been about 115 degrees the last week or so.

The earth is going crazy. Everybody come to Southwest Youth Conference.

Sunday, July 30, 2006

Strange places for a cat

You would think that in a small apartment a large cat would have fewer places to get comfortable. Then you remember what a cat is.

Saturday, July 22, 2006

A parable

For the customs of the peoples are futile; for one cuts a tree from the forest, the work of the hands of the workman, with the ax. They are upright, like a palm tree, and they cannot speak; they must be carried, because they cannot go by themselves. Do not be afraid of them, for they cannot do evil, nor can they do any good. Thus you shall say to them: "The gods that have not made the heavens and the earth shall perish from the earth and from under these heavens."Jeremiah 10:3, 5, 11

We love him, because he first loved us. 1 John 4:19

Once there was a young lady who fell in love with a young man. She fell in love with him because he was the man of her dreams. He was everything she could have wanted. Since she was a little girl and once had been rescued from an uncomfortable situation in a public park by a friendly policeman who happened to be nearby, she had always wanted to marry a policeman. When she became a teenager, she and her girlfriends would talk about their future marriages, and she would envision exactly what she wanted in a man. She had a mental picture of an extremely tall man, with brilliant platinum blonde hair, and light blue eyes. He would be gentle and kind, and loved horseback riding and reading books about ancient history, just like her daddy did. He would sing in the church choir, his favorite food was peanut butter jelly sandwiches, and--even though she didn't admit this to her girlfriends--he would have a really odd, loud laugh like her older brother.

When this young lady went to college, her friends started looking for husbands, but she didn't know if she would ever find a gentleman who was like what she wanted. After all, she was kind of particular...But one day, she went to choir rehearsal, and as the director told a silly joke she was startled to hear a loud and rather annoying laugh coming from the back of the classroom. Her eyes grew big when she turned to find a tall, platinum blonde boy with pale blue eyes. On the way out of class, she made an effort to leave the classroom with him, and out of courtesy introduced herself and asked his name and what he was studying.

"Law enforcement," he said.

Since it was lunchtime, she invited him to join her with her friends at the cafeteria. He ate nothing but two peanut butter jelly sandwiches. As the conversation progressed, it was discovered that his favorite hobbies were horseback riding and reading books about ancient history. She was happy; she had found her man.

Unfortunately, the story doesn't end there. Or does. The unhappy ending for the young woman is that this gentleman had absolutely no interest in her. In fact, a few months later he was seen holding hands with another girl from Finland.

There was also another young man, 21 years old, who lived in a large metropolitan area. He had just reached the age where he could drink legally, and was definitely taking advantage of that opportunity to barhop with his older friends. He was very attractive and learned that bars were excellent places to find women who were more drunk than he, and were perfectly willing to go home with him. In his large apartment (which his parents paid for), his living room was transformed into a home theater. He went to school every day to become a banker, and was expecting to do extremely well financially. He lived alone, but he was not often lonely, because as soon as he came home from school, he would take a drink, watch TV, and head out with his friends to the bar. It was fun, he was happy; he had found his life.

Does the young man's story end there? Probably not. Because the young woman in love and the young man who loved his life both faced the same problem--That which they loved did not return their love. The people in Jeremiah's time, in ancient days, longed for the idols of the surrounding nations; gods of wood and stone. They found happiness in the symbols they worshipped. But the gods did not love them in return, so all of their happiness was completely useless. Today, people's devotions might be directed to somewhat different types of idols--pleasures, entertainment, ambitions for riches and fame. But no matter how much happiness these things may bring us at the time they are received, they will not love us in return. And if they don't return our love, our devotion is useless.

God alone has given us a promise that cannot be broken. "The LORD hath appeared of old unto me, [saying], Yea, I have loved thee with an everlasting love: therefore with lovingkindness have I drawn thee." (Jer. 31:3) "For God so loved the world...." (John 3:16) We can be assured that this is one relationship where our love can be returned. That's the only useful kind of devotion in the universe.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Dick Koobs, MD 1928-2006

On July 12 Loma Linda lost a brilliant scientist and a great friend of the community. Dr. Dick Koobs passed away after battling lymphoma. He will be greatly missed by the faculty at the university where he used to teach and practice pathology, and by the many friends he and his wonderful wife Ardyce have made with their generosity and helpfulness. I feel like one of the many family members the Koobs have adopted, and I'll always be thankful of all the help and friendship they've given me since I've lived here.

Monday, May 29, 2006

News from friends

The news from friends is that some of them have graduated this past weekend (good for them) and left town (bad for me). I'm thinking specifically of Rachel and Eric Nelson, whom I got to know pretty well since they've been my 2-doors-down neighbors. They're off to Sacramento for residency. Rachel knocked on my door at 5:30 this evening to say goodbye. Fortunately, I am probably going to get a chance to visit them in July while I'm up north for a music institute.

The good news is that my friend James Lee, an excellent composer, is having an orchestral work premiered by the National Symphony in October, conducted by Leonard Slatkin! I'm so excited for him. You can read the blurb here. It's a piece called "Beyond Rivers of Vision," and the premise of the piece could be a great witnessing tool. James is also getting married in August to a nice Brazilian girl I got to meet at GYC last year. I love seeing how God has blessed my friends' lives.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Spring comes to Loma Linda

This title is a bit misleading--actually, there is really no such thing as springtime in Southern California. In the East, where I come from, Spring is a magical time after months of barrenness when all green things spring to life at once, within a week, transforming the landscape from a dead wasteland to a verdant, luxurious forest. In California, each tree decides on its own when Spring will be (if it loses its leaves at all). However, there are two seasons here--I would name them the Growing Season and the Non-Growing Season. In the chilly months, not much happens in the garden. Then there is a time when all the plants decide to make up for lost time during December through April by doing a whole year's worth of growing at once. That season started this week. (Unfortunately, most of this "Spring" growth applies to weeds.)

One notable exception to the non-deciduous landscape is my mulberry tree, formerly a beautiful, spreading tree which provided shade to my entire lawn. It loses its leaves every year, but this year it lost more than leaves. Here it is, again beginning to show signs of life after experiencing a major trauma a few months ago. (We miss you, tree!)

Loquats for sale! All you can pick! Actually, loquats for free! Hey, take the whole tree if you want. Monica constantly threatens to chop it down anyway (so it's not the favorite tree around here...) For those friends out East who may not be aquainted with loquats, they are stone fruit a bit like apricots, but somewhat more rubbery and much less tasty.

The calla lilies are on their way out, but still have a few nice blooms. The roses have also re-emerged after a serious pruning.

The villains of the garden are the Huge Scary Weeds. I don't know what their real name is, but Huge Scary Weeds is descriptive enough for me. They are in the process of taking over the lawn. Perhaps the like the extra sun that the mulberry previously blocked out (and now that it is but a stub, alas...sigh....) I think the Huge Scary Weeds grow a half a foot a day.

This picture is of what should be my front lawn.

Friday, May 05, 2006


Part of my daily morning worship routine is to pick a few memory verse cards to review. Often I just check that I still have them memorized, but often I'll run into a verse that I'd like to contemplate, either because it has an application to something in my life at the time, or I just don't understand it. Today the first verse I picked up was Psalm 37:4--

"Delight yourself in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart." (NIV)

The KJV adds the word "also" between "thyself" and "in the Lord;" a few other versions replace "delight yourself" with "take delight," but otherwise, they are pretty much all in agreement. The context of the verse has some equally beautiful passages: "Rest in the Lord, wait patiently for him" (vs. 7), "Commit thy way unto the LORD; trust also in him; and he shall bring [it] to pass" (vs. 5), and so on. A very comforting psalm.

Too comforting. Being a human, I have had the experience of dealing with desired things. So the automatic reaction to this verse was, "yeah, maybe..." That reaction forced me to stop and take the rest of my worship time to really think this verse through. As a Christian, my struggle is with faith. Faith does not always come easily. Faith, to me, is saying, "OK, Lord, of course you're right!" when I really want to say "well, maybe..." or "but to me, it looks like..." This requires study, and that's what the Bible is for, as well as the shared experiences of other people.

So I thought about what this verse says. It says, "Delight yourself in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart." No versions I saw anywhere said,

"Delight yourself in the Lord, and he might give you the desires of your heart, if you're lucky."
"Delight yourself in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart, sometime in the indefinite future, but don't count on it in this life, anyway."
"Delight yourself in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart, if those desires happen to be the right ones."
"Delight yourself in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart, if you're good enough, and eat your vegetables."

So what does this verse mean? And what can I desire that he will give me? I desire an Audi TT, a ten-acre estate in the country, a position in the LA Philharmonic, and the man of my dreams to fall desperately in love with me.

This leads to a natural human conclusion. When a human looks at this verse, the eye is naturally drawn to the last half of the phrase, the "he will give you the desires" part. (Really, confess!) But the first half is the important part. "Delight yourself in the Lord." Look at the words "delight" vs. "desire." Which has heavenly associations, and which has earthly ones?

Here's my conclusion, for 7:52 AM on an Friday morning: Our priority should be for the first half of the phrase. Occupy yourself with the "delight." Make it a lifelong project to figure out what it means to "delight in the Lord," and chances are pretty good you won't have so much leftover time or brainpower to bother with the "desires of your heart" part.

Thursday, May 04, 2006

The Portrait Artist

While I'm bragging, I must direct your attention (especially if you are a LLU student) to the second floor of the Del Webb library, where my dad's oil portraits of LLU faculty memebers are displayed. Check them out sometime!

The Cute Nephew

What's the point of a blog if you can't use it to show off pictures of your cute little nephew?

This is Christopher Kime.

(Stay tuned for pictures of the Cute Little Niece, also the Glamorous Model Athelete Niece.)

Friday, April 28, 2006

What I do all day

Elianna and Ralene; group class; Leanne's bow hold

Ein Deutsches Requiem

Blessed are they that mourn:
for they shall be comforted.
Matthew 5:4

They that sow in tears
shall reap in joy.
He that goeth forth and weepeth,
bearing precious seed,
shall doubtless come again with rejoicing
bringing his sheaves with him.
Psalm 126:

A few weeks ago I had the opportunity, for the first time, to play in a perfomance of Johannes Brahms' Ein Deutsches Requiem. Brahms is probably my favorite composer, and if I were asked the question, "What do you think is the greatest piece of music ever written?" it would be difficult to answer, but I suppose this would be near the top of the list. A requiem is a mass service for the dead which almost always uses the same traditional Latin text. Brahms wanted his Requiem to be a reflection of the German Lutheran tradition instead of the Catholic; a German Requiem, so he collected his own text from the German translation of the Bible. The skill with which Brahms collected and juxtaposed these incomprehensibly beautiful texts and set them to music which breathes life into them seems almost as inspired as the texts themselves. And the most amazing thing is that Brahms was pretty much an athiest. God can work through people who do not even believe or follow Him as vessels for His glory!

The first movement, as I have quoted above, is a masterful combination of Old and New Testament verses with a similar idea of comfort. The second movement is a very solemn funeral march, complete with the obligatory dotted rhythms (think of the funeral marches of Chopin, and Beethoven's Third Symphony), and obsessively repeating triplets in the tympani; the text is from 1 Peter 1:24, "For all flesh is as grass..." Then it turns to a beautiful, simple melody in a major key, quoting a very beautiful passage from James 5: "Be patient, therefore, brethren, unto the coming of the Lord...." The third movement, for baritone and chorus, also emphasizes ephemeral nature of life on earth (Psalm 39, "Lord, make me know that my days must have a measure..."). The next movement turns to joy in the anticipation of Heavenly places ("How lovely are thy tabernacles, O Lord of hosts! My soul longeth and fainteth for the courts of the Lord." Psalm 84). The fifth movement, for soprano solo and chorus, returns to the theme of comfort, quoting John 16:22, Isaiah 66:13. The powerful sixth movement is a picture of the Second Coming, with texts that include 1 Corinthians 15, and also a grand fugue, somewhat in the style of Handel, on the same passage in Revelation 4 that is used in the "Worthy Is the Lamb" movement of Messiah. The work is a loosely cyclical form, as the final movement ends with similar music to the first, but this time, "Blessed are they dead who die in the Lord from henceforth." (Revelation 14)

Since I was going through an especially difficult week personally when I was in rehearsal for this performance, I made the text of the first movement my personal object of study. Blessed are they that mourn, for they shall be comforted. Blessed--this implies that there is something particularly sanctified, especially esteemed, for those who mourn, something that those who do not mourn cannot share. That something is the experience of being comforted by God, "as one whom his mother comforteth" (Isaiah 66:13). This is something that the angels and all the other created beings cannot truly experience. Otherwise, Jesus might have said, "It's OK if you mourn; you'll be comforted." That would have been wonderful enough. But he said blessed are they.

Another interesting observation I had about the second part of the text of this movement, from Psalm 126, was the part about "bearing precious seed." I looked in several other translations, but the King James is the only one that uses the word "precious." The others say things like "bearing seed for sowing." Even in the original Hebrew words, from the lexicon, I couldn't find a word that was translated "precious." But I love the idea of that; it goes along with the "Blessed are they--" there is something precious, something blessed, about the seed sown in sorrow, that isn't found without it. Sorrow is not just a burden to bear, it's a precious seed. I'm curious why the translators of the King James version chose that word.

It's amazing how God can bring a beautiful thing into your life at just the right time, to help explain the pain of a difficult situation.

Also Sprach Zarathustra

April has been an exciting month for me, musically. I had the privilege of performing both Brahms' Ein Deutsches Requiem and Strauss' Also Sprach Zarathustra. The Redlands Symphony performance of Zarathustra took place last weekend. What an exciting piece! It starts with four long measures of nothing but a low C (probably at least three, or even four octaves below middle C) in the string basses, contrabassoon, and organ (pedal). The fanfare that follows has been famously quoted in 2001: A Space Odessey, as well as Sesame Street (in which it scared me as a child). There are parts where the divisi strings (up to 10 different parts in the violin section alone) gradually increase to fill the hall with an incredible richness, and several spectacular climactic moments, with the help of the extra-large brass section. Strauss really shows off his gift for orchestration.

My fascination with this piece is filled with mixed feelings, though. Musically, it is an amazing piece, if you don't know the ideologies is it based on. Zarathustra (which is completely orchestral, no text) is loosely based on Freidrich Nietzsche's philosophical treatise of the same name. The book is a colletion of reflections of a character named Zarathustra, a kind of sage-hermit who Nietzsche calls the "Superman," the epitomy of self-mastery and fulfilling of all human achievement.

There has been a lot of debate over exactly how Friedrich Nietzsche’s writings have been interpreted or misinterpreted, but definitely Nietzsche (born, conveniently, in 1844) contributed to a large part of modern antireligious and anti-Christian thought, and was admired by Hitler. I have not studied his philosophies in depth, nor do I care to; neither have I been able to find much reference material about his philosophies which are not tainted by apologies from the prevalent moral thought. Nietzsche has been at least somewhat connected with "Social Darwinism," the idea that tries to connect moral issues, social behavior, and religion with evolution. Seems to me, whatever the debate may be, what you get if you combine "science" (i.e., the prevalent view that anything not observable by nature is unreal, and that whatever is seen through a microscope at an Important University, published in an Important Scientific Journal, and funded by large grants is true) with attempts to answer philosophical questions that will never escape us (what is the meaning of life, what happens next, where did it all come from, etc.), something akin to Nazism, the Holocaust, and WWII can pretty easily emerge. Obviously, all life evolved from a single cell that just happened, and some species adapted better and evolved into other species, and some parts of a species (in humans, read "races") are better adapted to evolutionary progress (Germanic, of course) than others (Jews, blacks--well, everybody else), until a single person, the pinnacle of evolutionary achievement, finally emerges to dominate all others (Hitler, or at least that’s what he thought of himself). Morality is nonexistent; the "Superman" is well above the pettiness of "good" and "evil." Primordial, amoral forces (Diyonesian) drive all true creative force; forces of logical order and society (Apollonian) are unhealthy. Christianity was invented to subvert culture; it has caused much more harm than good. God is dead.

These are some of the challenges Christians have had to live with in society since the last half of the 19th century. Many of these philosophies are new since then, or at least have been amalgamated and spread recently, and with the help of the media and global communication, have influenced more people and politics than most previous philosophies, at least in its effects. To me this is yet another proof of 1844 as a watershed year, when society and culture turned into the beast it has grown to today.

Gotta show off my fiddlers

Last week my fourth grade students performed "Bile 'Em Cabbage Down," in full western country costume, for their music program.

On sea otters

I had a rare opportunity to watch a very friendly sea otter, one of my favorite animals, at play at a wildlife preserve near Monterey a few weeks ago.
He was catching crabs and putting on a show for tourists right by the shore of the estuary.

Global warming

Right now I'm not sure I understand the environmentalists who complain about global warming. I live in Southern California, it's almost May, and it's been in the 50s in the day. Over in Ohio where my parents live, and where there apparently is global warming, the weather has been nicer and more Spring-like than here. When my poor parents came to visit this frigid place in March, my mom and I went to Pasadena and forgot our jackets. As we were shivering in our boots, someone with a clipboard standing on the street corner asked us to sign a petition about global warming. We could have used some of that this winter.

Lessons from a pencil sharpener

I fired a student today. I don't like to do that very often, but sometimes circumstances make it impossible to do otherwise. Once in a while it's a schedule issue, but usually the reason involves working with the parent. I've never fired a student because of his or her playing ability or even motivation if the parent is willing to work together with her child and with me to make practicing work. But when I have a parent who shows no respect for me, or for the process of learning the violin (i.e. "Why do we have to practice this piece again? Why do we have to work on bow holds over and over? Can't Bobby just go ON TO THE NEXT PIECE?!"), then each lesson is a drudgery and a chore for me.

This mother just yelled. Just yelled. Literally--increased decibel levels. I've never had a parent yell at me before. My method of teaching is wrong, I won't listen to her ideas, and why can't her son just go on to the next piece? And she starts her yelling fits at the time the lesson is over, when it's time for another student. I won't take that, and I have plenty of other students to take his time slot. So she got the phone call.

"The phone call" is a difficult task for me. I'm a softie, I admit. I always want to give people, especially children, the benefit of the doubt, and one more chance. Should I have given her a warning--the next time you yell at me, I'll discontinue lessons for your son? But with encouragement from Karen, my colleague, I just did it. But I felt bad for her son, who will likely have to deal with his mother's relationships with other teachers in the future, and likely learn that in life you yell and yell until there is nobody left to yell at.

My next chore after I hung up with this mother was to sharpen my pencils. I have two very similar battery operated pencil sharpeners, Foray brand, that I bought at Office Depot for $4. Actually, I've had three. The first one quit working the first time I opened the shavings compartment to empty it. The second one I bought was the same; since I had liked the pencil sharpener before it stopped working, I thought it was just defective and I'd give another one a try. After all, it was only $4. It ate my pencils. The third was a slightly different model of the same brand, still $4. It does not sharpen pencils. If you stick a pencil in the hole, nothing happens. Both pencil sharpeners have been sitting on my desk for about six months. I brush the California desert dust off of them and keep trying them periodically. No avail. I tried both of them again today. They broke two pencils.

Today I decided to throw away both pencil sharpeners. I realized that with the best of intentions, there are some things that you can't fix, no matter how much you wish you could. The basis for the Suzuki method is, as the title of the Suzuki "bible" says, Nurtured by Love. It's an opportunity for a parent and a child to deepen their relationship by working together on a project, one that requires time and patience to gradually work toward excellence in artistic achievement. The role of the teacher is to guide the parent along in the process. If that's not the object of violin lessons, it's as hopeless as a pencil sharpener that doesn't sharpen pencils, or eats them to a stub (a dull stub, nonetheless). And if you don't get it, you don't get it.

Soon I will go back to Office Depot and invest a little more in a better pencil sharpener. Not a Foray brand.