Thursday, May 29, 2008

The Value of a Human Life

Prayer meeting last night was led by my friend Angie's grandfather, who gave an inspiring and beautiful message about the value of a human life in God's eyes. It was a message we all ought to know, however, we often need reminders, especially when going through times of difficulty when we feel worthless. 

His message focused on the contrast of how humans often view our own worth, and the worth of other humans, compared to God's value placed on us. He reminded us of the many hundreds of thousands who were ruthlessly slaughtered in the last century as a result of the extremely low value placed on human life by vicious dictators. We must compare that to the infinite value God sees us as being worth, so much that He was willing to pay the infinite price of His death and being changed forever, for the benefit of every single human who ever lived, regardless of race, nationality, or intelligence.

"Look at how humans value each other. See the incredibly low value we have placed on humanity, and on individuals. What value do humans say that life is worth? But look to Jesus--look at the infinite price He paid for each of us! What did Jesus say that a human life is worth?"

A voice from one of our resident quick-wits arose from the back of the room in response:

"Many sparrows!"

Monday, May 26, 2008


Today was Memorial Day, and I went to a memorial service, as I mentioned in my last blog, for my friend Ardyce. I managed to get through most of it without too many tears, mostly just a few at the very end, the postlude, which was an LLBN videotape of part of a church service from a few years back when Ardyce played Schubert's "Prayer" (arranged from the Octet) and "The Holy City" during communion. I think I remember that day, because I remember one time she was playing and I think that was the dress she was wearing. She played very well, and looked beautiful and so full of life, as she did all the way up through the week she went to the hospital. The rest of the service was lovely--Joan Coggin did the life sketch, which was characteristically amusing but very reverent. Ardyce's grand-niece and I played a duet; I felt very honored that her brother asked me to play with her. (And it went well, much better than I played at Advent Hope the week before--thankfully! I was getting worried about myself!) The rest of the music was provided by the LLUC choir and orchestra. The orchestra was huge. Often we have trouble filling up the string sections, but there was a huge turnout today, even with the holiday. One of the violinists suggested we leave Ardyce's most recent regular chair empty in her memory (second chair second violins), which was a beautiful little tribute to her, but very sad. It was very, very strange to look over there to an empty chair and not see her--I still kind of keep expecting her to show up at the next rehearsal. 

Other than that, I attended two graduation parties and a going-away party this weekend. Fortunately, the honorees of both of the grad parties are staying in town. In fact, one of them, with his new bride-to-be, will be my neighbors! Tim and Sunny are moving in right behind me! Tim and I have been joking about listening to each other practice through the windows. He and Sunny will yell at me that my C#'s are out of tune, and I'll yell at them for not practicing enough. 

So that is life...graduations, moving away, memorial services...right now I'm feeling regret that I never got a picture of myself with Ardyce that I know of. I love photography, and I tend to get caught up in composition and lighting and scenery that I often forget to take pictures of people, and I absolutely hate pictures of myself, so I'm not one to go around asking everyone to take a picture of me with such-and-such. But maybe I should, because life is short. I'm also feeling regret that I never was able to thank Ardyce enough for her kindness to me since I've lived here, and I never got near returning even a portion of that kindness. Somehow time passes, and suddenly it's been months and months and we still haven't gotten around to having that big Sabbath lunch party, or going to check out that beach or trail with friends, or go camping, or throw a great party in someone's honor (also kudos to Melody for being such a great party host and fruit-design cake decorator!). 

Just some of my random stream-of-consciousness thoughts for tonight. Only two more weeks of school, then I get Mondays and Fridays off all summer! 

Friday, May 23, 2008

Tribute to Ardyce

Memorial Day will really be a memorial day for many of us here in Loma Linda, including myself. On Memorial Day we will celebrate the life of my dear friend Ardyce,* who sadly passed away last Friday after a short, unexpected illness. She had just turned 80. 

A short blog doesn't do justice to Ardyce's life of sharing and kindness that she showed to me and to all of her many (thousands of!) friends and family members. Ardyce was a violinist, teacher, former mayor of Loma Linda, general mover and shaker in the community, chair of the Loma Linda University Church vespers committee, loving wife, and adopted mother of not only a few "official" children but numerous "unofficial" ones. Since I would have no idea where to start with all of that, I'll just briefly share some of the many things she's done for me in the last 7 or so years that I've known her.

First of all, she was the person who got me here to Loma Linda. In 2001, when I was living with my parents in Dayton after finishing grad school, I was teaching violin lessons and playing in the Dayton Philharmonic Orchestra, but also wondering what was next--I knew that I didn't want to live in Dayton all of my life. Plus, my 2-year contract with the DPO was going to expire. I was contemplating the orchestral studies program at the Manhattan School of Music, which didn't turn out. At that time my family reconnected with Ardyce, whom my dad had been close friends with many, many years ago, through one of her family members who was living in Dayton at the time and went to church at Kettering with us. I met her when she came to visit, had some nice conversation, and later she gave my name to my now-coworkers as a prospective violin teacher here at the Academy. When they called, I decided that Southern California seemed like a great place to try out--nice work environment, mecca of Adventism, chance to meet lots of like-minded SDA young people, nice warm weather, and palm trees.

After I moved here, I stayed with Ardyce for a few days as she helped me find an apartment. Then she proceeded to introduce me to just about everyone I know--she knew a lot of people--including contacts for freelancing and a friend of hers who introduced me to Advent HOPE Sabbath School. So, through that, I could almost say that everyone I know here and everything I do here was thanks to her!

Besides that, her continuing friendship has sustained me during the last 6 years I've lived here. She invited me to be a member of the LLUC vespers committee, has taken me to concerts, and was always willing to have me over for chamber music night or Saturday night popcorn and Mexican Train dominoes, even after her husband passed away. 

Although I'm sad to see her go, I know she had a long, full, and purposeful life, and I'm glad that her final illness was a quick one. Apparently she was mostly asleep for the last few weeks since she went to the hospital, and finally just never woke up. I praise God that we do have hope for the resurrection, that people can fall asleep peacefully because they know that the next thing they'll see is the face of their Creator and Redeemer. 

*Because of excessive googling activity in the WWW, I have stopped publishing my friends' last names. But many of you know who I'm talking about anyway.

Hooded Orioles

Yesterday I had the pleasure of a visit from a couple of beautiful hooded orioles. At first I was wondering why an oversized goldfinch was drinking sugar water from the hummingbird feeder. It wasn't until the male, who is more orange and has a distinctive black mask and beard, arrived that I was able to identify them (the female, I believe it was--unless it was a juvenile--is lighter yellow all over except black patterns on the wings, very much like the smaller goldfinches). 

Here's the guy (this is not my picture, though)

 I hope they continue to come throughout the winter, they're so beautiful!

Friday, May 16, 2008

sadness is...

...taking the get-well card off the kitchen table where it's been sitting in a bag for a couple of weeks, waiting to go to its recipient, and filing it away in a drawer because you never got a chance to give it to her.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008


I haven't been writing many blog posts lately, probably simply due to writer's block. However, to keep Rachel happy, I'll try to be more consistent. 

Lately I've been thinking about motivation. Not just motivation to write in my blog (although that's part of it), but mostly in connection with music and practicing. Our string program has its biannual recital time coming up this weekend--starting with a 7-hour marathon of solo recitals on Sunday (yes, everyone has to play a solo), and the group class concert Monday evening--so I've been trying to prepare my students. They are all playing pieces that they've worked on previously, so they are fortunately not rushing to learn them at the last minute (well, most of them). Some of them, though, still haven't practiced much the last few weeks coming up to the recital, so this just makes me think about day-to-day motivators to practice. 

What motivates a child to practice an instrument? Their parents? Hopefully, at least in the beginning. I love working with parents who are creative and work with their children to help make practicing fun instead of just telling them to "do it" while they're at work. Eventually, though, teenage years set in, and they need a new form of motivation. Prizes and rewards? They really don't have anything to do with the end result--making music. My wish is for my students to be motivated by the music itself: to listen to Wieniawski's second violin concerto or an album of a famous young violinist's showpieces and say, "I want to play that someday, so I'd better go practice." Is this too idealistic? I felt that way when I was growing up, so it must be possible, but it seems to be rare. (Perhaps partly because not too many of my students actually listen to Wieniawski. Those who do seem to do better.)

Another form of motivation comes from peers. I guess this is one of the strongest motivators of teenagers. When I was growing up I had a good friend, Charles, who was so excited about violin that he shared that excitement with the rest of us, and was constantly introducing me to new pieces ("Here, you have to listen to this!"). (Charles, by the way, is now the concertmaster of the Portland [Maine] Symphony.) This kind of thing doesn't work as well coming from adults, even parents and cool violin teachers like me. We don't seem to have any kids like that in our program right now. Most of them will do their bare minimum of practice because they have to, or else. 

Well, these are just a few of my thoughts and dreams for my students. Any great suggestions are appreciated. And, come to think of it, I haven't gotten my violin out of its case yet today, either...time to get to work.