Mask Up!

I do not like to wear a coat. Oh, I’m thankful for the warmth it provides, especially considering the weather here a couple of weeks ago. For several days, the morning temps hovered around freezing.

If I’d only had to walk from my car to the building, that coat might not have been necessary. However, I have morning car duty-about twenty-five minutes outside. So, not only was I bundled up, but I also wore rain boots and carried my umbrella.

Although thankful while outside, I felt restricted while driving to school. That zipped up coat felt like it was holding me back. Constricting my movements instead of protecting me.

Sometimes that is how it goes, even with the things we need. Rules, routines, laws intended to help, protect, keep us safe. And yet, we struggle against them. Somehow afraid they will do the opposite-take our freedom.

Think about speed limits and other traffic laws. We push the boundaries by wanting to drive a little faster or speed through that yellow light. What about our work schedules and expectations? Designed to help us be our best, yet we complain and find small ways to buck the system.

In our current state of a world-wide pandemic, mask mandates come to mind. I wear one to work every day, as do my colleagues and students. No, it is not fun. However, it is necessary. And we wear them to show our respect and to protect each other.

And yet, depending on which business I happen to enter in which town or city, I may or may not be able to count on that same consideration. It is disheartening, to say the least. Something so simple met with such resistance.

As with most things in life, balance is needed. No one wants to feel like they are wrapped up in a cocoon. Yet, we need the wisdom to recognize the times when necessity says mask up and face the facts. You might just save someone else’s life.

Chosen With Care

If only I could
Hear my words
Before sending
Them out into
The atmosphere-
If only I could
Let them hang
In the air for
A few moments
Before anyone hears-
If only the vowels
And consonants
Exclamation points
And question marks
Returned to my ears-
An opportunity
For restoration
As I suck them back in
Through my lungs
And into my heart-
Filtering out any
Selfish thoughts
Removing any
Hateful words-
Allowing them to
Be transformed
Into words of
Hope and love
Before their escape-
If only I could
Hear my words,
Would they
Be chosen
With care?

Masks

One mask
Worn in
An attempt to
Hide insecurities
Creating a
Covering over
Anxious emotions
Though not physical,
A protective shield
When worn
Only for
A short time-
Another mask
Worn in
An attempt to
Fight sickness
Creating a
Material barrier
Between one person
And the next
Necessary
Yet, separating
Separating
Yet, protecting
Each mask
Tangible or ethereal
Serving to preserve
A way of life
An inward plea-
Guard your heart
An outward plea-
Protect your health
Lifesaving
Petitions that
Must never
Be ignored
Both masks
Providing an
Opportunity to see
Others in a new light
Both masks
Providing a
Reminder~
We desperately need each other ❤

All People

I am having difficulty focusing on anything today. I wish I could say it was simply a lack of caffeine, but that is not possible. Maybe it’s the barrage of negative news. Not just today, but almost every day for what seems like a very long time.

With today’s instant information, it is easy to feel overwhelmed. We have the ability to know what is happening on the other side of the world in a matter of minutes. And we have the means through various social media outlets to express our opinions on said happenings. With that ability, however, comes responsibility.

The responsibility part seems to be missing from much of the current online posts, tweets, discussions, etc. Should I be able to spit out words of hatred toward others without consequences? I certainly don’t believe so, and hope others would agree.

Much of the current news involves immigration. Personally, I cannot begin to understand the plight of individuals seeking freedom and safety. I’ve never had to worry about fleeing my home due to fear. Yet, it is my responsibility as someone who has experienced the love of Christ to view the situation through the lens of love.

“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.” I Corinthians 13:4-5

At this moment, I’m not sure what that looks like in terms of personal action. But I do know it begins with my attitude. My heart. And my heart tells me people need to experience love. People desire to live in safety. People deserve to live in freedom. All people.

“He defends the cause of the fatherless and the widow, and loves the foreigner residing among you, giving them food and clothing.” Deuteronomy 10:18

Encouraging Student Musicians

Today was solo-n-ensemble contest day. I spent the entire day accompanying brass, string, and woodwind players. Twenty-five of them to be exact. These young musicians spent many hours over the last weeks and months preparing for today. Choosing a piece, learning notes and rhythms, memorizing, rehearsing with their accompanist.

Today, all of their hard work culminated in one brief performance. Each of them walked into a room, faced their judge, and began to play. Making beautiful music. That is the point. At least, it is supposed to be…

No student walks in that room thinking, “I really hope I don’t play well today. Hopefully, I will have a big memory slip.” Those statements are ridiculous! Each student hopes for positive results. They want to play their best. They are hoping for the highest rating and a chance to move on to the next level.

After some of the first ratings posted this morning, I overheard a disturbing conversation. Students who had received their scores were warning other students. “Well, if you make one mistake, there’s no way you will receive a I (the highest score.)” They were attempting to prepare their friends for probable disappointment in this particular room.

Don’t misunderstand; I’m not suggesting everyone deserves the highest rating. I certainly would not want to be in the judge’s seat. However, I can speak as a professional musician concerning our responsibility to these young musicians. If we are pushing perfection, we have it all wrong.

I’m happy to say the other rooms I accompanied in did not have this effect. The atmospheres were inviting and encouraging. The results in those rooms also accurately reflected the performances. Performances of high school musicians, not professional ones.

As adult musicians, college long behind us, career paths chosen, it is easy to forget those early days of learning. The anxiety that often accompanies those first performances. The searching for approval.

Today I was reminded that this seven-minute performance represented so much for these young performers. They needed someone to acknowledge their hard work. And their hopes for positive results rested in the hands of a complete stranger. Hopefully, a stranger who recognized the power they held in those seven short minutes.