Posted 5-8-19 while tapping my toes…
A handful of dust, a worthless piece of clay
And you breathed the breath of Heaven
Then there was a soul, the heart, the hands, the voice
That could sing of your perfection
Life is a symphony
That only you can play
You know I can hear it
Through the madness everyday
(Chorus) Virtuoso, virtuoso
This heart is Your instrument
And this life is Your song
There isn’t a note of mediocrity
In all of your creation and all of the beauty
We create with human hands is only imitation
Thunder crashes, waves crescendo on the sand
The wind that’s whispering can only be Your hand
A timeless melody of beauty and emotion
-David Phelps “Virtuoso” or Version 2 (reprise)
A few short days after going to my second David Phelps concert, last night I was privileged to get to watch my son’s amazing school band concert.
It was a wonderful night. One song they played, “A Song Without Words” had a section that simply tiptoed though scales from treble to base, note-by-note, changing instruments as needed to maintain the rhythm while still descending through the sound garden. It was beautiful, as is all of their music and I would have loved to play it for you here, but my phone ate it. 🙁 . It reminded me of the line from “Virtuoso” that said “Thunder crashes, waves crescendo on the sand, the wind that’s whispering can only be Your hand ” as it rolled across the room. Truly moving…
Oops…I guess a good writer might have began with a semi-unfamiliar word’s definition: A virtuoso, according to the always-right Miriam Webster online dictionary, is “one who excels in the technique of an art, especially : a highly skilled musical performer (as on the violin)” . My definition, as you will see, is slightly more nuanced.
I always kind of thought of my mom as a kind of piano virtuoso, not because she could play every song perfectly like a “true virtuoso” nor because she read music so well (I am not sure how good she was at that). Not at all. She makes mistakes and hears them and grimaces….now and in 1959 and 1979 and 1999. I think of her this way because piano is natural to her. It flows from who she is. She learned to play as a country girl with hours and hours of chores to do, but the music was always in her.
My oldest daughter, a clarinet ninja if there ever was one, is an outstanding player, but her skill is as much caused by her countless hours practicing as it was innate. She, with joy, would sit on the porch serenading the cats and an occasional armadillo in our old hometown or a cloud of mosquitoes at the new one… for hours at a time. I expect she still practices for her community orchestra these days. 🙂 Weather didn’t matter much… Naturally skilled, yes (!), but she worked her butt off too.
Mom worked her butt off too…milking cows and checking fences. She learned to play piano because it sparked joy from what was in her.
My son, whose concert we deeply enjoyed last night, is more like mom perhaps. He is a talented clarinet player as well, but he only practices at school. It doesn’t spark joy to bring home his instrument and practice as much. His joy comes from singing, learning about singing and someday teaching singing. He is a type of singing virtuoso, hearing things in music I cannot hear and listening to thousands of hours because he loves it and because it is part of who he is.
My middle daughter, a good flute player in her day (I refuse to call her a flautist because it sounds way too much like she has gas), but it sparked no joy for her. Art is her bag. She loves it and “practices” a lot…and is great! Our garage and her old room is full of her masterpieces, all with special meaning. An artistic virtuoso in my book. 🙂
(Note: I am sorry if I am deviating from the approved definition of this term. I truly feel like the title of virtuoso belongs to the one for whom it comes naturally in a unique way because it is who they are inside. It flows from innate joy. One could use the term prodigy or savant instead, I suppose, but those terms miss my point. They are extremely skilled, but I seldom read of a prodigy’s blinding joy in his or her craft. A virtuoso, in my world, is joyful in craft too. Perhaps I could call them a “Joyoso”?)
All of this aside, there is a point to be made here…
If you are floundering in your faith a little by this stinkin’ disease, I understand! It is a terrible place you (and I) have found ourselves in. But don’t lose heart, friend. Instead, dig deeper in your Bible and study the hard stories, and learn from them.
Here are some folks who had hard times:
Job. Great life, then terrible…world crashed around him everywhere until his friends urged him to curse God and die.
King David. “The Man After God’s Own Heart”…messed up badly and, in the process, broke pretty much all of the commandments in one big meltdown, then had the rest of his life with ramifications.
Paul. Prosecutor against, then defender and evangelist for the church. He lived a life of trials, nearly killed many, many times.
Jesus. He left an eternity to the left on the timeline in Heaven and took on flesh. He lived a perfect life, always choosing right and denying wrong…every single time without fail. His earthly reward for feeding, loving and physically and spiritually healing countless people? They violently hung Him on a Roman cross after choosing a dangerous convict/murderer over Him in a clemency offer.
See, our “righteousness” does little for our temporal ease of life while we are here. Some of the best people in the Bible (including the best!) had, frankly, pretty crappy lives by our standards. Should we expect an easier life than Jesus?
Know this: when Adam and Even fell, in a scene that many, unfortunately, do not have a clue the significance of, the world was spun into a tailspin of sin, death, disease, madness, Alzheimer’s, and dementia. What was perfect now sucks. …but it won’t forever. Better said:
” Life is a symphony
That only You can play
You know I can hear it
Through the madness everyday”
There is perfect music in the madness!!!
Could it be that life these days is so good that without these tough times we would like it here too much and not yearn for Heaven and its song? Could it be that there is matchless musical beauty on display through Alzheimer’s/Dementia as loving Christian nurses and caregivers turn their backs on everything to serve these patients 24/7/365? Could it be that His protection is still covering these Sweet 17 ladies and my Mom perfectly, as perhaps a song of grace in letting them forget the howling trials of a long life lived? Could it be that this world and its events were created by a perfect and loving God who knows us completely and wants us to see Him more in the “timeless melody of beauty and emotion” and the “perfect harmony” through the hard times to prepare us for the perfection of Heaven someday? Could it be, as He says in Romans 8, that for a Christian “all things work for good”, even when all seems bad? I, like millions throughout time, have staked my entire life on the truth that God has revealed His plan through the Bible. I will forever lean my ear to the music of the true Virtuoso who orchestrates what seems to be a mess to me sometimes, but to Him is simply falling together, perfectly into place into a cascading, beautiful song. Someday we will understand just how much grace we were given by this True Virtuoso.
Keep your head up Christian! Better days are ahead. Just listen to the True Virtuoso and embrace the soft background music knowing that He knows what He is doing because the His music is perfect among the maddening noise of life (and this disease) because His music flows from who He is.
(Update: Mom was happy yesterday again. Still marginal on verbal things, but smiling. She is tired too as she seems to be entering another season of sundowning, a fact not surprising since days are getting longer and her days are getting shorter. I will see her again today with joy.)