Composer or player?

I’ve just spent time whiting out the old “fingering marks” on this fall’s college orchestra music. The whole exercise got me to thinking. . .

You see, on the cello, you can play a single note in many, many different positions, on different strings, with different fingers. While sight reading, you must play along making snap decisions, answering the question, “How and where am I going to play that note?”

Under the best of conditions, it isn’t easy — playing the right note at the right time along with your fellow musicians. (It can be horribly embarrassing!) But when someone else has marked all over your music, it can be downright confusing. Such were the marks I found when they handed out this quarter’s music. Here I am trying to think my way through the Concerto for Guitar by Vivaldi, while simultaneously evaluating (and dismissing as crazy) the marks left by some prior musician.

(Here’s a link to the music. You might enjoy it!

And so today, I simply made all those marks disappear. Thank you Wite Out!

You see my objective is to obey the composer. Vivaldi didn’t really care which finger I use, or even which string I play on. Old composers rarely even cared which direction the bow was going. All those marks have been given to us by modern editors. He only cared that I played the notes as written.

And it makes me think about our Christian culture. One thing we specialize in (in our modern era of publishing) is giving one another “advice” on how to walk the Christian Walk. Ten ways to conquer your temper. Five ways to renew your marriage. Seven tips to fulfilling ministry. In our culture, this advice is a little like the markings on my Vivaldi music.

They may help me play the music, or they may just slow me down, leaving me confused and frustrated.

In the Christian walk, it is wise to know which marks are left by the Composer, the Giver of LIfe, and which are left by well-meaning bystanders. Whose marks do we obey? I think that the Bible, the Word of God provides for us all of the notes and melodies which our Composer requires. Don’t let the well meaning advice of bystanders confuse you.

For instance: Scripture says, “Don’t forsake the gathering of believers.” What kind of church you prefer, when you attend, and the focus of your church — well, God has left those decisions up to you. Scripture says, “Pray without ceasing.” But it doesn’t tell us what that prayer should look like. Even the “Lord’s Prayer” seems to be a pattern to follow, not a chant to recite. He tells us to use our gifts to bless the body and grow it into maturity. But he allows us to discover where and how to use those gifts. Do you see my meaning?

Scripture, like music, leaves us a great deal of room to find our own way. Of course God himself provides us the wisdom we need to play our part! When we get hung up on the instructions of humans, rather than the clarity of the Composer, we are inhibited rather than released.

When it comes to the well meaning advice of the Body of Christ, I say, don’t be afraid to use the white-out. Go back to the original score. Check out the notes. The rhythms. The melodies. Play those carefully. Exactly. Slowly. Find which techniques work for you. Practice. You will improve. I promise!

Evening Quiet Time? Go for it!
A single life? Live it happily!
Singing your prayers? Let it ring!
Doodling your prayer requests? Let me get you a new set of ink pens!

He wants you to succeed in playing his music. Go back to the original score. Find your melody. Play it with gusto!


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