Monday, December 29, 2014

When the music fades

From the time Ruth was a small child, her musical talent was recognized, not just by her family but by everyone around her.  She played the piano at three years old.  She started playing the violin a year later.  Everything in her life revolved around music.  And coming from a family with extremely limited resources, nothing ever came easy.  Back in that day, there was a lot of swapping around to get things done.

When Ruth was still a teenager, her father died after years of disability.  She landed a job at the local radio station to work her way through college.  She hosted a live radio program every morning from 4 to 8 am, and then went to classes for the day.

After college, she taught music at a seminary, was married and widowed all within a year, and then traveled halfway across the country to go to graduate school at the Eastman School of Music, a rare endeavor for a woman in that day.  She was invited by Ernest Tubb to join the Grand Ol' Opry in Nashville, which she declined.  Her eyes were on New York where she held a regular job performing on early television.

After she was married, she landed in Chicago where she kept up with her music, balancing the rigors of practice and performance while simultaneously raising four children.  And in Chicago while music continued to be her passion, God began to use her gifts in different ways.  What became more important to her was letting her music be used by God.  Not being a celebrity at Carnegie Hall was by no means a reflection on her abilities, but in a true sense, God used it to enlarge the scope of her influence.

She encouraged young beginning violin students by teaching them almost on a daily basis, she performed at nursing homes for the people no one remembered, and in a time when it was unheard of, she assembled an orchestra at her church where members of the congregation of all levels of ability came together to perform Handel's Messiah every Christmas.

What became obvious was that her giftedness as a musician was just a vehicle to glorify God and to show kindness to others.  When the music fades, what is left behind?  Whoever knew her commented about her music and always remarked how kind she was.

Someone once said, "People may not remember exactly what you did, or what you said, but they will always remember how you made them feel."  Her kindness touched the least and the lonely, no matter who they were.  She knew that need is not always recognized, nor does it discriminate between the poor and the wealthy. She would walk into a party or other gathering and seek out not the popular nor powerful, but the loneliest person there. She played once for the funeral of a friend.  She and her accompanist were the only attendees of the service.

I knew Ruth well.  She was my mom.  Today would have been her 95th birthday.  She has been gone now ten years, but the things that she taught me grow stronger by the years.  And today I am reminded, above all to glorify God every which way you can and seek out opportunities to be kind.

When I was going through a stack of papers after her passing, I came across a small note in her handwriting that I had never seen before.  It said:  "I always wanted to be famous, but I think better things happened because I'm not."

God leads us on paths we would never expect.
He uses us in profound ways we can never know.
We have only to be faithful.

The LORD will fulfill His purpose for me,
Your steadfast love, O LORD.
            endures forever.

                       Psalm 138.8

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