Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Advantages of starting music early. The timing of talent.

Advantages of starting music early. The timing of talent.

Is it time your eight-month old child began music lessons? You will probably think about it, and may even take a poll to help you decide.   Your neighbor says "Of course." Your cousin's widowed aunt says, "Not until the child is old enough to sit still for practice and can understand the discipline of it."
Instead, you might want to research what the experts say.  There is a tremendous amount of research, past and present, done to help parents determine when a child can actually benefit from starting music early.

I am not an expert; however, I do have a story. My cousin and I are the same age. We both have music in our respective family backgrounds.  Therefore, it follows that we both were on the same musical track when we reached adulthood. Right?  Not so fast.
My cousin was helped onto the piano bench at age three.  She held early recitals to the cheers of her family. In elementary school, she gave more recitals and garnered more kudos. By high school, she played several musical instruments. Her college degree was, of course, in music and voice, and her career is all about music.

Me? I did not begin piano lessons until age 12. I practiced an hour a day (as my mother stood over my shoulder to “make sure”) for over two years.  Not much luck, but I gained basic knowledge.  I did not even think of taking music in high school, and my family did not mention it.  I loved music, but couldn't play at the level I demanded of myself. So, I gave up. I was connected only by the love of music which I continued to play (however tentatively), and by singing at church.

In college, I took two years of piano and voice. I loved it, but still found it difficult to deliver the extra touches that the professor directed. I persisted, and was able, finally, to gain a bit of advantage over beginners.  The recital was my final test, and my professor told me it was good. 
So, what was the difference? It was not because I lacked ability. Perhaps the answer is found in the following discussions.

"If we teach our children early enough, it will affect the organization, or 'wiring,' of their brains." states Michael Phelps, UCLA biophysicist.  His studies, and that of other scientists, indicate that during a child's earliest years, there are millions of neuron connections at work in the child's brain.  As the child grows, the brain determines which of the connections are most used/important.  Ones not used are lost. Thus the phrase, "Use it or Lose it."

"The thing that determines which connections are saved is education in the broadest sense of the term," continues Phelps, co-inventor of the PET scan.Musical training is just one example of early learning.  "By encouraging young children to learn music and practice, you're really doing them a big favor." The researcher Chugani said. "Once a child has learned an instrument, he or she can stop playing, then pick up the instrument 20 years later and do much better than an adult just starting out."
Another example is foreign-language instruction, which is often deferred until high school, despite the fact that youngsters can learn to speak like natives -- that is, to think in the language without having to translate -- whereas teenagers or adults usually cannot. When small children learn a new language,” he continued, "the ability to use that language is wired in the brain."

"Children need a flood of information, a banquet, a feast," stated Martha Pierson, Baylor College of Medicine.

UCLA's Scheibel cautions, however, that pushing youngsters too hard can be counterproductive. "When the level of exposure becomes excessive," he said, "stress hormones are released that actually destroy nerve cells." A balance must be struck between too little exposure and too much. Clearly, we shouldn't force kids to learn too much too soon.

"But why wait until age 5," said Yale biologist Martha Constantine-Paton, "When the evidence clearly shows that brain development begins much earlier."In-depth studies have definitively shown that activities change brain structure.  It is, therefore, meaningful that studies also show the drastic changes which music imparts in the brains of children and, in adults, only to a lesser degree.
Developing one's music ability makes extraordinary demands on the brain. Researchers studying musicians who play stringed instruments released extensive data indicating that the more these musicians practice, the larger the brain maps for their active left hands become, and the neurons and maps that respond to string timbres increase. In trumpeters the neurons and maps that respond to "brassy" sounds enlarge.   Musicians have several areas of their brains - motor cortex and cerebellum that differ from those of non-musicians. (The Brain That Plays Music and is Changed by it.   In R. Zatorre and I. Peretz, eds., The biological foundations of music.  New York: Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences, 315-29, esp 316.)

Imaging also shows that musicians who begin playing before the age of seven have larger brain areas connecting the two hemispheres. (T.F. Munte,  E. ALtenmuller, and L.  Jancke, 2002.)
Nobel Laureate S. Ramon y Cajal wrote, "The work of a pianist... is inaccessible for the untrained human, as the acquisition of new abilities requires many years of mental and physical practice.  In addition the strengthening of pre-established organized pathways, and the establishment of new ones, through ramification and progressive growth of dendritic arborizations and nervous terminals. . .takes place in response to exercise, and may be reversed in brain spheres that are not [exercised.] (S. Ramon y Cajal. 1904. Textura del sistema nervioso del hombre y del los sertebrados. p.395.)
It is my  belief, based on experience, that age three is a great time to begin that trek toward musical success, whether it is singing/playing piano for large groups, or at home with family  nearby, or, alone with just the cat to  listen.

Why not trust your own instincts, and let out the musical genius that may be hidden within your child? You won't regret giving it a try.  You will regret it later, as you see the ability and wonder what might have been.

#musictraining #earlymusiclessons #thebrainandmusic

Saturday, May 16, 2015

Discovering a book-- again! Spiritual food in fascinating "fiction?"

I write, but I also read a lot just to relax. The other day, I finished enjoying a book earlier than I anticipated.  I must admit that once I get into a reading frame of mind, it is like an addict with his drug of choice. I must read until I cannot absorb another word.  This night, I realized that ceiling was not yet hitting my head. So, I began searching through my multiple book shelves for something I might enjoy reading again.  I don't usually read a book more than once, but my addiction was eating me alive, and I had to feed my hunger.

Five minutes later, I stumbled upon "The Shack," by Wm. Paul Young.  I vaguely remembered sitting down with the book a few years ago, but for some reason I did not read very far into the book.  Just returned it to the bookshelves.  This time, I read the back cover. The theme sounded solid: a man suffering immense loss and hurt is led back to his past, and directly into the scene of his greatest hurt.  There, he meets some familiar strangers.  Strangers, for sure; but, with a sweetness he remembered as once knowing, but sorrowfully long lost.

This time, as I settled into the book, I could hardly put it down to eat or sleep.  I believe everything happens for a reason, and if one looks objectively from a distance, the circumstances are always used by God for human benefit, whether evil or good,  happy or sad.  Young uses the question humans have asked for centuries as the basis for a fascinating voyage into the possibilities of God's nature.   Where is God in a world so filled with unspeakable pain?   For personal reasons, the questions and discussions found within the story had a more resounding affect on me today than they would have if I read the book three years ago.  So much in my life has changed over those, and the past 25 years.  Taking time to consider the knowledge of God's nature as displayed in the book gives me a little more insight into my own condition, and I even made sense of some of the questions in my own life that have haunted me for years.

Faith plays a tremendous part in my life, and The Shack covers each page with faith: faith in God, faith in his deity and being, and faith in giving our hurts over to God so that He can work a miracle in our hardened and scarred hearts. Above all, faith that we are here to pass along God's messages through our good and not-so-good days, and that our lives are not lived in vain. God has a purpose that we are assigned to fulfill.

The Shack is a book of fiction -- but at its core is a book bespeaking of faith, prayer and soul searching. It was a #1 New York Times Bestseller and millions of copies were sold when first published in 2007.  The rich and famous, such as Kathie Lee Gifford, David Gregory, Michael W. Smith (recording artist), and artists, publishers and people of faith across the country endorsed the book.

Why not read it yourself?  If you already read it, why not read it again?  It will bring to remembrance why we are on earth and allow us a glimpse of heaven's glory at the same time. 

#faith, #God, #heaven, #sorrow, #healing, #spiritual healing, #God's nature, #Jesus the Son, #God the father, #the Spirit, #The Shack, #Wm. Paul Young, #eternity, #spiritual relationship

Monday, May 11, 2015

Today is a beautiful day.  The sun is shining following a weekend of really bad flooding, tornadoes and wind.  North Texas in recovery mode.  Life and rebuilding will be hard for many, almost impossible to believe for some, and sorrowful for others who lost loved ones this weekend.   Prayers go out to each of them.  The rains nourished a ground parched by drought, filled our lake to the brim, which had been 8-10 feet down for several years, and was a blessing from that respect.  Just a reminder of God's power vested in nature.  Treat it with respect.

Every day is icing on the cake of my life, even when days are dark and dreary.  There is always something to be thankful for, although there are days when we have to search for those reasons.  May God's mercy be with  those having difficulty finding their light icing.

Thursday, May 7, 2015

A World Religious Leader Speaks Out

A World Religious Leader Speaks Out

Franklin Graham recently addressed a rapidly-darkening cloud on the horizon of our society. Below is a portion of his comments from a recent Decision Magazine article.

"The goal is to eliminate Judeo-Christianity from the public square and force faithful, orthodox Christians and Jews to not object to that which violates their faith or, if they do, to be punished. We have not yet experienced the level of actual physical persecution and violence that followers of Christ endure in other parts of the world, but I certainly believe that Christians will increasingly be forced to choose between rendering obedience to God or Caesar. We may face the threat of fines—like the Christian florist in the state of Washington who refused to provide services for a gay wedding and is now in danger of losing her business and home.  Standing firm on our biblical convictions [regardless of the subject matter] could one day even lead to incarceration.

I don’t think there is any doubt that our country has forgotten and forsaken God. We reject the authority of His Word. We refuse to love the truth, and instead we pursue evil. We prefer the deeds of darkness over light.”

Rev. Graham urged Christians to speak out everywhere and at every opportunity. Not to be radical and throw it in the faces of those with whom we disagree, but because we still have the right to stand for our own Biblical principles. As he reminds us “Christians still can be salt and light.”May it ever be so.

#franklingraham #Christianchoices #biblicalconvictions #moderndaypersecution

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

A Common Fear

I am afraid. Not of ill health, death, or taxes. That, I am at peace with. My fear is for our country, and the path it seems to be taking that history tells us leads to the destruction of our society and the downfall of our country.

I am fearful our young people do not understand what us "old birds" see happening to our country. This is not meant as a lecture. I simply feel compelled to share the growing, common concern that is daily sending many “always-positive” people to their knees in fear and prayer. I speak not of radical, throw-it-in-your-face individuals, who answer to God for their agendas.  Rather, I speak of strong, loving, Christian soldiers who instilled right from wrong into the fabric of the children we mentored while going about our daily lives in peace with others. Christians who believe that most people try hard to be good.  These Christians do not, however, believe that people will all eventually change and everything will work out as it has since our nation was founded.  Throughout history, from the days of Moses, when the moral majority becomes weak, they soon become the moral minority.

These Christians do not appear among us with perpetually sad faces, wearing sack cloth and ashes, and drawing insulting cartoons of those we disagree with. Instead, these Christians believe that, until our political leaders are made aware by their voting constituents that their jobs are on the line, and begin to change the path our country now treads, we will continue to go morally and spiritually downhill. 
Increasingly, laws protecting our rights to stand strong are being overruled by those who believe our values are outdated and need to change.  Humans are rewriting what our Constitution (with God mentioned prominently throughout) put into place. Christians are being marginalized in their ability to live and talk openly without censure.  It is in the news every day.  You cannot just ignore it. If we do not individually stand up for, and demand that our religious leaders stand up for, our rights as Christians, I believe God will allow our country to fall.

Yes, our religious leaders have let us down.  But, we cannot expect them to carry the entire load, and they aren’t perfect either. Every Christian must remain diligent in his/her efforts to stand for truth.  This kind of godlessness cannot just be loved into obedience. Such godlessness destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah. It wasn’t the incest and homosexuality. It was the pride behind the sin that refuses to accept that they might be missing God’s light.

And I am
not saying we should stand on the street corner and condemn lesbians/gay .  Showing love without giving their decisions priority in our lives is godly.  What is happening in America is a slide into “anything is okay. And, if you don’t give me what I want, you are wrong and will be punished.”   I have friends whose children have partners. Only God can respond to moral equivalency in terms of judgment.  While the Bible does not teach we can turn them away, neither can Christians turn the other way and deny what the Bible teaches. Yet, this weakness is being displayed every day in our country.

God will judge each of us for our individual actions.  That includes lesbians/alcoholic/abusers/murderers, etc.   But, when when our moral compasses differ, and others' decisions give them self-appointed authority to tell me it is my responsibility to ignore my beliefs and bow down in deference to their beliefs, God says I cannot do it. This bowing down is where those of us who have been around for a long time see an increasing danger. Christianity is not just a social gospel, as proffered by many sincere, smiling religious speakers today.  There are beliefs Christians must stand up against, or we will fail in our duty to uphold the morals and values God teaches in His word of authority, the Bible.

Hillary stood up last week and said that it is time Christianity lightened up on our archaic standards and change our focus. I don’t think so!  And, this is the person who may well be leading our country in 2 years. And, Michelle Obama is one of the leaders of the effort to take over the spiritual and physical responsibility that has always been our right and duty to God. The leaders Obama has put into place serve under the same flag we do, and many in high places will not leave when the Obama administration changes.  Or country's current weakness increasingly runs throughout state and local government, and is holding many in Congress captive to the greed and self-centeredness of elected officials, who are more concerned with staying in power by pleasing the majority. The majority has rarely been right in history, especially during the last days of their leadership.  In our country, the Moral Majority is no longer the majority. Christians are now the minority, just as in Bible days.
Just as Israel was led into captivity when they, and their leaders, failed to uphold God’s standards, so this could also happen to us.

Just be watchful.  Good does not always triumph, and will not until Christ returns. The Bible’s history proves that.  We, as Americans, are no exception to that rule. Stay happy. Be happy.  I am at peace with my life and love those I meet, and the souls of those who disagree with my beliefs.  But, I just cannot assume someone else (our leaders) will take care of the moral compass, which is turning wildly away from the Savior’s Star.  The religious leaders are failing, also, which is even more of a threat than Obama, Hillary or other non-religious leaders.

And, as Forest said “And, that’s all I have to say about that.” 

#fearforcountry #moralcompass #religiousleaders #threatstoChristianity