The brilliant light emanating from the ceiling bore down on our group, and glinted off the brass instruments carefully placed on tables draped in black fabric. As the director took his place at the center of the U-shaped grouping of long tables, the spotlight shifted and I became momentarily blinded by the reflection from the large hand bell on my right. I saw black spots before my eyes. Oh no, what was happening? Was I about to faint?
Blinking hard, my vision cleared. Taking a deep breath, I watched the director for the cue. The church auditorium was packed and the spotlight was on our small hand-bell choir. Except for sounds of coughing and a child’s laugh, the room was silent when the prompt came. Simultaneously we brought the bells to starting position up against the chest and with the swing of white gloved hands, began to perform the song “Silver Bells” for the Christmas program. This was our first performance after weeks of practice and I was nervous. My heart was beating faster than normal and my throat felt parched as I tried to follow the music. Losing concentration, I became lost and didn't know when it was my turn to ring my two bells.
“Measure?” I whispered in a near panic to the person on my left.
"Don't know." From the corner of my eye, I saw her shrug. Apparently she was lost as well.
“Measure!” I demanded of the person on my right. She did not respond. Oh, what was I going to do?
Saying the word “measure” was our code to find out where in the song we were at. In music, a measure is like a sentence, but contains musical notes and other symbols and is sandwiched between vertical lines. As bell ringers, we must read the music as it plays, so to know when it is our turn to play the assigned notes. Each section, or measure, is numbered to help us find our spot as we read the notes and swing the bells. However, it is quite easy to get distracted and lose our place. To prevent a musical debacle, we whisper the code word, "measure," if we get lost.
That disastrous night, several of us erupted with “Measure!” It would have been comical if it weren't so pathetic. A few of the stronger players carried the song and we eventually found our place and somehow muddled through to the end. What a fiasco.
How easy it is in life to become distracted, and end up losing sight of where I should be. I want God’s will for me, but oftentimes miss my cue and the function I should be performing is omitted. I sometimes wonder what have I missed out on when I chose to leave God’s pathway for me. If I take my eyes off of God, for even one beat, I find myself floundering and asking for help. I discover that those around me are lost too. My help comes from God, alone.
The Book of Proverbs admonishes us to “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.” 3:5-6 NIV
This means to rely solely on God, not on my human weaknesses to find my way in life.
Every time I hear that Christmas carol, I think of our performance and cringe. My hands go into the starting bell position and I act-out the notes “Sil…ver” from the chorus, as that’s all I can remember playing. I’m reminded to keep my eye on the path that God wants for me so that I won’t get lost. But when I do, and I know I will continue to get distracted, I will call out to God, “Measure?”
Dear God, may my eyes always be focused on your measure for my life and not become distracted by the things of earth. But when I do fail, I know you are there, and will guide my steps to the right position. Amen.
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