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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 – Advanced)
Topic: Measure (01/10/13)

By Barbara Lynn Culler


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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This article has been read 372 times
Member Comments
Member Date
Laury Hubrich 01/18/13
This is an awesome devotional. I can really relate to it.
Sarah Elisabeth 01/19/13
Great devotion! I loved the unique story of the hand bells. Everyone always looks calm to the audience, but as you illustrated, we all feel pretty lost sometimes. I could feel your panic when no one could help you find the measure, and you tied that feeling perfectly to losing our way in life and realizing everyone else is lost too. Only the Father can show us the way.

Very nice use of the topic, way to go!
Danielle King 01/19/13
I found your entry interesting. I had no idea that hand-bell ringing was a skill that required so much concentration and practise. I was feeling panicky with you. This is a creative use of the topic and I like the way you put the message accross, loud and clear. Well done!
Allison Egley 01/19/13
This is good. I had to chuckle a bit, only because I've been a part of many, many musical performances (though not hand bells) and have gotten lost countless times. I have felt like calling out "measure!" many times, both in musical performances and in life! I like the analogy.
Lillian Rhoades 01/19/13
Your opening paragraph was definitely an attention-grabber. Some spotty grammar issues noted, but they did not take away from the wonderful way you transitioned from the personal story to the spiritual application.

Joe Moreland01/20/13
I could totally relate to this piece, having been in a handbell choir as a kid - right down to the white gloves and playing "Silver Bells" (that song must be required material for every handbell choir in history). :)

I love how you drew the analogy, and when I think about it, that goes for so many other things in life and how we so often try to do things on our own power or rely on someone else to take up the slack or carry us, only to produce such disastrous results. Your admonition to rely only on God's power, as the holy word commands us, should be so obvious - and yet I always finding myself having to relearn that lesson again and again.

Thanks for presnting it to me here, maybe I'll think of it again this week when I'm in the middle of some new disaster and it will save me a lot of heartache. Great, great job! And congratulation on moving up a level!
Myrna Noyes01/20/13
Your hand bell choir story was a perfect lead-in and illustration for your excellent devotional thoughts. I liked how you used the code word "Measure" to ask for help in getting back in rhythm! Nice job! :)
Bea Edwards 01/21/13
Great use of this topic for an inspirational and practical life application!
C D Swanson 01/22/13
Splendid and touching devotional. God bless~
Shann Hall-LochmannVanBennekom 01/22/13
You did an awesome job on this piece. You were able to explain what a measure is for people like me who are not musically inclined while still not talking down to those who know the music world. Your transition into your spiritual part was seamless. Your message is inspiring and I loved the prayer.
Loren T. Lowery01/23/13
Great job. And it "rings" true for me as it brings back a memory of my first state piano competition ( Beethoven's Moonlight Sonata in front of packed auditorium). Sitting on that piano bench in front of a 12 foot grand piano - the pervading silence - all I could think was if I can just get the first 3 or 4 notes in, I'll be fine. It worked out - I placed 3rd in the state - but the memory and lesson (as you've shown here)is far more enduring.
Shann Hall-LochmannVanBennekom 01/24/13
Whoo-hoo!! Happy Dance!!! Congratulations my sweet friend!
Shann Hall-LochmannVanBennekom 01/24/13
Congratulations on ranking 30th overall!
C D Swanson 01/25/13
Congrats. God Bless~
AnneRene' Capp01/25/13
Congratulations Barb! What a ministering devotional, reminding us to keep our focus on Christ. My heart was pierced, as I too, have reaped the consequences of teetering off God's path to fullfill my own desires.