Two English Handbells by Oosoom (15 April 2006) via Wikipedia, CC. Adapted by Kate Taliaferro Two English Handbells by Oosoom (15 April 2006) via Wikipedia, CC. Adapted by Kate Taliaferro

I am glad when Sunday arrives. Not only does it mean going to Mass, lately it also means nearly 2 hours of music rehearsal - by myself! As a stay-at-home, homeschooling mom of 3 kids, this time for myself is precious and I cannot thank my husband enough for being so supportive.

While I was happy to be singing, on one recent Sunday I was looking particularly forward to the bell choir portion. Though I have some musical talent, the bells have been an exciting new challenge. When we got the bells out, I got straight to work highlighting my music. As we are all novices to the bells, our choir director had asked us to highlight all our notes to help everyone be on the same page, or measure for you music folk. Each bell is one note, like one key on the piano. Highlighting wherever your note (or notes, if you are in charge of multiple bells) appears, helps keep everyone together, especially when we have some non-music readers in the choir. We have three songs for Christmas this year, so we were all scattered across the various pieces as we highlighted. I was absorbed in “The First Noel” - the bells I have been assigned are used frequently and play important roles in keeping the tune going. I looked up from my task and realized we were going to start playing, so I got ready. 1, 2, 3, 4 Go!

It was so hard! I couldn't figure out why I wasn't able to find my place. Then, when I thought I had found it, I had completely lost it again. I was counting, I was focused, but I couldn't figure out what I was doing wrong. When the piece was finally over, the director looked straight at me and said, "Ok, good, good. Now, Kate, I didn't really hear the C though." I glanced at the music stand next to mine. Mine, as you know, said “The First Noel.” Everyone else's said "Away in the Manger." Oh dear! My missing “C” note solo turns “Away” into just “Way” and messes up everyone! I also created some rather unpleasant chords and sounds by ringing my bells at the wrong times. I had been so absorbed in what I was doing that I missed the direction to switch songs.

My ride home got me thinking about that moment of confusion and musical discord. The way I see it, we each are like a bell. Each of us is unique. Some are lower notes, deep and warm, mellow and strong. Some are in the middle, brighter and full of life, always ready to carry the melody. Still others are in the higher registers, twinkling above the rest, airy and light. God, in his omnipotence, has written into creation a musical masterpiece. Every living thing contributes to the great chorus, dancing across the earth, each singing or playing as God designed. The book of Job tells us:

Now ask the beasts to teach you,/ and the birds of the air to tell you;/ Or the reptiles on earth to instruct you,/ and the fish of the sea to inform you./ Which of these does not know/ that the hand of God has done this?/ In his hand is the soul of every living thing,/ and the life breath of all mankind. (Job 12:7-10)

As human beings, we are a part of this musical performance. The difference between us and the rest of creation is that we have been gifted with free will. We get to choose whether or not we want to contribute to God's masterpiece. We can sound our notes according to God's sheet of music, creating the chords and melodies that God envisioned. Sometimes, unfortunately, because of our brokenness, we will ring out our sound in a manner that clashes with our neighbors', creating discordant tones and altering the harmonies that God so carefully laid out.

Other times, we may try to re-write the music that God has so carefully crafted for us. We think that we know ourselves better, that we know what strengths to highlight and what weaknesses to avoid. We believe that we can create our own happiness by following the lyrics of the world - "More is better," "Look to yourself first," "The grass is always greener," "Instant gratification is best."

God tells us over and over again that this is not the way. Seeking to make ourselves independent of God only causes us pain and sorrow. We find division, unhappiness and discord in our lives. We hold up the idols of the world - power, pleasure, honor, wealth - as replacements for God's love, mercy and forgiveness. It is only when we slow down to hear the music of God, the voice inside of us questioning "Why aren't I happy? What can I do to be truly happy?" that we can begin to play in time, ringing out our notes according to God's plan, God’s sheet of music. There, in the chorus of praise with all creation, we will find true happiness and peace.

To ponder: God has lovingly given each of us gifts which we can use to contribute to the musical composition of creation. What ways can you use your gifts to create greater harmony in your life, harmony inspired by God’s will?

Copyright 2015 Kate Taliaferro