Since retirement in 2017, I have joined the Bell Choir at church. The group is called the Alleluia Ringers for a just reason: we truly do say "Alleluia" when we have successfully played a song from the beginning to end during a worship service. We rehearse weekly during the school year and present an anthem at worship once a month. We also do other things like ring at nursing homes and have snacks and chat and laugh and pray and tell jokes. Mostly, we want to glorify God with our musical ringing... that's the main thing.
Our Director is excellent and VERY patient and the most talented and Spirit-led pianist I know. She can play anything the first time through and instantly reinvent more explosive endings on the spot (and I mean this as a high compliment.) She can do all of this with 100% accuracy. If she were a Ringer, she could play a cool dozen bells with one hand behind her back. Accurately. That's who she is. Patient Talent Extreme with Accuracy.
The Ringers, however, are not so accurate but we are working on it. Oh, we have a couple of Ringers that top the talent chart; some of them have played for years. The local high school head band director chooses to play with us and he can ring a couple dozen bells at one time without breaking a sweat (he's young; no hot flashes there.) A couple other Ringers also know what they are doing and which bell is up. These people even out the Ringers that do not entirely read music. That's true... in a group of musicians where reading music is a prerequisite, some Ringers do not readily read music and rely on their God-given ears to hear the melody and know when to ring. Hear me out, folks. THAT is a real talent....
The Ringers have other talents, too. They can pray like storm troupers. You have an issue? We pray. You don't have an issue? We pray anyway. We pray about everything. We are family and we are all. about. it.
This past week, we Ringers had an additional job to do. We polished the bells. This is an annual job which takes minutes and is performed in perfect coordination amidst much laughter. The bells are whipped off the tables, long pieces of plastic are whipped on over the tables, the gloves, polish and rags are distributed and the smearing begins:
Step one: apply smelly pink metal polish on bell.
Step two: let dry a bit.
Step three: wipe said polish off with a clean rag until it shines so clearly and brightly that woo's are heard. Seriously, who needs light when these bells are shined.
These bells, which were purchased in 1978, "shine like the top of the Chrysler building" when they have been redeemed by the polishing cloth. I mean, they SHINE!
But wait... you thought the bells were shiny before we polished them? Yea, me, too. The blackness on our rags proved the bells had tarnished. A lot. An amazing amount of black came off the bells and onto our trashed rags. The tarnish didn't affect the sound... and no one knew the tarnish was there... but... IT WAS THERE... plain as day... on our rags. Black.
Reading in Philippians 2, I came across the word 'shine.' Here are verses 14-16:
Do everything without complaining or arguing so that you may become blameless and pure children of God without fault in a crooked and depraved generation, in which you SHINE like stars in the universe as you hold out the Word of life.
I cannot help but think black tarnish unfolds in my life as complaining and arguing... to name a few of the tarnishing tactics I employ on a daily basis; yuk stuff that I do that affects my 'shine.' A whole lotta black accumulates on my daily timeline that must be polished off, cleaned up, confessed, forgiven, wiped clean.
Thank You, Jesus. You are the Great Polisher (sounds like a song title!) Seriously... even if I can hide my tarnish from the people around me, You see it. You gladly polish it away when I confess and ask.
Psalm 51: 10 - 12 (with my added words in parenthesis)
Create in me a clean (untarnished) heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me.
Do not cast me from Your presence or take Your Holy Spirit from me.
Restore to me the joy (shine) of Your salvation and grant me a willing spirit to sustain me.
Shine me up.
Redeem me and let me shine like 'the top of the Chrysler building' (any Annie fans out there?) for You. I want to be Your blameless and pure child in this crooked and depraved generation.
Hide me under a bushel NO! I'm gonna let it shine.
And the good news is, Jesus puts my sin... my dirty, black, tarnished rags... in the trash... never to be picked up... looked at... or remembered... again.