Who of us doesn’t like to receive a gift? Not just for a birthday or special occasion, but a gift that comes to us out-of-the-blue. For no reason. A friend sends a care package and a rotten day suddenly becomes the best day of the week. A neighbor shares a plate of cookies. A student brings a card of thanks. Gifts come in all shapes and sizes. I love gifts. When a gift is given out of love or deep appreciation I can’t tell you the joy it stirs in my heart. I don’t always want to be on the receiving end, though. I want to be a gift-giver, too…the one who makes someone else’s day…the one who makes someone else smile.
God loves to lavish good gifts on His children and He never expects anything in return, but I believe He loves receiving gifts, too. Gifts that express our love. Gifts that come from a heart of gratitude for all He’s done for us. My gifts may seem small in comparison, but I believe God is pleased with the sincerity from which my gifts are given.
I learned to play the piano as a child. I took lessons from the time I was six years old through my first year of college. I can’t say I play extremely well. I’ve never claimed perfection. I never really disciplined myself. I despised memorization and I didn’t always pay attention to things like “key signature,” “time signature,” and I still don’t know the names of all the different types of “rests.” During my weekly piano lessons I would shamefully sit at the beautiful black grande piano in Mrs. Anderson’s music studio and begin to play a piece I’d practiced half-heartedly. Part-way through she would stop me and say, “Nina, you still aren’t looking at your key signature.” I’d completely disregarded all sharps and flats and played as if I didn’t have a care in the world.
Shameful. ‘Tis true.
Given the fact that I was born with degenerative hearing loss I can’t say I heard myself playing all those wrong notes. Sounded normal to me. Probably because I’d practiced the wrong way all week. I do know that when I put forth my best effort and practiced every day I could play fairly well. God, bless Mrs. Anderson, please…she was so patient with me. I think she saw something in me I never saw in myself. Being hearing impaired and blind in one eye left me with enough insecurities to fill the luggage compartment of a Grey Hound bus. I don’t think I’ve ever really heard music the way a person with normal hearing does. All I know is, I did learn to play the piano and somehow God has used this small gift in ways I never expected.
Back in the eighties I was the church pianist. I was present every time the doors opened, banging away on the keyboard to my heart’s content. I played hymns for congregational singing, the preludes and the offertories, and occasionally for choir anthems. I’m proud to say I practiced, practiced, practiced during those few years. More than I ever had in my life, but I can’t truly say I was giving God a gift. My heart was missing something. That season was short-lived and God moved me on to the ministry of teaching His Word and speaking in His name. I quickly pushed my musical gift aside.
When God gives the gift of a talent to His child, though, I don’t think He ever intends for it to be cast aside completely. In the past couple of months He has dug deep into the storehouse of my being and brought to the surface this insignificant little talent He gave me. My church’s minister of music recently retired and I’ve made myself available to help. Although I haven’t truly played the piano or practiced in many years I’ve been comforted by this one truth:
“A gift opens the way for the giver and ushers him into the presence of the great.” Proverbs 18:16
My talent to play the piano may seem very small. I’m still not claiming perfection, but I’m older and wiser now than I was thirty years ago. I want to give God a true gift. When I give Him what I have in my hands and say, “Take it, Lord, it’s all I’ve got, but it’s Yours,” I believe it becomes an act of worship. My arthritic hands aren’t as strong as they use to be, but they’re willing. When I practice, practice, practice I’m not just giving God my talent, I’m giving Him my time. When I look long and hard at my “time signature” and my “key signature” I’m not just giving God my knowledge, I’m giving Him my mind. I’m desiring to give Him my best.
The funny thing is, I hear even less now than I did as a teenager. When I play for congregational singing I no longer hear any voices. I read the lips of the men and women in the choir with my one good eye ever watchful so I don’t speed ahead or fall behind. I realize just what an act of grace it is that God would use me in such a role, even if it is temporary. When I sit down at the piano on Sunday morning and give Him the gift of my hands, He ushers me into His presence. He opens the door to His heart when I give Him from the gratitude of mine.
Hummmmmm…I wonder if God sings along when I play. That’s a very interesting thought. I believe it’s possible to make God’s day. I know He smiles because when no one else knows what’s in my heart He does and my heart is saying, “Thank You, God, for showing me how to be a gift-giver.”