Little Hands

6360489455192162291563850737_TrumpDonald Trump gets very angry when people say he has little hands. I noticed his hands last night when he addressed the nation about his Afghanistan War strategy. He used his right hand to gesture a lot as he spoke, and I noticed that his fingers are relatively short. But obviously, his hands are big enough to hold a pen to sign executive orders, and big and strong enough to swing a golf club.

I have little hands. The only adult I know with hands smaller than mine is Mim. Her fingers are about a quarter of an inch shorter than mine.

IMG_2271I sometimes wish I had longer fingers. Most people who play the piano have longer fingers than I have. On both of my hands, my thumb and little finger can stretch over eight notes to play an octave, a frequent requirement when playing special arrangements of hymn tunes. If my hands are in the right position, I can even hit a ninth note, if needed. But absolutely no farther than that. The challenge comes when I need to fill in three notes of a chord with my other three fingers. Sometimes I can do it, sometimes I can’t, depending on the position of each note. Fortunately, I usually play hymn arrangements where I can freely substitute notes I can reach for the ones I can’t, and the music still sounds okay. (Good thing I don’t play too much demanding classical music where substitutions would be considered a musical crime.)

I really enjoy playing the piano (and organ, too). I can get totally lost playing a song like “Be Still My Soul” or “Jesus, the Very Thought of Thee.” The music becomes a conversation between God and me.


When I select music to play for preludes, offertories, and postludes for church services, I try to select music that can prompt others to communicate with God in the same way. I start the process of planning the music for the service by reading the scriptures assigned for that Sunday. Usually, that will bring related hymns to mind. Then I’ll search through my books of piano and organ arrangements and choose something that seems to fit the theme for the day.

For example, last weekend, the Gospel was Matthew 15:21-28, the story of Jesus refusing to heal the daughter of the Canaanite woman because he didn’t want to waste his healing powers on the “dogs.” Those powers were intended for the Jews. But the woman persisted with great faith, and Jesus healed her daughter after all. It’s a difficult story to understand. What better hymn to reflect on that than “More about Jesus.” I really want to know more and more about Jesus to be able to understand this story better. As the song says…

More about Jesus I would know,
More of His grace to others show;
More of His saving fullness see,
More of His love who died for me.

More, more about Jesus,
More, more about Jesus;
More of His saving fullness see,
More of His love who died for me..

[Eliza E Hewitt, 1887]

“Coincidentally,” earlier that week I had downloaded a new piano arrangement of that hymn from one of my favorite websites, and I decided that would make the perfect offertory. For the people familiar with the hymn, they could silently pray the words as I played the music. For those who didn’t know the hymn, they could simply enjoy the music. (The tune name is SWEENEY.)

As I was looking for a postlude, I paged through a new book of arrangements I had ordered a few months ago, and came across “O, the Deep, Deep Love of Jesus.” That seemed to me like a very appropriate postlude, considering how Jesus healed the woman’s daughter, even though she was a Canaanite. But, I thought this was another old hymn that would most likely be unfamiliar to most of the congregation. So, I decided to test Mim, a life-long Lutheran, to find out if she recognized the tune. I played the arrangement for her, and asked if she knew it. She said, Oh sure. That’s “Once to Every Man and Nation.” Well, she was right. The tune name is EBENEZER, which is commonly used for both hymns. I guess that made this arrangement doubly appropriate. The theme of that week’s Gospel is both about the deep love of Jesus and about the fact that Jesus’ love is for all people, not just the Jews. group handshake 1

So, what does all this have to do with little hands?

In my devotional reading this morning, I read 2 Corinthians 10:12-18, as specified in the devotional booklet, CHRIST IN OUR HOME. Here’s part of the reading…

We do not dare to classify or compare ourselves with some of those who commend themselves. But when they measure themselves by one another, and compare themselves with one another, they do not show good sense. We however, will not boast beyond limits, but will keep within the field that God has assigned to us…

Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord. For it is not those who commend themselves that are approved, but those whom the Lord commends.

[2 Corinthians 10:12-13, 17-18 NRSV]

The reflection on this text in CHRIST IN OUR HOME ended with:

Paul’s point is this: we boast and are proud of a … gift that God gave. In fact, to do otherwise might be to deny the gift that God has provided. God has given us many gifts. We can be thankful for them, be proud of them, boast of them, and use them to enlarge God’s kingdom.

God gave me little hands, and a wide exposure to sacred music – from the gospel songs of my Methodist childhood, to the more formal hymns of the church, to Evangelical praise songs and choruses. My fingers are too short, as is my ability to memorize long complex musical phrases, for me to be a classical pianist. But that’s not what God created me for. That’s not what I should compare my talents to. God created me to help create music in church, to help others pray and worship God. And for that, I am thankful – little hands and all.

Marian at Messiah organ 2

And best of all, I don’t have to get as dressed up for church as I would for a fancy concert hall!

8 responses to “Little Hands”

  1. Hi,
    I really enjoyed this post! We are made to do what He has planned for us to do.
    I am presently in a place where I am trying to figure out what He has for my next step.
    My teaching days are behind me, but even though I am in my 70s, He has work for me to do.
    Thanks for helping me see I already have what I need to do it – I just need to find out what IT is!

    1. Hi Pam,

      I’m glad this post spoke to you. I’ll keep you in my prayers. Good to hear from you.


  2. I’m pretty sure my hands are bigger than yours, but they can’t play the piano well at all, much less stretch to reach the 9th note! You, obviously, were made to create joyous music with your hands and you do that exceptionally well! I, apparently, was not created for that purpose. On the other hand, I am a good hand holder if you ever need that!

    1. Hi Mary,

      Thanks for your comments. God has given each of us many gifts. Thankfully, they’re all different, and we’re all able to benefit from each other’s talents. Thanks for offering to share your gifts!


  3. Yes, that comparing ourselves to others or to some arbitrary ideal can stop us before we ever get starated. As playing the music is a time when God speaks to you (or vice versa), the choir singing during worship is the time I get to hear the gospel from someone else. Yes, I hear the Lord while preparing, leading, and preaching, but being able to sit down, be quiet, and just listen is one of my favorite parts of the service. Sure miss you and Mim!

    1. Hi Joan,

      Thanks for your comments. It’s great to hear a pastor’s perspective on how God can use music to speak to us in church.

      Mim and I miss seeing you, too, Joan. Fortunately, Facebook helps us keep us in touch. We’ve appreciated your updates on your son-in-law’s recovery from his accident. Trust he is continuing to do better day by day.


  4. Marian, I love your thoughts on this. I also have small hands with short fingers, and now I have freckles on them…I played piano for worship at our church for 10+ years, and did just what you described! When we moved, I joined a Lutheran (ELCA) congregation, and for the last 10 yrs, have enjoyed being part of a voice choir. We’re planning another move, and I’m trusting the Lord for my next church family. In order to read your blog, do I just go to your website? Say hi to dear Mim.

    1. Hi Rachel,

      Glad you identified with what I wrote today. I never knew that you played the piano, too. Hope your next move goes well, and that you are able to find a new church family soon.

      You should be able to see any of my blog posts by going directly to my blog, Mim says hi.

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