False Notes

Image by Joanjo Puertos Muñoz from Pixabay

 Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?” And I said, “Here I am. Send me.” — Isaiah 6:8 NIV

Nervously I fingered my clarinet. It wasn’t every practice the high school band director stood right behind me. When the song ended, his booming voice filled the gym.

“Maddock!” he yelled. “How do you expect to play the song when you aren’t hitting the right notes?”

I’d been found out. 

After my father’s job layoff a few years earlier, my parents had to make every dollar stretch. I knew better than to ask for fun money. But I didn’t want to be left out, so when I got to high school, I came up with a plan that would enable me to attend the football games.

I knew the band director was seeking more members. I also knew the band got in the games free. So the summer before I started high school, I borrowed a clarinet from my sister’s boyfriend and began to teach myself how to play. 

Accepted into the band—I didn’t have to try out; he was that desperate for more members—I struggled to keep up with the more accomplished players. When I came to a note I didn’t know how to play—and there were plenty of those—or when the tempo of the song was too fast for me, I simply pretended to hit the notes.

But now my deception was discovered. It was truth time. I took a deep breath and answered, “I don’t know where they are, sir.”

The entire band, director included, erupted in laughter. By the time I was a senior, I’d moved up from the third to the first section. 

If I’d waited until I felt comfortable and accomplished—until I thought I was “good enough”—I would have missed out on what became the most memorable and fun experiences of my high school years. 

The same is true in life. While it’s good to be prepared, sometimes we just need to take the plunge, learning as we go. Our performance doesn’t have to be flawless before we can make a meaningful contribution to the world in which we live. We’re going to hit false notes, but, like the band director who didn’t give up on me, God doesn’t give up on us. Instead He lovingly gives us the song of our lives, note by note.

 When I feel intimidated and unsure of myself, remind me, Lord, You don’t need perfect vessels, only willing ones. Amen.

 Read and reflect on Isaiah 6:1–8.

From God, Me, & a Cup of Tea: 101 devotional readings to savor during your time with God, © 2017 Michele Huey. All rights reserved.

An Alexander Kind of Year


Be still and know that I am God. – Psalm 46:10 (NIV)

In her children’s book, “Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day,” author Judith Viorst writes about a boy named Alexander who’s having the worst day of his life. Everything that could go wrong does.

Last year, 2022, was that kind of year. Although I cringe to describe it as a “terrible, horrible, no good, very bad” year, frankly it was. It was a challenge to keep a positive attitude and not dwell on all the Alexander-type events that occurred. I often felt like Elijah under the broom tree (1 Kings 19:3–4), when he whined, “I have had enough, LORD.”

I’m not unlike Alexander, who dreamed of escaping to Australia, where he thinks things will be better. Or Elijah, who told God he was ready to come home. I, too, long for a place of peace and rest, where there are no problems to deal with.

Oh, to be sure, the enemy has tempted me to dwell on all the “terrible, horrible, no good, very bad” things that occurred and give in to whining, hurtling myself into a pit of self-pity. But God tells me that focusing on the good things will give me the peace I long for (Philippians 4:8, 9).

Psalm 46 is the prescription for the Alexander times in our lives: “God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. Therefore (I) will not fear . . .” (verses 1, 2).

On a day when I was feeling the stress of these Alexander times and not bearing up well, I received a handmade card from a friend. On the front were the words I needed that day: “Be still and know that I am God” (Ps. 46:10).

In these times I need to remember to put on my armor each day. But even with my armor on, my back is still vulnerable. I can only fight a foe in front of me, and the enemy often strikes from behind—attacking at our weakest points.

But I don’t have to worry: “For the LORD will go before (me), the God of Israel will be (my) rear guard” (Isaiah 52:12). And again: “The glory of the LORD will be (my) rear guard” (Isaiah 58:8). God’s got my back!

Yes, 2022 was an Alexander kind of year.

But through it I’ve seen the power of prayer, I’ve sensed the presence of a God who knows me well and loves me still (Psalm 139). I’ve perceived there’s a purpose for the pain, even though I don’t see it or understand it. I’ve learned that in spite of everything, prayer brings a peace that transcends understanding (Philippians 4:6­–7). And I’m getting better at Philippians 4:8 kind of thinking.

I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that my God will never leave me or forsake me (Hebrews 13:5).

“See,” He says, “I have engraved you on the palms of My hands” (Isaiah 49:16).

Thank you, Father, for being with me in those  “terrible, horrible, no good, very bad” times of my life, for helping me to see there’s a purpose for them, and for giving me Your peace in the midst of them. Amen.

Read and reflect on Psalm 46 and Isaiah 49:13–16.

© 2015, 2023, Michele Huey. All rights reserved.