How to Make the Best Music with Your Life (A November to Remember — 11.5.2014)

November 5, 2014 | 33 comments

Today’s Scripture — 11.4.2014

“Am I now trying to win the approval of men, or of God? Or am I trying to please men? If I were still trying to please men, I would not be a servant of Christ.” ~ Galatians 1:10


How to Make the Best Music with Your Life

I could have said no.

But I have trouble refusing church ladies like Trish. They’re the kind whose persuasive acts make you wonder if arm-twisting is a spiritual gift. They could talk you into delivering Sunday’s sermon in a pinch.

Trish had called, looking for musicians. And before I could eek out a simple word – NO – I gushed: “Yes! Of course!”

A few days later, she brought a French horn to our house, along with a trumpet. I had … um … volunteered my husband, too. I agreed that both of us could play in a brass quintet at our country church’s Christmas Eve service.

Never mind that neither my husband nor I have played brass in 20 years. I would need to Google-search “French horn fingerings” to refresh my memory.

Like I said, I could have said no.

But Trish was convincing. She helped me believe we might be part of a magical moment.

Plus, I really wanted to say yes. As I grow older, my inner adventurer tells me to live life more fully, more courageously. Besides, my husband and I wanted to “practice what we preach” to our daughters. We regularly encourage our girls to try new things – like piano or cartwheels or sushi. This world – a gift to mortals – is fertile ground for playful, daring hearts.

If I scroll back through my life, I see places where perfectionism has stonewalled my spirit of adventure. I’ve wanted the approval of man more than I care to admit. I haven’t always wanted to try new things. Maybe it’s because I’ve felt the sting of disapproval and self-doubt too many times.

But if we’re not careful, we could stop trying anything that seems scary or dangerous – like having babies. Or knitting. 🙂

Our drive for performance? It can drive us into a bland malaise. We miss out on adventure, when we’re enslaved by our approval ratings.

Here’s what I know–
We’ll make the best music with our lives, if we are willing to play a few wrong notes.

And we can make the best music of all, when we clear all the people off of life’s bleachers, and play for an Audience of One.

Our little brass ensemble risked wrong notes that Christmas, because we didn’t want to miss out on the adventure of the song. Sure, we rehearsed — right here in our living room.

In a burst of musical bravado, my husband and I practiced while our two daughters sat cross-legged on the floor.

My mind danced with daydreams of a future with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra – or at least a spot in the high school concert band. We finished the song. I lowered my horn, looking to our miniature music critics for assurance.

One daughter scrunched her nose. The other asked: “Are you sure that’s the way it was supposed to sound?”

True, we sounded more like sick elephants than a brass duet.

The night of our performance came a week later. The pastor had instructed us to play our song two times through. With forty-two sets of eyes on us, we lifted borrowed horns to our lips at Trish’s cue. The first strains of “The First Noel” filled the sanctuary.

And behold, we sounded like a real band. Yes, I did hit at least one wrong note, and I lost my breath midway. After one verse, we lowered our horns. Between bursts of laughter, we decided one verse was plenty.

Maybe it was the spirit of the season, but our audience broke into applause. I think I even heard a few cheers.

Afterward, Trish said we ought to play on Easter morning. I might just say yes.

Unless, of course, the Royal Philharmonic calls first. 😉



Trish and I, during our Christmas Eve performance.

(Portions of this story are told in Love Idol.)

YOUR TURN: Like the great prophet Elsa says, “Let it go! Let it go!” 🙂 How can you let your inner adventurer loose today? How can you “let her go” from the cage of perfectionism?


The first version of our printables for our month-long series had a few errors. Those errors have been corrected (updated Nov. 4). You can print the updated sheets out by clicking here. We apologize for any inconvenience!

This post is part of our month-long series, “A November to Remember: Seeing Yourself Through God’s Eyes.

How You Can Be a Part of This Movement:

1 – Print out the Scripture sheets. (Click here for printable versions.) Each of the 30 daily Scriptures are quoted in Love Idol, and each one ties back in some way to our identity in Christ. (You don’t have to read the book to participate in this study. But of course, you’re welcome to! 


2 – Find the passage assigned for today’s date.

3 – Consider how God is speaking to you. How does the verse help you remember who you really are, outside of all the cultural noise?

4 – Visit us on the blog, or the Love Idol movement page on Facebook, to share what the verse means to you.

5 – Share your insights on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, or your blog, to add more soul to your scroll. #MoreSoulLessScroll 

 Tag me, so I can find you. (Or feel free to follow along silently! No social-media presence required.)

I’ll post my own response here on the blog every morning at 5 a.m. Sometimes, you’ll find a story, maybe a few short words, maybe a series of photos. That will happen every day, for all of November, God-willing.

Studies show that the best way to form a habit, is to NOT break the chain. Habits form if you keep at it, one day after the next after the next. After our 30 days, we may have created a new habit of Scripture before Scrolling – a habit that can take us into the Christmas season, and beyond.


Follow Along

If you want to follow along, visit us here every day. Consider subscribing to my blog by clicking here to get these reflections in your email inbox.

The Printables
(Download for printing from Google Drive)

Let this be the November that we remember who we really are: Loved. Preapproved. His.

Find all the posts in the November to Remember series by clicking here.  



For more details on the #TellHisStory linkup, click here. Share the love of story by visiting someone else in the community!

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by | November 5, 2014 | 33 comments


  1. Kimberly Henderson

    “We’ll make the best music with our lives, if we are willing to play a few wrong notes.” I love that!

    I am so enjoying doing these morning verses that line up with your book. With today’s verse, I ended up focusing on how I FIGHT to WIN the approval of others – asking God where am I expending all of my energy DOING so others will approve instead of RESTING in the approval I already have in Him. So I loved coming here and seeing what you had to share. Because this is also me – a woman who avoids doing things because of what others might think. Glad I’m not the only one who faces these battles. And BEYOND glad there is HOPE and unending love and approval in Him!!! Blessings, Jennifer!

    • dukeslee

      I am so glad you shared your thoughts on those verses, Kimberly. I love how God can take one Scripture and speak in so many ways to different people. He’s so creative that way, how He speaks to our unique situations. Again, thank you for sharing here. You’re enriching the discussion.

    • dukeslee

      Kimberly … if you’re following along with the printables, did you happen to see that our first version of the printables had errors? We have the updated ones available, as of yesterday. Be sure to grab those… 🙂

  2. Mary Bonner

    Jennifer, I am enjoying this November series, even if I am not taking the time to comment every day. BUT…today? THIS post? WOW!!??! It speaks straight to my heart. I’ve played more wrong notes in my life than I care to remember and yet, God has redeemed EVERY. SINGLE. ONE. of them! Even knowing that, I still resist that which is uncomfortable or makes me think I might not “do it right.” Thank you for this reminder.

    • dukeslee

      Oooo … great take on this, Mary — how God redeems the wrong notes. Your comment also makes me think of how a key change in a song can create a very emotional response, as the song swells. Or, how a minor-key song has a beauty all its own. Thanks, friend. Glad you’re here.

    • dukeslee

      Mary … if you’re following along with the printables, did you happen to see that our first version of the printables had errors? We have the updated ones available, as of yesterday. Be sure to grab those… 🙂

  3. JViola79

    Jennifer, I am so loving this series! I sat & wondered this morning what I have missed from fear of hitting the wrong note or not being enough or as good as. It’s time to clear the bleachers of all but One & hit it!

    • dukeslee

      It’s been a joy to have you along for the journey. God is re-teaching me some of the same lessons I learned during the discovery process of Love Idol. Bleacher-clearing has become a daily task. 🙂

    • dukeslee

      If you’re following along with the printables, did you happen to see that our first version of the printables had errors? We have the updated ones available, as of yesterday. Be sure to grab those… 🙂

      • JViola79

        You are so considerate to make sure that I had seen them. Yes, I did reprint so as to be able to follow. Thank you!

  4. Jolene Underwood

    🙂 Makes me wonder what it would be like if I picked up my violin again. Um, not so sure anyone would want to hear it. Then again, we have to hit those wrong notes along the way and when we continue to listen & learn we can all find ourselves sharing beautiful music in some way. Yeah…with you sister.

    • dukeslee

      Thanks for stopping by to share in my fun little story. 🙂 It’s a reminder to me, of all the ways I’ve sort of locked my inner adventurer up, with the keys of my inner perfectionist. Life is too short not to make music. If you pick up that violin again, take a picture … and tag me on social media! I want to see that, friend! 🙂

    • dukeslee


      if you’re following along with the printables, did you happen to see that our first version of the printables had errors? We have the updated ones available, as of yesterday. Be sure to grab those… 🙂

  5. Jillie

    Well Jennifer, once again you hit the nail on the head for me. Through your comical recollection of your very own “Royal Philharmonic” debut, you further build the case for a sold-out commitment to the Audience of One.
    Oh Lord, might you further convict my heart and strengthen my resolve to follow You only, with no care for the opinions of others. That I would indeed clear others off of life’s bleachers. That I would grow in Holy boldness.

    • dukeslee

      Praying that prayer with your this morning, Jillie … and praying a version of it every other day as well. Grateful for your voice here this morning.

      • Jillie

        Thank you Jennifer for your prayers. I can sense my resolve being strengthened day by day as I follow along here on your blog. And as I open Bible before laptop!
        (Yes, I have noted the updated verses as well.)

    • dukeslee


      if you’re following along with the printables, did you happen to see that our first version of the printables had errors? We have the updated ones available, as of yesterday. Be sure to grab those… 🙂

  6. joni

    am i a slave to man or a bond-servant to Christ the son of the Most High God? A bond-servant indicates a relationship and a desire to serve the one you serve.

    • dukeslee

      SOOOO glad you mentioned slave/servant here. Have you ever done a word study of that word, up there in Galatians 1:10? Servant is doulos in Greek … not just a servant, but someone who “gives self up wholly to another’s will.” It’s not a FORCED arrangement, like we think of in terms of historical slavery, but a willingness to give ourselves up to someone else. Completely… We are not our own.

      • joni

        I have not per se studied them but i love words i wish i could write but i love the words and word origins. I did know slavery was more forced working without choice but bond-servant paul referred to himself as. He always spoke about topics related to relationships. the bond servant had a relationship with the One whom he served.

    • dukeslee

      Also, if you’re following along with the printables, did you happen to see that our first version of the printables had errors? We have the updated ones available, as of yesterday. Be sure to grab those… 🙂

  7. Jen

    Really enjoying this Nov. series! 🙂

    • dukeslee

      I’m so glad, Jen. Thanks for stopping by. Did you happen to see that our first version of the printables had errors? We have the updated ones available, as of yesterday. Be sure to grab those… 🙂

  8. Lisa notes...

    You’ve made me cry this morning, Jennifer. 🙂 But good tears. I’ve too often let perfectionism stonewall my spirit of adventure too. This past weekend my daughter wanted me to play a song on the piano while she sang it. Wonderful. But then she put it on Youtube. And then on Facebook. And I cringed because my playing is not very good.

    In the past I probably would have just said no, don’t put it out there. But as I grow older, I’m learning more about who cares if it’s not perfect?

    Thanks for sharing this story. It’s so right.

  9. Elizabeth Stewart

    One of my favorite posts. I love your faithful involvement in your little church. What a blessing you are there.

  10. Lynn D. Morrissey

    Jennifer, I don’t normally laugh aloud at your post, but this one? I was rolling. What a hoot (or is that toot…..of a horn). It’s your daughter’s comment and that elephant crack that got to me. But I admire your courage. I was *forced* to play cornet in college as a VOCAL major, for goodness sake! I thought I was going to blow my brains out with cheeks puffed from here to Detroit. But I’m glad I did it nonetheless. Thanks for the prompt to do what we think we can’t and having fun doing it. I do love making music, but I still need courage to do it in front of an audience. And that thing about perfectionism really spoke to me too. I’ll have to share a story with you sometime about my caterwauling a wrong note in a church solo and what it taught me about perfectionism. Keep the stories coming, Jennifer. They are changing lives for Jesus, and especially mine!

  11. Tarissa Helms

    Loved this! Since turning 40 (which was admittedly, a bit ago), I find my inner adventurer venturing out more often. Thanks for sharing your bravery with all of us. You’re an inspiration! Also, I may dust off my old flute and see how much I can remember after reading this! 😉

  12. June

    This story reminded me of a trick I played on a friend one year. I was in charge of designing and printing the programs for the Christmas Eve event at church. My friend plays the trumpet, rather well actually, but he is the type that would need to be asked in January to play on Christmas Eve, lol. Anyway, I made up 5 programs (for his family) that listed him doing a solo with the trumpet that night. I’ll never forget his face as he frantically searched the church for me after reading his copy of the program, lol. Priceless.

    I find it hilarious that you put having children in the same fear category as knitting. I don’t have kids, but I have made a scarf or three . . . the two are not even in the same ballpark, which is your point, I’m sure 🙂 Like Tarissa, I’ve become much more adventurous since turning 40 (a bit ago), and as you’ve suggested it has a lot to do with surrendering perfectionism. Great post, Jennifer!

  13. Katie Reid

    Perfectionism is a cage indeed- thank you for the reminder to break free even when we trip on our way out.:) I feel at ease when I read your posts- you have a transparent yet seamless way of writing, thank you for using your talents for His fame.:)

  14. kristifromnc

    This series looks great! Sadly, I cannot seem to get the printables to print. Google Drive will not open up on my iphone or ipad. Any pointers? Thanks again.

    • dukeslee

      Kristi … send me your email to [email protected] … I can email you the printables, and you can print from your email. Will that work?

  15. Caryn Jenkins Christensen

    Aaah! I just love this Jennifer! As a music teacher to elementary students I have a hard fast rule called “Umbrella of Mercy” in which the students are given a “second chance” if they make a mistake (really, they’re given multiple opportunities). It’s not only a rule in my classroom, but I hope a foundational principle they carry with them throughout life that will encourage them to be adventurers without worrying what others think of them. 🙂


    Great story! Glad it was in retrospect. At the outset, I thought I’d have to wait til this December to hear how it turned out. YES! Leap out there! I’m sort of kind of writing about a related topic today in the last of my Making Masterpieces series. A little late on this 4th installment after the loss of our dear friend a couple weeks ago that knocked me flat. Moving forward – courageously and pre-approved!



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