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God’s instruments bring harmony to others

By Alma Barkman


I had decided to grab an extra hour of sleep when an unexpected phone call jerked me from my nice warm bed and sent me scurrying down the hall. In the dark chill of a January morning, it seemed much earlier than it really was.

“Hi, Mom? It’s me. I forgot my trumpet. Can you bring it right away?”

I admired the way our teenage son dragged himself out of bed morning after morning to attend early band practice at the local high school, but if it was that important, how in the world could he have forgotten his trumpet, of all things?

“Mom? Are you awake? Band practice starts in 11 minutes!”

The anxiety in his voice smothered my indignation. “I’ll bring it right away, if only the car will start.” Not anticipating the little errand at hand, I had left the block heater cord hanging on the porch railing. Like a snake with rigour mortis, it had frozen into a stiff coil.

The car door creaked open in protest. Bundled up heavily against the cold, I packed myself in behind the wheel. I still had my pajamas on under my slacks, my gloves didn’t match and I hadn’t combed my hair. I was hoping nobody would recognize me, that my son would come out to meet me, that I’d still get there on time and that the car would even start under such cold conditions. Why, oh why did it have to be the coldest day of winter?

The key turned heavily in the ignition and the starter whined and complained as if to mimic my own resentful attitude. The motor fired once or twice, sputtered and coughed but kept running — reluctantly. I had to ease out the driveway ever so carefully and inch along between stop signs, scraping the windshield free of frost every few seconds.

As I lurched to a stop in front of the school, our son came tearing out the door, babbling profuse apologies amid a deep sense of relief.

Not until later in the day did he have time to explain that he was supposed to play a solo part, but in his anxiety to do well he had forgotten the most important item of all — his trumpet. As he told of his chagrin at opening an empty case, I cringed inwardly.

When God needed me to be his instrument at a crucial moment, was I only an “empty case?” Our son said he had prayed fervently. Had I not been available to do my part, what then?

I thought of the times when every ounce of my humanity had cried out against God’s expectations, when I had claimed it was too cold to attend church, too hot to help an elderly gardener, too inconvenient to give someone a ride, too time consuming to visit a shut-in. And yet all along I had given the impression that I was one of God’s instruments, when in fact I was nothing more than an “empty case.”

Looking into my heart that cold winter morning, I was certain God took no pleasure in my initial attitude. But I like to think God smiled a little as I chugged obediently down that frozen stretch of road to deliver a trumpet to a praying teenager. And I have since discovered that God can use me, his instrument, in many other ways to help bring harmony into the lives of those around me. All I have to do is make myself available.

Barkman is a freelance writer who lives in Winnipeg (