Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Blue Like Jazz by Don Miller


Blue Like Jazz: Non-Religious Thoughts on Christian Spirituality is written a bit like Mr. Wilson’s Cabinet of Wonder by Lawrence Weschler.  Inside there are essays with seeming diversions that end up not being diversions but critical elements in the whole tied together at the end. 

I bought this book on a recent visit to Watermark Books, an independent and well-curated bookstore. A kind saleswoman named Ann who told me she doesn’t read spirituality books presented it to me as something “many people buy.”

Despite clear chapter titles like “Church: How I Go Without Getting Angry”, and fantastic stories started in one place and continued in another, after finishing the book, no roman numeral outline comes to mind. But I am left with some impressions from Don:

*Jazz and poetry and faith and matters of the soul are not like math and charts and grids. There is an architecture but it’s not the architecture of reason, rather an expression and of a God who moves beyond our reason. Some things you believe even though they are beyond explaining. (see chapter on Penguins). 

What God is doing in our lives is beyond math and reason, charts and grids. This is a good reminder for when I want things in life to make logical sense. It reminds me to take a firm grip on a God beyond my understanding and open myself to new things, to not be afraid but to trust.

*Don owned in his own voice and life the accusations against himself (self addicted, me as the center of the universe), against the church (for persecution, intolerance, for not helping the poor, for not caring with love) and is in the midst of the struggle to be different. What would happen if in our own lives we owned our part of the mess, confessed them to those affected, and asked forgiveness?

*This doesn’t mean trashing yourself for your mistakes in Dan’s view. Jesus command to “love your neighbor as yourself” also means don’t talk worse to yourself than you would to your neighbor. We need to be able to accept God’s love even though we may not feel worth it or conversely too proud to receive free grace from God.

*When the conversation of our mouths matches the conversation of our heart (liking for someone who is very different from us)- then our walk and words are effective, otherwise they are just a clanging gong. 

The thing I like most is Don not only acknowledges the accusations leveled against the church, but also agrees with and in a great chapter titled “Confession: Coming Out of the Closet”, he actually engages in apologizing for to non-Christians. There’s something tremendously freeing as well as empowering about this.

I think it will take me some time to mull over Dan’s book and work out in jazz-like fashion the implications and changes for my own life. If you’re looking for a non-religious way of looking at spirituality and faith based topics, this might be a very good orthogonal way in.

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