Know That You Don’t Know

I’m still trying to figure out the faith application of something that happened to me today. As some of you may know, I speak a little Spanish. I wouldn’t call myself “Bi-lingual” just yet, but I can manage a conversation with a (very patient) native speaker. So, I’m also on Twitter, and I use that to follow some Twitter feeds en Espanol so I can brush up a little. One of them had a link to a little quiz to test Spanish vocabulary.

I thought that was neat. I clicked on it, and was able to follow the directions- filling out data, basic instructions, things like that. Actually, that part wasn’t even totally easy, and the fact that immigrants to our country have huge language barriers didn’t escape me. What I could surmise was that they wanted me to click “yes” for words that I knew/thought I knew. On the flip side was that I was to click “no” for words I didn’t know OR thought were made up.

My results were that I was 29% proficient. Not bad, since most of the words were way above my head. Now, I admit that I clicked “no” on a lot of words… but I didn’t click affirmatively on any words that weren’t, well, actual words. Then I saw that there was an English version. I took it. Same rules, less difficulty in navigating through the directions (I’d already done it, but more importantly- it was en Ingles!)

These weren’t “gimme’s”, y’all- even so, my stats were higher. (One word was “eschatology”- I took advantage of the theological word!) But there *was* a category that was higher than in the Spanish version. I had clicked on 5 words that weren’t actually words! English fail! So this left me thinking about these results. I also did a Google search for one of them. Mumpish actually IS a word… just a very old, out-dated, no longer used word. (The spell checker underlined it just now. It makes me feel mumpish!)

OK, so where’s this all going? I realized that I’ve been preaching from Ephesians lately, and last week’s message was in Ephesians 2. What’s the most quoted passage from Ephesians 2? Verses 8-9, “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith- and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God- not by works so that no one can boast.” (NIV)

I hope this isn’t too much of a stretch- but the way I see these events is that for me to take this little test in Spanish was sort of like relying on grace. I was in over my head, and my efforts didn’t provide all that much. Even getting started on it took me some time! The fact that I made no wrong answers in a foreign language is like God guiding His children in a land that isn’t supposed to be their own anymore. We at one time were a part of this world, but now we’re His. How does that come about? Grace.

In the English quiz, I felt like I knew enough on my own. Though I’m still protesting “mumpish” (there’s that red squiggly line again!), I see this as relying on my efforts and coming up short on the results. I led myself astray. And in our spiritual lives, if we feel like we can save ourselves apart from Christ, or if we want to wander away from His grace that sustains us, we’re in trouble.

How do you see this play out in your own life?

(just for fun- here’s the link to the Spanish version)  http://vocabulario.bcbl.eu/vocabulario/start

(and here’s the link to the English version)  http://vocabulary.ugent.be/

Until next time!

Spiritual Implications of Early John Coltrane

Here’s a surprising revelation for you- life is like a seminary class (in addition to being like a box of chocolates.) And since most of the time I have jazz running through my brain, a jazz seminary class is my life. Can you dig? I’ll let you in on another revelation- whereas some folks can listen to Christian radio all the time, I cannot. I love it…but my brain is not wired to listening to one genre constantly. Being a jazzer, I need jazz!

So, I was listening to one of my favorite jazz CD’s last week. Miles’ “Working with the Miles Davis Quintet” used to be in heavy rotation. In the days of cassette tapes I almost wore it out…I did wear out Marsalis Standard Time vol. 1 by Wynton (mostly listening/re-listening to Autumn Leaves). “Working with the MDQ” is a little oddity from 1956. It was recorded along with three other albums in a marathon recording session in order to fulfill contract obligations (namely so that Miles could get out of it!) Being in 1956 didn’t mean that the playing of the tenor sax player John Coltrane’s playing was at his absolute earliest, but it was fairly early on in his career.

For the uninitiated, Coltrane was, in short, a legend. Yet, what struck me as odd was that my listening today revealed a different aspect of his playing- he was reaching…sort of searching for what he wanted at times. He certainly wasn’t playing anything remotely bad, mind you.  If you want to hear “bad” jazz playing, then I have several examples of my own playing that would fulfill that.  Coltrane, not so much.  What I’m saying is that knowing the full arc of his career, I could hear that there were things in his brain that he wanted to reach for.

And then the spiritual application of his early-ish playing hit me: we should be constantly reaching, searching, and growing in our relationships with Christ!  I preached a sermon on this not too long ago, and in it I quoted Paul and Peter as they mention things like moving from an infancy in our faith to full maturity.  1 Corinthian 3:1-3 allude to this as does 1 Peter 2:2.  We have to start off somewhere.  We don’t just become believers and jump into teaching a Sunday School class… but we also have to grow and work out our faith.

Just some jazz theology thoughts for you.

Until next time!

Juice Box Christian

I’ll have to be perfectly honest, and say that the premise for my blog this morning wasn’t original.  I came across an absolutely hilarious video, that speaks an absolutely scary truth about our church culture.  (I’m even going to try to link it, but since I’ll probably botch that the video title is the same as my blog post, and it is done by Shift Worship… it can be Googled, like everything else in the known universe).

Here’s my attempt at the video link:

 

We’ll see what happens.  Now, the whole point of the juice box deal is not to comment on wine vs. grape juice for Communion, or to try to run Hi-C out of business.  It is about spiritual growth.  The whole premise of a 20-something staying in his 1st grade Sunday School class is absurd!  But don’t we do that when we resist things that will push us to grow?  This is true of any aspect of life, but Paul talks about it as he is discouraged by believers (that have been believers for a while) content on baby milk instead of progressing.  Although it’s not quite the same as milk, I drank an ounce of formula on a dare once and it was nasty… like liquid chalk.  Yet these believers were OK with that.  Yuck!

Check out 1 Corinthians 3:1-3 and see if it hits home.  If it does, then try to tear down whatever wall is keeping you from growing in your walk with the Lord.  It could be a Bible-reading thing where you don’t read because of ___________ or that you can’t be a part of worship because the music is too ______________.  Or it could be some other excuse that is totally silly.  Change it and grow!

Until next time!

Going to the Shed

In my life as a musician, which I suppose was at least 100 years ago, I had to “shed” a lot.  Shedding (more so for jazz musicians than our classical counterparts) is a term that means practicing.  Jazz is, in my opinion, a pretty hip music, hence the hip terminology to describe an otherwise bland thing like practicing.  I’ve started playing again- just a bit here and there.  With the playing will definitely come some shedding… if I don’t then I won’t sound that good!

How, you may ask, does this have anything to do with the Christian life?  I’m glad you asked.  I… well, I’ll just go ahead and say it.  I am NOT perfect. Shocking, I know. So, even though I am a follower of Jesus Christ I still mess up sometimes.  Sometimes is a broad term.  Maybe to narrow it down, I could say I mess up anywhere from daily on down to every 5 minutes!  In our lives we will have to face the obvious fact that we are human beings and that we do still sin.  I think this idea of getting into a practice routine, “shedding”, working out the kinks in our lives is what Jesus was trying to say.  In Luke 9:23 we read, “If any of you wants to be my follower, you must put aside your selfish ambition, shoulder your cross daily, and follow me.” (NLT)

This whole concept of intentionally taking up/shouldering our cross, making a concerted effort to deny ourselves and push our desires back while pushing Christ’s to the forefront is tough.  But it is necessary.  If, like I have done for a few years now, I were to lay off the trumpet then I’d sound like… well, like it had been several years since I’d really played my horn!  What about in our lives as followers of Christ?  If it appears that it’s been a while since we’ve done anything that resembles a Christ-led life, maybe we need to “shed” a little.

Until next time!

Serving For A Conviction

This is going to be a controversial post.  (Ooh, I can just feel the traffic coming to my blog- Bwaa Haa Haaaaa!)  No, I’m going to unveil the spiritual content now, give my little illustration, then get back into the application.  It’s different than most of my posts, so my readership will have to get out of the routine.  This won’t be too earth-shattering, since it’s like, one person!  I’m going to talk about how the Holy Spirit has the power to convict us of things and how we respond- even when it’s an unpopular thing to do or when it’s one of those, “Well, I guess it’s not ALL bad, but not ALL good,” kinds of things.  You know, the percieved gray areas?

OK, burning a CD without paying for it is against the law.  I’m not talking about you bought an album on iTunes so you make a CD copy for yourself.  I’m talking about, “Hey, so-and-so has the new Flibberty Giblets CD… I’m so going to burn that.”  It seems like no one, youth or adult agrees with me that this is stealing.  I didn’t think so either for a long time.  I had literally hundreds of burned jazz, classical, blues, rock, bluegrass and other CDs in my collection.  It wasn’t until I came across a forum for youth pastors where I first felt a little tug from the Holy Spirit telling me that burning CDs that I didn’t own and then calling them mine was… wrong.  If you don’t like it, then imagine what I was feeling at the time!  I, the youth pastor, had even burned a few Christian artists’ CDs.  I got rid of them, either through the trash or by deleting them from my iTunes.  It stunk at first, but then I realized I had done the right thing.  That was about three years ago.  I just did the same thing this week when I realized I’d let myself get complacent with it again.

So, it begs some of the following questions:  What is conviction?  What about things that are commonly accepted in the world around us?  How do I respond to conviction?  It is a tough thing to deal with.

I’m reminded of 1 Corinthians 8, where Paul was addressing the food sacrificed to idols.  It, since the idols weren’t real, was just food.  But there were some people that could get spiritually tripped up by this and sin.  So, he tells us, that if we partake of it, we could cause them to sin.  I think of my conviction by the Holy Spirit (whom Jesus calls “Counselor” in John 14:26) as a way of letting me see that there are things that I need to avoid.  Maybe it’s to abstain from an appearance of wrongdoing.  Maybe it’s to let me see that I can trust in Him through trials- and dumping a lot of great music is a trial for me!  I don’t totally understand this topic, but have to be willing to let the Counselor counsel.

What are some ways that you have been under conviction and had to respond?

Until next time!