Monday, February 1, 2010

God Improvised - I joined in; we all did

Yesterday, at church God improvised and I joined in; we all did. That's what I'm talking about!

One of my great enjoyments in life is playing guitar. It's been an on-again off-again relationship over the years in terms of commitment, but always rewarding when I take the time to give it some serious attention.

My parents gave me my first - a simple nylon-stringed "folk" model - when I was a teen. All I wanted was to learn a few chords so I could play along with the singing at our youth "after-church" parties Sunday nights. I didn't even learn the names and labelled the four chords I knew #1, #2, #3 and #4 (I still have an old song book with the numbers in magic-marker, scrawled on top of the real music).

Then I'd hear something I wanted to learn, and my repertoire would expand by maybe one new configuration or one progression... or the instrument would sit in my closet for a few months, gathering dust... or I'd take weeks to get around to replacing a string... of my interest simply wandered away...

The biggest boost came at a Billy Graham event in London when I was around 18. One of the music leaders really captured my attention and, wandering through the auditorium after a mid afternoon class, I saw him putting his guitar away on the edge of the stage and he nodded a greeting.

"Hi," I said. (Actually, I'd grown up in England, so I probably said, "Hello.") "Hello, I love that move you make around the 'D' chord on a lot of your songs. How do you do that?"

"It's simple, actually," he replied. Then he pulled out his guitar - grabbed another one from a stand for me - and proceeded to give me a ten-minute tutorial."

His name was Graham Kendrick. You may have heard of him.

I touch on this theme for most of one chapter in "GET REAL: a spiritual journey for men", in fact what I'm continuing to learn about music is pretty much the outline for the entire book and the implications for my growth as a spiritual person are huge.

First, I won't/can't move forward as a guitar player unless I want to learn. Desire is fundamental to any kind of learning. The cliche goes, "You've got to have the want-to." Otherwise it's like my weekly visit to Miss Wheatly (bless her patient heart) for piano lessons - I showed up, I went through the motions, I never did my homework, she told my parents we were all wasting our time!

Next up is Discipline. I became a disciple of the guitar. The best story here is where I told my friend Don I wanted to learn the blues. Next week he showed up with a book. "Here's all you need to know," he said. I was devastated to discover it was mostly musical scales. "I don't want to memorize scales," I complained. "Where's the part where I can take off and get all bluesy?" Don smiled: "If you don't learn the scales you won't have anything to improvise from. If you don't learn the fundamentals you'll be pulling from a dry well."

Eventually, I fell in love with the guitar. This is the "Devotion" part, and by now you can tell I'm also talking about the life of faith. We'll talk about this - and my last point, "Daring", over the next couple of days.

So anyway, back to the present. Yesterday, at church, I felt in a groove. Everything flowed with a kind of a fluidity and around a sense of connection that pulled me, my fingers, my guitar, the worship, the message, my interactions with other people, what I was playing, what I was still learning, how God was speaking to me, how God was speaking through me - all together. It was a place where my wanting and my experience were the same thing.

Yesterday, at church God improvised and I joined in; we all did. That's what I'm talking about.

Peace - DEREK

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