Does God spend more time in jazz improvisations than He does in symphonies?

In a number of recent discussions, I’ve come across this mind set.  The mind set is that the Holy Spirit shows up when things are spontaneous, impovised, and off-the-cuff.   It’s sometimes left unsaid, though always implied, that when we prepare carefully for things, the Holy Spirit is some how less present in this activity.

I suppose the support they’d use for this belief revolves around examples like those in Acts, where some of the apostles are given God’s words to speak quite spontanously.    I’m not disputing those biblical accounts.  And I certainly agree that God is able to put quite spontanously, the right word in a brain at the right time.

But I do fear that sometimes “being open to the spirit” is really just a cover for being unprepared.  I think it places God in a box, to suggest that he’s not present in the research and preperation stages.

God is in control of our brain chemistries.  He’s in control of our research methods and resources.  He’s in control of the seemingly random events that might trigger a train of thought that ends at the destination he’d like us to go.  And some of these things, they are true whether God is exercising his will as a speaker prepares or when a speaker is actually speaking.However, while  there may well be people who can instantly and consistently discern the whisperings of the holy spirit from their own knuckle-headed ideas, I am not one of them.  Perhaps that gets easier with practice.  But me?  Where I’m at right now, I often need some time in prayerful meditation before I can decide what’s God and what’s me.  Being carefully open to the spirit as I prepare gives me this time to carefully ensure I’m saying the things that God would have me say.


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The stories that speak to our soul begin at a home where things are good. Cinderella is happy with her father. The three little pigs have grown up and are ready to move on. Bilbo Baggins knows his shire. Adam and Eve walk with God in the garden. My story isn’t much different. There was a time and a place where it was so good. There was a community for me. And there was joy. We were filled with a sincere desire to do what God wanted us to do. We possessed explanations and understandings that went a certain distance. We offered security and tradition and laughter. For a lot of years, that was enough. I have this sense that it was also necessary. I have this surety, now, that it certainly wasn’t everything. There were some things that became increasingly problematic as time went by. There was a desire to package things up so very neatly. Sunday morning services were efficient and strategic. Responses to differences of opinion were premeditated. Formula began to feel more important than being real. A real desire for everybody to be one of us, but also a real sense that there is an us, and there is a them. They carried a regret that it has to be this way, but deeper than this regret was a surety that this is how it is. I began to recognize that there was a cost of admission to that group. There were people who sat at the door, collecting it. Those people wished they didn’t have to. But I guess they felt like they did have to. They let some people in, and they left others out. There was a provisional membership. My friends did possess a desire to accommodate people that are different… But it would be best for everyone concerned if they were only a little bit different. I did make many steps forward in this place. Before I went there, there were lies that I believed. Some of the things that I learned there, I still hold on to. But that place is not my home anymore. Those people are not my community anymore. There were times it was hard. I am engaged in a different community now. And I am working hard at finding a place in many different places now, embracing many different kind of families. I don’t always get it right. I am trying and I am learning and I am moving foreward. I have this sense that I am not alone in these experiences. I believe that we are tribe and we are growing. We are pilgrims, looking for a new holy land. Perhaps we won’t settle on the same spot of land. But if you’ve read this far, I am thinking that we are probably headed in the same general direction. I have begun this blog to talk about where my journey is taking me. In every space, we find people who help us along. And maybe we can get to know each other, here. We embrace ideas that provide a structure for the things we believe, and perhaps we can share these too. Maybe we can form a group, a tribe, a community, if we can figure out a way to work through the shadow of these kinds of groups, if we can bigger than the us-and-them ideas that have caused so much trouble in the past. As important as they are, I think the very nature of online interactions will lend itself to something equally powerful. I am stumbling onto these practices that my grandfathers and great grandfathers in the faith engaged in. I am learning about these attitudes and intuitions are so different than the kinds of things we call doctrine today. I don’t know about you, but I am running out of patience, and even interest, in conversations about doctrine. I hope that maybe you’ll share a little something about where your journey is taking you, and maybe our common joys and challenges might help each other along, and we might lift each other up. Thanks for doing this journey with me.

One thought on “Does God spend more time in jazz improvisations than He does in symphonies?”

  1. The Holy Spirit is (1) always and everywhere present, (2) the giver and sustainer of biological life, (3) the spirit of truth, in other words, all truth in perception and thought comes from Him, regardless of one’s religious or non-religious orientation, and being thus He also (4) convicts us of our sins and reveals our sinful nature, (5) points us to the Redeemer, Jesus, (6) and initiates in those who accept Christ the new nature, or the new creation, so that (7) He can operate through us if we yield to Him.

    A pastor who spends hours studying and preparing a sermon can be doing either of two things.

    He can have an idea of what he thinks the congregation should be hearing, thinking and doing, and he will work very hard to convince them of it, but he himself is not waiting on God, but is trying to cause “a move of God” all by himself. Anathema!

    Waiting on God, observing in quietness and with prayer the state of the congregation put in his charge, to him is disclosed some very hard truths, and in his soul he is convicted by his own sin as well, yet he cannot resist the living Word that he hears within from Jesus, and provoked and guided by the Holy Spirit, he does whatever is necessary to preach what he has been taught.

    In either case, the preparation, the study, and so forth, can be carnally or spiritually motivated, or on the other hand, little preparation can have been carried out, and everything allowed to come forth spontaneously.

    Assiduous preparation or unpremeditated spontaneity, neither of them are proofs of the operation of the Holy Spirit.

    As I wrote in my last comment, quoting Jesus “the sheep know My voice,” this is the rock hard foundation and proof that a preacher or any Christian is doing or speaking the Message entrusted to him, in other words, that the Holy Spirit is the Actor and Speaker here, and he the man only the instrument.

    Theology is not learned from books, brother, nor can the Holy Spirit be talked about behind His back. The first is learned through ascetic struggle, the second is possible only when we are in the Spirit of which we speak, knowing in Whose presence we are standing. Everything is utterly personal and fully present, otherwise all talk, all preaching, is superfluous and vain.

    O heavenly King, Comforter, the Spirit of Truth, who are in all places and fill all things, Treasury of good things and Giver of life: Come and dwell in us, and cleanse us of every stain, and save our souls, O good One.


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