Saturday, July 23, 2011

Blue Like Jazz: Nonreligious Thoughts on Christian Spirituality

Blue Like Jazz (Special Edition with dvd & study guide)Blue Like Jazz:  Nonreligious Thoughts on Christian Spirituality
Author, Donald Miller
publisher: Thomas Nelson, 2003

Here is another book that I listened to rather than actually read.  Generally, I don't like listening to a philosophy type book as compared to actually reading one.  When I read I like to underline sentences and write notes in the margins.  This is one, though, flows very well. I never felt a need for a pen.  There are no footnotes - which helps with the listening-and the reader clearly announces the title of each section.
     In the book, Donald Miller uses his own formation from young adulthood to the present as a means of discussing various Christian topics such as evangelism, worship, caring for the poor and plenty of others that define who we are as individual people and as Christians.  
   Miller is judgmental, but only of himself.  He sees himself, like most of us probably should, as self-centered and weak, needing the guidance of others and God.  He has allowed this guidance to come from all over with some of his most enlightening sources to be non-Christian people.  Miller is quick to point out that sometimes it is non-Christians who show the most "Christian" characteristics  of aiding the needy and acceptance of all of God's people.  While he definitely doesn't see these people as having all the answers, he recognizes that many Christians and Christian groups can get caught up in being with each other rather than being open to experiences with people unlike themselves. 
       Much of the book focuses on Love.  We must love others unconditionally because all people are God's. God created us all, God loves us all; so to love God means we love all God's people.  he points out that this is often not easy. Miller says that when he is going to meet someone new he intentionally reminds himself to love that person, not just with his words and outward actions, but with his inward thoughts, as well. 
     For Miller, "spirituality" is how we react to God.  He believes that Love must be the guide for all aspects of our spirituality - how we worship, how we interact with others, how we think of ourselves.  This last is not the least important.  Referring to the scriptural commandment to love our neighbors as ourselves, Miller understands that we must first love ourselves.  This means that we overcome our self-concern and love ourselves as God made us. That doesn't mean, according to Miller that we stop trying to be better, but that we do love ourselves right now as we are.  
    Spirituality is a journey.  It is at the end of the book that I finally caught on to the "jazz" analogy.   Like jazz, spirituality is fluid. 
     I, personally,  see the analogy in that we, like jazz musicians, follow a general theme or melody then go with it in a way that fits our own skills and creativity.  We mesh ourselves with God's plan. We work with others - the band-to accomplish the "song" not knowing for sure where the music will lead us or when it will end. We must be ready for anything.  We must be ready to play when asked. We hone our skills whether it be hitting the notes on a saxophone,  teaching others, or building a building, we must use these skills to make God's "music" happen
     I recommend this book for anyone, including non christians, particularly someone thinking about how they fit into the world outside themselves. 
     I have only touched on a few of the issues Don Miller discusses in Blue Like Jazz: Nonreligious Thoughts on Christian Spirituality There is much more that will enlighten and entertain. The narrative flows easily. The reader does not need to look up anything or know any Biblical background to enjoy this book.  
   If you do read (or listen) to it, I would love some comments on what you thought of it.  Did it inspire you?  Did it sound like nonsense?  Were you bored or led on through the chapters?  I've linked, below, to copies in hardback, paperback and audio.  Enjoy!