I learned to be brave, to take risks, to not take myself too seriously and to play without holding back.
I learned to trust myself and the audience, and to trust the music as it was unfolding.
-- Marisa Anderson, composer and guitarist
What is it like to have an improvisational faith?
You trust that there is a spirit of Goodness at work in the universe and try to cooperate with its promptings. You can call it almost anything you want; just remember that you can never contain it or catch it. It is always more than your concept of it and your words for it. Other people's words, too. Don't let anyone tell you it can be reduced to one name or enframed by one religion.
Still, you feel the spirit inside you and see it around you, wherever you see wisdom, compassion, and creativity; kindness, courage, and fidelity to the bonds of relationship. You also sense that it is a source of novelty in the world: new and unexpected possibilities, even in hard times.
You give yourself to this spirit with a fullness of heart and mind, but with a minimum of pre-set ideas that might obstruct its rhythms. You don't have to understand the spirit with your mind; it's enough to surrender with your heart as best you can and let the mystery unfold. You call this letting the mystery unfold faith.
Improvisational musicians provide illustrations of the kind of faith you seek. Faith is being present to what is happening in the world and to the many people who want to make music, or who want to want to make music, including you; and you trust in the possibility that music can be made even in the hardest of times. You find yourself trusting in the possibility of individual wholeness and community.
It doesn't require a lot of faith to begin making the music; at the outset just a little is fine, about the size of a mustard seed. But the faith is incomplete and ineffective without action. You've got to take risks and step forward, improvising along the way.
Jesus becomes a guide for you, too. The heart of the Jesus Way does not lie in holding beliefs about Jesus but rather in sharing in his improvisational faith and adding to his healing ministry, one strum at a time. You needn't know how it will sound until you do it and it's OK to make mistakes. The key is to get started. Acts of loving-kindness and compassion, of forgiveness and mercy, are great ways to begin.
-- Jay McDaniel
Al Ahli Arab Hospital
If you’re like me, you’ve probably spent a good amount of time lately watching the news. Images of war-torn cities are so sad and numerous that it’s almost too much to take in—buildings and homes destroyed, fear-stricken children with tears flowing down their cheeks, refugee families with all that they own loaded on their tired backs. This scene may be playing out in any one of many locations—Syria, Iraq, Gaza, Ukraine, South Sudan. Most recently, the world news has led with the story of the conflict between Gaza and Israel.