Sunday, October 21, 2012


I am lying in bed right now getting ready to turn in before a new week of work, feeling thankful for the wonderful weekend I just had.  It started on Friday evening when Karl and I packed our camping gear onto our bikes and cycled the 15 miles through Gate's Pass to a beautiful camping location.  We were surrounded by gigantic saguaro cacti, majestic mountains on the horizon, beautiful sunsets and sunrises, twinkling stars at night, and the ominous sounds of coyotes in the distance.  We spent two nights out in the desert enjoying each other's company, reading, playing cards, and catching up on some one-on-one time that we have not had too much of since arriving in Tucson.  We came home early this morning in time to go to a jazz worship service at St Mark's Presbyterian.  Boy am I glad that we made the early trek back into town for that!

All of the music was led by a five piece jazz band, and the energy in the church was fantastic!  We sang great traditional hymns - Amazing Grace, I've Got Peace Like a River and Leaning on the Everlasting Arms to the fun beat of jazz and took a different, jazzy spin on the traditional Communion Sacrament liturgy.  In addition to the uplifting worship elements of the service, the message was jazz themed and thought provoking. 

Rev. Mike Smith spoke about improvisation in our spiritual lives.  He used the concept of jazz - creating a song from a specific chord progression, but with different rhythms and combinations of the notes (improvisations) to make an original piece of music - to get us thinking about how we can improvise our lives through Christ.  As people following Christ, we should be able to follow the chord progression set out for us (Christ, His love and His grace) and improvise to make a song, a song that resonates the nature of our being in Christ and is beautiful to all those who hear it.

Taking Christ's love and His message and improvising with it in our lives means applying our faith in new, original ways.  We are all made as individuals with different gifts and callings.  As we live into our passions and use our gifts to positively interact with those around us, we are able to make a beautiful song.

The thing I love about the word improvise is that it does not impart the idea of taking a chord progression and playing it in one, set way.  It allows for change and transformation.  Since Karl and I first met, we have played so many different songs and improvised a lot in our lives.  Seven years ago we met each other in the dorms of UW.  I was on the track towards becoming a Structural Engineer, while Karl was on the track towards becoming a professor in Mathematics.  We were playing songs of numbers, academics and careers separate from our faith.  Over time, our songs joined together into one harmonious song, and we started improvising with the gifts and opportunities that were placed in our keeping.  We got involved in youth work at Laramie UPC and then got even more involved in the church through our work with the college ministry.  Next thing we knew, Doug Baker was speaking to us about a program called YAV, and that seemed like a great opportunity for improvisation, so we changed our tune again. 

We now find ourselves living in Tucson, continuing to explore vocational discernment, continuing to improvise with the notes that God is giving us.  With jazz music, no two songs are alike and the opportunities for innovation and harmonization are endless.  As with God and His call, the opportunities for change and for bringing people together are endless.  Improvisation is a good thing, and it results in newness and beauty.  So let's not be afraid to improvise, to step out of the steady rhythm of life and make a change in this world.

View through Gate's Pass

We conquered the ascent!

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