“You can’t improvise unless you have something to improvise from”


Who will separate us from Christ’s love? Will we be separated by trouble, or distress, or harassment, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? But in all these things we win a sweeping victory through the one who loved us. – Romans 8:35,37 CEB

I’ve shared before how vitally important it is for me to launch each new day out of the context of my relationship with God. Prayer; scripture; meditation – it’s a simple practice.

And, typically, I start with some kind of a daily guide. I read a daily devotional, The Upper Room, and I also go to the front page of BibleGateway.com, where I read their “verse of the day.” That doesn’t account for all the scripture I read any given day, but it’s where I tend to start. Fact is, if you don’t start somewhere, you typically don’t go anywhere at all. I try to write these passages on my heart, and reflect on them often during the day.

Talking about this practice, recently, one of my friends told me that, “Memorization really isn’t my thing; I can use Google search to help me find something, or just pick up my Bible when I need it.”

“But Google – even on your phone – is a peripheral resource,” I said; “and so is the Bible. Your Bible may be sitting on your desk, and your phone is likely in your back pocket. But unless God’s word inhabits your conscious – and unconscious – self, it’s still essentially separate from who you are.”


img_7859-001Here’s the point I was attempting to make – albeit clumsily. The more conversant we are with the scriptures, the more accessible they are when we need them. We don’t have to actually memorize chapters, or paragraphs, or even individual verses – but it is critically important that we become increasingly familiar with the content of both the Old and New Testaments.

Simply put, we need to know the story. We need to be able to find key passages. We need to write God’s word on our hearts, and saturate our minds with the beauty, the wisdom, the inspiration, the guidance, and the truth held there.

If that’s not enough to convince you, read the following excerpt from my first book, GET REAL: a spiritual journey for men. It’s about jazz; it’s about spiritual discipline; it’s about doing the day-in, day-out work of filling ourselves up with what is good, and true, and life-giving; it’s about making sure we are well-equipped to follow up on the promises we have made to Jesus.


Get RealA Spiritual Journey for Men
by Derek Maul
read more

What I really want to do is learn how to play blues and jazz on my guitar. I love the way jazz musicians lay out a simple theme and then play all around it. I’m fascinated by the virtuosity, the unbounded freedom, and by the way new ideas seem to pour out of a deep well.

I told Don, the trombone musician, about it. The next week at rehearsal he handed me a book. “Everything you need is right here,” he said.

So I dove in. I was devastated to find that 75 percent of the pages contained nothing but scales. “What’s up with that?” I complained. “I want to learn the part where I can just take off and get all bluesy.”

“You don’t understand,” he told me. “You can’t improvise unless you have something to improvise from. If you don’t memorize all the scales first, you’ll be pulling from a dry well.” (GET REAL: a spiritual journey for men, pp 61-62)



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