I have been playing guitar for over forty years. My passion began when I saw the great jazz guitarist, Joe Pass, perform on a television show. I was mesmerized by how he was able to improvise, taking a familiar tune and spontaneously creating new melodies based upon the harmonic foundations of the song. From that moment on, I spent nearly every free moment, learning and perfecting the art of improvisation, the essence of jazz music. Even after playing for over forty years, I am still attempting to master improvisation, and undoubtedly never will as many a jazz master musician will attest, but there have been glimmers of hope.
I practice my improvisation by playing with recordings that feature a full rhythm section but lacking the lead melody voice. It is similar to playing with a live band but with the advantage that I am able to record my improvisations to later critically analyze my technique and gauge my progress. One day, I played a familiar tune, “The Girl From Ipanema.” I had played it dozens of times in the past but on this day, something was different. I was not thinking about the notes or the harmonic underpinnings of the song, instead, new melodies filled my mind and my fingers responded. I became the guitar; I became the song. It was both an out of body experience and completely in body at the the same instance. It was exhilarating!
I was fortunate to record this one instance, and regrettably, it has only happened on one other occasion. Artists, musicians and athletes alike speak of being in the zone, being in the present moment when one is hyper-focused, creative, and seemingly capable of accomplishing anything. I was in the zone and I loved it!
Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways!
Romans 11:33 (ESV)
Many Bible scholars and commentators aver that the Apostle Paul’s letter to the Romans is the pinnacle of his eloquence and brilliance as a defender of the nascent Christian Church. It outlines the key doctrines of the Christian faith and have spurred countless saints of the church to commit their life to Jesus Christ. Chrysostom, an early Church father, had the entire book of Romans read aloud to him at least twice a week. Augustine, Martin Luther, John and Charles Wesley-all were inspired to commit their lives to Jesus Christ after reading Paul’s letter to the Romans.
When I read this great letter, I am absorbed by Paul’s excitement over the Holy Spirit’s revelation to him. I can join with his overwhelmed senses as he declares the depth of the riches and wisdom of God and His unsearchable judgments and inscrutable ways! If I may be so bold, the Apostle Paul was in the zone, a spiritual zone!
Being in the zone is a laudable goal for many activities of life. But like the Apostle Paul, I want to strive to always be in the spiritual zone. Thanks be to God that He fills me with His Holy Spirit to lead me in this direction!
Love and trust the Lord; seek His will in your life.