book review: Blue Like Jazz (or learning a few things about myself)

So I finished reading Blue Like Jazz last week. I realized when I wrote it that I was naive to expect Answers from a mere book, but I think maybe I was so desperate that I found some anyway. And I’m not sure that the answers I got were in the writing as much as in the realizations I saw in myself.

First thing I realize: I don’t know God. I keep trying to leave Him and I can’t. There is something in my heart that is connected to him and there is no denying that no matter how much I try. So I know that he is real, but WHO is he?

There was a time in my judgemental youth that I was sure I knew God. I knew that he wanted me to be radical for him and tell other people that they were wrong for not living (the way I thought they should) for him. That they were wrong for cussing and partying and smoking and sleeping around. I was pious and judgmental and had every appearance of being Very Good. Out of everything I’ve done wrong thus far, that is the one time in my life I regret the most.

I cannot say how much.

I think it was some time around November that I realized that I don’t know God. I was expecting him to do something for me. Actually not for me, but for someone I love. I was certain that he was going to come through, certain that I saw the way he wanted things. I was wrong. Or human mistakes messed up what God wanted, but things did not turn out the way I expected. And after 20 years of being a “Christian”, I found myself further away from knowing him than ever. And it wasn’t that he wasn’t there, it was that I deluded myself into thinking that all the “good” and “righteous” things I’ve done in my life were a replacement for knowing who he is.

Although it was then that I realized that I don’t know God, it wasn’t until reading this book that I realized that knowing God is what I’m missing, what I need. The author points to something real in his own life, something undeniable and very raw. Something that as a “Christian,” I’ve never truly experienced in my life.

I realized that if there was something there between me and God other than me expecting things out of him and being hurt when they don’t happen, I would not be so hurt by the bad experiences I’ve had with “his people.” I would not have looked to my pastors and my time at church to fill what I am missing from not knowing him. Of course knowing that does not negate the fact that I’ve gone through some crap regarding church, but it points out to me why it hurt so much.

How do I know God? Well, I’m not so sure about that part yet, but it doesn’t scare me like I thought it would. I think, if I stop looking at him as a slot machine, that would be a good start.

Second: I realize that I really do want to go to church. (Don’t fall out of your chair.) It may not be church as we know it, but I know I’m desperately lacking a community. I wrote awhile back about being lonely, but this book pointed out to me how detrimental being lonely is. Wow, do I see it in my life. I’ve spent the last 5 years being stuck in my house with two small children. Two small children that I love, but two small children that I have not had enough patience to train to behave the way I expect them to in public. I’ve been a prisoner in my own life.

That is going to change immediately.

Knowing that the kind of church I want exists in Portland, gives me hope in that it does exist somewhere. I’m not so sure I’m going to find it here, but I know now that I need to keep looking. I know that I want to belong to a community of like minded, beer drinking, swearing, cigar smoking followers of the Jesus whose first miracle was to make more booze for a party. Actually… scratch that, I want to be around people who are themselves, not people who are trying to fit into a cookie cutter mold of what a Christian should be (or what I wish a Christian would be). If they drink beer great, if they don’t great, just as long as they’re not viewing themselves as superior for abstaining. I want to give all I can give, and receive all I can receive. I’ve never been a part of something truly healthy.

So, overall, was I disappointed? Not at all. I think I was inspired. I needed to see someone who views God differently than I’ve been raised to view him. I needed to be reminded that he is more than what I can get out of him. I needed to be encouraged that things in the religious world CAN change and that we are not so far gone that we can’t love people without a hidden agenda. That being a “Christian” doesn’t have to be about politics, hating gay people and being Very Good. There is hope. There is hope for me and there is hope for church. And having that hope is a very good thing.

Category: church/spiritual beliefs 10 comments »

10 Responses to “book review: Blue Like Jazz (or learning a few things about myself)”

  1. Lisa

    Thank you for your honesty in your journey…
    “It is for freedom that Christ has set us free.” Gal. 5:1
    Many times we get so caught up in the rules, that we lose God and mistake His character. His freedom allows us to live as His children, to reflect His character, and to extend His grace.
    My favorite verse for my journey with God is about how He desires to be known, and that He is very close to us:
    “The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in temples built by hands. And he is not served by human hands as if he needed anything, because he himself gives all men life and breath and everything else. From one man he made every nation of men, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he determined the times set for them and the exact places where they should live. God did this so that men would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from each one of us.” Acts 17:24-27
    Praying that you would find a community of believers.
    P.S. I love your recipes!! And I knit too, but not since baby #3…

  2. Jeannette

    Yeah. Well said. I am breaking out of the religious mold I grew up in, too. I am with you. One of my biggest regrets in life is the judgemental way I viewed other people who did not ‘believe’ or ‘behave’ the way I thought christians should. I would recommend getting a copy of the Message paraphrase of the Bible and reading the book of Galatians. It has helped me more than I can say in my internal shift.
    And yes, to have a RELATIONSHIP with God, not just an ‘I need’ and He supplies, but to KNOW Him as my Papa – to talk to Him like I would a friend. To be TOTALLY HONEST with Him about EVERYTHING, even the embarrassing parts, the ugly parts. It’s funny, we think He will be disappointed or condemning if we talk to Him about THAT. No, He already knows. He wants kids who will talk to Him and trust Him TOTALLY on a very funamental level, the way we should our own parents (especially when we were little).
    And yes, I am more interested in hanging out with people who are seeking this, than ‘church’ people. My friends and I have found that we can actually ‘have church’ in a living room by simply talking about what we are currently learning and seeking and getting insight from each other on it. Imagine that! :-)
    Again, PEACE on your quest. God will not hide from those who seek HIM.

  3. Kari

    So when do we set up shop? =)

  4. Sarah

    Have you ever read “Walking on Water” by Madeleine L’Engle? It’s a book about being a Christian and and artist, but I love how she talks about the character of God, how he’s wilder and bigger than we know. I love everything about that book.

    And of course, there’s Anne Lamott who wrote “Traveling Mercies”.

    These have been two of the most helpful books to me in my walk of faith.

  5. Jeannette

    Hmm . . . reading the other comments, I wanted to add this. There is a book I am reading right now that you might like. It is call “Messy Spirituality” by Michael Yaconelli. You know, I think our relationship with God is supposed to bring peace, not condemnation and anxiety . . . peace and freedom from fear!

  6. sarahgrace

    I’m totally with Jeannette’s version of church- just sitting around with friends and talking about God and so on- and really, that has been my version of church for a good four years now, aside from hearing a sermon here and there where ever Kev happens to be needed. I’m not fond of the idea that my church experience needs to happen under the roof of just one building in the company of the same people all the time. I like going here and there, and meeting with believers from all different backgrounds. We are, after all, part of the same family, and no church is better than another.
    One of the things that I’ve realized is that it’s not up to church, or a pastor to “feed” me. It’s up to me. We train our kids to feed themselves, why would we expect someone else to feed us forever, you know? I glean whatever I find helpful and truthful (and we have the Holy Spirit to help us discern truth, thank God!) from a sermon here, a talk with somebody there, and reading my Bible and lots of books, and yes, even blogs. I believe God will use whatever He can to talk to us, to get through to us. It’s up to us to know if it’s from Him.
    So yeah…that’s where I’m at for the moment more or less. Oh yes, and the other thing I wanted to say, is that knowing God is a journey that will take an eternity, you just have to start out.

  7. Heidi

    SO glad to hear you have come to some peace with this. That is hard to grasp isnt it. Sarah is right on, it take an eternity to know God..great first step Alli…

  8. robiewankenobie

    try the quakers. or the united church of christ. they both rock pretty daggone hard.

  9. Cher

    Well SaiD!!! And may you find a few additional soul mates along the way

  10. Cher

    Well SaiD!!! And may you find a few additional soul mates along the way

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