Playing Jazz with the King

19° International Jazz Festival of Punta del Este |

February 10, 2016

Paul David Tripp is an author I am increasingly learning to appreciate. I’ve read only two of his books, Dangerous Calling, and A Quest for More. Both have brought insight, challenge, and more situational awareness for life.

The Human Yearning for Transcendence

In the book A Quest for More, Tripp writes about the human yearning for transcendence. This yearning drives many behaviors – some excellent, some mediocre, some terrible.

This inner compulsion drives us to build something. The default is usually our own little kingdoms. We think we can fill our relentless thirst for transcendence with small things. We find ourselves too easily satisfied, but ironically are dissatisfied when we settle for less.

Narrowing the size of our lives to the size of our own existence

That is the descriptive phrase the author constantly used, in A Quest for More, for our trivialized ways of living. How often have I narrowed the size of my life to the futility and fruitlessness of building my own little kingdom? How often have you?

Most of the chapter titles in this book spark intrigue. Here are some examples:

  • A Total Disaster
  • The Costume Kingdom
  • The Shrink Dynamic
  • Welcome to Your Death
  • Groaning
  • Jazz

The chapter on jazz caught my heart. Tripp’s description of jazz, as a newcomer to that genre, was colorfully accurate. He described the “gloriously unpredictable and creative” nature of jazz even though submitted to a set of rules. He was no big fan of jazz, but committed to his brother to hear a concert by the Ramsey Lewis Trio. When Lewis began the evening with a piano solo section, Tripp was underwhelmed.

But then the music changed.

Read what he says:

“There was a defined musical structure, a set of rules you might say, which each of the members of the trio was committed to play within. Though they were not following all of the markings on a sheet of music, they all stayed within the structure of the song (key signature, time signature, etc.), making their own combined efforts unified and exhilarating.


Yes they were free to be creative, to wander, to make their own individual application of the structure to their particular instrument – as long as they stayed within the musical parameters of the song.”

(If your browser is not showing this video, you can view it here.)

Paul David Tripp then compares his jazz experience to living in this world:

“God is the ultimate musician. His music transforms your life. The notes of redemption rearrange your heart and restore your life. His songs of forgiveness, grace, reconciliation, truth, hope, sovereignty, and love give you back your humanity and restore your identity.


But he has ordained not to play his music alone. He calls of us to be players in his great redemptive band. He calls each of us to play and sing the notes of hope, faith, forgiveness, and love as well. He calls for each of us to put down our music and to take up his. He calls each of us to quit composing and to start submitting. He calls us to play his music in harmony with him, and when we do this the kingdom has come into our lives.


He isn’t committed to endorsing our compositions. He isn’t looking for ways to help us be happy with our own music. He isn’t excited by the novel things that we may find musically fulfilling. He knows that there is one fatal flaw in the music that each of us plays. It is written by us!”

So much more could be quoted. I’d like to give you the whole chapter right now, but that’s beyond legal bounds. If you want to gain more understanding in your life about that for which you were created, and how that longing for transcendence can be met, I suggest you read this book. If you read nothing else, read the chapter on jazz.

If you have ever struggled, as I have, over what form your life should take – over what “music” your life should play – over how to find where you fit, this is for you.

Here is the point.

We have the freedom to improvise in the large generous vistas of the Kingdom of God. His Kingdom is not restrictive. It is freeing to dwell in such an expansive place.

Enter in.

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