January 21, 2006

Coltrane (a final note)

Johncoltrane2 John Coltrane was not a Christian.  Though he was reared in his grandfather’s church and was familiar with the ways of Christ, he pursued God outside of Christianity.  Why he did not he come back to the church we don’t know, but I think the church has something to learn from him.

All too often, we as Christians assume unbelievers have had no experience with God.  Coltrane shows us that perhaps we should examine our evangelistic methods.  Instead of trying to get people to have an encounter with God, maybe, we should assume they have already had one!

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January 18, 2006

Jazz-Based Spirituality (Coltrane part 7)

Acknowledgment, Resolution, Pursuance and Psalm….Those were Coltrane’s stations. We could take them on as our own and seek to move through each stage ourselves; however, that would be a very classical approach!  A jazz-based spirituality is not about merely copying other people’s walk with God but being inspired by them to create and discover the Spirit’s song for ourselves. 

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January 13, 2006

Coltrane Stations (part 6)


I’m not a lover of Coltrane’s music; truthfully, I find it a bit annoying .  So why do I find myself listening to it all the time?  Specifically his signature album, A Love Supreme.  Recorded in 1964, seven years after he heard "The sound," Coltrane teaches us something about how we can keep pursuing God for a lifetime.  What do you do when you have experienced God and the yearning remains to experience him again?  Coltrane developed his own set of spiritual stages to sustain him to the end.

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January 10, 2006

Coltrane's transformation in his own words. (part 5)

"A Love Supreme" the original Liner notes

"Dear Listener:

All Praise Be To God To Whom All Praise Is Due.

Let us pursue Him in the righteous path. Yes it is true; “seek and ye shall find.” Only through Him can we know the most wondrous bequeathal.

During the year 1957, I experienced, by the grace of God, a spiritual awakening which was to lead me to a richer, fuller, more productive life. At that time, in gratitude, I humbly asked to be given the means and privilege to make others happy through music. I feel this has been granted through His grace. ALL PRAISE TO GOD.

As time and events moved on, a period of irresolution did prevail. I entered into a phase which was contradictory to the pledge and away from the esteemed path; but thankfully, now and again through the unerring and merciful hand of God, I do perceive and have been duly re-informed of His OMNIPOTENCE, and of our need for, and dependence on Him. At this time I would like to tell you that NO MATTER WHAT…IT IS WITH GOD. HE IS GRACIOUS AND MERCIFUL. HIS WAY IS IN LOVE, THROUGH WHICH WE ALL ARE . IT IS TRULY—A LOVE SUPREME--.

This album is a humble offering to Him. An attempt to say “THANK YOU GOD” through our work, eve as we do in our hearts and with our tongues. May He help and strengthen all men in every good endeavor…
May we never forget that in the sunshine of our lives, through the storm and after the rain—it is all with God—in all ways forever.


Signed John Coltrane

January 01, 2006

The Sound of God (Coltrane Part 4)

It was a sound, a droning sound unlike anything he had heard. God met him, revealed Himself to Coltrane through a resonance. “It was so beautiful,” he told his wife as he hopelessly tried to reproduce it on a piano. That is the key to Coltrane.

“With this event, the search for the mysterious sound began. It was a search that would continue throughout his life and would cause him to create some of his most intense and emotional music.” writes Fraim.

After this experience he still played solo’s with amazing speed but they were not frenzied rather they were searches for ultimate meaning. When he picked up his sax and played, he was trying to reproduce the sound of God. Sometimes he would solo for thirty minutes!

The question is what was he doing? He was searching for that sound of God that was playing at his lowest and yet most transformational moment of life. That magnificent murmur, that melody that met him when he was at his weakest and yet somehow was becoming his strongest. He was searching for the sound of God not to play to him, but to have it played by him and through him as a witness to his audiences.

When you listen to his music you either love it or hate it but remember the meaning is not found in what he was playing but in why he was playing the way he was playing.

Our lives will be meaningless to those around us until we are willing to tell them the story that reveals our search for God. Others will always baffle us until we are willing to pursue the meaning behind their music.

December 30, 2005

Talkin' Trane (part 3)

The key to Coltrane is found not in how or what he played but why he played the way, he did. Musically he was a genius and a trendsetter. Practicing for hours a day, he developed unprecedented speed that awed all who heard. But why did he play the way he did? What pushed him to play scales at such mind-boggling, even manic speeds?

In, Spirit Catcher: The Life and Art of John Coltrane, John Fraim chronicles the struggles, triumphs and spiritual transformation of this man who was reared in his grandfather’s church and was familiar with the ways of God. He had a substance abuse problem and eventually he moved in with his mother and began playing less and abusing drugs and alcohol more.

“However, this time he must have sensed that some final decision had to be made if he was going to reach his full potential as a musician: he would have to decide once and for all if he was going to live the rest of his life as a drug addict or as a musician.” (p33) He sought the support of his wife and mother and then sought sanctuary in his room, praying and seeking God’s help to withstand the pain of withdrawals. Four days later he emerged a changed man, God had met him in a most unusual way... the result being that he began to play his instrument for a different reason.

To truly truly hear Coltrane we must know what happened to him in that room.

Have you ever had an experience with God that was so personal, so utterly amazing that you couldn't describe it? How has it affected you? Do you savor the moment or has the moment sent you on a pursuit to find it again?

To be continued...

December 20, 2005

People get ready there's a Trane coming (part 2)

I started this series of posts on Coltrane but my real life has me a bit busy. Sorry. I should be back to the blogosphere soon.

Coltrane is a fascinating man who had a God-experience in 1957 that changed his life and his music. I think we can learn from him...

December 16, 2005

Talkin' Trane (p1)

Let's talk some Trane...John Coltrane. Talented...struggler...and spiritual seeker.

There's even a church named after him. (www.saintjohncoltrane.com)

Over the next few posts we'll talk about his music, his demons and what he might teach us about a jazz approach to spiritual formation.