God, Improv, and the Art of Living


When we cry out to God in the moments of our deepest desperation, who do we envision staring back at us? An all-knowing, all-powerful God who should act in our best interests, but sometimes doesn’t? When faced with a major life decision where we lay our choices before God, and are met, not with an answer, but with deafening silence, how does this shape our view of God? How can we begin to make the right choice when we’re frozen in fear over making the wrong choice? Is our view of God that of an immovable, unchangeable, immutable being who shakes his head in wonder that we can’t seem to get it together and figure out His Plan, with a capital P, for our life?


Spend any time with the God of scripture and we discover a God who is indeed all-knowing and all-powerful and talks about having good plans for our lives. It’s understandable then that we often hold onto the view that life holds one best Plan A and our job is to get on the train headed in its direction, lest we risk derailing and veering off track to Plan B—or, God forbid, Plan C or D or Z.


When we focus solely on these attributes of God, it’s fairly easy to envision a God who holds one singular Plan for our life. But, when we expand the list of God’s characteristics to include traits like God is love, God is faithful, God is spirit, God is mystery, and God is for us, a different image of God emerges.


This month I had the opportunity to review MaryAnn McKibben Dana’s new book God, Improv, and the Art of Living, and my review, which you can read here, has been published on ESA, Eastern University’s site for social action. In her book, McKibben Dana offers fresh insight for seeing God not so much as a static being with fixed ideas for our lives, but rather as a collaborative partner in the journey of our lives.


I don’t know about you, but so often I wish God would just mail me a letter, very official looking, with a gold seal and fine embossed print, that would tell me everything he wants me to do. A letter that lists everything he will bless, so I don’t waste my time and effort on things that are not a part of his Master Plan.


But honestly, that’s not the God I see in Jesus. Jesus’ most-asked question in scripture is not, “Did you read and follow the instructions I gave you?” but rather, “What do you want me to do for you?” He doesn’t tell us what to do; he always asks us how he can help. He doesn’t push us onto His Plan, he asks how he can help us with ours. Jesus, it seems, invites us into the mystery of the Godhead.


To live in the mystery is to live an improvised life. Improvising, involves taking risks and living creatively. It requires active listening and careful attention. It means failure is not a dead-end, just a step on the journey to the next step, which we must take, even if we don’t know where it will lead. To live an improvised life is to live fully present and authentic lives, embracing hope, redemption, and God’s gifts of grace.


I hope you read my review and that it sparks your curiosity to slip into one more summer read while the days are still long and the temperatures balmy. I think you’ll find God, Improv, and the Art of Living to be a fun and thought-provoking book.


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