I’m Practicing Over Here

by George Baum



So, for a long time I played in a band (technically, a duo) where one of us lived in California and the other lived in various parts of the northeast. We only got together to go play concerts or to record albums. And on tour, probably at least once a day, someone would ask us, “How do you guys practice?” And our first response was, “Have you ever heard us play?” But then our more esoteric answer came to be this…

We practice music in the same way that your doctor practices medicine.  We have a musical practice.  A doctor might say, “I’ve been practicing medicine for 30 years,” but you never think to ask, “Are you practicing right now?”  But the answer is, yes.  Your doctor is practicing on you every time you go to see her. That’s exactly how we practice music. You’re soaking in it.

In other news, back when I was in seminary, I recall our preaching professor telling us she wanted to clear something up. She said that she had recently spoken to several students who told her they really felt guilty about no longer having time to do Bible study. Like before they came to seminary, they read the Bible every day, but now there just wasn’t time. As she rightly pointed out, we were all doing Bible study all the time. Every time we wrote a sermon, every time we studied for an Old Testament exam, every time we wrote a paper on the Gospel of Luke, we were engaged in Bible study. It would make absolutely no sense to set aside those deep dives into scripture in order to find time to dive into scripture.

In still other news, when I was telling my friend Michael about my proposed angle on writing this little piece he said, “Yeah, I totally get that. It’s like, I wish I had more time to spend with my kids, but I’m so busy making their breakfast, and driving them to school, and helping them with their homework, and putting them to bed, that I just can’t make time for them.”

And all of these instances are not cases of the perfect being the enemy of the good. I have a Jewish friend who tells me the only unforgivable sin is to wish for time to go more quickly. And here’s why I bring that up: Whenever we find ourselves wishing  that a thing could be over so that we could get back to the thing we are supposed to be doing, maybe we’re just not noticing that the thing we’re already doing is the thing we’re supposed to be doing.

Or, more simply put, when someone rings our church doorbell looking for help with a gas disconnection notice, that’s not an interruption to my ministry. That just means I’m practicing over here.

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