Riffing on spiritual things

Originally appeared on spirituality.com

In music, a riff is a short, repeated phrase that often becomes the basis for a longer composition. The term “riffing” has come to refer to a type of improvisation in which an artist takes off on an extemporaneous exploration of a word or subject. With all due respect to musicians and actors, I have taken to using the term to describe a way of expanding my understanding of God.

This is how riffing works for me: I choose a short sentence or phrase from the Bible or one of Mary Baker Eddy’s writings. Then, I pick out one word and begin substituting synonyms in its place. For example, the first chapter of Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures opens with the sentence, “The prayer that reforms the sinner and heals the sick is an absolute faith that all things are possible to God, —a spiritual understanding of Him, an unselfed love” (p. 1). Focusing on the words, “all things are possible to God,” I might do something like this: “All [details] are possible to God” or “all [chores] are possible to God.”

Next, I might start substituting for the word “possible.” “All things are [doable] to God.” “All things are [feasible] to God.”

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