Greg Cootsona is not only Pastor of Adult Discipleship at Bidwell Presbyterian Church in Chico; he's also a drummer and jazz aficionado. "Jazz improvisation," he writes, "illustrates some keys to a successful life. First of all, say no to chaos: By mastering your instrument and knowing the changes. Say no to overplanning: Life is not fixed. You cannot predict every detail. Relax, stay loose, and take in what life gives. Finally, say yes to improvising a life of spontaneity, creativity, and beauty." One's highest calling is to say yes to God.
That means removing the obstacles, such as submersion in technology or work, that hinder our flourishing. You'll find no better guide than "Say Yes To No: Using the Power of NO to Create the Best in Life, Work, and Love" ($12.95 in paperback from Doubleday). The book is addressed especially to those who may not have a religious identification but who are spiritually open. It's for those caught up in the quest for wealth, fame, position but who long for a life of integrity.
Cootsona (http://www.gregcootsona.com) will be talking about his book and signing copies at Lyon Books in Chico tonight at 7:00 p.m.
As a young pastor at Fifth Avenue Presbyterian Church in New York City, the pressure of work and a series of family challenges began to affect his health. The chest pains, "a racing heart and shortness of breath, my head spinning with unfinished tasks at home and at work," led him, at age 38, into a doctor's care. That was in March 2001. Not many months later the church became a haven in the aftermath of 9/11. He realized the higher priorities in life required a series of nos to lesser ones.
Saying no, with grace and conviction, doesn't make one a negative person, but one who has the freedom to be "on the right road." That road includes Sabbath, the goal of which "is not idleness but a proper rhythm of work and rest." It's about finding the greatest yes of all.
"In Jesus," Cootsona writes, "I found the big yes to God. And that great yes now defines all my nos."
"Say Yes To No" is a practical companion to a vibrant, jazz improvisational life.