Tuesday, September 29, 2009

The Elements of a Good Story: A Review of A Million Miles in a Thousand Years by Donald Miller

In A Million Miles in a Thousand Years: What I Learned While Editing My Life, a sort of postmodern Ecclesiastes, Donald Miller describes his attempts to make his life a story worth telling. His life-editing begins when two filmmakers (one of them Steve Taylor, who remains my favorite musician fourteen years after the release of his last album) sit down with him to create an on-screen version of himself for a film adaptation of Blue Like Jazz, and he realizes his life lacks the elements of a good story.

A Million Miles assumes readers have already read Blue Like Jazz, which I never did because I had read Prayer and the Art of Volkswagen Maintenance when it was first released and found it dull and forgettable. But either Miller has matured as a writer since his first book, or I have matured as a reader. Whichever the case, I thought A Million Miles in a Thousand Years was excellent. Miller’s ability to express profound ideas clearly and with good humor brings authenticity to both the human and divine elements of his story. It’s a great book for writers, single people, outdoor enthusiasts, and anyone who wants a meaningful life.

This review is written as part of Thomas Nelson’s Book Review Bloggers program. If you have a blog and love to read, check it out.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Making Babies

I can’t make babies. Oh, I have given birth twice, but my role in creating those children was minor, and it certainly can’t be considered work. I didn’t start my son’s heartbeat or paint my daughter’s eyes blue. I didn’t gather the ingredients for the milk I fed them when they were infants. And, even though my daughter’s love of arts and crafts and my son’s over-enthusiastic personality both come from my genes, I didn’t design them to be that way.

The details that make each of my children who they are and allow them to function physically are vast and complicated. Even working together, my husband and I could never on our own produce anything even closely resembling a human. I am always dumbfounded when someone says he has “made a baby.” How can we take credit for such an amazing work? How can someone look at his children and not believe in God?

Monday, September 14, 2009

Generational Segregation

Yesterday morning at church I got to talk to one of my favorite fellow parishioners. In the course of our discussion, she mentioned her small group’s inability to bond and said she was starting to wonder if she and her husband were too old for the group. I assured her that that wasn’t the case, that groups need to have multiple generations in them.

This wise and godly woman has children who are older than I am, but I can relate to her better than to many women my own age. I always enjoy talking with her, and I have learned from both her words, which have challenged me to prioritize God’s Word over both church tradition and worldly wisdom, and her actions, particularly her ability to honor and respect her husband even when they disagree. I am glad to know her; many young people in the American church miss out on the benefit of fellowship with people like her, who have been following Christ for longer than their own lifetimes.

It seems that everyone these days is talking about diversity, but we are, more and more, segregating ourselves by age, interests, and ideology, especially within the church. We have groups for young adults, groups for singles, groups for mothers of preschoolers, groups for scrapbookers, groups for men, groups for women, groups for senior citizens, groups for divorcees. We all want to find people who are going through the same things we are, but in so doing, we fail to benefit from those who can offer us a fresh perspective on life.

I confess that I contribute to this problem to some degree. I tend to make a greater effort to welcome people to church and invite them to my home if they young children, like my own. Our children are a natural conversation starter, and no one minds being interrupted when another parent has to deal with a discipline issue. But when I associate only with people who are most like me, I am fostering disunity. Separating ourselves into demographic groups creates many small congregations within a congregation, many churches within the church.

I hope my wise older friend from church does not give up on associating with us younger women. Intergenerational fellowship benefits everyone. Those who are farther along life’s path can offer us advice on how to get through our current struggles because they have gone before us; those who are younger than we are can provide enthusiasm and keep us from getting stuck in the rut of “We do it this way because we’ve always done it this way.” We can learn from each other, but only if we spend time together.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Beauty Where No One Else Sees It

Since so many of my posts are finding fault where no one else seems to, I thought it would be good to show that I also find beauty where no one else seems to.