Archives For Donald Miller

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This past Thursday evening, my wife and had the privilege of seeing Blue Like Jazz on the closing night of the Phoenix Film Festival. I have written before of the impact Donald Miller’s work has had on me: How Blue Like Jazz ‘Saved’ Me.

So to say I was anxious to see the finished film is an understatement roughly the size of Shatner’s ego.

I was psyched!

So how did they do?

1) The picture didn’t look like it was filmed on a shoestring budget. The colors were lush, the cinematography outstanding.

2) The acting was crisp, and believable. These were real people. Like life, the funny parts were funny, and dramatic parts powerful.

3) The crisis in you v Don’s life felt real. You will believe the inciting incident, for sure. (How many of us have been there?)

4) The screenplay–adapted from Miller’s book by himself, Steve Taylor, and Ben Pearson–captured the intersection of clashing cultures perfectly.

5) Taylor has grown immensely as a director since The Second Chance–he knows how to elicit the best performances from his actors.

6) As I learned in recovery several years ago, I need to “accept this sinful world as it is–as Jesus did–not as I would have it to be.” This seems to be the principal thesis of the film, namely what does it look like when a person of faith crashes down in a world whose problems (sins) are greater than merely being, say, an inattentive dad? How does that person relate, fit in–does he hide? Where is God in this?

7) The ending, without being mawkish, is one of the most poignant, and powerful, I’ve ever seen.

Truly the movie, like the book before it, is about the intersection of life and grace.

Blue Like Jazz is, like, for real, man.

When the movie comes out this Friday (April 13th), be there. Don’t hide your kids, wife, or your husband–go! (Well, maybe get a babysitter for the kids–this film earns its PG-13 rating).

What are you waiting for?

Go!

>Donald Millerphoto © 2006 Jaci Gresham | more info (via: Wylio)

Confession: I wasn’t really aware of Donald Miller, or his work, until early last year (perhaps late ’09). But when I became aware, I plowed in with a vengeance. I wrote of the impact Blue Like Jazz had on me in How ‘Blue Like Jazz’ Saved Me. I whizzed through Through Painted Deserts, the audio version of Searching for God Knows What, and A Million Miles in a Thousand Years. Of the latter three, I would say that ‘Milion Miles’ had the profoundest impact on me. Its message was simple, yet profound in its implication: life is not something to be gotten through, but lived. And one cannot truly live without being intentional. (So great was the book’s impact, I grabbed my son on a Sunday morning and drove forty-one miles to a church in Gilbert, AZ to hear Mr. Miller deliver a guest message. After the service, we got to meet him, and I got my copy of ‘Million Miles’ autographed).


Insofar as my life was concerned, so much of it–including my career–was just something I’d fallen into. Mr. Miller’s book was a clarion call to me to live purposefully, with intention. What did I want from my life, and how would I get there? And how would I get there while maintaining the understanding that I’m not the central character in my story (God is)?

One of things I always wanted to do (one of the purposes for which I felt I was put on this planet) was write–so I earnestly began blogging here. In fact, because of Donald Miller, I was able to break free of a nearly eighteen-month slump in which I wrote nary a word.

So grateful was I for this, that when the Save Blue Like Jazz campaign reached 4,000 donors, I gave away my signed copy of ‘Million Miles’ to a poor college student in Kansas. I did it because I felt like I needed to give back, or “pay it forward,” somehow.

So it is with a profound sense of gratitude that I am happy to help Donald promote the paperback release of A Million Miles in a Thousand Years.

Please watch the following video:

What story are you telling? from Rhetorik Creative on Vimeo.

What has the work of Donald Miller meant to you?

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Donald Miller, My Secret, and a Huge Comment Fail
On September 28th of this year, Donald Miller posted an excellent article to his blog called Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell the Church. It’s a meditation on the attitude of the church regarding not only the issue of homosexuality, but also of the pervasive culture of the “cover-it-up-sweep-it-under-the-carpet-that-doesn’t-happen-here” crowd. Emboldened by the post itself, and the frank discussions it engendered, on page two of the comments, I replied to another commenter with the following:
I was exposed to porn at the age of 9, had my own subscription to Playboy at 10, or 11, and because my mom—bless her heart—thought it was all just healthy curiosity, I was allowed to continue deeper into it. (In her defense, my folks divorced right as I entered the teen years, and she worked a lot to hold onto the house). Playboy progressed to Penthouse, Penthouse to Oui, to Hustler, to Swank, to videos. I had centerfolds on my bedroom wall, and my brother lost friends because of them. Never did my mom, or her boyfriend, even try to take them down. For my 18th birthday, she bought alcohol and rented pornos. Real healthy upbringing, right? So, no, I was not being ironic.”
Phew! For me, that was a huge admission to make on a blog as well trafficked as Mr. Miller’s. But the past is the past—I can’t change it. I’m not proud of it, but if not exactly ashamed of it anymore, it still had a weird hold on me. As they say in the church, all that’s “under the blood.” It’s forgiven. But it was still my secret, and that secret was shaming. In recovery circles there’s a saying: “You’re only as sick as your secrets.” And this was a secret that I’d carried for most of my life. One that the devil, my flesh, what have you would trot out at inopportune times—times of stress, conflict, exhaustion. So I laid my cards on the table there in those comments. This was so liberating, it felt so good to get that weight off my chest, I went further:
Don, if you’re ever interested, I would be willing to contribute a guest post on the dangers of parental uninvolvement, and how it contributed to my struggles with porn. Just writing that makes me queasy, but I think my testimony could be a blessing. Thanks for your consideration.”
I’m not sure that I actually expected to hear back from him, but at least it was out there. I felt like I had done what I was supposed, had confessed my secret. And I suppose, secretly at least, I was hoping that I’d hear from him. I also need to confess something else: lately, Donald Miller has become one of my heroes. His books–Blue Like Jazz, Searching For God Knows What, A Million Miles in a Thousand Years, and Father Fiction–had really blessed me, revolutionized my relationship with the Lord. So I guess maybe I wanted to repay him somehow, bless him, and others, in return by being honest about my struggles. Realistically, the chances of him opening his blog, and thus his reputation, to me were (in my mind) slim to none. Which, when I checked my Twitter feed on September 29th, made this all the more surprising:
Emailing you sooooon!”
Because it appeared in the public timeline, I asked him about it (not really, but yes, actually, hoping that it was for me):
Was that supposed to be a DM?”
Yep that was supposed to be a dm. But I’ll email you too. Sooon.”
Even if that first tweet wasn’t intended for me, the second most certainly was. The fanboy in me went “Squee! Don Miller’s gonna email me!” Then it hit me—he’s going to want to see what I can do. That was a true “Oh, crap!’ moment—because I had nothing down on paper. Sure, I had mental notes, a general idea of the story I wanted to share, but nothing more. So I sat down, started journaling. The idea was to get the history in order, a basic timeline covering the key moments. The things that put me on the path to a porn addiction.
For some reason, my mind wandered back to Christmas, 1977, which was before my issues with porn began. There was just something there, something I needed to uncover. I didn’t know what it was, but I went with it. Before I tell you what I learned, I need to mention that it was around this same time that Mr. Miller posted a Fundraising Update: Creating History entry to his blog. It has to do with how the movie adaptation of Blue Like Jazz was making history by being resurrected via crowd-sourced funding. Although an amazing story, I’ll not rehash it here (currently, the amount donated sits at over $164,000—with about ten days left in the campaign). All this is germane to my story, because the day he posted, I commented:
This is truly incredible! Don, I think your story has such resonance because it echoes His larger Story so powerfully. Congratulations!”
That was September 30th. It was the next day—October 1st—that I learned the significance of Christmas, 1977.
Allow me to set the scene: I was alone in the lunchroom at work, eating, journaling, catching up on Twitter, email, and blogs that I follow—among them Mr. Miller’s. Here is what I wrote:
Christmas of 1977 was perhaps the best of my childhood in terms of the sheer volume of presents. I was eight, my brother turned four. We both received a big multicolored box, each replete with a bright red bow. There were treasures galore! For me there were Star Wars action figures, the Millennium Falcon, and a purple radio-controlled airplane. (Because I was so excited about my own haul, I’m sorry to say that I don’t recall what my brother received). Yes, the Star Wars toys were cool, and gave me hours—nay, years—of play, the crown jewel for me was the plane. And because we lived somewhere that wasn’t colder than the poles of Mars, I wanted to fly it. My dad was amenable, and I dutifully followed him across the street into the half-mile of desert that bordered our street. I don’t remember if my mom and brother came along. They may have. I only had eyes for the plane. When my dad told me he needed to show me how to operate the plane’s controls, what could I say? “Okay, daddy,” is what I probably did say. So I watched him gas up my plane, start its engine, and carefully get it aloft. He flew it around for awhile. He didn’t show me how to work the sticks, despite my pleas. I watched that plane fly high, arc across the face of the sun, and slam into the dry, hard-packed desert soil. It was shattered beyond repair, bits of purple plastic scattered across the ground. He promised me a new plane, but never delivered. Eventually, I forgot, moved onto other things. It wasn’t until much later that I realized that that plane was a metaphor for our relationship. Mine wasn’t a boulevard of broken dreams, but rather a desert lot that stood-in for a runway. That day was the beginning of the end of my childhood. That day I learned that men don’t keep their promises.”
I wrote “it wasn’t until much later that I realized that that plane was a metaphor for our relationship,” but that’s a lie. It was right then. The enormity of it, the crushing weight of it, crashing down upon me all at once, and the simple fact of being alone, probably lead to the perfect storm of fail that happened next. Recall my comment on Mr. Miller’s “Fundraising Update”:
This is truly incredible! Don, I think your story has such resonance because it echoes His larger Story so powerfully. Congratulations!”
I replied to my comment the with:
Don, please moderate the following down (pretend it’s one of those insults that you censor), it’s for your eyes only. I feel like an affirmation-seeking fool for even sharing this with you, but just please tell me that I don’t suck.
When my dad told me he needed to show me how to operate the plane’s controls, what could I say? I was 8. “Okay, daddy” is what I probably did say. So I watched him gas up my model plane, start its engine, and carefully get it aloft. He flew it around for a good long while. Despite my pleas, he didn’t show me how to work the sticks. I watched that plane fly high, arc across the face of the sun, and slam nose first into the dry, hard-packed desert soil. It was shattered beyond repair, bits of purple plastic scattered across the ground. He immediately promised me a new plane, but never delivered. Eventually, I forgot, moved on to other things. It wasn’t until much later that I realized that that plane was a metaphor for our relationship. Mine wasn’t a boulevard of broken dreams, but rather a desert lot that stood-in for a runway. That day was the beginning of the end of my childhood. That day I learned that men don’t keep their promises.”That right there, ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, is what you don’t do on the Internet! That is a comment fail of epic proportions. Sure, it was an authentic moment, a snapshot of where I was emotionally at the time. It was like I was that eight year-old boy again, and I was seeking the affirmation I didn’t get from my dad from Donald Miller. But it’s not his job to give me that. I have to let God father me, and find mentors in my own community. (Incidentally, building community is one of the things I hope to do with this blog. If my story resonates with just one person, then they’ll that they’re not alone). I subsequently replied to that comment with the following:
I understand that this was not the appropriate place to post this, and I apologize that it was not germane to the topic at hand. But it was an authentic moment. Let me explain: I was sitting by myself in the cafeteria journaling, processing through some stuff, and just years of crushing self-doubt just came crashing down on me. In that moment, it didn’t feel like there was anyone else to reach out to—so I wrote what you see above. I’m sorry for laying that trip on you, man. That’s not your job. I suppose I reached out in that moment because there is much in your journey that resonates with me. Where our stories diverge, if you will, is that the church was not a part of my early life, nor did I have a man who was willing or able to come along side me as a mentor. My dad checked out long before he was gone, and I have suffered the lack my entire life—but I am trying to make a better future. Thanks for your help along the way. Many blessings!”
During the intervening days, in my fanboy exuberance and quest for approval, until I came to the realization I just quoted above, I’m sorry to say that I reminded (more like pestered) Mr. Miller about the promised email. Don, if you ever read this, I’m sorry about all that. You don’t have to email me. Just the thought that you might served as the catalyst that brought me to this place, to blogging. So, in that sense, you’re responsible for this blog coming into being. You have been, and continue to be, a great teacher. The only thing I hope is that it does somebody somewhere some good somehow. Please share your stories in the comments. God bless you all!