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New column: Don Miller’s “A Million Miles in a Thousand Years”

November 8, 2009

I really enjoyed Don Miller’s new book “A Million Miles in a Thousand Years.” He’s a very accessible writer, very honest and self-deprecating and insightful. He says he isn’t a “Christian writer” producing “Christian books.” And that’s true in the sense that he’s not using churchy language, isn’t preaching or using heavy-handed theology to tell his story. He is a Christian, to be sure, and I think the conclusions he comes to about his life are heavily influenced by his Christian ethos. But I think anyone could pick up “A Million Miles” and relate to Miller’s journey.

Incidentally, he’s in Texas now (on his book tour) and will be speaking Nov. 10 at First Baptist Church in Georgetown.

Here’s the link to the column and the full text:

Christian beliefs don’t hamper author’s raw honesty

In Donald Miller’s new book, life does not make a good screenplay.

Saturday, November 07, 2009

I made two assumptions when I began Donald Miller’s new book, “A Million Miles in a Thousand Years: What I Learned While Editing My Life.” First, that this would be a Christian book, a memoir interlaced with Bible lessons. Second, that there would be a happy ending, your typical story arc of conflict, climax and resolution.

I’m happy to say I was wrong about both. Nothing against Christian books or happy endings. But when you get to know Don Miller (and you do feel like you know him after reading this book), you realize he’s not easily pigeonholed.

Miller told me he isn’t a Christian writer. He’s a writer who happens to be a Christian. And happy endings? Well, we’ll get to that in a minute.

Miller, a Houston native whose books, including the best-selling “Blue Like Jazz,” have won critical and popular acclaim, is wrapping up a cross-country book tour and will be speaking at First Baptist Church in Georgetown on Tuesday.

“A Million Miles” finds Miller at home in Portland, Ore. He’s developed a successful career as a writer, has good friends and a loyal dog and is even participating in the adaptation of one of his memoirs into a screenplay.

As they map out scenes for the film, the screenwriters make it clear that Miller’s real life will have to be adjusted. The real Don Miller doesn’t make for a good script.

And as they crafted the story line, Miller found the fictionalized character of himself was living a better, more meaningful story than he was.

“My life was a blank page, and all I was putting on the page were words. I didn’t want to live in words anymore; I wanted to live in sweat and pain.”

So Miller decided to embark on a series of inspiring adventures in his real life, which are detailed in the book. He gets in shape and hikes the Inca Trail to the sacred city of Machu Picchu. He tracks down his long-absent father. He kayaks up the Jervis inlet in British Columbia. He works on the screenplay. He rides his bike across the country to raise money for water wells in Africa. He starts a mentoring program for fatherless boys. He falls in love.

As a reader, you are thinking, “Wow, Don took some risks and created a better story, and now his life will work out perfectly.”

But with raw honesty, Miller reminds us that movies are only two-hour snapshots of a life. They are not the whole story.

Yes, you may accomplish a goal or find true love or acquire money and prestige. You may triumph today, but in a week or a month or a year, you will fail again. You will struggle. You will feel empty.

In “A Million Miles,” love falls apart. Miller suffers pain and isolation. Life is not tidy.

Hollywood and Madison Avenue have trained us to believe in the quick fix, the happy ending, the notion that if we do this or get that, we will find permanent fulfillment.

Miller writes that even churches participate in this illusion.

“Growing up in church, we were taught that Jesus was the answer to all our problems. We were taught that there was a circle-shaped hole in our heart and that we had tried to fill it with the square pegs of sex, drugs and rock and roll; but only the circle peg of Jesus could fill our hole. I became a Christian based, in part, on this promise, but the hole never really went away. To be sure, I like Jesus, and I still follow him, but the idea that Jesus will make everything better is a lie. It’s basically biblical theology translated into the language of infomercials.”

But — and this is at the end of the book where Miller’s spirituality comes fully to the fore — he still believes in pursuing better stories, stories that God wants for his people. He still holds hope for lasting peace and fulfillment. That hope rests on his Christian belief in the world to come, the kingdom of heaven and the banquet that awaits.

In the meantime, Miller writes, “We live in a world where bad stories are told, stories that teach us that life doesn’t mean anything and that humanity has no great purpose. It’s a good calling, then, to speak a better story.”image_8680640

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. November 9, 2009 3:49 am

    great article. donald miller is super popular among the young evangelicals such as myself. that quote you included actually gave me tingles. i wrote this thing earlier this year about how the churches i grew up in led me to believe i should never be sad if i have Jesus. i will likely read this book when i get back to america. i never did make it through blue like jazz.

    • eeflynn permalink*
      November 9, 2009 10:03 am

      I think you will like it. And despite being a slow and easily distracted reader, I read this very quickly. There was something more compelling about it than his previous books. By the way, your Europe photos are FANTASTIC! Hope you’re having a ball.

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