Saturday, August 23, 2008

Donald Miller and the power of Story

I heard Donald Miller for the first time about three years ago at the Catalyst Conference. I was really impressed with his conversational style of speaking, and his ability to break subjects down to their core. After hearing him that first time, I read his book, Blue Like Jazz. That book really made me reconsider some of my core beliefs about what it means to be a Christ follower. It was a really good stretch for me. I still have a very different outlook than he does on a number of issues, but I appreciate the perspective that he brings.

Last week at the Echo conference, I had an opportunity to hear him speak again. He talked about how he has been studying writing for movies and television, and that his study of developing a story has changed his perspective on life. When he looked at his own life, he realized that his story wouldn't make a compelling movie. He talked about how the bible is full of compelling stories, and that all great stories have some common elements. The first element is a character; a character who wants something and is willing to overcome conflict to get it. He then talked about the fact that we are all characters in our own stories that are yet to be written.

There are some characteristics of a character that will cause us to cheer for him or boo him. One is that the character is not what he thinks or feels, but what he does. He gave an example from the latest Rocky movie, where Rocky starts off by befriending a single mom, rescuing a dog, and basically showing that he is a good human being. In a good story, the hero can't think more of himself than others, if he does he will cease to be the hero. In a good story, the hero always wants something. But it's not very satisfying unless what he or she wants is impressive. For instance, a movie about a guy who wants a new car wouldn't be that great. In fact, the best stories are the ones where the hero wants something, and if he doesn't get it, people will die. In our own life story, we should ask the question...what are we living for and what will happen if we don't get it?

Once the hero's motives are clear, and we know what he is going after, that's when the conflict usually begins. The moment when conflict gets so bad that the character thinks they're not going to make it, that's when the story is just starting to get good. As Christians, we have implied for a long time that if you are living for Christ, your life will be happy and carefree. But the truth is, that doesn't really line up with the stories of the bible. As I look back on my own life, I realize that the times that I have changed for the better have come through pain. When we go through periods where it seems like we're not going to make it, we need to remember that our story is just starting to get good. Maybe the pain or conflict in our own stories is just paving the way for us to achieve what we're striving for. In the bible, James 1:2-4 says, "
Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, 3because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. 4Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything." As we write the stories of our lives, we need to understand that pain and conflict will come. But if we keep in mind what we are trying to accomplish, and trust God to be the source of our strength, then God will use our lives to create a powerful story that will speak of His character.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Catching Up

Have you ever had the feeling that no matter how hard you try, you just can't seem to get caught up? Lately I've been feeling that way. Like a greyhound chasing a fake rabbit around a circle. Well, that's the best excuse I can come up with for not posting in a month. I've been nudged by the only two people who read this blog to get with it, so here's what's been going on in my life recently.

Back on July 31, two significant things happened. My parents celebrated their 48th wedding anniversary (Yay!!!) and my daughter Samantha got her tonsils out (boo!!!). My parents are still together so I think the anniversary went well. The surgery went well too, and Samantha was a real trooper. When we got home that afternoon, Anne started to get a fever. I checked her temperature and it was almost 102! The next day, she went to the doctor and was diagnosed with pneumonia! Sami's recovery went well, but she was in a lot of pain. Her doctor told us that he doesn't know why some kids experience pain and others don't, but that it happens. Anne's recovery has been slow. It has taken a long time to get her energy back and is still suffering through coughing fits. She is beginning to feel better, but still isn't 100%.

We got another bit of unexpected news when we learned that my mom (who had a double mastectomy last year) had a small lump removed and it was shown to have cancer. We were really unprepared to hear this. As a family, we have been so glad that my mom's recovery has gone so well. Even though it's been a long process, she has been feeling better and looking forward to living cancer free. We weren't sure what this was going to mean. Was she going to have more treatments and start all over again? A PET scan was scheduled to see if there was any more cancer in her body. When the results came back there was good news, NO CANCER! We were very relieved and were so glad to hear the news. We don't know if she will have to do any preventative treatments or not, but at least we know that she is cancer free! Thank God!

One more bit of craziness to add...the girls had to go to the dentist on Monday. The dentist came out and told Anne that Samantha (poor girl) needed to have EIGHT teeth pulled! For some reason, they were not coming out on their own and her permanent teeth didn't have room to come in. But the dentist said that he couldn't do that many at once. We figured if we didn't do them all at once, we may not get her back to the dentist to get the others out. :) He said he would see how it goes and how she was feeling. After he took the first four out, he gave her the option to come back later, or get the others out. She told him to go ahead and take them out, so he did. The dentist had never taken out that many teeth at once on a child before. Samantha came through it with no problems and didn't really have any pain either. I think she was glad to get it over with!

That's a little bit of what the last month has been like, and I didn't even mention what has been going on at the church (which has continued to grow and do well). Maybe I'll give an update on that later.

Just remember...even if you don't hear from me every day, we're still friends!