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BLUE LIKE JAZZ on DVD August 8, 2012

Order The DVD From LIFEWALK! CLICK HERE!
(It’s also at Walmart, Netflix, Redbox, Amazon, and likely on Mars by now.)

[I got a call from Donald Miller thanking me for my support of “Blue Like Jazz.” Yeah, that’s kind of pretty cool. Here’s a brief review of the movie.]

I expected to enjoy “Blue Like Jazz.” Yet, I must admit, after all the promotion and high hopes, I had some fear [just a teeny tiny bit] the movie might not be something I would be able to “brag” about.
After seeing the film, all fears have been laid to rest. I thought it was a great movie. My wife and I both really enjoyed it [and not just because our names are in the closing credits].
Good writing. Good production values. Good performances all the way around.
AND a great message! One I can actually get behind.

If you’ve read “Blue Like Jazz,” and listened to some old Steve Taylor records, you’ll have some idea of the creative power behind the movie. It addresses the hypocrisy of religion, while remaining very pro-faith. It’s real, raw, and avoids the clichés and pitfalls that seem inherent with most movies dealing with faith.
I will be seeing this movie again and again. We traveled a couple of hours just to see it. It was more than worth it.
Do yourself a favor: See “Blue Like Jazz.” It’s not just a movie. The background of its making, and the execution make it a piece of cinematic history.

UPDATED TRAILER with quotes from movie reviews:

READ MORE. Click Here.


DVD Special Features Include:

Audio Commentary with Author Donald Miller, Cinematographer Ben Pearson and Director Steve Taylor
Making Blue Like Jazz
Master Class: Directing Actors on Set
Deleted Shots
Photo Gallery
“Save Blue Like Jazz” Featurette
“The Cast” Featurette
“The Animator” Featurette
“This Is My Story” Featurette
“The Music” Featurette

 

Fine Wine and the Circus Monkey July 3, 2011



Reality is like fine wine. It will not appeal to children. This truth helped me understand and appreciate life itself, as it is, without the false hope formulas offer. Formulas seem much better than God because the formulas offer control; and God, well, He is like a person, and people, as we all know, are complicated. The trouble with people is they do not always do what you tell them to do.

Formulas presuppose God is more a computer or a circus monkey that an intelligent Being. Christian faith offers a relational dynamic with God. [When reading the Bible] I stopped looking for the formulas and tried to understand what God was trying to say. When I did that, I realized the gospel of Jesus, I mean the essence of God’s message to mankind, wasn’t a bunch of hoops we need to jump through to get saved, and it wasn’t a series of ideas we had to agree with either; rather, it was an invitation, an invitation to know God.

Life is complex, and the idea that you can break it down or fix it in a few steps is rather silly.

— Donald Miller in “Searching For God Knows What.”


Get that book, AND two great other
Donald Miller books, all in ONE book!
It’s his Greatest Hits!


 

2010 in review January 2, 2011

The stats helper monkeys at WordPress.com mulled over how this blog did in 2010, and here’s a high level summary of its overall blog health:

Healthy blog!

The Blog-Health-o-Meter™ reads Wow.

Crunchy numbers

Featured image

A Boeing 747-400 passenger jet can hold 416 passengers. This blog was viewed about 6,400 times in 2010. That’s about 15 full 747s.

In 2010, there were 68 new posts, growing the total archive of this blog to 150 posts. There were 67 pictures uploaded, taking up a total of 2mb. That’s about 1 pictures per week.

The busiest day of the year was September 19th with 270 views. The most popular post that day was The Misunderstood God.

Where did they come from?

The top referring sites in 2010 were facebook.com, en.wordpress.com, reunionsingers.com, mail.yahoo.com, and lifewalk.info.

Some visitors came searching, mostly for lifewalk, rich mullins quotes, andrew farley heresy, short pro life quotes, and chris colcord.

Attractions in 2010

These are the posts and pages that got the most views in 2010.

1

The Misunderstood God September 2010
6 comments

2

Tribbles Aren’t The Trouble. Labels Are. August 2010
26 comments

3

Scriptures and the Word of God October 2010
4 comments

4

Eve Of Destruction 2012 July 2010

5

About Me May 2009
1 comment

 

Divine Nobodies October 25, 2010




This book starts off with two, that’s right 2 introductions. So right away you know you’re dealing with someone who’s a bit strange. This, for me, is a good thing. I like strange. With the first page I’m chuckling to myself.
Jim Palmer uses this section to share some personal information about himself. He’s “too self-conscious,” “a sucker for feel-good, tearjerker movies,” “obsessive-compulsive,” and his wife is his best friend. I’m telling ya, I could have written much of his first introduction.

In the second introduction (dubbed the “Real Introduction) he starts getting into the HUGE difference between religion, and loving Jesus. I completely identified with his statement, “Thankfully, on this journey God has provided the necessary epiphanies to save me from complete self-destruction and has opened my eyes to deeper realities.” Of course, this “eye-opening” did not come “through theological and philosophical flashes of brilliance,” but through real life, and real “everyday run-of-the-mill people.”


The first of these everyday people we are introduced to is Kit, the drummer. This first chapter is about knowing God. “Kit had this silly notion that God just talks to people.” “Didn’t Kit know the Bible made all that unnecessary? God has already spoken…there is nothing left to say.”
This chapter asks, “How would you answer the question, ‘Who is God?’ if you could not use any information you’ve learned from the Bible? Describe for me who you have experienced God to be through your personal interaction with him.”

Chapter two exposes how our judgments of others can keep us from looking at their hearts, as God does. Those same judgments keep us from seeing the truth of ourselves, and often, from hearing what God would say to us. “I just never thought Eminem would be the one helping me grow closer to God.”

Next, in the third chapter we get to meet John, Judy, Michael, Candi and Wanda. Wanda is a waitress. She tells our author “about how over the years Christians were often her worst customers.” After one particularly tough group, she was left with only an evangelical tract as her tip.
Side rant:
My daughter-in-law used to wait tables. She confirms the above statements. I’ve heard it over and over in the service industry, that Christians are usually the most demanding, most rude, most unappreciative customers, as well as being the worst tippers.  They march in after “church” with their prayers and piety, and leave devastation in their wake. When my wife and I were part of the IC, we would often avoid the after-church group dinners out, specifically so we could avoid being associated with the rudeness we knew would be a part of the gathering.
Alright, back to the book.


“Chasing the phantom Christian” is the basis for the fourth chapter. It’s about this false ideal of having to be or do something for God. “I worked hard to stay on my game (daily quiet times, attending church, leading groups, and teaching classes) as I envisioned God in heaven perpetually asking, ‘What have you done for me lately?'”

At this point, I had been glancing through the index, and noticed a chapter about Mr. Palmer’s gay friend Richard. Being a subject of personal interest, I jumped ahead to read that chapter (8) before going back to chapter 5. I must say, reading this chapter was a bit disappointing. When I reviewed Lies, and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them by Al Franken, I gave it very high marks. It’s a great book. Nevertheless, there were a couple of chapters, one in particular, I found I should warn readers about. I said, IMHO, that those chapters would be better off skipped.
That is a little how I felt about chapter eight of this book. I’m sure it accurately reflects the experience of the author and his friend, but it leaves, I fear, an impression that gay men are all self-loathing, which can only be overcome by trying to not be gay. He doesn’t actually say that,  but the way he speaks of freedom seems to me to mean “free from being homosexual.”  I submit that many, if not most, LGBT people are not self-loathing. Many have reconciled their faith with their sexuality (For some great testimonies of this, watch: “Through My Eyes“).
Yes, some LGBT persons have had some self-hatred, but most of that is, I believe, not due to their sexuality but rather to the societal and theological brainwashing that tells such people they are not acceptable.  Those we feel this the most are usually from fundamentalist backgrounds. Maybe I’ve misunderstood Jim in this portion.  Maybe he realizes that wholeness for his friend can come from being “OK” with his sexuality.  I hope that’s the case.  It appears this particular individual has tried every approach with no success.
Certainly, as this chapter does point out, we ALL need healing.  Besides, I have to take heed to my own teaching about agreeing to disagree.


Now back to chapter Five.

If the writing in the first few paragraphs would have been “choppier,” and had only one to five words per line, I could have easily been convinced I was reading something written by Rob Bell.  (From me, that’s a huge compliment.)  There’s talk of other dimensions, quintessential metaphysical beings, The Matrix, and cookie-eating mice.  Palmer asks, “What percentage of knowledge about all reality…do you figure you possess?”  “Have you ever wondered what exists in that other percentage we don’t know?”  As Jim says, religion removes the mystery from life.  This chapter talks about what W.P. Young calls “The Beauty of Ambiguity (Mystery).”   About celebrating mystery, rather than trying to eradicate it.

Chapter Six is pretty short, but so very important.  It’s about depression.  Of course, “true Christians” don’t suffer from depression.  Yeah, right.
It needs to be read by all those people who feel they always have to have an answer for everybody’s problems, rather than simply learning to weep with those who weep.  When someone’s hurting, the LAST thing they need is to hear trite phrases or Christianeese slogans.

In the following chapter, “Don’t Mess with the EAMC,” we meet a couple who run a small auto mechanics shop:  Mr. and Mrs. Adams.  This story is one of the best at pointing out the vast difference between institutionalized religion, and the every-day real life that following Christ should be like.  For many, if not most, committed church involvement is simply “an adventure in missing the point.”  “It was like doing church was my relationship with God.”  The way the Adams live and run their auto shop is Christianity and it is church.  “I’m not convinced there’s any value added by a large group of believers gathering in one place at one time compared to the benefit of maintaining a few close relationships.”


Chapter eight was covered earlier.  On to chapter nine.
It’s titled, “Daughters,” and is about parenthood. Jim learned a lot about himself and God through his interaction with his little girl. It’s about the faith of a child. It’s about being child-like, which we sometimes confuse with childish. His statement “There are parts of me that somehow were stunted by the hurts of life back there as a little boy” certainly had the deepest ring of truth. I fully believe the vast majority of immaturity in adults is due to being emotionally stunted in their youth.

Chapter 10 is about reconciling our view of God with the hurt and loss we suffer. For me, this chapter was reminiscent of “The Shack.” The question posed here is “How can suffering and healing, brokenness and wholeness, despair and hope coexist?” When something bad happens to us, we often ask “How could a loving God allow this to happen to me?” If we’re going to ask this kind of question, then we need to ask it every hour of every day. Bad things are always happening to someone, but we don’t usually question it until it affects us. In this chapter we’re reminded of a hard, hard truth. It’s one that is often avoided or denied in many religious circles: “I am vulnerable to loss and suffering, and knowing God doesn’t change that.”

Next up: A chapter on politics. It shows how labeling people is not the best way to go. “I found my stereotypes didn’t accurately describe the ordinary people I knew.” And a quote I really like, “Talk radio is a dangerous place from which to view the world.”
Also read, The Myth Of A Christian Nation.”


Chapter twelve was a very sad, hard chapter to read. I’m sure it was hard to write. Our author goes undercover in South Asia with the International Justice Mission to investigate and “rescue victims of horrific human rights crimes, usually involving children.” At one point, he has to keep it together while a group of ten- to fifteen-year-old girls are paraded before him for his selection. “The littlest girls didn’t come out. You had to specifically ask for them and show you had that kind of cash.”
“Where was God today? Where did he go?”

Religion is the topic of chapter 13. Our author, a raised-Catholic-turned-career-protestant-turned-institutional-absentee, ends up giving a teaching in a Catholic church and becoming friends with a priest. He learns that “Since no church has a final and unambiguous grasp of divine truth, the true church of Jesus Christ can never be fully represented by any single one.” “Maybe we are all a little right and a little wrong and can get closer to the truth only by coming together.”

In “Left Behind,” Jim not only deals with his own scars, but comes to see that we are all scared individuals. “For the first time in my life, I was seeing these people who wounded me as wounded people themselves.” “No longer afraid of them, I feel sadness for them.”


The last actual chapter, 15, starts out with “Despite all the denominational distinctions I’ve come across along the way, for the life of me, I cannot find any other litmus test Jesus insisted upon to authenticate his followers except love.” Here we meet Rick, the tire salesman. “Rick has no Bible degree…does not attend any local ‘church,’…likes a good cigar, has a beer every now and then,” and his “greatest passion in life is knowing God.” We cut to the chase and see in this chapter the importance of just living life. Living life in love. In love of God, and in love of others.

We started out with two introductions.  Fittingly, we end with two epilogues. Well, [OK, then there’s the acknowledgments and “About The Author.]
“Divine Nobodies” has shades of Donald Miller, shades of Rob Bell, but is nonetheless clearly distinctive. It is another sign post on the road I’ve been traveling, pointing me to greater freedom, truth, and love.


Buy the book. Click HERE.


Some Quotes:

“My suspicion was born that a fair number of people in professional ministry are psychotic and unstable.”

“I tend to distrust people who claim to speak for God unless I know they have waited tables when shorthanded or operated a cash register during an early-bird special.

“These past few years I’ve been stumbling into questions that seem to be leading somewhere important.”

“God opened my eyes, not through theological and philosophical flashes of brilliance, but through the unlikeliest people–people I, well, just kind of ran into along the way.”

Buy the book. Click HERE.

“Every good evangelical knows that for all practical purposes, the Bible is God, and you don’t rely on something as subjective as personal experience.”

“One day I realized my Christianity was essentially a glorified behavior-modification program safely rationalized beneath a waving WWJD banner.”

“Turns out in the end, the main thing God asks of us on the road to wholeness is truth.”

“After a long week on my feet at the cafeteria, I realized how overrated sex is compared to the ecstasy of a foot massage.”

Buy the book. Click HERE.

“One of my spiritual gifts is teaching, but I don’t need to stand on a stage before a crowd to use it.”
[I believe that applies to all  gifts of the Spirit.  I’ve been questioned about how gifts function if you don’t attend an institution.  I believe the error was to associate them with that context to begin with.]

“The whole drill seemed to be to strive hard to fulfill God’s expectations and play your 1 John 1:9 card when you failed, earning you the right to start over and try harder.”

“Our church boycotted Disney, signed petitions against gay teachers in public schools, and judged those heretical denominations that sealed their fate with God by accepting gays.  In my world there was no such thing as a “gay Christian.”

“My religion provided way too small a wineskin to contain all that Jesus want to give.”

Buy the book. Click HERE.

“Many of the premises of institutional Christianity…are suspect, given this one cold, hard fact:  Christ indiscriminately, fully, and equally establishes his very presence and life within every believer.”

“God’s parting of the Red Sea seems like a big deal until you experience the miracle of your child sleeping through the night alone in his or her room.”

“Maybe ‘us’ and ‘them’ is an illusionary tactic of the real enemy, and there is really no ‘them’ but just one ‘us.'”

“Rather than a relationship, my Christianity morphed into some sort of divine self-help philosophy, problem-solving plan, and life-improvement strategy.”


Buy the book. Click HERE.

 

A Million Miles In A Thousand Years May 2, 2010

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My review of Donald Miller’s
“A Million Miles In A Thousand Years: What I Learned While Editing My Life”

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This is the 4th book I’ve read by Mr. Miller. I’ve learned from all of his books. I found his latest by far his best work since his huge best seller “Blue Like Jazz.”

This book was birthed out of his interaction with Steve Taylor and Ben Pierson, after they approached him about making a movie based on BLJ. Steve and Ben are in much of the book, but there are also many other stories and life experiences.

This book takes a look at what goes into a good story. It looks at what it takes to make an interesting movie. It looks at what it takes to write a interesting book. It looks at what it takes to live an interesting life. Don asks us to look at the story we are in. He asks if we’re living the best stories we can live. He shares many events that are a part of his life, all the while seeing what in those events makes his story, his life, worth sharing. Sharing in a way that will interest others.

Through this process, we’re given many great insights into life. Insights into how our story affects the stories of others. Insights into how our stories are just a small part of the greater story. Of how life isn’t just about “our” story. “I’m just one tree in a story about a forest.” At the same time, each tree matters.

I found this book a very easy read, especially compared to much of the kind of reading I enjoy. But, easy doesn’t mean superficial. It certainly doesn’t mean shallow. There is some deep stuff here. This book is one I recommend. I recommend it for fans of “Blue Like Jazz.” If you’ve never read that one, check it out first. But, this book is also for fans of good story. It’s for fans of learning a little more of what life is all about. And, of course, it’s for fans of Steve Taylor.

To buy the book, or read more about it, Click HERE.
Buy the KINDLE version. Click HERE.
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Some quotes from the book:

“Life has a peculiar feel when you look back on it that it does not have when you’re living it.”

“If you use this dishwashing liquid, people will want to have sex with you.”
(NOTE: You’ll have to read the book for the context.)

“We get robbed of the glory of live because we aren’t capable of remembering how we got here…
you could easily believe life isn’t that big of a deal, that life isn’t staggering…
I think life is staggering and we’re just used to it. We all are like spoiled children no longer impressed with the gifts we’re given–it’s just another sunset, just another rainstorm…just another child being born, just another funeral.”

“But fear isn’t only a guide to keep us safe; it’s also a manipulative emotion that can trick us into living boring lives.”

“She wondered why it mattered if Jesus hung on a cross and died. Since the world went crazy anyway…
‘See,’ she prayed, ‘you created us only to let us march around in our misery. You’re supposed to be good. What are you good for?'”

“You get a feeling when you look back on life that…all God really wants from us [is] to live inside a body he made and enjoy the story and bond with us through the experience.”

“Somehow we realize that great stories are told in conflict, but we are unwilling to embrace the potential greatness of the story we are actually in. We think God is unjust, rather than a master storyteller.”

“Life itself may be designed to change us, so that we evolve from one kind of person to another.
…humans are alive for the purpose of journey…
the point wasn’t the search but the transformation the search creates.
…we’re designed to live through something rather than to attain something, and the thing we were meant to live through was designed to change us.”

To buy the book, or read more about it, Click HERE.
Buy the KINDLE version. Click HERE.
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My Review of “Through Painted Deserts” November 6, 2009

This is my 3rd Donald Miller book.  I must say, it’s my least favorite of the three.  Don’t get me wrong.  I’m not saying it’s bad.  It’s actually quite good.  I just liked the other two better.

In “Through Painted Deserts” Donald chronicles a road trip he took with a friend in a beat up VW van.  The main destination was the Grand Canyon.  There were, of course,  plenty of adventures before and after.  They lived in this van.  They slept in the van, and in the woods, and wherever they could. 

I can somewhat identify with the story.  In the 70’s I took a trip to the Grand Canyon with two other guys and a girl.  The four of us, and all our camping gear, in a Vega!  Yeah.  Fun.  Well, I think they all enjoyed it.  Me, not so much.

Anyway, this is that kind of story.  Miller makes many observations of life and Christian spirituality, just probably not as many as in his two previous works.

“I’ve learned that I don’t really know much about anything.  Life is not a story about me, but it is being told to me.  I think that is the ‘why’ of this ancient faith I am caught up in: to enjoy God.” – Donald Miller –

So, I do recommend this book, but only after “Searching For God Knows What,” and certainly after “Blue Like Jazz.”  If you get through those two, and still want more Donald Miller, then read “Through Painted Deserts.
I’m looking forward to his latest, “A Million Miles in a Thousand Years.”  Hey, it’s even got Steve Taylor in it.  That should up the sarcasm!

— dave

 

My review of “Searching For God Knows What.” June 30, 2009

This is the second Donald Miller book I’ve read, the first being “Blue Like Jazz.”  BLJ seemed more autobiographical.  Still, this work is, I think, every bit as good.  It is somewhat more dense, in that it seems to cover more theological ground per page.

This book is about the failure of formulas to properly explain or experience the Gospel of Jesus.  You won’t find a book or chapter of the Bible titled “The Four Spiritual Laws.”  You will not find the phrase “ask Jesus to come into your heart,” or “accept the Lord as your personal Savior.”  This approach to Christian spirituality is in line with what Bono calls “bumper sticker reductionism.”  I guess people like that sort of thing for the same reason many Christians prefer law to grace:  It’s easier.  Lists are easy.  Relationships are hard.

And that, in a reductionist sort of way, is, at least in part, what Donald addresses in this book.  Chapters cover such things as “A whole message to a whole human being,” “How to kill your neighbor (Lifeboat Theory),” “Morality,” “Religion,” and “Why William Shakespeare Was a Prophet.”  I really enjoyed his insights on the book of Job.

Mr. Miller believes that “Biblically, you are hard-pressed to find theological ideas divorced from their relational context.”  Jesus didn’t preach formulas.  He told stories.  He told lots of stories.  Not steps.  Not bullet points.  Stories.
We want to take three years of relational stories, (as well as human history) and boil it all down to 4 easy payments…
I mean steps.
It should be painfully obvious of the inability to do so.  But in case it isn’t, Donald Miller helps point that out.  He does so in his usual style.  A style which caused Blue Like Jazz to be rejected by publishers, until, of course, it started selling like hotcakes.  (Much the same story with “The Shack.”  Don’t these publisher types EVER learn?!?!  They must be very religious people.)

There is a chapter somewhere near the beginning, I forget which one, that seemed out of place.  It felt “phoned in.”  It was almost like someone else wrote it.  It was a bit hard to get through, and made me start to wonder if I would finish the book.  I’m glad I stuck it out, because the book did pick back up, and became a great read.

Anyway, I do highly recommend this book, but only AFTER you read Blue Like Jazz.

[You can read some excerpts on other posts on this blog, including the previous one about “Morality.”
You can order the book from the Life Walk Store link in the right column.]

 

 
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