I mused on my Thursday blog how I really wanted to go hear Donald Miller, author of one of my favorite books, Blue Like Jazz, speak in Marion tonight, but that I have 2 tests tomorrow and other work to do, so I might not have time... I made time. Josh came up and rescued me from 9 hours in the dungeon today and whisked me off to dinner at Steak and Shake, and then we showed up an hour early at this coffeehouse where Miller was supposed to speak.
The place was packed already. I recognized many Taylor faces, even though I expected more IWU people there. The night began with a half-hour set by Josh Garrels, a local musician who is pretty popular. I had heard him a couple times before, and totally didn't know he was playing tonight. It was fine. The crowd talked while he sang. They weren't really there to hear him, for the most part, they were there to hear the wisdom of Donald Miller. I mean, who wouldn't be excited to hear the author who titled the chapters of his most popular book things like "Faith: Penguin Sex" and "Church: How I Go Without Getting Angry" speak?
He started off the evening with a book reading- he shared an excerpt from a yet-to-be-published book titled To Own a Dragon. He prefaced the book reading by saying that book readings happen a lot in Portland, where he's from, and he went to one with a date once- "A very conservative girl- one of those you don't want to go through the torture of dating, but one you'd like to marry." Everyone laughed. He got on with the reading. He said the book was about his growing up without a father around. He talked about the people in his life that were father figures at one time or another- Bill Cosby, the "pot-head" son of the landlady, and his youth pastor. He had the best luck with his youth pastor, who encouraged him to pursue God and pursue writing. He ended his first article for the youth group newsletter with the insight, "Opinions of angels matter more than opinions of people because angels can fly." That made everyone laugh, too.
After he read the excerpt, there was a question-and-answer time - a much shorter time than I would have liked. Some asked if he ever had been called a heretic. He said "My goal is to write sound orthodox theology that sounds heretical... mainly to confuse the Calvinists." I appreciated that. Orthodoxy that sounds heretical makes people think. I'm all about making people think- seeing things in a different light- not wrong or evil, but different.
He was asked about other stuff too, and said other profound words. Looking back at Blue Like Jazz, which I did before I went to the event tonight, to remind myself of the details, because I read it 2+ years ago, I remembered why I like it so. It is conversational and real and messy and true. Tonight, Miller said "The key is to be real- not preachy or condescending... [when I'm being real] I'm giving you something to make fun of me with- that's friendship."
He ended the night reading another excerpt from Through Painted Deserts. The excerpt he read, the Author's Note at the beginning of the book, is actually on that Amazon page in totality- an almost-poetic description of nature and life. He makes me want to move to Portland. I loved it.
I've talked too much. To end, here's a bit of the last excerpt he read:
All my life I have been changing. I changed from a baby to a child, from soft toys to play daggers. I changed into a teenager to drive a car, into a worker to spend some money. I will change into a husband to love a woman, into a father to love a child, change houses so we are near water, and again so we are near mountains, and again so we are near friends, keep changing with my wife, getting our love so it dies and gets born again and again, like a garden, fed by four seasons, a cycle of change. Everybody has to change, or they expire. Everybody has to leave, everybody has to leave their home and come back so they can love it again for all new reasons.
I sometimes look into the endless heavens, the cosmos of which we can't find the edge, and ask God what it means. Did You really do all of this to dazzle us? Do You really keep it shifting, rolling round the pinions to stave off boredom? God forbid Your glory would be our distraction. And God forbid we would ignore Your glory.
And so my prayer is that your story will have involved some leaving and some coming home, some summer and some winter, some roses blooming out like children in a play. My hope is your story will be about changing, about getting something beautiful born inside of you, about learning to love a woman or a man, about learning to love a child, about moving yourself around water, around mountains, around friends, about learning to love others more than we love ourselves, about learning oneness as a way of understanding God. We get one story, you and I, and one story alone. God has established the elements, the setting and the climax and the resolution. It would be a crime not to venture out, wouldn't it?
These words capture my heart. I am so ready for an adventure.