Living In The Story

November 17, 2009

"Remedy is coming" - David Crowder

Over the last couple months my friend Arto and I have been meeting and stirring each other’s life in Christ together.  This last time, meeting atop Amsterdam’s immense library (here’s my twitpic of the view), Arto shared some stories of interactions he’s been having with some friends.  Apparently they’ve been gaining an education on the Illuminati (Click here for your own Youtube education on the Illuminati).  I’m no expert on the Illuminati, and neither is Arto, but I loved his response to his friends.

Essentially, what it came down to was the fact that figuring out mysteries and secret hand signals and all that stuff just doesn’t lead a person to living a very fruitful or satisfying life.  So when Arto asked that obvious question, “So, how does that lead you to live?”  he found the conversation launching in to the Christian story–creation-fall-redemption-restoration.  **TIME OUT**

Though I’ve already blogged over Donald Miller‘s latest book A Million Miles in a Thousand Years here, I’ve run across a couple other resources on story I wanted to pass on.  Similar to Miller’s challenge to engage in the conflict and live meaningfully, though more explicitly biblical in orientation, Jeff Vanderstelt just posted a handout called “Engaging the Story” on his blog that I found helpful (also check out Soma Communities’ website for resources on “Storying“).  Or, for those looking for a slightly longer, more involved read N.T. Wright’s “How Can the Bible be Authoritative?”.  Of, if you really want to go deep on story and how the Bible shapes our story and invites us to live inside of it then check out The Drama of Doctrine by Kevin Vanhoozer.  There you’ll find over 480 pages on the subject. Back to Arto’s friends though…

**TIME IN!**

As Arto and I are looking to move forward, we’re planning on moving our weekly meeting up to Diemen where he lives.  And maybe, just maybe, as we learn to live inside the story Jesus tells, maybe these friends of Arto’s will also find themselves caught up in the grand story told by the Great Storyteller who is coming to bring restoration and resolution to the greatest conflict the universe has ever known!



Though I’m not quite sure what I was expecting when I began Donald Miller‘s newest book Million Miles in a Thousand Years, I am sure those expectations were exceeded.

Some years ago a professor of mine told me about a book called The Drama of Doctrine by Kevin Vanhoozer.  The basic premise of the book is that Scripture is the screenplay in which we find ourselves.  It tells us where we are (place + time=setting), who we are (characterization), what’s wrong (conflict) and how it is all going to be fixed (resolution).

“The task of theology is to enable hearers and doers of the gospel to respond and to correspond to the prior Word and Act of God, and thus to be drawn into the action” (The Drama of Doctrine, 2005 Vanhoozer p. 44)

In other words, the Bible invites us to continue living in its story, to live well (or wisely) in light of the cosmic story it tells.  Don continues this line of thinking, adding that good stories are not only worth reading, they are also worth living.

Early in the book two screen writers come to Don asking if they might make a movie out of his life based on Blue Like Jazz.  After Don’s agrees and the process of editing the fictional Don begins, the real Don also sets out on a journey editing his own life using story to guide him in to greater more purposed living and the journey takes him across continents to become a character who wants something and overcomes conflict to get it.

In the comments preceding the book Rob Bell calls Million Miles “disturbing” and “unsettling” and I have to agree.  All of us inhabit stories, and most of our stories are not ones worth telling, or certainly ones worth watching.  Not because we are not able to produce that kind of life, but because we refuse to or have never stopped to see the grand story in which we live, “the powerful play” in which each of us is bound to contribute a verse (to steal from Whitman).  Only the most purposed and the most imperceptive will end the journey through this book unscathed.   For the rest of us, Million Miles will be a challenge to live well, to inhabit our stories and find the conflict for which we are striving.

Let me leave you with some quotes:

“When we watch the news, we grieve [people suffering], but when we go to the movies, we want more of it.  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.” (32)

“The world needs for us to have courage…The world needs for us to write something better” (118)

“The ambitions we have will become the stories we live.  If you want to know what a person’s story is about, just ask them what they want.  If we don’t want anything, we are living boring stories, and if we want a Roomba vacuum cleaner, we are living stupid stories” (125)

“You become like the people you interact with.  And if your friends are living boring stories, you probably will too.  We teach our children good or bad stories, what is worth living for and what is worth dying for, what is worth pursuing, and the dignity with which a character engages his own narrative.” (160)

Follow Donald Miller on twitter or read his blog here.

Oh yes, the me monster rages inside all of us.  There is no language barrier, no cultural divide, no social setting where he is not liable to show up.

Something about living in a world you hardly understand (and I’m just talking about language) seems to feed the me monster’s obtrusiveness.  But why?  In all honesty, I think a lot of it has to do with the value we (to avoid the more dangerous and personal “I”) believe we attain through language and communication with other people.

In the words of Donald Miller, “man was wired so that somebody else told him who he was” (Searching for God Knows What, 71).  Its tough to say something witty or insightful to show everyone how valuable you are when you don’t speak their language or have any idea what everyone’s been talking about for the last ten minutes.

It doesn’t make my me monster happy, but, who knows?  Maybe our journey through ignorance into Dutch will lead us to actually live out God’s hope for us in Christ:

Do not lie to one another since you have put off the old man with its practices and have been clothed with the new man that is being renewed in knowledge according to the image of the one who created it…Therefore, as the elect of God, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with a heart of mercy, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience… –Colossians 3:9-10, 12


January 16, 2009

These last couple days, since listening to a sweet interview of Derek Webb and Donald Miller (search in the podcasts on iTunes for “Derek Webb”), I’ve been thinking about neighboring.  Beyond Jesus’ simple challenge to love my neighbor well , I find myself pondering some related questions, specifically, “Where am I from?” and “What citizenship am I living out?”  

Eight years ago, when I came to faith I stopped being a soccer player, a guitarist, or a funny, friendly guy.  In fact, that moment was so powerful, I even stopped being American.  So how do I neighbor well as a citizen of a coming Kingdom who’s law is love and who’s king is currently reigning from the clouds?  

Hanging with Students on the Ice

Skating with students last Sunday!

This summer we are looking at having at least two teams come work with us out here in Holland, and it has got me to thinking: How ought these trips express the kind of good neighboring Jesus defines in his Gospel?  How would it change my life to stop being American and start being a citizen of heaven?  Could I still get away with the bank accounts I have?  Would my home continue look the way it does?  (Don’t worry, there will be no offering taken at the end of this post.  These are strictly my own reflections as a needy, growing person)  Would I not work to overcome compassion burnout for the sake of the Kingdom?  

Every mission trip I have led or facilitated in the past has been from the sending side.  Is it odd that I should face so much more difficult questions of mission and kingdom building from this side of the telescope?  Strangely, I just might learn more this summer about the heart of Jesus and his mission than any of the people who join us.

Though we’re still in the basic planning stages, I’m excited for the teams that are coming this summer; for their ministry, for their impact and for the transformation God has waiting in store for them, here among their neighbors.  

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