Narrating: February 2011

Seems like I just did this. I suppose that's what comes of being late in the middle of a short month. However, I have read three decent books since the last newsletter, and they all weave together: stories about story.

I have a policy of always buying something when I go into a Christian Bookstore (a practice I commend unto you). When writing a column on local book shops, I bought John Eldredge's Epic: The Story God is Telling at the little store in the Santa Cruz Bible Church. I like Eldredge's dramatic perspective and loved The Sacred Romance, which he wrote with Brent Curtis. Besides, I'm a sucker for small hardbacks. Epic runs a comparison between the stories and movies we love, and God's story presented in the Bible. It's a quick, easy read and might be a door into the kingdom for someone who is Biblically ignorant and loves going to the movies. Amazon is selling a paperback version for $2.99. There's also a study guide and a whole Epic Church Kit for epic churches and small groups that want to figure out "The Role that is Yours to Play".

"Those things about which we cannot theorize, we must narrate." - Umberto Eco

Joanne gave me a novel she'd received from Joanna. "Take this with you on your retreat," she said. I opened it with my afternoon coffee and finished it around midnight. Just as well since novels are only good on non-directed retreats. Free Bird by Greg Garrett is the story of a guy whose life got stalled after his wife and son were killed in an accident. The Christians in the book are either endlessly irritating or nuts. I get tired of Christians always being the bad-guy or the brunt. I might not have persevered if the book hadn't come from the two J's. However, in the long-run, faith doesn't look as lame as it did in the beginning of the book. Some light dawns in a very non-sappy way. $3

"The world is a story we tell ourselves about the world." - Vikram Chandra,

Then the book I actually took on the retreat was A Million Miles in a Thousand Years: How I learned to Live a Better Story by Donald Miller. I only read a couple chapters of it while on retreat; chapters which brought a smile to my face and were a nice balance to the Jesuits. Like Free Bird, this memoir opens with Don's life on stall. However, since he had written a bestselling book, Blue Like Jazz, some people thought it would be interesting to make a movie of his life. This set Don thinking about what makes a good story and what makes a good life, and how the two intersect. A Million Miles is written in Donald Miller's inestimable, self-depreciating style that keeps one chortling along in between the Ah ha moments.

"Life is easy to chronicle, but bewildering to practice." - E. M. Forster,

What was especially fun, was that after Michael said how much he enjoyed Blue Like Jazz, I looked to see what else Donald Miller had written, and put A Million Miles in my Amazon basket. Then as my retreat approached, I realized that I had procrastinated too long; I wouldn't be able to get the book in time to take with me. Sigh. On Friday, I was at the store with my packed suitcase in the back of the car, when I discovered A Million Miles in the river of books flowing behind the desk. Pretty cool, eh what?

You also might find something you like at The Word Shop.

Meanwhile, Comerica Bank suddenly returned all the Word Shop checks I deposited this year, saying that I needed to open a new account in order to deposit them. This comes after 16 years of merrily depositing checks, and 30 years at the bank. I am failing miserably at exuding anything resembling Christian love and forgiveness in this situation. The upside is that if you wrote us a check since around Christmas, chances are the money is still in your account and probably will remain there for another week or so. The downside is that I can no longer harbor any illusions about being a nice person in the face of trials and temptations.

"Money often costs too much." -Ralph Waldo Emerson

My upcoming column about Mardi-Gras, Ash Wednesday and Lent is gasping for want of pancakes or anyone having any fun on Shrove Tuesday. If your church is doing a Mardi-Gras or something cool let me know yesterday. A good picture would be useful as well. Otherwise the paragraph about the day before Ash Wednesday is going to read: WHAT IS WRONG WITH YOU PEOPLE?!?

"She said she got her start as a journalist by pretending to be one.." ~Anse Seierstad


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