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Tag Archives: Blue Like Jazz

Welcome to National Novel Writing Month

Today is November 2. To most people, this means nothing. For hundreds of thousands, though, it is the second day of NaNoWriMo. They have 28 days left to reach the lofty goal of writing a 50,000-word novel. From scratch.

I have a friend who has taken on this challenge for the past four years. I watched from the sidelines. She struggled through and persevered each year. It never felt as if I would have the dedication to do the same, and what’s the point of starting, if I wouldn’t finish?

But I didn’t used to feel that way. When I was in middle school, I wrote a couple short novels for my own amusement. Only my immediate family had the privilege and honor of reading them. For some time, I imagined I would one day be a full-time, professional author of fiction. J. K. Rowling inspired me. I, too, would have my wildly popular, mass-marketed, world-changing fantasy series.

Now I realize a full day at home, by myself, on my computer, attempting to write for a living, would not be productive and by no means enjoyable. I can see myself breaking down into a frustrated mess, hiding under blankets on the floor to escape the empty Word document on my computer screen. Needless to say, this is not the future I wish for myself.

Rather, it makes me perfectly happy to continue writing in my free time as the fancy strikes me. Then on October 30, I remembered the season had come around yet again to feverishly type into the early hours until a work of art (more or less) emerges. I no longer have homework and studying to steal my sleep, so I thought, why not this year? What could it hurt? Besides my sanity, I mean.

I started last night on my November “novel,” which is actually going to look more like Blue Like Jazz than Harry Potter. That’s the hope, at least. I doubt my experiment will be worthy of a national bestseller or global phenomenon. The book will be a compilation of personal essays, much to do with my experiences as a young Christian woman. A confession of faith, you might say. I mentioned this idea before in my post “Movie Adaptations and the Real-Life Stories.” So far, I’ve written 414 words. This post update will have to cut short, and I’ll work on those 49,586 words left to go.

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Posted by on November 2, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

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Searching for God Knows What Part 1: Getting to Know God

I’ve put it off long enough and it’s time to push aside all the excuses.

As I said in my last post, my sister gave me Searching for God Knows What by Donald Miller to read and discuss it together. Sort of a family book club, you could say. It’s been four weeks since Christmas, so I’ve let her down… but no more! To keep me accountable, I will be posting my thoughts from the book on this blog. That means you can look forward to several more posts on this.

Let’s start with a little background. Donald Miller wrote the Christian bestseller, Blue Like Jazz. He wrote Searching for God Knows What just after Blue Like Jazz yet before he knew what a hit the previous book would be. Like the bestseller, Searching for God Knows What (SGKW?) continues Miller’s journey into what it means to live as a Christian, sharing personal revelations through a series of snapshots into his past.

The first chapter starts with formulas people use, those 1-2-3 steps we use to get what we want.  Miller describes how he began considering the usefulness of formulas after attending a writing seminar that taught two simple formulas to write successful books. He looked to his bookshelf of self-help and how-to books and realized none fulfilled his life like they had guaranteed.

“It made me wonder, honestly, if such a complex existence as the one you and I are living can really be broken down into a few steps,” Miller wrote. “It seems if there were a formula to fix life, Jesus would have told us what it was.”

We hope the simple step-by-step methods will make our lives easier or better. But as any honest person would tell you, formulas don’t solve the complexity of reality. Life isn’t made of formulaic steps. Neither are our relationships.

“Some would say formulas are how we interact with God, that going through motions and jumping through hoops are how a person acts out his spirituality,” Miller wrote.

This idea confuses Miller because we don’t do strange rituals to hang out with a friend. We just call them and ask them over for coffee. Using rituals to reach God makes him out to be less than a personal, more like a robot than a being.

I agree that it’s all too easy for Christians to forget God’s actually aware and sentient, especially since God isn’t visible like your friend and you can’t hear his voice over the phone. For instance, the last time you prayed, did you actually wait and listen for him to respond back? Or did you say, “Amen!” without a thought that God might have something to say to you? I’ll admit I’ve done it.

Miller began reading the Bible under a new light. Instead of formulas, he looked for what God wanted 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,” Miller wrote.

This is what Jefferson Bethke was getting at in his spoken-word poem (see my last post). Christianity isn’t about following the right rules, taking the right steps, to earn God’s acceptance. God wants us to know him.

 
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Posted by on January 20, 2012 in Books

 

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The Difference Between Religion and Relationship

Last weekend, the social media sites lit on fire over one young man’s Youtube rap. Have you seen it yet?

My Facebook news feed had at least eight friends who posted and praised it. The video has over 15 million views since posting last week. But as it turns out, not everyone is so happy about the poem. Talking about religion tends to do that. Now you can find a bunch of video responses from people who disagree. I read one blog post that criticized the guy for saying Jesus fought religion when, really, Jesus was a good Jew who honored religious traditions.

Perhaps the controversial poet didn’t do enough to answer people’s questions, but it’s asking a lot to explain Jesus in four minutes. Yes, Jesus did follow the Jewish customs. What is important to note, though, is that when this controversial poet says, “I hate religion,” he refers to static religion that traps people in rules. He doesn’t say anything against religious practices like attending church or praying.

The main point this video tries to get across is the same thing the Bible shows us. God doesn’t care about religion so much as he wants a relationship with His creation. This theme appears again and again throughout the Old Testament, Jesus’ ministry, and the early church. Religion is just humanity’s way to connect to God, to reach up to Heaven. It’s a tool we use. But God has already reached down to us. He’s holding out his hand, not to shake on a business deal, but like a parent cups his child’s hand or a man intertwines his fingers with his bride’s. If we ignore his hand for relationship and rely on religion alone, we’re just banging our fists on the ceiling without seeing the stairs to the roof.

You can look forward to another post on this topic tomorrow. My sister gave me Searching for God Knows What by Donald Miller (the same guy who wrote Blue Like Jazz) so we could read it together and discuss the issues that come up. Unfortunately, I’ve put off reading it because of school, friends, and other commonly used but still pathetic excuses. Now I’m well into the second chapter and… well, I’ll save that for later.

 
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Posted by on January 19, 2012 in Other thoughts

 

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