Let’s imagine you’re a Stephen King fan (I happen to be a HUGE Stephen King fan) and out of the blue you receive an email from Stephen King. I’m not talking about someone pretending to be Stephen King. I’m talking about an email from the man himself.
Since I first picked up his book Blue Like Jazz, Donald Miller has been my Stephen King. Instead of reading the latest King book, I’d much rather read Miller. If you’ve known me for any length of time you understand what that statement says about how impressed I must be with Don.
It’s not that I idolize him. It’s not that I think he’s somehow a greater person than the rest of us. It’s just that I appreciate his writing ability and, even more so, I appreciate the way he’s helped rewire my mind. On many occasions I’ve made it clear that if I had grown up around the type of Christianity Donald Miller portrays in his books I never would have become a porn producer. I never would have caused so much pain in the lives of so many people. My son never would have experienced growing up in a home where daddy came around only to visit.
Every single Christian on the face of the planet needs to read Donald Miller’s books. In the left column of this blog you’ll find a section that says “Three Books That Changed Me.” Click on any one of those books and buy it. I recommend reading them in the order I have them listed. They’ll change your life for the better.
With this in mind, imagine what it must have been like to receive an email from the man himself. On March 25th, 2007, at 11:33pm I was able to have that experience. What he said was simple. I’ll copy and paste it for you:
don miller here, just writing to say hello. craig gross told me a bit of your story and it sounds amazing. thought i would make contact. i hope you are doing well there. and i am glad you have encountered God, and i know he is glad to have encountered you. do fire me an e-mail and give me an update on how things are going for you. all the best…
I had a feeling such an email might be coming. Craig Gross from XXXChurch.com has heard me speak of Donald Miller’s books on numerous occasions. Just this past weekend in Morton, IL we had lunch with the leaders of the church that hosted the last Porn and Pancakes event. I told one of the pastors about Donald Miller’s books and how every Christian should read them and, in fact, every church should start a small group to go through them chapter by chapter. Craig told me that I was a walking advertisement for Don and that he was going to email him about me.
The thing is, although he writes about life as a Christian, Donald Miller’s books are romantic. Not in a way that men can’t appreciate, and not in the way you might typically think of romance. It’s not possible for me to properly describe what I mean. You just have to experience them for yourself. That being said, let me at least attempt to draw you into what hooked me into reading Blue Like Jazz. I opened the book and this is the first thing I read:
“I never liked jazz music because jazz music doesn’t resolve. But I was outside the Bagdad Theater in Portland one night when I saw a man playing the saxophone. I stood there for fifteen minutes, and he never opened his eyes. After that I liked jazz music.
Sometimes you have to watch somebody love something before you can love it yourself. It is as if they are showing you the way. I used to not like God because God didn’t resolve. But that was before any of this happened.”
That, my friends, is what I’m talking about. What a great way to start a book! I couldn’t put it down. Don Miller’s books show a Jesus I want to know. A Jesus I want to love. A Jesus I want to serve. A relationship with God that I want to experience.
He paints with words. I can’t describe his books any better than that: the man paints with words.
On March 17th, the day I announced the Hiatus that wasn’t a Hiatus after all, I read To Own a Dragon in one sitting, down at Caldwell Park in Redding, California. In it, Don discusses growing up without a father. Once again, the book changed my life. Perhaps some day I’ll tell you more about that. Perhaps not. But that weekend changed the direction in which I was heading.
Isn’t it funny how powerful words can be?
“Sometimes you have to watch somebody love something before you can love it yourself.”
How does that sentence make you feel? I know what it does to me: it makes me want to be that Jazz Musician. It makes me want to love what I’m doing SO MUCH that others love what I love, just because they witness ME doing so. I want to fall so deeply in love with God that people come to know him simply because of the joy he brings to MY life.
I know that is possible. That’s part of the reason my brother surrendered his life to God. It’s part of the reason that after being an alcoholic for years, he’s still sober to this day. It’s part of the reason he calls me with hope in his voice, where before there was none.
I have no doubts whatsoever that I’ll be reading those three books numerous times. I’ll continue, as I do now, to tell people what I’ve learned from them. I’ll share the Confession chapter of Blue Like Jazz over and over again, because IT REALLY IS THAT POWERFUL.
And I’ll always remember the day an email showed up in my mail box, without a subject line, from the author of three books that were quite instrumental in rewiring my mind.
It was great to hear from you, Don.