Friday, April 16, 2010

Blue Like Jazz

I have this friend named Zack. He’s not a tee ball coach. Zack and I met when we were freshman in college and we hated each other. We were always in competition with one another…who had the best best friend, who would be a better vice president (I definitely won that competition),who was better at dodge ball. You know the really important stuff. One time we were playing dodge ball against each other and he and his best friend tag teamed my best friend Mike. Zack flat out tackled Mike into the curtain that separated the gym and Frank hit him in the face with a dodge ball while he was on the ground. (Actually I don’t know if he hit him in the face but it makes the story better.) So Zack and I hated each other. That was until I had to work with him.

We were both counselors at Teen Leadership Conference and we even had to sleep on the same floor. I discovered that the reason I hated Zack was because he was exactly like me and in some weird way I thought he would somehow make a better me than me so I had to hate him. Once we got to know each other we became really good friends. We came to an understanding that we really weren’t that different. In fact, after we graduated Zack and I spent two weeks together traveling around the country with our friend Tommy in his white Dodge Neon. When Zack got married I was supposed to be an usher. But I thought the wedding was the next day (who has a wedding on a Friday?) and I missed it. Zack was also a groomsman at my wedding.

My relationship with Zack reminds me of my relationship with Donald Miller. Not that I know him personally or anything but I read his books so that means I know him. When Miller first emerged on the scene with his book Blue Like Jazz I hated him because I heard his book was edgy and had some radical ideas. Jessica bought me the book when I was a Sophomore and I refused to read it. Eventually I read one of his other books, Through Painted Desserts and loved it. In fact, it was that book that inspired us to take a trip around the country. But for some reason I still didn’t like Donald Miller. I was like an old person who refused to listen to rock and roll because they think it will make the worship Satan when all it will really do is make you stomp your foot rhythmically and perhaps bob your head.

Finally, after four years, I decided to bite the bullet and I read Blue Like Jazz. And guess what, I loved it! Just like with my friend Zack I figured out the Donald Miller and I weren’t that different. Sure he has radical ideas and some of the things he says don’t line up perfectly with scripture but neither does everything I say. This book never claimed to be a theology text book. In fact it claims to be just the opposite. The subtitle is , Nonreligious thoughts on Christian Spirituality. If you read this book you probably won’t agree with everything the author has to say or what he does but I guarantee you will agree with one thing, Donald Miller is transparent and real.

There are two types of Christians; those with very simple faith who simply believe and those with un-simple faith who ask all sorts of questions. Donald Miller and I both fall under the un-simple type of faith. I find myself thinking like John the Baptist sometimes. He sends a messenger to Jesus to see if he really is the Messiah. Jesus doesn’t rebuke him, in fact he calls him blessed above all me born of women (Luke 7:28). I question things a lot. In my mind there aren’t too many nicely packed answers in Christianity. I think it boils down to how I don’t understand why a perfect God would send his Son to die for a worthless sinner like me and actually want to have a relationship with me. It doesn’t make sense. So I ask questions. I think that’s why I relate to Donald Miller in this book.

Blue Like Jazz is a story of Miller’s spiritual journey and the questions he asked along the way. He doesn’t pull any punches and he isn’t afraid to talk about normally avoided topics. He’s just a normal guys telling you what he thinks. His writing style is humorous, thought provoking, and simple. All though Blue Like Jazz does need to be read with discernment, it is a great book for thinkers or for people who don’t have it all figured out and don’t mind saying so.

Here are some of my favorite quotes…

“To me, God was more of an idea. It was something like a slot machine, a set of spinning images that doled out rewards based on behavior and, perhaps, chance…If something nice happened to me, I thought it was God, and if something nice didn’t, I went back to the slot machine, knelt down in prayer, and pulled the lever a few more times.”

“There are plenty of things that are true that don’t make sense. I think one of the problems Laura was having was that she wanted God to make sense. He doesn’t. He will make no more sense to me than I will make sense to an ant.”

“Because of sin, because I am self-addicted, living in the wreckage of the fall, my body, my heart, and my affections are prone to love things that kill me.”

“Out of sight, out of mind. I’d forget about it for a month until I cleaned my room, and then I’d lift up a pile of dirty clothes and there would be my Bible, staring up at me like a dead pet.”

“I want you to understand that God has never been nor ever will be invented. He is not a product of any sort of imagination. He does not obey trends…He was answering your prayers because He is a God of compassion. He could have left you to Satan. Don’t complain about the way God answers your prayers. You are still living on an earth that is run by the devil…your problem is not that God is not fulfilling, your problem is that you are spoiled.”

“Passion about nothing is like pouring gasoline in a car without wheels. It isn’t going to lead anybody anywhere.”

“For so much of my life I had been defending Christianity because I thought to admit that we had done something wrong was to discredit the religious system as a whole, but it isn’t a religious system, it is people following Christ, and the important thing to do, the right thing to do, was to apologize for getting in the way of Jesus.”

“I like the idea of loving people just to love them, not to get them to come to church.”

“I will love you like God, because of God, mighted by the power of God. I will stop expecting your love, demanding your love, trading for your love, gaming for your love. I will simply love. I am giving myself to you, and tomorrow I will do it again. I suppose the clock itself will wear thin its time before I am ended at this alter of dying and dying again. God risked himself on me. I will risk myself on you. And together, we will learn to love, and perhaps them, and only then, understand this gravity that drew him, unto us.”

“Too much of our time is spent trying to chart God on a grid, and too little is spent allowing our hearts to feel awe. By reducing Christian Spirituality to formula, we deprive our hearts of wonder.”

“At the end of the day, when I am lying in bed and I know the chances of any of our theology being exactly right are a million to one, I need to know that God has things figured out, that if my math is wrong we are still going to be okay.”

Ok, back to my words and my thoughts. I am going to write a book someday. It will be witty and thought provoking and will probably have a clever title and an eye catching cover and I’m sure no one will read it. I don’t blame them. I wouldn’t read a book by most of the people I know. I think Donald Miller wrote this book because he had a hunch that Christianity was hard for more people than just him. He was right. This book is a great encouragement and I hope you will take time to read it. I mean you took time to read this dumb blog so why not pick up a book by someone who actually knows how to write. Thanks for reading!