Saturday, October 10, 2009

Anne Lamott on Donald Miller & Paul

Just finished reading two books in one sitting. My excuse? I'm home in bed with the flu, and Anne Lamott (one of my very favorite writers) endorses the two authors.

About the one, Lamott says, "I love Donald Miller. He is a man after my own heart."

About the other, she says, "Saint Paul, who can be such a grumpy book-thumper, said that where sin abounds, grace abounds, and I think this is Paul at his most insightful, hopeful, faithful, when it comes to politicians and to me — if by 'sin' we mean strictly the original archery term of missing the mark."

The reason I bought Miller's book in the first place is because of Lamott's endorsement on the cover above his name and the title, A Million Miles in a Thousand Years: What I Learned While Editing My Life. And Lamott seems so gracious towards Paul's grumpiness that I thought (as I blog this week on some of his Greek words) that I might read (again) the whole of his first Greek letter to the half-Hellene Timo-THeos (aka I Timothy).

Maybe it's the flu, maybe it's reading Miller's story-telling and Paul's letter-writing together - but side-by-side, the two seem strange. Let me show you what I mean. Without giving away too much of either, here are some excerpts (with Miller on the left in his original English, and Paul on the right in the rhetorical English translation called ESV):

I was watching the news the other night, and they were still covering that story in Mumbai about the terrorists who went on a shooting rampage.  The man on the news said that before the terrorists killed the Jews in the Jewish center, they tortured them.  I had to turn off the television, because I could see the torture in my head the way they were describing it.  I kept imagining these people, just living their daily lives, and then having them suddenly ended in unjust tragedy.  When we watch the news, we grieve all of this, 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 story teller. (pages 31-32)
1:8 Now we know that the law is good, if one uses it lawfully, understanding this, that the law is not laid down for the just but for the lawless and disobedient, for the ungodly and sinners, for the unholy and profane, for those who strike their fathers and mothers, for murderers, 10 the sexually immoral, men who practice homosexuality, enslavers , liars, perjurers, and whatever else is contrary to sound doctrine, 11 in accordance with the gospel of the glory of the blessed God with which I have been entrusted. 12 I thank him who has given me strength, Christ Jesus our Lord, because he judged me faithful, appointing me to his service, 13 though formerly I was a blasphemer, persecutor, and insolent opponent. But I received mercy because I had acted ignorantly in unbelief, 
A couple of weeks later, I ran into a friend I hadn't seen in years...  He said he and his wife had a baby since he last saw me.  A little girl.  He pulled out his wallet and showed me pictures.  I asked him if it was scary being a father, and he told me, no, he loved it.  He said his life had gotten smaller.  His world had shrunk to his wife and kid, and all that mattered was keeping them safe.

"Your wife must be loving you," I said.

My friend went on to say that he was more in love with his wife than ever, which is not something men usually say to each other, even if it's true.  I don't know why we don't say those things, but we don't.  So I knew he must really be crazy about his wife.  He said he'd been preoccupied with work and hadn't paid much attention to life at home; but after the baby came, he saw his wife differently.

"She's amazing," my friend said, shaking his head.  "A baby came out of her body, for crying out loud.  And now she produces food.  She keeps the baby alive."

I asked him how his wife felt about all of this, thinking she must be excited to have her husband back.  My friend looked at me as though he were realizing he hadn't actually said anything to his wife.

"You haven't said anything?" I questioned.

"I guess I figured she knew," my friend suggested.

... I thought about my friend's story from his wife's perspective.  She only knows what he says and what he does, not what he thinks and what he feels.  I'm sure his wife picked up on his new-found enthusiasm, but it did help me realize the stories we tell ourselves are very different from the stories we tell the world.  I told him he ought to bring her flowers. He said that was good idea and asked me where he could get flowers.  (pages 72-73)
2:8 I desire then that in every place the men should pray, lifting holy hands without anger or quarreling; likewise also that women should adorn themselves in respectable apparel, with modesty and self-control, not with braided hair and gold or pearls or costly attire, 10 but with what is proper for women who profess godliness—with good works. 11 Let a woman learn quietly with all submissiveness. 12 I do not permit a woman to teach or to exercise authority over a man; rather, she is to remain quiet. 13 For Adam was formed first, then Eve; 14 and Adam was not deceived, but the woman was deceived and became a transgressor. 15 Yet she will be saved through childbearing—if they continue in faith and love and holiness, with self-control. 

The saying is trustworthy: If anyone aspires to the office of overseer, he desires a noble task. Therefore an overseer must be above reproach, the husband of one wife, sober-minded, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, not a drunkard, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money. He must manage his own household well, with all dignity keeping his children submissive, for if someone does not know how to manage his own household, how will he care for God's church? He must not be a recent convert, or he may become puffed up with conceit and fall into the condemnation of the devil. Moreover, he must be well thought of by outsiders, so that he may not fall into disgrace, into a snare of the devil. 

Deacons likewise must be dignified, not double-tongued, not addicted to much wine, not greedy for dishonest gain. They must hold the mystery of the faith with a clear conscience. 10 And let them also be tested first; then let them serve as deacons if they prove themselves blameless. 11 Their wives likewise must be dignified, not slanderers, but sober-minded, faithful in all things. 12 Let deacons each be the husband of one wife, managing their children and their own households well. 
I heard an interview on the radio with a woman who worked with people in domestic abuse situations.  She said most women who come to her for help go back to the situation they come out of, back to the man who abused them.  When the interviewer asked why, the woman said that even though most women had family they could escape to and friend who would take them in, they returned to the abusive man because the situation, as bad as it might be, was familiar.  People fear change, she said.  Though their situations may be terrible, at least they have a sense of control; at least they know what to expect.  Change presents a world of variables that are largely out of their control.  And then the woman said this:  "The women in these situations are afraid to choose a better story, because though their current situation might be bad, at least it's a bad story they are familiar with.  So they stay."  (pages 100-01)
5:Honor widows who are truly widows. But if a widow has children or grandchildren, let them first learn to show godliness to their own household and to make some return to their parents, for this is pleasing in the sight of God. She who is truly a widow, left all alone, has set her hope on God and continues in supplications and prayers night and day, but she who is self-indulgent is dead even while she lives. Command these things as well, so that they may be without reproach. But if anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for members of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever. Let a widow be enrolled if she is not less than sixty years of age, having been the wife of one husband, 10 and having a reputation for good works: if she has brought up children, has shown hospitality, has washed the feet of the saints, has cared for the afflicted, and has devoted herself to every good work.


Anonymous said...

Hi there,

I wanted to invite you to a webinar hosted by Donald Miller next Thursday morning on the subject of his new “Convergence” DVDs for small groups (mostly). Convergence is Miller at his best: doing honest talk about faith. On the first dvd set he talks to Dan Allender, Phyllis Tickle, Lauren Winner. He just recorded the next set with Randy Alcorn, Henry Cloud, John Townsend. You can listen in Thursday, Dec. 17 at (11 am PT, 12 pm MT, 1 pm CT, 2 pm ET). Go to to RSVP for the webinar & we'll be sure to send you a reminder.
You can learn more about Convergence at If you have any further questions please feel free to email Monique@Lovell-

Monique Sondag

J. K. Gayle said...

Monique Sondag, I'll be there (at the webinar). Thanks! ps - Several of my friends and I heard Donald Miller when he came to Fort Worth recently. Absolutely loved it -- we're all finding ways (we think) to re-write our stories now.