Apr 062010

This is the best advice on life and parenthood I have read in my entire life.

From Donald Miller’s A Million Miles in a Thousand Years

How Jason Saved His Family

When I got back from Los Angeles, I got together with my friend Jason who has a thirteen year old daughter. He was feeling down because he and his wife had found some pot hidden in their daughter’s closet. She was dating a guy, too, a kid who smelled like smoke and only answered questions with single words: “Yeah,” “No,” “Whatever,” and “Why?” And “Why?” was the answer Jason hated most. Have her home by ten, Jason would say. Why? the guy would ask. Jason figured this guy was the reason his daughter was experimenting with drugs.

“You thought about grounding her?” I asked. “Not allowing her to date him?”

“We’ve tried that. But it’s gotten worse.” Jason shook his head and fidgeted his fingers on the table. Then I said something that caught his attention. I said that his daughter was living a terrible story.

“What do you mean?” he asked.

To be honest, I didn’t know exactly what I meant. I probably wouldn’t have said it if I hadn’t just returned from the McKee seminar. But I told him about the stuff I’d learned, that the elements of story involve a character who wants something and overcomes conflict to get it. Even as I said this, I wasn’t sure how it applied to his daughter.

“Go on,” my friend said.

“I don’t know, exactly, but she’s not living a very good story. She’s caught up in a bad one.” I said a lot of other things and he kept asking questions. We must have talked for an hour or more, about how novels work and why some movies are meaningful and others simply aren’t. I didn’t think much of it. I just thought he was curious about movies.

A couple months later I ran into Jason and asked about his daughter. “She’s better,” he said to me, smiling. And when I asked why, he told me that his family was living a better story.
The night after we talked, Jason couldn’t sleep. He thought about the story his daughter was living and the role she was playing inside that story. He realized he hadn’t provided a better role for his daughter. He hadn’t mapped out a story for his family. And so his daughter had chosen another story, a story in which she was wanted, even if she was only being used. In the absence of a family story, she’d chosen a story in which there was risk and adventure, rebellion and independence. “She’s not a bad girl,” my friend said. “She was just choosing the best story available to her.”

I pictured his daughter flipping through the channels of life, as it were, stopping on a story that seemed most compelling at the moment, a story that offered her something, anything, because people can’t live without a story, without a role to play. “So how did you get her out of it?” I asked. And I couldn’t believe what he told me next.

Jason decided to stop yelling at his daughter and, instead, create a better story to invite her into. He remembered that a story involves a character who wants something and overcomes conflict to get it.

“I started researching stuff on the internet,” Jason said, “and I came across an organization that builds orphanages around the world. And that sounded to me like a pretty good ambition, something maybe my family could try to do together. It sounded like a good story.”

“Right,” I said, trying to remember the elements of story myself.

“So I called this organization,” Jason continued, “And it takes about twenty-five thousand dollars to build one of these orphanages. And the truth is, we don’t have the money. I mean we just took out a second mortgage. But I knew if we were going to tell a good story, it would have to involve risk.”

“That’s true,” I said, remembering it from the seminar.

“So I went home and called a family meeting,” my friend continued. “I didn’t tell my wife first, which it turns out was a big mistake. But I told them about this village and about the orphanage and all these terrible things that could happen if these kids don’t get an orphanage. Then I told them I agreed to build it.”

“You’re kidding me,” I said.

“No, I’m not. And my wife sat there looking at me like I’d lost my mind. And I looked at my daughter, her eyes as big as melons, and she wasn’t happy. She knew this would mean she’d have to give up her allowance and who knows what else. They just sat there in silence. And the longer they sat there, the more I wondered if I had lost my mind.”

“I actually think you might have lost your mind,” I said, feeling somewhat responsible.

“Well, maybe so,” Jason said, looking away for a second with a smile. “But it’s working out. I mean things are getting pretty good, Don.”

Jason went on to explain that his wife and daughter went back to their separate rooms and neither of them talked to him. His wife was rightly upset that he hadn’t mentioned anything to her. But that night while they were lying in bed, he explained the whole story thing, about how they weren’t taking risks and weren’t helping anybody and how their daughter was losing interest.

“The next day,” he said, “Annie came to me while I was doing the dishes.” He collected his words. “Things had just been tense for the last year, Don. I haven’t told you everything. But my wife came to me and put her arms around me and leaned her face into the back of my neck and told me she was proud of me.

“You’re kidding,” I said.

“I’m not,” my friend said. “Don, I hadn’t heard Annie say anything like that in years. I told her I was sorry I didn’t talk to her about it, that I just got excited. She said she forgave me but that it didn’t matter. She said we had an orphanage to build, and that we were probably going to make bigger mistakes, but we would build it.” My friend smiled as he remembered his wife’s words.

“And then Rachel came into our bedroom, maybe a few days later, and asked if we could go to Mexico. Annie and I just sort of looked at her and didn’t know what to say. So then Rachel crawled between us in the bed like she did when she was little. She said she could talk about the orphanage on her web site and maybe people could help. She could post pictures. She wanted to go to Mexico to meet the kids and take pictures for her website.”

“That’s incredible,” I said.

“You know what else, man?” Jason said. “She broke up with her boyfriend last week. She had this picture on her dresser and took it down and told me he said she was too fat. Can you believe that? What a jerk.”

“A jerk,” I agreed.

“But that’s done now,” Jason said, shaking his head. “No girl who plays the role of a hero dates a guy who uses her. She knows who she is. She just forgot for a little while.”

-Donald Miller


Talk to me, Monkees. Do you know what you’d like your family’s story to be?

I’m thinking about drafting one. Scary, though.

Carry On, Warrior
Author of the New York Times Bestselling Memoir CARRY ON, WARRIOR
Join the Momastery on-line community on Facebook, Twitter & Pinterest

Apr 052010

You know Donald Miller, right? He’s the brilliant author of Blue Like Jazz. If you haven’t read it, that book is like a hot bath and a tall glass of cold water. I love Miller, Lamott, Rob Bell, Shane Claiborne, and several treasured others because they remind me of what Jesus taught in the first place, that following him has nothing to do with falling into line. On the contrary, it has everything to do with stepping out of line, raising a hand and asking the teacher politely: “Are you sure about that?” They remind me that you don’t change the world by telling people they’re not good enough. You change the world by convincing people of how fantastically beautiful and adored and perfect they already are, just as they are. Because that’s the truth.

Most importantly, those writers remind me that my faith is my own.

I love church, and I love the people who commit their lives to teaching God’s word. But with all due respect, they’re not the boss of me. Since the minute Jesus started talking, everybody on Earth has been trying to figure out what the Sam Hill he meant. My guess is as good, and likely as wrong, as anybody else’s . . . and so is yours. Jesus has room for each of us, even those of us who are unsure about a whole lot. If Jesus emphasized anything it was question everything. And also, while you’re questioning don’t be afraid. In seems like he really wanted to make sure we didn’t miss those parts.

I’m thankful to writers who are full of faith and who remind me to fearlessly think and seek for myself, and to admit publicly when I understand Jesus differently than some of the Christian powers-that-be. It always seems like there are a handful of religious leaders who make a whole lot of distracting noise and purport to speak for people of faith. Sort of like they did in Jesus’ day, come to think of it. But I don’t think most people of true faith are yelling about who’s in and who’s out for TV cameras. I think people of true faith are probably quite busy, actually, with all their feeding hungry people and visiting the elderly and prisoners and fighting for orphans and widows and mowing their neighbors’ yards and trying desperately not to be jerks and biting their tongues till they bleed to avoid gossiping and looking around and saying to each other: “Holy COW, do you believe how freaking beautiful this world and the people in it are?? Look at that baby, that flower, that sunset! Everything is a miracle! Do you believe we get to be alive and be a part of it all???What should we do to celebrate today? Who can we invite??” I imagine that the work and joy loads that people of true faith carry leave them little energy for finger wagging or categorizing or imaginary rule enforcing or public appearances.

Not that I have an opinion about that.

In any case, I’m grateful when people of faith actually sound like people of faith. Donald Miller does. Which is why I was going to share a passage from his new book with you today. Because there is an essay in his new book that is my new favorite thing I have ever read. I’m serious. My favorite. The second I finished this particular essay, I sat and stared at the wall for a good ten minutes. Then I left my children unsupervised and went to my room to type up the entire essay for you. That took me a long while, since I type with three fingers. And also because my hair and I are going through a rough patch lately, and so every task takes me twice as long these days because I have to take long breaks to worry about my bangs.

When I finally finished, I came back downstairs and made Craig read the essay, and I stared at him while he read to make sure he was making the appropriate facial expressions and murmuring correctly and raising his eyebrows at the right parts and having lots of epiphanies. When he finished I made him talk to me all night about how moved he was and what the passage meant to our family and how the passage would alter our parenting and the Revolution in general. He drank several Coronas to help him through the evening. It is hard to be Craig. He should have a stunt double or something.

Obviously this post is far too long now, so I will share the Miller passage with you tomorrow. Just forget I said anything because now that I’ve hyped it up so much you’re bound to be disappointed. It’s good, it’ll make you think, that’s all I’m saying.

Sister’s in Rwanda. She’s got stories already. She started a blog just for us Monkees to keep tabs on her adventures and challenges. I’ll share the blog with you on Wednesday.

Also, I’ll tell you about my new hometown soon. Can’t yet. No words. Too perfect, don’t want to break the spell.

Love, love, love,


PS. I’m not turning comments off today. I miss you, talk to me. Also, don’t forget to pray for Mike and Megan and their babies. Maryann will have a grandmonkee on each knee in no time. Speaking of miracles.

Carry On, Warrior
Author of the New York Times Bestselling Memoir CARRY ON, WARRIOR
Join the Momastery on-line community on Facebook, Twitter & Pinterest

Apr 022010

A guest post, from our Mike.

I love it when an artist finds a creative way to take something that has become worn or broken and make it like new, but better. Easter has become one of those worn out things in my life, despite my growing faith in God. While I can tell you all about the religious significance of Easter, for me personally, it has signified brokenness. Broken dreams, broken promises, and a broken family.

Twenty years ago. During some frantic holiday preparations, and argument erupted between my parents. It was one of those epic arguments that only ended when infidelity was confirmed and a separation planned. The marriage had been weakening for years as they each chased after their own definition of the American Dream, so why shouldn’t the “dream” end like most? Because we were that “religious” family everyone had in their neighborhood. We even had a pillar at the front of the driveway reading: The Clarke Family, “See Ye the Kingdom of God.” And the holiday they were preparing to host was Easter Sunrise Service…in my front yeard. Thankfully, the service rained out that morning but I would have been a no-show either way. If my family was the best that God could do for me, I decided to pass.

Insert and fast forward past 10 years of cliché’debauchery, where I tried to run from the Truth that my parents talked better than they walked. Years of putting hope in other things and other people, and being disappointed when reality didn’t measure up. My last ten years have been a crawl, walk, and recently a sprint back to my perfect Father. He and I have gotten to be quite close as I’ve been asking Him…OK, begging him…to let me be a father and to give my wife and I a family. After we answered his call to adopt, wewatched our projected six month wait turn to twenty-six and counting. I struggled with how a “Perfect Father” could hold out on me.

But He, being the ultimate Dad, had something better than we could ever imagine. He took this time to grow our relationship with Him (and each other). He blessed us with friends with the same heart for Him and His heart for orphans. Friendships so tight that late night prayer or praise conferences are a common occurrence. Most importantly, He took this time to demonstrate that He is more that we could ever want.

A couple of weeks ago, the circumstances of our adoption journey led us for the first time to pray for peace in the reality that maybe kids weren’t in the plan and for the strength and joy that comes from knowing that He is more than enough.

The next week we received an from our orphanage in Uganda, asking us to come meet our kids (that “s” ain’t a typo). With less than three weeks of notice, preparations have been a bit frantic. Since our travel dates were picked by the orphanage and the flights by their travel agent, you can understand why it took me a while to realize the significance of tickets reading, Arrival: 0700, 4APR10.

Our dreams and His promise will come true in the Easter sunrise service of a lifetime.

He makes all things new.

Happy Easter, Monkees. Kiss your babies for us, Mike and Megan.

Carry On, Warrior
Author of the New York Times Bestselling Memoir CARRY ON, WARRIOR
Join the Momastery on-line community on Facebook, Twitter & Pinterest