Just between you and me, Don Miller isn’t all that big of a deal. Just ask Lucy. It was she, not Don, who took center stage at Portland’s Armory theater tonight. Lucy strutted across stage in a silky chocolate fur, drawing laughter and applause.
What man does that? Wins the heart of an audience just by walking across the stage?
Not even Miller.
But Lucy did. The crowd may have been listening to Don but their eyes were all on Lucy. When she stretched out across a large pillow fit for a queen, the crowd issued a collective sigh.
Don, in an effort to upstage Lucy, remarked, “It’s amazing with a tranquilizer and two Benadryl will do to a dog.”
Of course the crowd laughed, but if you ask me I think it was a sympathy laugh — the king girlfriends give when they are talking about each other’s former boyfriend. Clearly everyone in the room felt empathy for Lucy, having to put up with a writer is no easy task. Can you imagine how many times she’s heard Don tell his stories? No wonder she nodded off within the first few minutes. Lucy doesn’t need a tranquilizer. She’s heard it all before. Probably a 100 times by now.
But for those of us who haven’t heard the stories before, Miller was a hoot. Okay. Yes. He’s really a kick. Writers. Poets. Artists. Musicians. Directors. These creative folks invite us into the living room of their minds. Sometimes we find those rooms vacant. In Don’s case, we find it to be a comfy and crowded room, full of friends, each with a story.
We met many of his friends tonight. People who are living remarkable stories. One of my favorites was the story of Tom Ritchey and Project Rwanda. Ritchey made a butt-load of money designing the cockpit of mountain bikes according to Don. Well, he didnt’ actually say butt-load, that’ s me talking, but whatever he said meant the same thing. But like a lot of people who get busy making money, Ritchey lost a sense of himself and his wife in the process.
He came home one night to find the wife gone, the house cleared out. Don said that Ritchey spent the next year sitting in an empty house reading Christian books, growing more and more depressed. (If you ask me, there’s enough badly written Christian books in the marketplace to depress an entire third-world country.) Then a friend invited Ritchey to join them on a trip to Rwanda.
In Rwanda bikes are main form of transportation. Wooden bikes. Yep. Wooden bikes. Tires and all. Anyway, that trip got Ritchey to thinking and pretty soon he was using his considerable gifts to helping the people of Rwanda.
I love that, don’t you?
That’s what I call God’s poetry — taking something bitter and creating something pure from it.
Using a storyline diagram, Don gave examples from the life of Joseph about how even the negative turns in our lives — the thing meant to destroy us — can, in the hands of a Living God, transform us.
The way it did for Ritchey.
Like Don said, the true choices we really have in life are pretty limited, I mean beyond whether you’ll have that burger with or without fries.
A lot of bad crap happens to us that we never planned for — like when Joseph’s brothers tossed him into a pit and shouted I hope you die, simply because he was his daddy’s favorite.
Sometimes, despite your best efforts to the contrary you end up in jail, or at the very least enslaved to things you never imagined.
So what should our response be in such a time?
Declare like Joseph, Don suggested, “All I can do is be awesome.”
Or as one fellow said tonight — Embrace the negative turn your life takes.
Most of us never get around to that.
We “endure” the negatives.
We “persevere” the crisis.
But nothing says “I trust you God” like embracing the negative turn.
“I’m not sure I’ve ever seen anyone live that out,” said one gal.
I have. And buddy, I’m here to tell you that when you see someone embrace the negative as a God-given opportunity, you never forget it.
The Redhead that I wrote about in Will Jesus Buy Me Double-Wide? did that. She looked at the cancer and said, “Okay, well all I can do is be awesome.”
And she was.
Right up to the very end.
That’s the kind of story I want to write for my own life.
One that says, well, okay, God, all I can do in the midst of all this is to be awesome.
Not through the power of positive thinking, but through a relationship with God that is so intimate trust is my first and only reaction.
When we have that kind of relationship with our Master we will walk comfortably and confidently in front of others — the way Lucy did across that stage tonight — and sleep peacefully at the feet of the One who loves us best.