The Epic Adventure: Saving Blue Like Jazz

I was one of those kids who ate lunch with the same group of friends during my high school years. It was basically the same three or four people. We weren’t all that good of friends, more classmates than anything. The group of friends I was most close to were either all older or younger than me and we never had our lunch hour at the same time.  I always dreaded lunch.  I imagine the only thing worse than sitting through a meal with people you don’t particularly engage with is being assigned to share a jail cell or a dorm room with those same folks.

But in high school your choices are limited and we managed to get through four years of tolerable company and barely tolerable food. I think that’s why I always find ways to make dining fun when I’m on the road, and especially in a group where I don’t know a single soul.

During the Don Miller Storyline conference I tried to have lunch with Larry Shallenberger, a pastor friend I know from cyberspace, but Larry was too busy tending to brush fires. I considered skipping lunch altogether but then remembered something Miller had said during the conference: Every good story has an inciting event.

If your life is boring it’s because you’ve insulated yourself against inciting action.

I was standing on the corner, outside the Armory Theater, praying specifically about whom I’d have lunch with when four women approached. I could tell by the looks on their faces that they had not yet determined where they ought to eat. So I stepped up recommended the Deschutes River Brewery and then said, “And I’ll join you.”

How’s that for inciting action?

It was a terrific lunch. All the single ladies were from other places — Wisconsin, Texas, Missouri, Colorado. They each had their reasons for attending the event. One is thinking about writing a book. The others were changed in some way by Miller’s books. One, who had taken a hiking trip to Peru, said that Miller’s book had brought her back into relationship with God.

I write books. You might have seen one or two. Perhaps you read one? I get letters from time-to-time of people telling me how much they felt like something I said was something they were thinking. I love it when that happens. I think that’s why writers write. Don Miller’s books have done that for thousands, maybe millions. Paul Young’s The Shack did it for millions.

Sometimes a book just speaks to you.

My friend Shellie Tomlinson says the Holy Bible is the only book that you can read and have the author with you the entire time. You can ask him any question you like, anytime.

A gal I met today recounted a story about an atheist friend who was staying at a hotel with her young son when he opened the dresser drawer and said, “Look, Mom. A Holly Bibbel.”  She and her sisters have called it that ever since.

Certainly the Holly Bibble has an anointing upon it. One could argue that Paul Young’s The Shack is anointed, and that Miller’s books are as well. Does that mean that the books that aren’t commercial successes don’t? Nah. God isn’t a capitalist. He’s just a Creator with a purpose.

But something Don Miller said at Storyline conference resonated with the writer in me. Well, honestly, a lot of things resonated but this thing, I wrote it down:

“Your story is not about you,” Miller said.

“The reason we love a redemptive story is because it is the Epic in which we live. That’s why our hearts respond. You need to step into the epic story God is telling.”

Don’t wait until you feel qualified.

“You’ll never feel qualified,” Miller said.

Don’t wait until you feel ready.

“You’ll never feel ready.”

A couple of fellows in the video clip above have done all the things Miller suggested — they’ve stepped into the epic story, trying to redeem something they care about — making a movie from Miller’s book Blue Like Jazz. The  movie which Don wrote about in A Million Miles was shelved until a couple of guys took it upon themselves to try and raise the funds to help underwrite it.

Oh. You could argue that there’s plenty of other more important things to do with one’s money. Don, himself, would likely argue right along with you on that point.

But art is important. When school budgets get slashed it’s usually the arts that go first. I hate that. How about cutting school lunches out and letting kids pack peanut butter and jelly sandwiches they way they used to do, back when American kids didn’t have an obesity problem?

Like I was saying before you sidetracked me, it’s important to feed kids but you need to feed their souls as well.

Don Miller’s been able to do that. And this film that a whole bunch of folks are trying to save, will most certainly do that, if for no other reason than two fellows decided the story wasn’t about them. It was about something epic.

Yep. Sometimes we simply have to venture forth. I guess that’s why they call life an adventure, huh?

Oh. I thought you’d want to know three of the four women had the Elk burger. How’s that for adventuresome?

Browse Our Archives

Follow Us!

What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment
  • John in PDX

    You need to hang out with Uncle Buck more. I bet that he has buddies that can get you antelope, bear, deer, elk and moose burgers. I like them all.

  • You know what’s funny (tangent to your main point, sorry)? The quote from Donald Miller sounds like John Eldredge all the way. Not that the idea that we are living in an Epic originated with JE. But he did write a book called “Epic” which says exactly that, and you can see echoes of Epic when you read A Million Miles.

    DM has made so secret that he likes JE, was moved by Wild at Heart, and has made friends with JE. I think it’s funny because many people who like DM are opposed to the writings of JE.
    As for me, I like them both, and have been blessed by the work of both.

    • Karen Spears Zacharias

      I’ve read JE’s work and I like it. I hadn’t heard of people being opposed to the writings of JE but then I don’t get around much.

  • I don’t plan to write a book; I just encourage via blog. I’m trying to be as balanced as possible; difficult at times. Clueless as to when/if I’d be qualified or ready but it doesn’t matter. I’m reaching out to encourage others in a small way; then I’m surprised at the responses. Perhaps that ‘qualifies’ me, what do you think?
    I venture forth regularly and find wonderful surprises; this week I served homemade brownies to the street crew putting in new curbing and re-surfacing an adjacent street. And…I’ve eaten elk, buffalo…big venture was camel accompanied by money meat and God only knows what the rest of it was…that’s big-time venturing!!! Life is great. New post this week about friendship. Ta-Dah…love your writings…super.

  • John in PDX

    OK you got me – I have never heard about money meat. What is it?
    I once had fresh (less than an hour old) Kudu liver for breakfast. Yummy.

    • Karen Spears Zacharias

      Yeah, I don’t know what money meat is either, unless it was that dress Lady Gaga wore to the VMAs.

  • Oops…I was a champion speller but my fingers get confused…monkey meat it was but hey, I’d love to find some of that money meat…monkey meat by the way, doesn’t taste too good or too bad. Along w/that we also had dog meat, woof-woof.

    • Karen Spears Zacharias


  • Great words on epic, the story being bigger than ourselves. I most certainly can relate on the readiness part. In what little I do I never ever feel ready. Well almost never, and close to the ready part, never. ha. Good to see such a move by these guys and I most certainly agree that the arts are undervalued in our society. In fact all things that actually feed the soul.

    • Karen Spears Zacharias

      Yep, your right, Ted. All things that fed the soul.

  • Sorry I couldn’t have lunch. Yeah, I had to put on my pastor hat for part of that hours.

    But it was good to connect with Penny and you for coffee. That Kombucha drink… yikes…

    • Karen Spears Zacharias

      I agree, Larry,nasty stuff.

  • Thanks for getting the word out about this campaign, Karen. Great post about our lives as stories (definitely something I’ve been thinking more about these days, especially in light of some of Don’s writing).