On the bookshelf: A Million Miles in a Thousand Years

The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation.
— Henry David Thoreau, Walden (1854)

_140_245_Book.83.coverFor some reason, this quote from Thoreau kept whirling through my mind as I read Donald Miller’s A Million Miles in a Thousand Years. Please understand I am not putting Miller on the same level as Thoreau. That’s a judgment reserved for 155 years from now if people have random quotes from Miller’s writing popping up in their heads. I do, however, believe that Miller may have hit closer to the mark of reality in his description of the life of the average Jane like me. With apologies to Thoreau, desperation has an aura of action that most of us never take. We’re creatures of inaction, choosing the comfortable and familiar over the difficult and uncertain.

Donald Miller was handed the golden ticket out of a life of indifferent comfort when he was given the opportunity to turn his bestselling memoir, Blue Like Jazz, into a movie. Thanks to his realization, we are granted insight not just into how Don went from clicking through television channels to clicking off the miles on a cross-country bike ride but also how the elements of story can play out in our lives.

Scene after scene introduces the reader to memorable people who, knowingly or not, have chosen to live an interesting story. They’re people you want to meet. They’re people you half-believe you already know because of the way Don talks about his encounter with them. Miller’s cinematic descriptions make it almost too easy for the reader to be right there with him, whether he’s riding a kayak pulled by a pick-up on a snow-covered street or catching his first breathtaking glimpse of Macchu Pichu.

A Million Miles in a Thousand Years reads how your best friend would sound if you were at the local coffee shop, reliving years of shared memories. It’s open without drifting into “TMI” territory; it’s heart-wrenching without being sappy and it’s eye-opening without being preachy.

Simply put, it’s a good story.

On the bookshelf: Fearless

If we’ve gained anything from the 24-hour news cycle, it’s a greater capacity for fear. We’re afraid of what the stock market might do or what it might not do. We’re afraid of terrorism. We’re afraid of the H1N1 virus. We’re afraid our children are being left behind and we’re afraid of legislation crafted to ensure that they aren’t. Each new bump, bruise or ache is a cause for concern. Into this culture of anxiety comes Max Lucado’s latest book, Fearless: Imagine Your Life Without Fear.

Lucado delves into the fears that drive us most with each chapter focusing on a particular type of fear — fear of not mattering, fear of overwhelming challenges, fear of violence, fear of doubt and more. Each chapter begins with an illustration, told in the typical, straight-forward style that marks Lucado’s writing before bringing the modern fear into the light of age-old Scriptures the truths of which ring true today. In revealing how Jesus helped his followers deal with fear, we, too are taught how to tame our anxiety.

It is, perhaps, the final chapter and the conclusion that offers the most insight into how our fears relate to our faith. As Lucado writes, “When Christ is great, our fears are not.” It’s an insight that believers know, or should know instinctively. Sometimes, we just need gentle reminder from a pastoral voice like Lucado’s to remind us that faith trumps fear.