209 of 215 people found the following review helpful
on July 28, 2005
I picked this book up on a whim while visiting <a href="[...]">Powells Books</a> in Portland, OR. It was just sitting there on the shelf, and pretty much summed up what I was thinking to myself at the time: I know I'm looking for something, but God knows what that might be. I picked it up, put it back down, continued browsing, and then saw it again on my way out the door, and decided to buy it.
I don't know why it never dawned on me that it was a Christian book written by a Christian writer (It's not like the word GOD is in the title), which may have been a blessing, since in general I feel that most of that genre is stuffed with preachy type self help books trying to save you, or get you to come to Church. Once I started reading it and figured out that it WAS a Christian book, I had to pause and convince myself to keep reading, though I felt sure I would run into some of that convert or go to hell rhetoric, so popular among hard core Christians. To my amazement and delight there wasn't any of that in this book at all.
It is, quite simply, a young man ( I assume, there is no picture), well versed in scripture, and theology, talking about why the human race is where it is, and why we are never satisfied with what we have. Not only that, but he never makes you feel guilty about anything. He stresses the relational nature of the stories in the Bible, as opposed to the formulaic nature of the people who generally interpret the Bible for their own means.
The main point that Mr. Miller tries to pound into your head, is that people have become estranged from God (the fall in the garden) and that they no longer have the awesome glory of God within themselves. When we lost this link to God, we needed something outside of ourselves to show us that we have value, friends, loved ones, etc. We were no longer sure that we were worthy of love, and no longer sure of our own self worth since God was no longer there to tell us that we were loved. It is Mr Miller's belief that all the tragedies of human history, from cliques in high school to WWII all stem from this separation that now exists between humanity and God.
Mr. Miller also talks in detail about Jesus, and his role in the salvation of mankind. He again focuses on the relationship with Jesus as the important part of the message, and not any rules or guidelines setup by some organization somewhere. He even takes right wing conservatives, and holier than thou Christian ministers to task on the Gay marriage issue, reminding them that homosexuals would probably have been among Jesus' closest friends, along with the prostitutes, tax collectors and other characters that Jesus generally associated with, and that Jesus' message about loving one another extends to all people, sinners and saved, alike, and not just to those people who agree with your agenda.
All in all, this was an excellent book on Christian faith, which I enjoyed reading tremendously.
44 of 44 people found the following review helpful
on November 10, 2004
I just recently read his last book, Blue Like Jazz, and loved it. This one seems to have a little more of a serious tone. He opened up quite a bit and had a little less of the light hearted story telling of Blue Like Jazz. At time he inspired me and at other times he annoyed me...sort of like someone would if you knew them really well. I have come to really appreciate that his opinions are well thought out and not condescending like many other authors that write these types of books. He sort of reminds me of Philip Yancey at times, another thoughtful Christian author that I really like. It was funny to see that he writes about being a fan of his too and quotes him in one chapter. The chapter on morality was fantastic and really changed the way I'm thinking about morality, politics, Chrisitanity, and the culture war everyone is talking about.
One of the main things I walked away from this book thinking was that while it was still important to be aware of political issues and vote, as a Christian I should be way more focused on relationships to Christ and others than political causes. As Miller points out, despite a highly charged political environment in his time Jesus didn't join a political party or run for office to change things, but deeply engaged those around him in a loving and forgiving way. Same with Paul and the disciples. I though this was a brilliant point, but then I go to Miller's web site, bluelikejazz.com, to find him pimping a bunch of activist organizations that in his words 'seems to be participating, at least to some degree, in the concerns of our God'. That's cool, but I think that's a pretty big stretch for some of the politically charged organizations he lists like moveon.org. Huh? I'd be just as confused if he asked everybody to listen to and support Rush Limbaugh because he was in part doing God's work. This seems to be exactly against the point he makes in his book. Despite this confusion, I would highly recommend this book and plan on following Miller's future projects. I just hope he doesn't start writing about how all good Christians should be Democrats (or Republicans for that matter).
24 of 25 people found the following review helpful
on August 5, 2006
I saw this book on the shelf and grabbed it based on the title alone. The cover was pretty cool, though you know what they say about judging books that way. Anyway, the title was something I could relate to, so the book got my attention.
Miller takes the scenic route through some of the concerns of life and how that all relates to God. He particularly focuses on what humanity lost in the Fall through Adam and Eve and the importance of gaining our sense of worth and value from God. If not, we end up with the "lifeboat mentality", as he refers to it. It is the implications of this that he deals a lot with, and how Jesus responded to the same thing.
Unlike some reviewers, I found the book a ceaseless pleasure to read, and one that had a remarkable level of honesty about things. It was this candid look at life and Miller's own personality that really appealed to me. It also made the book that much easier to relate to, in the sense that it was clearly written by someone who is as messed up as I am, (or was).
Perhaps, for me personally, was Miller's "life is a fine wine" comment quoted from one of his friends. I really appreciated the insights into accepting reality as it is, and not having unrealistic expectations, (something I am prone to). While not everything is deep and profound in the book, much of it surely is.
This is a book that will suit people wondering just what they are looking for in Jesus Christ, I think. For those who know something is missing, but not really sure what, I think this would be a valuable read. While it may not supply the answers for the individual situation, it definitely clarified a lot of issues for me. Recommended to the hilt.
19 of 20 people found the following review helpful
on October 1, 2004
I enjoyed "Blue Like Jazz" so much that I pre-ordered this one a month ago. It arrived yesterday and I read it this morning, lingering over a long breakfast at a local cafe. It was actually a bit embarrassing as I kept laughing out loud. Other diners were glancing in my direction (perhaps growing increasingly concerned about my sanity and their safety).
At times I wondered if I was reading about the spiritual experience of the humorist Dave Barry. And yet - even before I stopped laughing, Miller would paint a word picture so poignantly that the my laughter stalled in its tracks (much to the relief of those seated at the table adjacent to me).
Miller continues to talk about spirituality in a compellingly authentic and honest fashion. And there is more. He provides a fresh new lexicon for the journey to God. This book will make you laugh and make you think. If you really wonder what God is like, and are disinterested in the minefield of religious jargon - this is the book for you.
17 of 18 people found the following review helpful
on June 28, 2005
Donald Miller is an outstanding writer, and an unconventional thinker. These two traits make his books "Blue Like Jazz" and "Searching for God Knows What" engaging and entertaining reads. In the second book, Miller encourages Christians to abandon the formulaic and highly commercialized faith that the church has embraced and focus instead on the founder of our faith - Jesus Christ.
Miller's only misstep is in his discussion of politics. Not in the content - I think his views on politics and the church are spot-on - but in the asides. Miller's observation that American Christianity has become over-focused on homosexuality and abortion is a point that needs to be made. The Christian church in America has also allowed itself to become too wedded to one political party, which can be a roadblock to preaching the Gospel. All of Miller's points in this part of the book are provocative and true.
What bothers me are his asides. He takes swipes at Republicans, Fox News and others, engaging in the very form of rhetoric he encourages Christians to forego. It's a disappointing blemish on an otherwise fantastic book
96 of 119 people found the following review helpful
on June 11, 2005
Donald Miller writes an appropriate follow up to his most recent book "Blue Like Jazz". Like "jazz" this book doesn't really seem to have a concise point or direction, but rather he writes as though he is engaged in a long conversation about life.
After a rocky start (the first chapter ends with "On to Chapter Two" - indeed) Donald waxes poetically with deep prose about how we as humanity prioritize what's really valued. Using an analogy of a "lifeboat" he describes what it would be like to be not dependent on the absurdity of materialism, or ego, but rather on purpose, meaning and how we influence others.
He then ventures into astute observations about how the bullet point, sound-bite means of communication reflects a whole new theology, as opposed to summarizing one. The truth is far more difficult to break down into simple easy bites, and must be gleaned from the whole he postulates. Throughout he relates deeply personal experiences, gives examples of emotional human interactions to illustrate his points, and is quite effective in doing so.
At times I am left stunned by his observations, and how deeply profound they are. At other times he seems to ramble in generalities about life with all the depth of a new age incense shop. Yet, when all is said and done I still just don't quite know how to take him. Is he really onto something? Or is he on something?
If you have an interest in spirituality, what Christianity is all about, or how to live your life to the fullest, should you read this book? You know, I just don't know. Suffice it to say that I was always engaged while reading, at times had a lump in my throat and at other times wanted to put the book down due to what I perceived as meaningless drivel. So, if you are an adventurous sort who likes to think, then give it a go. If you are looking for sound theology, or bullet points and short chapters along the likes of "Christianity for Dummies" then this is not what you want to read. Try the "Purpose Driven Life" for that.
81 of 100 people found the following review helpful
on January 1, 2006
Read With Discernment
Miller has some important things to say in this book that I really appreciated and was convicted by. For instance, his description of the human condition--that we are all in desperate search for approval--is good (though I didn't agree with his lesser points in ch. 9). I also liked that he said, "The motive [of morality] is love, love of God, and of my fellow man" (p. 184) and "... A Jesus who ... wants you and me to be, above all, comfortable. Is this the real Jesus?" (p. 146).
However, despite some of the positives, this book should be read carefully which can be hard at times because his style of writing is informal and personal. Because he writes conversationally it would be easy to accept everything he says without thinking too much about it. For example, he says, "My gut tells me the key to life is relational, not propositional" (p. 121) This sounds good at first read. And this, I think, is the heart of what Miller is getting at. The problem with it is that you can't have a relationship without propositional truth. You can't have a relationship with Jesus if you don't know who He is. My fear is that in his pursuit of the relational Miller will disregard the propositional truths found in Scripture. I think it's a true statement that what we think drives how we act. Knowledge comes before action. Or to put it another way: Theory without practice is dead. Practice without theory is deadly.
Later in the book he says, "What we need here, truly, is faith in a being, not a list of ideas" (p. 161). The problem is that if your ideas of whom that Being is--or worse, if you have no ideas at all--your faith is misplaced. You can't have faith in Jesus if you don't know who He is. His use of scripture is, at best, bad (especially ch. 12).
So if you're friends are all saying, "You have to read this book!" Do. Read it, and let what's good convict and encourage you and let what's not fall by the wayside. Read it, but read it discerningly.
9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
on January 9, 2005
New Year's Eve we spent some time with old friends. My long held Christian faith was waning. I had been the 'good little christian woman', but my life had fallen apart really. I have been trying to make sense of it all. That night, my friend just gave me this book and said that I should read it. He didn't know anything; I hadn't told him anything about the state of my life, let alone my faith. I started reading Miller's book the next day and couldn't put it down.
Donald Miller helped me with his book, "Searching for God Knows What". Basically he seems to say what I have already been learning, that there are no guarentees in life. Miller wonderfully explains why there are no Christian formulas, political formulas, nor any other formulas for that matter, in life, that will keep us safe and secure. In this book he explains, with intelligence, wit and a great sense of humor, how intamcy in relationship...(however, not with just anyone) will help you find your lost heart again.
I love the way he uses Shakespeare's "Romeo and Juliet" balcony scene as an allegory of conversion. Thanks Donald...what a great way with words...wow!! and yes, elephants shouldn't be caged...(if i had emoticans it would wink and smile...)
8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
on September 1, 2006
A phenomenal book. Reading Donald Miller is like eating a piece of gourmet chocolate cake - you try to eat it slowly because you think you should, to savour all it's richness, but you end up scarfing it down quickly because - you just couldn't help it! I stayed home for 3 nights in a row just to "cozy up with Don" and read this book. I seriously felt like I was hanging out with an old, funny, deeply insightful friend. That's why we read, isn't it? To feel like we're not alone? Don put into words things that have been knawing at me for the last few years but i didn't quite know it.
And he did so beautifully.
The overall point of the book is that Christianity is not a formula, or a list of facts and ideas that you intellectually agree with. Instead, at its core, it is a complex group of narratives (written about in the Storybook called the Bible) that illustrate the basic idea that God is a person with whom we were created to have an intimate, personal, mysterious relationship with. It is this relationship alone that gives one true, lasting security and validation as a beautiful and lovable person. This relationship was broken a long time ago in a garden far far away, and as a result we are all messed up and have been trying for the last few thousand years to get people to love us so that we will feel less insecure and more lovable. Only a Reunion to beat all reunions, a heart-felt reconnection with our Maker can give us the security, love, and ultimate freedom to really love others without expecting any sort of "redemptive love" from them in return. We can be loved like we were meant to be loved, and thus we can love like we were meant to love.
So thanks, Don, for copying all my sub-conscious insights and writing a book about them. You beat me to it. But i'm glad, as i'm sure thousands of other people are, that you did.
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
on March 22, 2006
The first three chapters draw the reader in with witty and humerous prose. Many of Miller's ideas are refreshing. Especially the overriding theme that our relationship with God is relational and cannot be "cloaked in formulas." Miller does an excellent job of driving home the point that jumping through hoopes and going through motions is not how a person should "act out their spirituality."
After chapter three, however, the book turns into a rambling of Donald Miller's opinions on everything from God to politics. The book turns into Donald's diary of rants against radical televangalists and overzealous Christian ministries. The witty conversation soon turns into pure opinion based only on observations from his personal experiences.
Donald's analogies prove to be helpful, although very long-winded in their explanation, and his understanding of Romeo and Juliet in a Christian context is very impressive and insightful.
This book is not for those looking for an objective perspective on Christianity but may be entertaining for those that share the same passionate frustrations with certain Christian groups that Donald does.