Sep 18, 2009

I (will) 've Been Everywhere


I'm on a 65- city tour with author Don Miller. I never got to do a national theater tour, and now I feel like I'm getting to do that. What's more, Larry is with us for the first two weeks of the tour.

Speaking of touring tour, we opened in Canada (like opening out of town in New Haven), to a terrific audience in Vancouver, then on to Victoria, and last night in Gig Harbor Washington. We are still working out some lighting cues (Thanks a lot Brent, next time stay awake during tech).

We've got a great team: our manager Jim Chaffee, who you can see don't take shizzle from no one. Brent Gibbs, who's been driver, tech guy, roadie and alarm clock. And we've also got the lovely Melody Wilson from World Vision on the tour with us.

A few nights ago, we got to stay with Barbara and Dave Pine in their house in Gig Harbor. We stayed up listening to stories far bigger than ours: like this woman Barb knows who escaped Rwanda, but not before seeing her husband and several of her children murdered in front of her. Now she's in Arizona, working hard to raise the money to get the rest of her kids out of Rwanda and to the US. These are the kinds of things that make me realize: yeah, my problems are pretty silly in comparison. Which is kind of what I learned while I wrote my book, but it brought it home hearing this woman's story.

It's also what Don's new book, A Million Miles In A Thousand Years, is all about: The elements that make a great novel or a great movie, are the same elements that make a big life: A main character with a big vision, sets about accomplishing that goal and has hardship and conflict the whole way. And if your dream is to own a Volvo, you're not living a big story. God wants to give you a big story to live and to tell.

The church preaches that if God loves you and you are doing his will, your life will go well. God wants us to be "favor minded," or if you learn these keys or this prayer, God will expand your life and you'll be living your best life. Now. I wonder how to tell that to the woman who watched her family slaughtered in front of her. Don't get me wrong: God is not a masochist. I think he does want to bless us. but he also wants to give us a life that's worth living.

It really upsets me that churches preach this idea that God wants to bless you and make your life go well. Which either the church conveys the idea, or we interpret that as, God loves me = success money power love, BMWs and iPhones. There's a preacher on TV who attracts as many people on a Sunday as you'll see God has given you a big dream or a big story, God has given us each a big story to live and tell. Not a small story like owning a Volvo. And big stories mean conflict and hardship. Think of Frodo or William Wilberforce or Amelia Earhart or the Rwandan woman who's getting her kids back, one at a time.

The Million Miles tour is going all over the country, we'll be stopping at 65 cities. I hope one is near you and that you can come see us.

Check out our Tour Dates at
Check Don's blog,
Follow Don and me on Twitter.

Sep 12, 2009

Sept 11 and The Rising

I wrote a piece a while back, remembering my experience of 9/11. I lived in New York City then. My then-boyfriend and I had spent the weekend prior in Miami. Mostly we argued. By Monday we had reached a detente. Tuesday morning he was heading to a special conference downtown. Little did I know, the conference was being held at Windows On The World, the top floor of Tower One.

You can read that piece here.

Every year that memory recedes a bit further into my history; into our own history. But I still remember how everyone pulled together and treated each other differently. There was a kind of somber camaraderie you could feel it on the streets and see it in the shops and subway cars. We'd gone through something together, we needed to help each other. That camaraderie didn't last. But it was there. I remember it.

Can't see nothing in front of me
Can't see nothing coming up behind
I make my way through this darkness
I cant feel nothing but this chain that binds me
Lost track of how far Ive gone
How far Ive gone, how high Ive climbed
On my backs a sixty pound stone
On my shoulder a half mile of line

Left the house this morning
Bells ringing filled the air
Wearin the cross of my calling
On wheels of fire I come rollin down here

Come on up for the rising
Come on up, lay your hands in mine
Come on up for the rising
Come on up for the rising tonight

There's spirits above and behind me
Faces gone black, eyes burnin' bright
May their precious blood bind me
Lord, as I stand before your fiery light

I see you, Mary, in the garden
In the garden of a thousand sighs
There's holy pictures of our children
Dancin in a sky filled with light
May I feel your arms around me
May I feel your blood mix with mine
A dream of life comes to me
Like a catfish dancin on the end of my line

Sky of blackness and sorrow ( a dream of life)
Sky of love, sky of tears (a dream of life)
Sky of glory and sadness ( a dream of life)
Sky of mercy, sky of fear ( a dream of life)
Sky of memory and shadow ( a dream of life)
Your burning wind fills my arms tonight
Sky of longing and emptiness (a dream of life)
Sky of fullness, sky of blessed life

Come on up for the rising
Come on up, lay your hands in mine
Come on up for the rising
Come on up for the rising tonight

Sep 7, 2009

The Jesus Story Book Bible

My friend Sally Lloyd-Jones is an accomplished children's book author. She's written the popular series, "Handbag Friends;" the hit "How To Be A Baby, By Me The Big Sister" and its sequel, "How to Get Married." I love Sally's quirky, silly and smart humor. Her books are fun for kids, but parents will find them hugely entertaining.

Sally is my kind of gal; just as quirky, fun and smart as she is in her books. Plus she's a Brit. I can do my Brit accent with her, drink PG Tips, make comments about the Queen's Corgis, and she gets it.

One of Sally's greatest accomplishments is The Jesus Story Book Bible: a book of key bible stories, whimsical illustrations and language that will capture a child's sense of wonder. And it's theologically rich. When her pastor, author Dr. Tim Keller, read the book he exclaimed, "This is my life's work!" Apparently Sally was paying attention all those Sundays.

Well, The Jesus Story Book Bible is available on Audio! And it's read by David Suchet, who played Hercule Poirot in the popular BBC Series. Read About the Book.

I have a chance to win a whole box of JSBB audio books. And if I do, I'll get to give them away on my blog!

So click through and check out the Jesus Story Book Bible website.

FREE! PDFs and mp3 Downloads.

Sep 4, 2009

Burn Notice

Larry and I went to Colorado last Wednesday. The day before I noticed a massive plume of smoke rising from a canyon to the east of us. It startled me, how quickly the smoke had appeared; I'd been in the vet's office for only 45 minutes, and there it was: billowing into the sky like a mushroom cloud. It was horrifying and amazing at the same time. And it was pusillanimous compared to the fire to come.

We read with horror about the Station Fire in La Canada, burning north and west and southeast all at once. It plowed through Big Tujunga canyon. We'd just taken a Sunday drive through it a couple months ago. I remember noting the luxurious houses nestled into the hillside. I remember thinking how dry everything looked. I wonder if I worried about fire then.

It's weird when something important happens when you are not at home. I was in Switzerland for ten days after Michael Jackson died. It felt so surreal. So did these fires, except that I knew the area it was burning and I knew people in its path. I clicked on the interactive fire map and watched the Burn Boundaries expand like Hitler's Army in 1939. By the time we flew home Sunday evening, the fire had tripled and was 0% contained. "Out of control," said fire officials.

We were on the south side of the plane. We could see a smaller fire in Idyllwild . I couldn't take my eyes off it. We are so hermetically sealed from Real Life, with our cars and shops and TV, that when Nature shows up, it's awe-inspiring.

One friend posted pictures of the view outside his condo window at night. Black with a dot of orange one night. Black with many splotches of orange the following night. And then a wall of orange. He says he's safe. I emailed our other friend again. I looked up his address on Google and gasped. His house was one street away from the burn perimeter. They're OK and so is their house. But most of those houses we saw on our Sunday drive are gone. One of them belonged to a woman who worked at Larry's old job.

Mount Wilson is the highest mountain in Los Angeles county, home to communications towers and an historic observatory. The fire was marching toward it quickly.

If Only That Were Snow

Some Cal Trans workers who live up near Mount Wilson are bitter that the fire fighters didn't douse their homes, and instead took care of the historic observatory. I feel very bad for them. But I can't imagine that the firefighters took time out to say, "Hmm. Nah, let's skip those guys." But then if my house burned down I might be so angry I'd think the same thing.

Author Mike Davis made it pretty clear we should let Malibu burn. It's a desert. Don't build a mansion on hills that the Chumash Indians were doing controlled burns for centuries. But then it happens to you or someone you know.

Eventually the fire moved east, into the mountains high above Sierra Madre, where we live. We never saw flames but we saw the smoke. There's been smoke for days. And we saw those red helicopters with their giant hoses that drop loads of water.

The fire burned east again, into the hills high above Monrovia. Like termites taking over one room at a time. This afternoon, we went out to the supermarket. There was a pinch of white cloud above the smoke. By the time we got out of the supermarket, a towering pyrocumulus cloud had erupted. That's when so much heat gets thrust into the atmosphere, it creates its own weather.

We are OK.
But it's only September.
The Santa Ana winds haven't even started.

There are some stunning time lapse videos available here.

This one is particularly jarring.