Best “In Touch with My Inner Self” Book

I’m not sure how many of this sort I read this year, but two stand out.

Early in the year, I read Donald Miller’s A Million Miles in a Thousand Years.

I said pretty much all I had to say about it then, but I do so appreciate how Miller writes.  I should probably go back and read it again.

Mr. Miller isn’t one to be outdone, but I also finally got around to reading John Eldredge’s classic, Wild at Heart.

While this book is fairly culture bound (upper-middle class American white – and some Asian – males), it does a darn good job of delivering the goods to fellas who fit that demographic.  WordPress tells me that my thoughts on the book are HERE.

No way to pick a “top” read here, so it is officially a tie.

making a man

For whatever reason, I’m finding myself in a season of having to take a look at the whole “What makes a man?” question.

Honestly, it isn’t one that I get all the fired up about.  I think Donald Miller in his book, To Own a Dragon, captures my attitude about the entire “making a man” genre of books, conferences, studies, etc.  In summary, he’s pretty skeptical.  All the macho, hunting, muscle car/truck, crude innuendo, and bravado that tend to permeate most “Christian” man-stuff leaves one sort of wanting.  I don’t really enjoy man-chants.  I don’t think a man necessarily figures out how to become a man sitting in a church classroom filling in blanks in a workbook.

And yet, the question is a crucial one.  One could even say that my life is consumed with it.  I have three young Chino boys in my own home that I have a highly vested interest in seeing become not just men, but men of worth.  And that desire is a large part of what I do with students.  At least half of the students in my charge are of the male variety.  Many of them I care about very deeply, and I long to be a part of the process in which they are ushered into manhood.

So the question still hangs out there.  How is it that a boy move from adolescence into manhood?  It is easy to identify the things that don’t factor much into that process.  Being good at sports doesn’t do it.  Being good with girls doesn’t either.  Nor does graduating from high school or college necessarily mean one is a man.  I’m not even sure getting married or having children necessarily makes a man.  We all know “men” who have excelled at or done all those things, and yet for all practical purposes they are boys. Boys that look like men, but boys nonetheless.

Currently, I’m doing two different studies related to manhood (I thought I just said that men aren’t made through reading books about being men!).  One is with with a group of high school students that I meet with on a fairly consistent basis.  By their own suggestion, we are reading and discussing John Eldredge’s Wild at Heart. Strangely enough, I’ve never read it.  I realize that every other male in Christendom (and most females) have.  I haven’t.  I haven’t seen Titanic either.  Sometimes, the hype-fest passes me by and I simply miss out.

Anyway, I’m reading it now.  I’m also doing a study with some men at church called Raising a Modern Day Knight.  My involvement in this latter study has largely been driven my already mentioned desire to provide what my sons need to keep moving down the road to manhood.  Between the two studies, lots of ideas on man-ness are floating around out there.

This post is already longer than I hoped it would be, so I’ll adopt the strategy from the wildly popular “gear essentials” series, and stretch this discussion out over a few days.  But I want to end on this last thought.  Regardless of the differences of content and approach that the two studies have, at least a one thing they agree on.

“Manhood” doesn’t just happen.

Miller’s Miles

Blind Pilot – The Story I Heard

I finally got around to reading Donald Miller’s A Million Miles in a Thousand Years. I love his writing. He makes me laugh out loud no matter where I am. With my family at home. Alone in my office. In a crowded coffee shop. Laughter that can’t be restrained. I’ve often noticed how difficult it is to express sarcasm in the written word. He does it effortlessly. He is self-deprecating. Witty. Profound. What’s not to like?

However, despite a deep appreciation for most everything he writes, I resisted picking this one up for a couple reasons. One, I have a psychotic aversion to trendiness. In the space of a week, it had become the thing to read, and for that reason alone, I wanted no part of it. Two, (and I haven’t been able to completely push through this one yet) I have an equal measure of disdain for anything that smacks of “self-actualization.” And the whole “write your own story” premise smacks of Depak Chopra or something along those lines. Again, my problem. Not his.

Finally, curiosity won out. He lives up to usual form – funny and insightful – generally within two breaths of each other. One of the things I appreciate most about his writing is his ability to summarize an idea that he has been exploring in a memorable phrase or two. Here were a few of my favorites…

“The great stories go to those who don’t give in to fear.”

Deep down, we all know this to be true. Too often fear controls us and confines us to living diminished stories. I think this is one reason I enjoy mountain climbing. It allows me a chance to face and overcome fear. And there have been numerous terrifying situations I’ve found myself in. Narrow ledges for walkways. Sheer rock faces. Ridges that fall of thousands of feet on either side. Falling boulders. Loose hand holds. I’ve had to push through being scared plenty of times on mountains. And hopefully, pushing through fear there, helps me to push through other, more everyday fears.

Speaking of mountains…

“The mountains themselves call us into greater stories.”

I think it is common knowledge that there are beach people and mountain people. Suffice it to say, I’m a mountain person. Both mountains and oceans are epic and beautiful, but mountains require something of you. They are wild and unpredictable. In a word, they are exhilarating. I know that the ocean (especially on the open water) can be equally demanding and wild, but I favor what the mountains have to offer.

“He understood the story was not about him, and he cared more about the story than he did about himself.”

In my opinion, this is the single most important sentence in the entire book. It is one that keeps this book from becoming just another exercise in self-absorption. Re-read the sentence and let it sink in.

However, this statement which points away from self and to something larger had a rival for most important. The  contender being…

“The reason Danes are so happy was this: they had low expectations.”

Poignant and classic.

But the phrases that will linger with me the longest are…

“I didn’t want his words to mean anything. I didn’t want to need his affirmation. But part of our selves is spirit, and spirits are thirsty, and my father’s words went into my spirit like water.”