Em Miller writes

Subscribe now. Don't miss the FULL WEBSITE, coming September 2012.

Tag: Blue Like Jazz

The five elements of plot in the story of Hope for the First Nations — and how God can use your life story

I’ve read “Blue Like Jazz” now three times: Once, when I was a freshman in college at a very liberal university, not unlike Reed College, the setting of Donald Miller’s book of “nonreligious thoughts on Christian spirituality.” I read it again immediately afterward when I led a small group at my church based around the book, that same group that included a Mormon and a number of nondenominational Christians I later mysteriously would convert to Catholicism. I just finished it for the last time in preparation for the release of the movie, in theaters last Friday.

But it’s possible I like Miller’s sort-of sequel “A Million Miles in a Thousand Years” even better.

“A Million Miles” is about what Miller learned while editing his life, his nonreligious thoughts, into a coherent and compelling movie script.

It was published in 2009, but I’d been playing with the same idea of story since at least 2007. That’s when the pastor at the church I’d attended while growing up asked me to come talk during the sermon part of the service about the work I do with my nonprofit, Hope for the First Nations, ahead of our annual summer mission trip. I decided to talk about how my life story had been a kind of foreshadowing for this kind of work, the same way Miller’s led him to start The Mentoring Project, the same way your experiences already might have pointed you to your part in the bigger story God is telling through the world.

The movie reminded me of all this.

So I dug up the sermon, titled “The five elements of plot in the story of Hope for the First Nations,” arranged not dissimilarly to the elements of story Miller outlines in chapter three of “Blue Like Jazz”: setting, conflict, climax and resolution. This is the way Miller and filmmaker Steve Taylor also arranged the movie adaptation of “Blue Like Jazz.” And this makes me happy because it tells you it’s not just a sermon from me. It’s not just an idea from Donald Miller. It’s something God is telling His people, from a New York Times-bestselling author on the West Coast to a then-recent college grad, looking for God’s direction where to live, where to work, etc. It may be something He is telling you.

I’ve broken the sermon into a series based on the elements of plot so it doesn’t seem so very long (as sermons often do). You can read those over the next two weeks here. Here’s how it started.

Grace to you and peace from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

I think that’s how you start a sermon. Clearly, I’m not a pastor. And it’s funny: You don’t really think about how a sermon starts until Pastor Berg grabs you one day and says, “Hey, do you want to give the sermon?”

What I am is a recent college graduate and current professional intern; I start writing for a newspaper in Naperville on May 1. Most importantly, I help run a nonprofit organization on the White Earth Reservation in northwestern Minnesota. At least, that’s the part of my life story Pastor Berg has asked me to talk to you about: What I do on the reservation, why I do it and why I’ve kept doing it for the past eight years.

Photo credit: Hope for the First Nations. Arrows divider via IROCKSOWHAT.

Of fatwas, faith and film: An interview with Steve Taylor (Start Marriage Right)

If you popped over from Start Marriage Right, welcome! You might be interested in this post, about how and why I got involved with Start Marriage Right. You also might be interested in this little party my husband Joel and I threw.

This is my second post now for Start Marriage Right, and I’m pretty excited about it. Not only did I get to see “Blue Like Jazz,” the movie adaption of one of my all-time favorite books, but also I got to talk to filmmaker Steve Taylor afterward. Here’s what Taylor had to say about the film, about whether “Blue Like Jazz” author Donald Miller is as “winsome” as he seems and about that “fatwa” against their film.

Start Marriage Right: What is it about this movie then, before anybody had even seen it, that would make them uncomfortable?

Steve Taylor: I honestly don’t know. The one thing I’d said early on, because it was four years trying to make this movie, was, “This is not a family movie. You cannot tell this story in the context of a family movie. You can’t do it accurately.” The overwhelming response I got from that blog posting years ago was a combination of, “Duh,” and, “Well, of course you have to have (that kind of) content. Why would we see a movie like that if it didn’t feel real to us?” So I don’t think this is an issue for most people, and I think most of us would agree that as much as we all love the idea of family entertainment, the thought of any media that has to do with Christianity having to be de facto safe for the whole family — that’s not a good development. I don’t see how anybody would think that was a good thing. I understand why some Christian radio stations might want to brand themselves that way, or some media companies might want to brand themselves, but if the public starts thinking that they’re interchangeable, that’s not good for Christianity, and that’s not good for family entertainment.”

For the rest of the story, read Of fatwas, faith and film: An interview with Steve Taylor (Start Marriage Right).

Photo credit: Echowhitefox Photography.

Judson film fest steps onto national stage (Sun-Times Media)

I look forward to covering the Imago Film Festival at Judson University every year; this year, especially, because it ended with a pre-release screening of “Blue Like Jazz,” inspired by one of my all-time favorite books.

ELGIN — What’s a movie that begins: “Do you know the difference between being free and being high? Yeah, me neither,” doing at a Christian film festival?

Exactly what Imago Film Festival director Terrence Wandtke had envisioned for the short film festival, now in its seventh year at Judson University in Elgin.

Imago stepped onto the national stage for the first time this year with the highly anticipated movie adaptation of Donald Miller’s New York Times-bestselling book “Blue Like Jazz,” its first-ever pre-release showing of a film.

The festival ran March 27 to 31 at Judson, ending with that screening and a keynote question-and-answer session between Wandtke and its co-writer, producer and director Steve Taylor.

“Blue Like Jazz” was something the festival director “actively pursued” after seeing a trailer for the film last summer, he said. Luckily, he said, one of Judson’s trustees knew Taylor from his career in Christian music.

“I think the subject matter is completely appropriate, and I think the tone of the film is very on target for our festival,” Wandtke said.

“One of the things I like so much about the book is Donald Miller is so refreshingly honest about his Christianity, his struggles. Too often there’s this standard pattern that people feel like they have to fulfill, usually showing Christianity as some sort of heroic destination, rather than the beginning of a story.”

For the rest of the story, read Judson film fest steps onto national stage (Sun-Times Media).

Photo credit: Andrew Nelles for Sun-Times Media.