A Million Miles in a Thousand Years


A Million Miles in a Thousand Years

By Donald Miller

My review on Amazon:

Live a better story.

Donald Miller has a way of crafting words — fluid yet disconnected; meaningful yet separated. His books read like a river — at times, rushed and hurried like rapids, and other times, you feel the need to paddle in the slow moving stream.

His latest, A Million Miles in a Thousand Years, is a superb collection of “whimsy” thoughts and stories, all pointing towards one common theme: Live a better story.

At first, I felt frustrated by his “I don’t knows” and random assortment of meaningless thoughts. In fact, I got to a point where I almost said, he really missed it this time. I grew tired of him saying things like, I don’t know what life means and why does God allow hard things and I don’t know.

But this is the beauty of Donald Miller’s writing — he intentionally moves a reader through frustratingly slow times to build up to a rapids of his story.

After the initial frustration, I found I couldn’t put the book down. He is so raw, real, and authentic, it almost hurts a bit. I read so much stuff by people who have it all figured out, who know all the right answers, and who will write with sterling confidence.

Don Miller is not one of those people.

He is one of us. A human who has deficiencies and is trying to figure out life just like you and I. That’s the beauty. He takes you along in his authentic journey, all the while pointing to something greater, something bigger, something better.

He is a man attempting to live a better story. He knows God is calling each and everyone of us to live for something greater, something bigger. He knows there is a dark force out there attempting to dissuade us from doing so. And he writes this book smack dab in the middle of that warfare.

All in all, don’t enter this book if you are arrogant or looking for right answers. Instead, engage the journey, embrace the authenticity, and be challenged to LIVE A BETTER STORY!

My notes:

  • There is a purpose in every scene, in every line of dialogue. A true story is going somewhere. Don’s real life was boring.
  • Characters in great stories have to face their greates fears with courage. That’s what makes a good story. Somehow we realize that great stories are told in conflict, but are unwilling to embrace potential greatness of the story we are actually in. We think God is unjust, rather than a master storyteller.
  • A character who wants something and overcomes conflict to get it
  • Live a better story
  • God writes us into the story: “Enjoy your place in my story. The beauty of it means you matter, and you can create within it even as I have created you.”
  • However, we tend to be unwilling victims rather than grateful participants.
  • A character has to face his greatest fears
  • The point of life is character transformation. The transformation is created in the search.
  • The point of the story is the character arc, the CHANGE
  • A character is what he does
  • “My entire life had been designed to make myself more comfortable, to insulate myself from the interruption of my daydreams.”
  • There is a knowing I feel that guides me toward better stories, toward being a better character. There is a writer outside ourselves, plotting a better story for us, interacting with us, even, and whispering a better story into our consciousness.
  • God wants us to move from defensive to the intentional. God wanted me to do things.
  • “People love to have lived a great story, but few people like the work it takes to make it happen. But JOY COSTS PAIN!”
  • Humans naturally seek comfort and stability. Without an inciting incident that disrupts their comfort, they won’t enter into a story.
  • The most often repeated commandment in the Bible is “Do not fear.” It’s in there over two hundred times.
  • “No character had a vague ambition. It made me wonder if the reasons our lives seem so muddled is because we keep walking into scenes which we, along with the people around us, have no clear idea what we want.”
  • There is a force that doesn’t want us to face our issues, to face our fear and bring something beautiful into the world. It wants us to believe that life isn’t worth living.
  • “It is when people do not allow God to show up THROUGH them that the world collapses in on itself.
  • There is a force resisting the beautiful thngs in the world and too many of us are giving in. The world needs for us to have courage.
  • Advertising causes us to think in wish-fulfillment dynamics. The more painful the journey, the more the traveler would appreciate the city once he got there. Don’t look for an easier ending or journey.
  • The more practice stories you live, the more you want an epic to climb inside of and see through till its end. Once you live a good story, you get a taste for a kind of meaning in life and you can’t go back to being normal.
  • Two elements: Characters pursue something difficult to attain. The more difficult, the better. Second, the ambition had to be sacrificial. Go through pain, risk life, for the sake of somebody else. The main way we learn stories is through each other. We teach our children good and bad stories, what is worth living for and what is worth dying for, what is worth pursuing, and the dignity with which a character engages his own narrative.
  • Embrace whimsy: It’s the nagging idea that life could be magical; it could be special if we were only willing to take a few risks.
  • Most people give up on their stories when they come out of college with all this ambition and dreams. Then, they get to the middle and discover it was harder than they thought. They can’t see the distant shore anymore. They start looking for an easier story. We must keep paddling, keep pushing forward. You must go through hell. That’s true story.
  • Start looking at the whole forest rather than just your tree. Pain might be a path to experiencing a meaning beyond the false gratification of personal comfort. It’s arrogant of us to believe that the story is about our tree when it’s about the whole forest.
  • An enormous amount of damage is created by the myth of utopia. There is an intrinsic feeling in nearly every person that your life could be perfect if you only had such-and-such a car or person. Jesus can make things better, but I don’t think he is going to make things perfect. Jesus offers hope.
  • Great stories have memorable scenes. We have to force ourselves to create these scenes. We have to get off the couch and turn the television off. “You can’t build an end scene as beautiful as this by sitting on a couch.”
  • It isn’t necessary to win for the story to be great, it is only necessary to sacrifice everything.
  • “A good storyteller doesn’t just tell a better story. He invites other people into the story with him, giving them a better story too.”
  • God: “Write a good story, take somebody with you, and let me help.”
  • Life ultimately means taking the responsibility to find the right answers to its problems and to fulfill the tasks which it constantly sets before each individual.
  • “We live in a world where bad stories are told, stories that teach us life doesn’t mean anything and that humanity has no great purpose. It’s a good calling, then, to speak a better story.