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Blue Like Jazz: Nonreligious Thoughts on…
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Blue Like Jazz: Nonreligious Thoughts on Christian Spirituality (original 2003; edition 2003)

by Donald Miller

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4,654None1,018 (3.99)73
Member:RidgewayGirl
Title:Blue Like Jazz: Nonreligious Thoughts on Christian Spirituality
Authors:Donald Miller
Info:Thomas Nelson (2003), Paperback, 256 pages
Collections:Your library
Rating:****
Tags:Non-Fiction, American Author, Memoir, Religion, 12 in 12

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Blue Like Jazz by Donald Miller (2003)

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I first heard of this book when Tony Kriz came to speak at our church. When the pastor introduced him, he said we might know him as 'Tony the Beat Poet' from Blue Like Jazz. I bought a copy of Tony's book, Neighbors and Wise Men: Sacred Encounters in a Portland Pub and Other Unexpected Places. Tony's book was phenomenal, and I was intrigued by the idea of finding out where the 'Beat Poet' label came from, so I picked up Blue Like Jazz when I saw it at the bookstore.

It's not fair to compare the two, as Tony's book is very different than this one. I loved Tony's book, but this one was only okay for me. There were some great insights and I enjoyed getting to know Don as a person, but I couldn't help thinking that the main reason why I read a book like this is because I assume the author has figured something out, something important that I don't know, and is going to share it with me. The author might take me through the story of his trials and missteps that led to this important knowledge, but eventually, he will reveal how he's learned to rise above in a way I have not yet learned. And I will be richer for having read the book.

And I will freely admit that there was some of that in this book, but not as much as I'd like. Much of the book seemed a bit random, just thoughts on life in general, rather than leading anywhere concrete. It didn't build. I understand that there's a movie based on the book, but I can't wrap my head around what that would be, since there wasn't a story here with a beginning and and end. There wasn't a plot, per se.

My favorite part of the book was when Don learned to stop beating himself up, to love himself as he loves his neighbor. I think we all suffer from those voices in our head that tell us we're not good enough. Additionally, there was a section on how we should not use love as a commodity and withhold love in order to get people to change.

There were definitely nuggets like those sprinkled here and there, but I felt like they were too few, that you had to sift through quite a lot to get to them. Life is like that, though. Lots of sifting through the day to day, punctuated by a revelation here and there.

In the end, I didn't get the sense that Don has it Figured Out and had a Big, Important Message, but I do feel like we'd get along should we meet in person. ( )
  CyndiTefft | Feb 7, 2014 |
Originally on my blog: The Bibliophile's Corner

If you have not read Blue Like Jazz, put that on your list of books to read this year. I put it off for far too long and now that I’ve read it, I’m pretty sure this is going to be a book that I re-read at least once a year. I absolutely love reading and hearing of people’s personal, religious journeys. This is by far one of the most honest, funny, touching, and brilliant journeys I’ve ever read.

This book is split into twenty chapters. Why am I telling you this? Well, because each chapter is specific to a certain step in Don’s journey. And for review purposes, I am going to tell you my favorites:

Beginnings (Chapter 1): I once listened to an Indian on television say that God was in the wind and the water…”As with every journey, the beginning is the most interesting. What spurs this journey? Where does this journey end? This book starts right off with Don questioning who God is to him, the first time he became aware of his sinning, and the guilt that overwhelmed him from the sinning. Quite a beginning.
Confession (Chapter 11): “We are going to build a confession booth!” I just re-read this chapter because I love it so much. When you think confession booth, you think ‘Oh, I have to confess my sins’. But no! In this confession booth, the people running it confess to you and apologize and ask for forgiveness. This was probably the most touching part of this book.
Alone (Chapter 14): “And Don Astronaut orbited the Earth for fifty-three years before he died a very lonely and crazy man–just a shell of a thing with hardly a spark for a soul.” The reason I love this chapter so much is not so much for the words as it was for little cartoon bit. Yes, a cartoon bit of Don Astronaut orbiting Earth in a suit that keeps him alive. But Don is alone. In space. Trapped. In space. Um. Sad and scary.
Jesus (Chapter 20): “I remember the first time I had feelings for Jesus.” I think it is fitting for the last chapter to be about Jesus. Since that is where the journey ends…or rather begins again? New beginnings and things.
There is so much more that I could share with you, but I don’t feel like writing a SparkNotes version of BLJ at this time. Maybe one day.

The only thing that didn’t sit well with me when it comes to this book is the subtitle. I know! That’s probably the lamest thing to be picky about. But it says: “Nonreligious Thoughts on Christian Spirituality.” While I was reading this book, I felt like there were quite a few religious thoughts actually. And that’s not necessarily a bad thing. I just found it a bit misleading and would not want other people to go into this unprepared.

I still absolutely recommend this book. ( )
  Ashley_McElyea | Dec 15, 2013 |
I really enjoyed this read. The story basically follows Don Miller's exploits as a Christian throughout his college years at Reed College in Oregon. My favorite part of the story was the confession booth setup by Miller and his friends on the campus of Reed College during the Ren Fayre festival. It wasn't a confession booth for non-believers to come and confess their sins, it was a booth for non-believers to come and listen to the confessions of these humbled Christians asking forgiveness for their wrongs of the past and the present misgivings associated with today's Christianity.

Miller writes like a masterful storyteller, with a lot of wit and charm. I appreciate Miller's transparency as he shares with us his struggles with shyness, women, love, money, and integrating into community. He shares with us how today's evangelical Christian has hopped on to the conservative Republican bandwagon and essentially scared away anyone who does not share these same socio-political ideologies. How true this is. It took me many years to see this myself as a one-time staunch Republican.

I highly recommend this book to both Christian and non-Christian alike. Specifically for those who are seeking and in their college-aged years. ( )
  gdill | May 16, 2013 |
I just couldn't finish this book (I made it to page 154!). I felt like most of what he wrote was untruthful or just too good to be true. Most of the time I was just waiting for something to happen...some profound thought. Maybe I'm just not in the mood for spirituality...Christian or not. ( )
  melissarochelle | Apr 13, 2013 |
I really liked the first half or so and quite a bit of the end, but when Miller veered off in the middle and began talking about politics and why all churches should be full of artist-types like his church is, he lost me for a while.

Basically this is hipster Christology with quite a bit of social-justice-minded Democrat thrown in. I think Miller does a really good job of showing how Christianity can seem to self-described "cool" young people outside the church and of talking about how we can connect with them better. For a cool young person outside the church with a mind open to learning more about Christianity and Jesus, I think this book could be really helpful. And Miller does address a lot of very real and very valid concerns about the modern Church, and for the most part he does it in a thoughtful and transparent way.

For a lifelong Christian Republican who's never been "cool" and finds the whole hipster thing rather fake and wearying, though, it was a little alienating. At two points in the book Miller does acknowledge that it is possible to be a red-state fundamentalist and still be sincere and still be going to Heaven, but most of the time I felt like he was judging all Christians outside of Portland for not being as awesome and liberal as he and his church are. I could have done without the politics and the complaining about pretty much all other Christians, though some of his points (e.g., talking about how our "unconditional love" is all too often quite conditional) are well-taken. ( )
  readrunandrepeat | Apr 3, 2013 |
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For David Gentiles
First words
I once listened to an Indian on television say that God was in the wind and the water, and I wondered at how beautiful that was because it meant you could swim in Him or have Him brush your face in a breeze.
Quotations
"It was as if we were broken, I thought, as if we were never supposed to feel these sticky emotions. It was as if we were cracked, couldn't love right, couldn't feel good things for very long without screwing it all up. We were like gasoline engines running on diesel."
"The genius of the American system is not freedom; the genius of the American system is checks and balances. Nobody gets all the power. Everybody is watching everybody else. It is as if the founding fathers knew, intrinsically, that the soul of man, unwatched, is perverse."
"I can't get there. I can't just say it without meaning it. I can't do it. It would be like, say, trying to fall in love with somebody, or trying to convince yourself that your favorite food is pancakes. You don't decided those things, they just happen to you. If God is real, He needs to happen to me."
"I will love you like God, because of God, mighted by the power of God. I will stop expecting your love, demanding your love, trading for your love, gaming for your love. I will simply love. I am giving myself to you, and tomorrow I will do it again. I suppose the clock itself will wear thin its time before I am ended at this altar of dying and dying again.
God risked Himself on me. I will risk myself on you. And together we will learn to love, and perhaps then, and only then, understand the gravity that drew Him, unto us."
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0785263705, Paperback)

"I never liked jazz music because jazz music doesn't resolve. I used to not like God because God didn't resolve. But that was before any of this happened." ―Donald Miller

In Donald Miller's early years, he was vaguely familiar with a distant God. But when he came to know Jesus Christ, he pursued the Christian life with great zeal. Within a few years he had a successful ministry that ultimately left him feeling empty, burned out, and, once again, far away from God. In this intimate, soul-searching account, Miller describes his remarkable journey back to a culturally relevant, infinitely loving God.

For anyone wondering if the Christian faith is still relevant in a postmodern culture.

For anyone thirsting for a genuine encounter with a God who is real.

For anyone yearning for a renewed sense of passion in  life.

Blue Like Jazz is a fresh and original perspective on life, love, and redemption.

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:37:29 -0400)

(see all 6 descriptions)

"An earnest evangelical who nearly lost his faith, [Miller] went on a spiritual journey, found some progressive politics and most importantly, discovered Jesus' relevance for everyday life. This book, in its own elliptical way, tells the tale of that journey. But the narrative is episodic rather than linear, Miller's style evocative rather than rational and his analysis personally revealing rather than profoundly insightful. As such, it offers a postmodern riff on the classic evangelical presentation of the Gospel, complete with a concluding call to commitment. Written as a series of short essays on vaguely theological topics (faith, grace, belief, confession, church), and disguised theological topics (magic, romance, shifts, money), it is at times plodding or simplistic (how to go to church and not get angry? "pray... and go to the church God shows you"), and sometimes falls into merely self-indulgent musing. But more often Miller is enjoyably clever, and his story is telling and beautiful, even poignant. (The story of the reverse confession booth is worth the price of the book.) The title is meant to be evocative, and the subtitle - "Non-Religious" thoughts about "Christian Spirituality" - indicates Miller's distrust of the institutional church and his desire to appeal to those experimenting with other flavors of spirituality" -- Publishers Weekly.… (more)

(summary from another edition)

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