Becoming Chris Kamalski

"There's a Writer outside ourselves, plotting a better story for us" ~Don Miller

Tag: Donald Miller

Life Compass With Oasis ZA (September 2011).

Yup! This sums up the wonderful chaos of our week spent facilitating Life Compass with Oasis ZA in Cosmo City (a suburb of Johannesburg)!

The Unfolding Story:

  • 18 Oasis ZA First-Year Change Agents (primarily college-age South African youth from local townships) spending an entire week (September 19th-23rd, 2011) developing a vision of their preferred future in the context of a creative community development organization birthing fresh stories of transformation and change all through Cosmo City, a suburb of Johannesburg an hour south of where we live and work in Pretoria. Oasis ZA have been long-time friends of NieuCommunities South Africa, and have even modeled their rhythm after the missional postures that we walk through as we pursue the way of Jesus as a missional community. Maxie and I were honored to stay at our dear friend Adri-Marie’s house all week long, and deeply enjoyed the energy, questions, and clear-eyed impact that these young South Africans were committed to living with. Driving home exhausted that Friday evening, Maxie remarked, “I’m confident in South Africa’s future because of youth like these. We’re going to be ok!” An apt description of our week spent helping fellow South Africans begin to find their voice, and start writing the stories God is inviting them to tell with their lives.

The hope in empowering South African youth to develop visions for their lives.

My Storyline: The scenes that have already played in the story that is your life. A wonderful way to make sense of the mess that can be our past!

Maxie and I spent 3-4 hours each morning facilitating dialogue, self-discovery, all leading to the development of a preferred future vision.

Sharing our storylines with each other.

Love the sentiment expressed here.

Our Life Compass experience emphasizes the central role that one's personality plays in not only the development of a self, but the vision one is to speak to life. Our personalities are not accidental in the mind of God.

Dialogue is a central part of our training. (Can you see Maxie giving the 2-minute warning?)

A powerful organization creating fresh movements of the Kingdom in Joburg. We consider them dear friends!

A (filtered) sunset from Adri-Marie's backyard. Stunning!

Life Compass Is…

Attempting to describe the unfolding story God is having Maxie and I carry forward in mission right now…Life Compass is increasingly the central tool we are using to help empower others to discover and live into the story of their lives, through an emerging vision that is grounded in a holistic sense of who I am created to be. We couldn’t be more excited to introduce this work to you!

Christ, Defeat Me With Your Goodness.

Anyway, what came to my mind was just a simple phrase: “Christ, defeat me with your goodness.” I liked the phrase because it meant God was good and I was not, and yet He would not defeat me with His anger or His wrath, but His kindness, His grace and His goodness. I like to think the phrase came from God, but that’s not provable. We do know God’s kindness brings us to repentance, though.

Another truth in that statement is there are very real desires in me and real ambitions that are not good. Some of the actions that stem from my personality are selfish, and damaging to others. They are manipulative and lack truth and so stifle relationships. These characteristics must be defeated because God wants His family to be close, and so each of us must be defeated by God, by God’s kindness. His kindness endears me to a personal commitment to tell the truth, into the thrill and humiliation and generosity of that very risky place where we walk into the world saying “I’m not too much and I’m not too little but this is who I am” and also that “there but for the grace of God go I.”

So here we are, temporary beings, with little to do but navigate our days in truth and humility. Perhaps it not the bigness of our personalities, but our smallness, our selves being defeated that will change the little bit of world God has appointed to us for caretaking. We connect with God when we ask Him to defeat in us all the ways in which He cannot connect, all the untruth and games and manipulation and we come to Him finally saying, okay, I get it, you really are good, defeat in me the lack of faith, let your goodness rid me of the stuff that doesn’t connect with you or the world around me. (via Donald Miller)

Sunday/Monday: Our Marriage Counselor Made Us Rest.

A powerful maxim of Jesus, interpreted in a modern way via the East London street art graffiti scene.

I’ll keep this short, as of this writing Maxie and I are getting married in just over a week, hosting family and friends from around the world in a few days! Essentially, the amazing marriage counselor we have been meeting with weekly the past few months, who has prayed over us, taught us, and encouraged us to engage our fears and move forward in trust and faith as we join together, took charge in our last session and forced us to rest.

Yes, she forced us to rest.

So, on Sunday, which was the Sabbath after all, we did just that. Maxie and I slept in, spent the morning together watching movies and generally laying comatose on the couch, and generally unplugging from a busy, stressful season of marriage preparation. I can’t even remember what we did that day, it was so wonderful. Suffice to say, sometimes you need a wise voice in your life that simply gives you permission to love yourself enough to stop. To rest, to ponder, to daydream, to let your mind become blank. Rita Malan was that voice in our lives at the end of a busy week, nearing the end of an intensely strenuous season of life.

Maxie and I couldn’t be more grateful.

I was privileged to carry that rest into Monday of the next week, as my monthly afternoon of solitude and silence came due. I headed over to Mohale Rest + Retreat and promptly took a nap yet again! That afternoon, I sat next to a koi pond, trying to open my heart and mind to the reality that I was going to be united in marriage to a deeply amazing South African woman I love more than anything prior in my life. I shook my head at how deeply we have walked through past fear and shame, and still how far we have to go in our respective brokenness. I haven’t always made loving myself easy on Maxie, but she has been faithful, steadfast, and consistent in sacrificially loving me each moment of our relationship. I am so grateful for her.

I read a section of Donald Miller’s newest work called “The Thing About A Crossing,” and was struck by these passages as deeply relevant to the massive event about to unfold in my life’s journey:

“The point of a story is never about the ending, remember. It’s about your character getting molded in the hard work of the middle…you become the character in the story you are living…It’s like this with every crossing, and with nearly every story too. You paddle until you no longer believe you can go any farther. And then suddenly, well after you thought it would happen, the other shore starts to grow, and it grows fast. The trees get taller and you can make out the crags in the cliffs, and then the shore reaches out to you, to welcome you home, almost pulling your boat onto the sand” [Donald Miller, A Million Miles In A Thousand Years].

Maxie has been this for me in our story…pulling me forward to the best reality I can ever imagine. Our shore is reaching out to us, welcoming us to make a home in each other, pulling us forward from paralyzation to new, unified life as one couple. I for one cannot wait for June 4!

(Each day this week I will post a story or reflection about some aspect of my work and life that our missional community, NieuCommunities South Africa, is currently engaged in here in Pretoria. I’ll simply attempt to answer the questions, ‘What does a week in my life look like? while framing that within the larger question of ‘What stories are you co-writing with God in South Africa, and how does this story fulfill your unique mandate to apprentice South African leaders in the way of Jesus into sustainable mission around the globe?’)

The Chicken + The Egg.

(A weekly portion of a book I am slowly writing entitled “Preferring Paralyzation,” which I hope to publish in some form in 2012!)

___________________

Re-telling the winding story of my engagement to Maxie this past week to a close friend, I found myself marveling at this thought: Which came first, the reality that I was about to ask a South African woman to marry me, a seven-year journey culminating in the turn of a doorknob, or the story that initiated this action to the point that I found myself standing in front of said door?

Seven months prior to getting engaged I scribbled this feeble thought in my journal, the first peek into a reality I have come to know fully this past week: I want to be married by the end of 2011 to Sarah Magdalene Van Der Merwe. Next to this bold declaration lays a classic qualification of my fearful mind, in which I comment to myself that “I want to feel what it is like to risk and to step out in the largest thing that I want.” Below this declaration and the back-pedaling that quickly followed it was a series of phrases that sketched out our wedding day: Bulb lights hanging from wires, a spontaneous dance party filled with laughter and the voices of children singing, Chris Brown’s catchy lyric (“I gotta feelin’…that tonight’s gonna be a good night…” ) floating through the deepening night sky as if magic were all around us. As I imagined this fantasy playing out with my wife and I spinning over a dance floor, tears flooded my eyes and I knew in my heart of hearts that marriage to Maxie was what I most deeply wanted.

Yet I was so far away from that moment. How does a story flickering through my mind’s eye become reality? I remember at that moment purposing to pursue Maxie in small ways as I never before had, deciding to give her 11 images that depicted our relational journey as our 11-month anniversary approached.

Donald Miller couldn’t be more accurate when he writes “A general rule in creating stories is that characters don’t want to change. They must be forced to change” (A Million Miles In A Thousand Years, p. 100). I forced myself towards change that evening by simply penning the words “I want to be married by the end of 2011 to Sarah Magdalene Van Der Merwe.” As I stared at those words in my journal, it’s as if they suddenly came to life. My question then shifted from a doubt-filled, fear-ridden fantasy of “Do I have what it takes to marry the woman I love?” to “How do I move forward with small steps towards marrying the woman I love?” A subtle difference, no doubt, but in reality, the entire ball game turned as I began to walk forward in momentum towards the change I wanted to see become the reality of my life.

A few days later I gave Maxie her anniversary present, filling her room with images from our relationship. Strangely enough, they told a far different story than the one that often remained stuck in my head. Scenes of laughter, intimacy, silliness, romance, shared adventure…in short, the stuff that fleshes out the sort of marriage we all deeply desire to find with our spouse. Flipping through the photos with a sense of nostalgia, reminiscing about different moments in our relationship, reality was undeniable: We loved each other deeply, and were walking together in a shared story that wasn’t supposed to end!

People are afraid to choose a better story, because though their current situation might be bad, at least it’s a bad story they are familiar with. So they stay” (Donald Miller, A Million Miles In A Thousand Years, p. 101). Standing in front of Maxie’s bedroom door early one Saturday morning, moments before I was going to kneel before her, asking for her hand in marriage, I felt that old sense of fear try and rise once more in my soul. What if the reality I am choosing, that I so deeply want, is actually a fantasy I am creating? What if I am meant to linger in the familiarity of a bad story, remaining comfortable in the presence of such long-term ‘thought friends,’ albeit terrible ones at that? Fear and paralyzation have proven to be safer than the risk inherent in actually living one’s life in reality, stopping me from creating the small scenes that coalesce into the life I so deeply desire to live.

Gazing over Maxie’s living room once more, a sea of warm candlelight flickering over the petals of fresh flowers, I chuckled to myself at how completely a story I had created was becoming real. Reality was merging with fantasy, and I was no longer content in the safe confines of my mind. I turned the door knob to Maxie’s bedroom door, walked inside, and gave her my storyboard.

It was time to choose life.

She Said Yes!!! (Full Story + Photos).

One of my favorite photos EVER of us...and a great summation of the day!

Ten minutes before I walked into Maxie’s bedroom early Saturday morning, waking her up just prior to asking her to marry me, I sent my sister (another Sara, no ‘H’) a long text message spilling the beans about where I was and what was about to go down. If you know me, you know that brevity is not a character trait I possess in abundance, and thus I was unsure whether she would reply before I moved forward.

Within a minute however, my phone buzzed, and I glanced down with growing nerves, hoping for one last jolt of encouragement. Sure enough, the text said:

“OMG…resnd…this is not your sister…congrats!”

Dizzy with a mixture of nervousness and excitement, I laughed aloud, smiling at the affirmation of some random person in the Bay Area sharing in my imminent joy. It was time to ask my South African woman to marry me…

My 2011 Storyboard...I'd say putting a deposit on an engagement ring definitely qualifies as an Inciting Incident!

My parents via Skype when I was asking for their blessing...my dad's smile says it all!

Nothing makes me laugh harder than the misadventures of Modern Family, a brilliant comedy about three blended families. Gloria, a buxom Columbian woman with a ridiculous accent, is the wife of the guy who used to play Al Bundy in Married With Children back in the 1980’s. In a recent episode where the entire family were playing characters in a haunted house for Halloween, she fought back at her families’ constant teasing of her accent by adopting an American voice for the night. As the ‘village bruja’ for the haunted house, the hilarity capped off with her saying “WELCOME TO YOUR NIGHTMARE…HA, HA, HA, HA!” in a manner that creeped out everyone, and left us wiping tears from our faces.

Maxie and I  laughed uncontrollably this past week as we realized we were living the epitome of that sentence. For almost 18 months now, Maxie has largely carried me through a flurry of fear, self-doubt, sabotage, and general malaise regarding past brokenness in my relational life. One of the major reasons that I have known for a long time that this South African is to be my wife is the fact that she has stayed with me in the face of overwhelming fear and paralyzation.

I have had years of counseling, healing prayer, and profound growth that resulted from this tumultuous season in my life over seven years ago, and yet I knew that final healing and transformation would not come until I walked into engagement and ultimately vows unto marriage with my wife. Maxie has unblinkingly journeyed with me through this junk, and quite frankly, I don’t deserve her deep goodness and amazing love for me.

Shot 3 was literally re-created, allowing us to step fully into the story of our life coming together! I do agree however that I made Max's stick figure 'disproportionate' 🙂

It is powerful to make real a story you have created...

Things began to shift much faster between us after visiting my family and friends in late October this past year, as we both realized just how much I have grown in courage and strength, moving away in freedom from the insecurity of needing others to tell me what to do. I found myself not needing the permission of my family and friends to move forward to marriage with Maxie, but rather coming to them with a surprising sense of lightness and joy, simply wanting them to meet the woman I so deeply loved. What transpired over Halloween weekend (HA! THE IRONY!) was nothing short of miraculous and God-ordained…family and friends alike meeting Maxie for a few minutes and speaking into our lives that we were deeply right, the answer to prayers years in the making. I left that experience with my head swirling, nodding in the clarity of Maxie’s statement to me on the plane back to South Africa: “Well, all that is holding us back now is our own fears.”

Moments after...with both of our morning faces!

She's a LOOKER!

My mom's smile (and check out our faces in the bottom corner) via Skype moments after our engagement when we called them from 10,000 miles away!

Two months later, the same was still true, albeit shrinking in my mind each day. Would I let my own fears of intimacy and failure in relationship, particularly concerning a coming marriage, sabotage something beautiful that was unfolding before our eyes? Nothing was holding us back except…me. Unsure of myself always, I kept stepping forward in faith, trying to hold onto whatever courage I could muster. I knew deep inside for a long time that we were right for each other, that Maxie was largely the reason that God had directed me towards South Africa for this season of my life, and that we shared a deep sense of calling for the global Church God is building. Maxie epitomizes ‘partner’ in a manner I have never before known; this desire for a partner to share life with in marriage being the deepest thing I have sought ever since first praying for my wife as a young teenage boy. She knows me, and I her, with an intimacy, honesty, and clarity that no one else ever has. I love her more than any other, which is something I never thought I’d say!

Thus, the past few weeks have been crazy…a blur of wonderful moments on holiday in Jeffrey’s Bay with her parents, meeting Afrikaner relatives I had heard stories about, kissing future relatives upon the reception of Christmas presents, and a few stolen surf sessions in between. We began looking at rings in late December, and Maxie’s taste was so hard to pin down! Finally however, in early January we went shopping at Menlyn Mall in Pretoria. After being quoted a mediocre ring at almost R400,000 (!), we stumbled into Deon le Roux, a South African designer, and Maxie tried on one more ring…

This was the one! We both gazed at it with wild smiles, the saleswoman confident enough in the look she saw in Maxie’s eyes that she simply said to me, “You’ll be back. I know it!”

A few tense days with my bank account later, I sat one afternoon gazing out over Pretoria as a summer rain washed the streets with a fresh cleanse, knowing that I was about to purchase an engagement ring for my wife. Stunned at the symmetry of God’s work, I realized that almost seven years had passed since this journey of relational brokenness, healing, and a slow, almost agonizing coming back to life had taken place. I stood up, walked inside, and spent all the money I had. The ring was perfect!

Our wedding day and climactic scene for the year for sure!

Fast forward a few more days…sweet Maxie was simply done waiting! Overwhelmed by the length of our journey and how hard we have had to fight for what we both so deeply want, she was simply tired…and tired of not knowing what was coming! This culminated Friday night as I pretended that Ryan Ikeda, one of my oldest friends, had shoehorned me into speaking via Skype to a few of his English classes as they worked through Cry, The Beloved Country, an amazing South African novel. While Maxie grew in (fake) frustration at Ryan, I was having dinner with her parents, seeking their blessing over a wonderful few hours of open sharing and heartfelt affirmation that although I was far different from the man they pictured in their mind, they clearly knew I was the right one, sent from God to love their only daughter. I fight back tears even now thinking about how deeply I felt welcomed into their family this past Friday night, wide smiles on all our faces and a shake of our heads for Maxie’s sake, knowing everything would change in a few hours!

We went for a long drive to check out a potential wedding venue in an old barn! Pretty epic I think, even though our venue is even better!

One more teary evening later, and the early morning arrived. I filled Maxie’s living room with candles and fresh flowers, literally re-creating a shot from my own storyboard, merging reality with story in a way that still chills me to the bone. Nervously, I looked at the ring one more time…shaking my head, I marveled out how different this week had played out, in many ways a microcosm of our entire relationship.

The Hollywood score for this story, our story, has struck quite a different note than I was expecting all these years. It is a score quite different from the stale romantic comedies lighting up the theater each week. Yet I know deep within me it is better…deeper…more realistic…more intimate…more transparent…more loving…more courageous…more God-bathed…than anything I could expect or hope for in my wildest dreams.

God has united Maxie and I while simultaneously carving out our deepest fears and insecurities, our paralyzation and falsest of selves. Such a deep work of heart and life transformation has taken place in us both as we have chosen each other steadily over these past 18 months, moving forward towards marriage and a life we both eagerly want. It has happened in spite of fears and in the midst of fleeting courage…and yet it has been the deepest work of transformation I have walked through in my 31 years of life.

I cannot imagine a better life partner than Maxie. She is everything I want, and so much more than I need…beautiful, sexy, sweet, compassionate, fearless, wanting to spend her life restoring hope and dignity to those our world has discarded. She is my wife!

Even the heavens were smiling on Saturday!

And so I paused one last moment at her bedroom door, my hand hovering over her door knob as I shook out the nerves, knowing that this moment was the culmination of the greatest inciting incident of my life. As James Scott Bell writes, “An inciting incident is a doorway through which a protagonist cannot return.” I grabbed hold of the door knob, turned the handle, and walked inside.

“You’re doing this in the morning?!?” Maxie cried a few moments later, realizing what was about to take place. I smiled and waited for her in the next room, literally in the midst of the story God and I were writing.

Of course I’m doing this in the morning! Joy comes most unexpectedly in the morning, doesn’t it?

She walked out into the living room, reality merging with story in a manner I have never before known. Tears streaming down both of our faces, I mumbled a few things, dropped to my knee, asked her to marry me, and SHE SAID YES!!!

A perfect day unfolded…the start of a grand new chapter in the life of the future Mr. and Mrs. Kamalski…

Capped off the day with a surprise party at Corne and Janet's house + a bunch of our friends...complete with champagne toasts, dancing, amazing food, and the busting out of flag dances! I think our reception is gonna hum!

Releasing in 2012: 'Preferring Paralyzation,' my book on this crazy season of life God has walked me through...

Days later, I shake my head…is this real? Of course…nothing could be better! There is a joy that is settling deep between us that we have never before known, and certainly feared to even hope for. What we have is real, right, and the best possible thing we could ever dream for. We have grown so much, are open to each other in profound ways, and desire to choose a life that God is unfolding before us. I pen this simple reflection as a source of reminding myself that dreams do come true…that the deepest things you long for yet think will never come do actually come alive in reality. God redeems the most buried of desires in our lives…often in the craziest of ways!

So, enjoy a glimpse into the swirl that is our lives…knowing that God is working even now in your life as well. We are so excited to move forward in marriage, and know that God is writing a grand story with our lives! He wants the same for yours…

More to come… The Future Mr. + Mrs. Kamalski 🙂

The giant chalkboard in the Prinsloo casa says it all...Brangelina, watch out! A new celebrity couple is coming your way!

White Space Begins Our Year.

(Each Wednesday (Although today is Thursday!) I will attempt to post a story or reflection about some aspect of the work that our missional community, NieuCommunities South Africa, is currently engaged in here in Pretoria. I’ll simply attempt to answer the question, ‘What stories are you co-writing with God in South Africa, and how does this story fulfill your unique mandate to apprentice South African leaders into sustainable mission around the globe?’)

"An inciting incident is a doorway through which a protagonist cannot return" (James Scott Bell).

For the past 7 years the start of the new year has dawned with a giant reset button known as Passion Conferences. A movement engaging the collegiate generation around the world to consider making much of their lives for the fame of Jesus while affecting tangible change around the globe, I’ve shepherded over 50 college students through these gatherings. Students have engaged in mission to China, Kenya, South Africa, Thailand, Mexico, New Orleans, Haiti, and local opportunities throughout the globe as a result of these powerful days where worship and justice are wed together, and the name of Jesus lifted high.

Shot 1 is happening today as Colletta steps into her story while leading NCSA in a racial reconciliation forum. Awesome!

At my first Passion gathering in 2005, the college leader gathering was shepherded by JD Walt, Dean of Chapel at Asbury Theological Seminary in Kentucky. I was struck by his humility and deep theological mind. Following his writing online after the conference, I found this post that has haunted me ever since:

“When we come to grips with our own limitation in the face of unlimited need something happens deep inside of us. We finally cease to believe so much in ourselves and begin to believe in God. When we begin to believe in God, rest becomes possible. Rest is the presence of margins. Think margins–like the literal white space surrounding a page of text. The margins–the white space–this is the place of creativity. This is the place where one doodles the design of the next good thing in life. The margins of life are where creativity happens. And so rest, and consequently margins, and subsequently creativity are only possible for those who have not over committed themselves. Doesn’t this help us understand burnout? Burnout isn’t so much the inescapable presence of tiredness but the drudging absence of creativity.” (JD Walt)

What a climactic scene: White South Africans standing in allegiance with foreigners in line to receive citizenship papers in South Africa! How could this change the city of Pretoria?

With this in mind, Joe Reed tasked me with crafting a personal retreat that would begin 2011 creating space for creativity, fresh stories, and tangible goals to be set that would guide our work as a missional community this year. Burnt out myself and desperately looking forward to going on holiday with Maxie’s family in Jeffrey’s Bay for Christmas, I threw a few things together combining the concepts of looking back systematically at our lives throughout 2010, storyboarding as a narrative framework through which to set smart, attainable goals, all in the context of ‘enough white space’ that creativity would breathe again within our weary souls.

I’ll blog more intentionally on each aspect of this retreat in the next few weeks, but wanted to invite you to consider spending some time before January escapes considering what sort of stories you want to tell with your life this year. Our community had a powerful time sharing our storyboards with each other, explaining the narratives that would drive what we actually want to see God do in Pretoria in the next 12 months. I especially thought that Colletta Cole’s storyboard, which you see in the selection of images throughout this post, was provocative in nature. Her ‘Shot 1’ begins Thursday as she facilitates a discussion on racial and cultural integration within the South African context for our community and several invited guests. It should be a hard look in the mirror for us all come tomorrow morning!

And Colletta said that these were just 'sketches...'

Feel free to grab, steal, and use this retreat to shape your stories here:

Storyboarding Retreat (New Year’s Week 2011)

Storyboarding Climactic Scenes

Living A Good Story

I am so grateful creating white space for our community to dream within is a central part of my role in the training of South African leaders!

Donald Miller Told Me There Would Be An Inciting Incident.

IMG_0001. As in, my first shot on my Canon T1i Rebel. I actually like it quite a bit!

I woke up early on April 14th, eager to begin a fresh day disciplined and productive, seeking to create beautiful things. As I stumbled around gathering my computer and backpack, I realized that I had left said backpack near the dining table overlooking Pangani, the guesthouse NieuCommunities South Africa has called home for the past 8 years. A bit disconcerted, knowing that Pangani has been a target of crime at night for a long time, I hustled out of my room, only to find my backpack gone, files laying everywhere.

Heart racing, I took mental notes about what was lost. Computer: At bedside. Wallet: Taken out last night, thankfully. Passport and important financial documents: Missing. Canon Powershot SD750 digital camera, 7.1 megapixels: MY BABY IS GONE!

Positively paranoid now, I ran outside with Curtis Love, sure we wouldn’t find a thing, and realizing now that the wild barking we heard from the dogs last night was in fact real, and not another example of “Jesse and Chippy crying wolf.” Near a low wall where my ‘friend’ had apparently left our property with said backpack in hand. Unconcerned that he had left my passport and all financial documents in the struggle with our dogs, I realized in a second that my camera was gone. Oh the horror!

Moaning about this to my lovely South African lady Maxie a few moments later, I was surprised by her response: “Um, Chris…how about you take your new camera, purchased specifically to explore photography more seriously, out of its still sealed box, and begin actually using it for something good? What if you took a few photos each day for a year to learn about this new baby, and to step up in practicing an artistic discipline that you are naturally gifted in, yet know so little about?”* (*: Taking a little artistic license here with Maxie’s actual words…but this was the spirit they were spoken in!).

Firmly frustrated at her, and motivated to show everybody I could do something like this, I promptly unwrapped my new Canon Rebel T1i, and snapped the shot you see above…

“A general rule in creating stories is that characters don’t want to change. They must be forced to change. Nobody wakes up and starts chasing a bad guy or dismantling a bomb unless something forces them to do so. The bad guys just robbed your house and are running off with your last roll of toilet paper, or the bomb is strapped to your favorite cat. It’s that sort of thing that gets a character moving.

The rule exists in story because it’s a true thing about people. Humans are designed to seek comfort and order, and so if they have comfort and order, they tend to plant themselves, even if their comfort isn’t all that comfortable. And even if they secretly want for something better…People fear change…Though their situations may be terrible, at least they have a sense of control; at least they know what to expect. Change presents a world of variables that are largely out of their control…[People are] afraid to choose a better story” (Donald Miller, A Million Miles In A Thousand Years, pps 100-101].

James Scott Bell writes “An inciting incident is a doorway through which a protagonist cannot return.” Little did I know that my conversation with Maxie, following the theft of my beloved little digital camera, would provoke me on a journey of taking photos each day for a year. A discipline I am calling Project 365, I have now taken photos for over 7 1/2 months straight, and am pursuing some more advanced photography classes in early 2011 at a sweet design school here in Pretoria.

Thus, I proudly introduce to you Project 365, a year-long series of images presented once each day on my new website, from December 1st, 2010 until November 30th, 2011! Enjoy the first 2 images in this series by clicking here:

Fighting Having Nothing To Say.

I have been silent for far too long. Stuck in my head, chaotic thoughts swirling around, transitional moments experienced and then lost again and again. A fleeting second of inspiration wasted away as I chose to watch more TV. An irregular rhythm at best, flailing self-absorbption at worst. I know I am more than this, that my better self dwells within this shell that seems to be meaninglessly passing the days away.

Of course: Critical things were happening. I moved to the bottom of the world semi-permanently. I was raising full-time support to pursue missional endeavors of great importance and high value. I had to remember how to drive manually on the left side of the road, for goodness sakes!

And yet: Something is missing. A Large Something (Christ in me?) is obscured. I am not myself, for He is not Himself in my self. It’s time for change.

“I’m not writing a book. I’m not talking about a book. I’m talking about me. I don’t think I’m telling a good story.”

“I think you tell good stories. Lots of people think so.”

“I tell good stories in books. I don’t live good stories.”

Jordan poured more milk in his cereal. He was looking at me while pouring the milk. He was squinting his eyes a little and furrowing his brow. He stopped pouring the milk. He kept looking at me for ten seconds or more, like he was studying me.

“You’re right,” he finally said. “You aren’t living a good story.”

“That’s what I was saying.”

“I see,” he said.

“What do I do about that?”

“You’re a writer. You know what to do.”

“No, I don’t.”

Jordan looked at me with his furrowed brow again. “You put something on the page,” he said. “Your life is a blank page. You write on it.”

[Block quote from Donald Miller’s masterpiece, A Million Miles In A Thousand Years, pp. 92-93].