How Donald Miller Changed My Life
Note: This post is part of the story-behind-the-story of RICH’S RIDE. I wrote it as a thank-you to Don Miller, without knowing if I’d be able to get the attention of a famous author like him. I worked at it for a few weeks, and yesterday he responded!
He also tweeted a link. In a few hours, the blog received more hits than it normally receives in a month. I’m humbled by his generosity and astonished at the level of influence generated from a single mention by a best-selling author.
Anyway, I thought you might like to know…
How Donald Miller Changed My Life
I admire Don’s writing. He’s the writer I want to be when I grow up. My friends might question the “growing-up” part, but let’s not quibble over details.
Now, about the life-changing thing.
I don’t believe much in coincidences. When remarkable circumstances collide to create outrageous opportunity, I tend to believe God’s involved. I think He orchestrates something resembling a complex series of long-term, converging trajectories that don’t make much sense until they intersect. If we’re honest, we almost never see these moments coming. When we’re observant and open-minded and perhaps a bit lucky, we might notice when a convergence of circumstances creates a unique opportunity.
I don’t pretend to understand how this works, how God meshes His work with our choices and mistakes. I think it involves His answers to prayers, His ultimate plan for creation, and how He uses us in ways we’ll probably never comprehend. He’s patient and relentless, and He uses everything for good, working through the relationships and events of our everyday world. I’m pretty sure it’s more complex than I can imagine. That’s okay.
I’ve heard God chuckles when we tell Him our plans. If so, I suspect He laughs out loud when we claim to fully comprehend the details of His plans. It’s my job to do what I can, where I am, with what I have. I trust Him to fit the pieces together with love.
Anyway, I experienced a confluence of three events several months back. The first was the movie The Bucket List, a story of two old guys who survive cancer and realize they don’t have forever to realize their dreams. The second was my approaching 60th birthday, my personal reminder of a limited time frame in which to address a dream I’d been resisting for more than ten years.
Those two events, by themselves, wouldn’t have tipped the balance. That’s where Don Miller enters the equation.
Don wrote a book titled A Million Miles In A Thousand Years. He talked about analyzing his life as a story, realizing it wasn’t as interesting as it might be, and resolving to write a better story going forward.
The context for Million Miles was Don’s cross-country bike ride. As I read, I felt like he was personally challenging me. Remember that ten-year-old dream I referenced? For a decade I’d dreamed of doing…a cross-country bike ride.
But that’s just crazy, because guys in wheelchairs don’t do cross-country bike rides. After a quarter-century as a quadriplegic, I knew my limits. This dream was impossible—right?
And when I finished reading Million Miles, I told my wife it was time to stop making excuses and start writing a better story.
Don said an interesting story involves a character who wants something and overcomes conflict to get it. And since we tend to avoid conflict, the story requires an inciting incident, an event that forces the character to change or move.
In story lingo, Don’s book was the final inciting incident in the story of RICH’S RIDE and our 1500-mile handcycle journey along the Mississippi River. Million Miles tipped the balance, forced me to confront the fear and the self-imposed limits. The dream’s invitation sat squarely before me, and I could no longer ignore it. I had to say Yes or No.
So, in a way, Don Miller did change my life.
Once I said Yes, a bunch of folks surrounded Becky and me (and Monte, my service dog) with support. That’s how God woorks, through relationships and other people. In eight weeks I cranked the entire Mississippi River, from Lake Itasca in northern Minnesota to New Orleans. We spoke to more than 4000 people about hope and dreams and God’s promises. Generous people along the route got the opportunity to donate nearly $60,000 to feed hungry kids through the worldwide feeding initiative of Convoy Of Hope.
The ride was about hope, a confident expectation that God keeps His promises. Hope allowed me to challenge what I “knew” was impossible. Hope allowed me to sit at the bottom of a hill I couldn’t climb…and then crank to the top. Quite literally, hope changes what’s possible.
It’s a better, more interesting story than “paralyzed guys can’t do stuff like this,” don’t you think? Here’s a video version:
I’ve learned one thing about good stories. Continued interest means seeking new opportunities and confronting new challenges. It also means finding new ways to share your story, because that’s the only reason for writing it in the first place.
So I wrote a book, creatively titled RICH’S RIDE: Hope Changes What’s Possible. The video you just watched allowed us to collaborate with Kristin Orphan and her Finally Home Foundation. FHF supports a broad spectrum of adoption services, helping orphans and their new forever families adapt successfully to challenging new circumstances. I hope you’ll visit their site, check out their CD, and support their important work.
On January 28th, we’ll kick off FLORIDA HOPE TOUR 2013, the latest chapter in this unlikely story. I’ll crank 1000 miles around the perimeter of Florida. We’ll speak to groups, hear some great stories about overcoming adversity, and offer the chance to support our great partners at Convoy Of Hope.
So that’s how Don Miller changed my life. Except, of course, he really didn’t.
I did. I changed my life, because I chose to stop believing in impossible and say Yes to the opportunity God presented to write a better story with the remaining years of my life. And the cool thing is—you have the same option.
If an old, bald, crippled guy can crank a handcycle the entire length of the Mississippi River, what can you do?
What’s the story you want to
Please leave a comment here.