Living Story

Travel as Pilgrimage #4: Pavlov, Minus His Dog…

Greek Man sitting at table

The sun was starting to set as we wandered around the streets of Aegina, an island off of Greece.  We weren’t planning on spending the night on the island, but the little town was beautiful and a late night adventure back to the mainland didn’t sound appealing.  Hoping to find a comfortable, inexpensive and safe place to crash for the night, we ran into an old gentleman smoking his pipe on a narrow street a few blocks from the center of town.  As we walked up, his face immediately lit up and he greeted us with a toothless smile.

We were thousands of miles away from home, yet this little old man (he couldn’t have been over 5 feet tall) welcomed us as if we his is long lost children.

After offering us some café (coffee) in his thick Greek accent, we realized he had been sitting outside of his home/business.  He and his wife owned a little hotel that might have even been older than he was.  We asked him his name and he invited us to check out the hotel while again offering café.

Pavlov wasn’t much of a businessman.  We really needed a place to stay and his place looked like a good fit for the evening.  By the time we walked up the stairs and back to the front desk, he had cut the price of the room in half and offered us another cup of café.  I don’t think he was desperate for customers and his insistence wasn’t creepy.  I think Pavlov genuinely wanted us to feel at home in his home. And, I think he really wanted some conversation partners for his next cup of café.

We dropped our stuff off in our tiny room and as we headed out for dinner on the town, Pavlov smiled from ear to ear and said, “Go have fun and let me know when you get back so we can sit have a cup of café and conversation.”

As we walked away from Pavlov, it felt as though we were walking away from home.

Hospitality is a spiritual discipline. It is central to the story of the Hebrew Scriptures (not only for their own, but for aliens and strangers) and the context that allowed Jesus and his early followers to share the Good News all over the region.

Hospitality isn’t valued as highly in Western culture as it is in many other parts of the world. After sharing a meal in the home of Palestinian friends in the West Bank, they said the act of sitting at their table made me their brother.  For them, you never deny someone a place your table…even if they are your enemy.  It would be a greater sin to turn someone away than it would to dine with an enemy.

Understanding hospitality as a spiritual discipline creates all sorts of challenges for Christians in the West. It is a new paradigm in our understanding of national borders being extended to aliens or strangers and adds significance to the simple act of opening our door to someone in need (physical or emotional).

We slept terrible that night in Pavlov’s hotel.  I might as well have been sleeping on a slab of concrete with a placemat as a pillow.  But we were home.

 

A Million Miles in a Thousand Years

Over the past decade, few books have had the impact on the art of Story than Donald Miller’s A Million Miles in a Thousand Years.  He doesn’t simply speak about story, he challenges himself and others to live a better story…a story that could change everything.  As you can imagine, Don is paying me thousands of dollars and is going to write a review of my book to pay me back for this post as he sees it as being the exposure that will jump start his career. (oh wait, that MIGHT not be true…).

With endless books to read for seminary, I hadn’t had the opportunity to read this book until a couple months ago when I had a couple days without a textbook to tackle.  This is super rough and unedited, but as soon as I was done, I slapped down the cliff notes.  Hopefully they are clear enough to give a glimpse into his main points!

Ways to respond:

1. If you have already read the book, add a comment on some aspect of the book I didn’t include (there are lots) so we get a better picture of his direction

2. If you haven’t read the book, go buy or borrow a copy!
Donald Miller seeks to articulate that each person’s life tells a story.  With each decision we make and action we take, we decide what kind of story we will tell with our lives.  Further, our story is not just for our personal good, it will influence others.  Either it will affirm their belief in the American dream of consumption and laziness or it will ignite in them the desire to seek out an adventure as one’s created to participate in the unfolding Story of God.


Fear can paralyze us from taking actions that will advance our stories for our own good and the good of others.  Don uses the story of meeting his father as his driving illustration.

Good stories will NEVER be easy.  In fact, there will be times where the conflict (he uses the term “Inciting Incident” – see his bike trip or hike to Macchu Pichu) seems too great to overcome.  We can jump out of the “kayak” and sink to the bottom of the ocean in search of a new/easier story or we can continue forward and allow our “character” to fully develop into who it is we are created to be.   Don continues by saying that the reward at the end of such a journey is never as good as we think it will be…but that is not the point.  The end/reward is not what develops our character; it is the “character arc” or the adventure that leads us to the end.  Don uses the family that stays together (specifically the father that sticks around) through difficult, nearly hopeless times, as his driving charge towards the reader.


When our story begins to not only achieve self actualization and fulfillment, but the story we tell with our lives impacts the good of others, our life as the potential to become an “epic.”  An epic requires that the main characters life is at
risk and overcomes huge obstacles time and time again for the benefit of others.  Don uses The Mentoring Project as his illustration for his life becoming and “epic.”


In the end, our story can never fully tell the story of God.  No, that can only be told when Jesus returns and makes all things right…When heaven is fully realized and we sit at the wedding feast with Jesus.  Don consistently used the examples of “funeral” and “wedding” as symbols of life and death.  So it is in heaven, when we fully experience life that we will be at the “wedding” with Jesus.

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