So I saw Rob Bell speak last night as part of his Drops Like Stars tour. It’s kind of weird to go to the Wiltern to essentially see a pastor give a 2 hour sermon. I’ve never read any of Bell’s books, but I listen to the podcast from his church, Mars Hill, every week, and a couple of people have told me that if I listen to his sermons, I’ve read his books. Fair enough, but I still want to read Sex God.
Anyway, Drops Like Stars. It was better than I expected; I was riveted for 2 hours, and I laughed out loud several times. It’s just cool to see someone so gifted living out his gifts in an unexpected way. Oh, and it’s also cool that he went to Fuller (my school) and Christian Assembly (my church). Just sayin’.
Through the course of the evening I realized that I need to start acting like a real writer and bringing a small notebook everywhere I go, because I ended up attempting to take copious notes on my Palm, which just sucked and my friend Peter threatened to confiscate my phone at one point because he thought I was texting. Like I would!
So here are some of my observations from the evening, in semi-random order:
1. There was something unusual about the crowd and I couldn’t put my finger on it. Then I finally realized: this was the most homogeneous group of 1,000+ people I have ever seen in Los Angeles. Pretty much Caucasian, upper middle class, 25 – 40 years old, and borderline fashionable. (There were a lot of Urban Outfitters plaids to be found). Also I saw a ton of Christians I know/have known/have briefly met from all over the Los Angeles area. We flocked.
2. This was the first time I’ve watched Rob Bell in person, and I decided that his androgynous mannerisms lend much to his cross-gender appeal. There was something feminine and fluid about his movements, but not soft. He was still a dude. He’s neither a weeper or a yeller. He walks that fine line that make women feel safe and men feel not threatened and everyone feel pretty comfortable and understood.
3. “God came into the world and screamed alongside us.” A quote Rob used to describe the incarnation of Christ. Powerful.
4. Rob talked about the “art of elimination” and used the idea of sculpture as an example. The artist chips away until the masterpiece is all that is left. Michelangelo said things to the effect that he was merely freeing his sculptures from their marble prisons. Rob Bell told us that one night he invited his sculptor friends to come over and gave them each a bar of soap, whittling tools, and a couple of hours. During show and tell, there was a bunny rabbit, a set of chain links, a couple of faces, and even a urinal. Plain white bars of soap were passed out to each member of the audience, and Bell said, “You each hold in your hand a rabbit, links, even a urinal….endless possibilities.” The art of elimination. This had me thinking about my life and my calling, and how I usually try to accumulate more. More opportunities to display my gifts, more friendships, more experiences, more skills. The art of elimination is all about less. What would my life look like if I began to strategically and even artistically eliminate outlets of my time, energy and resources? Would my life take on more beauty, more of a masterpiece quality rather than the chaotic albeit colorful hodgepodge that it is now? Hmm…there might be more blogging to come on that one.
5. Drops Like Stars is all about suffering. Not if and why, but what should we do when we suffer? That’s where Bell comes in with ideas about the art of elimination, the art of solidarity, the art of possession, and the art of failure. And he also had a powerful tagline: “This, too, will shape me.” Whatever I do with my suffering, it will shape me. It forces me to re-imagine my future now that this has happened. That short line–“this, too, will shape me”–is probably what will stick with me the most from the evening.
6. One last thing. A couple of times during the evening, when Rob Bell was reading us a quote, he would actually pause after coming across a word he particularly liked and try to get us to enjoy it with him. I remember he did this with the word “deft.” Dude, I love that he does that because I’m a word-lover (nerd alert) but at the same time I was kind of upset, because my friends always get annoyed and uninterested when I try to express my appreciation (or distaste) for certain words. Sigh. Maybe after I publish a bunch of books I can get an room of 1,500 people to savor the word “squabble” with me.