A Dose of Much Needed Hope

Rob Bell's Everything is Spiritual
Rob Bell’s special white board for Everything is Spiritual with Rob seated for after performance Q&A.

You all lived through this past November and December (2015), so I do not need to tell you that a bunch of shit was going down. Between mass shootings, everyday violence against poor and colored people, and hate toward Muslims and refugees, it was a bleak holiday season.

I bought the tickets to Everything is Spiritual a performance by Rob Bell months earlier, so the timing was serendipitous.

If you are not familiar with Rob Bell’s work. He was a pastor of a postmodern church in Michigan breaking all kinds of new ground in how he communicated the gospel, when he started down a different path. At first it seemed like he was going on a parallel path, but his theology eventually broke from the Evangelical mainstream and for some fundamentalist Christians he is a heretic. Ultimately, his writing books like Love Wins led him to quit his pastoral job to move to Laguna Beach and focus on creating stuff. He is also part of the Oprah entourage, appearing on Super Soul Sunday on OWN.

I appreciate Rob Bell’s blog and podcast. I had seen an earlier version of Everything is Spiritual on YouTube, so when I read that he was taping it one evening in a Santa Monica theater, I thought it would make a fun adventure for my daughter and me.

The taping will be made into a movie within a few months so please wait and watch the better quality, more advanced-in-his-thinking version when it comes out. I will give you a sneak peek.

Rob Bell, like great comedians, has a unique way of seeing the world and is very smart and articulate. He created this presentation to help people make sense of our world. He does not answer all questions (even with the concluding Q&A); instead, he presents a framework for continuing the exploration.

He begins at the beginning of the universe an estimated 13.8 billion years ago when a big bang set off a creation process that resulted in the world as we know it. If you stand at this beginning point and look forward you begin to see that creation is moving toward greater complexity, depth and unity. However, if you look at the creation from today and look backward, you may see the world as fundamentalists do, that is, the world is going to hell in a handbasket.

Rob Bell’s presentation gave me a much needed shot of hope because it reminded me that God’s love is pulling the whole of creation forward. S/he invites us to join in the creation. We have to ignore the “resistance” and persist in joyful creation: An epiphany* for the New Year.

*Some Christians celebrate the Epiphany on January 6 when tradition says the three wise men came to worship baby Jesus.



Path into the Abyss or to the Summit?

The abyss is just a couple of steps away...One of my weaknesses as a leader is my lack of certainty. Oprah knows “one thing for sure” every month in her magazine. I am hard pressed to come up with anything I know for sure, and less so as I get older. I am hoping the process of writing this blog will help me sort out my thoughts. I will be as honest as I can be.

This morning I read a post by Donald Miller in the Storyline Blog, where he said, “The reality of leadership is this: the world is standing before you, curious, asking where you’d like to take them.”  Leaders are meant to be confident and certain that they are leading to a summit and not into an abyss.

I recently finished the novel The Goldfinch. I found it profoundly disturbing. It is hard to find a quote from the 771 page novel that neatly sums up Theo Decker’s nihilism. So many things in life go badly and he himself is self-medicating with pills. While I do not make as many bad choices as this fictional character does, I can relate to the pull of the whirlpool and the desire to just let go. Stop trying to make sense of it all. Stop trying to identify a mountaintop to summit.

Miller would say this disqualifies me for leadership. I do not disagree. At the same time, how many people who are confidently asking people to follow have a flippin clue where they really are or where they are really headed?

A part of me wants to put my faith in God’s purpose and another part of me is full of doubt. My ambivalence has muddled my leadership.

I just finished listening to Rob Bell’s RobCast interview of author Elizabeth Gilbert. She talked about her vow to herself made at 16 to be a writer. This resonated with me. I know in my knower I need to prioritize my writing and contemplation, including leadership.

I have been struggling with finding a meaningful life purpose since my kids are grown and my mid-life redesign is more or less complete. I got an inkling of the path forward when I was inspired to start this blog. I look forward to continuing on this path and see where it leads.