Rob Bell Still Painting Notes and Thoughts Part 2

Here is part 2 of my notes from Rob’s talk at the Viper Room.  These are just notes, so there could be some inaccuracies, etc.  I will continue with part 3 tomorrow (it was a really long talk).

Rob Bell had heard stories about Jesus growing up in church, and found stories about him compelling.  Remember in his junior high/high school world where everything was hierarchy, the Jesus stories were about God’s love for everyone exactly as you are.

The idea that Jesus went to the people at the margins.  The idea that I was loved.  These ideas were very compelling and moving to Rob, and stirred something in his soul.

Because somebody was always better.  Better at sports, music, etc.

The idea that each person had a mission, a calling, work to do in the world.  This moved me, I had these very real experiences with the love of God.

The story of Jesus moved him from an early age.

Sometime around the band falling apart, people kept saying, “Have you thought about being a pastor?”  Rob had a sense that there was a new thing  happening with Jesus in the world and he could be a part of it.  Went to see C. Everett Koop, who “looked like an Amish battle commander.”

In auditorium before Koop’s talk, it was empty, and he had a feeling I’m supposed to go after this thing, study theology, which was scary for someone who got a “B” in tennis.  So he went to seminary.  Later on he volunteered to give a talk/devotional and remembered feeling like he had to take off his sandals b/c he had a sense he was on holy ground and his life would never, ever be the same again.

Remember thinking, I might be really terrible at this, but it would be so much fun and get me up in the morning.  So he sort of threw himself into it.  Turns out the end of his ideas about what he was going to do with his life, turned out to be the beginning of what he was going to actually devote his life to.

Sometimes things crash and burn in spectacular fashion, and they had to end so something new could begin .

Story about people on the road to Emmaus.  Their rabbi Jesus had died, and the movement appeared to have failed.  They had to go back to their families with shame and humiliation.  You were the guy who said, “I’m going with JC because it’s about to go down,” and they were going home as failures in their mind.

So Jesus walks with them and they don’t recognize him, and he asks them, “Why are you so down?”

They explain what happened, and then Jesus tells them about the same events, through an entirely different lens.  You think it was just the end, but it was the beginning.

We tend to white knuckle things.  People, jobs, possessions, ego.   We just white knuckle it.

There’s another way to live, with your palms open.  You throw yourselves into things, but hold them from a different place with a different posture.  Hold them with a sense of gratitude but with a sense of freedom.

You may walk around with that existential kicked in the groin feeling, because something new is about to be placed into your hands.  Something new has to die, so something else can be born.

When he was first a pastor made a decision to speak at every engagement he was asked to, including opening for a puppet show.  He’s experienced hecklers, booing, everything under the sun while teaching.

Rob went to court to testify on behalf of a single mom.  When the bailiff asked him to place his hand on the Bible, he had this deep sense of, “wow, I should really tell the truth.”  Speaking of truth, telling the truth is something we should always do in our daily life.  Having to tell someone to tell the truth should be equivalent to saying “don’t forget to breathe,” and shouldn’t require someone placing their hand on the Bible.

He had this idea of doing a whole talk/sermon like he’s the Bailiff and he’s holding out the Bible and everyone should tell the truth.  It sounded good in his head, which is always a sign of trouble.  So he borrowed a uniform from a local sheriff, which made him think, “What local sheriff loans their uniform out?”

He remembers getting up and giving this talk and just going for it.  So he took questions on index cards afterward and there was no way out of it, the first question came up and it was, “why are you dressed in a police officer’s uniform?”  Rob just felt complete terror, and the whole metaphor had failed.  The second question came up, and it was the same question.  Rob was humiliated and felt all alone, and felt like a very small man.

Shortly after spoke at a gymnasium with plastic on the floor, and an awful screeching sound every time someone moved.  Seating done in long narrow rows all the way to Iowa.  Couldn’t see anyone, like public speaking when you are only watching tennis.

He realized that he had the absolute wrong talk prepared for this crowd, but he was young, and didn’t have a backup talk in mind.  He starts editing in his head, skips to the second part of the talk, then decides to skip the third part, etc. and he finishes his 45 minute time slot in 7 minutes.  Note to public speakers, if you end too quickly and start repeating what you’ve already said, it’s a black hole.  Then if you follow that up with speaking really emotionally and really loudly, you’ve just lost.

After 11 minutes, he walked off the stage, and just left an empty human being feeling like he had nothing to say.  He walked on the stage the standard 6’3, and you couldn’t measure how small he felt when he left.

Failure can mess with you, it can carry you around, it can haunt you.

You can go on television and realize the host doesn’t like what you do, and they are very excited about the opportunity to shred you into 1,000 pieces.  And they have little snippets they’ve pulled off the internet to shred you with.  And you have this moment when you realize this in your head, and everything within you is just like, “uhhhhhh.”

Jesus teaches Peter that “failure is never final.”  He denied Jesus three times, so Jesus asks Peter if he loves him three times.  Feed my sheep Peter, failure is never final.  Yes, you really, really blew it, but it’s not final.  We’ve got a movement, a revolution; we’ve got to talk to people about God’s love.  I wonder if Jesus is so interested in Peter because he’s really, really failed, he’s obliterated.  He has no hope, but the grace of God.  They’ve been so low; this is somebody I can actually entrust a message of grace to.  This person actually realizes the love, power, and grace of God.  People that have failed and lost all hope can intuitively understand grace much better than others.

Failure has this incredible ability to refine you.  It’s like a boxer that keeps getting back up after getting knocked down.  Hey, these punches aren’t keeping me down, so gets a little lighter, a little faster.

Rob was surfing with his 12 year old son the other day, and his son just got rocked and totally spin-cycled in a huge wave.   As a father, “oh I hope he’s ok, but this is really good for him.”  He paddles back out, he’s terrified but he has something else.  The biggest wave of the day has crushed him, but he’s ok.  There is a new level of confidence when you survive something tough or difficult.

Rob recounts hecklers, sound systems failing, people saying incredibly horrible things to his face about him, his family, his motivation, his integrity.  Waking up with pastor’s hangover, thinking, “did I just say that, and it’s recorded, and it’s online?”  But it’s ok.  The worst thing that can happen already did.

I have this friend.  He has several critics.  Some of his critics even write books about him.  They’re really creative, they wait for him to write a book, and then they write a book about his book.  Failure isn’t final.

Often meet people who have some perceived failure.  Oftentimes we fail in our eyes and we drag it around with ourselves and wear it like some type of badge of honor.  We continue to flog ourselves, and there’s nothing we can do to change or control the situation.

This is really important because there’s a lot of things we can’t control, we can’t control how we will be understood, we can’t control how people react to us.  We have control only over a few things and then the rest, we must surrender the outcomes.

His grandfather would visit and wouldn’t say much.  Sometimes he would freeze in a doorway and couldn’t move.  For the last 10-15 years of his life he couldn’t communicate much, if at all.  At one point, he hadn’t talked for roughly the last 10 years of his life, he said to his wife, “it wasn’t supposed to be like this,” and then he didn’t talk again.  You can marry somebody and spend your life with them and then the last 10 years of their life they can’t talk.  We think we have control, but often it is an illusion.

We can control a few things.  It’s really important to laugh, and continue to laugh.  Rob was once speaking in Canada and had to cross the border of Minnesota/Canada at around 3 AM.  Border patrol searches their car and find a donkey jawbone that Rob had been using for a talk about forgiveness and the story about Samson and Samson’s taking revenge by killing people with the jawbone of a donkey.  He talked about how forgiveness begins when we surrender the right for revenge.  The first step is to give up the right for revenge (aka drop the jawbone).

The officers come back in and ask, “Are you aware that there’s a donkey jawbone in your vehicle?”  Rob replied and told them it was a musical instrument (as it is, see and he and his friend went into a long explanation of the musical use, and then figured the officers would probably go back and search for drugs, hahaha.  Finally one of the officers goes, “Wait, are you sure you didn’t find it by the side of the road?”  Rob is thinking, “Yes we found a donkey jawbone by the side of the road, got out, cleaned it in the middle of the road in the middle of the night, and took it as a souvenir.”

One time Rob performed a wedding on his birthday, and they gave him a gift.  The gift turned out to be a smoke machine.  The foot machine actually had a foot pedal so if you were playing in a band on stage and if you didn’t have enough smoke, you could lean over, hit the button, and keep on rockin.  At one point during the reception someone walked by Rob’s table and he overheard them say, “The DJ is freaking out because he forgot to bring his smoke machine.”  So Rob got to walk over to the DJ and say, “Hey, I hear you’re having problems with your smoke machine, hear, you can use mine.”  And the look on the DJ’s face was priceless b/c he was probably thinking, “Who is this guy, and who brings a smoke machine to a wedding?”

It is so important to laugh, if you don’t laugh, you’re in trouble.

One time Rob and his wife went to a really nice party at a mansion.  He was wearing his usual black pants and black shirt, and realized at one point that he was dressed just like the wait staff.  At one point Rob sees a well-known character, and went over to talk to him.  There was a circle of people around this famous person hanging on his every word.   At one point, the person turns around, looks at Rob and hands him his empty plate and his empty glass as if he was on the wait staff, so Rob just took it, and brought it to the kitchen.  Because you have to laugh, you have to laugh at yourself often.  You can’t take yourself too seriously.  What you do have is your joy, your laughter and then you can throw yourself into whatever it is your doing, and you can give yourself fully to it.

Years ago, Rob had an idea for a book….

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