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Archive for the ‘Isn’t She Beautiful’ Category

It has been a week since I returned from the Isn’t She Beautiful conference in Michigan and it has taken me a little while to really process what I experienced. The conference was deeply refreshing for me in that it was a call to love (my God, my self, my neighbor, and all of creation). The narrative of God is all about restoration and I want to be part of it. I want to fully engage Missio Dei for the sake of my own heart.

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The Mars Hill stage

Rob Bell getting ready for the final evening.

Rob preaching.

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Tonight was perhaps the reason I came to Mars Hill. The night was dominated by worship and communion…and the cross. Okay, this was a pastors conference but as I was saying to my friend, “where do pastor’s go to find their own redemption and love.” I feel sorry for pastor’s. They don’t give themselves space to be human. There seems to be this cruel club they all belong to that says they can’t be anything less than perfect and a shining example of what it means to be a Christian.

Tonight Rob call them out of this palce and gave them a place to be real, to hurt, to cry. Tonight a group of 2,000 pastors, elders, leaders and volunteers took time and space to remember (and embrace) what it means to restore their own hearts. Some took their place under the cross, many red faced and wet cheeked from the experience. Others took their place under the prayer shawl. Other sat with other elders and received prayer. The scene looked must like a revival only this was a group of pastors and leaders.

I thank my father for a brother like Rob. Some people don’t understand him and that is okay, but he know what it means to restore. I like that. I like a person who stands up front and says, “We need to love.” This is why I came.

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This morning at the Isn’t She Beautiful conference Rob was in full form. If Rob has the ability to do anything it is to tweak the way people see the story of redemption. This morning was all about Salvation, Heaven and Hell. And the content of these sessions are for another post. What is important was how Rob expanded the conversation of heaven, hell and salvation. And as I looked at the mood of the room it was obvious that he had tweaked the norm.

You see, there is historical way of operating that is so fixed, so completely restrictive to a select few (some would call it scholasticism) that it gives people no permission to think. Rob won’t let you do that. He calls out a way of being that requires you to think. He’s so much like Jesus in that he almost forces you to wrestle with it. His best subversive quality is his capacity to tweak the way you see it.

And the reality was that 20% of the people were deeply confused and immediately discounted what he said. I am at lunch as I write this and I just finished a conversation with a local pastor, who came because he just heard of Rob’s church (this guy is really tweaked). The very first thing he said was “I didn’t agree with about 25% of what he said.” I asked him why, and he stumbled on it. “We did the proof text and…” You can finish the sentence.

See what Rob does that bugs people is that he makes people aware of their own way of seeing, and in the presence of a new way of seeing it most people question the validity of their own image. Some immediately walk away, some go numb, some just agree, and a small group wrestles with it. Some, like my neighbor at lunch, immediately assume an attack on their image and can’t handle it.

What if we miss the whole story when we do this. What if we miss the story that Jesus is trying to communicate, when we assume our way of seeing is fixed and the only way to see something. I have been listening to Rob for about a year and a half and I think he would probably say, “I could be wrong.”

How then do we find love in all of this? How then do we live in the tension of the new and the old and find a way to remain in the learning, the relationship, and the love? How do we stay in trust when something affronts our senses and constructs? That my friend is the question of living.

More pictures to follow.

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About three months ago I convinced my wife that I needed to go to Michigan in the middle of winter. Normally this would be considered a really stupid move (as some of my friends would say, “Are you insane?”) but on this particular instance it was to go to a conference at Mars Hill. Well today I’m finally here. I’m at the Isn’t She Beautiful conference, which is essentially a dialog about how to be a church that loves.

Rob Bell (the pastor at Mars Hill) says what I believe, which for someone who values language is like having a personal translator to my soul. His gift is in seeing and communicating the language of what we all are experiencing on this journey.

This morning was on the Eucharist, which is the giving of life by the pouring out of our souls. Its this practice of following Jesus in love in the giving of ourselves. Its this profound place where we connect to what it means to be a human in this crazy world and still not give up. The key for me this morning was actually not the Eucharist, even though I really, really enjoyed the conversation. The key was in seeing the little ways that I have forgotten to say, “I love you.” Once we broke for lunch I had to stop and send my wife an email letting her know how much I appreciate her. I needed to write to her so that she could read it in her own space and reflect on it when she needed.

And then it hit me. What Rob is really trying to do is foster the spirit of love within a community so that it pervades everything they do. I could feel it within the building, within the people. We, the audience, we all on a little pilgrimage to experience that community. He was just smart enough to bring everyone together around this banner.

Thank you Rob for choosing love.

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