When he said “Thanks for coming, for rousing from your tryptophanic stupor” I knew it was going to be a fun night. Rob Bell’s casual demeanor, even allowing us to chat during the sound check, and how he recalled something funny about our bookstore that he oddly remembered, further reassured me that the long drive to Pittsburgh—how noble of me to do something for the bookstore that took me out of the shop on Black Friday!—was a fine decision. Chris, Karen and Sean were stalwart helpers, getting our display of old Bell merch, Noomas and the like, ready for the pressing crowd. I figured we’d get to talk to a lot of folks, guide them through the best of Bell’s resources, and at least get a story to write about here at BookNotes. A 3:00 AM, still cruising home, Eastbound on the dark Pennsylvania Turnpike, jacked up on Bell’s riveting stories, gospel truths, and no small amount of sugar and caffeine, I wrote about five versions of this piece in my head. Shades of my over-kill on the massive BookNotes Love Wins conversation? Oh yeah. Back at the house, earlier that evening, my gentle fam was watching the very quiet Tree of Life. I’m zooming through the turnpike tunnels, music blaring, wondering how I can describe how much I enjoyed hearing Bell without annoying too many faithful customers. I don’t know which is more complicated, that acclaimed film or my desire to admit I’m a Bell fan without people thinking I’m doctrinally off kilter.
Bell did say, expounding Galatians 2:20, that once we are in Christ, our desire for acclaim is crucified with him; that whole ego thing can be put to rest. He suggests that, in Christ, we won’t be easily offended and we won’t be easily discouraged. We’ll be like that tree in the Psalms, planted firmly by the waters, able to bend, but grounded. Like the sturdy vessel commandeered by the Arctic explorer Ernest Shackleton, which was designed to blast through icebergs, we’ll be “ready to smash ice.” We’ll throw ourselves into our small calling—there was a hilarious story about a oddly mellow breakdancer in a gorilla mask that the Bell family saw on Santa Monica Boulevard, which became a metaphor for us putting on the costume and going all out. Our little efforts may be linked to a cause, some passion for social justice, or some mission welling up within us– it may be large or small, but we will, with good humor, and an ability to laugh at ourselves, pick up the move we are given, and with great joy, keep at it, bit by bit.
He didn’t cite Bruce Cockburn’s famous line, but he could have: in our own little way we’ll “kick at the darkness til it bleeds daylight” in our corner of God’s world. And so, agree or not with Bell’s last book, or think I’m a lunatic for driving to Pittsburgh and back again the same night, I want you to know we felt God’s presence, had a good time, loved Rob’s upbeat talk, and met some new friends who talked about books, about reaching new folks with God’s good gospel, and about how to stay in touch across county lines. We met Presbyterians and Nazarenes, pastors and seekers, older folks and college students–including a few that knew our store! If it would have been possible, I’d have grabbed that gorilla mask from Rob and put the thing on myself. This is my calling, my little role, selling books at good events, chatting with folks about resources, inviting people to read for the Kingdom.
You know there was quite a bit of debate this spring about the strengths and weaknesses of Love Wins. In a set of BookNotes posts (here, here, here here, here and the podcast, here) we called folks to read carefully, discuss civilly, and to understand the backstory of Bell’s vision, the contribution he has made in helping us remember that the Story of God is about God showing up in the ordinary, about restoring the creation, about Christ’s offer of grace and how we can live more freely in the world. His consistent message that there is no sacred/secular dualism, that Christ’s Kingdom is a restoration of creation, that God is saving the world, not evacuating us while He burns it up, is the Biblical basis for his study of what happens after we die. Not unlike the very important Surprised by Hope by N.T. Wright, which offers excellent background for this particular question, the book doesn’t stand alone, but should be read in the broader context of his other work, books and films. I may not agree with every bit of Love Wins, but I chided those who cheaply called it crass heresy, even though they hadn’t even read it, or those who insisted he didn’t cite the Bible when, in fact, he did, sometimes quite insightfully. I suggested it is better to read, to talk, to pray, to look of the texts, to consider. We lost some customers over it.
Still, after last evening, I realize, again, why some people really do appreciate his ministry, and am glad that some are quite willing to read with an open mind even as they are willing to ask how his books and videos line up under the light of the Scriptures. Good for them. This is how it should go: read openly and with theological discernment. Dig deep into the full gospel story. Talk together, learn from each other, using books to help you live more faithfully in the world.
And so, we will offer you some of the books we had last night. The crowd was, not surprisingly, considerably smaller than what the publicist and promoter predicted—there was that holiday tryptophane, and, of course, Pittsburgh hockey. So, you get make out like a bandit in a gorilla mask since we have some overstock. One week only or while supplies last.
Sale expires December 2nd.
Velvet Elvis (Zondervan) hardback; usually $19.99 Sale price: $10.00 This is awesome, the original white hardcover, with some color pages inside, an aesthetic that has in many ways defined Bell’s work, and a cool look that the publisher didn’t think would work. This hardback is much nicer than the black paperbacks, I think, and we have ’em cheaper than the paperbacks. I’ve read this more than once; makes a great gift, especially for your younger friends who may not read much. This often works as it’s style is breezy, lots of white space, short sentences, yet nearly poetic.
You may know that the title has to do with those who paint Elvis Presley–once radical and raw and world-changing–in a safe, velvet kitsch. We’ve sort of done that with Jesus, and we’ve got to get back to the real King, repainting Him to be more authentic, stripping away that which has made him safe and familiar. Wow. While supplies la
Sex. God: Exploring the Endless Connections between Sexuality and Spirituality (Zondervan) hardback; usually $19.99 Sale price: $10.00 Oh. Yeah. Again, the sturdy hardback, the crisp design (no paper dust jacket needed) at a price cheaper than the cheap paperbacks. The subtitle says it all, and, again, Bells offers stories, Bible discussion, contemporary ruminations, in a provocative style. And, we have it here at a bargain price that should make your heart all aflutter.
Jesus Wants to Save Christians: A Manifesto for the Church in Exile hardback; usually $19.99 Sale price: $15.00 This is going to go out of print in hardcover, I predict, as a paperback will be released with a new publisher next year. But the very cool look makes it a keeper—especially next to the hardbacks of the previous two. (And this price is most likely cheaper than the paperback will be–whoot!) I said in my essays about Love Wins that this was the one to read to understand much of Bell’s passion about justice, about new creation, about the missional perspective that sees God calling us out of exile, away from the American dream. I think this is a tremendous book, even though (like every other book by every other person) there are some lines that may not be fully to your liking. His co-author is a passionate anti-hunger leader who works for World Relief. Very important.
Drops Likes Stars: A Few Thoughts on Creativity and Suffering (Zondervan) $19.99 paperback Sale price: $15.00 You may know that this first came out as a over-sized hardback, a great gift book, lots of dramatic photos, pretty much hipster art with a message about how suffering can yield great creativity. Not everybody wanted to shell out for the $35 hardback, or lug such a large thing, so this smaller paperback is pretty great, hand-sized, still colorful, in some ways much nicer than the biggee. I’m not just saying that, either. Small is the new big. When you read the book, by the way, you’ll get the beautiful image from which he draws the allusive title. Nice.
Love Wins: A Book About Heaven, Hell, and the Fate of Every Person Who Ever Lived (HarperOne) $23.95 hardback; Sale price: $15.00 For this limited time only we will offer this nearly at cost, selling it at the marked down price of fifteen bucks. If you don’t have it yet, you should—we’ll offer this deal while this batch lasts, no exceptions. As I’ve said, this book is really good to consider, talk about, study, ponder, formulate what you believe about it, and why. Get the new companion study resource, call up some friends. Hey, as you should know, Advent is the season in the liturgical calendar to study the end times, to await, again, the coming King. Okay, so it isn’t your typical Advent event with studying the nativity. Light some candles, get some nog and you can call it a Love Waits group. Or Love Wins as we Wait. Or not.
The Love Wins Companion: A Study Guide For Those Who Want To Go Deeper edited by David Vanderveen (HarperOne) $13.99 paperback Sale price: $10.00 This is a brand new compendium, a heft study resource that is a great stand alone book on its own, although it was designed to help enhance your reading of Love Wins. This is not a simple study guide or a list of discussion questions (although there are some very good ones, chapter by chapter.) It is a full book, a few sheets shy of 200 pages.
Here is what is included. Each chapter begins with Rob explaining what was going on as he wrote that particular chapter in Love Wins. It serves as a nice overview, a good summary, almost like when you have a Director’s Cut of a film, with the Director talking over each scene; there is some “next step” stuff where Rob offers his vision for the conversations that might arise from this. Then, Rob’s co-writer for this project, David Vanderveen, offers a good overview of that chapter, sort of suggesting what you were supposed to get out of it, why he liked it, what to look for. Then there is an excerpt of an article or book chapter (or two) by another contemporary writer or theologian, offering another view on something akin to that particular chapter. These are very interesting, and include pieces by N. T. Wright, Anne Lamotte, Pope Benedict, Richard Mouw, Frederick Buechner, Oswald Chambers, David Dark, Donald Miller, Peter Rollins, Cathleen Falsani, and more. Then, of course there are the Bible texts and discussion questions, suggestions for group experiences. Finally, there is an appendix of quotes and excerpts from works through-out church history illustrating the variety of teachers offering views on topics similar to what Bell is wrestling with. Huge kudos to Vanderveen, Bell, and HarperOne for making this useful resource available. Order it today at this special price.
After seeing Rob in action for two hours last night, I’m fired up anew about his long form DVDs. They are all well done, capturing other tours from other years, nearly performance art, a postmodern Garrison Keillor storyteller and avant garde lecturer. These are beyond TED talks, more than sermons, not quite drama, but they are quite dramatic. The first is our favorite, although the second one gives you much to ponder, and the third one is extraordinary, certainly the most visually striking. We offer them to you, as part of this deal, on sale, for a limited time only. There are three of them. You will watch them more than once so I think they are a good investment. And they make cool gifts for that hard to buy for person on your list…
live tour presentation DVD Drops Likes Stars regularly $19.99 now just $15.00
live tour presentation DVD The Gods Are Not Angry regularly $19.99 now just $15.00
live tour presentation DVD Everything is Spiritual regularly $19.99 now just $15.00
And then there are the short-form nooma DVDs. Ya gotta love the noomas.
Here is the deal, this week only.
$10 each. Buy two at the sale price, get a third, free.
That just rocks. There are 24 of them and I bet you don’t even have most of them yet. And you should. l really love most of them, appreciate them all, a few not so much, but most.
Here are my favs. The little lines are my own. Get ’em while you can.
Trees. Planting a tree and living between the garden and the new creation. The best.
Fire. About sex. He sets stuff on fire. Amazingly well done.
Dust. Following Jesus, so the dust of his sandals covers us. The Rabbi chooses us!
Shells. Letting go, holding hands, caring for what matters. Awww.
Bullhorn. Really Bad evangelism. Are we any better? Great to discuss.
Rich. We sometimes say we are blessed. Are the poor unblessed? What’s with that?
Kickball. God has a better plan when God says no. Very nice.
Rain. This was the first one, still many people’s favorite. God is with you even in the storm.
Corner. Why is it that when we get what we want, we still feel empty?
Lump. About coping with our past. Some folks love this one; heavy.
Today. If you are too hung about the past, you miss the sacredness of this moment.
Matthew. About a friend of Rob’s dying of cancer.
She. The feminine face of God. You got a problem with that, pal?
Whirlwind. What do we do when there aren’t nice, neat answers?
We’ve got all 24 and all are on sale. This week only.
As always, thanks for caring, for caring about the Christian mind, and for reading and watching resources we suggest, with discernment. Have fun.
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