Thursday, July 23, 2009

Drops Like Stars

It arrived by UPS yesterday. I wasn't really prepared for what I was about to experience. Rob Bell's latest book Drops Like Stars is a work of art. From the second I opened the box I knew that this would be quite an experience. The book is large. Not in terms of page numbers or content - but in actual size. It's huge. Think yearbook, or coffee table book. It's pages are bright red. Throughout the book you will find stories, incredible photos, and great insight from Bell.

In its pages, Bell addresses the issue of suffering. But rather than addressing it in terms of "why?" he instead focuses on the "what now?" that comes from suffering. When the unexpected happens, and our frame of reference gets thrown out of whack - what is the result? Bell sees that art and beauty and creativity are the result of suffering. It's from experiencing pain that enables someone to create something that resonates so deeply with an audience.

One part of the book is called "The art of elimination." Bell talks about how when we strip everything away that isn't necessary, something beautiful emerges. In the arena of sculpture for instance, it was Michelangelo who said that his "David" was clamoring to be freed. I loved the story of Johnny Cash that Bell includes. By the early 90s Cash had been almost forgotten by the music industry. Rick Rubin took Cash, stripped everything away except for the man, a microphone, and his guitar. All of his band and everything that gave him comfort were gone. He shares that at the first solo acoustic show in Los Angeles, Johnny Cash was terrified. After thousands of shows all over the world, the idea of playing by himself was almost too much to bear. It was in that terror that something beautiful emerged - the honest, simple voice of an aging legend.

Though I hadn't planned to do it, I read the book from cover to cover in about an hour (maybe less). In terms of written content, there is very little - hardly enough to be called a book. But between his thoughts and the amazing photos, I feel as though I've experienced something great. I'll end with this excerpt:

"I want desperately for things to go 'how they're supposed to.' Which is another way of saying 'how I want them to,' which is another way of saying 'according to my plan.' And that, as we all know, isn't how it works. But it's that disappointment, in that confusion, in that pain - the pain that comes from things not going how I wanted them to - that I find the same thing happening, again and again. I come to the end of myself, to the end of my power, the end of my strength, the end of my understanding, only to find in that place of powerlessness a strength and peace that weren't there before. I keep discovering that it's in the blemish that the Spirit enters. The cross, it turns out, is about the mysterious work of God which begins not with big plans and carefully laid out timetables, but in pain and anguish and death."


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