Sunday, April 3, 2016

How to Be Here: A Guide to Creating a Life Worth Living

by Rob Bell

HarperOne  2016
224 pages     Spiritual

Yesterday morning, I finished up How to Be Here by Rob Bell, and I went out to run errands. I was totally focused on the tasks I had outlined for myself; my teeth were grinding and my hands were clenched to the steering wheel. All of a sudden I caught myself, I unclenched my hands and relaxed my jaw. I saw for the first time that it was a beautiful day, that my granddaughters were visiting, and we were planning a special dinner—for which I needed to get groceries. Why was I so tense? Why was I so focused? Why wasn't I here—in the present?

I first met the work of Rob Bell when our church had an all-church study of Bell's book Love Wins. And it was while we were reading the book that Rob Bell left the mega church in Grand Rapids MI where he had been serving as pastor. Love Wins had made him a pariah in his church because he asserted, among other things, that there is no Hell. This did not sit well with Calvinistic evangelicals. 

Since that time, Bell has written several books and created another career for himself as a media presence. His most recent book is How to Be Here: A Guide to Creating a Life Worth Living. Using terminology that is more "self-help" than theological and more Buddhist than Christian, he calls upon people to be present in the now in order to be creative; to be present in the now to be fully integrated with the people who matter; and to be present in the now in order to move away from regret and toward fulfillment.

How to be Here discusses the Japanese concept of ikigai. Bell says, "Your ikigai is that sense you have when you wake up that this day matters, that there are new experiences to be had, that you have work to do, a contribution to make." He reminds us that when we wake up, we are breathing, and that should be the best thing possible.

"Are you breathing?
Are you here?
Did you just take a breath? Are you about to take another?
Do you have a habit of regularly doing this?
Gift. Gift. Gift."

I am not sure why we need to be reminded about these things. These are the basics for living a productive, celebratory life. My little grandchildren wake up every morning celebrating the day. They run into the new day; they celebrate the sun coming up. Yesterday they were excited that there was snow on the ground. I, on the other hand, was thinking, "It's April. Why is there snow on the ground?" 

My favorite quote from the book:  "All work is creative work because all work is participating in the ongoing creation of the world." This should be reminder enough that each of us has value, and we should rejoice in our value. This is a lovely little book. There are many people I know who could benefit from being reminded of their value in the world. 

Rob Bell has a huge presence on social media. He appeared on the cover of Time Magazine in 2011 and was the subject of a very insightful article in The New Yorker. His latest books have completely left the evangelical tradition behind, and his Christianity is much more liberal than evangelical.


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