Why all The Hell about Rob Bell?

For those of you not on Twitter … I need to give you a little background for this post. Yesterday, while your Saturday was probably just a normal day, a Word War broke out on Twitter. It had to do with love, hell and Rob Bell.

Rob Bell has a new book coming out in March titled, Love Wins. The trailer was released this week. In it he asked questions … that’s it. He doesn’t give answers … just asks questions.

And for that, many people seem ready to burn him at the stake (thought we were more civilized than that) They haven’t even read the book yet, but they posted comments on Twitter that are negative,  harsh and rude. One even said, “Farewell, Rob Bell” (what does that mean?)

I think a few thoughts posted by Seth Godin this morning get to the root of the problem (Seth is not on Twitter, so I doubt he wrote this in response to the Word War, but it fits)

“Wonder and Anger”

It’s hard to imagine two emotions more different from one another. And yet one can easily replace the other. A sense of wonder and grinding anger can’t co-exist.
Great innovations, powerful interactions and real art are often produced by someone in a state of wonder …
Anger, on the other hand, merely makes us smaller.

So I wonder if the folks criticizing a book before even reading it are dealing with anger instead of wonder. It seems their worlds are so small they can’t even entertain questions.

What do you think … can anger and wonder co-exist? Is asking questions wrong or a sign of wonder?

UPDATE: After reading “Love Wins”here is my review.

PS: Christianity Today has a post with more details about the Rob Bell saga, if you’re interested in reading more.
Posted in Friends,

“The Will To Survive”

Some time ago, when I first saw this video, I was impressed and sadden. Recently I thought of Megan and wondered how she was doing. I found her site and was so sad to read that she lost her battle against cancer.

“Megan McNeil was just 20 years old when she died on January 28, 2011, surrounded by family and friends. She had been battling Adrenalcortical Carcinoma, a type of Adrenal cancer, since she was 16.”

Along with Megan, every child singing on this video “The Will To Survive” is battling cancer.

You can read more of Megan’s story here.

Stories like this make me pause and appreciate my health and the health of my loved ones.

Posted in Thankful

Thankful Thursday – Post 15

Every time we remember to say “thank you”, we experience nothing less than heaven on earth. – Sarah Ban Breathnach

I am thankful for:

  • A chance to connect with my neighbors at our neighborhood bookclub.
  • A day spent in New York City – though I would have appreciated some warmer temps. (it was windy and in the 30’s) So I am also thankful for warm restaurants, museums and stores.
  • Eyes to see a cool view like the picture above.
  • A great conversation with a relatively new friend — we’re more alike than I realized (which could mean we are both slightly crazy)
  • This book trailer … for a book by Rob Bell that comes out in a month.
  • The yoga class I started two weeks ago … the instructor is good and my body so needs the stretching.
  • Reconnecting with an old friend this week.
  • A husband that loads the dishwasher when he sees the sink piled high with dishes.
  • A fun trip down memory lane as I wrote a post about some of the books that have impacted me.

Pause. Take a deep breath. Think about what you are thankful for. Then finish this sentence, I am thankful for …

Who Wants to be Pond-Scum or A Worm?

I’ve been bothered by a certain theology since I studied the stars as a teen trying to figure life out. The idea that God is love, yet humans are worthless. The idea that God created us in his image … and yet we are not good.


He created us like we are … we didn’t. Yet we are the problem? We are useless wretches? We didn’t ask to be created like this.

green pond scumphoto © 2009 Phoenix Wolf-Ray | more info (via: Wylio)


Rachel Held Evans calls it “pond-scum theology” in her book, Evolving in Monkey Town. She describes it as “the premise that humans have no intrinsic value or claim to salvation because their sin nature makes them so thoroughly disgusting and offensive to God that he is under no obligation to pay them any mind.”

The should-have-been-burned sermon “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God” by Jonathan Edwards strongly influenced this theology. Many people think that sermon is excellent, yet the main idea is that God is angry and has no problem hurting the very beings he created.

Really? How does this reconcile with God being love?

Recently Elizabeth Esther wrote about a similar idea, “When you are raised with the “I am a worm” theology, it’s easy to understand God’s love as temperamental, conditional, easily revoked. In this theology, God is always turning away from us, hiding His face from us … therefore, I was never convinced God really loved me.”

I’ve lived with pond-scum and worm theology. I had started to take steps away from that, but for a time after my accident, I defaulted back to believing those damaging theologies. I wondered about God’s love … because obviously I was not good and he was disgusted with me. It was the most depressing time of my life.

Along with Esther and Rachel, I now question those theologies. There might be a few Bible verses that can be taken out of context and appear to support such a theology, but it doesn’t flow with the overall idea of unconditional love.

With time, counsel and mediating, especially outdoors in the beauty of nature, I’ve come to believe in unconditional love and the goodness of all humanity … everyone of us. I quit viewing God as disgusted with me (and he didn’t cause my injuries either, but that’s another post) and though I still study the stars looking for answers, I’ve found hope again.

I see creativity in humans as a small mirror of God’s creativity — after all, aren’t we made in his image? If humans generally do not set out to create things that they dislike … then why would God create something that he dislikes?

If curious what else Evolving in Monkey Town addresses, order a copy here.
And read a review and a 2-part interview I did with Rachel
here and here

Books, Books and More Books

I’ve been friends with books since I began reading under the covers as a young girl. I read to escape, for entertainment and to learn.

Ivy reads in bedphoto © 2006 Richard Masoner | more info (via: Wylio)


Fairly early in life, I began having questions about the connection between the divine and humanity, so I began searching through the Bible for answers. I used to think by the time I was middle-aged, I’d have it all figured out.

Did. Not. Happen.

Over the past few years, my questions have escalated and along with the Bible, I read many books about what others believe and how they do life. We start where we are, so most of the books I read were from the circles I was in.

Between continuing questions and two sons in college, my selection is expanding again. But this past weekend I took a trip down memory lane, by spending time going through my bookcase. Reminiscing about the books that have broaden my horizons, taught me and given me hope over the past few years.

I wrote a post about how some of these books affected me for a guest post over at Andi Lit today. Go read how Bell, Evans, Miller, Tolle, Yancey, Young and many others helped me process life.

Any book suggestions … for fun, for entertainment or to learn more about the connection between the divine and humanity?

Guest Posts this year
Guest Post #1 at Shawn Smucker
Guest Post #2 at Andi Lit
Posted in Body

This Post May Not Be For You

Have you ever thought about running … or do you laugh at the idea of it? Does putting one foot in front of the other for more than a dash to the car during a thunderstorm sound absurd to you?

Then this post may not be for you.

Sunset Runnerphoto © 2009 Josh Janssen | more info (via: Wylio)


Unless that laughter is a coverup … and you do think it would be cool to be able to do a few miles, but you don’t know if you can run, so the laugh is covering up your insecurity. (a common human occurrence)

Anyone that can walk, can run … not that everyone has to, but if you want to, I think you can. Just ask Ida. Ida started running at age 67 and is still running today at age 95.

Below is information that can help you start running. There is no magic, you will not be running two miles tomorrow … but you could be starting a practice that is healthy and might bring you some amazing moments.

What is stopping you from running? The hard work? Are you really scared of hard work? Don’t you already work hard at your job, your parenting and/or cleaning your house?

The too-often repeated information about it hurting your knees? Research shows that it is not accurate. Yes, some runners do have knee issues … but so do other people. It’s a human problem, not a runner’s problem.

To begin running, follow these steps

You need a watch or cell phone. Wear clothes compatible with the weather and comfortable sneakers. You don’t need expensive running sneakers … any sneakers will work to start. (there goes that excuse)

Walk for ten minutes at a comfortable pace … not a stroll, but not a killer pace either. You are warming up your feet, legs, hips and lungs. Inhale, exhale, relax … take a few deep intentional breaths every minute. Then follow the schedule* below. Run at a comfortable pace, not a sprint. You will hate running if you try to sprint, even for 1 minute.

Monday – Run 1 min, Walk 2 min, Repeat 5x

Tuesday – Walk easy, 30 min

Wednesday – Run 1 min, Walk 2 min, Repeat 7x

Thursday – Walk easy, 30 min

Friday – Rest day

Saturday – Run 1 min, Walk 2 min, Repeat 10x

Sunday – Rest day

If Saturdays are too busy, switch the Saturday and Sunday schedule. If a 5-day workout schedule overwhelms you … any walking, whether grocery shopping, work or chasing toddlers, can count as the 30 minute walk on Tuesday and Thursday. (there goes that excuse)

Repeat this schedule for a week or two or three … then you’ll be ready for the next step. Happy Running! When you are ready for the next phase, leave a comment or email me at JanetOberholtzer@gmail.com.

So, if you wish you were a runner, but aren’t … what’s your excuse?

*adapted from this article.

Sunday Sayings – Time

For some reason, how I spend my time is on my mind today …

All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us. – J. R. R. Tolkien

Time Fliesphoto © 2010 Hartwig HKD | more info (via: Wylio)


Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma – which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of other’s opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary. – Steve Jobs

What do you think … do you agree with these sayings?

Posted in Thinking

A TED Talk – Personal Robots

I like the idea of an organized house … you know, a place for everything and everything in it’s place. The problem is, I like the idea of it, but I don’t like actually doing it.

That why I love this TED talk about personal robots … because that means maybe someday I can have a robot walking behind me all day putting everything back where it belongs. Who cool would that be?

The Rise of Personal Robots by Cynthia Breazeal

What do you think? Is this cool? I love the “grandmabot.” Or scary? Could they eventually take over our lives? Would that be good? Or bad?

Thankful Thursday – Post 14

Be thankful for what you have; you’ll end up having more. If you concentrate on what you don’t have, you will never, ever have enough. – Mother Theresa

New Year's wishesphoto © 2010 Cheryl | more info (via: Wylio)


I am thankful … for opportunities to learn, for what I can do and for what I have.

I am thankful … that my body is cooperating and half-marathon training is going well. (This thanks sounds like a broken record, but rarely a day goes by that I’m not thankful that my body is doing as well as it is)

I am thankful … that I attended an Inter-religious Dialogue on a cold night last week when I felt like staying home. Very informational.

I am thankful … that I hit send. My memoir is again in the hands of the talented Alice Sullivan. She reviewed it a few months ago, then I cried/edited/cursed/edited/rewrote/prayed/edited and sent it back again. Now I will forget about it (ha!) until she sends her second review.

I am thankful … for everything I have! Home, food and a comfortable recliner. A group of friends and I feed the men at Hope Rescue Mission last night. Every time I do this, I am reminded of how much I have.

Kathy (on far right) was always serving … her hand is blurry in each picture I took. Way to go Kathy! And Janelle, Bev, Shelly and (not pictured) Kim, Beverly, Jerry, Terry, Marks, teens and kids.

Your turn to finish this sentence, I am thankful for …

Posted in series,

An Inter-religious Dialogue – Part 3

I arrived early for the Inter-religious Dialogue. I tend to do that when going to a new place for an unfamiliar  event. When I’m rushed, it’s hard to be comfortable in new situations. A Catholic Sister welcomed me at the conference center and a Muslim woman handed me a program as I entered.

I knew I was in a good place when I saw tulips (spring is coming!) I browsed along the interesting displays from each faith community … a display with their sacred texts and other things important to their religion. At first, I felt like a nosey tourist taking pictures. As I stood there debating whether I should or shouldn’t, I must have looked confused (imagine that) A Jewish man walking by said, “Feel free to take pictures.”

The displays helped me be familiar with the books the well-spoken panelists, a Rabbi, a Priest and an Iman, mentioned as they described their sacred texts. A teen that was there was impressed. Erin said,  They presented their texts in a very easy to understand way, even though many of us were unfamiliar with them.”

Discussion was followed by a break and then a Q & A time. The moderator selected questions from notecards people handed in during the break. The questions were varied and answered well. I loved it! The only complaint I have about the Q & A was that it was too short and I’m not alone in that assessment. Erin said the same, as did Jamar, a young man that attended. He said, “That was interesting … I would have liked to hear more questions.”

Though there were many notecards the moderator didn’t get to, she did her job well and ended the evening on time, Plus, ending an event with people still wanting more can be a good thing … then they’ll want to come back for more.

The evening was closed by Mr. Elsayed Elmarzouky. Before he prayed, he thanked everyone for coming (overflowing crowd of about 300) and he mentioned that maybe for the next event, they’ll need to reserve the local arena.

Erin’s words about the evening echo exactly what I’ve been thinking … “If more people could hear talks like this, there would be MUCH less hatred between religions. I wish more people would come to functions like this. Although Mr. Elmarzouky was joking, I would be ecstatic if we could fill the Sovereign Center with people for something like this.”

Great event … thanks, A Common Heart! Looking forward to the next one.

My favorite line of the evening was a thought by Rabbi Michelson … “If we would all follow God as we chose and allow everyone else to do the same … the world would have more peace.”

An Inter-religious Dialogue – Discussion of Sacred Texts Part 1
An Inter-religious Dialogue – Questions and Answers Part 2