NOOMA Resources


With Rob Bell

10-14 minutes

Connect Real Truth to Real Life

Study Guide Included

These modern parables hit issues all the way from who God is,

to how to cope when you don’t know what he’s doing.

They’re Relevant-They’re Real

RAIN-Things don't always work out the way we want them to, or the way we think they will. Sometimes we don't even see it coming. We get hit with some form of pain out of nowhere leaving us feeling desperate and helpless. But that's the way life is. Still, it makes us wonder how God can let these things happen to us. How God can just stand by and watch us suffer. Where is God when it really hurts? Maybe God is actually closer to us than we think. Maybe it's when we're in these situations, where everything seems to be falling apart, that God gets an opportunity to remind us of how much He really loves us.

FLAME-I love those shoes. Really?  The same way I love my wife? What's up with the word "love"?  It doesn't have much meaning when we use it so loosely.  Maybe we don't really get it.  Maybe we don't understand what real love is.  What it involves to really love somebody.  What it means to give yourself to someone else. We mistake things like friendship, commitment, or lust for love, but God wired us a certain way to experience all that love was really meant to be.  Not to hold us back or to make us miss out on the best that life has to offer.  God created love, and wants us to feel it all in the ways it's meant to be felt.

TREES-We want to know why we are here.  If our lives really matter. How our religion is relevant to this life.  We want to understand what significance this minute, hour, week, month, and year has to our lives.  To our world.  We need a God who cares about this life, in this world, right now.  We want to understand why everything we think, everything we say, and everything we do matters.  We don't want to just sit back and wait for something to happen or someday to come.  We want to know if all the choices we make now will shape our world and lives for eternity.  Because we want our lives to have meaning today, and our lives today to have meaning forever.

SUNDAY-Why do we do things we do? Why do we go to church or give money away? Because we're supposed to or because we think God needs it? Do we honestly put on our best clothes on for an hour once a week, stand and sit at all the right times, and sing all the appropriate songs for God's sake, or because it'll make us look better to the world around us? We're tired of all the empty rituals and routines. And so is God. God hates it when we call ourselves Christians but ignore all the things He really cares about. He hates it when we go through hollow religious routines out of some feeling of duty or obligation. God doesn't want the meaningless rituals. God wants our hearts.

NOISE-Why is silence so hard to deal with? Why is it so much easier for us to live our lives with a lot of things going on all the time than to just be in silence? We're constantly surrounded by "voices" that are influencing us on how to think, feel, and behave. Movies, music, TV, internet, cell phones, and a never-ending barrage of advertising. There's always something going on, always noise in our lives, but maybe there's a connection between the amount of noise in our lives and our inability to hear God. If God sometimes feels distant to us, maybe it's not because he's not talking to us, but simply because we aren't really listening.

KICKBALL-We always think we know what's missing from our lives in order to really make us happy, don't we? If only I had that car, or that job, or if only I could lose those 15 lbs, then I'd be happy. Really? How often do we want something only to find out that it wasn't that great after all? Sometimes we ask God for things and if He doesn't deliver right away, we start questioning whether God really understands or even cares. Do we really trust God? Do we trust that God is good and sees a bigger picture than we ever could? It's easy to want what's right in front of us, but maybe God knows what's better for us, and sometimes we just can't see it.

LUGGAGE-Maybe a friend turned their back on you.  Maybe someone you loved betrayed you.  We all have wounds and we end up carrying around these things that people have done to us for weeks, months, and sometimes even years.  It isn't always easy to forgive these people and after a while these hurts can get really heavy.  So the only way to feel better seems to be somehow getting back the people who hurt us, to get revenge.  But does revenge ever truly satisfy?  Maybe forgiveness isn't something you do for someone else to let them off the hook.  Maybe forgiveness is about you.  God didn't create you to carry these wounds around.  God created you to be free.

DUST-Believing in God is important, but what about God believing in us?  Believing that we can actually be the kind of people we were meant to be.  People of love, compassion, peace, forgiveness, and hope.  People who try to do the right thing all of the time.  Who act on endless opportunities around us every day for good, beauty, and truth.  It's easy for us to sometimes get down on ourselves.  To feel "not good enough" or feel like we don't have what it takes.  But maybe if we had more insight into the culture that Jesus grew up in and some of the radical things he did, we'd understand the faith that God has in all of us.

BULLHORN-God loves everyone, so a Christian should, too. In fact, Jesus said that the most important thing in life is to love God with everything we've got and love others the same way. But it's not always easy to love everyone around us, is it? Sometimes we strongly disagree with other people's political views, religious beliefs, behaviors or something else, and it makes it hard to love them when we feel like we're right and they're very wrong. But Jesus doesn't separate loving God and loving others. So maybe that best way for us to show our love for God is actually by loving other people no matter how hard it sometimes is. Maybe it's the only way.

LUMP-A lot of us have done things in our lives that we are ashamed of.  Some are small things, and some of us have really big and devastating things.  Some of us even have things that people close to us don't know about.  Personal junk that we keep to ourselves so we don't have to deal with it.  Because we don't know how to deal with it, do we?  We're afraid that if we try it's just going to make everything worse.  But no matter how big our junk is, no matter how much what we've done has impacted the way other people feel about us or how we feel about ourselves, it hasn't changed how God feels about us.  God loves us, he always has and he always will, and there's nothing we can do to change that.

RHYTHM-What does it mean to have a relationship with God?  What does it look like?  For a lot of us it's a hard thing to fully understand.  If God is an infinite spirit with no shape or form, how can we possibly relate to that?  And what about Jesus?  He said he came to give everyone life in its fullest.  He came to show us how to live.  Maybe it's through trusting Jesus and living the kind of life he taught us to live-a life of truth, love, justice, compassion, forgiveness, and sacrifice-that we have a relationship with God.  Maybe the way we live every day, every single choice we make, determines how in tune with God we are.

MATTHEW-Suffering the loss of someone we love can be the most difficult thing in life to deal with.  One moment we have them and the next they're gone.  What are we supposed to do?  How are we supposed to feel?  The truth is, there's no certain way we're "supposed" to feel.  Whatever we're feeling, it's okay.  It's okay to feel shock, anger, denial, or whatever we may feel.  It's okay.  And if we don't feel anything at all, that's okay too.  It's okay to have no answers and no explanations.  Because sometimes all the reasoning and comforting in the world just aren't what we need.  What might help us, however, is to understand how Jesus dealt with this kind of loss.

RICH-There's a popular bumper sticker that reads "God Bless America," but hasn't America already been blessed?  It's easy for us to fall into the mindset of viewing "our" world as "the" world, because it's all we generally see. We’re constantly bombarded with images of the latest styles of everything, and it’s easy for us to feel like what we have isn't enough because we see people that have even more than us.  But how does what we have compare to what most people in the world have?  Maybe what we have is enough; maybe it's more than enough.  Maybe  God has blessed us with everything we have so we can bless and give to others.

BREATHE-With everything that we've got going on every day, how many of us ever think about our breathing?  Yet, for thousands of years, people have understood our physical breath is a picture of deeper spiritual reality.  In the Bible the word for "breath" is the same as the word for "spirit."  There's an inherent dilemma at the core of what makes us human.  We've all been created in the image of God and possess immense power and strength.  And at the same time our lives are incredibly vulnerable and fragile.  Maybe if we had more insight into the meaning of breathing, we would better understand how God created us as human beings.

YOU-Have you ever thought about what makes your faith special?  Do you believe that the act of Jesus rising from the dead is what makes the Christian faith unique?  Many people often debate the central claims of the Christian faith.  But maybe a better understanding of the history of the early Christian movement would give new perspective to these discussions.

STORE-We all get angry from time to time-some of us more than others.  For some of us, we're constantly on the brink of losing it, where it doesn't take much to get angry about anything.  And this kind of anger can be seen everywhere we go-at work, in traffic, at the store, at home.  But, what is really at the root?  Anger is often looked at as a bad thing, but are there things actually worth getting angry about?  Maybe if we had a better understanding of our anger and where it comes from, we could learn how to channel it towards something constructive-something that's bigger than ourselves.

TODAY-How much time and energy do we spend wishing things were how they used to be?  We often think about times in our past when things were different and want our lives to be like that again.  Some of us have even come to believe that our best days may actually be behind us.  But if we're in some way hung up on the past, what does that mean for our lives now?  How are we and those around us affected if we are not fully present?  If we're longing for the way things used to be, what does that really say about our understanding and appreciation of our lives today?  Maybe we need to learn to embrace our past for what it is, in order to live our lives to the fullest, right here, right now.

NAME-We all compare ourselves to others.  We spend our lives wondering what others think and say about us.  Why are we so concerned with what other people think, say, or look like.  Maybe if we really knew our true selves, we wouldn't give so much attention to other peoples' lives and live more in tune with the life God wants for us.

OPEN-Does God answer prayer?  Sometimes, but not all the time?  Or does God always answer prayer and it's just that sometimes God says no?  Why did he answer their prayer and not ours?  What if there's more to prayer than just God listening and answering?  Maybe if we understood how Jesus prayed, our concepts and expectations of prayer would change.

SHELLS-Do you often find yourself saying, "I'm too busy" or "I just have so much to do?"  What are we really doing with our time?  Most of us find it hard to say no.  We feel obligated.  There are so many good things to do.  But, while we're busy doing all these good things, are we missing out on something great?  Maybe saying no would be easier if we knew what it meant to say yes.

SHE-We didn't have anything to do with our birth.  We are all here because some woman somewhere gave us life.  Her pain, her effort, for our life.  And when a mother gives like that to a child, she is showing us what God is like.  But sometimes this part of God's nature is overlooked.  A lot of us are comfortable with male imagery for God.  But what about female imagery for God?  Is God limited to a gender?  Or does God transcend and yet include what we know as male and female?  Maybe if we were more aware of the feminine imagery for God we would have a better understanding of who God is and what God is like.

TOMATO-We all get consumed with ourselves; sometimes we’re not even aware of it.  We learn from a young age that life is about winning and impressing.  We pick up that our worth and value come from how good, how smart, how skilled we are. So, we twist things in our favor, making it look like we have it all together.  Everyday we have the choice to prop up these false ideas about ourselves or to let go of them. Jesus invites these parts of us to die, the parts of us that tell us our worth comes from the things we say and do.  Maybe it’s only when we let these things die, that we truly begin to live.

CORNER-Why is it that often when we get what we want, we still feel empty?  We work so hard to succeed, but our lives end up becoming more about us.  Can success turn on us?  Can we get caught up in a smaller world where our lives are all about the things we want? Or is there another way to live?  Where life is about more than just us.  Where we see people in need and we do something about it.  Where our world is expanding because we are sharing our success.  And maybe in attempting to save someone else from their suffering, we find out that we are actually the ones being saved.

WHIRLWIND-A lot of us have gone through times in our lives that are difficult.  Some have been small and hard to understand and some have been big and overwhelming.  During these times we want answers, don't we?  We want to know why.  Why do we have to suffer?  Why do bad things happen to good people?  We just want someone to make sense of it all.  But we don't always get the answers, do we?  Sometimes we are left wondering.  And those can be some of the most difficult times.  Maybe there are times we need to be released from having to have all the answers.  And maybe its when we are released that we are able to see there may be more going on here than we realize.