Saturday, May 19, 2007

Sculpted for War; Made for Action

If I fit in too well, it is disconcerting to me.

If the word or message that someone bears is always so easily accepted, it means that it is hardly challenging. I need to be challenged by the Word of God.

It needs to rub me like wet sand paper. Have you ever done stone sculpting?

First, you hammer the shape out, and it is still coarse and rough.
Then you use steel rasps to begin the smoothing process.
Then you use low-grit (really bumpy) sand paper.
Finer and finer sand paper is used until it is pretty darn smooth.

THEN you pull out wet sand paper. You place the stone under or near running water, and you scrub with a low-grit wet sand paper. That means that the sand paper is so fine that it almost feels like regular paper, with a little roughness to it. You have to rinse the wet sand paper because the dust turns into a thin, muddy layer on the paper that needs to be removed so that the paper is still effective.

Then you use finer and fine wet sand paper and the stone becomes shiny smooth.
You do this until the surface is right, then you use a smooth card board on the surface.
Then paper. Then a cloth. Then it shines on its own, without polish even!

Lost Identity

Throughout the process, you lose your fingerprints for a short time.
You can touch things with a delicate sensitivity.
You can feel every bump and texture superbly.

God's Shaping Us

That is how the Word of God should work us, but in a much quicker time frame. From rough rock, to chipped and chiseled, to coarse and bumpy, to sanded and dusty, to smooth and sensitive.

Often in the church (not always!), it is marshmallow fluff, offering Turkish delight-like tidbits that never really satisfy or fill. AND whats worse, those Turkish delights make us keep coming back for more, until eventually our entire actions reflect this starving mad child without a care for how the world is falling down around us. Most people prefer these biblical bon-bons.

Sculpted for War

I am just…made for war. I like the trenches. I like hands-on ministry. I like the unsaved person in the street. I like hanging out with the un-churched because they keep me sharp and ready to deliver a fresh word. I feel that the churches are professionally sitting in the barracks, hoping that the enemy won’t come in, while there are noble and valiant believers giving their lives on the front lines.

Passion MUST drive us. Passionate pursuit of the mission. This is my calling. This is the purpose for which I was shaped and made. Often, though, it will mean that I won't fit in.

And that's ok.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

It Happened to Me

(Originally published May 22, 2006 as a review on Amazon.)

Out of my desire to pursue the move of God, I couldn't help it: I bit the bullet train of trendiness. Having heard all the bubble-gum, trendy, counter-culture rage about this morsel, I finally decided to pick it up.

In my hand it felt like an Ace-of-Base cassette tape but went down like a banana-mint smoothie.
I am wrestling and stirred over Rob Bell's `Velvet Elvis.'

Maybe it's the coffee.
Maybe it's the white processed sugar tantalizing my A.D.D. dendrites.
Maybe it's just the time of the Lord.

I couldn't put it down last night and at the first reading am almost finished with it. It is now Monday morning and I have a literary chaffing you-know-where.

Now, I am no beatnik, turtle-neck-wearin', kumbaya-playin', adjective-stacking, relevant-church post-modernist post-er child.
I may be from Florida, but I ain't stoopid: the church is outdated, irrelevant and losing people.

There is little to no power to change, nor is there any love to guide.

The community that is relevant which Rob Bell describes offers a peripheral hint at the answer.

To which question?
Good question!

What question?
What questions??

How can I, a person called to ministry, affect change today?
I know I am called to work in the service of the Lord, but what can I offer Americana that they do not already despise?
Why is the church always 20 years behind of world?
Why is church attendance expected to drop by 50% in the next 3 years?
I want to serve, but I can't stand even attending a church.

The real question is this.
What will my church, ministry, or life look like?
The tools of man that have been handed down are outdated like using a cracker-jack decoder ring to save the Captain Planet generation from a MySpace transmutation.

I don't think the answer is The Relevant or PostModern Church, but it has to be a flesh-and-blood community that is relevant.

Why are ministries lagging?
They unplugged their TV and forsook reading the newspaper decades ago. Now, the only people they attract are others who jumped into that same time capsule.
They are the only ones who get each others jokes about Ovaltine! (Was that EVER funny?)

Why are many young adults 32 and under walking away from many Sunday services and shaking their head in befuddlement?
They are wondering what the solution is.
Truthfully, they really are wondering what the question is.

Why do I find ex-pastors wearing crocs drifting through Wal-Mart at 3 in the morning, staring through the Glade Plug-ins, their bed-head bald-spot in disarray with Cheezits and milk in the cart that shopped them through their insomnia?
Why do I have to call their name three times before they jump out of their comatose?
Why do they just spill forth with tears from their blood-shot eyes that the mission is not getting done?

Why does it chafe me when many pastors indignantly ignore rational questions like the validity of the word, the general lack of miracles in the Body, and why 90% of the service is unanointed and irrelevant? The reply "pshaaw-you've-been-studying-those-post-modernists-you-need-faith" is a NON-ANSWER.

Because it's irrelevant.
Times New Roman size 12 is out.
Arial size 10 is in.

What Rob Bell offers so progressively is a loving, cool-headed, faith-building rational hope for this new move of God.

He offers tangible answers like why I should believe the Bible as inerrant and true even though it was compiled by many stinky-cheese men over centuries of Dateline-worthy debate. Nugget after nugget after nugget like stuffing your mouth with chocolate, cashew, and caramel turtles, ignoring the cries of your mom "Gustas, save some for later!"

Why didn't I get that in Sunday school as a boy?
Felt boards and macaroni necklaces worked for a bit and Jonah was an easy book to swallow, but it is inadequate and antiquated.

The generations facing the challenges of a progressing society would like some rationale.
Not because they are demanding and need answers, but because they need to be equipped to face a world that demands rationale.

Rob Bell is, I believe, the guy in the crowd pointing to a way to get us over this critical hump.
Many of the leaders from time-gone-by have led us into HUGE and undeniable revelation, but the masses have crammed into a critical crunch where the craggy, inorganic walls caught us claustrophobically, cornered and cramped.

With a timid inquisitiveness bordering on sarcasm Rob Bell is asking "uhm...why don't we try the door?"

If I could summarize `Velvet Elvis', I would say that it is literary-opulent judo; using the forcefulness of our off-balance opinions to floor us. It is a CSI: Las Vegas aha!-moment where the cool jumpy scenes reveal that the cause of death is self-inflicted. It's a Carmen Sandiego meets Mr. Rogers meets Captain Obvious fondue pot you have GOT to dip in.

But you tell me, "cause after all, the rest is just commentary, right?"

Monday, May 14, 2007

Creativity Created the Creative

If we were created in the image of our Creator, then we are creative.

I believe that to create things, to multiply, is in our created nature. Said another way, it is our intended purpose.

Human tendency for more is tell-tale of this truth. Though it often manifests in an insatiable appetite of consumption, the fact that "more" is on the tip of our tongue I believe is a proof of this creative nature. "Go forth and multiple" bears not only a command to increase, but increase by creation.

This being the case, HOW does one create? Oh, we know how to do art, but you know that I mean something far more profound that that. Though macaroni necklaces and Sistine Chapels are awe-inspiring, I am talking about creating life. And not just baby-making folks, but creating OUR OWN LIFE. How do we create, or re-create, ourselves? How can we live the dream; our dream?

We know we want more. The ideas, the desires, are in our heads. But how do we take it out of the ether and into reality?

Well, how it manifests in its fullness is still quite a mystery to me, but I do know how to take it from the mind into reality.

WRITE IT DOWN! The act of writing our dreams is, in my opinion, the first steps of creation. Now, writing may include drawing it, but it is not just art. I believe that creating with purpose brings about the Law of Attraction to manifest that thing in its fullness.

I always recommend to people to do their "Top 100" list.
  • Write down the top 100 things you want to do, see or be. Physically, Mentally, Financially and Spiritually, make a category for each one.
  • Be sure to put that thing in the present possessive form. ('I am', 'I have', 'I earn', 'I love', 'I travel to', etc.)
  • Do this, EVEN IF IT FEELS LIKE YOU ARE LYING TO YOURSELF. You aren't. You are simply disagreeing with old belief patterns that do not align with your desire to create your life.
  • Look at it twice a day, more if possible. Memorize them if you can.
This very act of writing them down, listing them, focusing on them, makes you more aware of the serendipitous moments (divine appointments, if you will) to make those things a reality.

You will begin to see hope where you had doubt.
You will begin to see promise where you used to see discouragement.
You will be open to unexpected opportunities where you only saw obstacles.

For example, I was on my first around-the-world trip two years ago. We had set sail from Vancouver, Canada and almost immediately hit intense weather (waves in excess of 30 feet, hurricane-force winds, and temperatures of 30 degrees and colder.) I will spare you the details for when we have more time, but we were disabled by a 50 foot wave and drifted for some time. When the captain and crew so bravely corrected the situation, we had to turn to some small islands in the middle of the Pacific for repairs.

The kids were upset that they were missing South Korea and Japan (our first two stops.) Parents were outraged at the danger their children had been in. Even some of my new friends felt uneasy.

I laughed! I couldn't help it. I ran down stairs and grabbed my "Top 100" list (or my Dream Machine, as I call it.) I pointed out to them one of the major goals on this Top 100 list.

I boldly and confidently said this to them, "I believe that God wrecked this ship for me." They shook their heads in disbelief. I pointed to Top 100 goal number 43: 'I surf in Hawaii.'

We spent the next two weeks surfing on Waikiki and exploring the island of Oahu. On that same 4-month trip, I saw many of my Top 100 goals come to pass: 54) I see the stars in a different hemisphere, 23) I preach in a 3rd-world country, 63) visit the wine lands in South Africa, and 87) make friends all over the world, just to name a few.

Writing your Top 100 will tremendously help you create the dream life, the life you have always wanted. I don't know how it will manifest in its fullness, but your attention and expectation (you could even say your faith) will focus on those goals, and you will live the creative life you desire.

Saturday, May 12, 2007

The Serendipity Factor

There is another reason I love opulence: it draws Serendipity to you.

If it is true what Napoleon Hill (Think and Grow Rich), Norman Vincent Peale (The Power of Positive Thinking), and Terry Kruse (Prosperity guru) say, then you attract the most dominant thought in your mind. You attract what you are focused on.

I could not agree more. Focusing on debt makes people depressed because they see debt all the time. All they see are the bills in the mail. To use Terry Kruse's example, when we talk about the brand new Porsche model we seem to see it everywhere. (If you want more detail on this, check out the books above, or Terry's book The Law of Increase.*) This is the Serendipity Factor at work.

That being the case, when you are an optimist, you attract that which you are expecting to happen. When you look for the best in others, you will tend to find it. When you look for the good in a situation, serendipity will cause you to see it. When you expect deals to come your way, the doors will be opened.

Many disregard this as "self-psych" mysticism that just doesn't work.
To that, I bite my thumb at them and say "Yes" and "no."
"Yes", it is self-psych. When did we decide that convincing ourselves to believe in the good in others was bad? Oh, we didn't. It's called hope, people!
"No", in that self-psych DOES work to change our reality.

"Grant, I can't believe that the thoughts in our minds can change physical things."

Really? I can piss you off so bad that it makes you blush!
Fear of spiders can send someone's pulse racing when they feel it crawl across their hand.
Peaceful thoughts can slow that same pulse down.
Arousal...guys...'nuff said.

So, on a basic level thoughts can change our physical reality. This is empowered by the Serendipity Factor.

Those same thoughts can affect OTHERS. Have you ever complained so bad that you brought everyone down? Your depressing thoughts led to depressing words which led to a depressing atmosphere. What is this predictable progression: serendipity.

CUT it out! Get your thoughts positive! Think of your happy place. Tell a joke, even if you don't feel like it! You can change the atmosphere by first changing your thoughts!

"So, Grant, what IS serendipity?"

Serendipity works both for the good and the bad.
Serendipity is that untouchable power that causes 'coincidences' to be not-so-coincidental.
Example: isn't it funny that people who always say 'I am always sick!' are always sick?
Example 2: Isn't it funny that those people who always say 'I am never sick!' rarely are?

Is this act of cause and effect coincidence? Or is it predictable?
I believe it is predictable. I believe that it is so predictable that it is tangible.

The Serendipity Factor cannot be planned. It can be initiated. Serendipity cannot be quantified like a number. It can be qualified as a the pleasure one derives from its use.

Serendipity is as sure as the wind; unseen but unquestionable.
Serendipity is as strong as gravity; uncontained but possessing an exponential character.
Serendipity thrives on momentum.

How does Serendipity show itself?

First, a person believes in a thing and they attract that to themselves. For this example we will use good luck or bad luck.

Second, the individual feels that either the world is against them or that everything works in their favor. This is people identifying some greater power acting for or against them.

Finally, the consistency of such events increases in their life, SIMPLY BY RECOGNIZING THE GREATER POWER AT WORK.

They get 2 unexpected bills in the mail, or they get promoted or a raise at work.
The bad-luck person will ask "what is going on?" The good-luck person will marvel at "what is going on!"
Both are recognizing a greater power at work.
Both feel caught in its power. Both feel powerless to it.
One enjoys this fact. The other hates it.
This is serendipity.

"Grant, how can I use this amazing power?"

I believe that just by recognizing the REALITY of the Serendipity Factor, you can use it in your own life.

It all starts in the believing. You are not at the mercy of your beliefs. They don't jump into your mind and pin you to the ground and say 'believe me!' You have chosen those thoughts. You have conditioned the synaptic pathways in your mind to create that particular image.

Change the condition of your mind. Turn your mind away from that thing you do not like!

"But, Grant, I feel like I am lying to myself."

GOOD! Perhaps that temporary lie is good because you are creating a better permanent reality.
Go ahead and learn to enjoy lying to your brain, because it is coming against your desire.

Choose to align yourself with your desire!
You will be employing the Serendipity Factor in a new way.
Instead of working to draw to you the things you do not like, you will give Serendipity permission to draw to you the things you want!

Next week I will give you practical ways to recondition the mind, so check back then!

* Terry Kruse believes that serendipity is the Holy Spirit at work.