Friday, March 20, 2009

Dreams, Goals, & Oceanic Plateaus

Where did the month go?
I have wavered between total hopelessness and total hopefulness all month.

On the one hand is the resolve to “do it all”; make my dreams a reality, setting and sticking to my Goals and Plans, writing everything I want to write, traveling to all of the places I want to travel, sticking to one thing and doing it well, creating breakthrough for myself and everyone around me.

On the other hand, I want to escape into my musing with the Lord. I want to let Him tell me my dreams, let him reveal my plans and goals as I go, write only when the inspiration sets into me, travel only when the way is paved for me, sticking to whatever is before me that particular day, living in monotony while everyone around me seems to be experiencing life to the full.

These things split my energy, personality, and vitality in two. Suffice it to say that I am feeling overwhelmed and incapable.

Several nights this month I had consulted a few people in ways that turned their life around. I spoke with Stephanie, Brigitte, and Steven. All three were greatly relieved to hear what I told them. They all commented time and again on how helpful and encouraging the information is.

Then, I look at my life and I get down. I look at my financial situation, and I sigh in my spirit. The moment I realize that I am depressed by looking at my finances, I recognize that I am getting some degree of significance or security, some sort of ego needs met, by my financial position. And quickly I realize it is wrong. I push myself into a state of mind where I get my security from where God has me.

However, I have yet to resolve the fact that lack of finances depresses me because I feel unable to accomplish the things which God has put into my heart to do and create. In that instance, I also realize that one of my beliefs is that wherever you are, God has placed you there for a specific purpose. My mind is thus aswirl at least 16 hrs a day.

“I am where God has me.”
“I am unsure that I will survive where God has me; financially.”
“Why am I holding onto survival? What happened to death to self?”
“I started wanting things and so highly valued my 'survival' when I started writing down dreams and visions, and trying to create the dream list.”

And, round and round the cognitive dissonance wheel goes.

However, I should take the advice I have given both Brigitte and Steve. Goal lists and plans should never be attached to a sense of identity; it should never be attached to our sense of security and significance. (This is far easier said than done.)

One can do this by choosing to see themselves as God sees them. They can get security and significance knowing the truth about themselves which God has placed in them. This, too, is far easier said than done.

My own human experiment testifies to this intense struggle for those who wish for nothing but unadulterated truth, as seen in the dilemma that opened this entry.

The real world around us begs us to gauge our self-worth and value by our accomplishments, our level of success. This tangibility is hard to contend with.

I DO believe it is possible to get total security and significance from God. I have seen it only rarely, but I have met and seen individuals who have been able to, more often than not, obtain total significance and security (which I also refer to as ego needs) from God. Namely Terry and Donna Kruse, as long as I have known them, have, for the most part, lived a life that was disconnected from the world's standards.

This I have, however rarely, brushed up against. First my trip to Spain, then the subsequent educational trip around the world, Semester-at-Sea, as well as my having moved to Lakeland, all stemmed from intense times of being totally submitted to internally collapsing all infrastructures of ego needs being met by anything other than fellowship with God. This process I have known as death to self or death to flesh.

This has been the result of a prayer I prayed long ago, which has led to my many seasons of lows (resulting from my cognitive dissonance between what my ego wanted and what God wanted in those seasons.) Almost 7 years ago I sought that God would show me how to die to my flesh and run into the deeper things of God.

Over the years since, like the trials of Hercules, I have faced the different mechanisms of man to feel a sense of control over one's life. From accomplishments such as traveling the world to being the only person in the room who insisted on self-education to being the unique fellow who could trounce people theologically, or to be the Christian who swore because of his sense of grace, or poverty, or prosperity, or an impressive resume; the places where we can shop for feeding our ego monster are infinite.

As an example, I am currently jousting with Goals and the Envisioning/Planning Process. We now know that doing dream boards, writing goals and plans, speaking of visions and even implementing them can cause us to be in very positive “states”. These “states” are merely moments where we have programmed ourselves, like Pavlov's dog, to have endorphins release into our brain and make us feel good.

I do not mean to sound negative on this point. Quite the opposite. It is for this very reason that I still hold strongly to doing the activities listed above and recommend them to clients and friends as I do them myself. These activities have brought me out of doldrums quite often enough to say that they are priceless and, barring someone walking in the truly deeper things of God and the miraculous, should not be quickly done away with.

However, how easy it is to fall into using Goal Setting as a means of obtaining ego and reviving the flesh!

Do you realize how few people write out a Top 100 list? I would be shocked to find if it was more than 1 in a thousand!

Do you realize how few people, of those 1 in 1000, categorize that Top 100 list, put it into a 5 year goal list, and narrow it down to a 1 year goal list, and even begin any of the goals?? 1 in 100 of those at best!

And, can you fathom how many of either groups wind up obtaining some level of significance or security from them? Nearly all, I would venture.

Now, perhaps this is only my struggle. I would not be completely surprised to find that I simply have the weakest will in the bunch. Of this I have very little doubt. Goal setting is valuable; but it need be only a tool, not a source of life.

Should you be one who ventures to read this and have a resolution on walking out a life of total submission to God and still be able to not only write out but implement Goal setting and plans and vision, I would beg that you do share your secret with me. I do not want secrets you read in a book, but that which you have gained by experience.

I found possibly one example from reading the autobiography of Ghandi. He came a point where he wrestled with whether or not one should have any possessions in the pursuit of truth. He even assessed whether or not he should keep his books. In time he drew on his law background and concluded that he was merely a 'trustee' to the things he had. His books, his family, his money was not actually his; he was trustee and steward over these things entrusted to him by God.

This example has been of some value to me. Now I need only to apply it!

Coming back to the point, this period of time in my life has been hugely valuable as I face the depth of my ego needs, like standing underwater on the edge of an oceanic plateau, looking into the depth of the abyss, dark and limitless. I often feel overwhelmed by the currents of the tangible world, but this unseen gravitational force pulls me deeper and deeper. The more I sound the depths of my soul, the more I realize my frailty; and yet the more I yield to knowing Him, knowing truth. Like thousands of pounds of atmospheric pressure on every square inch of my skin, I feel that I can neither move nor stand still. So, I yield and let the currents and gravity pull me where it may.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Latest Haiti Trip Overview

I hope you all are doing well. We have finally settled back in since returning from Haiti and I wanted to give you a report on an amazing trip!

Our Goal

As you may know, the primary goal of the trip was to establish a long-term partnership between The Crossing Church (Clermont, FL) with The Kensckoff Church (Haiti).

The leaders and people of these two churches will create projects that are implemented throughout the year. This will include group trips for construction, training and education, economic planning and meeting basic physical needs.

Needless to say, this trip represented a HUGE step forward for CPI and our partner communities in Haiti. This is the model we want to replicate over and over again – connecting people and organizations to meaningful work in Haiti.

The Crossing Church was represented by Kendal (Pastor), Deb and Sharon. We could not have asked for a better group of people for our first partnership. Kendal has a huge heart and a keen sense for missions work. Deb and Sharon (both grandmothers) were flexible, optimistic, full of energy, fun-loving and committed to this mission.

An Amazing Welcome!

We spent most of our time with the people at the Kensckoff Church. Kensckoff is located south of Port-au-Prince, high up in the mountains. The drive (one way) was about 2 ½ hours on the most absurd roads you can imagine. We delivered the food and school supplies to a group of about 35 adults and 50 children.

When we got out of our vehicles and began the climb up the dirt trail to the church building, we could hear the beautiful sound of children singing. As we rounded the last section of the pathway, we could see the origin of this angelic sound. On the dirty porch of a dilapidated building stood over 40 children, dressed in their school uniforms, singing and smiling with an unmatched enthusiasm.

They were welcoming out team and had been awaiting our arrival. The sights and sounds cannot be communicated through words – you will have to join us on our next trip!

They Were Overwhelmed

Over the few days we were there, we shared meals, played with the children, taught each other how to speak the others’ language (English & Creole), and simply took it all in. We walked around the village area looking at the tiny plots of land that were being farmed.

We were given a tour of a make-shift house owned by Milot and his family. Milot is one of the church leaders and a farmer. His home was made out of wood, some concrete block, and a tin roof. His bathroom (the only one we could find) was a pit latrine off the back of his property.

The entire village had a contagious warmth and hospitality. They were overwhelmed that people like you and me cared enough to come find them up in what they consider to be a forgettable, insignificant place in a huge world.

The Leaders Meet

On the last day in Kensckoff we arranged to share a meal with the leaders from both churches. The women of the church had cooked an amazing meal (rice, beans, green peppers, and chicken fried in coconut oil) over an open fire. We sat in their church building (a block building about 10ft x 20ft) and shared a meal.

In that tiny room, over rickety tables and delicious food, a meaningful partnership was established between The Crossing Church and The Kensckoff Church. They asked questions of one another and dreamed together about how they could bring the love of Christ to that community in a more powerful way.

The ideas covered everything from providing Bibles in Creole to optimizing farming practices to starting a medical clinic. A stake of commitment and potential was driven into the ground that day in Kensckoff Haiti.

A Bright Future

As our plane lifted off the runway and we began to ascend high above the mountains of Haiti, I realized the significance of what took place over those few days. As a result of our efforts, the people of The Crossing Church will spend the next several years working with the Kensckoff Church to forever change their community.

The people in that area will come to know the love of God as children are educated, the sick are treated, the hungry are fed, agriculture and economy are improved, and the dignity of people made in the image of God is restored. I am meeting with Kendal next week to plan a work trip for The Crossing Church this Summer. They raised $4K to build a new building in Kensckoff that will be constructed over the next few months.

Thank YOU!

I wanted to personally say thank you for your donations and your support of this trip. I know Haiti may seem like a distant country and the devastation beyond recovery, but you touched people in that village and are helping us prove that change is possible!

We will be sending out an abbreviated report with some pictures to all of our friends in a few days, but I wanted to get this out to you right away.

Thanks Again for Your Support,

Grant Nieddu
CPI Team Leader