Sunday, August 29, 2010

The Sinkhole and the Mountain, Part Two

You have to think differently.

"Sinkhole Thinking" (organizing yourself around your anxieties) is consuming your time, cloaking your options, and limiting your availability to God's highest and best. It harnesses you to a fear-based life and limits your imagination.

You have to think differently. But how?

Four things are required if you want to change the way you think:

* Grace
* Mental Discipline
* A Compelling Vision or Purpose
* Close Relationships With "Mountaineers"
(those who organize themselves around God-given vision, purpose and imagination)

The problem with many would-be mountaineers is that they have only taken on one, two or three of these required components when all four are actually necessary.

Beginning with this e-newsletter, we will examine these four components more closely.


In my book, "How Healed Do You Want to Be?", I describe grace as "holy electricity". This is so you can remember that grace is an active power that surges through your life through faith in Christ. It is the divine power to create change in anything it touches. It is the "juice" we need to scale mountains - and you cannot conjure it up yourself. You must get it through direct contact with God's Holy Spirit.

Often, the side of grace that represents God's mercy (His kindness and compassion) is presented as the whole picture. But grace is not only mercy, but power:

"But by the grace of God I am what I am," wrote the Apostle Paul, "and His grace to me was not without effect. No, I worked harder than all of them -- yet not I, but the grace of God that was with me" (I Corinthians 15:10).

Praying Gracefully

Many of our prayers do not treat grace in this manner. "God give me the grace to get through this" is not a bad or wrong prayer, but if we think of grace only in terms of the power to "get through stuff" we betray the fact that we are still organized around avoiding what we fear.

When we tap into the electric side of grace, we find ourselves praying Mountaineer prayers:

"Lord, rock my world! Shatter the limits, O God, and fill my limbs, my heart and my mind with divine energy to grip the side of the mountain of my inspired imagination and PULL UP!"

(If you remember the sound of William Wallace's rag tag army shouting and shaking their ad hoc weapons right before they charge the fully-armored English soldiers in the movie "Braveheart", you might throw a similar shout or two in here).

Sinkhole Prayers, and I have prayed thousands of them, are usually not filled with zest or hope but with resignation and pleas for survival. Fine.
But how many such prayers have you prayed compared to Mountaineer prayers that are full of vision, purpose, energy and imagination? What does that tell you about how you see God? See yourself? Frame your possibilities? Approach your day?

You have to think differently.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

The Sinkhole and the Mountain, Part One

"We saw the Nephilim (giant-sized occupants of the Promised Land) there...
We seemed like grasshoppers in our own eyes, and we looked the same to them." Numbers 13: 33

There, in front of you, is a sinkhole and a mountain.

The sinkhole represents your fears and anxieties. It is practically bottomless. You don't want to fall into it. It is dark. It is frightening. Thinking about the things that live in that sinkhole makes your heart race and your breath go shallow.

Over there is a mountain. It is majestic, rugged, challenging and inspiring. To climb it will take effort. It will take forethought and fortitude. But, man, the view from the top must be splendid!

The mountain represents your God-given hopes, your dreams, your vision and your purpose.

You have a limited amount of time. You have a limited amount of resources. You must organize your time, your resources, your ability and your energies around one of two central endeavors:

1. Avoid the sinkhole
2. Climb the mountain

Which are you organized around? One way to find out is to check your prayers.

Are they mostly "sinkhole" prayers - "Oh please, Oh please, Oh please don't let me fall into that sinkhole!! (Repeat)".

Or are they "mountain climbing" prayers - "Oh please, Oh please, Oh please let me climb that mountain by the strength and grace You provide!

Let me plant a banner at its peak that bears the words: "to the Glory of God" and let it snap in the wind as I survey the view and sing Your praise! (repeat)".

Mental Disciplines

I find that, left to myself, I can easily get focused on living an avoidant life. Sinkhole-focused, my prayers, interior conversation and daily approach to living can orbit my anxieties they way the planets orbit the sun. Bleah...

Or, by the grace of God, I can practice the mental disciplines required to re-orient myself around the mountain climb. This requires me to think differently about just about everything.

Sometimes, especially in the wee hours of the morning, I wake up, my mind racing around the sinkhole, my thoughts circling it like a ball circles a spinning roulette wheel. At those times, I have to discipline my thoughts with prayer, with Scripture, with recollections of the goodness of God and so on. Sometimes I lift my hand up into the air, fist clenched, and call on God.

I will fight "sinkhole thinking" by re-training my thoughts toward the mountain He has shown me is waiting there for me to climb:

"I will lift up my eyes to the mountains; From where shall my help come? My help comes from the LORD who made heaven and earth" (Psalm 121: 1, 2).

to be continued...

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Our New House Church Blog

If you haven't already seen it, you might enjoy a quick trip over to our new house church blog at:

We're coming up on our second year of life together as a microchurch and the blog is our place to share our perceptions and experiences as we go. I'm not the only one who will be contributing to this new blog and I look forward to hearing what others have to say.

House church / organic church / microchurch -- whatever you want to call it; there is no doubt that the appetite for alternatives to traditional church is growing. If you'd like to hear from some practitioners of alternative church who are not against "big church", give it a whirl.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Actually, Life is Like a Box of Kleenex

"There is a time for everything, and a season for every
activity under heaven..." (Ecclesiastes 3: 1)

Tom Morey (creator of the the Boogie Board) has a new invention.
His latest creation is a foam wheel that makes a surfboard easier to
transport. When reading an article about Morey and his invention
I was struck by the way he talked about his creative process. "My
inventions are like Kleenex in a box", he said. "I have to pull one
out to get to the one after that."

While Mr. Morey's description is a clever way to describe inventing
things, I believe it also paints a picture of our overall life experience.

Our lives, it seems, are not only "like a box of chocolates" (as
Forrest Gump would say). They are also like a box of Kleenex.
That's because reality has layers. Each layer consists of a
particular collection of experiences, discoveries,failures, successes, pains,
triumphs, relationships and questions that we must process. Like
Mr. Morey's Kleenex box of new ideas, each collection of
perceptions and experiences must deliver its challenges and gifts
to us before we can be thoroughly present to the next one.

This is one reason I am drawn to the biographical stories of the
Bible. Each one introduces us to the key seasons in the life of
Joseph, or Ruth, or David or Paul in a stream of mini-stories.
David, for example, has his period of herding sheep in the back
country of Judah. It is there that he learns to slay the lion and the
bear. How could he have ever guessed that those experiences would
prepare him to face Goliath at age twenty?

By applying this concept to our own lives, we might discern some
important "chapter breaks" in our own development. Each period
will somehow bear the fingerprints of God whether we were aware
of Him at the time or not. By seeking to be present to the themes,
life lessons and relationships we identify, we can better see how
the Lord used each season to prepare us for the next.

In my journal, I once noted that God had been teaching me
that everything in my life prior to any given day had the potential
to prepare me for that days challenges and opportunities. Not only
do I believe this to be true, but I also believe we cannot successfully
"skip ahead" if we are to truly grow spiritually. We will need today's
experiences to ready us for tomorrow. Understanding this not only
packs our lives with new meaning; it also helps us see why we must
pull out our experiential Kleenex tissues one at a time!

So thanks, Mr. Morey, for helping me better understand how God
is shaping my one layer at a time. And, oh yeah, thanks for
inventing the Boogie Board, too!

* * * * *
A Prayer:
"Father, life will always have its mysteries. Yet I know
that You waste none of my life experiences in working out of Your
Master Plan.

Help me to be teachable, open, humble, discerning
and available as I go through the various chapters and seasons of
my life. May Your kingdom come and Your will be done as each
layer of my life experience leads to the next one. And may all things
work to Your Greater Glory in Jesus Christ, Amen".