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Sample Chapter
Reality Spirituality

And on the eighth day God said, “Surprise!”

I was watching some reality TV the other day. Weird stuff. I get the impression they want me to think that I'm eavesdropping on an adventure-that it's spontaneous, unscripted, raw, real, alive. Well, Gilbert and Carol didn't raise the brightest boy, but even I'm not that gullible.

Still, it got me thinking. What would a Reality TV show look like if it was about our faith? You know, Reality Spirituality. I suppose there would be several forms of competition.

Maybe the show would open with The Parking Prayer Competition. Contestants would be deposited in large SUVs, probably white Hummers plastered with sponsorship logos, about a mile from the mall. Then they'd be given thirty seconds to pray and ask God for a really good parking place. Whoever got a spot closest to the entrance would be declared the winner.

Or maybe they'd have a Restaurant Prayer Competition. Contestants would get extra points for longest prayer and loudest volume and could earn bonus points if they got the entire clientele, including the waitstaff, to bow their heads.

I have a few other ideas as well, but it only gets worse from here. Let's just say I hope that show never makes it to TV. If you have to go on TV to prove how spiritual you are, haven't you just disproven it? Our faith is not a competition.

Yet, there's something intriguing about an aspect of this-the reality part. Wouldn't it be cool if our faith were a little more raw, a little more real, more spontaneous, unscripted, more like an adventure?

So I got this idea, not for a TV show but an experiment. A faith experiment.

Thirty Days-A three-word prayer-A trail of surprises
What if:

Every day, for thirty days, I pray and ask God to surprise me? “Surprise Me, God.” Nothing more, nothing less. Three words. Not asking for something in particular. Not giving him my list. Not presenting my agenda. Just inviting him to barge into my life in any old way he pleases-to crash into the busyness of my schedule and mess with it.

Then, what if:

Every day I record my thoughts and activities? All the twists and turns that give shape to the month. I'll look for when, where, and how God steps into my world in a practical, everyman sort of way, and then I'll transfer it all onto my hard drive. I suspect this won't be a collection of “highlight” stories (TV tales of only the positively answered prayers that seem out of context and too good to be believed), but rather a measure of “reality spirituality.” I suspect it will include stories of seemingly unanswered prayers as well. Maybe the surprise will be that on many days no sugarcoated coincidences aligned at all-the day headed south and just kept going. Maybe the surprise will be in how I handle that, or don't handle it. Maybe the surprises will be more internal than external. Maybe the sea will part, the rod will bud, and the sky will rain biscuits. Maybe not.

I have no idea what those “maybes” will look like-except that I expect they won't be what I expect. Today there is no story. But come Monday, the experiment begins. Thirty days from now I'll be done. The book of stories will have been written, assisted by the Surprise-Meister. All the “aha” moments will be in the bag; the good, the bad, and probably the odd as well.

I'm hoping it will be a tapestry that blends my physical, emotional, and spiritual worlds. I'm hoping it will feel real and honest. I'm hoping it won't feel like one of those happily-ever-after, dimple-grinned Christian tomes that smack of well-intentioned inauthenticity. I'm hoping it will look like thirty days in the life of a regular guy who embarked on a terribly irregular experiment.

I'm not exactly sure why I'm doing this, except that I feel the need to stir the pot of my personal suburban faith. Maybe this is a plea for an adrenalin shot-to-the-heart for the sake of my spiritual resuscitation. I want to see and hear strong beeps on my spiritual heart-rate-monitor. I want to live large.

I'm a little nervous. I like control, always have. This is yielding the paintbrush. It's saying, “Okay, I'll be your canvas for a month. Paint away. Any color. Any subject. Trowel, paint gun, or brush. Have at me!”

Well-here goes.

“Surprise Me, God!”

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