Pragmatic Compendium

inspiring the pragmatic practice of intimacy with Christ

speak life.

When PinkGirl and I go to Disney, we often pray and look for opportunities to “speak life” to the people God places in our path.

I wish I could say “always” instead of “often” but I can’t.

Sometimes we forget. Sometimes we are obliviously self-involved.

But not today.

1 thessalonians 5 11I posted this on facebook last night:

“I was reminded again tonight.

Everybody is ‪#‎justadifferentkindofbroken‬

Sometimes, it’s all I can do NOT to abandon “appropriate” surface conversation and take someone by the hand, lead them to a quite corner, look them in the eye, and ask, “How are you, REALLY?” and really SEE them and LISTEN to them.

PinkGirl and I are going to Magic Kingdom tomorrow. Already praying we recognize God’s prompting when he nudges us to encourage the person or people He places in our path. yeah. we know we’re weird. but we’ve almost come to terms with that. ‪
#‎seepeople‬ ‪#‎edify‬ ‪#‎loveGodloveothers‬

A friend commented: “Sometimes takes multiple conversations and kind gestures before someone will share. Trust is a big thing when you share your stuff. And you have to make sure that someone will walk through it with love and kindness.”

I responded this morning:

“I’m willing to put in the time. Since I asked God to break my heart for what breaks his, I have been amazed – and blessed – at how many times He’s equipped me to step out of my comfort zone and reach out to people – to see them and listen to them – in love, with no judgement.

In the beginning, I was blown over when someone – friend or stranger – shared something deeply personal, but now, it’s happened so many times that when I pray for God to show me who He wants me to reach out to, I already know He will.

“Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours.” Mark 11:24

I pray most of all for the Holy Spirit to nudge me, not only for the who, but the when. I also pray that He won’t let me miss the opportunity out of fear or oblivion.

Strangely, He nudges me OFTEN in a Disney waiting line. Strangers to friends in the time it takes to meet a princess.

Today, I find myself thinking I need to offer to pray for someone. Not sure if He’ll prompt me to do it, but if He does, I pray He’ll bless me with the courage and motivation to be immediately obedient.”

You are Now Entering the Mission Field

PinkGirl and I see Disney as one of our many mission fields.

Our mission is not to “save” people, but to serve people.

Our prayer is that, through whatever interaction we’ve had with them, someone might be drawn closer to Christ.

It’s not our job, it’s our prayer.

I know we risk ridicule and rejection, be we don’t hide our faith in these interactions. If the natural flow of conversation leads us to share something about our lives with someone, it’s not uncommon that we acknowledge our dependance on God and His influence on our lives.

So, if someone who wasn’t thinking about God and spiritual things before spending time with us, begins or continues to think about God and spiritual things after spending time with us, then our prayer was answered with a big YES.

Even if we never know it.

This is our Disney theme song:

(I love that the person speaking life in this video is a little blonde girl.)

October 25, 2014 Posted by | christian living, intentional living, music, peace love mickey, pinterest, pragmatic communion, prayer, status updates, youtube | , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Not by Might. Not by Power. But by My Spirit” says the Lord

In my previous blog post, practice God’s presence. forget. remember. repent. (repeat, ad infinitum), I talked about practicing the presence of God by pretending Jesus was physically present with me everywhere I went. I confessed that, despite my sincere intentions to be aware of God’s presence with me throughout my days and my moments, I chronically forgot Jesus was with me. I realized I couldn’t remember on my own.

I needed help.

I was striving – and struggling – and failing – to consistently engage in an intimate, living, dependent relationship with Christ.

Change is difficult, but I’m a firm believer in the old adage “If you always do what you’ve always done, you’ll always get what you’ve always gotten.” I knew that this intimate, living dependent relationship I so desperately wanted wasn’t going to just happen because I wished it.

It requires intention.
It requires discipline.

Intellect says you make time in your life for the things you love.
Reason says that if you want your life to change you’ll have to do something different.

So I had tried intention and discipline. With the best and strongest of intention.

No matter how “hard” I tried, consistency was elusive. To say I was frustrated would be an understatement.

And then, God reminded me of something Paul said:

“For I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate…For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out.”
Romans 7:15, 18b

solidarity, brother.

My natural inclination is to try harder. But if Paul couldn’t even do it…

My next inclination is to feel guilty about it. Is that What did Paul did? Continuing to read in Romans:

There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus…

For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit…

Those who are in the flesh cannot please God. You, however, are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if in fact the Spirit of God dwells in you.
Romans 8:1, 5, 8-9

Intention is needed, but it is not enough.
Discipline is needed, but it is never going to be enough.

Remembering that Jesus is with me everywhere I go requires a dependence on the Holy Spirit.

I could. not. do. it. on my own.

So instead of trying to remember Jesus was with me all day long, I began to pray that the Holy Spirit would remind me that Jesus was with me all day long.

Sounds like semantics, but oh, what a DIFFERENCE.

I already know the Holy Spirit dwells within me because of my relationship with Christ:

Not by might not by power by my spirit Zechariah 4 6

And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever, even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, for he dwells with you and will be in you.
John 14:16-17

But the Helper, the Holy Spirit,whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you.
John 14:26

I can’t remember on my own. I can’t do anything on my own. But the Spirit who dwells within me CAN.

Therefore he told me, “These signify the word of the LORD to Zerubbabel: ‘Not by strength and not by power, but by my Spirit,’ says the LORD who rules over all.”
Zechariah 4:6

So, I stopped “trying” to remember Jesus was with me everywhere I went and I began praying for the Holy Spirit to remind me, again and again and again, of His presence in my life.

Do I forget to ask the Holy Spirit to help me?

of course.

to be continued…

October 11, 2014 Posted by | christian living, intentional living, pinterest, pragmatic communion, pragmatic presence, prayer, youtube | , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

practice God’s presence. forget. remember. repent. (repeat, ad infinitum)

In The Risk of Discipleship Practices, the second post in this blog series on the difference Between “a Good Christian Life” and Abundant Life in Christ, I talked about Brother Lawrence, a 17th century monk, and how he practiced the presence of God, no matter where he went or what he was doing.

I decided to try it.

I failed and thats goodI failed.

chronically.

But it was okay. I wasn’t surprised. Brother Lawrence failed too. In trying to practice the presence of God, his pattern was:

practice the presence of God.
forget God.
remember God.
repent
Repeat, Buzz Lightyear style (to infinity, and beyond).

I had read about Brother Lawrence’s failings before I even began, so failure wasn’t unexpected. I wasn’t discouraged. If he couldn’t do it, I couldn’t do it. I’ve previously quoted what was said of him when he failed, but I’ll repeat it here for convenience:

[When Brother Lawrence] “had failed in his duty, he only confessed his fault, saying to God,
‘I shall never do otherwise, if You leave me to myself;
’tis You must hinder my falling,and mend what is amiss.’
That after this, he gave himself no further uneasiness about it.”

Since “just remembering” wasn’t working for me, I decided to try something a little unorthodox. I decided to pretend Jesus was physically present with me everywhere I went. He sat next to me at the kitchen table, at my desk, and on my loveseat with me when I read my Bible and wrote in my prayer journal. He leaned on the counter while I cooked dinner and loaded the dishwasher (which reminded me to thank him for providing for us). He sat in the passenger seat of my van (which reminded me to thank him for his mercy and protection) and he stood next to me when I tucked my kids into bed and said prayers with them (which reminded me to thank Him for so.many.things.).

And yes. He even hung out with me in the bathroom.

Imagining Jesus physically present with me began to make me aware that God was listening when I talked. I knew He was listening, don’t get me wrong, but most of the time, I wasn’t conscious of it. When I practiced God’s presence, I was more mindful of my thoughts, words and actions. I imagined His hand on my shoulder, pressing slightly when I began to say something unedifying. I imagined his hand at the small of my back, gently guiding me where He wanted me to go. I found myself speaking less. I found myself listening more. To other people and to the promptings of the Holy Spirit.

reminder - string on your fingerIn the beginning, this exercise was the equivalent of a spiritual string on my finger. Imagining Jesus physically next to me was a mechanism I used to remind me of God’s presence and movement in my life. I probably could have just as easily set reminder alarms on my phone to bring me back to an awareness of His presence at multiple time during the day.

But as the days passed, the spiritual string began to grow into a foundation of confidence in the promise of Joshua 1:9, that God was actually “with me wherever I go” As I became more and more aware of God’s presence, I found myself relying on Him more and on myself less. I started to see people and situations differently, through God’s greater perspective rather than through my own limited and skewed vantage point.

My chronic problem was the same one Brother Lawrence experienced. I continued to forget Jesus was with me.

I couldn’t do this on my own. I needed help.

CLICK HERE to read the next post in this series.

[I assigned this exercise as homework to the participants of a weekly Bible study I lead on discipleship. If you've never practiced the presence of God in this way this before, I encourage you to give it a try for one week. Expect to forget God. often. And check back to see what I assigned as the next week's homework assignment. Here's a hint: It has something to do with my realization that I couldn't do it by myself and needed help.]

September 30, 2014 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

doubt assumptions, ask questions, search for answers.

When I work as a computer trainer and consultant, I offer potential or new clients a free “needs analysis.” It didn’t take me long to realize that most of these clients fall into one of three categories:

1. They know exactly what they need, and they are right. They understand their situation and possibilities.
2. They know exactly what they need, and they are wrong. Their perspective is limited and/or skewed.
3. They’re not sure what they need, but they know they need help.

I’ve found a similar pattern with people who believe they are a Christian:

1. They believe they are a Christian and they are right. They have a relationship with Christ.
2. They believe they are a Christian, but they are missing a relationship with Christ.
3. They’re not sure what they believe, but they are seeking.

(And then there are those who are comfortable with where they are and aren’t seeking.)

John Wesley saw that second group of people clearly. Adam Hamilton, in his book Revival, described it this way:

“Wesley said that many who thought they were Christians seemed to be so in name only; they were almost Christians. They did not have the joy, assurance, or peace that comes from being wholly surrendered to God. They lived their lives in compromise with sin, willing to do just enough good but no more. They entertained evil, provided that it wasn’t too extreme. They did little or nothing to grow in love with God.

In what ways did faith in the church of Wesley’s day resemble the faith in our churches today? Some would suggest in a great many ways.

Wesley said there is so much more to being a Christian than simple acceptance; there is a power, love, and joy that come from walking with God. And God expects more of Christians than simply trying to not be so bad as other people.”

To say this quote resonates with me would be an understatement. I can only speak from my experience and understanding, so I’ll say it this way. When I accepted Christ at 15, He became my savior. I lived my life in the context of that relationship with Him until 2007, when He revealed to me that I was holding back. He wanted to be more than my Savior. He wanted to be the Lord of my life. He wanted me to give up my will and trust Him in every aspect of my life, with no limitations. Over the last 7 years, by the grace of God and through the equipping of the Holy Spirit, I’ve taken down the boundaries between the different aspects of my life and I’ve been striving to offer up all of me to Him. I’ve been growing into an intimate, dependent, living relationship with Christ.

Live wisely make the most of every opportunityWhile I’ve spent most of my career as a computer trainer and consultant, at my core, I’m an educator. I don’t remember a time when I didn’t have a passion to help people grow. As I myself have grown closer to Christ, the Holy Spirit has taken that passion and set it on fire. I’m determined to encourage and challenge people to intentionally examine what they believe and why they believe it. I’m determined to encourage people to doubt their assumptions, ask questions, search for answers and make informed and intentional decisions about their beliefs.

Notice the language I just used. It’s very specific. I said “decisions about their beliefs” not “decisions about God.”

My goal within any of these conversations is not to change someone’s mind.

My goal is to leave a “spiritual stone” in the shoe of everyone with whom I interact, mostly through asking questions and listening.

I fail often.

But when I have a conversation with someone who wasn’t thinking about God, and the conversation results in them thinking about God – especially long after the conversation is over – I haven’t failed. After the conversation is over, it’s up to the Holy Spirit to soften that person’s heart and open their mind as he draws them closer to Himself.

“No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him.” John 6:44a (ESV)

Relating to the three possibilities above, God has specifically planted and grown in me three distinct, compelling and persistent passions:

1. Discipleship
In addition to my own desire to be discipled, I have a passion to disciple others – to help people who have a relationship with Christ, continuously grow closer to Christ. My prayer is that God would reveal to all who know Him what he revealed to me: That He wants them to give up their will and trust Him in every aspect of their lives. That He doesn’t just want to be their Savior, He wants to be the Lord of their Life. He wants an intimate, dependent, living relationship with them.

2. Relational Evangelism
a) For the people who believe they are Christian but have never entered into a relationship with Christ, my prayer is that they would enter into that relationship. I can’t help but think of this verse:

“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. 22 On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ 23 And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’”
Matthew 7:21-2321 

b) For the people who know they aren’t Christian, but are willing to share with me what they think and feel about God and, more specifically, Jesus, I’m determined to be a safe person with whom they can voice their doubts, ask hard questions and search for answers. My prayer is that they come to faith in Christ. It’s not my job. It’s my prayer.

3. Apologetics
For people who are apathetic about God, who don’t believe in Him or flat out hate Him and all His followers, my passion is to help them set aside the baggage that so often comes from religion and help them see that the selfish behavior of some of the people who profess to be Christian is more a reflection of flawed humanity than that of a perfect God. My prayer is that they make their own personal decision about Jesus based on Jesus, and Jesus alone, rather than on their thoughts and feelings about religion and the bad behavior and beliefs of other people.

John 10:10 tells us that Christ came that we may have life, and have it abundantly, in all its fullness. Not abundant blessings or stuff. Abundant LIFE.

That’s what Biblical discipleship leads to.

Abundant Life in Christ.

CLICK HERE to read the next post in this series.

September 26, 2014 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

The Risk of Discipleship Practices.

In The Fallacy of a ‘Good Christian Life’ (the previous post in this series) I concluded with the statement:

“All in all, I spent over 40 years striving to live a good Christian life. Some of that time was before I became a Christian. Sadly, some of that time was after I became a Christian.”

Until October of 2007. That’s when God led me to two books. Sifting through hundreds of books at a rummage sale, I stumbled upon a worn copy of “The Taste of New Wine” by Keith Miller, published in 1965. Around the same time, I discovered the existence of a short, 112 page book called “The Practice of the Presence of God,” which is a compilation of documented conversations and letters written by a 17th century French monk named Brother Lawrence. As I read these two books, God revealed something I had been missing my entire life. I had never noticed I’d missed it because I never knew it even existed.

An intimate, personal relationship with a living God.

As I affirmed in my last post in this series, I had been in a relationship with Christ since I was 15 years old. It’s just that the relationship had boundaries. After reading these two books, I saw those boundaries clearly for the first time.

Keith Miller was a layperson who wrote about how he had decompartmentalized his life and began to live authentically as a follower of Christ. He took down the barriers between his professional life, his church life, his personal life – everywhere he had segmented himself in an effort to appear as the person he was expected to be in each role in his life. Most people would assume that kind of transparency would make others uncomfortable. That he would be ostracized, alienate friends and lose opportunities for career advancement. That people would be offended when he talked about what God was doing and teaching him in his life. Instead, he found that living authentically and transparently opened respectful dialogs and deepened his relationships with the people God placed in his life.

Brother Lawrence Quote time of business does not differ from time of prayerBrother Lawrence worked in the kitchen and, as the title of the book says, he “practiced the presence of God.” All the time. And by doing so, he epitomized 1 Thessalonians 5:17, which tells us to “pray without ceasing.” I had never understood that verse until I read how Brother Lawrence described it:

“The time of business does not differ with me from the time of prayer; and in the noise and clatter of my kitchen, while several persons are at the same time calling for different things, I possess God in as great tranquility as if I were on my knees.”

Keith Miller and Brother Lawrence had a kind of relationship with God that saturated their lives – their days and their moments, regardless of where they went or who they were with. They experienced an acute awareness of the presence of God in their lives, so much so that they felt like they were never alone. They had the kind of faith that fueled a continuous conversation with God as if He was a tangible person in their lives instead of some abstract entity they couldn’t see.

Once I knew that kind of relationship with God was possible, I wanted it.

I wanted it bad.

Since October of 2007, God has been teaching me and molding me into someone who is determined to pursue that kind of intimate, living, dependent relationship with Him. Over the years, I’ve adopted a number of Biblical discipleship practices which help me decompartmentalize my own life and live authentically and transparently, grounded in my intimate relationship with Him.

Through this series, I hope to share those practices with you.

But there’s a risk.

I find myself between a rock and a hard place when trying to describe core discipleship practices in a way people can absorb and carry with them unless I use short descriptors. Which can easily turn into a list. A kind of “Christian to-do list” which could, if we’re not careful, manifest itself into living “a good Christian life.”

Some might even call it a new law. In The Fallacy of a ‘Good Christian Life, the previous post in this series, I said:

“Satan is the master of distraction, getting us to focus on to-do lists and never-do lists instead of on discipleship and relationship with Christ.”

Helping Satan distract people from a relationship with Jesus is the last thing I want to do. I believe the key to preventing a lapse into a routine of checking off these practices on a to-do list lies in the reasons behind the practices, which have to be put BEFORE the descriptors – in both the explaining and in the striving to live out.

Pragmatic CommunionThat said, I’m going to introduce the 9 key Biblical discipleship practices I strive to incorporate into my daily life in my pursuit of an intimate, living, dependent relationship with Christ. These 9 discipleship practices are represented by an acrostic using the word “Pragmatic” and in a greater context, they are the foundation of what I call “Pragmatic Communion.”

Pragmatic is my word. I’ve been using it for nearly 20 years, after I read this definition in an old dictionary:

pragmatic adjective \prag-ˈma-tik\
“concerned with causes and effects or with needs and results rather than with ideas or theories.”

Pragmatic. This word fits me like a glove. I don’t want to think about how something works, I want it to work. In this context, I don’t want to think about how to grow closer to Christ, I want to grow closer to Christ.

Communion can be defined as “the sharing or exchanging of intimate thoughts and feelings.”

Since October of 2007, I’ve continued to grow in my relationship with Christ through a Pragmatic Communion with Him built on these 9 practices, which I’ll be writing about over the next few months.

Pray
Read (& Study)
Abide
Give
Meet
Accountability (Partners)
Trust
Influence
Commitment

Do I follow these practices all the time?

I wish I could say yes, but no. I don’t.

Because I’m human. And I forget God. People do it all the time. God’s chosen people forgot him. Again and again and again – and I’m no different. Brother Lawrence forgot God, but here’s what was said of him when that happened.

[When Brother Lawrence] “had failed in his duty, he only confessed his fault, saying to God,
‘I shall never do otherwise, if You leave me to myself;
’tis You must hinder my falling,and mend what is amiss.’
That after this, he gave himself no further uneasiness about it.”

That last line is my favorite. He forgot. He repented. He went back. He forgot, He repented. and he went back.

“And he gave himself no further uneasiness about it.”

CLICK HERE to read the next post in this series.

September 23, 2014 Posted by | books, christian living, pragmatic communion | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Dear Atheist, I support your right to vote, in full awareness that your feelings about God and religion influence your vote. Respectfully, A Disciple of Jesus Christ

Dear Atheist I support your right to vote Freedom of Religion

September 22, 2014 Posted by | apologetics, christian living, conversations with an atheist, pinterest | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Fallacy of a “Good Christian Life”

A few years ago, I was writing a book. The working title was “Pragmatic Practices of an Intentional Christian.” I say “was writing” because about halfway through the first draft, I had a conversation with Charlie, a long time client and friend, about my concept and my title. His immediate response?

“That’s a terrible title. Nobody’s gonna want to read that.”

Charlie does not blow rainbows. But more impactful than that little truth bomb, he said something else a few minutes later that instantly stopped me in my writing tracks.

“I live a good Christian life.”

Such a simple statement. But it hit me like a ton of bricks.

Holy epiphany, Batman! I was writing the wrong book. I had absolutely no business writing a book about my best practices for Christian living before writing about my faith in and relationship with Christ and how that relationship equips me for Christian living.

Every single pragmatic practice I’ve adopted in my life is an extension of my relationship with Christ. HE is the source and strength I depend on to help me with all the Christian living. I don’t do any of these things on my own power. Christ works through me.

This is a crucial distinction.

Christian living in and of itself is a fallacy. It’s one of Satan’s most effective lies: that we can be “good Christians.” Satan is the master of distraction, getting us to focus on to-do lists and never-do lists instead of on discipleship and relationship with Christ. When we allow and follow those distractions, Christian living becomes simultaneously more and less than what a Christ-centered life should be.

More, in the sense that Christian living has a tendency to pile so much superfluous “stuff” on top of a relationship with Christ that you’d be hard-pressed to find Christ in there anywhere.

If I’m not careful, my moments and my days can start to fill up with good moral choices, religious practices, and social service. Add a weekly Bible study and semi-regular prayer and the results can look pious from the outside, but hidden from everyone is my internal two year old, clenching my fists, stubbornly declaring my independence and staking my territory as I determinedly whisper the mantra “I can do it MYSELF!”

In the midst of all that, along with the demands of life, building a relationship with Christ can seem like one more thing I have to do – and don’t have time for. Consider the pie chart below. Each slice of pie represents something in life many of us have to attend to, with “Me” smack in the middle.

Life Pie Chart - ME Cropped

But consider this instead:

Life Pie Chart Holy Spirit Equipping Me Cropped

When I live my days – and my moments – with an awareness of the presence of the Holy Spirit in my life, it changes everything. I see things differently, from a greater – less selfish – perspective. Amazingly, I can experience peace in the middle of chaos because I’m confident that I’m not alone. When I let go of the death grip I have on the handlebars of my life and ask the Holy Spirit to guide me in my choices and equip me for all I need to do, somehow, organizing and prioritizing my responsibilities becomes…easier. Less stressful. When I have an awareness of the Holy Spirit’s presence in my life, I have more patience. Not only with others, but with myself. I find myself giving people grace – and the benefit of doubt – much more easily and more often. I’m more compassionate. More empathetic.

I don’t approach life like this because I’m striving to live as a “good Christian.” I wish I could say that I approach life like this all the time, but I can’t. I can say that when I’m overwhelmingly, undeniably aware of the presence of the Holy Spirit in my life, it transforms me. The doing becomes intuitive, stemming from the Holy Spirit indwelling in me, not from me. Left to myself, I’d still be heard muttering “I can do it myself!”

Joshua 1:9 promises me that “the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.”

My problem (and I’m betting I’m not alone) is that I forget He’s with me everywhere I go.

That’s where Christian living is less. It’s not enough. Nowhere near enough.

More and less. It’s a paradox.

John 10 10 Abundant Life 2I’m convinced Christ wants MORE from me – for me – than a good Christian life.

I spent so many years settling for living a “good Christian life” because I had never experienced – or even imagined – ABUNDANT life in Christ.

Early in my life, I believed I was a Christian, when in truth, I was deluded by the trappings of a “good Christian life” – a religious, moral, service oriented, social-minded and culturally acceptable life.

I believed Jesus is God incarnate, never really making the connection that Satan also believes it - and his awareness of this fact doesn’t mean he’s going to be hanging around in Heaven for eternity.

I believed Jesus took on all our sins, died and rose again to save us from eternal separation from God, but I didn’t realize that belief was not enough. An intentional decision needed to be made. Call it what you want; being born again, getting saved, or asking Jesus into your heart. I needed to accept this free gift of salvation.

I thought that kind of language was reserved for Jesus freaks, religious zealots and televangelists with helmet hair.

I saw Christianity more as a lifestyle and an affiliation, never as an intimate, living, dependent relationship with Jesus Christ.

At the age of 15, when I actually did make a decision to accept Christ as my Savior, I didn’t ask him to be the Lord of my life. I didn’t enter into an intimate relationship with Him.

I never even knew it was possible to experience abundant life within a never ceasing, no holds barred companionship and surrender, but instead settled for “imitating” Jesus. I saw Him as an example of how I should live, making WWJD the foundation of my decision making process and following the Bible as if it were an instruction manual.

I had a relationship with Christ, but it had boundaries.

Colossians 3 23 Work as Unto the LordI dedicated time, effort and money to serving others in the name of Jesus, but I didn’t understand that everything I do, can be “as unto the Lord” if I depend wholly on Christ to equip me – even when the work at hand wasn’t directly related to Christian service or ministry.

I didn’t understand what it meant to ask the Holy Spirit to equip me or what that looked like in “real” life.

I thought “pray without ceasing” was a lofty and unattainable goal. and would be mind-numbingly tedious and boring.

I thought people who talked about being led by the Holy Spirit were either emotional whackadoodles rationalizing self-gratifying decisions or Christian leaders to be respected and never questioned because they were more spiritually mature and devout than I could ever hope to be.

All in all, I spent over 40 years striving to live a good Christian life. Some of that time was before I became a Christian. Sadly, some of that time was after I became a Christian.

CLICK HERE to read the next post in this series.

September 20, 2014 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Happy atheists don’t care if Christians pray. They just don’t.

This morning, I followed a link in my facebook news feed to an article about a family who was praying for a loved one fighting cancer. It wasn’t the article that hit me. It was the comments. Comment. After comment. After comment. After comment.

Strongly, condescendingly and sarcastically deriding prayer.

And people who pray.

someone is wrong on the internetThe comments by this collection of seemingly unrelated anti-theists made me genuinely sad. And no, not condescendingly sad for them in a “because they don’t believe in God” kind of way. Sad because they are being so intentionally and aggressively insulting and offensive. To complete strangers. Some of those complete strangers have experienced suffering I can’t imagine. And prayer helped them get through that suffering.

At the time of this writing, there were over 250 comments on that article, a large chunk written by anti-theists.

So much time and effort to go out of their way to attack people who, when it comes right down to it, really aren’t important to them. Regardless of whether that family’s loved one lives or dies, the life of the anti-theist commenter isn’t going to be impacted in the slightest bit.

The question that comes to my mind is this: If prayer really is pointless and people who pray are really mumbling to an “invisible man in the sky,” why do these anti-theists even care? Why are they wasting time with faceless people they perceive to be so ignorant and insufferable?

I’ve intentionally been referring to these commenters as anti-theists, not atheists. There’s a difference between someone who doesn’t believe in God and someone who goes out of their way – again and again and again – to aggressively express their disrespect, and sometimes their disgust, for people who do believe in God.

It makes me sad. As Elle Woods might say, “Happy atheists don’t care if Christians pray. They just don’t.

Ephesians 4 29 ChalkboardThat said, many of the follow-up comments on that article by people claiming to be Christians make me ashamed.

I hate derisive sarcasm. I have some pretty strong opinions about it. It’s different from joking sarcasm. Derisive sarcasm reeks of contempt. It shuts down dialog. It erodes relationships. It demoralizes. It poisons trust. In my own personal experience, it’s a weapon often wielded by the cowardly and insecure. People who either avoid assertive conflict resolution or lack the skills to communicate openly and honestly. Do I think all people who consistently rely on derisive sarcasm as a communication tool weapon are cowardly and insecure?

To be completely honest, yes. yes I do.

Did I mention I had some strong opinions about it? And don’t assume the reason I don’t use derisive sarcasm is because I think I’m above it. I don’t use it because I grew up a bleeding victim of it and I’m vehemently opposed to perpetuating that kind of abuse. It’s by the grace of God that I was able to break free of that destructive behavior.

#everybodyisjustadifferentkindofbroken

Some people grow up barraged with sarcasm, develop a resilience to it, adopt it as normal and wear it permanently holstered to their side for easy and instant access when someone doesn’t meet their expectations.

When I witness derisive sarcasm or someone uses it on me, I freely admit that person instantly loses my respect. That’s my knee-jerk reaction. I have to ask God to help me respond instead of react. I have to ask God to help me see them as He sees them. Sometimes I have to ask God to help me want to ask Him to help me see them as He sees them. As just a different kind of broken. Deserving grace. Because He loves them.

I’ve learned that pain can sometimes manifest itself by causing more pain. Sometimes I forget that.

It would appear I’m not the only one.

Many of the professed Christians who commented exhibited the same arrogance and sarcasm as the anti-theists did.

And I said professed Christians, not Christians. Reading these comments, I can’t always tell if someone is a genuine disciple of Christ.

I think that very often, when we stumble upon these kind of comment thread quagmires, both the anti-theists and the professed Christians are so vocal we sometimes forget there are genuine disciples of Christ who respond to sarcastic smack-downs with grace. We forget there are open-minded atheists who support another’s right to believe something even when that belief differs from their own.

If you are a genuine disciple of Christ who personally knows an open-minded atheist or an open-minded atheist who personally knows a genuine disciple of Christ, you know what I mean.

The truth is, I rarely jump in these caustic conversations. Not because I don’t care, but because, from the intensity of the back and forth between the anti-theists and the professed Christians, I know there’s no point. My voice would be ignored and I have no need to hear myself talk. I have no confidence that anyone involved in these conversations is listening for understanding. There’s very little interest in an edifying dialog.

It’s more like a tit for tat. A theological and/or metaphysical urinary olympics. Notice I didn’t say spiritual. There ain’t nothing spiritual about these comment threads. Notice I said comment threads, not conversations. There’s not a lot of communication happening.

When it comes right down to it, I don’t jump in the middle of these mutual smack-downs because I’ve learned that people don’t change their mind as a result of someone berating them.

More often, people’s hearts are softened as a result of someone responding to them with empathy.
More often, minds are opened when they are allowed to doubt and explore without judgement.
More often, people hear better after someone has listened to them.
More often, people can’t see until they’ve been seen.

#seepeople #edify #discipleship #relationalevangelism

September 10, 2014 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

facebook fragments: 5/31/14 – 6/13/14 (fitness milestones, falling curls, FavoriteSon’s birthday & Magic Kingdom)

Saturday, May 31, 2014
2:39pm
I must admit, I was secretly hoping my personal trainer would forget our appointment today, but now that it’s over, I feel MUCH better having made it through. Today’s milestones include two one minute wall squats, the first while doing 23 bicep curls with 10lb dumbbells and the second while doing 22 hammer curls holding 12 lb dumbbells and three sets of 12 push-ups with two 2 minute forearm plank sandwiched in between the push-ups. Did the first 6 push ups wearing a 12 lb weight vest. (what a difference THAT made!)

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July 23, 2014 Posted by | fragments, pinterest, youtube | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

facebook fragments: 5/24/14 – 5/30/14 (Memorial Day & Disney Days)

Monday, May 26, 2014
“I woke up in America for the love of God.
I woke up in America for something bigger than myself.
More than fireworks and fanfare.
More than a star-spangled banner.
You’re still beautiful America”

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July 22, 2014 Posted by | fragments, pinterest | , , , , | Leave a comment

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