Pragmatic Compendium

inspiring the pragmatic practice of intimacy with Christ

Volcanoooooo (a sixth grade science project)

Here’s how PinkGirl’s volcano science project turned out yesterday:

If you’ve been around for a while, you might remember FavoriteSon’s volcano project. Here’s an excerpt from that blog post:

We end up at Michael’s craft store with four packages of quick drying clay, a terra cotta pot and . . . a rocket engine. Yes. Michael’s sells rocket engines. FirstHusband is smiling and FavoriteSon is explaining how there really IS a type of volcano that explodes like that . . . The boys spend all morning Saturday wiring and soldering. Then they go into the backyard to test it before they make a terra cotta pot LOOK like a volcano. It works. It explodes. I look at FavoriteSon and say, “When you get sent to the office on Monday, give them your dad’s work number so he can explain how that’s perfectly safe.” . . . Then it’s tested again, this time adding sand to the top of the volcano so it shoots dirt up into the air and looks even more realistic . . . either FavoriteSon will be suspended or he will get an “A” on this project. (postscript: he got an “A”)

So. This time, explosives are NOT an option. PinkGirl has the same science teacher FavoriteSon did. No playing the “I had no idea” card. But PinkGirl wanted “a BIG explosion.” How to do that without ignition? FirstHusband wanted to buy a portable compressor, but his attempt to justify the expense by coming up with other things to do with it after making a volcano explode?


So my father (SuperPappy) suggested the shop vac reversed. The lampshade idea came to me during a severe allergic reaction to crafting after my husband said the words “paper mache” to me. We picked out a dirty, torn lampshade and got a 25% discount. Final Sale. No returns.

No problem. Crafting avoided.

As you can see, the explosion was a HIT. The ash went higher than the fence.

Here’s the written report PinkGirl wrote to accompany the volcano shown in the video:

“Volcanoes are amazing things of nature and only God can create them. Still for my project I tried my best and I also had fun while doing it. From deciding what type of volcano mine is or what type of eruption it will have it was a fun learning experience that I would love to tell you about.

The First thing I did was paint the lampshade (which is my volcano). It was actually a lot harder than I thought it was going to be because I had to mix paint to find the right color. The second thing I did was cut a hole in the box big enough for the pipe. Then I cut the top of the lampshade out with bolt cutter. (It was awesome!) After that I measured and cut the pipe to the right size with a hack saw. (My dad helped a little for this part but I did cut with a hack saw.) Next I glued the pipe to the adapter and cut the small pipe to the right size and glued it to the adapter and the elbow of the other pipe. Then I put another hole in the side of the box and put the side pipe in it. Next is my favorite part. I put coal in a bag and crushed it with a hammer. After that I poured the ash and coal in and covered it with saran wrap. Then I painted the box green and put the “Snow” on the volcano. The last step was decorating it with little touches to make it look better.

During the process of building my volcano I learned all about Composite volcanoes and plinian eruptions. Composite volcanoes are made out of ash, tephra, and lava. Plinian eruptions are violent and have lots of ash and poisonous gasses. Mt. Saint Helens was a composite volcano and had a plinian eruption.

I always thought a volcano just meant lava and smoke but I now understand that volcanoes are much more complicated than that. God must have had fun designing and creating volcanoes. He is a very creative God who has an amazing imagination. Volcanoes are dangerous magnificent things that create new land, give us dazzling treasures, and really open our eyes to show us how marvelous our world really is. I can only imagine what other planets are like.

December 19, 2012 Posted by | christian living, family, flashback, laugh!, poor me some whine, pragmatic commotion, pragmatic parenting, youtube | , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Ab workout AND entertainment.


Shoulder Devil: “It’s late. You did the HIIT training. Skip the rest.”

Shoulder Angel: “There’s still an hour and a half left in the day. Don’t listen to him. If it wasn’t for me, your body fat percentage would still be 51%”

Shoulder Devil:: “hhhhhh. okay, fine. then just do the plank. Skip the strength training. You’re tired. You can do strength training tomorrow.”

Shoulder Angel:: “He’s right.”

Shoulder Devil:: “I am?”

Shoulder Angel:: You should do strength training tomorrow. You should do tomorrow’s strength training tomorrow. Do today’s strength training today.”

Shoulder Devil:: “no, that’s not what I meant…”

Shoulder Angel:: You don’t have to do the Power Half Hour, just do one of the 10 Minute DVDs” .”

Shoulder Devil:: “Don’t listen to him, he’s a fanatic. He’s talking about 10 Minutes. What’s the big deal about 10 lousy minutes?”

Shoulder Angel:: “EXACTLY my point.”

Shoulder Devil:: “NO! That’s not what I meant…”

Shoulder Angel:: “HEY! remember that FIRM 5 Day Ab workout from the 90s? Do that! Day one is only 6 minutes!”

And that’s how I ended up with this video in the DVD player tonight.

(and you’re welcome. this video clip is so blurry you can’t see that the shorts on the guys in this video are WAY too short. T. M. I. and ewww. and again. ewww. and who says “supine? My whole life I’ve never said the word “supine.”)

July 26, 2012 Posted by | exercise, fight the frump, flashback, goodsteward/body, health, intentional living, laugh!, microactions, motivation, youtube | , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

It’s Not the Least We Can Do, It’s the Best We Can Do.

(a short excerpt from the book I’m writing – and WILL eventually finish)

Why is it that when faced with a problem, my first inclination is to do something? To take action? Why is it that my knee jerk reaction is to throw myself into problem solving mode? Then, when I’ve expended every effort, when I’ve explored every possible option, only then do I pray? Why is it so counter-intuitive to pray first? Why is it that I, more often than I’d like to admit, see prayer as a last resort in a time of crisis instead of a first line of defense?

This is not something I’m proud of, nor is it something I can rationalize or dismiss. What I want to do when faced with a challenge or crisis, is immediately, intuitively go to God for help, but instead, time and time again, I find myself at the end of my own abilities, begging God for direction and ideas – and supernatural intervention.

Prayer is seriously underrated. We tend to keep it in a nice, neat little box, taking it out only when we need it. In the words of Robin Williams as the Genie in Disney’s Aladdin:

“Phenomenal cosmic power! itty bitty living space.”

I’ve found that when I’m actively committed to consistently spending time with God, the tendency to handle things on my own is automatically diminished. When I’ve already spent time with God on a given day, reaching out to Him as a first response when something happens later in the day is much more intuitive. I’m also less easily discouraged because when I talk to God first, my approach to a problem is much clearer and calmer. I’m not saying that every time I bring a problem to God I come away with a crystal clear approach to successful and immediate problem solving.

I wish.

But in the great debate of whether prayer changes God’s mind or our hearts, chalk this one up to a changed heart.

July 11, 2012 Posted by | christian living, flashback, idioms, intentional living, laugh!, pinterest, pragmatic communion, pragmatic presence, prayer, status updates, youtube | , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

the foundation of my work ethic. “Would you like fries with that?”

My daughter was lounging around the house in a circa 1970s McDonalds uniform last night. The neon green version.

Attractive, I know.

She’s got a decade project due this week, so we’ve been in the attic. And now she wants to wear this to school. Her brother wore the SAME uniform to school for 70’s Day during spirit week in middle school (and won first place for that day.)

Some kids have no fear. so. much. polyester.

This was the job I got at 16 to make the $53 a month car payment on my 1971 Mustang. I did everything: counter, drive thru, grill, hostess, opening, closing, birthday parties, I even started manager training before I came to my senses and decided to finish college. I worked there from 1980 to 1983, back when the employees made double cheeseburgers before they were on the menu. These uniforms had been worn for years before.

Wasn’t I lucky to work at the “green” McDonalds? (And green has a totally different meaning in this context than it does today.) I wanted the deep blue. Or at least the baby blue. But the green was SOOO much better than the brown/maroon.

Anybody else remember the 7 steps for taking a customer order at McDonalds “back in the day?”

1. Smile and Greet the Customer
2. Take the Order/Repeat the Order
3. Suggestive Sell
4. Assemble the Order
5. Accept the payment
6. Present the Order
7. Thank them and ask them to Come Again.

What’d I tell you? Foundation of my work ethic.

May 2, 2012 Posted by | family, flashback, laugh! | , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

why I’m not your “fun” friend. issue #1: Saturday mornings

In my previous post, entitled “I’m not your “fun” friend.” I said the reason I prefer “real” conversation over “surface” conversation is because I have “issues” and that you either get used to me or you avoid me.
(CLICK HERE to read that post – it’s short.)

I’ve been thinking about why I’m so intense about everything. Why do I prefer the deeper conversations? Why am I addicted to learning? What is this freakish obsession I have with setting and moving toward goals? Why does the word “can’t” challenge me to defy it? Why is good enough NOT good enough? Why am I so competitive, even with myself? Why am I so passionate about encouraging other people figure out what they want and GO AFTER IT? Why am I so relentless about being actively engaged in an intimate relationship with God – and inspiring others to do the same?

Why am I so intense about LIFE?

I’ve always been overly aware of the passing of time. Of missed opportunity. Lost opportunity.

Recently, I’ve been thinking about why and I immediately came up with four reasons:

1. Saturday mornings
2. TV Overdose
3. Death
4. Preparation meets opportunity

Saturday mornings were the first thing to come to mind.

I grew up with a mom who loved to sleep.

When I was little, every Saturday was the same. I would wake up early, because, well, I was a little kid. I would crack open my bedroom door and slowly, as quietly as I possibly could, sneak into the kitchen for some cereal. It was slow progress, because the goal was to be completely, totally silent.

The goal was to NOT wake up my mother.

My dad usually worked on Saturday, and he was out of the house early. My mom’s bedroom door was between my room and the kitchen. The kitchen and her bedroom were connected by a wall. Another bedroom wall – the wall with her bedroom door on it – connected to the living room. Where the TV was.

All I wanted to do was get some cereal and watch Saturday morning cartoons. Simple. Kid simple.

Sometimes, I pulled it off. Slowly and silently opening the normally squeaky metal bifold door of the pantry, getting the cereal box down, silently opening the cabinet for a bowl. Silently opening the fridge for the milk by prying the rubber seal open with my fingers instead of pulling the door handle which would have resulted in the sound of the vacuum being broken. Pouring the cereal was the tough part. There’s nothing silent about Lucky Charms hitting melmac. Sometimes, that would be my undoing. Other days, I got lucky and made it through.

Then came the most difficult part. I’d take my cereal bowl into the living room and sit crisscross applesauce, arm’s length from the TV. Volume controls were manual dials back then, so I could turn the volume all the way down before I even turned on the TV. Then came another tense moment. Pulling the TV power knob on made a click noise. Then the electronic hum that followed as the TV warmed up. Sometimes that was as far as I got.

Other days, I made it through. Then came the channel. The good news was that there were only three to choose from: 2, 6 and 9, so I stood a 33% chance that the channel was already tuned to the show I wanted to watch. Other days, I was paralyzed by the dilemma. Do I watch something I didn’t want to or risk turning the knob? Eventually, I got very good at stealth channel changing: a tight, full-handed grip with a s-l-o-w turn. The worst days were when the channel was on 2. Channel 6 to 9 and 9 to 6 were a breeze. But switch between channels 2 and 9? I’d just watch Heckle and Jeckle.

Once I made it to the channel I wanted, there was no sense of relief. The volume was still all the way down.

This part was something I couldn’t really control, but I still tried. I would sit, still arm’s length from the TV, and slowly turn up the volume until I could hear it. Watching a show required constant monitoring. Turn the volume up for dialog, down for music and effects. When I did get caught, it was music and effects that got me every time.

Sometimes, I got lucky. There was only a voice, calling my name. I would turn the volume all the way down and wait. Silently. Other times, I would turn the TV off and slink to the kitchen with my cereal bowl and silently – always silently – put it in the sink. Or even better, slip back into my bedroom with the bowl and shut the door. That way, if she actually got up and opened her bedroom door to look in the living room, there would be no evidence I was ever there. Unless she walked over and touched the top of the TV. If it was warm, I was discovered. More often than not, she would just look out and then go back to bed. I would wait for a while and start again.

For as many times as I made it, there were just as many times as I got caught. The consequences? Get into my mom’s bed with her and stay there until she woke up. Which – on Saturdays, never ever happened before noon.

The sun would be streaming through the window and my mom would be asleep next to me. Notice I didn’t say “sound” asleep. The slightest movement on my part would be immediately met with “be still.” In an effort to keep me safe and protected while she slept, she would reach one arm over and gently place her hand on my arm or my leg. The slightest movement on my part would wake her. I literally watched minutes tick by on a clock. Way, way, way too many minutes.

How has this manifested itself in me?

I hate sleep.

Literally. I just don’t like it. When I sleep, I feel like I’m missing stuff. Opportunities. Experiences. Life. Sometimes, I think that the only reason I can sleep at night is because there’s nothing else to do. Everybody else is sleeping, so I might as well get it over with. I don’t often nap. I have to be non-functionally exhausted or sick to intentionally take a nap.

I think this sense of missing out on life is one reason I’m so focused on “real” conversation with people. Why I can’t take too much “surface” talk before I start asking people questions about themselves. Why I crave conversations that make me think, that open my mind to perspectives other than my own.

It’s why I don’t “do nothing” well. I’ve done enough “nothing” to last me the rest of my life.

April 1, 2012 Posted by | flashback, intentional living, learning curve, motivation, poor me some whine, what I've learned, women | , , , , , | 6 Comments

I need to clear my head.

When I was in my twenties, that would mean a night drive.

Driving on a long straight road, more than a few miles faster than the highest posted speed limit. All the windows had to be down, the sunroof open. I would consciously make the decision NOT to tie up my hair even though I knew the result would be too many tangles to brush out. Washing and conditioner would be the only remedy.

No radio. It had to be my own choice of music – no commercials. no talking.

The music had to be LOUD. And I had to know all the words, because I needed to sing. At the top of my lungs, like nobody was listening.

Today, logic and finances and a lack of a sunroof or movable windows in my minivan, dictate no fast and aimless night drives.

But I have the house to myself during the day. The music is so loud I can’t hear the doorbell or the phone. And the cats paw at the sliding door because they want to escape to the back porch, where the sound is only minutely softer.

And that mini-van isn’t soundproof either.

I really need to clear my head. It’s a mess in there.

“Maybe it’s just my quest for creativity and difference. I’m not sure. But God is shaking me. God is stirring me.
Why? To place me in a new situation so that I have to trust Him fully. When I have my comfortable caged life, I know the parameters. I know my life. I know what will happen and what won’t. I can insulate myself from interacting with others. I can play it entirely safe. I can trust in me, not God.”
Mary DeMuth

March 6, 2012 Posted by | flashback, music, poor me some whine | , | Leave a comment

an unextraordinary life.

“Here’s what you do,” said Elisha. “Go up and down the street and borrow jugs and bowls from all your neighbors. And not just a few—all you can get. Then come home and lock the door behind you, you and your sons. Pour oil into each container; when each is full, set it aside.” She did what he said. She locked the door behind her and her sons; as they brought the containers to her, she filled them. When all the jugs and bowls were full, she said to one of her sons, “Another jug, please.” He said, “That’s it. There are no more jugs.” Then the oil stopped.
2 Kings 4:3-6 (The Message)

When I was a little girl, I used to pray for an unextraordinary life.

I thought that blessings were limited and were balanced with tragedy – things I feared. There was this imaginary teeter-totter in my head. All the blessings were piled on one seat while challenges and troubles were precariously stacked on the other. One blessing too much would tip the balance and God would have to step in and even things up.

I figured, if nothing really great happened to me, then nothing really bad would happen to me. So I prayed for a balanced teeter-totter.

It was safe.


Kid theology at it’s finest.

I rarely asked for blessings in my life, because in my mind, a blessing would always come with some sort of down side. And the down side wouldn’t always be in my life. If I experienced a blessing, I was always looking for where God would even it up. Who would get the trial? Would it be me? One of my parents? My siblings? Friends?

And there were degrees of blessings and trials. If I got to go to Disney World, some kid out there didn’t – because they came down with strep throat. If my family won the Publisher’s Clearinghouse Sweeptakes? Someone. might. die.

The blessings I already experienced weren’t often recognized. “Normal” life was taken for granted. I viewed blessings like prizes. Extraordinary.

Like I said. Kid theology at its finest.

It was a long time coming, but these days, I understand that God’s grace – and his blessings – are unlimited (and that teeter-totters are only good for broken tailbones or a chin full of stitches). When I’ve experienced trials in my life, sure God might have sent them, but it’s just as likely He allowed them. Either way, He’s promised that He will work it all for good. Even when, from my own perspective, it didn’t seem like it was for my good.

Looking back at my life, I can see blessings in what I once thought were just trials. Of course, I don’t see a blessing in every trial, but I still believe God worked it for good. Maybe someone else was blessed as a result of some trial God sent or allowed in my life. That doesn’t mean they got a blessing and God evened up the teeter-totter with me.

I’m acutely aware of the truth behind the idea that we are who we are because of everything we’ve been through. Today, I’m praying that God will use the challenges I’ve lived through – and learned through – to bless someone else. I’m praying that – the relentless and exasperating optimist I am – I can be a source of hope and encouragement to someone who might need it.

Today, I’m not afraid to ask God to bless me in an extraordinary way. I don’t need an abundance of jars so God’s blessing will continue to flow. I need one life, continuously open for Him to fill with blessings. Even if the blessings are sometimes disguised as trials.

“It is our faith that fails, not his promise. He gives above what we ask: were there more vessels, there is enough in God to fill them—enough for all, enough for each. Was not this pot of oil exhausted as long as there were any vessels to be filled from it?”
Matthew Henry

October 10, 2011 Posted by | christian living, devotions, flashback, intentional living, learning curve, pragmatic communion, pragmatic presence, prayer, what I've learned | , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

If it’s not about the elements, could we use oreos and milk?

As I watched someone pour Welches grape juice into a goblet, it occurred to me – not for the first time – that I don’t get it.

What am I missing?

When the sacrament of Holy Communion begins during a church service, I begin praying. I intentionally focus my heart and mind completely on God and the examination of my life, the confession of my sins, repentance, genuine and profound thanks for the sacrifice and redeeming blood of Christ. Then an usher steps next to my pew and my focus on intimate prayer is broken. I’m supposed to get up, walk to the front of the church and eat a piece of bread and drink grape juice out of a tiny plastic cup or dip the bread into a goblet. Like an Oreo in milk.

That may sound disrespectful, but if I’m honest, that’s what I think of when I do it. God already knows that’s in my head whether I type it out loud or not.

So here’s the question: Why does the sacrament of Holy Communion feel like an interruption to that intimate prayer instead of the culmination of it?

I don’t know.

I’ve been thinking about it and this is where my mind went:

When I was in junior high (these days they call it middle school), I went through two years of confirmation classes in the Lutheran church before I was allowed to take communion for the first time. My memory tells me we went through the same curriculum twice but I’m sure I’m wrong. It just felt like it.


The best part were the snacks. Those little flower shaped butter cookies with the hole in the middle that you could stick your fingers through so you could eat your way around them in circles.

But I digress.

I remember dreading confirmation class. They used words I never understood and they didn’t explain, like “Gospel of Jesus” and sacrament and catechism and sanctification and absolution.

Okay, to be fair, it’s likely they explained some of it, but they did a poor job, because I was not the only one going through the motions waiting for snack time. Most classes, there was lecture and then they told us what words to write in the fill-in-the-blank questions in our confirmation workbooks.

Then came the day the senior pastor visited our class. He told us a detailed and moving story about twins who were born prematurely. When he got to the part about one of them dying, we were all mesmerized. He was a great storyteller. This was so much more interesting than the lectures and workbook exercises.

And then.

The pastor said that a nurse came to the parents and told them that she was able to baptize the baby before he died. The parents were so relieved. Their baby was in heaven.


I had always been cheeky, but the senior pastor had always intimidated me. So formal. Robes, suits, perfect, immovable hair, manicured fingernails. All that, combined with the fact that so many people sat in complete silence to listen to him talk every Sunday morning and waited in line to shake his hand afterward. To top it all off? His name was Pastor Abram. That was just two letters away from Abraham. He was the ultimate authority on God at that time in my young life.

Until that moment.

At that moment, he lost his credibility with me. I realized this authority figure in my life was wrong.

Out came cheeky.

I may not remember the details of 2 years of confirmation classes, but I will remember for the rest of my life what I asked him that afternoon:

“Are you saying that if the nurse hadn’t sprinkled water on the baby’s head before he died and said ‘I baptize you in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Ghost’ that the baby would have gone to Hell?”

He looked me straight in the eyes and said, “Yes.”

And I said, “Well, that’s stupid.”

You could have heard a pin drop. Every eye was on him.

He handled it with grace and evasiveness. He reminded me that I was young and explained that I didn’t understand. What he didn’t explain was how it wasn’t stupid. He didn’t refer me to a single Bible verse. Bibles weren’t necessary in confirmation class, just workbooks.

What was I too young to understand?

That Jesus’ death and resurrection weren’t enough to save a premature baby . . . but a nurse with tap water and the time to speak the words “in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Ghost” ensured the baby would spend eternity in heaven?”

I’m older now and I DO understand. If what Pastor Abram said was true, I didn’t need Jesus Christ. All I needed was a nurse with a glass of water who had the ability to speak out loud.

I didn’t learn much in confirmation class, but I learned that the ritual of baptism was meaningless compared to what Jesus did.

How does all this relate to Holy Communion?

Not sure yet. I’m still thinking about it.

October 3, 2011 Posted by | christian living, flashback, pragmatic communion, pragmatic presence | , , , | 2 Comments

I’m having a major childhood flashback.


That nut doesn’t fall far from the tree.

I just caught her reading in bed. 10 years old. 10:43pm on a school night. She’s just started reading The Last Olympian (Percy Jackson and the Olympians, Book 5) and she BEGGED me not to make her stop till she gets past “the good part.”

Oh, I remember that. Except I used to hide under the blanket with a flashlight. She has a reading light clipped to a shelf next to her bed.

I understand. And while part of me is upset with her for still being awake, part of me is over the top THRILLED that she loves to read this much. She’s going to love reading her whole life.

Call me a bad mom. I don’t care. I said: “You may NOT be mean to me in the morning and you WILL get up EXACTLY when I ask you to. Get to a stopping point fast.”

11:02pm. I just heard the reading light being turned off.

April 27, 2011 Posted by | books, family, flashback, laugh!, pragmatic commotion, pragmatic parenting, status updates | , , , , , , | 2 Comments

“HOLY here we go again, batman.”

I’ve been known to emulate Robin’s plethora of “HOLY” outbursts. The most recent one one? A status update on Wednesday:

“At Appliance Direct. Holy rows of broken and ugly, Batman. Is this a scratch n dent store?”

Here’s a few more…

Need a few more chuckles today? Check out Friday Funnies hosted by Homesteaders Heart!

If you’ve got time to hang out for a few minutes, check out what else makes me laugh: Pragmatic Compendium’s “laugh!” category.

April 1, 2011 Posted by | flashback, laugh!, status updates, youtube | , , , | 2 Comments


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