Pragmatic Compendium

inspiring the pragmatic practice of intimacy with Christ

#memoryverse Zechariah 4:6 ~ the source of inner strength

#memoryverse
“[…this is the Word of the Lord…] ‘Not by might nor by power, but by my Spirit,’ says the LORD Almighty”
Zechariah 4:6b

Not by might not by power by my spirit Zechariah 4 6The other day, I listened as someone told my daughter that she needed to find and rely on her “inner strength.”

Inner strength.

What exactly does that mean? Determination? Confidence? A recognition of personal identity and worth? Where does inner strength come from? Do “broken” people have it and just can’t find it because it’s buried under layers of pain or fear or hopelessness?

My problem with “inner strength” is that it waxes and wanes, usually parallel to my circumstances. And there’s no rhyme or reason to it. Crisis is just as likely to discourage me as it is to fuel me to action. Criticism is just as likely to fill me with doubt as it is to spark a fire of determination. Rejection is just as likely to send me running as it is to compel me to plant my feet. Inner strength seems to be dependent on how I feel and think about myself at any give time.

Inner strength is shifting sand. I can’t plant my feet in shifting sand.

Thankfully, my daughter already knows all this. We were both gracious, both engaged and fully listening to the well-meaning giver of unsolicited advice, but as the young woman spoke, I prayed. “Lord, should I tell her? Have you prepared her mind and heart to hear?” She paused, raising her eyebrows, looking for a response, seemingly expecting affirmation and agreement.

My daughter and I looked at each other. We both knew what could be shared in that moment.

I said, “As Christians, we believe there’s even more to it than that. The Bible tells us that because we have a relationship with Jesus, we have a helper, the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, so we are never alone. God is always with us. Everywhere we go.”

There was a brief pause. She hadn’t expected that response.

She broke the awkward silence by turning back to my daughter again. “That’s good…but sometimes, you’ll feel like God isn’t there…”

She continued a few more minutes, paused again, and looked at me. I had been praying about what to say, if anything.

I said, “It’s true, there are times when it doesn’t seem like God is there. It’s like when you learned to ride a bike. Whoever was teaching you was running behind the bike, holding the seat, and then he let go. You didn’t feel his hand on the bike anymore, but you knew he was still there. When you fell, he was there to pick you up and comfort you and encourage you to try again. He didn’t keep you from falling, but he never left.”

I could tell she had heard me. I didn’t push. I hadn’t stopped her as she explained to my daughter that she needed inner strength for those times when she didn’t “feel” God.

My daughter knows her faith isn’t grounded in her emotions. My daughter and I both know how to practice the presence of God and that sometimes, He is silent. We both understand that the source of our inner strength is the indwelling of the Holy Spirit and that whether we “feel” God or not, we can have confidence that He is with us. I knew I had planted a seed and that the young woman would think about the conversation later.

God would not be revealed to her as the ultimate source of inner strength through our effort or will. We just planted a seed. Now, it’s up to the Holy Spirit to soften her heart, open her mind and “draw her to Himself.” (John 6:44)

If you’ve entered into a relationship with Christ, the Holy Spirit dwells within you. When you lack confidence in yourself, I pray you are blessed with confidence in Christ. I pray you find your identity in Christ and understand your value through a deep understanding of His unconditional love for you. I pray that regardless of how you may feel on a given day, you will remember, “God is with you, wherever you go” (Joshua 1:9).

December 11, 2014 Posted by | #memoryverse, Bible, Christian, christian living, devotions, pinterest, pragmatic communion | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

#memoryverse Zechariah 4:6 ~ seek, listen, be a witness, plant seeds, pray, trust and wait.

#memoryverse
“[…this is the Word of the Lord…] ‘Not by might nor by power, but by my Spirit,’ says the LORD Almighty”
Zechariah 4:6b

Have you ever been in a situation where the harder you try, the farther away from your goal you seem to get? No matter how focused and determined you are, no matter what you do or say, the distance between what you’re striving for and what’s actually happening just continues to grow.

Exponentially.

What begins as a desire to set things “right” can birth a desperation that leaves a knot in the pit of your stomach and a frantic anxiety that drives us to push and try to manipulate circumstances.

One of the most difficult lessons I’ve experienced in this area has been a situation where I was trying to explain something God was teaching and revealing to me and the more I talked (or wrote), the more people misunderstood and rejected what I was trying to say. The more angry they became, the more they dismissed me and distanced themselves and in many cases, the more people cut off our relationship completely, choosing instead to talk about me behind my back and on the internet.

You just want to fix that kind of thing, ya know?

But no matter how hard I tried to explain what I was discovering and feeling, the more I realized I was talking (and typing) to air. I knew I was supposed to share what God was teaching me and I did. Reluctantly and after months of arguing with God, with love and heartache for people I cared about, despite growing awareness of the bridges that were being burned.

But over the last two years, I’ve come to realize that my obedience in sharing my lesson wasn’t to change hearts or minds or even just circumstances. It was to be a witness to Christ’s influence in my life. And it was to plant seeds. God would bring the rain for growth.

and the drought to create thirst.

and the fire to test.

The growing season has not been short or free from pain, for me or for others. But in hindsight, I can see how God has been moving. Slow and steady, softening hearts and opening minds. Teaching lessons that, while different from mine, have and continue to produce the best harvest – hearts drawn closer to Christ. And while it’s heartbreaking to see the pain that’s had to be borne through this season, The Holy Spirit has reminded me that when hearts are closer to Christ, it’s impossible that they remain unchanged. Through the change – the transformation – of the heart, other changes automatically come to fruition. Those circumstances that I desperately tried to change on my own, God has changed and continues to change.

My job was to seek and listen to the Voice of Truth. My job was to be a witness to what God was doing in my heart and mind. My job was to plant seeds, regardless of the consequences. My job was to pray, in faith, trusting that God would work all things for His greater, ultimate good, which is to draw people into intimate, living, dependent relationship with Him.

Not by my might.

Not by my power.

But by His Spirit.

So, whatever your impossible circumstances, pray. Persistently. and wait. His timing is perfect, even when He delays.

“He who calls you is faithful; He will surely do it.” 1 Thessalonians 5:24
“Is prayer your steering wheel or your spare tire?” Corrie ten Boom

December 10, 2014 Posted by | #memoryverse, Bible, Christian, christian living, devotions, pinterest, pragmatic communion | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

#memoryverse Zechariah 4:6b: pushing a rock.

I’ve been posting memory verses on facebook for a few weeks now, a new verse starting every Sunday. Every day, I post an new image from pinterest and sometimes write a short commentary on the verse. We’ll find out how consistent I am, both on facebook and now here on my blog. Here’s the first post for this week:

Zechariah 4 6 Not by Might Not by Power Pushing a Rock Uphill“[…this is the Word of the Lord…] ‘Not by might nor by power, but by my Spirit,’ says the LORD Almighty” Zechariah 4:6b

I don’t know about you, but when there’s a problem, I want to fix it.

Right Now.

Whether the problem is mine or someone else’s, the most frustrating thing in the world is when I am powerless to change circumstances for the better. But what is better? Who am I to decide that? Who are you?

We can be so arrogant in our pain sometimes, thinking a loving God wouldn’t – couldn’t possibly – want or use this circumstance to accomplish His omniscient understanding of “better.”

The first image for this week’s #memoryverse reminds me of a story. I’ll paraphrase, so if you’ve heard it before, bear with me. A young man asks God what He wants him to do with his life. God tells him that every day, he is to go and push a giant rock at the bottom of a valley nearby. For twenty years, the man pushes the rock. All. day. long. After twenty years (I would have lasted a day), the man finally cries out in frustration “God, I’ve done EXACTLY what You’ve told me to do for TWENTY years and that rock hasn’t even moved a fraction of an inch!” God looks at the man with compassion and replies, “I didn’t ask you to MOVE the rock. I only asked you to push it. Look at your arms. Your legs. Look at your body. Look at how strong you’ve become.”

oh. I didn’t consider that.

The promise of Isaiah 66:9 tells us “‘In the same way I will not cause pain without allowing something new to be born,’ says the Lord.”

Are you suffering and all your efforts feel as futile as pushing against a giant rock all day long? The rock may not be moving, but REMEMBER.

God is.

It’s possible, that in His sovereign will, God may have placed that rock in your life. He may have just allowed Satan to throw a rock at you. Regardless of the source of the rock, there is peace that comes from the confidence that God is redeeming every pain for ULTIMATE “better.”

Sometimes, He uses rocks to make us stronger.

While I don’t claim to know what God’s “better” is with regard to the circumstances of your life, I can say with confidence that, above everything else that’s going on in your life, His “better” is that you will be drawn closer to Him and that through an intimate, living, dependent relationship with Jesus, you will be transformed. I pray this confidence and peace for you today.

“Courage, dear heart.” Aslan

December 8, 2014 Posted by | #memoryverse, devotions, pinterest, pragmatic communion, suffering | , , , , , | Leave a comment

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

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

never underestimate the influence of little things.

I had a horrible, horrible dream a few weeks ago.

horrible.

In this dream, my daughter was being stalked. And NOTHING we did could stop the stalker.

If you’ve read my blog before or follow me on facebook, you already know my daughter LOVES people. Genuinely, empathetically, compassionately, passionately loves people. She gets a high from encouraging people that I think actually fuels her. When someone hurts, she hurts. And she prays. She prays for people she loves, she prays for people who are mean to her and she prays for people she doesn’t even know.

She prays because she’s already figured out that most of the time, while she can make things better by loving people, she can’t fix some things. Some things are too big, but she knows God can do ANYthing.

And that’s how the horrible dream started. She befriended someone in pain. And he latched onto her. It wasn’t long before he began telling her she was an inspiration to him. “You are my inspiration” soon led to “You are the only one who understands me.” He gave her gifts. She caught him staring at her often. He began saying things that made her worry that he might hurt himself and she began to feel responsible for his emotional state.

In real life, she shares everything with me, so of course, in my dream, she told me all this. In my dream, I coached her to still be herself and not to hold back from being kind to him, but to never be alone with him, to always be in a group and to always make sure she didn’t treat him differently than she treated anyone else.

Then everything changed. Instantly.

(remember, this is a dream)

In the dream the chronology was all over the place. Her age ranged from 13 to 18, but one thing was a constant. We were desperate. We tried everything we could think of. We started by changing her schedule so she didn’t have classes with him. We took her to a therapist to help her cope and to help her understand how he was trying to manipulate her. We resorted to changing schools, which broke her heart because she had to leave all her friends. We sent her to relatives. She and I moved. The entire family moved. Across town and out of state. Her dream of working as a Disney princess was impossible because he would stalk her at work. He broke into our house. He vandalized our house. Sabotaged her car. Followed her. Restraining orders did nothing. If he was arrested, he started up again as soon as he was released.

NOTHING we did made any difference at all.

And then (don’t forget – this is a dream)

I remembered. God can do anything. We had spent years trying to handle the situation on our own and nothing had worked. So I gave it all up to God. I prayed like a widow (persistently, like in Luke 18:8).

And suddenly, PinkGirl was 13 again. It was like I rewound the dream. None of the horrible, unpreventable things had happened yet.

Leo Buscaglia Quote Kindness EncouragmentAnd in my prayers, God reminded me of an article I read a while back written by an elementary school teacher. I don’t remember the specifics, but she was heartbroken about a school shooting or maybe the Boston Marathon bombing, I don’t remember. She wondered about the childhood of these people who kill. She was burdened. And in working through that burden, she recognized her influence. The power she had to impact young lives and maybe, hopefully, change the trajectory of those lives. She wrote about her teaching philosophy. In her classroom, every single day she was identifying the subtle way some kids were being excluded and isolated and she was not only lovingly, creatively and intentionally putting stop to it, but molding the character of the other students as she taught them to see people. Really SEE people. Compassionately. And in the process, that isolated kid, the one who felt invisible and unloved and unaccepted began to change his opinion of himself and of the people in his life.

So (remember, this is a dream) I went to the administrators of PinkGirl’s (private, Christian) school and told them what was happening with this boy and PinkGirl. I told them about the article. We made a plan. Every. single. middle school teacher began to intentionally speak into this boy’s life. To SEE him. To validate him, encourage him, mentor him. To constantly reinforce that God loves him unconditionally. That Christ loved him so much He died for him. To teach him that even though the people in his life might fail him, God never will. Everyone involved began praying that he would find and accept Christ and that these teachers who interacted with him 7 hours a day, 5 days a week would have a chance to disciple him before he moved on to high school.

As the teachers began to draw him into group activities and the other kids began to really see him too…

I woke up. (At the crack of dawn, way before I needed to, I might add.)

And I remembered these two facebook posts I wrote about my daughter back in February:

I LOVE my daughter’s school and the middle school teachers. She just called me in uncontrollable happy tears to tell me how much she loves me because she just came out of a class where her classmates (PinkGirl included) just “poured their hearts out about everything they were all going through and how we’re all so thankful and blessed that we have Christ in our lives to help us and…” Her next class was Bible and she asked to go to the office to call me and ask me to come up to school so she could hug me. I’m outta here. #ilovemydaughter

_______________

Just got back from going to PinkGirl’s school to give her a requested mid-day bear hug. One of the kids involved in that heart-wrenching discussion was sharing really, really hard things and everyone was telling him it would be okay. PinkGirl said: “I can’t promise you everything will be okay. At least not the way we see our life. But it will be okay the way God sees it. I think God is using the things in our lives to mold us into the people we’re going to be. It’s like a blacksmith. Sometimes, a blacksmith has to heat stuff up and hit it really hard with a hammer to mold it into something beautiful. The blacksmith knows what he’s making.”
#ilovemydaughter #seepeople #reachout

And I remembered how my daughter had told me that this boy had later told her she was an inspiration to him. And how he had given her a few small presents. She told me it made her uncomfortable. And I remember how I had coached her to continue being his friend, but to always stay with a group when she was around him. I had explained that she wasn’t equipped to help him, so she shouldn’t give him any advice, but she could be his friend and pray for him.

There was no going back to sleep.

So I went downstairs to curl up on my loveseat with a cup of coffee and my prayer journal.

And I wrote this:

“Lord I HATED that dream. Please help me use whatever I learned from it. I pray Lord, that if we are ever in that situation, that’s exactly how we would respond.”

and this:

“I pray for PinkGirl’s friend from school. Can’t remember his name Lord, but you know who he is. Please draw him close to you and let him know You love him.”

Driving PinkGirl to rehearsal later that morning, I asked her about the boy from school, and she reminded me that for some reason, he wouldn’t be returning to her school next year.

So. That’s that, right?

Except that when I went to pick her up, I found out that the boy had come to her theater company asking about auditions.

If you know me, you know I don’t believe in coincidences.

I had a flash of fear. The dream wasn’t even 12 hours old.

We sometimes underestimate the influence of little things.But then I realized. This theater PinkGirl goes to? SEEING kids is what they DO. It’s saturated in their culture. They don’t just help kids develop their talent, they also focus on helping kids develop strong character and confidence. They mentor kids from teeny to teenager. When a kid first comes to them, they start with the assumption that each one wants to please and to be validated. They search for aptitude and potential and try to help kids grow into their strengths and to gain confidence and become self-motivated by providing age and skill appropriate challenges and holding them accountable. Any sign of kids excluding kids isn’t allowed. The more outgoing kids are mentored and taught to be intentionally inclusive and specifically encouraging to the shy and quiet kids. Constructive criticism isn’t shied away from, but shaming criticism and demoralizing sarcasm isn’t tolerated for a fraction of a second. Like the teacher who wrote the article, these kids, if they stay with this company, begin to recognize the power of their words and actions and their ability to influence others through encouragement and inclusion.

This boy is a beginner, so if he does come to PinkGirl’s theater, it’s likely he won’t be in the same productions, at least for a while. But I’m confident that if this boy comes to this theater company, he will be seen. He will be included. By the time he interacts with PinkGirl in that environment, she will not be the only person who inspires him.

Or prays for him.

No matter who you are, there are people in your circle of influence. People you are in a continuing relationship with and people you will interact with today and may never see again. Start with prayer. Ask God to show you who those people are. Ask God to equip you. Because God can do anything.

You can spend years trying to handle a situation on your own or you can give it all up to God. And pray like a widow that He would bless you with wisdom and discernment and patience and stamina and…pray like a widow that He will guide you. Pray that you would have the courage and motivation to be obedient.

July 15, 2014 Posted by | christian living, intentional living, pinterest, pragmatic communion, prayer | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

say what you mean, but don’t be mean when you say it.

I’ve been saying that for years. To my kids, to students and to myself, whenever the situation calls for it. It’s one of my idioms.

Ephesians 429This afternoon, I read an article about a controversial subject in which the writer gave the distinct impression that anyone who doesn’t agree with them is ignorant.

Not ignorant in an uninformed or misguided way. There was no attempt to inform or guide. The writer declared “palpable and inescapable love” for God and their neighbor, but as I read, I found myself thinking of the word contempt, not love.

The examples were taken to an extreme, seemingly in an effort to evidence the stupidity and expressions of hate by anyone who believes differently.

For the purposes of this post, the issue itself is irrelevant. I personally didn’t identify with either side of the specific issue being written about. The idea that no other (more complicated) possibilities of thought or action exist is implausible.

Issues under debate are not simple. If they were simple, there wouldn’t be so much debate.

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June 26, 2014 Posted by | christian living, pragmatic communication, pragmatic communion, prayer | , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

lament.

Thinking about praise and worship music this morning.

In my personal experience and observation, more people seek God when they are hurting than when they are happy.

We should sing praise

and we should sing worship,

but we can’t forget lament.

It draws people to Christ.

Lament is not depressing, it reminds us we are not alone.

May 22, 2014 Posted by | music, pragmatic communion, praise team music, status updates | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

where philanthropy falls short.

I was recently part of a discussion about a church supported service project. A number of different ideas were on the table, none of them mine. The project itself wasn’t my priority. They were all good ideas. All needed. All would “do good.”

My concern, what I had been thinking and praying about for over a week prior to this meeting was that whatever service project we decided upon, it would track back to Jesus Christ.

Over the years, I’ve observed and/or been a part of a number of church supported service projects, at a number of churches – very, very few of which led to an open door to share the gospel.

All were good. All were needed. All did “good things.”

But serving those in need without tracking back to Christ is just philanthropy, not Christian mission.

I feel a metaphor coming on.

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May 9, 2014 Posted by | Christ-Centered Church, christian living, pinterest, pragmatic communion | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

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