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

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.

Click Here to Read the Full Post >>>

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.

Click Here to Read the Full Post >>>

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

whatever may pass and whatever lies before me.

Sunday evening. Easter Sunday. I was sitting at the kitchen table, focused on my laptop. PinkGirl came over and turned my chair sideways so she could curl up on my lap and lay her head on my shoulder.

“Mom? How can I find joy in God?”

wow.

13 years old.

Immediately, I prayed.

“Lord, is this moment one of the reasons for everything that’s happened over the last year? Have you been preparing me for this question? Please help. Please speak through me.”

Me: “Well…for me…the way I find joy in God is to grow closer to Him. There are a few things you can do to grow closer to Him. You already know what’s first though, right?”

PinkGirl: “Pray?”

Joshua 1 9 prayerMe: “Yep. There’s lots of different ways to pray, but I think the way that brings me closest to God is practicing His presence. You remember what I told you about practicing the presence of God? How I first started doing it?”

PinkGirl: “No.”

Me: “I imagined Jesus physically with me everywhere I went – in the passenger seat of my van…”

PinkGirl: “oh yeah.”

Me: “Jesus is right here with us now.”

I pointed to the chair next to us.

“If you imagine Him sitting right here with us – not just sitting here, eavesdropping on our conversation, but actually participating in it, it changes everything. And sometimes not in a way you might expect. It won’t be all rainbows. You won’t be thanking Him and praising Him all the time. If you really do imagine Jesus with you wherever you go, you may find yourself crying and yelling at Him sometimes. Telling Him all the things you don’t think are fair, begging him to help you and heal you and protect you and getting frustrated or mad or even heartbroken when He doesn’t do what you want or expect or if He’s slower than you think He should be. But you have to be honest with God.”

PinkGirl: “He already knows anyway.”

Me: “Yeah, He does.”

We sat there for a while, talking about all the different ways to pray. We talked about honest, wide open prayer, without holding anything back. We talked about how authentic prayer helps us to grow closer to God and how growing closer to God helps us find joy in Him, no matter whether we’re happy or sad about what’s happening in our life. We talked about how happiness is temporal and based on our circumstances, but joy in God is eternal and based on who He is and our relationship with Jesus.

Me: “Prayer is when we tell God everything. But we also need to listen to Him. What’s the best way to hear from God?”

PinkGirl: “Be alone with Him?”

Me: “That’s one way. I call that abiding in Him. But that’s next. Something else comes first. The best way to hear God speak to us is to read His Word.”

PinkGirl: “I try, but I don’t understand a lot of it.”

Me: I get that. There’s a lot I don’t understand either. But here’s the thing. There’s a lot you do understand – way before you even get to the stuff you don’t understand. You understand what you learn in Bible [class], right?

PinkGirl: “yeah.”

Me: “So, see? You understand more than you think. Outside of Bible [class], what’s the last thing you read on your own?”

PinkGirl: “I don’t remember.”

Me: “You understand the scriptures in your devotion book, right?”

PinkGirl: “yeah.”

Me: “What was your last devotion about?”

(thinking)

PinkGirl: “I don’t remember.”

Me: “When do you do your devotion, in the morning or at bedtime?”

PinkGirl: “In the morning.”

Me: “After your devotion time is over, how often do you think about the scripture you read later in your day?”

PinkGirl: “none.”

Meditate on Gods Word Read BibleMe: “Just reading the Bible isn’t enough. You won’t grow in your relationship with Christ if you don’t remember what you read. You have to engage in God’s Word. That takes effort. How can you remember the scripture from your morning devotion throughout your day ? And for days after that?”

We talked about how on our own, reading the Bible isn’t something we want to do all the time and that God knows that. We talked about forgetting to read the Bible or not making time for it. We talked about how we make time for the other things we love. We talked about the first and constant thing we should do: pray and ask God to give us a desire to read His Word. We talked about the fact that we can’t just “do better” on our own. We talked about asking God to give us – to bless us – with a hunger for His Word – with a hunger for Him. We talked about setting reminders on her iPod, bands on her wrist, special jewelry, even writing notes to herself on her hand.

Me: “After reading the Bible, another good way to hear from God is to abide in Him. You called it being alone with Him. When are you ever truly alone. Quiet and still?”

PinkGirl: “When I’m in my room.”

Be still and know that I am God Psalms 46 10 Pause the noiseMe: “I mean really alone and quiet. No itouch, no iPad, no tv, no internet, no youtube, no text, no instagram, no facetime…”

PinkGirl: “oh.”

Me: “Sleeping doesn’t count.”

Me: “If you want to be closer to God, if you want to find joy in Him, you have to spend time with Him. Think of it this way. When you and PeterPanFan (her BFF) hang out together, you grow closer, don’t you think? You talk to each other, you have inside jokes, you start to think alike, finish each other’s sandwiches…even when you two are at your own houses, when you interact over the internet through text or instagram, you’re still spending time with each other even though you are miles apart. But if you were at your house and she was at her house and you weren’t interacting over the internet, you wouldn’t be able to hear her. What would happen to your friendship if you didn’t spend time together?”

(thinking)

Me: How connected can you be to God if you don’t spend time alone with Him?

(quiet. thinking)

Me: So. Prayer. Reading God’s Word and Abiding in Him. There’s something else you can do to find joy in God.”

PinkGirl: “what?”

Me: “Gratitude.”

PinkGirl: “Thanking Him?”

Me: “Actually there’s two kinds. Giving thanks for His blessings and praising Him for who He is. When you thank Him for blessings, you begin to recognize those blessings in your life more and more. And when you praise Him for who He is, no matter what your circumstances are, it helps you remember that God is sovereign and nothing happens to you that He doesn’t will or allow.”

We talked about disappointments, God’s providence and the peace that comes from trusting that all circumstances – which lead to both happiness and sadness – are God’s providence. We talked about tapestries. And praising Him, no matter what.

We talked about a lot of things. The things I’ve shared here are the things she gave me permission to share.

Afterwards, I realized.

Prayer. Reading God’s Word. Abiding in Him. Gratitude. P.R.A.G. The first four chapters of the book I was writing about how to experience a more intimate relationship with Christ. Seems so easy, just looking at them here. Not so easy. To do or to write about. If they were easy to do, every Christian would do them. If they were easy to write about…I haven’t been able to write for months. But in these precious moments with my daughter, I was able to articulate a summary in kid language.

He has been preparing me. Not only for that question at that moment.

God is Good. All the time.

(CLICK HERE for the story behind the song.)

April 22, 2014 Posted by | christian living, learning curve, music, pinterest, pragmatic communion, pragmatic parenting, praise team music, prayer, thankfulness, the search for Joy, youtube | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

“churched”

The other day, someone asked me if my kids grew up “churched.”

The pause before my reply was noticeably long.

I was thinking.

What does that mean? I realize my personal background and filters contribute to my way of thinking, but no definition I could come up with made it seem like growing up “churched” would be a good thing. Merriam-Webster defines it as:

adjective: “affiliated with a church.”

Well. That’s vague.

churched.

The word has connotations. Through my personal filters, adding “ed” after the word church makes it reek of religious knowledge and practices, not relationship with Christ.

So, if growing up churched just means my kids grew up knowing the traditions of church – whatever church or religion that might be, then yes, they grew up churched. They know what a call to worship is, they can sing the doxology, they know what to do with an offering plate, they know the different ways to take communion and what an alter call is. They know what the Apostles’ creed is and they know the Lord’s prayer doesn’t end with the words “with liberty and justice for all.” They can follow the verse order of a hymn and even though they both have searchable Bible apps, they can find a scripture in a Bible with paper pages by it’s reference. In more contemporary churches, they know that a worship service usually begins with what we in our family affectionately term a “giddyup Jesus” song, and they know why this video is funny.

So, if all that means my kids grew up churched, then yes. My kids grew up “churched.”

Some might say, “Well, it’s better than nothing.”

Not necessarily.

Here’s the deal. If all that stuff is a precursor to a personal decision for Christ or an expression of a growing relationship with Him, then yes. It is better than nothing.

BUT, if all those things are part of their life instead of or apart from a growing relationship with Christ, I don’t necessarily think growing up churched is better.

It might actually be worse.

I’ve personally met so. many. people. who grew up going to church and as an adult, have not only abandoned church, but faith altogether.

A few months ago, I asked God to break my heart for what breaks His. (CLICK HERE to read that post – and if you ever think about praying that, brace yourself.)

One clear and constant answer has been the fact that so many people have turned away from faith in Christ without ever really knowing what it is.

Who He is.

Growing up churched has kept more than a few people from relationship with Christ because they think that all those things I mentioned about church is evidence of a relationship with Christ.

Not always true.

That’s what I was thinking during the extended silence that followed the “Did your kids grow up churched?” question.

But when I broke that silence, what did I say?

“uhhhhh. Well. We took them to church if that’s what you mean.”

I am so articulate sometimes.

The truth is that despite all their knowledge and understanding of religious practices, my kids never heard the gospel explained in kid language at the church we attended. Hell was too scary for kids and Jesus was a role model, not a Savior. Discussions about asking Jesus to come into your heart? The Holy Spirit as a helper after you ask Jesus to come into your heart? No. (By the grace of God and through an extended, painful revelation process, we now understand that we need to be part of a Christ-centered church.)

We went to church on Sunday mornings, did a few summers of VBS, went to some fall costume parties, some Christmas breakfasts with Santa and some Easter egg hunts. Sunday school was mostly Bible stories and crafts. VBS was a rotation of Bible stories, crafting sessions and outdoor games interspersed with music, snacks and cute videos with moral and ethical messages.

They learned that God loved them. They learned they should help people. They learned God wanted them to be “good” like Jesus. They learned that they should give joyfully.

teach children diligently Deuteronomy 6 6-7But my kids first learned about having a relationship with Christ from my husband and I. Because we knew that our faith couldn’t be theirs by force or wishes, we prayed that the Holy Spirit would draw them to Christ, and we told them about Jesus. Through our lives – our words and our actions – they saw what faith in Christ really is – a relationship. They knew Jesus loved them – no matter what – just like we loved them. We prayed with them, we did family devotions together, we were authentic with them about the lessons God was teaching us, we listened to their problems, their fears and their joys and we continuously helped them to view and navigate all three through faith in God.

By the grace of God, they both accepted Christ at a very early age. By the grace of God and equipped by the Holy Spirit, we did our best to disciple them as they grew in their faith.

We enrolled them in Christian school because we wanted them to learn as much about the Bible as they did about math, science, history, spelling and English. When they moved onto middle school and began building on that Bible knowledge and learning theology, we actively engaged them in discussions that helped them figure out and ground themselves in their own beliefs, some of those beliefs different from what were being taught at school. As my son has grown older and graduated from high school, he’s come to some beliefs that differ from his mom and/or dad. (No surprise, mom and dad don’t always agree either.)

Regardless of the tangential beliefs we each have, we share faith in Jesus Christ as our Savior and Lord. All four of us depend on the Holy Spirit to equip us for the life we live, striving to follow the Father’s will.

My husband and I are confident that each of our children have their own faith in and relationship with Christ. We pray for those relationships regularly.

But “Did your kids grow up churched?” is a yes or no question. There wasn’t time to think through all that, much less say it.

Hence the blog post.

April 21, 2014 Posted by | christian living, pinterest, pragmatic communion, pragmatic parenting, praise team music, prayer, youtube | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

toxic concoction.

Doubt and Faith Toxic Concoction Mark Buchanan Your God is Too SafeI got cocky.

I thought I could logically justify my faith in God.

You’ll find some Christians who’ll tell you they can do it.

not me.

not anymore.

When someone told me my faith was illogical, irrational and unreasonable, I bristled. Or should I say, my ego bristled? I challenged them to prove it.

They couldn’t. (Their emotionally charged reasoning was circular and redundant and they completely ignored me when I poked questions into the holes in their arguments.)

But in the aftermath of those discussions, I discovered I couldn’t disprove it either.

Science and logic have limits. There are some things that can’t be understood or explained (and a definition isn’t an explanation).

Like what causes gravity.
Like human consciousness.
Like quantum entanglement (what Einstein called “spooky action at a distance”).

Like God.

Doesn’t mean they don’t exist. Just means we don’t understand why. Or how.

Somewhere along the way, I forgot that God cannot be completely understood. I forgot that a God I can understand is a God I create. Confine. Any God I can completely understand is limited by time and space and the extent to which I can understand.

Any God who is limited by my understanding is not transcendent.

I was reminded – the hard way – that I don’t want a God I can understand.

It was a season of extreme paradox in my life.

My faith had never been stronger and I had never been more aware of my weakness apart from Christ.

My faith had never been stronger and I had never been more intimately and desperately dependent on the Holy Spirit.

I prayed daily for wisdom and discernment and empathy and compassion. I prayed daily for Him to continuously make me aware of opportunities to be the hands and feet and voice and ears of Christ. Watching and listening for the promptings of the Holy Spirit had never been more in the forefront of my awareness. I prayed not only for the Holy Spirit to prompt me when to speak and act, but when to be silent and still.

I prayed for Him to equip me in what I honestly knew to be beyond my capabilities.

and then.

The person who told me my faith was illogical, irrational and unreasonable asked me a simple question:

If God is sovereign, why pray?

You’d think I would have considered that question before, me being all spiritually “mature” and everything.

Turns out, I had never really thunk it through. I had dismissed it, thoughtlessly citing Biblical platitudes like “I pray because Jesus prayed.” and “I pray because the Bible tells us to pray.”

When I finally looked at the question straight on, my entire relationship with God came to a screeching halt.

I couldn’t pray.

I wanted to turn back the clock. To unthink what I was thinking. I wanted the faith of a child.

I wanted stronger faith.

Suddenly and overwhelmingly, I identified with Philip Yancey when he wrote:

“I envy, truly I envy, those people who pray in simple faith without fretting about how prayer works and how God governs this planet. For some reason I cannot avoid pondering these imponderables.”

What was so different about this question this time? It came at a critical juncture in my life. After arguing with God for months, I had finally taken the terrifying step of obedience by sharing something I believe God was revealing to me. Something I tried to ignore. Something I didn’t want to see: That I was part of a church which marginalized grace, Jesus, the Holy Spirit, prayer and relationship with Christ. That we forgot 1 Corinthians 2:2-5 and were ignoring Matthew 28:19.

I was genuinely repentant and prayed desperately for God to bring revival. Heartbroken, I asked for people to pray with me. I was blindsided by how angry people were, how fast and how much they misunderstood what I said and how vehemently they rejected not only what I was saying, but me.

I had argued with God, finally doing what I believed He was prompting me to do and I was faced with closed hearts, closed minds and slammed doors.

So I did what anyone “mature” in their faith would do. I ran into a cave and hid.

A dark cave.

“But he himself went a day’s journey into the wilderness, and came and sat down under a solitary broom tree. He asked that he might die: “It is enough; now, O Lord, take away my life, for I am no better than my ancestors.” Then he lay down under the broom tree and fell asleep. Suddenly an angel touched him and said to him, “Get up and eat.” He looked, and there at his head was a cake baked on hot stones, and a jar of water. He ate and drank, and lay down again. The angel of the Lord came a second time, touched him, and said, “Get up and eat, otherwise the journey will be too much for you.” He got up, and ate and drank; then he went in the strength of that food forty days and forty nights to Horeb the mount of God. At that place he came to a cave, and spent the night there.

Then the word of the Lord came to him, saying, “What are you doing here, Elijah?”
1 Kings 19:4-9

Go ahead, sing-song it with me.

“Julie and Elijah, sitting under a tree, w. h. i. n. ing.”

I prayed.

and then I couldn’t.

Because God is sovereign and God’s gonna do what God’s gonna do.

And then I prayed because I couldn’t help it.

Because a life void of intimacy with Christ and utter dependance on the Holy Spirit was vastly empty. and hopelessly dark.

Desolate.

I prayed because I couldn’t help it while at the same time believing that praying to a sovereign God who’s working a plan and doesn’t need my help was…pointless.

Not logical. Not pragmatic.

And that’s where faith is required.

And where doubt came in.

I never doubted the existence of God. I never doubted Christ or the Cross or the redeeming power of His blood. I never doubted my salvation.

I doubted the point of me.

If God is sovereign, why pray?

If God doesn’t need me, why would He even bother with me? Why did He even bother with me?

And that’s why I say I can’t logically justify my faith.

In my darkest night, when God was completely silent, when the logical, rational and reasonable foundation for my faith was beyond my sight,

I still had faith.

I still have faith.

April 10, 2014 Posted by | apologetics, books, Christ-Centered Church, christian living, pinterest, pragmatic communion, praise team music, prayer, youtube | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 308 other followers