Pragmatic Compendium

inspiring the pragmatic practice of intimacy with Christ

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

facebook fragments: 02/01/14 – 02/07/14 (superbowl & chaperone duty)

Posting this a week late, as usual…

Saturday, February 1, 2014
Who else would have to eat these one line at a time?

Cheddar Jack Cheezits Grooves

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Shopping for a new blender because we smoothied ours to DEATH.
This is my favorite amazon.com review so far:

Pros: It blends. I can make protein shakes with this blender. Cheap.
Cons: Does not clean itself. Does not make my drinks for me.

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I LOVE shopping online instead of in a store.
Free shipping and coupon codes make it even BETTER.

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Sunday, February 2, 2014
Yo, FirstHusband. Taking the power supply from a laptop that can’t hold a charge is like taking a crutch from someone with a broken leg.

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Listening to my husband sing “Let me sleep on it” softly as he’s putting away groceries.
This is what happens when he drives his son’s muscle car and listens to classic rock.

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FavoriteSon: This smells disgusting!
Every time I think something died in our garbage disposal I look next to me and there’s BROCCOLI.

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FavoriteSon: “Watching the Superbowl commercials early on youtube is blasphemous.”
Meanwhile, there’s a Doritos commercial coming up that reminds me of this one:

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This one made me laugh.


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Monday, February 3, 2014
I’m chaperoning PinkGirl’s 7th grade trip to a “coastal classroom” on an island in south Georgia later this week.
FirstHusband went with FavoriteSon when he was in 7th grade so I’m getting some info.
Apparently, there will be a night hike.
And supposedly, “snakes are in hibernation this time of year.”
umm hmm.
#ilovemydaughter

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Going over the packing list for the trip I’m going on with PinkGirl’s 7th grade class. My least favorite item on the list? “Plastic bag for muddy clothes. (clothes may come home very muddy and wet!)”
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There was no floor laying this past weekend.
My flooring shipment was somewhere north of snow & ice.
26 boxes of flooring will be here tomorrow between 1 and 4pm.
I think I’m going to get a free pallet or two as a bonus.
#pinterest

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Me: “There’s no floss down here.” (two story house)
FirstHusband: “yes there is.”
Me: “I am NOT using the bubble gum floss. (pause)
Why do we even HAVE bubble gum floss? How old is it?”
But did I throw it out? no.

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Tuesday, February 4, 2014
Make homemade marshmallows. #thingsiwillneverdo

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Teacher: “Who wants to be in charge of bringing cups to the snack party tomorrow?”
PinkGirl: “ME!”
Teacher: “okay. and who wants to bring homemade brownies?”
That’s my girl.
#ilovemydaughter

kid homework fail? I think not.
red solo cup

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Least favorite task of the day complete:
taking a double bagged diarrhea sample to the vet.
#tmi #pitifulcat

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“Legal fees, jail time and loss of business make the sale of humans a less lucrative trade. Regardless of the verdicts, raids and arrests send a message to the local community that sexual slavery is not acceptable. When we apply pressure to the trafficking mechanisms from a legal standpoint, we slowly force modern-day slavery into the category of higher risk and lower reward. This is potentially one of the greatest steps we can make as a community fighting this injustice.”
(to read the full article, CLICK HERE)

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It occurred to me that coffee at a “coastal classroom” might be…less than optimal.
This is going to be a disappointment, isn’t it?
#ilovemydaughter

tasters choice hazelnut instant coffee

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Wednesday, February 5, 2014 (at the CRACK of dawn)
The coffee pot is fully loaded.
none of that half-caf, half-decaf nonsense today.
#ilovemydaughter

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Thursday, February 6, 2014
Breakfast is at 6:30am.
At 5am, a cell phone alarm goes off. (set for the previous morning)
Seconds later, it goes off again.
And again.
The 3rd noise is multiple voices calling the cell phone owner’s name in a fruitless attempt to wake them up, followed by “SOMEBODY POWER IT OFF! ” and “ARHHH”
It’s now 5:45am and the cell phone owner is still asleep.
“Somebody WAKE HER UP! Her cell phone woke US all up at FIVE O’CLOCK IN THE MORNING!”
#13girls3chaperones2bathrooms

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PinkGirl, coming in the chaperone room to change: “you have clean floors in here. You don’t find that a lot out there.” #suburbgirlproblems

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My kinda field trip. Even it is cold and windy. #ilovemydaughter

St. Simons Island Beach

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Thank you God that it is NOT raining.
Thank you God for the rain jackets I bought and brought.
so. cold. so. windy.
#beachhike

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Cumberland Island Guide, talking about the Carnegie family:
“How did they make their money? I’ll give you a hint. Pittsburgh.”
Teacher, under her breath: “steel… steel.”
PinkGirl, exuberantly: “They would STEAL IT!!”
Me: “not that kind of steel, babe.”
Oh.
#ilovemydaughter

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Answer: terrain and wind chill.
Question: what is it about an 8 hour hike on a coastal island that exponentially kicks my butt more than a 14 hour, 25,000 step, park-hopping day at Disney theme parks?

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How many tickles does it take to make an octopus laugh?
The correct answer put a group 1st in line for dinner.
PinkGirl nailed it.
Everyone else had to stand in line in the freezing cold and sprinkling rain.
#iREALLYlovemydaughter
#hotcoffee

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Facing the Giants. #dry #warm #tired

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Friday, February 7, 2014
God is good, all the time.

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It’s been one of the longest, shortest, frustrating, rewarding, heartbreaking, hopeful, disappointing, hopeful 3 days of my life.
Kids who love Jesus,
kids who need Jesus and are looking for him
and kids who keep themselves so distracted they have no idea how much Jesus is jealous for them.
Praying this trip remains a stone in their shoe.
Praying that the Holy Spirit would draw them closer to Christ.
AMEN.

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PinkGirl after coming home from a 3 day trip to a “coastal classroom” in Georgia: “I’m gonna take a shower.”
FavoriteDad: “A warm shower?”
PinkGirl: “The water in that shower was either like the inside of a volcano or where the Titanic sank.”
true. there was a very, very small window on that shower dial where the water didn’t burn you alive or freeze you to death.

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I was complaining about an incompetent vendor billing error.
PinkbGirl, dramatically gesturing: ” Mom. Let it Go. Let it Go.”
FavoriteDad: “You know, you can never legitimately say “The cold never bothered me anyway” ever again.”
PinkGirl: ” It’s metaphoric, Dad.”

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I’m home.
I’ve been in the sauna.
I’ve taken a shower and washed my hair
and I’ve written some alternate lyrics to “My Favorite Things” that I’m calling “Suburbanite Things”

Toilets with knee room and floors with clean carpet
Light bulbs that light things and wi-fi and Target
a king size mattress, complete with box springs,
These are a few of my favorite things.

Sinks with hot water and unfrozen throne seats
Paths free of horse scat and clean shoes and warm feet
Ground with no incline, wind with no sting
These are a few of my favorite things.

When the cold bites
When the wind stings
When I need a heating pad,
I simply imagine suburbanite things
And then I don’t feel so bad

To see more previous facebook update and compilation blog posts, CLICK HERE.

February 15, 2014 Posted by | family, fragments, freakishly organized, laugh!, pinterest, poor me some whine, pragmatic commotion, pragmatic parenting, prayer, status updates, thankfulness, youtube | , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

facebook fragments: 01/25/14 – 01/31/14

Saturday, January 25, 2014
Me, to PinkGirl, who was head down in her iPad: “Whatcha up to?”
PinkGirl: “Talking to people.”
Me: “Who ya talking to?”
PinkGirl: “What difference does it make?”
Me: “When I’m on the phone, what do you always ask me?
PinkGirl, grinning: “Who ya talking to?”
Me: “When I’m texting someone, what do you always ask me?”
PinkGirl, rolling eyes: “Who ya texting.”
Me: “So, who ya talking to?”
#ilovemydaughter

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PinkGirl: “Mama, you know what I realized? Owl is a narcissist, Rabbit has OCD, Piglet has anxiety, Pooh has an eating disorder, Eyeore has depression and Tigger has ADHD. (pause) Kanga and Roo…I don’t have anything for them.”
#ilovemydaughter

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FirstHusband and I CRACKED up. The music was a dead giveaway.
(And he’s either a bachelor or his wife was NOT home.)

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Me, to PinkGirl, who’s in the shower: “Do you have a towel?”
PG: “no” and after I give her a towel: “Thank you!”
Me, to PinkGirl, who is walking upstairs wrapped in her towel: “Please put on your wrap and hang up your towel.”
PG: “I’m going upstairs to get dressed.”
Me: “yes, I know. Please put on your wrap and hang up your towel, so that the NEXT time you take a shower, your towel will be AVAILABLE to you….and I can see you mocking me.
PG: “Yes, but I did it with a smile.”
#ilovemydaughter

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Check out what my FavoriteHusband made with scraps of 2×4 today. #pinterest #honeydo

DSC_0111

DSC_0112

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Saturday, January 26, 2014
The distance between being a target & praying for the shooter is so much shorter for my daughter than myself. #sweetestbedtimeprayers

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Monday, January 26, 2014
I’m going to be painting walls this week and my brain will be idle, so I’ve decided to spend the time in prayer. Is there anything I can pray about for you? Message me. You don’t have to tell me exactly what to pray about if you’re not comfortable sharing – God knows.

Luke 18

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I shared a facebook updated by Mandisa:
“Yesterday #Overcomer won a #Grammy for Best Contemporary Christian Music Song and Album…and I wasn’t there. My reasons why might surprise you. I wrote about it here.” –> http://wp.me/p3Gq0r-cE

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Listening to PinkGirl sing mouth guitar to this while I’m painting.

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Day One of painting complete. The big red wall is gone. Both cats are still black. Success. In case you missed it, here are the photos so far: (click the photo to see the post with all the photos)

the living room makeover - moisture barrier2

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13 year old PinkGirl, at the beginning of watching this video: “What’s this puppy doing? I’m intrigued.”
I love hearing my kids use words like this in everyday conversation. #ilovemydaughter

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Clearly, my socks are broken.
And we need to replace the sliding doors in this house.
#cold

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Bank decided to replace our credit card.
1st vendor I updated?
My amazon.com 1-click, of course.
Then paypal, then…2 hours later…I hope I’m done.
#thankyoutarget

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Chili 2 ways tonight – white bean chicken & traditional (but with ground Healthy Choice sausage because I’m out of ground beef) and cornbread. oh. & Beano for an appetizer.

Both my men will be in the house with me all day tomorrow. I, of course, will not need it. I always smell like books.

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It is NOT okay to be mean to someone & then act like it never happened. It’s dysfunctional. Own it. Apologize.
Even if it’s uncomfortable.

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What a PHENOMENAL story of God’s providence!!!
#providencenotcoincidence

Snapshot of Grace – Crecco / Maianu Family from Christ Community Chapel on Vimeo.

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I hate it when Ernest is sick. (Ernest is my laptop.) His battery transplant from Ebay has shipped. Meanwhile, I’ve been tethered to an electrical outlet for days.
FYI, Ernest got his name from the following book quote:
“For some reason, everyone thinks, ‘I should know how to write.’ No one thinks, ‘I should know how to play the piano.’ But when it comes to writing, ‘I should know how to do it.’
What if I told you a story about a man who buys a piano, sits down to play for the very first time and is shocked when he doesn’t sound like Arthur Rubinstein?
‘I don’t understand,’ he complains, ‘I’ve listened to lots of music, I should know how to play the piano.’
Ridiculous you say? Yet there you are: Banging away at the typewriter, you’re mortified when your work isn’t as good as Ernest Hemingway’s. Hell, it isn’t even as good as Ernest Goes to Camp.”
from “If You Can Talk, You Can Write” by Joel Saltzman

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To see more previous facebook update and compilation blog posts, CLICK HERE.

February 4, 2014 Posted by | family, fragments, freakishly organized, laugh!, pinterest, poor me some whine, pragmatic commotion, pragmatic parenting, prayer, status updates, thankfulness, youtube | , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

four minutes with God: in the dark, surrounded by trees.

peace is not the absence of darknessa Quote:
“A friend of mine is a singer. From time to time she goes to record vocal tracks at a studio here in town. One evening she went and she was in a different room than she had ever been in before. In a studio, there is always some form of sound absorbing material, so that the recording is clean and clear, but in this case the sound materials were unique. The guys in the studio called them “trees” because instead of being attached to the walls, the whole room was full of these sound absorbing columns. My friend would stand on her mark, and they would move the columns around her, surrounding her with the trees. Well at one point, the lights went out and if she hadn’t already been on her mark, she would not have known where she was, and would have been bumping into the “trees,” and unable to find her mark. Because her feet were planted before it got dark, she felt secure and confident, she just had to wait until the lights came back on. Do you see where I’m going with this? There will be struggles in this life. You will have suffering, and loss, and confusion. But the question is not “where are the trees,” but “where are your feet?” If you understand that Christ has made a way for you to be in the presence of God both now (through the Holy Spirit), and in the end (in the New Heavens and New Earth); if you cultivate a relationship with his Holy Spirit–becoming ever-more aware of his daily, constant presence with you; if you worship in light of these truths–knowing that God is here in Christ’s name, and if all of this seeps down into your heart, then when the lights go out you’ll be on your mark, you’ll be secure and confident, and you just have to wait until the lights come back on–in this life, or in glory.”
by Curtis Froisland
[to read my version of this story, CLICK HERE]

the Word:
19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”
Matthew 28:19-20 (NIV)

my Prayer:
Father, thank you for turning the lights out. again. Thank you for stripping away all the tangible, visible things that had become a stumbling block in my pursuit of an intimate relationship with You. Only You know the extent to which the extraction of those things rocked my faith and shattered my confidence. Even though these last 5 months have been the darkest of my life and I may never fully understand them, I’m grateful for the lessons I have learned. Thank you for striking me full in the face with the reminder that if I sincerely want the intimacy with You that I say I do, I have to be willing to be vulnerable. Transparent. I need to wholly surrender to Your sovereign plan. Thank you for helping me to find peace in the process and result of letting go of my own dreams and plans. Please help me find sustaining and true joy in trusting You and following You NO MATTER WHAT. Please, please help me find that fine line between dying to self and being a good steward of the gifts You bless me with. Please help me to relentlessly pursue my passions without allowing them to become idols. Please help me to overcome my fear and determination to NEVER put my love for them above my love for You ever again and to boldly “go and make disciples” in every single area of my life. Help me to step forward even though I know one of those steps could result in disobedience and discipline. again. Please help me to remember that pruning is necessary in order that I “bear much fruit. Thank you for helping me to understand Your silence doesn’t mean You’ve left me alone in in the dark.”

the lyric.
“You move in the unseen. You set the captives free. As I stand and sing, you’re breaking the chains off me. Breathe in me Your life, I can feel You are close now. I can never hide You are here and You know me. All I need is You
And I love You…Breathe in me Your life ’til Your love overtakes me. Open up my eyes, let me see You more clearly.”
by Bones (Live) by Hillsong

October 24, 2013 Posted by | christian living, devotions, four minutes with God, music, pragmatic communion, prayer, suffering, thankfulness, the search for Joy, what I've learned, youtube | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

idences.

specifically, providence and coincidence.

Tozer quote you can see God from anywhereprovidence: capitalized : God conceived as the power sustaining and guiding human destiny

coincidence: the occurrence of events that happen at the same time by accident but seem to have some connection

I can’t ever remember believing in coincidences. My husband on the other hand, is a big believer in them. He believes some things – LOTS of things – just…happen. I believe some things happen randomly too. But I also believe that God takes each and every one of those random events and circumstances and, in His sovereign will, wrapped in undeserved and unearned grace and mercy, purposefully works them for His good.

Every. single. one of them. Because He is that good. He’s all powerful, all knowing and ever present.

When we find ourselves smack in the middle a seemingly random happening, both my husband and I agree that God has given us the freedom to choose. We are to be guided by wisdom (Bible, learned knowledge, prayer, experience, wise counsel, reason, etc.), but we get to choose how we respond. We both find loads of scriptural support for this belief.

The big difference between Hubs and I on this is that I tend to assume God’s hand in nearly everything – big or teeny, obvious or not, whether I ever get to know how or not. I’m not saying I believe God MAKES everything happen in this fallen world, although I believe He could. Again – He is that good. I’m saying I don’t find scriptural support for the extreme, exclusive idea that He makes EVERYthing happen. Sure, some things He makes happen. But some things He allows to happen. His sovereign will is unknown to us. In all cases, I believe the promise of Romans 8:28.

Who am I to determine what is meaningful or insignificant? The Bible tells me nothing is insignificant to God. The Bible tells me the hairs on my head are actually numbered.

Even being “in the dark,” as it were, I intuitively look for deeper meaning. What is God doing? Why did He allow something to happen? I immediately start thinking and praying about how to respond, whether it be taking action or figuring out what God wants me to learn or take away from the situation.

Last week, I had a friend remark to me “You see God in EVERYTHING.”

quote-lo-the-poor-indian-whose-untutored-mind-sees-god-in-clouds-or-hears-him-in-the-wind-alexander-pope-Not sure I ever consciously thought about it before, but she’s right. I do. I can’t imagine living any other way. To me, it’s completely normal. The fact that I see God in everything is probably one of the reasons I don’t believe in coincidences.

This might be a chicken or the egg kind of thing.

Either way, over the last few months, I’ve seen more of my own fingerprints than God’s. My life was one of the smudgiest sliding glass doors you’ve ever seen. And all the fingerprints were down low. Where I could reach.

To drastically summarize 16 “hard look in the mirror” blog posts: God has been silent in my life for a few months. I don’t like it. At. All. I feel like God the Father has taken His hand off the bicycle seat of my life to teach me…what? To be confident He is there even when I don’t feel the security of His hand? I researched the theology of “the dark night” and came out of all the reading grounded in one of the metaphors. I was going to stop swimming and float. Not drift – with no intention. FLOAT – in the current of God’s will. I wasn’t going to fight the current. I was going to stop swimming in the direction I thought God wanted me to go. I was going to FLOAT.

In the silence.

Seemed like a reasonable plan.

Until the silence became unbearable. I wrote last week, that I came to a breaking point. If you didn’t read that, “CLICK HERE” to check it out.

ya back?

okay. so that Monday night, I went to sleep having intentionally chosen this season of silence and whatever God is teaching me over tried and true past remedies for finding Joy in God. I called it my darkest night.

Tuesday morning, I woke up to an email in my inbox. The local school where I’ve recorded for more than 3 years had two cancellations for that upcoming weekend. Could I cover two vocal labs (recording sessions)? (If you didn’t do it a minute ago, you’re gonna have to read “two steps forward. one step back.” to get the full impact of that “coincidence.”)

and remember. I see God’s hand in EVERYthing.

So, in the spirit of floating, I said yes.

I spent the entire morning looking for two songs to sing. Given that I had less than four days to prepare a lead and at least two harmonies for each song, I focused specifically on songs I already knew. Song after song – one obstacle after another. No track. Background vocals already on the track. Wrong key. just…wrong after wrong after wrong.

I left the house for the afternoon and when I came back, someone had posted on my facebook wall:

“Hey, so you know the song ‘He is with You” by Mandisa? I think you should sing it at church. Take a look….'”

I immediately thought: “Mandisa? I can’t sing Mandisa.” But again, in the spirit of floating, I responded:

“I’m gonna call that a God thing. LocalRecordingSchool called me today asking me to fill in two cancellations this weekend. I struggled to select tracks all day. One down. one to go. Thanks, friend. If the rough cut is any good, I’ll give you a copy.”

And then another facebook friend commented:

“‘There is a God’ by Lee Ann Womack?”

That’s two.

Monday night I had broken down, wimped out and asked God to let me/help me sing again, then almost immediately took back my request, choosing the lesson of the dark night over the temporal blessing that would have come with the singing.

Then all that happened on Tuesday. The fingerprints on my sliding glass door were MUCH bigger than my own.

and they weren’t anywhere near my reach.

August 20, 2013 Posted by | christian living, intentional living, learning curve, music, pinterest, poor me some whine, pragmatic communion, suffering, thankfulness, the search for Joy | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

the dark night.

and no. I’m not talking about Holy DARK KNIGHT, Batman.

I had never even heard about the dark night until I started reading about finding joy and delight in God, spiritual dryness, spiritual darkness and the silence of God. I first stumbled upon the term while reading “Prayer” by Philip Yancey. He said:

“I take some comfort in the fact that virtually all the masters of spirituality recount a dark night of the soul. Sometimes it passes quickly and sometimes it persists for months, even years. I have yet to find a single witness, though, who does not tell of going through a dry period.”

Is a “dry period” necessarily this “dark night”? Are these terms interchangeable? Both have been so eclectically described, I can’t lock down a globally accepted definition. People who have attempted to describe their experience have trouble articulating it. I’ve read John of the Cross, who is the originator of the term “dark night.” I’ve read Teresa of Avila and an unknown monk. Those three were not easy or complete reads. Thankfully, Thomas Green wrote extensively about the dark night and interpreted for me. C.S. Lewis, John Piper, R.C. Sproul, Henri Nouwen and a number of others have written about dryness and/or the dark night.

dark night of soul annie dillardI’ve read a lot of metaphors in the last few weeks.

It would appear that one dark night does not fit all.

Here’s the Cliff Notes version, courtesy of Eric Sammons

“Unfortunately, “Dark Night” has become a term used very loosely to designate any difficult or depressing time in life. But this is not the meaning St. John of the Cross gives to “Dark Night.”

…not brought about by external events, such as the loss of a job or the death of a loved one. Instead, they are brought about by God alone, who uses the Dark Nights to purge the soul of attachments to the things of this world….”

“…God becomes the primary initiator of prayer, not man…the soul experiences dryness in prayer. It is a painful state that tests the soul to see if it desires prayer for the consolations or because it desires God Himself. At this stage, the ability to meditate becomes difficult, even painful, as no fruit comes from it and the Holy Spirit wants to move the soul from meditation to contemplation.

I have to ask. Is there scriptural basis for this?

Make no mistake. I’m a strong believer in the “dry spell” of it all. I’m a witness to it. I KNOW it happens. and I know first-hand how devastating it is. How it can rock faith. I’m smack in the thick of it.

and it. SUCKS.

My skepticism is with the surety and scriptural foundation of the dark night as the reason.

I’ve seen a commenter on another blog ask about the scriptural foundation of the explanation of the dark night and he was effectively dismissed. The general assumption expressed by those who responded to him was that he didn’t understand and obviously hadn’t experienced it. It didn’t occur to anyone that the reason he didn’t understand was that their explanations were vague and weak.

and I find myself thinking of an emperor in his underwear.

offended? If the invisible shoe fits, wear it.

hhhhhhhhh.

It would be so much simpler if I was just smack in the middle of disobedience and I could repent, claim the promise of Romans 8:1 and move forward. Instead, I’m compelled to keep reading….

“Why is this painful stage necessary?…It is necessary so that the soul can be purged of defects that still exist within it, defects which prevent the soul from being passively receptive to God’s grace.”

purged of defects?

I have defects. I reek of defects.

“…a person might flee from the Dark Night and regress into lower levels of prayer. The proper response to this temptation to regress, however, is renewing your trust in God, continuing to utilize acquired recollection in prayer, abstaining from seeking consolation, and seeking counsel from a good spiritual director.”

lower levels of prayer?

lower levels of prayer. like with consolations and meditations?

and the “proper” response is to

(1) renew my trust in God
(2) continue to utilize “acquired” recollection in prayer
(3) don’t seek consolation and
(4) seek counsel from a good spiritual advisor.

so.

(1) duh.
(2) I think that means remember what God has done in my life in the past.
(3) Don’t try to pray the way I used to pray. Because those prayers are “lower.”
(4) God, if you want me to have a spiritual mentor who’s experienced this before, you’re gonna have to send me one. Break the silence.

SEND. me. one. PLEASE.

I admit. I’m torn. Between

(1) wanting there to be such a thing as this dark night and
(2) thinking it’s just a scape goat for people who need to rationalize whatever spiritual obstacle they are facing.

Faaaarrrr more likely, I’m grasping at straws to rationalize failing.

I started this journey because I wanted to find joy and delight in the nature of who God is without the crutches of circumstance or experiences. This is the scripture that comes to mind right now:

“My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing.”  James 1:2-4

count it all joy.

I’m tryin.

[CLICK HERE to see a listing of all the blog posts in this series "the search for Joy."]

August 16, 2013 Posted by | christian living, pinterest, poor me some whine, pragmatic communion, prayer, suffering, thankfulness, the search for Joy, Uncategorized | 2 Comments

two steps forward. one step back.

If you read my last post, “growing pains” you know I’ve been having trouble seeing God’s hand in my life over the last few months.

God has been silent.

sound of silenceWhen I first became aware of the silence, I immediately assumed sin was separating me from God. I confessed all the sin I could identify. I raked through my life and identified the sin I had been rationalizing or been numb and oblivious to. I asked God to reveal to me anything I hadn’t found.

Be careful what you pray for.

I let go of some things in my life. Good things. One thing in particular that was responsible for actually helping me to discover how to worship God – to praise Him – for who He was instead just thank Him for what He did for me; for the blessings He afforded. This was something I had never understood or been able to do before. That’s what made leading worship a good thing. a very good thing.

I let it go because it had morphed into a crutch I had become dependent on to facilitate that worship.

I let go of other “good” things too. They had become obstacles in my relationship with Him.

But if you are one of the handful of people who actually read this blog regularly, you know all that.

Since then, God has been silent.

I’ve been seeking God every day. Relentlessly.

that’s an understatement.

Still. God has been silent.

crickets.

After more than 6 years of sensing God’s presence and movement in my daily life, it took less than two months for me to become resigned to the silence.

Not seeing or sensing God’s hand in my life, I stopped looking for it.

I expected the silence. It became my new normal.

dark night of the sensesI began reading everything I could about finding delight and joy in God. About spiritual dryness, spiritual darkness, the absence of God and the silence of God. C.S. Lewis, R.C. Sproul, John Piper, Philip Yancey and authors new to me, like Thomas Green, John of the Cross, and Teresa of Avila. People who experienced and wrote about the “dark night.” Some of them talked about the dark night lasting the rest of their life.

I stopped writing in my prayer journal.

I had nothing to say.

I began abiding.

I threw myself into the mindless work of purging my environment and my life of superfluous things.

I began learning how to “pray without words” as C.S. Lewis would say. I stopped filling up the space between me and God with my voice. my incessant talking. I shut up. and I listened.

And God was silent.

In the beginning, I hated it. It was unsettling.

I was brokenhearted. I don’t say that kind stuff about myself. But there’s really no better way to describe it.

C.S. Lewis described it this way:

“We can bear to be refused but not to be ignored. In other words, our faith can survive many refusals if they really are refusals and not mere disregards. The apparent stone will be bread to us if we believe that a Father’s hand put it into ours, in mercy or in justice or even in rebuke.”
from Letters to Malcolm: Chiefly on Prayer

After a few weeks, there was peace in the quiet. Like sitting with a close friend. The kind of friend you can ride in a car with, not talking, and feel no need to fill the void with spoken words. completely grounded. no need for a stealth “#awkward” tweet from the passenger seat.

so, there was peace.

but not joy.

In my last post, I said that I hadn’t been able to pray any specific petitionary prayers because I didn’t trust my motives. I said that last Monday I had hit bottom. The silence had become unbearable.

I broke.

I asked God to let me sing again. In my weakness, I instinctively reached out for the one thing that had allowed me to experience true JOY in God – regardless of my circumstances.

Singing to Him. I hadn’t been able to bring myself to do it since June 30th.

I went to bed that Monday night, the silence ringing in my mind. Disappointed in myself for caving. For chickening out and turning my back on whatever God is trying to teach me in this time of silence. Instead of trusting in the process of this journey, I reached out for old, tried and true, comfortable habits.

I wimped out.

I was convinced God was teaching me something. Something important. Although I had no idea what and I had no idea how long the lesson would last. It seemed that, at what appeared to be the hardest part of the lesson, I was asking God to give back what I had given up. I was going backward. I was turning my back on what He has for me now.

As I fell asleep, I took back my request. I told God that I didn’t want to settle for temporal blessings of comfort and happiness in exchange for this new relationship. Even if the new relationship meant years of silence.

Last Monday night was my darkest night.

[CLICK HERE to see a listing of all the blog posts in this series "the search for Joy."]

August 13, 2013 Posted by | music, pinterest, poor me some whine, pragmatic communion, prayer, suffering, thankfulness, the search for Joy, Uncategorized, what I've learned | 2 Comments

four minutes with God: 2 Chronicles 5:13-14

a Quote:
“…what I testify to is the power of visual art, and especially music…They have the potential to awaken the mind and heart to aspects of God’s glory that were not perceived before. Paintings or photographs of mountains and streams can call forth a sense of wonder and peace. If we are willing to “look along” (not just “at”) these pictures, as Lewis taught us, our eyes will run up the beams to the Original Glory, and the wonder and peace will rest finally in the wonderful and peaceful mountains and streams of God’s power and mercy.

…We must make it our aim that the joy awakened by music be joy in God…Then the effort to delight in God through music will involve a prior shaping of the mind by the Word…Then the effort to delight in God through music will also involve a thoughtful testing after the music has already awakened joy. Is this joy…stirring my desires to know Christ better and love him more and show him to others at the cost of my own comfort? So before and after music has its immediate effect, we pursue the goal that music make us more glad in the glory of God.”
When I Don’t Desire God: How to Fight for Joy
by John Piper

my Prayer:
Come Thou Fount Here I raise mine EbenezerLord, thank you for using praise music and my worship through that music to awaken my mind and heart to aspects of Your Glory I had never perceived before. Thank You for the joy it brought and the delight I found in You because of WHO YOU ARE. Thank You for the overwhelming and undeniable awareness of Your presence in those moments. Thank You for helping me to completely forget myself and for moving me into deeper praise, no longer centered in gratitude for Your temporal blessings, but grounded and focused on eternal things: Your Sovereignty, Your Holiness, Your stubborn love for me and my desperate and relentless need for You.

Even though the lesson was one of the hardest I’ve ever faced, thank you for teaching me that finding worship through music wasn’t enough, that it only took me part way. It limited true praise to those brief moments. Thank you for showing me that my dependance on music was quenching Your Spirit. It prevented me from finding joy and delight in WHO YOU ARE in the ordinary, everyday moments of my life. Thank You for the understanding that I can’t find that joy and delight on my own, through my own striving, depending on anything in this world to facilitate it.

Holy Spirit, please bless me with joy and delight, so I won’t be tempted to settle for less by depending on anything or anybody but Christ.

the Word:
“The trumpeters and musicians joined in unison to give praise and thanks to the Lord. Accompanied by trumpets, cymbals and other instruments, the singers raised their voices in praise to the Lord and sang:

“He is good; his love endures forever.”

Then the temple of the Lord was filled with the cloud, and the priests could not perform their service because of the cloud, for the glory of the Lord filled the temple of God”
2 Chronicles 5:13-14 (NIV)

the lyric.
“Come thou fount of every blessing, tune my heart to sing Thy grace
Streams of mercy never ceasing, call for songs of loudest praise
Teach me some melodious sonnet. Sung by flaming tongues above.
Praise the Mount I’m fixed upon it, mount of Thy redeeming love

Here I raise my Ebenezer. Hither by Thy help I come.
Oh, and I hope by Thy good pleasure, safely to arrive at home”
sung by Kings Kaleidoscope


[CLICK HERE to see a listing of all the blog posts in this series "the search for Joy."]

July 10, 2013 Posted by | books, christian living, devotions, four minutes with God, music, pinterest, pragmatic communion, praise team music, prayer, thankfulness, the search for Joy, what I've learned, youtube | , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

four minutes with God: Hebrews 4:15-16

a Quote:
“…how did the early Christians pray for joy? First, we may assume that they prayed the prayers of the only Bible that they had, namely, the Old Testament. Thus they would have prayed:

“Satisfy us in the morning with your steadfast love, that we may rejoice and be glad all our days” (Ps. 90:14).
“Let me hear joy and gladness; let the bones that you have broken rejoice” (Ps. 51:8).
“Restore to me the joy of your salvation, and uphold me with a willing spirit” (Ps. 51:12).
“Make us glad for as many days as you have afflicted us” (Ps. 90:15).
“Will you not revive us again, that your people may rejoice in you?” (Ps. 85:6).

Don’t miss how radical these prayers are. They assume that we are unable to make ourselves satisfied in God. And they assume that God has the right to do it, is able to do it, and does it in answer to prayer.”

When I Don’t Desire God: How to Fight for Joy
by John Piper

Gods Mercy Never Fails Hebrews 4 16my Prayer:
Lord, I desperately want to delight only in You. Please help me love you. most.

the Word:
For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin. Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need
Hebrews 4:15-16 (NIV)

the lyric.
“Breathe in me Your life. ‘Til Your love overtakes me
Open up my eyes. Let me see You more clearly
Falling on my knees, ’til I love like You love
Like You love me”

by Hillsong

[CLICK HERE to see a listing of all the blog posts in this series "the search for Joy."]

June 18, 2013 Posted by | books, christian living, devotions, four minutes with God, music, praise team music, prayer, thankfulness, the search for Joy, youtube | , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

reading. thinking. cleaning. painting. purging.

simplify clarify magnifyWhen my head is a mess, I am compelled to order my environment.

My husband is scared right now.

happy. but scared.

Happy because of all the stuff I’m getting rid of. And I’m getting rid of a LOT of stuff. a LOT of stuff.

Scared because of the honey-do list that goes along with ordering my environment.

poor guy.

I’m so thankful to God for him. He is my density.

In the middle (and at the bottom) of stirring this mess in my head, he said: “You really need to work through this. I don’t recognize you. It’s like you’ve given up. I don’t know whether to encourage you or give you a swift kick in the butt. You’ve lost your mojo.”

mojo. is that another word for faith?

It was bad. I couldn’t even pray.

What does faith look like when you can’t even pray?

it’s not pretty.

I needed to think. I need to think.

And so I clean my house. I paint my house. I purge my house. of books even. over 100 so far. I want every superfluous thing in my house gone. GONE.

GONE I tell you!

physically and metaphorically.

But in the middle of all the thinking I’m reading two books right now.

only two?

I know. But yes. These two are thick.

and heavy.

and not in a benchpress them kind of way.

Desiring God, Revised Edition: Meditations of a Christian Hedonist by John Piper

and

Decision Making and the Will of God: A Biblical Alternative to the Traditional View by Garry Friesen

FirstHusband suggested I re-read these books. Smart guy.

I’ve read both of them before. But I was younger then. Not that much younger. But still.

They were both responsible for pivot points in my faith.

In all my thinking and purging, I need to go back to bones of what I believe and why.

Messy deep digging blog posts ahead.

Even so, if you know me IRL (in real life), don’t weird out when you see me in person. If you’re at a loss about what to say, we can talk about the little blond girl’s face at the end of this commercial. cracks me up every time.

[CLICK HERE to see a listing of all the blog posts in this series "the search for Joy."]

May 31, 2013 Posted by | books, christian living, clean house, freakishly organized, home sweet home, intentional living, laugh!, poor me some whine, pragmatic communion, prayer, thankfulness, youtube | , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

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