Pragmatic Compendium

inspiring the pragmatic practice of intimacy with Christ

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

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

Strongly, condescendingly and sarcastically deriding prayer.

And people who pray.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

To be completely honest, yes. yes I do.

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

#everybodyisjustadifferentkindofbroken

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

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

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

It would appear I’m not the only one.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

#seepeople #edify #discipleship #relationalevangelism

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

facebook fragments: 02/15/14 – 02/21/14 (EPCOT, fb hacks & a dead microwave)

Saturday, February 15, 2014
Here’s our latest home project progress report, complete with photos: the living room makeover. during and after
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“At the end of the day, direction, not intention, determines destination.”
from The Principle of the Path: How to Get from Where You Are to Where You Want to Be by Andy Stanley

there is still time to change the road youre on

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Cha ching.
#thehomeprojectthatneverends

loaded home depot cart

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Sunday, February 16, 2014
Here’s an update on the 2014 Living Room Makeover. Photos included. We’re already onto the next room. More photos to come.

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At EPCOT with PinkGirl. Holding her place in the 3 hour line to see Anna & Elsa while she seeks out other less-in-demand characters. Watching the passing parents who need a time out.
#ilovemydaughter

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#wdw needs to clone Anna and Elsa. 4 hours so far. People in front of us just cancelled their dinner reservations.

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PinkGirl is distracting some very tired kids by leading a game of I spy in the line to meet Anna & Elsa.

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So look what my hunky, talented, smart, dedicated and funny husband accomplished today. Play room floor sealed and ready for subfloor.
Now if he would only stop hacking my facebook…

game room floor sealed

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PSA: These must be eaten ears first. #ocd #peacelovemickey

mickey head goldfish

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So the questions you have to ask yourself are:
1) Is the paint dry?
2) Would my husband really just sit there and take a picture of a cat walking on a floor wet with oil-based paint? and
3) will my husband ever stop hacking my Facebook?

playroom floor wet sealer black cat

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Monday, February 17, 2014
I feel like my house is a construction zone.
a fine layer of dust EVERYwhere from sanding the cement floor smooth, furniture EVERYwhere it’s not supposed to be.
I may be getting carried away with the purging.
There’s only seating for two in the living room.
And the two will have to sit side by side on a loveseat.
and the person on the right side will have to hold their drink because there’s no place to put it down.
unless they sit on the piano stool and put a drink on the piano.
But.
the room is so BIG right now.
#chaos

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Subfloor is down. Fine white powder from sanding has been cleaned off all the walls and ceiling fan, glass light shade are in the dishwasher, paint has been touched up on all the walls. Next. moisture barrier. THEN we start laying the flooring.
#thehomeprojectthatwillneverend

game room subfloor

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Thursday, February 20, 2014
A giant angel vacuum cleaner cover.
or a giant snowman vacuum cleaner cover.
a vacuum cleaner cover.
#thingsiwillneverbuy

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It’s probably because my house is and has been in complete chaos for so long due to the #homeprojectthatneverends, but I am in a VERY weird place. All this manual labor is giving me an abundance of time to think. You should avoid conversation with me at all costs unless you are extremely bored.
#bulletinasteelroom

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My husband’s plans for the weekend:
(1) cut and install baseboards in the game room.
(2) put all the furniture and stuff back into the game room after putting felt floor protectors on every. piece. of. furniture. and hooking up all the electronics
(3) install the new flooring in the kitchen
(4) put together a 7 foot by 7 foot wall of shelving in the living room so I can load them with the books that are currently sitting in stacks in the family room (I’m getting a LIBRARY in my living room!)
And THEN we have to find the kitchen, family room and back porch, which we have TRASHED in this process.
If you don’t hear from us on Monday, send help.
or food.
#thehomeprojectthatneverends

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arrrrg. and again arrrrg. the microwave is dead. again. Do we live in some sort of microwave killing zone? I’m not researching microwaves ANYmore. I’m buyin the cheapest scratch-n-dent from Sears Outlet and getting a 5 year warranty.
#fercryinoutloud

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I called FirstHusand: “Microwave is dead again. and we’re out of warranty.”
FH: “of course we are.”
Me: “With all we’ve got going on this weekend, we NEED a microwave.”
FH: “With all we’ve got going on this weekend, we NEED take out.”
Me: “What IS it with us and microwaves?”
FH: (pause) “I think we just use it a LOT. (chuckling) We wear them out.”
Me: “shut up. You meeting me at Sears Outlet or what?”
FH, still laughing: “Leaving work now.”
and I cooked dinner on the STOVE last night, I’ll have you know.

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Sears Outlet only had 1 black microwave and it was over $700! My husband’s comment was hilarious and completely UNfacebookable. We got a $200 off-the-shelf GE with a $25 three replacement plan from Lowe’s.
With a Tijuana chaser.

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FavoriteHusband is installing a shiny new black microwave. It has not escaped my attention that “clean the microwave” has just been pushed down to the bottom of my to-do list.

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Friday, February 21, 2014
“If God has the power to act fairly, speak audibly, and appear visibly, why, then, does he seem so reluctant to intervene today? Perhaps the record of the Israelites in the wilderness contained a clue.”
from Disappointment with God by Philip Yancey

Disappointment w God Yancey Why doesnt God act speak appear

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If someone invites your voice into their life, share the love, grace & hope of Christ, not childish platitudes.
You may not get a 2nd chance.

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My FAVORITEHusband is building me a 7ft x 7ft wall of bookcases right NOW.
They will not go to bed empty.
#incurablebibliophile

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February 28, 2014 Posted by | Uncategorized | 2 Comments

The lying tempter would persuade.

Maybe it’s the chaos in my house.

or the chaos of the last year and a half.

or the abundance of time I’ve had to think about the chaos of the last year and a half while I’m attending to the mindless task of shoveling the chaos in my house…

maybe I’m just tired.

or hormonal. I’ve had a hysterectomy, so for all I know I’m on my period and don’t even know it.

But, today is one of those days where I’m haunted and grieved by voices.

Condescending voices of marginalization and mediocrity.

The voices that told me I don’t have to work as hard as I do, because less is “just fine.” As if the voices didn’t realize that the unnecessary extra time I took and the unneeded effort I expended led to a result they just described as “fine.” As if it didn’t occur to them that less effort and time would knock “fine” down to…less than fine. And worst of all, by continuing to tell me I don’t have to work so hard the voices continued to let me know time and time again how little they know me or how little respect they have for my determination to give my best.

And now, “fine” saturates the air I breathe.

The voices that told me I shouldn’t work as hard as I do, because it makes other people look bad.

And now I’m gone. And it turns out I wasn’t the reason someone else wasn’t succeeding. I actually wasn’t hogging their opportunities and stealing their affirmation. They are still contributing the minimum and spewing bitterness because they think they are entitled to more opportunities even though they continue to prove they can’t be depended upon.

The voices that politely asked me to step back. Say less. Do less. Give less. and be less. And “respect” the leadership of someone I thought I was collaborating with. Because my unfettered contribution made other people jealous. and angry. and sarcastically hateful.

And now, I’m mired in the mindset that everything I have to offer is too much. Unwanted. The constant monitoring for those boundaries holds me back from offering anything outside of one-on-one conversations. The fear of overloading someone with too much of me keeps my head out of the clouds, my feet planted firmly on the ground and my eyes focused on the 1st mile responsibility of caring for my family. And re-flooring and painting my house, all the while secretly hoping it really IS #thehomeprojectthatneverends.

The voices that flippantly dismissed my interest in returning to school because I don’t “need” any more education. As if ANYone, ever “NEEDS” a formal education. As if the desire to learn isn’t enough reason to seek knowledge and understanding.

And then there’s little voice that can’t help but wonder if pursing another degree might be an excellent two year distraction…

Even so I continue to learn. But share less of the lessons, gauging who actually might LIKE to engage in a discussion about the things that get me thinking by tentatively testing and retreating in conversation, facebook and the rare blog post. Confirmed in my square-pegness again and again by the facebook stats that indicate people view one of my amusing family dialogs or a home project progress report 3 to 4 times more than they ever view anything I post about something I’m learning.

The voices that let me know I read too much (and am out of touch because I don’t watch enough TV). As if someone else’s desire to only read fiction – or not read at all – and quote platitudes or pinterest eCards means that my desire to read non-fiction and quote scripture is evidence that I just need to chill out and “enjoy life” more. Because reading non-fiction couldn’t possibly be enjoyable.

Even so, I continue to read. and learn. and think. Because I love it.

The voices that assure me it’s not necessary to share the hope of Christ at every opportunity because a more acceptable and more comfortable alternative is to “rub off on people.” Because evangelism is a process. of passive osmosis. Because too many people think evangelism is telling someone ELSE how you think they should live instead of telling someone how God is working in the life YOU live.

And yet people are DYING every day. DYING. And we may not get that second or subsequent opportunity to allow our autopilot passing presence or casual words in someone’s life to be the kind of intentional witness for Christ that the most important relationship of our life deserves. We share posts about kids, dogs, kittens and pinterest exponentially more than we ever share something Christ has taught us or how He’s moving in our lives every day, no matter how small.

The voices that explain my writing is too “intellectual,” that I use too many rarely used words like “unfettered” and “mired” or that I tend to “drone on.” (The owners of those voices have already clicked away. If they even started reading at all.)

And now, more often than not, I have the attention span of a gnat when I sit down in front of my brand new computer. With the rare exception of this post – which at this point exceeds the recommended maximum attention keeping word count – I have no inclination to write anything longer than a facebook update or anything that takes more than 30 or 60 seconds to digest. When I think about anything I might have to say, the only word that consistently comes to mind is “meh.”

The voices that suggest I consider the possibility my dream was bigger than God’s will for me. I should be grateful. Compared to all the problems and suffering in the world, the loss of my dream is not a tragedy. There are plenty of other things I could do with my time. “There’s nothing wrong with living a simpler life, you know.” Because dreams devalue anyone living this “simpler life?”

And now I find myself searching for that unselfish place of devotion and delight in Christ that fuels me with passion and a determination to be a good steward of the gifts I’ve been blessed with while at the same time, being held back by the relentless thought that as long as I continue to grieve whenever I think of never leading worship again or of not writing a book or never again speaking about my faith while holding a microphone, it’s evidence that I love the dream more than the dream-giver and I need to climb out of my big britches until a “ministry” of one-on-one every day relational evangelism doesn’t feel like less.

And then there’s the voice that belongs to the person who sifted through every nuance of every other voice, meticulously looking for truth, no matter how hard to face. The voice that wields the sharpest sword and cuts the deepest.

mine.

Most days, the Voice of Truth is louder than all of these voices.

The Voice of Truth tells me that these words are meant to oppress me. To feed me the lie that the words spoken by these voices are more powerful than the blood of Christ and the strength available to me through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit.

Ace Ventura Recognizing the Voice of TruthThe Voice of Truth tells me that Satan is far more effective in derailing me through the casual words of Christians than he ever would be through a direct attack from an anti-theist who thoughtfully planned out a full frontal assault.

The Voice of Truth tells me that these are the voices of flawed humans, not a perfect God. Careless knee-jerk reaction words, spoken without a pause for thoughts of the message they are sending or of long term consequences or – more importantly – especially when it comes to instruction and advice – spoken without a pause for prayer.

Voices of those searching for something or someone to blame, not words of personal responsibility.

If you’re wondering if one of these voices was yours, ask yourself why you’re wondering that, and regardless of whether the answer is yes or no, I pray that you click away from this post with an awareness of the powerful impact of the words you speak, the decisions you make and the reasons behind them.

I don’t blame any of the voices. Not anymore. I’ve come to realize that any influence they had on me, I allowed. Any limitations that were placed on me, I accepted.

Any words spoken, I listened.

Besides, these voices are secondary. I’m still working through much deeper spiritual pruning and growth.

My constant prayer these days is to know God MORE.

and today, I’m praying for wisdom and discernment to recognize and block out any voice opposed to the Voice of Truth.

especially mine.

February 26, 2014 Posted by | Uncategorized | 3 Comments

therefore I quote: overcome? or on the wrong tract?

CS Lewis QuoteI read, therefore I quote:

“It is hard, when difficulties arise to know whether one is meant to overcome them or whether they are signs that one is on the wrong tract. I suppose the deeper one’s own life of prayer and sacraments the more trustworthy one’s judgment will be.”
Yours, Jack by C.S. Lewis

Yet even then, I doubt. For me, the challenge is to take a step instead of standing still while waiting for a sign or a confirmation. Praying like a widow that God won’t allow me to be unintentionally disobedient and that He won’t allow my actions to cause harm to anyone else – or to myself. And not just physical harm, but spiritual or emotional harm. The thought that I might do something or say something that would hurl an obstacle in front of someone seeking Him. That’s the paralyzing fear.

But I have to move. Life isn’t Olive Garden. God does not serve me. I have to get my hands dirty. Sometimes all I end up doing is trashing my kitchen. Sometimes, the results are “meh.” But sometimes? Sometimes I get a God story that blows me away.

So. First, PRAY. Abide. Listen. Seek wise counsel. PRAY again. Abide and listen again. But then, take action (action that’s not out of line with His Word) and keep praying that God will either throw barriers in my way if I start heading the wrong direction or that he would work my latest mistake for His ultimate good and Glory.

But doing nothing? Going through the motions? Playing it safe? Settling for “meh?” How is that abundant life in Christ?

November 14, 2013 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

solidarity, brother.

C S Lewis Quote

November 13, 2013 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

What’s in Your God Pocket?

Ran across an old video camera and lost a few hours watching old recordings. I have absolutely no memory of this one, but it’s an excellent reminder to pray for an awareness of God’s prompting in my life. You got an extra six minutes and 16 seconds? I’m praying this encourages you!

November 3, 2013 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

“inappropriate” music.

PinkGirl: “Mom, Is it okay to like to sing songs from Chicago?” (the musical, not the city)

Me: “yes. why?”

PinkGirl: “Because it has inappropriate things in it. Some of my teachers (from UnnamedChristianSchool) say it’s a sin to watch and listen to things that are inappropriate.”

Me: “hmmm. Does listening to and singing the songs from Chicago make you want to kill someone?”

PinkGirl: “no.”

Me: “Does it make you want to cheat on your husband?”

PinkGirl: “ummm. no.”

Me: “Does it make you want to sing and dance?”

PinkGirl: “yes.”

Me: “uh oh.”

PinkGirl, cracking up: “Mo-om!”

what?

Seriously. The music from Chicago is excellent. And we LOVE, LOVE, LOVE Todrick Hall’s Disney Villain version of Cell Block Tango called Spell Block Tango! Check it out below. Cruella Deville from 101 Dalmations, The Snow Queen from Snow White, Ursula from Little Mermaid, The Queen of Hearts from Alice and Wonderland, Scar from the Lion King and Maleficent from Sleeping Beauty. Spots. Six. Fish. Uh-uh. Figaro. Wishes.

If you know your Disney movies, really listen to what the Queen of Hearts is actually SAYING. (she’s the fourth one). LOVE it.

November 1, 2013 Posted by | Uncategorized | 2 Comments

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

growing pains.

I’m totally confident I needed to give up leading worship when when I did.

(If you need to catch up, this is probably the post to read: “obedience and blessings. passion and delight.“)

The last six weeks have been some of the most honest, wrenching, unsettling, peaceful, secure and unstable moments of my life. I’ve heard and read the words “refining/refined by fire” more times than I can count.

I’ve been overdosing on the reading and the thinking.

The praying has been simple. There’s only one prayer I’ve been able to to pray for myself:

“Not my will Lord, but Yours.
No matter what that means.”

I found myself unable to take any action remotely related to ministry.

No singing.

No writing.

No speaking.

even one-on-one conversations were guarded and thin. On the sharing side, I only went below the surface in increments as I tested how correctly (or incorrectly) friends understood what I tried to explain – and how sincerely interested I sensed they were. On the listening side, I didn’t trust my instincts enough to reply with anything more than questions.

I didn’t trust my judgement. I was paralyzed by doubt about my ability to discern God’s prompting and my resulting choices.

past, present and future.

if in fact, I had gotten some things wrong, they were monumentally wrong.

I had completely – completely – lost the confidence to recognize and make sense of God’s movement in my mind, my spirit and the circumstances of my life.

wisdom was obscure. discernment was nonexistent.

God has pruned me to a nub.

It’s been extremely painful.

and good.

very, very good.

did I mention painful?

God has been silent.

At first, I immediately assumed my sin was separating me from Him. I confessed every sin I could recognize and still, God was silent. I prayed for him to show me any sin I wasn’t seeing.

Still, God was silent.

and in the quiet, I’ve been stripping away every superfluous thing in my life, from the contents of my house and yard to my commitments to the layers of “stuff” I’ve piled on top of my relationship with Christ.

I stumbled upon the concept of the “dark night.”

But that’s another post. or two. maybe.

I’ve been back and forth between peace and fear and hope and resignation. Last Monday night, I was in a bad place.

bad.

it was a very dark night.

resignation had morphed back into grieving. wretched. deep grieving.

Thought I was done with the grieving.

but this was different. This wasn’t just grieving because I couldn’t bring myself to sing. That was part of it, for sure.

This grieving was mostly because of the silence. The conflict between my unrelenting desire to sense God’s presence and movement in my life and my exploration of the idea that this silence was God helping me grow.

At some point, a kid only learns how to ride a bike if dad takes his hand off the back of the seat and stops running along side.

learning to ride a bikeDoesn’t mean dad has abandoned his kid. He just knows the kid is ready to learn how to ride a bike.

If God had in fact taken His hand away, I was caught in that unfamiliar, terrifying and confident place between wanting the security of His hand on the bicycle seat of my life and wanting to learn to ride the bike.

I wanted to learn the lesson.
But I didn’t like it.

Both of those sentences are understatements.

After weeks of not being able to pray petitionary prayers for anything specific because I didn’t trust my motives, I broke.

I asked God to let me sing again.

I didn’t ask Him to let me lead worship again. Still can’t do that. That led to sin. selfish sin. I don’t want to ever put the art above the artist ever again.

I just asked Him to let me sing. I was hoping I could bring myself to sing in my car.

This post is getting too long…I’ll tell you what happened in my next post.
(Someone recently had the courage to tell me they don’t read my blog posts because I have a tendency to ramble on.)

August 12, 2013 Posted by | Uncategorized | 5 Comments

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