Pragmatic Compendium

inspiring the pragmatic practice of intimacy with Christ

“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

giving grace.

Both my daughter and my son are having a full and stress filled week. A VERY full and stress filled week. Sleep is going to come at a premium.

It’s “tech week” for a show PinkGirl is teching. She’s not performing in this show. She’s one of the people wearing all black who works behind the scenes and helps keep things moving smoothly during a show, no matter what the need. That means rehearsals every night this week – for her own show Monday/Tuesday night and rehearsals for the show she’s teching Wednesday/Thursday night. The show opens Friday night and additional showings are Saturday night and Sunday afternoon.

FavoriteSon is in the final week of his spring semester and he works as a tutor, so he literally did math for over 12 hours on both Monday and Tuesday, either learning it or teaching it. He has two finals today and another paper due tomorrow. His week started after an exhausting (but great) weekend. Saturday the weather was rare and perfect on the ocean, so he and his dad got up at 5am to go on a PHENOMENAL fishing day on our boat.

bring home the mahi 042614

They got home late and stinky. Then, he got up Sunday at 6:45 to run sound for the K-5th grade worship services at his church from 8am to 1:30pm. (He does that every Sunday.) He spent his Sunday afternoon writing a paper and finished off his weekend tutoring a friend till late Sunday night.

It’s only hump day and both PinkGirl and FavoriteSons are already tired. This means one thing. They both need grace from me this week. (And from my husband, but he is admittedly better at patience and giving grace than me. I’d like to think it has something to do with the fact that due to his work schedule, I see the kids more hours in a day, but the fact is, he’s more easygoing than I am.)

Giving grace takes prayer. Some might say it takes patience.

2 Corinthians 12 9 His Grace is Sufficient in My WeaknessI’ve been praying for patience.

Proactively.

Because I knew cranky was coming. I knew frustrated snark was in my future.

I’m still praying. For patience like manna. My schedule is pretty calm these days, so I ordered my week in anticipation for their growing exhaustion by making myself available to help them. Little things, like picking up some of their chores, typing a handwritten paper, putting healthy snacks down in front of them, prepared and ready to eat, pushing them to go to bed when they are still worked up from their day, and praying for them and with them for strength and stamina, among other things. Praying for myself to be able to give them grace in response to cranky snark.

Some might say I’m a patsy.

meh.

If this happened all the time, I’d entertain that thought. But it doesn’t. It’s rare and temporary. Both these kids and my husband are there for me when I need them to pick up my slack or help me out, and I don’t take that for granted.

Is someone in your life dishing up a full helping of cranky snark?

I don’t just assume I can muster up patience and grace on my own.

I already know I can’t.

Pray for patience and for God to bless you with a supernatural ability to extend grace. His grace is sufficient in your weakness and He is glorified when His strength is visible in your life.

April 30, 2014 Posted by | christian living, family, intentional living, poor me some whine, pragmatic parenting, prayer | , , , , , , , , , , , , | 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

I want me to want You.

yes. I did just sing that to the tune of a Cheap Trick song.

But I’m talking to God:

Lord, I want to wake up every morning aware of an innate desire for intimacy with YOU.

I want God not my idea of God CS LewisI want to delight in YOU.

but I don’t.

I call myself a Christian.

but I can’t remember ever, in my entire life, delighting in ONLY God.

In my memory and conscious understanding, I have always…

ALWAYS

tied my delight in the giver

to the gifts He gives.

I’ve tied the protection to the protector. The blessings to the one who blesses.

And most recently, not only have I tied the art with the artist, but I’ve placed my desire for that art in front of the artist.

I’m really starting to hate my mirror.

the view ain’t pretty.

Have I always tied my delight in Him with the delight I experience when I serve Him by doing something that satisfies, assuages my insecurity or bolsters my ego?

Have I ever simply delighted in the giver? Without experiencing the delight of a gift?

Have I ever delighted in the artist? Without finding delight in the art?

Have I ever found delight in the one who blesses, even when the blessings are disguised as trials?

maybe.

but if I have, I can’t remember it.

If I have, it was fleeting and subconscious. Never sustained or intentional. Don’t remember ever being aware of it.

And now? Now that I’ve intentionally chosen to stop doing the things that fill me with delight, when I’ve intentionally decided to find delight ONLY in Christ….

decided.

I decided.

Go ahead. ask me how that “decision” is working out.

dismal. failure.

It would seem I am as completely incapable of deciding to delight in God as I am in sticking to any other goal I’ve ever set for myself.

This another one of those times where I’m extremely thankful for my belief that I am not special.

Surely I’m not the only one who has failed at this particular goal.

I headed straight for the book that introduced me to the idea of delighting myself in God in the first place. John Piper, don’t fail me now. You better show some personal ugly in the middle of all that theology and lofty vocabulary. I need to see some Jack in you, JP.

God must have led me to it, because I have no idea how I found it. I immediately loved the title: “When I Don’t Desire God: How to Fight for Joy

3rd sentence in the Forward:

“When all is said and done, only God can create joy in God.”

Sentences 5, 6 and 7:

“To be satisfied by the beauty of God does not come naturally to sinful people. By nature we get more pleasure from God’s gifts than from himself. Therefore this book calls for deep and radical change-which only God can give.”

My inclination was to head straight for Chapter Twelve “When the Darkness Does Not Lift” but I’m gonna hold off skipping to the end.

Instead, I’m jumping to the chapters on prayer because I’m still wresting with with petitionary prayer in light of my overwhelming awareness of just how selfish I am.

Stay tuned. This could be kinda like watching NASCAR, but for Christians. Either I’m going to crash and burn or there’s an epiphany and a straightaway ahead.

Meanwhile, still listening to this:

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

June 19, 2013 Posted by | books, christian living, intentional living, learning curve, music, pinterest, poor me some whine, pragmatic communion, prayer, the search for Joy, youtube | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

there’s more to the gospel than evangelism.

creature of the word“We must diligently and consistently cast the gospel in larger terms than only evangelism. The gospel consumes the Christian life itself, affecting how our corporate lives play out among the communities where God has placed us, providing us with multiplication potential at every turn…

Whenever people come to a service at your church, they should hear in some way that we are all sinners in need of grace, but that grace has been extended to us in Jesus Christ. His righteousness has been imputed to us, and in His cross God’s wrath toward us has been removed if we will hear, submit, and believe.

Every week someone should proclaim the gospel, no matter what the topic is. If we’re talking about holiness, about manhood, about marriage, parenting, money, or any particular biblical command, we need to teach it and talk about it in view of the gospel, always bringing it back to the epic story of God’s redemption.” (emphasis added)

Creature of the Word: The Jesus-Centered Church
by Matt Chandler, Josh Patterson, and Eric Geiger

February 3, 2013 Posted by | books, Christ-Centered Church, christian living, pragmatic communion | , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

a good Christian life.

Honored to have had the privilege of delivering this message to a group of women at a Brunch this past Saturday morning. This video will give you a preview of the book I’m writing. If you’ve got 8 minutes and 27 seconds, check it out.

December 10, 2012 Posted by | christian living, goodsteward/body, intentional living, pragmatic communion, pragmatic presence, what I've learned, women, youtube | , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

not more from God, more of God.

pray continually[the following is an excerpt from the book I'm writing]

Intimate communication with Christ through prayer can be the foundation of everything in your life: every thought you think, every idea that opens your mind, every choice you make. But when we relegate prayer to certain times and places in our lives, we limit that communication – and its influence on our thoughts, ideas and choices. We quench the Holy Spirit.

1 Thessalonians 5:17-18 tells us to “pray continually” and that it is “God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” These instructions aren’t directed at monks, they are for everyone who has accepted Christ. It’s possible to pray anywhere, anytime because God is with you, everywhere, all the time. It’s possible for prayer to saturate your moments and your days.

Did I just morph into that Jesus Freak with whom you avoid eye contact and cross the street to escape? Have you already tuned me out, thinking, “meh, she’s not talking to me. I don’t need to change anything. I’m fine.”

fine.

The most heinous of four letter words. Saturated in mediocrity. Reeking of average. Riding the edge of dissatisfaction and discouragement. More comfortable than a recliner and a bowl of chips in front of a 60 inch flat screen. There are some people who live their entire lives feeling fine about everything they do. There are people live their entire lives feeling fine about their relationship with God.

Fine is not what I’m going for. I. want. more.

I’ve discovered that I can have as much of God as I want, and I want more. I want Christ in every nook and cranny of my mind and heart and soul, every day of the week because when He’s not? My pursuits are just pointless exercises in ladder climbing and stuff collecting. I want my relationship with Christ to be at the center of my marriage, my relationship with my kids, family and friends, my career, my ministry.

If that makes me a Jesus Freak, go ahead and call me one, under your breath or to my face, I’m okay with the label. I’ve found the ultimate source of passion in life and I can’t keep it to myself. I’m compelled to share it. It fuels me. My relationship with Christ makes the routine meaningful, the lows bearable and the highs incomparable. God’s grace is more amazing than any song could describe, His love is illogically unconditional, His patience is unimaginably endless, His blessings are undeserved and abundant and His peace obliterates worry and fear. This is the “more” I’m talking about and there’s plenty of it to go around.

It all stems from prayer, intimate no-holds barred prayer. Naked prayer. The kind of prayer you pray when you are unashamed and want to tell God everything. The kind of intimate communion Adam and Eve experienced with God in the Garden before they were deceived. I’m writing this book because I want you to want more. To have more. More of God.

Not more from God, more of God.

December 5, 2012 Posted by | christian living, music, pinterest, pragmatic communion, pragmatic presence, prayer, writing, youtube | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

48.

Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might, for in the realm of the dead, where you are going, there is neither working nor planning nor knowledge nor wisdom.
Ecclesiastes 9:10 (NIV)

another year, over. No do-overs. No take-backs. Only lessons to be learned and new choices to be made.

Lord, am I where you want me? Am I living the life you’ve given the me the way you know would be best?

I want to be a living sacrifice for You. But sometimes – much of the time – I know my choices are driven by my own idea of what that looks like.

What does it look like to You, God?

My fear is that my desires are selfish and much bigger than those you have for me.

Is it possible that the plans you have for me involve me sitting across the table from one person, listening, asking questions and sharing my faith one on one? That this book I’m writing is equipping me for those conversations, but will never actually be read? or even finished?

Is it possible that the plans you have for me mean that the primary reason I’m recording is for the witness that occurs during the recording sessions themselves and that these recordings will live forever on my computer in obscurity?

And those things are good. Very, very good.

But you know I want more. Is that from You?

The last thing I want to do is pursue a dream you haven’t given me. I’m desperate to saturate myself in your will and I want to have tunnel vision when it comes to following Your lead. Please don’t let me pursue anything that actually takes me away from You. Please show me what I could or should be doing to bring You glory.

I think of the story about You asking a man to push against a rock. Day after day, year after year, the man pushed, eventually becoming discouraged, saying, “God, I give up. I’ve pushed and pushed with all my strength and I haven’t moved this rock even one inch. What did I do wrong? Why did I fail?”

The story says that you replied by saying, “I didn’t ask you to move the rock. I only asked you to push against it. You say you’ve failed, but have you? Look how strong you’ve become. You’ve done exactly what I asked.

Now I will move the rock.”

I know you don’t need my help Lord. Please allow me to serve you anyway. Please use me anyway. Please guide me. Please equip me. Help me to be obedient. Please don’t ever let me give up.

Too often, we bide our time with the routine of a life that we hope
will one day take us across the chasm. Our days become stacked upon other days.
And as time moves forward, we think about the great abyss in our quieter moments.
We wonder if we should take the leap soon.
But the busyness of our days pulls us back from the edge and we perpetually postpone it.
Why? Because we are afraid we do not have the strength to make it.
Don’t let that happen. You’re stronger than you think.
Dr. Les Parrott

September 9, 2012 Posted by | christian living, devotions, intentional living, learning curve, microactions, motivation, pinterest, pragmatic communion, prayer, what I've learned | , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

the hard is what makes it great.

“If it was easy, everyone would do it” is one of my mantras.

I say it to my kids when they struggle with ANYthing and I see discouragement or frustration start to set in. I say it to my husband, friends, clients and sometimes, even strangers.

I say it to myself.

A lot.

When I’m supposed to be writing and find myself staring at the screen, fingers atrophied over the keyboard.
When I spend two hours writing, proofread what I’ve written and immediately want to start over.
When I’m trying to curl a 15 pound dumbbell for the 12th time in my second set.
When I’m 2 minutes and 20 seconds into my 2 minute, 30 second forearm plank.
When I’m trying not to fly off the back of the treadmill during my HIIT walking program.
When I drag myself off the couch to pick up that stupid dumbbell or put on my walking shoes.
When I’m 3 seconds short of an 18 second note I’ve been trying to hold out. For the 100th time.
When my voice breaks on that high note I’m trying to hit in full voice. After two years of voice lessons.
When I’m vocalizing for the third time in a day in an attempt to get the “right” technique to become second nature.

Just a few weeks ago, during a break in a recording session, I mentioned something about needing to work on something with my voice teacher. The sound technician said, “YOU have a voice teacher!?” I responded with a big “Heck, YEAH!” He paused for a moment and then said, “It just seems more like you would teach voice lessons, not take them.” I quickly and firmly told him that I will never be too good for voice lessons.

But that exchange emphasized a very common misconception: The things people are good at just come naturally to them.

SO not true.

And the persistence of that mindset devalues the accomplishment, no matter what it is. The persistence of that mindset liberates other people from trying. It turns a potential mentor into someone to be resented and berated. Instead of being viewed as someone who met a goal as a result of hard work, they are instead viewed as “lucky.” Rather than inspiring someone else to take their own steps toward better and stronger, they become a discouragement to others. Because the perception is that whatever the goal, it’s not achievable by anyone but the lucky ones.

The book, Talent Is Overrated claimed, “One factor, and only one factor, predicted how musically accomplished the students were, and that was how much they practiced.”

practice.

The fact is that excellence isn’t easy. It doesn’t happen without work. Usually hard work. Developing a skill takes time. and repetition.

and repetition.

and repetition.

Experience is a teacher in and of itself.

What most people don’t realize is that mediocrity is only one short day of slackin away. Just because I do something well, doesn’t mean I’ve finished learning or practicing.

The fact that I was in a writing zone yesterday doesn’t insure against writer’s block tomorrow.
Being satisfied with today’s writing doesn’t mean I won’t be filled with doubt and repulsion about tomorrow’s.
The ability to lift a 15 pound dumbbell today doesn’t mean I won’t have to opt for 10 pounds tomorrow.
Making it through a 2 minute, 30 second plank today doesn’t mean I won’t collapse at 2 minutes the next day.
Finishing the 30 minute HIIT treadmill program today is no guarantee that I won’t wimp out the next time.
The fact that extracted myself from the couch today doesn’t mean won’t stay curled up on it tomorrow.
As I’ve discovered, holding a note for 18 seconds one time, does NOT mean I can now do it any time I want.
The same is true for that high note – once does not mean always.
Even after spending hundreds of hours practicing the “right” way to sing, I still drift into old habits . . .

For me, excellence isn’t a destination I’ll ever arrive at and rest comfortably. Because of my relentless determination to be a good steward of all that God has blessed me with, the striving for excellence is a lifetime journey.

To find out why I’m so obsessed with striving for excellence, check out this post: I. Want. More.

August 2, 2012 Posted by | books, christian living, fight the frump, goodsteward/body, health, intentional living, microactions, motivation, music, pinterest, pragmatic communion, writing | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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