Pragmatic Compendium

inspiring the pragmatic practice of intimacy with Christ

toxic concoction.

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

I thought I could logically justify my faith in God.

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

not me.

not anymore.

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

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

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

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

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

Like God.

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

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

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

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

It was a season of extreme paradox in my life.

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

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

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

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

and then.

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

If God is sovereign, why pray?

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

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

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

I couldn’t pray.

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

I wanted stronger faith.

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

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

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

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

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

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

A dark cave.

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

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

Go ahead, sing-song it with me.

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

I prayed.

and then I couldn’t.

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

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

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

Desolate.

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

Not logical. Not pragmatic.

And that’s where faith is required.

And where doubt came in.

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

I doubted the point of me.

If God is sovereign, why pray?

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

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

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

I still had faith.

I still have faith.

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

lessons from the book of Job: you can say anything to God

Philip Yancey quote Disappointment with God Message of Job“One bold message in the Book of Job is that you can say anything to God.

Throw at him your grief, your anger, your doubt, your bitterness, your betrayal, your disappointment— he can absorb them all.

As often as not, spiritual giants of the Bible are shown contending with God.
They prefer to go away limping, like Jacob, rather than to shut God out.

In this respect, the Bible prefigures a tenet of modern psychology: you can’t really deny your feelings or make them disappear, so you might as well express them. God can deal with every human response save one. He cannot abide the response I fall back on instinctively: an attempt to ignore him or treat him as though he does not exist.

That response never once occurred to Job.”

Philip Yancey
Disappointment with God: Three Questions No One Asks Aloud

March 28, 2014 Posted by | pinterest, pragmatic communion, prayer, status updates, suffering, therefore I quote | , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

four minutes with God: break my heart for what breaks Yours.

a Quote:

(Ellen and Genie were best friends when they were kids, but grew apart over the years. Until this reconnection in their early twenties, as written by Genie.)

“For the next hour I stormed the conversation with highly exaggerated accounts of my great successes…

She [Ellen] listened quietly and at one point when my voice was way up and bragging she broke in: “That’s all very interesting. I know you’ve done some fine work, but you’re probably the unhappiest looking person I’ve ever seen, Genie. What’s really the matter?

walking wounded compassionIf you have ever heard your own defense shatter, remember that sickening silence that follows the crash right now and share it with me as I sat there with an unlighted cigarette in my hand afraid to look down at the wreckage around my feet.

She was not unkind.
In fact, her expression and her voice were so kind I quickly lighted the cigarette and faked a cough while I batted away the tears that were there brimming.

After that I told her things which I had not dared admit to myself. We were very close and yet we were shouting at each other from the opposite shores of the universe…

Ellen talked about what was at the center of her life…

“All right, what is at the center of your life?”

She said, “It isn’t a ‘what.’ There’s a Person there.

“A person?”

“Jesus Christ.”

What did I reply?

“Please!”

That’s what I said and laughed but I didn’t feel at all like laughing. I laughed because I didn’t know what else to do and certainly I didn’t know what else to say.”

from The Burden Is Light by Eugenia Price

my Prayer:
Jesus, ever since I asked You to break my heart for what breaks Yours, I haven’t been the same. This lesson of compassion is not what I expected. I don’t know what I expected. Heartbreak hurts. And so does the knowledge that so many people vehemently hate or casually dismiss the Healer because of all the religious baggage that’s been heaped on top of You.

Lord, despite the heartbreak, please don’t ever let me become desensitized.

Please continue to bless me with this broken heart. Thank you for teaching me, even if empathy wasn’t the learning curve I wanted. Please continue to help me see people and to minister to them. Please help me to recognize the people who are seeking You and please equip me to extend that ministry beyond their temporal needs. Please bless me with the courage to ask the hard, uncomfortable, heartbreaking questions. Please, please tell me when to speak and what to say, when to be silent and what to pray.

the Word:
1 So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, 2 complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. 3 Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. 4 Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. 5 Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus,[a] 6 who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, 7 but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant,[b] being born in the likeness of men. 8 And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. 9 Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, 10 so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”
Philippians 2:1-11 (ESV)

the lyric.
“Heal my heart and make it clean. Open up my eyes to the things unseen.
Show me how to love like You have loved me. Break my heart for what breaks Yours.

Everything I am for Your Kingdom’s cause, as I walk from earth into eternity.”

March 18, 2014 Posted by | books, christian living, devotions, four minutes with God, pragmatic communion, youtube | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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

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

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

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

Holy Veruca Salt, Batman.

If you’ve been following along for the last week, you’re probably wondering what the heck is wrong with me.

yeah.

me too.

My husband and a friend have both referred to it as me being “refined by fire.”

I should probably be happy about this.

I’m sure one day I will be.

Meanwhile.

You may be wondering. Where did this come from? Was there a trigger?

yes. yes there was.

two, actually.

AtypicalAtheist posed the following question to me in an email:

“If you didn’t believe that there was some higher being able to influence the course of events, of what possible value would prayer be?”

and immediately, I found myself asking the same question, but going deeper. Do I really believe prayer changes GOD? If God has a sovereign plan, why pray? If He already knows everything, why am I telling Him everything? He doesn’t need reminding. He doesn’t forget. And why do I pray like a widow?

The generic Christian reply is “We pray because Jesus prayed.”

thank you. thank you very much. that clears it right up for me. I’m better now.

not.

Thankfully, I know I’m not that unique. I know someone has asked themself these questions before. I was betting they had written about it.

It would seem I am in good company. Everybody from Pascal to C.S. Lewis to Yancy, to name just a few.

Philip Yancy in his book, “Prayer” said

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

solidarity, brother.

A second thing happened within a matter of days of receiving AtypicalAtheist’s email. God opened a door for someone I know. He provided a phenomenal opportunity. Out of nowhere. Total “God thing.”

And I remembered something I used to say all the time. “God can do ANYthing.” Beyond what we can ask or imagine.

I realized that I couldn’t see God’s hand in something I was pursuing. Tunnel vision pursuing. And none of what I was pursuing was beyond what I could ask or imagine. It was all “reasonable.”

Veruca Salt wants the golden eggand it was all me.

me. me. me. me. me. I wanted what I wanted. the way I wanted it.

and I wanted it now.

Holy Veruca Salt, batman.

The absolute LAST thing I want is to find myself in a “successful” situation and say, “Look at what I did!” instead of “Look what GOD did!”

but I saw it clearly. that’s exactly the direction I was headed.

Not a good look in the mirror for me.

I was a mess.

You combine my inability to reconcile praying petitionary prayers to a sovereign God with a sovereign plan and not seeing God’s hand in what I was pursuing and you’ve got someone who came face to face with hopeless selfishness.

not a good place.

I couldn’t pray.

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

It’s not pretty.

it’s dark.

it’s a pit.

In my last post, I said that my husband had suggested I re-read 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

I said they were both responsible for pivot points in my faith.

It appears I’m at another pivot point in my faith.

When I first read these books, the basic premise each of these guys set forth resonated with me.

In a teeny, tiny nutshell?

Piper – Serving God does not have to be sacrificial. It can be – sometimes it is – but it doesn’t have to be. There isn’t some sort of causal, yin and yang relationship between how much I sacrifice and how much God is pleased with my service. I can serve God by doing what I love and I can find joy in it. God wants me to find joy in serving him with my gifts. The passion I have for doing so was given to me by God. Sacrifice is not the marker of mature spirituality. Enjoying what I do does not mean I am selfish.

Friesen – God doesn’t have a predetermined, detailed individual plan for my life that I have to discover. A plan that is derailed if I make a wrong choice. (THANK GOD. Because if so, I veered off course a long time ago. multiple times.) Friesen’s premise is that the idea of God having a specific, detailed, individual will for each person’s life isn’t supported in scripture. That God has a sovereign will and it does not change. God has a moral will that we are to strive to stay within. Within His sovereign and moral will, God allows us to choose. He gives us the responsibility to choose. He gives us the wisdom to choose. When we have chosen what is moral and wise, we must trust Him to work it for His good. Within His sovereign plan.

again, I agree with Piper and Friesen’s basic premises. But some of what they say…

was seriously screwing me up.

I couldn’t reconcile the dichotomies in what I was finding.

Why is it that I can read C.S. Lewis and call him Jack when he gets all puffy and full of himself, but with these two guys I had trouble actually separating the wheat from the chaff?

And I see the chaff.

next time. this post is too long. I wouldn’t have read this far.

and like I said in my last post, if you know me IRL, don’t weird out when you see me. Like you’ve never seen a hot mess when you’ve looked into the mirror before.

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

June 3, 2013 Posted by | books, christian living, intentional living, learning curve, pinterest, poor me some whine, pragmatic communion, prayer, the search for Joy | , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

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