Pragmatic Compendium

inspiring the pragmatic practice of intimacy with Christ

#IreadthereforeIquote: Brother Lawrence ~ on forgetting God

thereforeiquote Brother Lawrence No further uneasiness about itthe quote:

“That when he had failed in his duty,
he only confessed his fault,
saying to GOD,

I shall never do otherwise,
if You leave me to myself;

it is You who must hinder my falling,
and mend what is amiss. That after this,

he gave himself no further uneasiness about it.

from The Practice of the Presence of God
by Brother Lawrence


thoughts:

This is one of my all-time FAVORITE quotes. Let me paraphrase and give you an idea of how I process these words.

paraphrase: “I forget, I remember, I repent and I COME BACK.”
(don’t be freaking out about that word “repent.” I’ll get to it in a second.)

my interpretation:

“…when he had failed in his duty” means when I forget God.
And I will forget. I do forget. I fail to remember Him. Over and over and over again. When I first read this little book and began practicing the presence of God, my thought was, “I am SO gonna start doing this!” Less than 24 hours into this new way of living in relationship to God and I realized how difficult it was and how often I found myself just flat out forgetting – not only to practice God’s presence – but forgetting God altogether.

I quickly realized that practicing God’s presence wasn’t something I could just decide to do and then do it. I had to PRAY and ask God to “remind me to remember Him.” And I had to pray it multiple times per day. Some days, I had to pray, “Lord, please make me WANT to remember – bless me with a desire for You! I realized:

if my goal was to be aware of God’s presence in the minutiae of my life and
if my plan of action to achieve that goal was to “just do it” that
ON MY OWN, I would never achieve it with any kind of consistency.

EVER.

My goal had to be prayer –
first, a prayer for a desire to practice God’s presence and
second, the prayer “Lord, please, remind me to remember You. Relentlessly. Any and every way possible.”

The truth of the next part of this quote had hit home:

“I shall never do otherwise, if You leave me to myself”

God had quickly shown me that HE would be the one to “hinder my falling.” I would never be able to remember Him on my own.

And finally, the best part:

“after this, he gave himself no further uneasiness about it.”

pragmatic thoughts Romans 8 1 guilt vs repentI’m going to forget God. But when I remember and go back to practicing His presence, I’m not going to waste a minute of the time that could be spent with Him by beating myself up because I forgot Him AGAIN. When I do that, I’m punishing myself for something JESUS ALREADY DIED FOR.

I’ve repented. There’s no room or need for guilt. Guilt is different from repent. Guilt is a noun. Repent is a verb.

guilt: (noun) “a bad feeling caused by knowing or thinking that you have done something bad or wrong”

repent: (verb) “express sincere regret or remorse about one’s wrongdoing or sin.”

I need to remember and relentlessly claim the promise of Romans 8:1:

“Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus,”

So, to paraphrase this quote from Brother Lawrence? “I forget, I remember, I repent and I COME BACK.”

ad nauseam

May 14, 2015 Posted by | books, christian living, pinterest, pragmatic communion, prayer, therefore I quote | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

#IreadthereforeIquote: Philip Yancey ~ We can say anything to God.

thereforeIquote Philip Yancey Lesson from Job Can Say Anything to Godthe quote:

“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.”

from Disappointment With God
by Philip Yancey


thoughts:

When these words first sunk in, they were liberating for me.

I was taught that we should always be reverent toward God because, well…He’s GOD.

We make requests – respectfully.

And we thank Him.

No yelling or complaining or whining or blaming – that would be DISrespectful.

But I’ve realized my holding back in prayer was the equivalent of holding my hands over my face like a little kid playing hide and seek who thinks nobody can see him because his face is covered up.

There’s no authentic relationship when there’s holding back.

Telling God everything – expressing bitterness, revealing and exploring doubt and even angrily listing for Him all the reasons something isn’t fair – was strange at first.

But good.

Now?

I tell God everything I’m thinking and feeling. He can take it. Because He’s GOD. Besides, He already knows what I’m really thinking anyway. Sometimes even when I don’t. Sometimes I discover what I’m really thinking and feeling when I’m right in the middle of telling Him.

May 8, 2015 Posted by | books, christian living, pinterest, pragmatic communion, prayer, suffering, therefore I quote | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

#memoryverse Psalm 139:23-24 ~ search me, oh God.

psalm 139 23 24 Search Me O God over water#memoryverse

“Search me, O God, and know my heart;
test me and know my anxious thoughts.
Point out anything in me that offends you,
and lead me along the path of everlasting life.”

Psalm 139:23-24 (NLT)

One of my go-to questions when I meet with someone as a communication/life coach is:

“How do you receive and process negative feedback and constructive criticism?”

Sometimes, people know the answer. Sometimes I have to provide a few multiple choice options:

(1) Do you usually deny it? Assume it’s not true?

(2) Do you get depressed? Maybe shut down or give up?

(3) Do you get fired up? Determined to prove the criticizer wrong or to overcome whatever weakness the feedback and criticism points to?

(4) or do you get depressed, shut down and THEN get fired up and determined?

The most difficult to deal with are the two extremes of denying and shutting down.

I don’t know about you, but my knee jerk reaction is to deny. Way back in college, my favorite interpersonal communication professor, Dr. Grasty, assured me I wasn’t alone by confirming that:

“When we are criticized, our tendency is to be defensive.”

And then he gave us this sage advice:

“Don’t be a deluded wimp. Have the courage to look for any truth in the criticism. Strip away any acrimonious language, any selfish motivation or defensiveness of the criticizer and diligently search for even a nugget of truth in the accusation.”

This is one of those occasions where the words “the truth hurts” ring loud and true.

I’ve learned that in order to grow – personally, professionally, mentally, physically and most importantly, spiritually, I have to face the truth of where I am right now.

Praying for God to search my heart.
Asking Him to give me the courage to look at what He reveals.
Begging Him to comfort me when He shows me the ugly that’s hiding in there, layered in rationalizations and rainbows.
And praying for Him to equip me with the motivation and stamina needed to purge from my life the things that separate me from Him.

March 10, 2015 Posted by | #memoryverse, Bible, Christian, devotion, devotions, pinterest, pragmatic communion | , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

#memoryverse John 15:5 ~ I say “nothing” without you.

John 15 5 apart from him you can do nothing tall#memoryverse

“I am the vine;
you are the branches.
Whoever abides in me
and I in him,
he it is that bears much fruit,
for apart from me you can do nothing.”

John 15:5 (ESV)

“When a worship leader reads the Bible you can tell.”

Carlos Whittaker is a worship leader, author and speaker. So I’m betting he knows that his statement extends from “worship leader” to “writer” to “speaker” to “someone.”

Personally, I can spot “trite” messages in a New York minute. I’m betting I’m not the only one.

Worship leaders who speak in the vagueness of song lyric poetry and speakers who spend extended time telling stories and weaving metaphors without connecting them to truth in scripture. Words dripping in entertainment, feel good inspiration or contrived attempts to stir emotion. Words that don’t lead to deeper understanding or dredge up self-examination. Fluffy words that don’t scrape the bottom to dredge up conviction or reveal underlying pride or fear.

Carlos Whittaker is right. When someone reads the Bible, you can tell.

For me, the opposite is true as well. When I’m NOT spending time in the Word, you can tell. My words turn thin, losing both depth and meaning. And if you know me, you know I love me some depth and meaning. When I’m not spending time in the Word – and in prayer – my perspective shifts to my own little corner (yes, that is a R&H Cinderella reference).

But when I let go of the grip I have on “my” day and ask God to bless me with a desire for Him, I find myself drawn to Him. I actually WANT to read the Word and spend time with Him.

Notice I didn’t start with “If I just read the Bible.” I started with prayer asking God to bless me with a desire to read the Bible. Because, I know me. On my own, my tendency would be to curl up with a cuppa joe and a good book ABOUT the Bible.

Some days, my tendency is to curl up with a cuppa joe and my laptop and allow the internet to suck the time out of my day.

But when I spend time in God’s living Word, it lives in me and there’s no keeping it in check. My perspective shifts from my own limited and skewed point of view to consider people and relationships and circumstances from God’s greater vantage point.

I ABIDE in Him.

So I pray for a desire for the Word.
And I pray for the motivation to actually READ it.
And I pray for the Holy Spirit to open the scriptures to me and help me to understand and apply its timeless truths to my life TODAY.

And I pray for the Holy Spirit to equip me – and put words in my mouth when I speak so that the word “trite” is never an adjective anyone could or would ever use to describe the words that come out of my mouth.

February 24, 2015 Posted by | #memoryverse | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

#memoryverse John 15:5 ~ Lord, please remind me to remember.

John 15 5 I am the vine with grape background#memoryverse

“I am the vine;
you are the branches.
Whoever abides in me
and I in him,
he it is that bears much fruit,
for apart from me
you can do nothing.”

John 15:5 (ESV)

Heavenly Father,
please remind me to remember you,
over and over and over again,
because I forget You,
over and over and over again.
Please remind me to remember that
YOU are my source in everything I say and do.
Please remind me that my fear
often stems from my tendency
to look to my own abilities and strength

instead of relying on YOU to equip me and renew my strength.
Please relentlessly remind me to remember that
You are sovereign.
AMEN.

February 23, 2015 Posted by | #memoryverse | , , , , , | Leave a comment

#memoryverse 1 John 4:13 ~ “abiding” in Christ. part 1 of…howevermany.

1 John 4 13 little girl and dove pinterest#memoryverse

“By this we know that we abide in him
and he in us,
because he has given us of his Spirit.”

1 John 4:13 (ESV)

I used to think the word “abide” referred to that part of prayer where I was supposed to shut up and listen. Like God and I were taking turns doing the talking.

Prayer: My turn to talk, God’s turn to listen.
Abide: God’s turn to talk, my turn to listen.

Over the last 7 years, I’ve come to realize that abiding is so much more than me shutting up and listening during “prayer time.”

I think I first began to realize that my definition of abiding was much too narrow when I began to understand that my definition of prayer was much too narrow.

I used to think of prayer as dedicated time talking to God. These days, I call that type of prayer “event” prayer because it takes place like an event – it has a beginning and an end. Often, it’s prayer that opens with a salutation, like “Dear Lord” or “Heavenly Father” and always concludes with the word “Amen.”

And then it’s over until next time.

By the grace of God, I’ve come to understand that while “event” prayer is good and necessary, it is only one kind of prayer.

Now, the most common type of prayer I engage in is practicing the presence of God. It’s an ongoing, no holds barred conversation with God. What used to be that constant inner conversation with myself all day long has shifted and now it’s [almost always] directed to God. The shift in direction has transformed self-directed self-talk into intimate prayer with the Holy Spirit who dwells within me through my faith in Christ.

When prayer began to saturate my moments and my days in this way, abiding began to take on new meaning. When I talk to the Holy Spirit about everything, all day, it’s because Christ is answering my prayer with a big “YES!” when I ask Him to bless me with an awareness that “the Lord my God is is with me everywhere I go.” (Joshua 1:9)

When I’m aware of God’s presence in my moments and my days in this way, I’m abiding in Christ.

Regardless of whether I’m talking or shutting up.

January 27, 2015 Posted by | #memoryverse, pragmatic presence | , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

#memoryverse Psalms 121:2 ~ muse. shmoose. I need the Holy Spirit.

God has not calle me to be successful but faithful Mother Teresa#memoryverse

“My help comes from the LORD,
the Maker of heaven and earth.”

Psalm 121:2 (NIV)

In the fall of last year, I began leading two Bible/Discipleship studies and after taking a break over the holidays, I’m seeing more people sign up to join us as we start back next week. My first thought was “EXCELLENT!”

Followed immediately by a humbling shot of “uh oh. WHAT am I going to say for 17 weeks? What if I run out of “stuff” to teach?”

And then the Holy Spirit nudged me: “Yeah, you’ll run out of ‘stuff.’ If you teach all by yourself. You need to depend on ME.

I know from experience that if I stay grounded in close fellowship with God and continuously offer my preparation as a living sacrifice, He will give me HIS message every week, from the timeless truth of scripture to the practical application of it in our lives today. From the supporting stories to suggestions for personal challenges.

I know that if I continuously pray for the people participating in the study, HE will incline their hearts and minds to HIS message and He will draw each one closer to Himself in a way that is unique and needed for each and every one of them.

Time and time again – when I’ve depended on HIM as my source and my guide – He has led me to share something very specific to meet someone right where they are that day, that moment.

I know that if I’m obedient in planting and sowing the seed where and how he leads me, He will send the rain and the sunshine and harvest in His own perfect timing.

I’ll need the Holy Spirit to remind me of that last part again and again because I know my natural tenancy is equate responses from people as affirmation that the messages I relay are “effective.” In reality, I’m confident He’s reached people who have never given me even one ioda of feedback that something I’ve shared has spoken to them or impacted their choices.

I need to remember – persistently – that HE is the source of all I ever teach, or speak or write. Without Him, my voice is a “clanging cymbal.”

January 16, 2015 Posted by | #memoryverse | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

#memoryverse Proverbs 16:9 ~ when things go “wrong.”

John Piper quote God is doing 10000 things#memoryverse

“The heart of man plans his way,
but the LORD establishes his steps.”

Proverbs 16:9 (ESV)

One of the most difficult things I’ve experienced in my striving to follow God’s guidance in my life is when

I pray, persistently,
I seek wisdom from His word and from faith-filled brothers and sisters in Christ,
I “count the cost” and
I make a decision that I’m am confident is one that follows the leading of the Holy Spirit, a decision that – through all the dependent tasks and decisions leading up to it – is covered in God’s fingerprints.

And then the outcome is ab.so.flippin.lutely. HORRIBLE.

How does this happen?

WHY does this happen?

Because the outcome is only horrible from my point of view.

Sometimes, after making plans and following through, circumstances go as expected and everything makes sense.

Sometimes, after making plans and following through, circumstances exceed my hopes and expectations and even my imagination and I’m left in awe of what God can do when I have the courage and motivation to be obedient and if I don’t fight back or dig my heels in while I stand in His way.

Sometimes, after making plans and following through, circumstances tank.
Things go horribly wrong and I doubt my understanding of every single answer to prayer I received leading up to that moment. I doubt my ability to interpret what scripture taught me about my decision. I doubt the wise words from brothers and sisters in Christ.

I don’t doubt God. I’m confident HE got it right. I doubt myself. MY ability to get it right.

Sometimes, after circumstances tank,

(1) I immediately get to see how God redeems the situation, often through the unexpected benefit of someone else or someone being drawn closer to and more dependent on Christ.

Sometimes, after circumstances tank,

(2) I find out months or years later how God redeemed my “failure.”

Sometimes, after circumstances tank,

(3) God never shows me or tells me why.

I hate door number 3 the most.

I’ll admit, there have been seasons of my life where a “failure” has resulted in paralyzation. I’ve spent months bogged down in fear of making another “mistake.”

prayer can never be in excess SpurgeonPrayer has been the antidote every time. Prayer leading to dependence on Christ through the Holy Spirit.

Will I make another “mistake?”

Count on it.

I may lie low for a while and regroup, but when I persist in prayer – not necessarily prayer for a “do-over” or for God to “fix” something – but prayer for God to draw me closer to Him, for Him to bless me with the ability to see people and the world through HIS greater perspective instead of from through my own limited limited and skewed vantage point, my courage is restored.

My confidence in Him overshadows my lack of confidence in myself.

The next decision presents itself and I face it with Him. I make plans, giving Him veto power. I make plans knowing the outcome isn’t up to me.

I’ll be honest. I don’t always like the outcome. But I make plans in faith, knowing His ways are higher than my ways.

January 10, 2015 Posted by | #memoryverse | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

#memoryverse Proverbs 16:9 ~ give people permission to tell you the truth.

Courage Dear Heart C S Lewis#memoryverse

“The heart of man plans his way,
but the LORD establishes his steps.”

Proverbs 16:9 (ESV)

It’s January, time for new year’s resolutions and fresh starts. New goals. New plans.

I feel a metaphor coming on.

When I use my GPS to help me get somewhere, I not only have to set a destination, but I have to set my current location.

I don’t know about you, but in life, when I set a goal, I don’t intuitively take an honest, objective look at my current situation. Intellectually, I know that when I want to “go somewhere,” I need to have a clear and realistic understanding of where I am now, before I start trying to figure out how I’m going to get where I’m going. I wish I could say I always take stock of my current situation before I start.

But.

When I STOP and pray about a goal,
when I ask God to show me if the goal is in line with His Word and if it’s a goal He even wants me to pursue,
when I ask for His guidance on how to achieve it,
when I ask Him to show me who and what I need to help me,
I see things much more clearly.

When I genuinely pray for Him to help me figure all that out, the Holy Spirit leads me to reflect, not just on my desires and plans, but also on where I am right now.

rose colored glassesSometimes, that means taking a long hard look in the mirror. An HONEST look. I don’t like seeing my weaknesses. They ain’t pretty. But I need to know the truth.

Sometimes God reveals it to me.
Sometimes God uses people to reveal it to me.
Sometimes the truth comes unsolicited and wrapped in emotionally charged language. I can dismiss the words because they were spoken in anger instead of “in love” but when I’m smart (and brave), I strip away the emotion and search the content for nuggets of truth.

Just because feedback is mean, doesn’t mean there isn’t some truth in it.

Sometimes, I need to give people permission to tell me the truth. Friends, acquaintances, experts, strangers…

When the only feedback someone ever gives me is positive, I usually say that person “blow rainbows.” Their feedback loses credibility with me. It’s statistically improbable that I’m great at everything I do.

Sometimes a friend who loves me will take me aside and tell me a hard truth.
Sometimes I need to ask a friend what they think and give them permission – encourage them – to tell me the truth.
Sometimes, I need to pay people. In my life, I’ve paid therapists and voice teachers to tell me the truth.

And then I need to be quiet and listen. Because my knee-jerk reaction is to explain how they are wrong. How they don’t understand. To try and get them to see things from MY point of view – the point of view I had before I asked for the feedback.

Then, I need to process what I hear. Investigate. Search my heart and the circumstances to determine if there’s truth in the feedback. I’m not the most objective person when it comes to evaluating my “current location.”

Are you making new goals? Pray and ask the Lord to show you your current location.

and “Courage, dear heart.”

January 9, 2015 Posted by | #memoryverse | , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

#memoryverse Proverbs 16:9 ~ Plan B

Plan B#memoryverse

“The heart of man plans his way,
but the LORD establishes his steps.”

Proverbs 16:9 (ESV)

I had such a great plan. I had prayed and I thought God had answered with a big ol’ “YES!”

and then things started to fall apart.

What do you do when a plan begins to fall apart? I’ve tried to force circumstances before. To create situations and opportunities. To manipulate them. To push them.

It’s taken me decades, but I’ve learned that my efforts are only effective when God intervenes. Especially when a plan requires more than one person to accomplish it.

I find myself thinking of Nehemiah. He didn’t rebuild the wall all by himself. And he wasn’t the one who convinced the king to allow him – to actually help him – rebuild the wall. After finding out the wall had been torn down, the first thing Nehemiah did was pray:

“O Lord, please hear my prayer!…Please grant me success today by making the king favorable to me. Put it into his heart to be kind to me.”

After praying, Nehemiah didn’t say anything to the king at all. He had prayed and he trusted God to answer. He waited. He continued doing the work he was supposed to do.

The king noticed there was something wrong. Was he just a perceptive man? Or did God make him aware there was a problem?

The king asked Nehemiah what was wrong. He made a few guesses, but not assumptions. He didn’t presume to know. He asked. Was he just a curious man? Or did God prompt him to ask?

Nehemiah told him what was troubling him, but didn’t ask the king to do anything for him. Why not? He could have just asked the king for what he wanted right then. But he didn’t. He waited on the Lord. He had prayed and he trusted God to answer.

And the king said, “How can I help you?” Was he just a kind and compassionate man? Or did the Lord “put it into his heart” to help Nehemiah?

Back to Nehemiah. A powerful king just asked him “How can I help you?” Did Nehemiah blurt out his request? It’s interesting to me that the question and Nehemiah’s first response are both contained in one verse. The actual request follows in the next verse:

4 The king asked, “Well, how can I help you?” With a prayer to the God of heaven,
5 I replied, “If it please the king, and if you are pleased with me, your servant, send me to Judah to rebuild the city where my ancestors are buried.”

Nehemiah didn’t say a word without God. He knew that the king would only say yes if God willed it.

That story has changed the way I approach problems and decisions. If a plan requires other people to accomplish it and God wants the plan accomplished, God will “put it into their heart.” When he doesn’t do that, I have a choice. Do I push through anyway?

or do I start praying about Plan B?

January 8, 2015 Posted by | #memoryverse | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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