Pragmatic Compendium

inspiring the pragmatic practice of intimacy with Christ

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

Lessons from a Whale

The Church Is Full of Hypocrites

I have two responses to that:

1. Of course it is and
2. Of Which I am the Greatest

For nearly a decade, I’ve volunteered to work my church’s annual Whale of a Sale, a gymnasium sized garage sale. The last two years, I served as its co-chair. Every year, two Saturdays before the event, we unload PODs (portable on demand storage) into the gym and for two weeks, we sort and price literally thousands of items while continuing to accept additional donations and offering free pick-up for large items. This past year, on the Saturday before the sale, we had scheduled about ten pick-ups and had put out a call for men and trucks to come and help with them.

I arrived that Saturday morning to find a group of about ten guys waiting for me. One gentleman in particular surprised me. He was overdressed for the occasion in dress shorts and loafers. As we entered the gym, I greeted him with “Well good morning! Are you here to help or to donate?”

In front of the other men who had come to work, he replied “I’m here to buy.”

Not to work. Not to donate. To buy.

Let me set this up for you. The sale was a week away. Pre-shopping privileges are offered to Whale volunteers as an incentive. If, while they are working, a volunteer discovers something they would like to buy, they are allowed to purchase it before the actual sale. Two people – neither one the buyer – price the item. Expensive items are researched and we aim for approximately 25% of retail.

“I’m here to buy.”

I said, “Let me get these guys going on their pick-ups and I’ll be right with you.”

Before I could open my mouth to relay a single address to one of the pick-up teams, he continued, ignoring my response as if I hadn’t spoken at all. “SoandSo told me there was a donation of a thingamagig and I’d like to buy it.”

I looked him in eye and said, “Do we need to do this right now? These gentlemen are waiting on me.”

Without missing a beat, he thrust a twenty dollar bill out and said, “Is it worth twenty bucks?”

I immediately and firmly said, “YES.”

He thought I was agreeing that the thingamagig was worth twenty bucks. I had no idea what the thingamagig was worth, I hadn’t even laid eyes on it. What I knew – and what the men who were listening knew – was that I meant it was worth twenty bucks for him to LEAVE and take his coveted thingamagig with him.

And then there I was, holding a twenty dollar bill. We have rules about money. I wasn’t supposed to just put it in my pocket. Besides, even if I bent the rules and temporarily put the money in my pocket in front of all those people, I knew I would get busy and forget about it. I told the men I would be with them in a few minutes, hightailed it to the other side of the gym, spent a few minutes unlocking a door with an annoyingly tricky lock, fetched the hidden key to the cabinet holding the cash box, secured the twenty, locked the cabinet, hid the key again, and crossed the gym back to where all the guys were waiting on me.

At first, I was indignant. But then I realized. He did this in front of at least nine men of the church, three of whom were impressionable teenage boys who got up early on a Saturday to come to church and volunteer with their dads. This man had made it clear to everyone in earshot that he viewed his time as more valuable than everyone else’s time. He got what he came for, but he was completely oblivious to the fact that he had made a terrible impression and lost the respect of those who witnessed his behavior. He was the only church member during the entire two weeks of preparation who bought something without working. Later, hearing about the exchange, another man commented that the man had traded his reputation for twenty bucks.

It’s sad and wrong. But unfortunately, it happens in churches just as often and as easily as it does in the secular world. He wanted what he wanted when he wanted it. And because I knew that doing the right thing would have caused all those guys to wait even longer – because I valued their time – I unfairly afforded one person a privilege that I didn’t afford to anyone else. In the church environment, examples like these are the cases in point when someone says they’ve been jaded by the church.

I personally used this particular situation as a teaching moment with my kids. I stepped through what happened and asked them for their opinion. Thankfully, they didn’t view this as an example of how powerful men get things done. Instead, they identified behavior and reasoning they didn’t ever want to emulate (my daughter used the word copy).

The question is, other than use it as a springboard for teaching my kids about character, what am I going to do about it? Do I give up on all churches because of the selfish actions one person? Am I going to hold a grudge? Am I going to allow someone to have that much power over me? Am I going to allow a person for whom I’ve lost respect to drive a wedge between me and God? Are you? Because make no mistake, unforgiveness is a big ol’ wedge between you and God.

If anyone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen.” 1 John 4:20 (ESV)

And here’s the harder question. What have I myself done to leave another person with a terrible impression? It’s highly improbable that I have a stellar reputation in the church or anywhere else. What things have I said or done to damage my reputation and evidence a horrible representation of Christ? Who, when relaying how they’ve been jaded by the church, has told a story about something I’ve said or done?

If I’m honest with myself, I am not without guilt. It’s extremely difficult to face and take ownership of the things I’ve said or done that I’m ashamed of. I believe it’s difficult for any Christian to face and accept the possibility that we’ve done something to damage the cause of Christ by providing fodder for the “they’re supposed to be a Christian” rants of people who find it much too easy to discredit Christians who behave badly.

In my case, it was exactly one week later when I said something I’m ashamed of. Only 7 days following my episode of indignation before I myself was a poor representative of Christ.

It was the last hours of the sale and I was making announcements about discounts over the loudspeaker. Just as I finished saying “Everything in the boutique is negotiable.” a woman approached me.

Woman: “That’s not true. They’re not negotiating in the boutique.”

Me: “They should be. They asked me to make that announcement.”

Woman: “Well, they’re not. I want to buy some teacups and they’re not negotiating.”

Me: “Okay. Show me the teacups.” (me, in my head: “I could not care less about teacups”)

We crossed the gym and entered the boutique. She headed straight for the checkout. Three unmatched teacups with their saucers were in a box. All three had their original price tags on them, but all three also had blue painter’s tape with a lower price handwritten on them. The cashier read the prices on the painter’s tape, pointing to each teacup as she spoke.

Woman: “That’s not negotiating.”

Me: “You asked them to lower the price and they have.”

Woman: “That’s not negotiating.”

Me: “What price did you have in mind?”

Woman: “I was thinking two dollars each.”

Cashier: “I’m sorry, I can’t do that.”

Woman: “Actually, you can.”

You could have heard a pin drop. This was not her first negotiation. and then,

Cashier: “No, I can’t. I didn’t set the price…”

Woman, interrupting her: “That’s not negotiating.” (me, in my head: “stop saying that.”)

Me: “The person who set the price has the option to retain any items until next year rather than sell them below their value.”

Woman: “You said the prices were negotiable….”

When I interrupted her to say “Give me a few minutes and I’ll talk to the lady who set the price” I knew I was completely over the teacup conversation.

The woman turned and walked into the gym. I spent a few more minutes in the boutique and discovered the woman had been at the sale the day before and had scored a name brand pantsuit at a discount by saying she was out of money. That, combined with the already reduced price of the teacups and the fact that unmatched English teacups are not a necessity for living, led me to back up the pricing decision of the volunteers. I decided I didn’t need to drag the person who priced the teacups into this “negotiation.” If they wanted to retain the teacups for next year’s sale rather than see them sold for less than they were worth, it was their call.

I walked into the gym and was immediately approached by the woman.

Me: “We can’t reduce the price of the teacups any lower than we already have.”

Woman: “I think it’s just that one girl.”

Me: “The girl who told you the price is not the person who set the price.”

Woman: “Well then, what’s her name?”

And here’s where it went south. Here’s where I had an opportunity to do the “right” thing and caved to the easy thing instead. And I even took a few seconds to think about it before I replied.

Me: “No. I’m not going to give you a name. If you would like to buy the teacups at the reduced price that would be fine, but I’m not going to give you anyone’s name.”

Woman: “Why not?”

And then I made it even worse.

Me: “Because I don’t do drama and I’m not going to nail my volunteers.”

The woman’s jaw dropped and her hand flew to her chest like I shot her:
“I don’t need this!”

Me: “Need what?”

Woman: “You REALLY hurt my feelings!”

Me: “I’m sorry I hurt your . . . ”

Woman, interrupting: “I don’t need this! I am NOT causing drama!” (me, in my head: “this isn’t drama?”)

Me: “I think you may be overreacting.”

Woman: “WHO is in charge here!?!?”

I took way too much pleasure in this one: “Me.”

Woman: “And who is in charge of YOU?!”

Me: “My pastor.”

Woman: “I can’t believe you’re being this way over teacups!”

Me: “This has absolutely nothing to do with teacups. This is about people. And I’m protecting mine.”

Woman: “I don’t need this!”

Right then, another shopper interrupted us to ask me to price something for her.

As the first woman left crying, the shopper who interrupted us said, “I didn’t really need a price, I just wanted her to leave.”

I looked over her shoulder at the door and the shopper patted me on the hand and said, “I saw what happened. Don’t give her another thought.”

But I knew. While I did the right thing by backing up the volunteer’s decision and definitely did the right thing by preventing the woman from initiating a confrontation with the person who priced the teacups, I did it ungraciously. I didn’t get emotionally upset, but also didn’t extend an ounce of compassion. I was very . . . factual.

Stating facts without grace and compassion can easily be interpreted as meanness and insensitivity. And nobody had to convince me that the “I don’t do drama/not going to nail my volunteers” comment was uncalled for and out of line.

I stood there a few minutes, replaying the entire thing in my head, knowing what I should have done:

Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience. Colossians 3:12 ESV

And then her husband was standing in front of me. A man who was able to extend the graciousness I had abandoned. He told me that his wife had come running to the car crying and that she said I was very upset with her. His wife was crying and he was asking me if I was okay. I assured him I wasn’t upset and that I was sincerely sorry that his wife was upset.

Then he told me that he had been out of work for a very long time. And that their son had been killed recently in a tragic accident. He told me that because of these two things his wife was oversensitive. I apologized again and offered to follow him outside and apologize to her in person if he didn’t think that would make things worse. He told me he would tell her what I said and then he left.

And here’s the thing. She was rude. She was confrontational. She was arrogant – while she was aggressively going after what she wanted. But when I confronted her, she immediately became a wounded victim, unjustly accused and unfairly treated. I’ve seen this behavior before. I know to react with grace when I see it.

And I didn’t. I took the easy way out. The “right back atcha” way out. It was wrong and I knew better. My past has equipped me to respond to this type of behavior graciously, but my circumstances led me to react dispassionately. Unkindly.

And I knew why. It had been days since I had spent dedicated time alone with God. The Whale of a Sale hours were demanding and I was exhausted. I wasn’t hungry and if people hadn’t brought me food during that last week, I wouldn’t have eaten. I went through an entire carton of Epsom salts and used way too much hot water, I was taking too much ibuprofen and not enough Nexium. I was physically and mentally worn out and spiritually bereft.

I had spent so much of my time serving God, I had neglected to be with God. I was operating and making decisions from my own limited view of my circumstances instead of striving to see the bigger picture through God’s greater perspective. My intuitive decisions were selfish instead of stemming from the Holy Spirit’s presence within me, not because the Holy Spirit had left me, but because I couldn’t hear God’s voice above all the noise – the external stimuli, my non-stop and easily distracted thoughts, my screaming muscles. I needed to STOP. To take a few minutes to talk to God and, just as importantly, to listen to God. To abide in His presence. Because I hadn’t, I needlessly hurt someone. If I had been spending dedicated time with God every day, would I have given the name of the person who set the price of the teacups? Would I have overridden her and reduced the price of the teacups?

no. and no.

But I would have been much more gracious about it. I would allowed myself to be the hands and feet and ears and voice of Christ.

Thankfully God can use hypocrites. Especially when they learn from their mistakes.

October 10, 2012 Posted by | christian living, intentional living, learning curve, pinterest, pragmatic communion, pragmatic presence, what I've learned | , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“Fair” is not when everybody gets a turn.

Fair is when hard won preparation and relentless dedication to excellence earns opportunity.

When I was in college, one of my friends, a member of the same singing group I was in, angrily told me it wasn’t fair that I got so many solos “just because I sang better than her.” She said she “couldn’t help it that she couldn’t sing as well as I did.” She said “God had just given me a better voice than her.” She had been shortchanged and she was disappointed. And ticked off. At me. And she let me know it. This particular time she said it out loud while looking glaring me in the eye, but most of the time the message was sent through her sulking body language and mopey facial expression every time I got assigned a solo or actually performed one.

Fast forward 20 years. I joined our church’s praise team and after a few months, all the vocalists were put on a rotation. The theory was that it would be easier for the musicians if they didn’t have to make a weekly commitment. Less burnout. I told the worship leader I didn’t want to be on a rotation. I wanted to sing every week. Why?

  1. I needed the accountability; preparing for a mid-week evening rehearsal and Sunday morning service forced me to sing EVERY day. If I didn’t work every day, I wouldn’t be as prepared as I wanted to be.
  2. I needed to build up my stamina, increase my vocal range and improve my breath control. Consistent daily work – on all three – was the only thing that was going to get the job done.
  3. I was being exposed to, and challenged by, a new style of music that I was instinctively gravitating toward.
  4. The mental challenge of memorizing a boatload of lyrics was exponentially increasing my memory skills. I was being forced to employ abandoned memory techniques I had learned years ago.
  5. The weekly exposure of being in front of a large group of people during the praise and worship service was slowly nicking away at the stage fright that had crept in during the 10 plus years I had taken off as a serious vocalist. I was once again becoming comfortable, more at home on stage.
  6. The worship leader’s easy dismissal of my screw-ups was leading to more self-confidence and as a result, I was taking more risks vocally and stylistically.
  7. I was experiencing emotion when I sang and I was gradually allowing myself to feel it. Rare for me to experience it. Unthinkable to actually allow it. Inconceivable that I didn’t feel compelled to retreat.

Every week I was gaining experience and growing stronger. I began asking for a DVD of every service and I watched the “game film” every week. That DVD is unedited; the vocals are unmixed. I heard what was going into the microphone, not what was coming out after I got a little help from the sound guys. I heard THE HARD TRUTH. Every week, I meticulously listened to the quality of my voice, my harmonies, and whether my phrasing and breathing matched the worship leader’s. I forced myself to evaluate my appearance and my stage presence. I relentlessly critiqued myself. I was determined to identify my weaknesses and work on eliminating them. I found a vocal coach and started working with her regularly. I was rehearsing 10 to 20 hours per week and I came to rehearsal as prepared as I possibly could. I had to make some hard choices to give up some good things in my life to fit in those 10 to 20 hours.

I was working my butt off.

And then another vocalist caught me off guard with a simple question: “Why are you so special?”

I was dumbfounded. “What?”

They said, “Why do you get to sing every week?”

I heard, “It’s not fair. You get to sing more than me.”

I was stunned. Since it wasn’t a real question, they didn’t really expect an answer. They just wanted me to know I was getting undeserved special treatment and they didn’t like it.

I learned a long time ago that when I’m faced with criticism, I really need to strip away all the emotion and acrimony and bravely look for a grain of truth. Special. Was I getting special treatment?

Yes. I sang every week. I was excluded from the rotation.

I found myself thinking about these two interchanges from my past multiple times today, and it led me to this video. Check it out. Only 1 minute and 2 seconds.

As soon as I watched that commercial on youtube I knew it was true. Both of these people from my past were making excuses. Both of them assumed that my voice was just a God-given gift and that I didn’t have to work for it. I was their scapegoat. Their guilt-free pass to rationalization and self-delusion. It was easier to blame me for hogging all their opportunities than to work hard for what they wanted.

Neither one of them came to rehearsals prepared, having learned their own individual parts ahead of time. Neither one expressed interest in voice lessons. To my knowledge, neither one recorded and listened to themselves. Neither one made adjustments to their commitments or schedules to allow extra time to work on their vocals. Neither one sought out and encouraged honest feedback about their vocals, instead depending on the polite comments of friends as justification that there was no room or need for improvement. Both of them garnered support through whispering campaigns, resulting in high tension and drama. I spent a LOT of time with my college friend and I never, ever heard her rehearse or vocalize outside of our weekly group rehearsal.

Each of those two people, because of their unwillingness to strive for continued improvement, prevented each group from rising above their lowest common denominator: Them.

Is it possible these two people might have put a tremendous amount of work and effort into becoming stronger vocalists only to discover they don’t have enough core talent? Possibly. But neither of them will ever know. They had dreams, but dreams without action are just wishes, not goals.

Wishin don’t make it so.

And fair isn’t when everybody gets a turn. Fair is when hard won preparation and relentless dedication to excellence earns opportunity.

But I learned a long time ago that life isn’t fair. And these two people from my past are by far not alone in their belief that fair is when everybody gets a turn. They are by far, not the only people who feel entitled to opportunities they don’t earn. And those opportunities are continuously provided to people who don’t work for them because it’s easier than having the difficult and honest conversation that will most likely hurt their feelings.

It’s not limited to music, it’s everything. Everywhere. So when an opportunity I continue to work so hard to earn is given to someone less qualified in the pursuit of fairness, I’m left with a choice.

Take my ball and go home because it isn’t fair? That fits me worse than pink clothing.

Be less because someone else can’t or won’t be more? Not gonna happen. I refuse to give God less than my best. I refuse to stifle the gifts He’s blessed me with.

I will be the best steward I can possibly be – of all He’s given me, even if that stewardship leads to resentfulness and jealousy and leaves me with significantly diminished opportunities.

My kids are paying attention to how I handle this. I’m not wavering from what I’ve been teaching them their entire lives: “sometimes, we have to do what’s required.

August 1, 2012 Posted by | christian living, intentional living, motivation, music, pinterest, poor me some whine, pragmatic communion, pragmatic practices, youtube | , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

I. Want. More.

I’ve described my mother as a “defiant non-compliant diabetic.” She ate what she wanted, when she wanted, blood sugar be damned. After decades of neglect, her body began to deteriorate and finally shut down completely. I found a receipt in her wallet dated just days before her death. She had driven through Burger King on the way home from dialysis and ordered a BK Stacker (22 grams of fat, 700 mg of sodium.). She was suffering from congestive heart failure, taking 14 different medications and on dialysis 3 days a week, but she wanted a BK Stacker, so she got one. There were more fast food receipts in the pockets of her clothing and on her desk.

Time and time and time again she chose immediate personal gratification and a comfort zone, over long term goals, discomfort and inconvenience – and not just with food.

She bought what she wanted when she wanted it, even if she didn’t have the money.
She wanted a warm, inviting home, but she focused on the house and its contents more than the people who lived in it.
She wanted passionate relationships, but was controlling and plagued with pride.
She wanted to travel and experience new things. But instead, she booked the same vacation for years.
She loved to play the piano. But she didn’t make time for it.
She loved to sing. But she only sang in the house. And rarely.
She wanted to write. But she didn’t.
She wanted so much, but she settled for so little.

Her desire for the things she wanted made it challenging and sometimes impossible for her to recognize, much less appreciate, the blessings she had. Her inability to see that she had power to change her circumstances if she stayed true to her long-term goals kept her firmly rooted in mediocrity and the status quo.

I paid attention. And I learned quite a bit about what I want for my life by watching her choices.
I still pay attention. And I look for consequences – good and bad – so I can learn from other people’s choices. I learn a LOT about what I want as a result of my OWN choices and their consequences.

My mother had a stroke and blamed her doctors and her medication. She had a stroke and I got a personal trainer. Before and after her stroke, she relied on medications to make herself feel better and to lengthen her life. Before her stroke, I was following in her footsteps. After her stroke, I began relying on exercise and lifestyle changes to make myself feel better and to lengthen my life.

I had a choice. I could continue to go with the flow and eventually find myself at risk for a stroke or I could intentionally and consistently walk backwards against the current. If you know me, it shouldn’t surprise you that when I’m floating in a lazy river, I will at some point, become bored and walk backward against the current. It’s a metaphor for my life. I intentionally choose to view every experience God has allowed in my life – good AND bad – as a blessing. Together, these blessings fuel me with determination.

I’m a big believer in benchmarking. When I want to learn how to do something, I find people who do it well and I copy them. But I also learn what not to do by watching the things that people, myself included, do poorly. I pay attention to choices and consequences – good and bad. I call it opportunistic learning and it helps me discover what I want in my life.

I want more than immediate gratification and a well worn spot in my comfort zone.

I want MORE than the comfort of air conditioning, dry, pleasant smelling clothing, a good hair day, less laundry and an extra hour every day. I don’t consider a handicapped sticker on my car to be a well deserved ticket to a great parking space and the inability to walk up a flight of stairs without getting winded scares me more than a hurricane warning. The inability to walk up a flight of stairs at all scares me more than an actual hurricane.

I want a stronger body, even if it needs two showers in one day, generates smelly, wet laundry, “wastes” 30 minutes or more of my day and requires a longer walk from the parking lot. I want to get stronger as I get older, not weaker. I want to be a good steward of this body God has blessed me with. I’ve experienced the limitations of a body that won’t do what I want it to do and I hated it so much I NEVER want to experience it again. I’ll do anything I can to make sure that my body doesn’t deteriorate due to neglect.

I want MORE than a 6 inch high plate of nachos with a phenomenal cheese sauce or the most decadent, melt in your mouth chocolate lava cake in the world. I want MORE than the thousands of milligrams of sodium and double digit grams of fat in the restaurant food that saves me from cooking dinner when I don’t feel like it. I want MORE than a bedtime snack of ice cream or a Grand Slam breakfast from Denny’s. I want MORE than a BK Stacker.

I want unblocked arteries, normal blood pressure and stable blood sugar. I want my 7 day pill case to be filled with vitamins and supplements instead medications. I want to model good nutritional choices for my children, especially my daughter. I want to live a longer, healthier life than my mother did. I’m not swayed by spoonfuls being shoved in my face along with an exasperated voice telling me to “just taste it.” It’s not that I secretly want it and am just denying myself. I really don’t want it. I’ll never be convinced to abandon my long term nutrition goals just because someone belittles me for not eating something they want to eat. I’ll never belittle them while I watch them eat – but I also won’t sanction their choice or cave to middle school level peer pressure by picking up a fork and joining them.

I want MORE than a good marriage. I want MORE than candy and flowers and jewelry on Valentines Day and my birthday. I want MORE than a husband who handles car maintenance, toilet repair, heavy lifting, jar opening and high shelf reaching. I want MORE than a “good” sex life and a husband who does what I want in order to get it. I want MORE than a husband who agrees with me to avoid conflict and who spends time with me because he’s supposed to.

I want a GREAT marriage to a man I can’t go a day without talking to. I want to be the person who respects my husband more than anyone else in the world and I want him to know it beyond a shadow of a doubt. I want to come to the end of my day and be confident I didn’t say a bad word about him to ANYone. I want to be the kind of wife he wants to come home to and I want to be genuinely happy that he’s home when he walks in the door. I want a partner – a LIFE LONG partner – who tells me the truth in a gracious tone of voice, motivated by love. I want us to share EVERYthing without holding back: our thoughts, our ideas, our weaknesses, our fears, our passions and our bodies. I want to share household and parenting duties and I’m thankful that I figured out early in our marriage that different isn’t wrong. I want us to be able speak in idioms and always understand each other. I want us to be able to communicate with facial expressions and eye contact. I want to stay married to my best friend for the rest of my life and I’m thankful that we are both willing to run to a marriage counselor the minute our relationship can be described as “fine.”

I want MORE than compliant children who make good grades, keep their room clean and behave appropriately at all times. I want MORE than happy, safe children. I don’t want my children to do what they’re told because I say so.

I want to hear about everything that interests them, because I know that if I don’t listen with interest, they will stop telling me. I want to be challenged by their mind, fascinated by their discoveries, respectful of their ideas, convinced by their reasoning, inspired by their passion and exasperated by our differences. I want to always strive to respect them as individuals instead viewing them as extensions of myself. I want to be comfortable with their potential to embarrass me for the sake of their (and my) learning curve. I want my children to learn life lessons from remorse and disappointment as well as from pride and achievement. I want to equip them, not protect them. I want them to do the right thing because it’s the right thing, even when nobody is looking.

I want MORE than the ability to pay my monthly bills. I want more than a nice car and a big house with a screened pool. I want more than great vacation destinations. I want more than stuff.

I want to be debt-free. I want to own my home, not hold a mortgage. I want my car to start every time I turn the key, and if it does, I don’t care how many miles are on it. I want to be a good steward of my financial blessings. I want to save and pay cash for the things I want. I don’t want to pay interest. I want to teach my children the value of a wise financial choice. I want to teach them that delayed gratification ultimately makes them happier and more secure than an impulse or convenient purchase. I want to give God MORE than 10% of what he entrusts to me and I want my kids to want to do the same.

I want MORE than to help lead a “good” praise set on Sunday morning. Lukewarm makes me restless. Holding back makes me unsettled. Trying to please everyone is deeply discouraging. Settling for fine wears me down. I don’t want to give God less than my very best. No one is drawn to mediocrity.

I want to work my butt off to prepare and when Sunday morning comes, I want to block out all the logistics and make myself open and available for God to equip me for service. I want to respond to the prompting of the Holy Spirit, not the body language of someone in the congregation who is missing His presence because they are preoccupied with what someone else thinks. I want to allow myself to be saturated with the Holy Spirit, so much so that Satan doesn’t stand a snowball’s chance in Hell of distracting me from my goal of bringing as many people with me as I possibly can while I abandon myself to authentic, consuming praise. I want to go all out and see what God will do with my all.

I want to use everything God has given me – the good and the bad – to serve Him. When I write, I have no idea if the result is a cathartic purge or if someone will identify with something I say and be encouraged or changed by it. It’s just as possible that what I’ve written will alienate or discourage someone. I have no idea if God will use it to reach someone, but I pray He will. I don’t want the words I write to be in a vacuum.

I. want. MORE.

Do I always get it right? Not by a long shot. I do not find all this to be intuitive. These are determined choices I make, over and over and over again. And when I screw up, I start over, even if I have to start over multiple times a day. But I’m not going to stop striving. And I’m willing to wait for whatever God hasn’t entrusted me with yet. I’m willing work for it.

For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness,knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, mutual affection; and to mutual affection, love. For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.
2 Peter 5-8

“Never neglect what you’ve seen God do in your life. Take a careful look at these things from God’s perspective, all the way from your birth to where you stand right now. They’re all significant.”

Experiencing the Spirit
Henry and Melvin Blackaby

July 16, 2012 Posted by | christian living, debt free living, fight the frump, food, goodsteward/body, health, intentional living, learning curve, motivation, pinterest, pragmatic communion, pragmatic parenting, what I've learned, women | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

fragments of a Mother’s Day weekend.

In case you don’t follow me on facebook or twitter, here’s a little compilation of my weekend updates:

Friday, May 11, 2012 – Trying to learn this: “The difference between being 95% prepared & 100% prepared (whatever that is) is infinitesimal. It is not perceived. But the energy expended in moving from 95% to 100% is immense, much more than that required to move from 75% to 95%.” Alan Weiss

Saturday, May 12 2012
11:24am – My husband loves me! He just used his AMEX points to buy me a new phone for Mother’s Day!!! (I’m not eligible for an upgrade till November). I hope I love it as much as I think I will! But if not, I ordered it from Walmart. They let you return anything.

4:19pm – Tackling the paper mountain that is my office. I’ve avoided working in there since I brought the 45+ pounds of paper home from my mom’s house after her death in December. Time to reclaim my work space. #somuchpaper

7:45pm – More than three hours later and I’m still going through the 45+ pounds of paper I’ve ignored since I brought it home from my mom’s after her death in December. Thousands of pieces of paper – mementos, letters, records, photos…when I started this weekend project, I didn’t even connect it with Mother’s Day. God is weird that way.

10:53pm – took over 6 hours to sort all the paper from my mom’s house. Now I’m ready to deep clean and purge my office of our own paper and clutter. Well. not NOW. Maybe tomorrow.

Sunday, May 13, 2012
2:34pm – So proud of PinkGirl! She did a wonderful job on “Mighty to Save” this morning during the 8am and 11am services. And an added mom bonus? She LISTENED and FOLLOWED MY ADVICE during her vocal warm up this morning!!! A Mother’s Day miracle! #ilovemydaughter

3:08pm – I ordered my new phone yesterday. I’m ready for it to be here now. #impatient

I’m going from a 2.5 x 2.5 inch Motorola Flipout to a 7 inch Dell Streak

This is a HUGE change for me. No more tucking my phone in my bra. Just saying.

3:27pm
PinkGirl’s text to her dad about singing special music at the 8am service this morning: “The power went out so we stopped and I messed up double so yay!” 8:29 AM
PinkGirl: “DAD!” 8:31 AM
PinkGirl: “Yo Horton!!!” 8:31 AM
Her Dad: “Bummer. You will do better at 11″ 8:34 AM
PinkGirl: My dress was sooo short i was afraid i was gonna flash the congregation! :o” 8:36 AM
(Mom Note: she is so impatient. I don’t know where she gets it. and the dress was short, but not that short. There was no view of London or France at any time.)

7:06pm – I had to complete a scavenger hunt to find my Mother’s Day present. Seven clues later, it was a coupon for “a FREE two day pass to PINKGIRL WORLD! Where PinkGirl will tend to your every need and do whatever you want willingly without grumbling or complaining. Not valid on School Days.” The location of this priceless coupon? Buried in the cat’s litter box. At least she scooped it first. #ilovemydaughter

All in all, it was a good weekend. Finally got to meet a long time blog friend and her family at EPCOT Friday night while they were vacationing here. A rare Sunday morning praise team set where I think we had a perfect balance between abandoning ourselves to worship and striving for excellence and time spent with friends and family on Sunday afternoon.

God is Good. All the Time.

May 14, 2012 Posted by | christian living, family, fragments, holidays, laugh!, poor me some whine, pragmatic commotion, status updates | , , , , | 2 Comments

why I’m not your “fun” friend. issue #1: Saturday mornings

In my previous post, entitled “I’m not your “fun” friend.” I said the reason I prefer “real” conversation over “surface” conversation is because I have “issues” and that you either get used to me or you avoid me.
(CLICK HERE to read that post – it’s short.)

I’ve been thinking about why I’m so intense about everything. Why do I prefer the deeper conversations? Why am I addicted to learning? What is this freakish obsession I have with setting and moving toward goals? Why does the word “can’t” challenge me to defy it? Why is good enough NOT good enough? Why am I so competitive, even with myself? Why am I so passionate about encouraging other people figure out what they want and GO AFTER IT? Why am I so relentless about being actively engaged in an intimate relationship with God – and inspiring others to do the same?

Why am I so intense about LIFE?

I’ve always been overly aware of the passing of time. Of missed opportunity. Lost opportunity.

Recently, I’ve been thinking about why and I immediately came up with four reasons:

1. Saturday mornings
2. TV Overdose
3. Death
4. Preparation meets opportunity

Saturday mornings were the first thing to come to mind.

I grew up with a mom who loved to sleep.

When I was little, every Saturday was the same. I would wake up early, because, well, I was a little kid. I would crack open my bedroom door and slowly, as quietly as I possibly could, sneak into the kitchen for some cereal. It was slow progress, because the goal was to be completely, totally silent.

The goal was to NOT wake up my mother.

My dad usually worked on Saturday, and he was out of the house early. My mom’s bedroom door was between my room and the kitchen. The kitchen and her bedroom were connected by a wall. Another bedroom wall – the wall with her bedroom door on it – connected to the living room. Where the TV was.

All I wanted to do was get some cereal and watch Saturday morning cartoons. Simple. Kid simple.

Sometimes, I pulled it off. Slowly and silently opening the normally squeaky metal bifold door of the pantry, getting the cereal box down, silently opening the cabinet for a bowl. Silently opening the fridge for the milk by prying the rubber seal open with my fingers instead of pulling the door handle which would have resulted in the sound of the vacuum being broken. Pouring the cereal was the tough part. There’s nothing silent about Lucky Charms hitting melmac. Sometimes, that would be my undoing. Other days, I got lucky and made it through.

Then came the most difficult part. I’d take my cereal bowl into the living room and sit crisscross applesauce, arm’s length from the TV. Volume controls were manual dials back then, so I could turn the volume all the way down before I even turned on the TV. Then came another tense moment. Pulling the TV power knob on made a click noise. Then the electronic hum that followed as the TV warmed up. Sometimes that was as far as I got.

Other days, I made it through. Then came the channel. The good news was that there were only three to choose from: 2, 6 and 9, so I stood a 33% chance that the channel was already tuned to the show I wanted to watch. Other days, I was paralyzed by the dilemma. Do I watch something I didn’t want to or risk turning the knob? Eventually, I got very good at stealth channel changing: a tight, full-handed grip with a s-l-o-w turn. The worst days were when the channel was on 2. Channel 6 to 9 and 9 to 6 were a breeze. But switch between channels 2 and 9? I’d just watch Heckle and Jeckle.

Once I made it to the channel I wanted, there was no sense of relief. The volume was still all the way down.

This part was something I couldn’t really control, but I still tried. I would sit, still arm’s length from the TV, and slowly turn up the volume until I could hear it. Watching a show required constant monitoring. Turn the volume up for dialog, down for music and effects. When I did get caught, it was music and effects that got me every time.

Sometimes, I got lucky. There was only a voice, calling my name. I would turn the volume all the way down and wait. Silently. Other times, I would turn the TV off and slink to the kitchen with my cereal bowl and silently – always silently – put it in the sink. Or even better, slip back into my bedroom with the bowl and shut the door. That way, if she actually got up and opened her bedroom door to look in the living room, there would be no evidence I was ever there. Unless she walked over and touched the top of the TV. If it was warm, I was discovered. More often than not, she would just look out and then go back to bed. I would wait for a while and start again.

For as many times as I made it, there were just as many times as I got caught. The consequences? Get into my mom’s bed with her and stay there until she woke up. Which – on Saturdays, never ever happened before noon.

The sun would be streaming through the window and my mom would be asleep next to me. Notice I didn’t say “sound” asleep. The slightest movement on my part would be immediately met with “be still.” In an effort to keep me safe and protected while she slept, she would reach one arm over and gently place her hand on my arm or my leg. The slightest movement on my part would wake her. I literally watched minutes tick by on a clock. Way, way, way too many minutes.

How has this manifested itself in me?

I hate sleep.

Literally. I just don’t like it. When I sleep, I feel like I’m missing stuff. Opportunities. Experiences. Life. Sometimes, I think that the only reason I can sleep at night is because there’s nothing else to do. Everybody else is sleeping, so I might as well get it over with. I don’t often nap. I have to be non-functionally exhausted or sick to intentionally take a nap.

I think this sense of missing out on life is one reason I’m so focused on “real” conversation with people. Why I can’t take too much “surface” talk before I start asking people questions about themselves. Why I crave conversations that make me think, that open my mind to perspectives other than my own.

It’s why I don’t “do nothing” well. I’ve done enough “nothing” to last me the rest of my life.

April 1, 2012 Posted by | flashback, intentional living, learning curve, motivation, poor me some whine, what I've learned, women | , , , , , | 6 Comments

it’s later.

March 30, 2012 Posted by | exercise, fight the frump, goodsteward/body, health, intentional living, laugh!, microactions, poor me some whine | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

I’m not your “fun” friend.

I know I’m not your “fun” friend. I wouldn’t make a good Bunco buddy. I prefer conversation over television. And without exception, I will choose talking about your goals and ideas and struggles over spending two hours in a dark movie theater not talking at all. I know I’m not the first person you think of when you want to get together with someone and laugh your butt off. I know I’m not one of the friends you invite out for happy hour on girl’s night.

And I’m okay with that.

I would be completely miserable at happy hour.

For me, happy hour is like reading fiction. It’s a diversion from real life. And usually much too loud.

I can’t do it.

(I have my reasons, which I’ll get into in the next few posts, but let me start out by assuring you I’m not like this because I think I’m better than other people. You’ll see. I have “issues.”)

I know I’m different. Some would say, not normal. Some might say annoying. exasperating.

You either get used to me or you avoid me.

But when you need to talk, I’m the friend who wants to have coffee with you. I’m the friend who can handle hearing about the things that keep you awake at night. I’m the friend who wants to hear about the things that keep you awake at night. Without judgement. In confidence. And be prepared for me to pray for you. Right then and there. Out loud and in front of whoever happens to be looking. (well, not so loud I break a confidence)

Sure, we can talk about surface stuff; logistical stuff, like what mechanic we trust, what we love and hate about our phones and data plans, a good (but easy) recipe or maybe even gas prices.

but not for long.

I don’t have a lot of patience for surface talk. It’s like a magazine. Little chunks of uncommitted browsing.

I prefer books. I want to spend a little more time and dig deeper.

While there’s time. Because it’s later than I think.


FOLLOW-UP: Here are two of my “issues”:
Why I’m Not Your Fun Friend. Issue #1: Saturday Mornings
Why I’m Not Your Fun Friend. Issue #3: Death

March 29, 2012 Posted by | caffeine, christian living, intentional living, pragmatic communion, women | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

I’m on a “reverse” diet.

That’s what FavoriteSon is calling it.

I’m trying to consume more calories on a daily basis. Sounds crazy. I know.

But the truth is, left on my own, I forget to eat. (CLICK HERE to read why.)

Case in point? I downloaded the “myfitnesspal” app and have been tracking my calorie intake since Wednesday, February 8th. On that day, my net intake was 820 calories.

820 calories?! I know. NOT good. I had no idea.

I say “net” intake because myfitnesspal calculates the calories expended and factors them in. Since my knee is better, I’m back to exercising every day. (My treadmill readouts actually indicate I’m burning more calories than myfitnesspal says I am, but I’m sticking with myfitnesspal or these numbers would be even worse.)

How did I even discover this? I walked 30 miles in 6 days and didn’t lose an OUNCE. Not ONE ounce.

myfitnesspal described it like this:

“Based on your total calories consumed for today, you are eating too few calories. Not only is it difficult to receive adequate nutrition at these calories levels, but you could also be putting your body into starvation mode. Starvation mode lowers your metabolism and makes weight loss more difficult. We suggest increasing your calorie consumption to 1200 calories per day minimum.”

After I injured my knee on December 2nd, I had to cut back on my exercise and I gained a few pounds. By the end of January, my knee was feeling much better so I set a challenging fitness goal for myself. I wanted to walk an average of a mile a day for the month of January. Problem is, since I didn’t set the goal until January 26th, that meant I had to walk 30 miles in 6 days.

When I didn’t lose even an OUNCE, I knew what my problem was. My brother-in-law,
a fitness trainer had already explained it to me. I just hadn’t been motivated to do anything about it.

Until I had to dig out my fat pants. I couldn’t fit comfortably in my clothes anymore and I had to move up a size in order to breathe when I sat down.

I set that freakish 30 mile goal to jumpstart a little weight loss.

THIRTY MILES and NOTHING? That just ticked me off.

So I downloaded myfitnesspal . . . and a new reminder app. I set multiple alarms on my phone and android tablet to remind me to eat. I already had an app, but its capabilities were too limited.

Here’s how my week played out:

Wednesday:
Goal Intake: 1200
Actual Intake: 1351
Exercise: -531 [Walked 3.5 (4.5% incline) miles]
Net Calories: 820

Thursday, I did better:
Goal Intake: 1200
Actual Intake: 1397
Exercise: -289 [Walked 2 (4.5% incline) miles]
Net Calories: 1108

And yes, I did notice that the reason I did better is because I exercised less. That’s not going to be my long term solution to this problem. I need to eat more.

Friday:
Goal Intake: 1200
Actual Intake: 1588
Exercise: -651 [1 Hour Yoga, Walked 3 (4.5% incline) miles]
Net Calories: 937

Saturday:
Goal Intake: 1200
Actual Intake: 1085
Exercise: -437 [Walked 3 incline miles (2 @ 4.5% incline 1 @ 5% incline]
Net Calories: 648

Sunday:
Goal Intake: 1200
Actual Intake: 1152
Exercise: -367 [Walked 2.5 (4.5% incline) miles]
Net Calories: 785

Monday:
Goal Intake: 1200
Actual Intake: 1439
Exercise: -123 [1 Hour Yoga]
Net Calories: 1316

Tuesday:
Goal Intake: 1200
Actual Intake: 1784
Exercise: -286 [Walked 2 (4.5% incline) miles]
Net Calories: 1498

Wednesday:
Goal Intake: 1200
Actual Intake: 1425
Exercise: -593 [1 Hour Yoga, Walked 3 (5% incline) miles]
Net Calories: 832

So how’s it working out? I started a week ago today and I’ve lost 3 pounds.

I realize my days have been pretty inconsistent, but I’m much more aware of my nutrition, so that’s progress! And although I HATE counting calories, myfitnesspal makes it pretty easy. FirstHusband joined too, so we’re tracking together. And the phone alarms are really helping. Hopefully, this new routine will develop into a habit and I won’t have to pay so much attention to all this.

I’m DETERMINED to be a good steward of this body God has blessed me with!

10am alarm just went off. I’m supposed to eat a snack now. bleh. I’ll do it, but bleh.

February 16, 2012 Posted by | christian living, exercise, fight the frump, food, goodsteward/body, health, intentional living, learning curve, motivation, poor me some whine, women | , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

I didn’t shave my legs for nothin.

Yesterday, I went back to yoga for the first time since tearing my MCL on December 2nd. My knee has been feeling pretty good, so I intentionally put on yoga shorts that morning. As the time to leave the house got closer, I debated. I was on a writing roll. If I stopped, I would lose momentum. and the coffee was so good. (Joffrey’s Jamaican Me Crazy)

LazyMe: “I don’t wanna go. I’m comfortable.”

AnnoyingMe: “Come on. After class is over, you’ll be glad you did it.”

LazyMe: “ehhh.”

AnnoyingMe: “What is it you always say? That you’re ‘striving to be a good steward of the body God has blessed you with?'”

LazyMe: ” It’s early. I’ve got all day. I can be a good steward later.”

AnnoyingMe: “Did you shave your legs for nothing?”

LazyMe: (sigh) “alright. I’m goin.”

Last night, I was really feeling the after-effects of this pose (below).
My whole body hurt – from holding it perfectly still for a total of just a few minutes.

Source: cookinglight.com via Julie on Pinterest

.

Tonight, I’m feeling it even more.

There’s only one thing to do. Go back tomorrow.

February 7, 2012 Posted by | caffeine, exercise, fight the frump, goodsteward/body, health, intentional living, laugh!, microactions, motivation, pinterest, poor me some whine, pragmatic communion, status updates, women | , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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