Pragmatic Compendium

inspiring the pragmatic practice of intimacy with Christ

#memoryverse: Esther 4:14 ~ you were created for such a time as this

memoryverse Esther 4 14 such a time as this#memoryverse

“And who knows
but that you have come
to your royal position
for such a time as this?”

Esther 4:14b (NIV)


thoughts:

I posted only the second part of this verse because these are the words that resonated and stuck with me the instant I read them. I didn’t even try to memorize them. They just took immediate residence in my head. My paraphrase is:

Who knows if you were put here in this particular place, NOW, for a reason?

In Biblical context, the message is specific to Esther. But the first few words are also relevant to us today. Here’s the entire verse:

“For if you remain silent at this time, relief and deliverance for the Jews will arise from another place, but you and your father’s family will perish. And who knows but that you have come to your royal position for such a time as this?”

Here’s my paraphrase again:

If God has sovereignly placed me in a particular place at a particular time to accomplish something for Him and I remain silent – if I do nothing – He WILL send someone else to accomplish His will.

And I will forfeit the blessing that would come from being obedient. And by blessing, I don’t mean some sort of thank you gift or prosperity tit-for-tat. I’m talking about God’s definition of blessing. I don’t always know what that is. Sometimes, it’s the “You’re NOT gonna beLIEVE what God did!!!!” story I get to share after He does something phenomenal that can’t be explained away or dismissed as coincidence.

This verse and these thoughts came to mind last week after I heard someone say they were “ready to check out.” Discouragement had become too much. Looking from the outside, you’d never guess. They look strong and confident. They are friendly and are genuinely enjoyable company. It was another reminder and confirmation that we are all #justadifferentkindofbroken and that we need to strive to #seepeople. Thankfully, in the pit of discouragement, this person had reached out to someone. Risked vulnerability and rejection. And the friend they reached out to is a Christ-centered believer and immediately responded in full on “Esther” mode.

If you are doubting the the point of you. If you are feeling small. If you are feeling helpless. Unloved and unworthy and irreleveant. I have a message of encouragement for you:

Right now.

Right where you are.

With what you’ve got.

And all that you lack.

Under yet another spiritual attack of doubt and fear by the ultimate perpetuator of lies.

In defiance of satan with a lower case “s.”

Wholly dependent on the Holy Spirit to equip you in your weakness.

Speak truth in love, not about what others lack, but as a witness to what you’ve FOUND through a living and intimate relationship with Christ through the Holy Spirit who dwells within you. ‪

You are where you are through God’s providence. Wherever that is, you are in a unique position to see someone who is unseen. To look them in the eye and listen to them. To let them know they are seen and genuinely heard.

You are in a unique position to be a WITNESS (that’s a noun, not a verb) to the grace and unconditional love of Jesus Christ.

#‎suchatimeasthis‬

May 25, 2015 Posted by | #memoryverse, Bible, christian living, pinterest, pragmatic communion, scripture | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

#memoryverse: John 3:27 ~ I have nothing unless it is given from Heaven

Bible BB John 3 27 Person cannot receive even one thing unless given him from Heaven#memoryverse

“John answered,
“A person cannot receive
even one thing
unless
it is given him
from heaven.

John 3:27 (ESV)


thoughts:

I have nothing unless it is given to me from Heaven.

First and foremost,
that means grace.

John 6:44 tells me: “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him.”

I hate the hard truth of this, but I know that if left completely to myself, I would not choose God. If I drill down to the core of each and every sin, I recognize a desire to act independently of God. That desire to choose for myself what is right or wrong, rather than submitting to God’s authority, is sin.

And sin separates me from God.

It’s by grace that my intimate, living, dependent relationship with God is restored through Christ’s sacrifice. Grace that is given to me from heaven.

Secondly, it means everything else:

Of course there’s all the tangible “stuff” like a home, a car, the food in my pantry and fridge, the computer I’m typing on…

but so. much. more. is “given to me from heaven.”

– My husband. My children.
– My health, my strength, the fact that I don’t live with chronic pain and have never faced a life-threatening illness.
– Success in any endeavor, whether it be work, ministry or anything else.
– Financial security.
– My talents. Not only knowledge, but my ability to read and understand and learn.
– My imagination. Any idea I ever come up with.
– My awareness of God’s presence and movement in my life.
– The courage and motivation I find to be obedient when the Holy Spirit prompts me to act or speak.
– The indwelling of the Holy Spirit which equips me beyond my own abilities. Romans 8:9-11
– The confident that is grounded in fact that He is “with me wherever I go.” Joshua 1:9
– The peace that comes from a relentless awareness of his sovereign providence. Job 42:2
– And then there are the harder things that His Word promises He will work for “good” and are meant to “conform me” to the image of Christ.

    The trials I don’t understand.
    The disappointments.
    The seasons when He is silent.
    The fact that I struggle to submit to His authority. Daily. Sometimes hourly.

I have NOTHING unless it is given me from heaven.

The breath I just took.

I can’t take credit for any of it and I’m not in control of any of it.

Dependent upon the Holy Spirit to remind me, I need to be diligent about remembering all this and being grateful. When I’m mindful and grateful, I’m a better steward of all God blesses me with, and that includes the blessings in disguise.

May 18, 2015 Posted by | #memoryverse, Bible, christian living, pinterest, pragmatic communion, scripture | , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

#memoryverse: Colossians 3:23 ~ as working for the Lord, not for men

Colossians 3 23 Work as Unto the Lord Bible text NIV#memoryverse

“Whatever you do,
work at it with all your heart,
as working for the Lord,
not for men”

Colossians 3:23 (NIV)


thoughts:

The first word that jumps into my head when I read this verse is: competence.

I’m not sure when I first figured out that – as someone who professes faith in Christ – everything I do and say reflects on Jesus. There were probably multiple factors involved in coming to that realization:

~ I remember when I was young and first began working in the legal industry, there were multiple highly educated, wealthy people who belittled my faith and spoke condescendingly to me as they expressed that they perceived me to be idealistic and naive because I believed in God and “wasted my time” serving in church. If I listened to the root message under the messages, it was always grounded in the opinion that the only people who believed in God were less educated, less “successful” in the business world and, well…perpetually stuck in a lower socioeconomic class. Those people were sad and underprivileged and believing in God made them feel better. An “opium for the people” kind of a thing.

~ This is really going to date me, but I remember sitting in a hair salon and being simultaneously and intensely challenged by multiple women to defend Christianity in light of the sex scandal involving revivalist evangelist Jimmy Swaggart, a prostitute and a hotel room. It blew me away that, based on his bad behavior, not only was my faith suspect, but Christian faith overall was being attacked and rejected. I realized with much clarity at that moment that Christians were being watched like prey and sometimes attacked for sport.

~ When my kids were little, I remember telling them that no matter where they are or who they are with, when they wear their school uniform, they represent their school. Their words and actions are a reflection on their school. It was a short connection to realize that because the uniform was printed with the name of a Christian school, the kids were described by those watching as “those kids from the Christian school.” The tone of voice was telling as to whether the statement was an indication of approval or disapproval. When the comment expressed approval, it was often spoken with pleasant surprise, while the disapproving comments were more sarcastic and dripping in “it figures” and “what do you expect?”

I’m sure I could think of more examples, but you get the idea. Back then and today, despite the number of Christians with advanced degrees, well-paying careers and lives suffused with gracious words and actions, they are very, very often thought of as uneducated, unskilled, poor, illogical, ignorant, unreasonable, undependable…the list could go on…

Colossians 3:23 reminds me that it’s possible to challenge and even change those perceptions. It’s possible for someone who professes faith in and dependence on Jesus to be viewed as intelligent, competent and dependable. But to intentionally and consistently “work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord,”

I need to:

as much as I am able,
as consistently as I am able,
– grounded in an acute awareness of my dependence on the Holy Spirit
    to equip me in mind, body and spirit, and
    to bless me with determination and stamina and resilience

Steve Martin Be So Good They Cant Ignore You1. Strive for competence and – ultimately, excellence – in everything I do,

– regardless of whether the work is directly related to ministry or whether the work is within a secular field.

– by not spreading myself so thin that I can’t come close to a standard of excellence or even achieve “good enough” status in one of my commitments, much less all of them.

2. Choose to speak edifying words – affirming progress as an indication of success, encouraging hope and motivating other people to strive for excellence – instead of

– complaining.

– expending time and effort calling (repeated and/or extended) attention to someone else’s shortcomings and mistakes.

– tearing people down.

And in the process of that striving and choosing, I find that

~ I’m letting go of the white-knuckled grip I have on my right to choose and I’m allowing myself to be conformed (by the Holy Spirit – not only by my own efforts) into the image of the son of God, Jesus Christ (Romans 8:29),

~ I’m being a good steward of the gifts and talents God has blessed me with, (Matthew 25:14-30) and

~ I’m tangibly expressing genuine gratitude to God, for the countless blessings in this abundant life I’m living with Him – regardless of my circumstances. (Colossians 3:17)

Erma Bombeck I Used Everything You Gave MeI know I’m not the only follower of Jesus who is striving for excellence, extending grace, being conformed, being a good steward and expressing gratitude. My prayer is that every time a Christian hunter, or even just a non-believer, encounters one of us Jesus Freaks, the “with all our hearts” serves as a strong, positive evidence for authentic faith in Jesus Christ.

May 11, 2015 Posted by | #memoryverse, Bible, christian living, intentional living, pinterest, pragmatic communion, scripture | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 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, devotions, pinterest, pragmatic communion | , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

#memoryverse John 15:5 ~ WithOUT God. “nothing” is possible.

Matthew 19 26 With God all things are possible#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)

“With God, all things are possible.”

When I read, hear or say this, I usually emphasize the “all things are possible” part.

Today, I can’t get past the “WITH GOD” part.

The hard truth – one that I don’t like to admit – is that I have a tendency to be more self-centered than Veruca Salt. The hard truth is that I want what I want when I want it. and often, “I WANT IT NOW!”

But…
If God isn’t in it.
If God doesn’t want it.
If God doesn’t want it for me.
If God knows that it will lead me away from Him.
If God knows that my current desire ALREADY pulls me away from him.
If God knows that my current desire might be counter to His plan to draw people to a saving knowledge of Him and to accept His gift of grace.
If God knows that my current desire might be counter to His desire for a living, intimate, dependent relationship with me and/or someone else…

then, God’s not in it.

Even if “it” is possible and I go after it on my own – withOUT God, I will fail. Maybe not fail in the eyes of the world, under the world’s definition of success, but I will fail.

Because all my dreams and goals, if pursued withOUT God, lead me away from Him. And when I fill my life with things that exclude Christ, those things amount to a
big.
pile.
of nothing.

February 27, 2015 Posted by | #memoryverse | , , , , , , | 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 Jeremiah 32:17 ~ NOTHING is too hard for God.

Jeremiah 32 17 red sunset background#memoryverse

“Ah, Sovereign LORD,
you have made the heavens and the earth
by your great power and outstretched arm.
Nothing is too hard for you.”

Jeremiah 32:17 (NIV)

Heavenly Father, please remind me again and again, that nothing is too hard for You.

Please use anything and everything I see and experience to remind me of Your power and providence, from a sunrise to a sunset and everything in between.

Please bless me with peace in the middle of the unknown – peace that is grounded in stalwart confidence that You are all-powerful and sovereign.

Please bless me with patience when I think You are taking to long and with humble obedience when I slip into my inner two year old and start thinking “it’s not fair!” or “you’re doing it wrong!”

Please help me to remember that You never make mistakes and that You are working all things together for good.

Please help me remember that You can redeem ANY situation, You can soften a heart and open a mind. You alone can draw people to Yourself and show them Your perspective.

Please help me to remember Lord, NOTHING is too hard for You.

January 20, 2015 Posted by | #memoryverse | , , , , , | Leave a comment

#memoryverse Jeremiah 32:17 ~ nothing (nobody) is too hard (headed) for God.

Jeremiah 32 17 waterfall background#memoryverse

“Ah, Sovereign LORD,
you have made the heavens and the earth
by your great power and outstretched arm.
Nothing is too hard for you.”

Jeremiah 32:17 (NIV)

I’m a fixer.

When I see something that needs fixed I want to fix it, whether it be a crooked picture on the wall or a broken relationship. But some things are beyond my capabilities, especially if the thing that’s broken isn’t seen as broken by people “in charge” of it.

In many cases, the first thing that needs to be changed is a mindset.

That’s a whole lotta vague, isn’t it? As I read back over it, I see application in multiple situations. In each of those situations, someone either doesn’t see or refuses to see that there’s a problem in the first place.

And before anyone even goes there, I know I’m one of those people, so as you read, know that I’m including my own oblivion and denial and not just pointing at someone else’s. I need to consistently ask the Holy Spirit to reveal to me problems I don’t see.

And in those situations where I want to help but the people I want to help don’t think they need any help, I need to pray that the Holy Spirit will reveal to them the problems THEY don’t see. If someone has blocked out all possibility for constructive criticism and/or surrounded themselves with “yes men” and rainbow blowing yea-sayers, there’s no avenue for me to help because there’s no perceived need or even an openness for possible improvement. In those situations, there’s absolutely nothing I can say or do to make someone aware of a problem, much less motivate them to explore and implement change.

And again, I’m including my own oblivion and denial when I say that.

That’s when I need to rely on God. God can do ANYthing, even open a closed mind, dedicated to the self-preservation of being “right.” For a while now, I’ve been asking the sovereign and almighty God who made the heavens and the earth to do some things I know can’t do on my own:
(1) reveal to me that my perception of some problems is incorrect,
(2) bless me with a peace about doing nothing to intercede,
(3) and/or reveal to someone that there are problems and provide me an opportunity to help.

Because standing by and watching is beyond frustrating.

January 19, 2015 Posted by | #memoryverse | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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