Pragmatic Compendium

inspiring the pragmatic practice of intimacy with Christ

“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’ve decided I’m tenacious. and I’m not budging on that.

Two days ago, I asked if I was tenacious or just stubborn.

You decide.

I got my miles in yesterday.

Treadmill readout showed:
6.01 miles,
4% incline,
1023 calories burned in
115 minutes and 34 seconds.

In case you are new or catching up and are wondering why anyone in their right mind would do that when they’re not training for a marathon or running from a bear, I’ve decided it’s because I’m tenacious.

Six days before the month was over, I decided I wanted to average walking 1 mile for each day of the month. Just because I can’t set reasonable goals doesn’t mean I can’t do math. That meant walking 30 miles in 6 days.

You’d think that I would walk 5 miles a day. You’d think that I would realize what taking Saturday off would to do my brilliant plan.


I walked 5 miles the first day, 5 miles the second day and ZERO miles the third day. That left 20 miles for the last three days of the month.

Here’s how it went:

Sunday: 7 Miles., 4% incline (didn’t keep track of the rest)
Monday: 7.02 miles, 4% incline, 1213 calories burned in a total of 131 minutes and 28 seconds.
Tuesday: 6.01 miles, 4% incline, 1023 calories burned in 115 minutes and 34 seconds.

I won’t lie. It was hard. I didn’t want to do it. I put it off all day. All three days.

I intentionally put my goal out on the internet – on my blog and on my facebook page, because accountability makes me stronger. Not because my prideful nature wouldn’t let me fail in front of everybody who thought my goals were crazy unreasonable. I’m tenacious, not stubborn, remember?

And for those of you who know I tore my MCL and strained my ACL on December 2nd, the knee is feeling good. I walked over 20 miles in December, now over 30 in January.

February is a new month. I need a new goal.

How about 2 miles a day? 58 miles it is. That should take me less than 40 minutes a day. Reasonable. Sustainable. Easier to make up if I want to take a Sunday off.

I’m also going to continue increasing the time on my forearm plank. I’m up to 2 minutes, 10 seconds. And I need to add some Supermans. because my back hurts. That means it’s not strong enough.

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

February 1, 2012 Posted by | christian living, exercise, fight the frump, GoodStewardofthisBody, health, intentional living, pragmatic communion, pragmatic practices | , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Am I tenacious or just stubborn? (FirstHusband – don’t answer that)

(If you’re new to Compendium, he’s my FirstHusband, my LastHusband, my OnlyHusband. It’s a joke. He gets it.)

If anyone is wondering whether I got my miles in today, that would be YES.

Treadmill readout showed:

7.02 miles,
4% incline,
1213 calories burned,
in a total of 131 minutes and 28 seconds.

The knee is feeling good. The calves however, were burnin. I took two 20 minute breaks to do some laundry and to tuck PinkGirl in bed and pray with her.

If I can log 6 miles tomorrow, I’ll meet my goal of walking 30 miles in the last 6 days of the month to “average” a mile a day for the month.

If you’re new or just catching up, you may be wondering why, if I wanted to average a mile a day for the month, didn’t I just actually walk a mile a day instead of cramming 30 miles into the last 6 days? I’d like to say it’s because I tore my MCL and strained my ACL on December 2nd and my knee hasn’t been ready . . .

I’d like to say that. But it would be a lie. I walked over 20 miles in December. And I think I did actually walk some in the beginning of January, but it was inconsistent and since I didn’t record any of it on my fitness log, I would have been making stuff up. So I gave myself one mile and, with 6 days left in the month of January, decided to walk the remaining 30.

I needed a kick-start anyway. I was getting too comfortable. And my clothes were getting a little UNcomfortable.

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

I wonder what kind of goals I’m going to set for myself for February.

January 31, 2012 Posted by | christian living, exercise, fight the frump, GoodStewardofthisBody, health, intentional living, pragmatic communion, pragmatic practices | , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

It’s Monday. Did you tell yourself you would start eating right and exercising today?

I always did.

Monday was the mother of all starting lines. THE day to begin.


Everybody knows it’s better to start a new fitness plan on a Monday.

Even experts agree:

“We think of Monday as the January of the week. It’s a call to action built into every calendar, giving you 52 chances for success.” says Sid Lerner, founder and chairman of The Monday Campaigns, a nonprofit initiative in association with Johns Hopkins, Columbia and Syracuse Universities.

I know what I always told myself on Friday nights:
“It was a long, hard week and I deserve to take the night (and day, and night again) off.”
“It’s too hard to start on a weekend, too many other (presumably fun) things to do.”
“We’re going out and it’s too hard to eat right when we eat out.”
“I deserve this glass (or three) of wine.”
“I deserve this plate of nachos.”
“I deserve to chill out at watch TV.”
“I deserve to …

What a load of hooey. Yes, I said “hooey.”

I did NOT deserve to weigh 210 pounds. I did NOT deserve to get winded trying to play with my kids. Well. Actually, the way I was eating and taking care of my body, I did deserve it.

Because those are the lousy excuses and rationalizations I used when I had the mentality that says fitness is a goal to be achieved. Something I did for a period of time until I got to a certain weight or size. When I was finished, I could go back to my “normal” life of thoughtless eating and neglecting my body.

But if I’m striving to be a good steward of the body God has blessed me with, THERE IS NO FINISH LINE.

I’ve gone through different stages since I began incorporating fitness into daily life. Sometimes I focus on strength training – I’ve gone to a gym, I’ve gone to local fitness trails and now I work out at home. For a few years I worked with a personal trainer two to three times per week. Before I tore my MCL and strained my ACL in December, I was doing yoga and I loved it so much I know I’m going back. But my constant -through injury and weather and lapses in motivation – has always been walking, sometimes outside, sometimes on a treadmill with an incline.

How do YOU incorporate fitness into your everyday life?
If you currently don’t, here’s the thing. You don’t need to buy a gym membership. You don’t have to buy the PX90 or Shred DVDs and spend every minute “hating it” as I read on another blog last week. You don’t need to buy a BowFlex or turn your extra bedroom or garage into a home gym.

Before you spend a lot of money on the accoutrements needed to accommodate your latest exercise plan, I’ll give you the same advice I gave my sister: “Find out if you are ready for the commitment. Tests have shown it takes 21 days to make a habit. Do 10 pushups a day for 21 days. You don’t have to do them all in a row, break them up if you can’t get through the full 10. Do modified pushups on your knees if you’re a beginner. IF, after three weeks, you’ve discovered that you made it, THEN think about throwing money at this problem.

In the meantime, consider this: The SINGLE BEST thing we can do for our health only requires one thing: a good pair of shoes. I’m amazed at the measured significant improvement seen in SO many areas of our health!! Check out the statistics in this video! Short, but PACKED with info!

Here’s the deal. I don’t have to exercise every day for the rest of my life. I need to do it TODAY.
And tomorrow, I’m going to tell myself the same thing.

One day at a time. One step at a time.

January 30, 2012 Posted by | christian living, exercise, fight the frump, GoodStewardofthisBody, health, intentional living, motivation, pragmatic practices, youtube | , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

in the dark. surrounded by trees.

an analogy. no. an allegory.

When I first began recording, the studio I sang in was separated from its control booth. The doors to each room were around a corner from each other and there was no window between the sound studio and the control booth, like you often see on TV. I was completely separated from people – physically, visually and audibly.

It was a little weird, especially because there were long minutes of silence between takes while the guys in the control booth were talking to each other and I couldn’t hear them – or see them.

It was also very, very cold in that room. I remember bringing a jacket and a scarf, even in the spring and summer. I would tuck my fists in my pockets and wrap the scarf around my face because my fingers and my nose would get so cold.

But the weirdest thing about that studio was that the lights were on a motion sensor. After about 15 minutes, the lights would automatically turn off and I would be left in the dark.

pitch dark. There were no windows, remember?

Even more challenging was the fact that I was surrounded by what the sound guys called “trees.” They were actually big fat, foam-like tubes on stick-like stands. I’m not sure exactly why they needed to surround me the way they did – I’m sure it was to enhance the sound and create a “sweet spot” in some way – but the bottom line is that when the lights went out, it was a challenge for me to find my way past the trees and move into the motion sensor’s line of sight to activate the lights again.

The recording sessions were about 3 and a half hours long and, tucked in the middle of the microphone (with all its accoutrements) and these giant trees, there was no place to sit down. At the end of the session, I was tired. I was tired from the singing and I was tired from the standing.

If you’ve read my last “four minutes with God” post, you may already know where I’m going with this. (if you haven’t, go ahead and click the previous link and catch up, I’ll wait. really, go ahead, it makes the rest of this post less confusing)

For a few weeks now, spiritually, I’ve been in the dark. surrounded by trees.

But here’s the thing. When I was in that studio and the lights went out during a take, I didn’t stop singing. I kept going. It didn’t matter that I was in the dark. I knew what I was supposed to be doing whether I could see or not. I didn’t really even need to see the lyrics sheet because I knew the song by heart.

I actually found that I sounded better when I couldn’t see, if you can believe that. The darkness meant there were less distractions.

Singing in the dark helped me focus on what was important while allowing me to abandon myself to God’s leading – at the same time.

Disconcerting at first, but as I grew more dependent on the instincts I believe God provided for me, instead of the tangible, visible microphone, the lyric sheet with its numbered lines, the headphones with the cord that kept overlapping my right arm, the line of masking tape on the floor to mark where I should stand…

I realized I didn’t need all those assurances. They were tiny, irrelevant markers of proof for what I confidently knew:

– the microphone was working and there were people in the sound booth who could hear me
– they were taking the work I was doing and making it even better.
– I didn’t need lyrics if I knew the words by heart.
– it might be cold, but it was temporary and I was equipped for it.
– yeah, I would get tired, but nothing beyond what I could handle and I could rest later, after my work was finished.
– if I started out standing in the right place and didn’t absently step away, I would stay in the center of the sweet spot.

All of that led me to an even greater assurance: that I was where I was supposed to be, doing what I was supposed to be doing, when I was supposed to be doing it and that I was being equipped by someone far more able to help me than all those other things.

When the lights were on, it never occurred to me to abandon all the markers I could see and depend wholly on an “invisible God” as Philip Yancey calls him.

Lord, thank you for reminding me of this experience in my life and showing me how it relates to the lessons you’re teaching me right now:

– You are with me whether I can see You or not.

– I can depend on You whether or not you provide me with easily recognizable assurances or ask me to trust You as You lead me through the dark for a while.

– I’m going to keep singing, knowing You can still hear me and knowing that you’ll show me what I need to see, when I need to see it.

This was dual published on my Pragmatic Communion blog.

April 6, 2011 Posted by | books, christian living, music, pragmatic communion, pragmatic practices, prayer | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

four minutes with God: 1 Kings 19:10-15

whatareyoudoinghereelijaha Quote:
“Sometimes we experience a terrible dryness in our spiritual lives. We feel no desire to pray, don’t experience God’s presence, get bored with worship services, and even think that everything we ever believed about God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit is little more than a childhood fairy tale.

Then it is important to realize that most of these feelings and thoughts are just feelings and thoughts, and that the Spirit of God dwells beyond our feelings and thoughts. It is a great grace to be able to experience God’s presence in our feelings and thoughts, but when we don’t, it does not mean that God is absent. It often means that God is calling us to a greater faithfulness. It is precisely in times of spiritual dryness that we must hold on to our spiritual discipline so that we can grow into new intimacy with God.(emphasis added)

(from Bread for the Journey: A Daybook of Wisdom and Faith and
The Only Necessary Thing: Living a Prayerful Life both by Henri Nouwen)

my Prayer:
Lord, I’m going to keep listening for your voice even when I think I can’t hear you.
I’m going to keep looking for you even when I think I can’t find you.
I’m going to keep talking to you even when I think I’m not making sense.
I’m going to keep reading your word even when I think I don’t understand it.
I’m going to keep serving you even when I’m not sure I’m doing any good at all.
I’m going to keep singing to you, knowing you can hear both my words and my heart.

Lord, I know these thoughts and feelings are lies. I’m so thankful that my faith isn’t grounded in them because they are temporary. You are eternal. And you are here with me, whether I can sense your presence or not. Thank you for that knowledge, it’s my rock.

the Word:
“He [Elijah] replied, “I have been very zealous for the LORD God Almighty. The Israelites have rejected your covenant, torn down your altars, and put your prophets to death with the sword. I am the only one left, and now they are trying to kill me too.”
The LORD said to him, “Go back the way you came, and go to the Desert of Damascus. When you get there, anoint Hazael king over Aram.”

1 Kings 19:14-15(NAS)

My Paraphrase:
Elijah: “wah, wah, wah, I just witnessed your unlimited power, but now I’m sad and I feel alone.”
God: “I am HERE. Why are you still here?”
Elijah: “wah, wah, wah, I just witnessed your unlimited power, but now I’m sad and I feel alone.”
God: “Go. You have work to do, and whining isn’t on your to-do list.”

1 Kings 19:10-15(NAS)

the lyric:
“This is my prayer in the desert, when all that’s within me feels dry. This is my prayer in my hunger and need, my God is the God who provides…I will rejoice, I will declare, God is my victory and He is here.”
from Desert Song by Hillsong

“Come Holy One, awaken me, to your design, from my sleep.”
from Your Name by Curtis Froisland

This was dual published on my Pragmatic Communion blog.

April 4, 2011 Posted by | books, christian living, devotions, four minutes with God, music, pragmatic communion, pragmatic practices, praise team music, prayer, youtube | , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments


“If God is developing in you a picture of what could and should be, you will be called upon to verbalize that picture. Painting a verbal picture is the essence of visioncasting.”

Andy Stanley

I’d been reading Visioneering by Andy Stanley and thinking about this statement when my pastor spoke about the unfruitful fig tree:

”And he told this parable: “A man had a fig tree planted in his vineyard, and he came seeking fruit on it and found none. And he said to the vinedresser, ‘Look, for three years now I have come seeking fruit on this fig tree, and I find none. Cut it down. Why should it use up the ground?’ And he answered him, ‘Sir, let it alone this year also, until I dig around it and put on manure. Then if it should bear fruit next year, well and good; but if not, you can cut it down.'”

Luke 13:1-9 (English Standard Version)

Look at the gardener’s response to the unfruitful tree: he wanted to dig around and cover it with manure.

And I had an epiphany: My vision is to spread manure. (And I don’t mean the kind that comes out of a bull)

How’s that for a verbal picture, Andy Stanley? I know. Pretty darn eloquent. God knows how make an impact when he speaks to me. In that moment, I realized my burden is for the unfruitful trees.

For those of you would prefer a non-manure related explanation:

My burden is for people who live on auto-pilot. Auto-pilot in a vacuum. I grew up on auto-pilot. My parents worked long, hard hours and barely made ends meet. Sometimes, they didn’t make ends meet. There was never enough money and never enough time. The sense of hopelessness was palatable. We needed the situation-defying hope and foundational peace that’s only found in faith. And when you’re on auto-pilot, faith isn’t something that ever crosses your mind.

I was raised Lutheran. Kinda. I remember Sunday mornings, one of my parents would drop me off at Sunday School and drive home to get ready for the church service 90 minutes later. They didn’t go to Sunday School. What they didn’t know what that I didn’t go to Sunday School either. My mom or dad would drop me off and I would walk through big double doors into a hallway which led to the Sunday School classrooms. As they drove away, I would walk across the hallway, out the back door, across the parking lot, through a hedge, to McDonalds, where I would spend my offering money on hashbrowns and a Coke and hang with some friends. By the time my parents got to church, I was back from my little field trip and blending in with all the kids who had just been dismissed from Sunday School. When people asked me if I went to church, I said yes. This was how I defined being a Christian.

By the time I was fifteen, the new house that was supposed to lead to happiness didn’t. Instead my parents separated. Life was a mess. Everyone in my life was living on auto-pilot. Self-focused auto-pilot. As a teenager, trying to figure out who I was and where I fit in the world, I was consumed with the question: “Is this is all there is?” Then In my freshman year of high school, I connected with a group of Christian teenagers and ended up at a Truth concert, where I accepted Jesus. I didn’t even know what that meant. I was Lutheran. Lutherans didn’t do “born again.” In confirmation class, I was taught the phrase “the gospel of Jesus Christ” but no one ever explained what that meant. At my church, you didn’t even need to bring a Bible to church with you on Sunday. You couldn’t read it anyway because they dimmed the lights during the sermon. I took advantage of the nap time – and I was not alone.

After I became a Christian, I spent years as an unfruitful tree, trying to disciple myself. Early progress was confusing and frustrating. But by the grace of God, through the last 30 years, there’s been lots of manure in my life. (Again with the eloquence.) I’ve had so many people act as a gardener in my life and – given my voracious reading obsession habit, the mentoring I’ve received from countless writers has motivated me to choose on purpose. They have had a significant hand in shaping my character, my faith and my goals. I’ve known for a long time that I was being prepared for a “good work.”

All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.

2 Timothy 3:16-17 (NIV)

For the last 6 years or so, I’ve been thinking about actively pursuing a vocational ministry. Thinking. Praying. I’ve always known what kind of commitment it would require and I knew the season wasn’t right. I prayed and wrestled with my own ambition, and because of my priorities – my intentional commitment to my family, I’ve purposely kept myself in a situation where my opportunities were local and limited. I know what kind of commitment I would require of me. I don’t do things half-way. If this vision is God ordained, it deserves my best effort. HE deserves excellence.

God has been moving in my life over the last year, starting with an opportunity to begin singing with my church’s praise team last March. Then came opportunities to speak. And more recently, opportunities and a nagging motivation to write. And one of the most encouraging prompts has come from my husband. He and I have been praying together and we both believe it’s time for me to actively seek opportunities to serve God in a singing and speaking ministry.

So let the praying and learning and planning and preparation begin. I need to be equipped. I need to be ready. Then God will move when he’s ready.

One thing I’m doing to get ready is drafting a book. (Not quite ready to say writing a book.) I’m also ready to speak in front of critics instead of friendly church folk. I’ve been a corporate trainer and university instructor and vocalist for years, so I’m not afraid to sing or speak in front of large groups. But I’m ready to be critiqued by other speakers. I’m ready for an objective third party to tell me what I need to work on.

One wonderful opportunity for me to be “covered in manure” by some of the Lord’s gardeners would be at the 2010 She Speaks Conference from July 30th -August 1st in Concord, North Carolina. This post is my entry in a contest to win a scholarship to that conference. I don’t know if I’m supposed to go and I don’t know if I’ll win the scholarship. But I’ll be ready and I’ll go where and when God sends me.

March 26, 2010 Posted by | books, christian living, intentional living, laugh!, pragmatic communion, pragmatic practices | , , , , | Leave a comment

therefore I quote: Mark Atteberry

I read, therefore I quote:

“Every time Christians are talking and the subject of excellence comes up, you can bet somebody will say, ‘It doesn’t really matter if things are done perfectly, as long as our hearts are right. After all, we’re not professionals.’ And there is truth in that statement. However, it’s a very short step from there to mediocrity . . . “

Mark Atteberry
The 10 Dumbest Things Christians Do

Mr. Atteberry gives three reasons why excellence matters. The first is that God loves excellence. To support his premise, he refers to and discusses a number of Bible verses, including Genesis 1:31 and Psalm 145:1-7. Mr. Atteberry’s second thought on the idea that excellence matters is that the Bible commands excellence and he refers to Colossians 3:23 which reads “Work hard and cheerfully at whatever you do, as though you were working for the Lord rather than for people.” And finally, Mr. Atteberry claims that excellence is important because people respond to excellence.

“We all need to realize – like it or not – that we’ll probably get one chance to make a good impression. If what people see and experience when they walk through our doors is slipshod and disorganized, we likely will never see them again. And who knows, we may have soured them on church once and for all. Imagine the cumulative effect on the kingdom if thousands of churches across the country are making the same mistake.”

I love the following quote from Mr. Atteberry. I reminds me of Winston Churchill’s quote: “It’s not enough that we do our best, sometimes we have to do what’s required.”

“Excellence is intentional. It happens when people make a conscious choice to meet its requirements . . .”

These five requirements of excellence have had me pondering for a few weeks (emphasis mine):

“Let me mention five qualities that excellence, especially as it relates to our kingdom responsibilities, will always require:

Courage . . . there are many obstacles . . . such as apathy, a lack of funds, or small faith. But there are also shotgun-toting lovers of the status quo who view any disruption of their comfort zone as a personal attack . . . Many Christians have recognized the need for change in their churches, and even longed for it, but declined to pursue it because they knew it couldn’t be accomplished . . . they chose shallow harmony over effectiveness . . . Personally, I have never regretted choosing excellence over peace.

Giftedness . . . One of the greatest obstacles to excellence in the church is the mismanagement of God’s gifts. Too many people are not serving in their area of giftedness. There are three ways this can happen . . . some people have no idea what their gifts are. It might be because they’ve never thought about it. Or it might be because they’ve been lied to . . . some people know what their gifts are but they refuse to serve in that area . . . some people know what gifts they lack but insist on serving in those areas anyway . . . No one ever wants to admit that he’s not the right person for the job, but sometimes it’s the truth. Excellence requires that we serve in area where we can do the most good . . . and the least harm.

Money . . . The simple truth is that quality costs. Fact #1: Quality costs more, but generally pays for itself in the long run. Fact #2: Quality equipment and resources will be a blessing to your servants. Fact #3: High quality always makes a great first impression. Fact #4: A commitment to quality says something about your love for the Lord.

Thorough Planning and Preparation
. . . concerns about spontaneity, while sometimes legitimate, are just as often an excuse for not planning and preparing . . . God can do plenty of inspiring during the planning and preparation stage . . . whoever said that having a well-thought-out plan means you can’t deviate if the Lord does move in a mighty way . . . Nobody is good enough to wing it all the time and keep producing topflight results. You show me a person who insists upon flying by the seat of his pants in his service to the Lord and I’ll show you solid candidate for membership in the Slipshod Hall of Fame.

Perseverance . . . you will be surrounded by people who don’t see things the way you do. You’ll encounter people who have chosen mediocrity as a lifestyle. They’re comfortable in it and will resent your efforts to change things . . . your passion for excellence is going to be very difficult for them to understand . . . some people who have the best of intentions are simply blind to mediocrity . . . can look right at a slipshod, disorganized mess and not see a problem. If you start talking about changing it, they’ll give you a blank stare and say, “Why?”

Hang in there and give your service to God your best effort . . . try harder. That extra effort you give might be the difference between some lost person being drawn in or driven away.”

I can NOT do everything I want to do WELL. When I’ve tried, I’ve ended up doing things “good enough.” If you know me, you probably know what I think of “good enough.”

If I’m passionate about something, if it’s important to me, I want and need to focus my time and energy on it. I’m passionate my relationship with God. I’m passionate about caring for my family. I’m passionate about speaking and teaching. I’m passionate about singing and leading faith based music. I’m passionate about reading and learning. But. If I try to focus my time and energy on those things while simultaneously, spending my finite amount of time and energy on other things which don’t support those passions – or, in some cases, are counter-productive to those passions, I get . . . mediocrity.

I’ve spent a considerable amount of time pondering and praying about my priorities. I know what’s important to me. The difficult thing is letting go of other things, which aren’t necessarily bad, and are sometimes even good, but just don’t fit within my goals.

We have a saying in our house concerning food – a chocolate Easter bunny, a pizza, a family size bag of chips, a half gallon of ice cream . . .”You can have it all, you just can have it all AT THE SAME TIME.”

I can be involved in lots and lots of activities and services. Just not at the same time. There are seasons for things. I have to know what’s MOST important to me NOW.

I have to choose on purpose. I have to do what’s required. I have to strive to do MORE than what’s required. God deserves my best effort.

“. . . therefore I quote” Thursday: If you have a quote to share from something you’ve read recently, feel free to comment and/or include a link to your own “quote” post.

Need help making your link look pretty in the comment? Copy and use this code.

March 4, 2010 Posted by | books, christian living, intentional living, pragmatic practices, therefore I quote | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

i’m ten years YOUNGER!

I’ve mentioned a few times that I do strength training with a personal trainer. It continues to be one of my “ACTION” items this year. I started a little over a year ago. The day after my 43rd birthday (I’m 44 now), I called a nearby gym to arrange personal training sessions.

Why at 43? My mother had a stroke a few months prior. She’s only 22 years older than me. I don’t want to get weaker as I get older. I want to keep up with my kids. I don’t want a handicap sticker on my car. I want to be healthy. Strong. Active.

The hard fact is that I am overweight. I never got back to my pre-pregnancy weight after my son was born. Even though I’ve been overweight all these years, I’ve always been under my own personal invisible panic number on the scale. My whole life (with the exception of pregnancy), I’ve stayed under this number. I knew if I got to this number I would freak out. In 2006, I passed that number by 10 pounds. The number is . . . 200 pounds.

I freaked out.

I’ll break this up into two parts. First, the changes I made (and continue to make) with regard to food. Then, what I’m doing about exercise.


First, I called Jenny Craig. I’m a Jenny Craig “lifer” and I needed help. I went on what I called “Jenny Watchers” which is a combination of Jenny Craig and Weight Watchers. Basically, it is Weight Watchers, but I used the prepackaged Jenny Craig Food. I used Jenny Craig to get back down below the panic number again. I relearned what a portion size looks like. I was reminded to eat something about every 3 hours to keep my metabolism from dropping (it also helps the reflux too). I have a real good understanding of the nutritional info and good eating habits. Now, I am FINISHED with diets. I am just CHANGING the way I eat. Everyday. I can’t sustain a diet for the rest of my life. I need something reasonable I can live with – forever. I’m still learning, trying different techniques and recipes, incorporating new habits.

But I did “Jenny Watchers” for a few months – until summer vacation. It was the first week of August, 2007. I went on vacation at Walt Disney World, ate dinner at the best restaurants on property for 8 days and then didn’t get back to Jenny Craig for 6 weeks. Guess how much I gained after eating Disney food for a week and “normal” food for 5 weeks after that?

I lost 1 pound!

In five weeks. No dieting. Just living normally. After a week of eating DISNEY food!

So no more diets. Just changing the way I eat. The way our whole family eats.

Exercise was next.

I called about personal training sessions. Because I’ve met me. I need accountability. Let’s just say, the trainer at the nearby gym didn’t “get me” and leave it at that. So I called Bally. I joined Bally back in 1989 for something like $2000 (with unlimited tanning, of course) and after paying that off, they’ve been taking $5.33 a month out of my checking account for nearly 2 decades now. The only problem is that I moved a full 30 minutes away from the nearest Bally. But seriously. $5.33 a month. I just couldn’t cancel it. I just couldn’t do it.

So I called Bally. After briefly explaining the reason for my call, the manager asked:

“Do you prefer a male or a female trainer?”

“I don’t have a preference. I just want to maximize my time at the gym. I want to work multiple muscle groups at the same time. I’m not focused on losing weight. I want to be stronger and healthier and I feel like, if I accomplish that, the weight will take care of itself. And I need someone who can help me recognize the line between pushing myself and hurting myself.”

“I have just the person for you. I’ll have her call you when she gets in later today.”

So, later that day, TinyPowerHouse calls me and we arrange my first session.

That was over a year ago and I’ve been driving the 30 minutes to Bally twice a week to let her push me to my limits.

She is SO worth the drive! She’s really VERY good at what she does and a great fit for me. (The right trainer makes ALL the difference!) We rarely use weight machines. We use an adjustable step, dumbbells, weight bars, weight balls, a Bosu balance trainer, a balance ball and my own body weight. I have NEVER worked a lone muscle with her. I ALWAYS work multiple muscle groups when she is bossing me around. And EVERY session, we take it up a notch. EVERY session is challenging. Some might not like that, but I LOVE it. My thought is that if I’m going to pay for it – and make time for it – I’m going to make it COUNT – every time. I even bought a Bosu balance trainer for my house. I already had the dumbbells.

So, you may be wondering. After working with TinyPowerHouse for over a year, how much weight have I lost? Only 5 pounds.


I’m down 10% body fat. 10%! Woooo Hoooo!

I read that we lose 10% muscle mass every decade as we age. If that ‘s true, I’m 10 years younger than I was when I started!

The real benefit for me is that I am stronger. I have more energy. More endurance. I am healthier. My body shape is different. I have visible muscle tone! And when I arm wrestle FavoriteSon, I still win. Although I have arthritis in my neck (an old laptop case/bookbag injury in MBA school), I rarely get into traction anymore. At the advice of my accountant, I asked my doctor if he thought strength training would help my neck. He did and wrote a letter indicating that for tax purposes. I found out I can even write it off as a medical expense through my business!

The speed bump in this endeavor is that on January 9th, Bally closed in my area and now the nearest one is 45 minutes away. So TinyPowerHouse and I have decided to continue working together and I’ll pay her directly. She makes more per hour, I pay less. She comes to my house, and tomorrow I’ll go to the community work out room in her complex. I even bumped up my sessions to three times/hours per week instead of two.

Now to add the cardio for some additional weight loss and to modify my evening eating habits, which currently are sabotaging my efforts. Since reading Simple Steps: 10 Weeks to Getting Control of Your Life: Health, Weight, Home, Spirit, my goal is to walk 20 minutes a day on the days I don’t do strength training – and I hope to sneak in some walking on the strength training days too. Some days, I’ll walk longer. Last quarter, I was up to an 18 minute mile and trying to get in 2 or 3 miles at a time but the block of time it required just wasn’t sustainable long term. I know I need some accountability, so I’m probably going to put a widget somewhere on the right indicating whether I’ve been physically active that day.

I’m not giving this up. nope. not giving this up. It’s working for me.

I do most of my strength training workouts while the kids are in school and my kids are old enough to leave home while I walk around the block (with my cell phone, of course).

But moms of babies? Moms of toddlers? You can do it too!

You can find a gym that has a childcare center – don’t settle for substandard care – and take your kiddos to the gym with you! Or take them for a walk in the stroller – just 20 minutes! Check for a “stroller workout” class in your area by going to or! Can’t find a class? Try it on your own or with some friends using this workout! Or try a video like Mom-O-Rama Workout With Baby, Mom-o-Rama: Workout with Toddler, Mommy Baby Body Builders or Fitmom Postnatal Workout.

You can DO it!

Want to learn cool tips and tricks from lots of different people? Click on over to Works for Me Wednesday hosted by Shannon at Rocks in My Dryer!

January 28, 2009 Posted by | exercise, health, intentional living, pragmatic practices, women, youtube | , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments



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