Pragmatic Communion

pragmatic living in the presence of God

Pragmatic Communion has MOVED…

Devotions are now published at: Pragmatic Compendium
All Pragmatic Communion Posts can be found HERE
Or visit my webpage at www.juliestilesmills.com

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November 14, 2013 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

two minutes with God: Philippians 4:8

a Quote:
“An intellectual is one who loves ideas, is dedicated to clarifying them, developing them, criticizing them, turning them over and over, seeing their implications, stacking them atop one another, arranging them, sitting silent while new ideas pop up and old ones seem to rearrange themselves, playing with them, punning with their terminology, laughing at them, watching them clash, picking up the pieces starting over, judging them, withholding judgment about them, changing them, bringing them into contact with their counterparts in other systems of thought . . . suiting them for service in workaday life. A Christian intellectual is all of the above to the glory of God.”

and

“…the true intellectual occasionally sees some things, makes true observations and has insights that few, if any before him have seen or had. If there is any danger in this, it is not in having a one-track mind, but in having a mind with so many tracks that it either arrives at many places at the same time or it never gets out of the station.(emphasis added)

(from Habits of the Mind: Intellectual Life as a Christian Calling by James W. Sire)

my Prayer:
Intellectual? That sounds so much better than “I just over think everything,” which we both know I have a tendency to do, Lord. Sometimes my head is filled with so many thoughts and ideas, I can’t focus. Sometimes I weigh alternatives to the point of inaction. So frustrating.

Even so, thank you for my love of reading and learning and thinking. And thank you for my limitations, both real and self-perceived. They keep me grounded and authentic. It’s so easy for education and knowledge to displace my trust in – and dependence on – YOU, especially in times of confusion or when circumstances seem . . . irrational.

Thank you for every day that I wake up with more knowledge and understanding than I had the day before. At the same time, thank you for making it crystal clear to me that – compared to all that is possible to know and understand in this world – I know and understand about as much as can be contained within grain of sand.

Thank you for the intricate details in this world, from the greatest wonders to the tiniest. That you are evident in the awesome beauty of the Grand Canyon as well as in the first breath of a newborn infant is just a peek at your perfect plan and limitless power. Every creation is filled with opportunities for discovery, every problem is an opportunity for ingenuity,

Through your power and grace and mercy, please help me to learn from my mistakes. Please help me to make different and better decisions based on what I’ve learned. Please bless me with insights and ideas and imagination, even if they sometimes overwhelm me. I want all that I am and think and feel to lead me to choices that place me in the center of your will. For your glory.

the Word:
“Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.”
Philippians 4:8

the lyric:
“With all my heart, with all my soul, with all my mind, with all the strength that I can find. Take my time here on this earth and let it glorify all that You are worth. For I am nothing, I am nothing without You ”
from Nothing Without You (youtube link) by Bebo Norman (amazon link)

and if you have an extra 3:33 minutes…


This was dual published on my Pragmatic Compendium blog.

(Christian brain image from wallpaper4god.com)

May 25, 2011 Posted by | bible, books, christian living, devotions, faith, music, prayer, spiritual growth, two minutes with God | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

two minutes with God: 1st Thessalonians 5:17

a Quote:
“O my God, since Thou art with me, and I must now, in obedience to Thy commands, apply my mind to these outward things, I beseech Thee to grant me the grace to continue in Thy presence; and to this end do Thou prosper me with thy assistance, receive all my works and possess all my affections.”
(from The Practice of the Presence of God by Brother Lawrence)
(CLICK HERE to read the free online version)

my Prayer:
Lord, after being so distant from you during my “drift,” I’m desperate for a constant awareness of your presence in my life. I want to spend every waking moment with you, but I have to do stuff. Like chauffeur kids, load the dishwasher, work on my web page, train clients, write emails, talk on the phone….

I know I can’t attend to all these regular, everyday tasks while I pray in the way my small mind thinks prayer “should” be. I can’t load the dishwasher and write in my prayer journal at the same time. I don’t know how to “abide” and write HTML code at the same time. I can’t seem to consistently involve You in my conversations when I talk to someone else at the same time.

PLEASE teach me how to do all the things I have to do with You at the center of my consciousness. I want to come to the end of the day and know, without doubt or regret, that I spent it with You.

the Word:
“pray continually”
1st Thessalonians 5:17 (NAS)

the lyric:
“Is Your voice upon the wind? Is everything I’ve known marked with my maker’s fingerprints? Breathe on me. Let me see Your face. Ever I will seek You. ‘Cause all You are, is all I want, always. Draw me close in Your arms, oh God, I wanna be with You.”
from Always (youtube link) by Hillsong (Live) (amazon link)

and if you have an extra 4:02 minutes…


This was dual published on my Pragmatic Compendium blog.

May 10, 2011 Posted by | bible, books, christian living, devotions, faith, music, prayer, spiritual growth, two minutes with God | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

tracking the drift.

“These things I remember as I pour out my soul: how I used to go to the house of God under the protection of the Mighty One with shouts of joy and praise among the festive throng. Why, my soul, are you downcast? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God.”
Psalms 42:4-5

How does it happen? How do I consistently dedicate daily time with God – for months – YEARS – and then just . . . stop?

I don’t understand it.

But I do. The Bible is full of stories about people forgetting God. Elijah experienced discouragement. So did David. Story after story. My faith is no stronger than theirs.

It seems like it was a “single moment” kinda stop. I think. I’m not sure. Maybe it was gradual. I need clues. My prayer journal is my historical record. When did it happen? Working backwards, I see near daily journal entries for April, and for March 31st. The last entry before that? March 23. I didn’t write in my prayer journal for 7 days. That represents a week without dedicated time with God.

The March 31st entry begins with:

“Lord, I miss my time with you. It’s so easy to get distracted and allow my time and thoughts to be pre-occupied by what I believe to be the “demands” of the day.”

Please draw me back to you. Remind me till I see.

Then I read the words that reveal I was smack in the middle of a spiritual desert on March 31st:

“Please bless me with an overwhelming awareness of your presence in my life, not in an abstract, general way, but in an intimate, detailed way. Help me to be aware – to STAY aware of you. Please don’t let me find myself going through the motions, doing what comes “next” without considering whether it should be done at all.

Please reach into my heart, past all the barriers and bring me back into intimate fellowship with you . . . Lord I miss the joy and peace I experience when I’m in close fellowship with you. I miss the recognition of you working in my life . . . Please encourage me today, please jolt me into a place of desperate desire for time with you, for the saturation of your Spirit in my every moment.

The next day, April 1st, I took my first step back. I’m still finding my way, so I’m not ready to explore that part of my journey quite yet. I’m looking for a trigger. Wondering what I need to address before I can get completely clear of this desert. How did I get here?

Realistic or not, I’m also trying to avoid the next desert trip. I’m compelled to try and figure out what to do differently next time. Because I’m not so arrogant as to claim there won’t be a next time. I’ve still got one foot buried in the sand as it is.

What was I praying about in the days before I took a nose dive into a spiritual abyss? Or, as evidenced by the gaps in my prayer journal, what was I NOT praying about?

I have no idea if I’m going to be able to track back to a trigger. I’ve got some journal reading to do. I’m starting with March 23rd and working my way backwards.

Prayer in distress dredges the soul. It is a good thing to keep a note
of the things you prayed about when you were in distress. We remain ignorant
of ourselves because we do not keep a spiritual autobiography.

Oswald Chambers: The Best from All His Books
Oswald Chambers


This was dual published on my Pragmatic Compendium blog.

April 13, 2011 Posted by | bible, books, christian living, devotions, faith, prayer, spiritual growth | , , , , , , , , | Leave a 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 “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 “two 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 was one less distraction.

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 walk 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 Compendium blog.

April 7, 2011 Posted by | christian living, faith, patience, spiritual growth | , , , | Leave a comment

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

a 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 5, 2011 Posted by | bible, books, christian living, faith, music, prayer, spiritual growth, two minutes with God | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

two minutes with God: Deuteronomy 16:17

a Quote:
“…understanding ownership was half of my lesson. If God was the owner, I was the manager. I needed to adopt a steward’s mentality toward the assets He had entrusted – not given – to me.

A steward manages assets for the owner’s benefit. The steward carries no sense of entitlement to the assets he manages. It’s his job to find out what the owner wants done with his assets, then carry out his will.”
(from The Treasure Principle: Unlocking the Secret of Joyful Giving by Randy Alcorn)

my Prayer:
Lord, scheduling tithe checks on bill pay is some serious fun! Thank you for the joy we feel in this obedience. THANK YOU for the provision of my husband’s bonus and THANK YOU for the opportunity to give even more than we normally do. The feeling that comes from giving back some of the money you’ve entrusted to us is like an adrenaline high! Thank you that we never regret it or begrudge it. Thank you for giving us an opportunity to serve you this way. We pray that we’ve interpreted your will correctly and sent your money where you wanted it to go. We pray that you will abundantly bless the efforts of those to whom you have sent it and we trust you to work all things for your good and your glory.

Our continuous prayer is that you help us to be good stewards of everything you entrust to us and to help us achieve our goal of becoming debt-free. Thank you for this answer to our prayer. Thank you for providing a means for more debt reduction. We profoundly understand what a blessing this job is and even more the blessing of this bonus. Thank you, Lord.

the Word:
“Every man shall give as he is able, according to the blessing of the LORD your God which He has given you.”
Deuteronomy 16:17 (NAS)

the lyric:
“Rich or poor God I want You more, than anything that glitters in this world. Be my all, all consuming fire.
You can have all my hands can hold, my heart, mind, strength and soul, Be my all, all consuming fire.
All we need, all we need, all we need is You.”
from All We Need (youtube link) by Charlie Hall (amazon link)


This was dual published on my Pragmatic Compendium blog.

March 17, 2011 Posted by | bible, books, christian living, devotions, giving, gratitude, music, prayer, spiritual growth, two minutes with God | , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

two minutes with God: Proverbs 27:17

a Quote:
“We all need someone in our lives at times to coach us to greater and greater levels of excellence in our chosen areas of pursuit.”

“Come to the edge, He said. They said, We are afraid. Come to the edge, He said. They came. He pushed them . . . and they flew.” Guillaume Apollinaire

(from The Aladdin Factor by Jack Canfield and Mark Victor Hansen)

my Prayer:
Lord, please lead me to anyone who can honestly and objectively guide me to greater levels of excellence in my pursuits to nurture my family, serve in ministry and achieve competence in my career. Please help me to discern and listen to the voices that come from you and to discard the lies Satan tries to tell me in an effort to throw me off your path for my life. If you would strike Satan mute, that would be perfect, Lord. (sigh) But I know that’s not how you work, so please bless me with discernment.

Thank you for the determination to work harder when I come face to face with the reality that I’m not as good at something as I think I am. Please Lord, help me to acknowledge my strengths and to remember that when I discount them, I discount your blessings in my life. Please help me to be satisfied with my work when I do well, instead of constantly critiquing myself.

the Word:
As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another.
Proverbts 27:17 (NIV)

the lyric.
“But the voice of truth tells me a different story. The voice of truth says, ‘Do not be afraid!’ The voice of truth says, ‘This is for My glory.’ Out of all the voices calling out to me, I will choose to listen and believe the voice of truth.”
Voice of Truth (youtube link) by Casting Crowns (amazon link)


This was dual published on my Pragmatic Compendium blog.

January 28, 2011 Posted by | bible, books, christian living, devotions, music, prayer, professional growth, two minutes with God | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Lord, fill me with your Holy Spirt. or the spirit of a large black woman.

YESTERDAY, I agreed to sing this song with someone TONIGHT at a Bethune-Cookman Gospel Choir concert at First United Methodist Church of Oviedo. My first attempt at singing black gospel, with less than 24 hours to prepare.

What was I THINKING?

I’m asking myself, “Do I have enough soul to pull this off?”

Lord, as I prepare to sing black gospel for the first time tonight, I pray that you will fill me with your Holy Spirit. Or the spirit of a large black woman. or both. you know best. Amen.

You know, it’s just like exercise, if I’m going to do it, I’m going to do it 100%. If I’m THERE, I’m going to give it all I’ve got.

Lord, help me!

UPDATE: That was some SERIOUS fun! However, I have once again been reminded that I am incapable of singing and clapping at the same time. I chose to sing and let everyone else clap. It’s okay that I can’t sing and clap at the same time, I didn’t even try. It wouldn’t have turned out well. Besides, I’m not going to contaminate the one intuitive thing I do (sing praise songs) by forcing choreography just because it’s expected by other people. I’m intentional about SO many things in my life, I NEED to let go when I sing. Last night, I sang to and for the Lord and found myself raising my hands – intuitively. I pray that He found my offering beautiful.


For more beautiful music, check out Then Sings My Soul Saturday every Saturday hosted by Amy at Signs, Miracles and Wonders.

This was dual published on my Pragmatic Compendium blog.

January 14, 2011 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

two minutes with God: 2nd Corinthians 3:4-5

a Quote:
“God can be our source of confidence because our adequacy is from Him.”
(from Thriving as an Artist in the Church by Rory Noland)

“As I go into the concert I have a pretty good feel for my ability – that is, I know the truth of who I am in the whole scheme of things. I may not be the best musician in the world, but neither am I the worst. What does it matter anyway, since whatever gifts I have were given to me in the first place and are really not mine. So I can’t lose. As I begin to play, my energy is not wasted on thinking of myself. The point of my playing is to present the message of the song, to “wash the feet” of the people or even God by faithfully playing my best with the ability I’ve been given. Now I become the beneficiary of another equation: to forget yourself equals the best possible performance.”
(quote by Michael Card in Roland’s book)

my Prayer:
Lord, as I go into the studio to record tonight, please bless me with your interpretation of Jesus Messiah. Please help me to sing it the way you want to hear it. Please lead me to put harmony where you find it beautiful. Please show me how to make the song pleasing to your ears, not my own.

Please bless my voice and tonight, through your Holy Spirit, please remove the limitations I’m experiencing because I’ve been sick this past week. Please equip me for service because without your help, my voice is even more inadequate than it usually is.

Please bless the studio session and make me aware of any opportunity to be used by you. Please make me sensitive to the individual needs of those who are there. I don’t know them Lord, but you do. I want to be available for your service, no matter that I’m there to get something done – for myself. Please help me to see with your eyes, my vision is weak and self-focused.

the Word:
Such confidence we have through Christ before God. Not that we are competent in ourselves to claim anything for ourselves, but our competence comes from God.
2nd Corinthians 3:4-5 (NIV)

the lyric.
“Because You gladly lean to lead the humble, I shall gladly kneel to leave my pride. Oh God, You are my God, and I will ever praise You. Oh God, You are my God, and I will ever praise You.”
Like Incense (youtube link) by Hillsong Live (amazon link)


This was dual published on my Pragmatic Compendium blog.

January 8, 2011 Posted by | bible, books, christian living, devotions, prayer, two minutes with God, women | , , , , , , | Leave a comment