Pragmatic Communion

pragmatic living in the presence of God

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.

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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