Pragmatic Communion

pragmatic living in the presence of God

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.

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

one minute with God: 1 Corinthians 14:22

a Quote:
We want to know what extraordinary deed we can perform for God sometime in the future – the ephemeral “will of God” that we seek to discover. But it is not the big things we want to do with such bravura but the little things we do every day that constitute His true will. God wants us to practice daily obedience. Such obedience requires attentiveness to God in our present circumstances”

“. . . spiritual grown does not require replacing daily tasks with more “spiritual” duties; rather, it depends on changing our attitude about our mundane work.”

“Routine engenders fortitude in the face of difficulty, gratitude to God for the ordinary blessings of life, love for people whom we are serving, joy in doing a job well done.”
The Will of God as a Way of Life: How to Make Every Decision with Peace and Confidence by Jerry Sittser

my Prayer:
Lord, thank you for my ordinary life. Thank you for the routines that, when I pay attention, are evidence of overwhelming blessing. Loading the dishwasher full of dirty dishes is evidence that my family is well fed. Paying the electric bill is evidence that our home is a provision safety and comfort. The hours I spend driving my children around is necessary because I HAVE two wonderful children. When I pick up my husband’s dry cleaning it shows we are thoughtful of one another after 20 years of marriage. All these, and many other mundane, routine tasks are in my day because of your blessings. Thank you.

Please, Lord, as I pray for you to allow me to serve you more in a faith based speaking ministry, please let me spend my days faithfully serving you right where I am NOW. I’m where I am today because you want me here. Please don’t let me miss opportunities to serve you today because I’m focused on something in the future, which may not even be your will for my life.

the Word:
But in the church I would rather speak five intelligible words to instruct others than ten thousand words in a tongue.
Ephesians 3:17-19 (NIV)


This was dual published on my Pragmatic Communion blog.

August 25, 2010 Posted by | bible, books, christian living, devotions, gratitude, prayer, two minutes with God | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

no further uneasiness.

“Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death. For what the law was powerless to do in that it was weakened by the sinful nature, God did by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful man to be a sin offering.”
Romans 8:1 (NIV)

I was introduced to the writings of Henri Nouwen through the writings of Philip Yancey and I’m finding in Mr. Nouwen a trait I gravitate to in writers: The willingness to be open about their weaknesses and the courage to publicly share their questions about God. When I read authors who allow me to see their confusion and doubt and take me with them, through their writing, to explore the possibilities, I am the better for it. They make me think about things outside my relatively tiny little world. And I believe that God, through these writers, sometimes teaches me what my life looks like through his eyes. Henri Nouwen is a case in point.

Nouwen, in seeking to answer the question, “What do we really desire?” believes the word “communion” seems to best summarize the desire of the human heart:

“Communion means ‘union with.’ God has given us a heart that will remain restless until it has found full communion. We look for it in friendship, in marriage, in community. We look for it in sexual intimacy, in moments of ecstasy, in the recognition of our gifts. We look for it through success, admiration, and rewards. But wherever we look, it is communion we seek . . .”

Henri Nouwen
The Only Necessary Thing: Living a Prayerful Life

My favorite coffee mug reads, “That which is good to know is difficult to learn.”

Ain’t it the truth?

Why is this so difficult to learn? Why is it so difficult to remember that these temporary distractions stand in the way of experiencing the communion with God that really satisfies and fills me with the peace of God I crave?

Because I forget God.

And I am not alone. Look at the Israelites. Time and time and time again, they forgot God. And I’m no better. I forget God. And when I do, what do I do? I can stand around paralyzed by guilt and whine about the fact that I forgot Him AGAIN, or I can repent, confess and come back. I choose to hurry up and come back. Time’s a wasting! I don’t want to lose one minute of communion with God because I’m too busy beating myself up for something Jesus died for. This is why God sent His son. He KNEW we would forget. He KNEW we needed Grace.

And I gratefully accept His Grace. So I repent and come back into communion with Him. But I know I’ll forget Him again. And. So. But. Repeat.

C.S. Lewis talked about the fall of man in the book “The Problem of Pain“. He acknowledged that while most of us think of the “fall of man” as an event, something that happened in the Garden of Eden, he also sees the fall of man as something that happens daily. It’s a, sometimes moment by moment, falling away from God’s presence. He wrote:

“at this very moment you and I are either committing it, or about to commit it, or are repenting it.”

Ain’t it the truth?

I can also identify with Jack’s daily determination stay in communion with God:

“We try, when we wake, to lay the new day at God’s feet; before we have finished shaving, it becomes our day and God’s share in it is felt as a tribute which we must pay out of our own pocket, a deduction from the time which ought, we feel to be ‘our own.’

Since I don’t shave every day, I’m wondering how much faster I take my day back than Jack did. Do I claim my day for myself before my feet even hit the floor? I’m thinkin some days – YES.

But by the grace of God, when I remember Him, the immediacy of my repentance and return is prompted by a quote from The Practice of the Presence of God by Brother Lawrence:

“When he had failed in his duty, he only confessed his fault saying to God, “I shall never do otherwise, if You leave me to myself. It is You who must hinder my failing and mend what is amiss.” Then, after this, he gave himself no further uneasiness about it. (emphasis added)

I’ve forgotten God. I forgot Him yesterday. I forgot Him earlier today. And I will forget Him again. I will fall away from His presence. Again. Even after having experienced the profound peace and contentment from communion with God, I will instead strive after the temporary distractions Henri Nouwen described. But, when I remember HIM again and I recognize my God-given desire for communion with Him, I will come back and by His Grace, I will “give myself no further uneasiness about it.”

What blocks forgiveness is not God’s reticence, -‘But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him
and was filled with compassion for him’ – but ours. God’s arms are always extended; we are the ones who turn away.

Philip Yancey
What’s So Amazing About Grace?

March 31, 2010 Posted by | books, christian living, comfort, faith, grace, gratitude, prayer, spiritual growth | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

i want no regrets.

I’m not saying that I have this all together, that I have it made. But I am well on my way, reaching out for Christ, who has so wondrously reached out for me. Friends, don’t get me wrong: By no means do I count myself an expert in all of this, but I’ve got my eye on the goal, where God is beckoning us onward—to Jesus. I’m off and running, and I’m not turning back. So let’s keep focused on that goal, those of us who want everything God has for us. If any of you have something else in mind, something less than total commitment, God will clear your blurred vision—you’ll see it yet! Now that we’re on the right track, let’s stay on it. Stick with me, friends. Keep track of those you see running this same course, headed for this same goal. There are many out there taking other paths, choosing other goals, and trying to get you to go along with them. I’ve warned you of them many times; sadly, I’m having to do it again. All they want is easy street. They hate Christ’s Cross. But easy street is a dead-end street. Those who live there make their bellies their gods; belches are their praise; all they can think of is their appetites. But there’s far more to life for us. We’re citizens of high heaven! We’re waiting the arrival of the Savior, the Master, Jesus Christ, who will transform our earthy bodies into glorious bodies like his own. He’ll make us beautiful and whole with the same powerful skill by which he is putting everything as it should be, under and around him.
Philippians 3:12-19, The Message

“Dear Eliot, today you went to be with Jesus. An undeveloped lung, a heart with a hole in it and DNA that placed faulty information into each and every cell of your body could not stop God from revealing Himself through a child who never uttered a word.” Eliot lived 99 days.

Sweet Tristan went to be with Jesus today. He was 56 days old.

“The Lady had hit a cyclist before she hit our mailbox. But nobody had seen the cyclist and the lady had no clue she’d hit him. She just knew she was sleepy one minute and hit our mailbox the next. This biker was just out on his bike and he got hit. They pronounced him dead at the scene. He died! O my gosh I cried and cried. My heart not only was crushed for the lady but now for the guy and his family!”

“Empty shell are the words that came to my mind today as I laid my eyes on Julian’s so very still body. It made it so real, so final… I felt like I was at the wax museum, it looked like Ju but it was just a cold, hard ,wax copy of Julian . It wasn’t him , how could it ? Surely I left him at home playing with the boys… Seeing him laying in his casket was unbelievably painful, my heart cracked a little more, a little deeper. I won’t EVER get to hold my child again, EVER… Nothing is more final than that.” Julian was 4 years old.

As a Christian, what I do with these stories? Stories. It makes it sound like fiction. Literature. My sister, a writer, once told me the difference between fiction and literature. In literature, there is always an obstacle, a tragedy to overcome. But this isn’t literature. It is real life. These things actually happened. As a Christian, what thoughts do I wrestle with?

I don’t know these families personally. I’ve only read about them. But I question, if I did know them personally and was involved in their daily life, what words would I speak? What actions would I take? What possible comfort would I be in the face of such senseless tragedy? Senseless to us. But not to our Lord. The promise is, that one day, we will understand. One day. Eventually.

But what about TODAY? What do I do with this in MY daily life? What does God want ME to do? HERE, in my circumstance. NOW, in this time?

I doubt I understand all that God is saying to me right now. I’m still working on it.

But I do understand this: I need to live with intention EVERY DAY. I know it sounds pious – and impossible – but the truth is I have an acute awareness that life is short. There’s an actual urgency in my day sometimes. I understand my priorities. I strive for no regrets. I don’t want to waste a moment of this gift of time that I’ve been given. When I begin to get overwhelmed with the mundane, I am humbled and reminded when I hear of what we here on Earth regard as such senseless tragedies. But again. Senseless to us. But not to God.

Today, we have faith and comfort in the knowledge that there is a Master who will provide all we need. We need to live in the world, not of it. Today, I will hug my 7 year old daughter a few more times than she thinks is reasonable. I will read her a bedtime story when I could be loading the dishwasher. I will walk around the block with her (again) as she rides her bike and sings her happy songs, stopping to look at every acorn, pet every cat and collect every leaf. I will listen to my preteen son and accept his thoughts and feelings as valid – even when they differ from mine. I will toss the football with him instead of read a book. I will have a night time devotion with him when I could be checking email or blogging. I will scream with excitement at every basketball game and take hundreds of photos to get one “great” shot. I will understand my husband’s travel in the private defense industry as our family’s small contribution to families of those serving in the military – those making a much greater sacrifice. I will forgive him when he’s late without calling, encourage his stress-relieving diversions and love him unconditionally.

I want to see the bigger picture. I want to choose on purpose. I want to respond, not react. I want to show grace, not indignation. I want to spend time making memories, not beds. I want to notice the silent boldness of a sunset, instead of the back end of the car in front of me. I want to try out the possibilities, instead of complain about the obstacles. I want to be still and abide instead of filling my entire prayer time with petitions and thanks.

I want to live intentionally, making the most of this precious, precious blessing of time.

The opposite of love is not hate, it’s indifference.
The opposite of art is not ugliness, it’s indifference.
The opposite of faith is not heresy, it’s indifference.
And the opposite of life is not death, it’s indifference.
Elie Wiesel, October 1986

January 29, 2008 Posted by | comfort, god's will, gratitude, moms, spiritual growth, women | 1 Comment

i am not embarrassed.

I rejoice greatly in the Lord that at last you have renewed your concern for me. Indeed, you have been concerned, but you had no opportunity to show it. I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do everything through him who gives me strength . . . And my God shall supply all your need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus
Philippians 4:10-13, 19

“Is that house abandoned?” asked the pest control guy who sprays my lawn. He was referring to the house next door to mine. “Actually, no.” I replied. Our neighbors, to state it conservatively, don’t take care of their yard. I could focus on that. I could be embarrassed by that. But then, I look out my kitchen window. My huge backyard, the “love” tree (the name inspired by squirrels in mating season), the pond, the woods and – if we take would just take the time to walk back there, a river. I’m not embarrassed. Just blessed.

My hardwood (laminate) kitchen floor is . . . not in good shape. Dark spots from water damage (okay, and cat “damage”), knicks (and gouges), lifting edges on some pieces, and gaps from poor installation, among other things. I’m not proud of it. But then, the doorbell rings and the ladies from my women’s circle come in, laden with food and laughter. And I realize. Nobody is looking down. The floor is invisible. It’s buried beneath the friendship and encouragement. I’m not embarrassed. Just blessed.

My formal dining table is lopsided. When I put a leaf in it, it is even MORE lopsided. I have to prop it up with books (never a problem coming up with a few). There are scratches on the top. The arms of the chairs lift up when you pull on them. But then, with three leaves and two book stacks, family joins together at that table. There’s so much food down the middle the scratches are . . . gone. Nobody is pulling on the arms of the chairs. Instead the arms support relaxed and comfortable elbows. The table is still lopsided. But I can’t tell anymore. I’m not embarrassed. Just blessed.

My kitchen sink was full of dishes all day yesterday. The dishwasher was full. Filled with clean dishes. I don’t unload the dishwasher. My son unloads the dishes, my daughter unloads the silverware. They didn’t get to it the night before. So the dishes sat. It was gross. I thought about unloading and loading the dishwasher. I thought about how I would feel if someone dropped by. Embarrassed. But then, I realized. Dirty dishes overflowing the sink means we aren’t hungry. It means our children are learning responsibility. Daily responsibility. And we have enough dishes in our house that the dishwasher was full of clean, the sink was full of dirty and, at the same time, the cabinets were not empty. So I let the dirty dishes sit in the sink for a day. I’m not embarrassed. We are blessed.

My laundry room is a mess. Clothes in the hampers and baskets, yes. But also on the floor, on top of the dryer – IN the dryer. Unmatched socks everywhere. An opened box of 500 coffee cup lids squeezed into precious storage space. The matching paper cups squeezed into another. An entire shelf designated for scrapbooking supplies which haven’t been touched in YEARS. But then, I fix myself a cup of coffee to go (instead of giving in to a daily trip to Panera Bread), my children get dressed in clean clothing, my daughter purposely wears unmatched socks for “flair” and I realize. This mess. This overabundance that causes spillover is a blessing. So what if I don’t have pretty scrapbooks? I have my photos chronologically cataloged on my computer – and backed up on a separate hard drive! (Does anyone want to buy a bunch of scrapbook stuff on ebay? And more importantly, is there a good digital scrapbook program or should I just use PowerPoint?) But I digress. This collection of clothes, the “stuff” stored, even the existence of the laundry room itself – is a blessing.

My garage is impassable. Boxes to go to charity, stuff to go into boxes to go to charity. Boxes to go to the consignment shop, to the used bookstore. When we leave the garage door open, passing cars slow, checking to see if it is a garage sale. IM-PASS-A-BLE. But I am hit. This represents abundant blessings. So much stuff . . . we don’t need. The inside of the house, while filled with the stuff we do need, the things we do use, STILL contains even more to go to the garage – the holding place prior to exit. But I’m not embarrassed. I am blessed.

The love seat in my living room is beige. “Beiger” than it used to be. I had it cleaned six months ago. Helped a little. The pillow on the back is removable and my entire family squishes and curls it into a ball whenever they sit on it. It takes a beating the cushion for more than a few minutes to cajole it back into a form that will say upright even a little bit. It’s the first thing you see when you walk into my front door. I think about replacing it. But then, I curl up with the my Bible, a kid, my husband, the cat, my computer, a book or any combination of those and I realize. I’m not embarrassed.

We are blessed.

contentment is destroyed by comparison.
Unknown (but I was reminded by Kelly on her comment at Lisa Writes)

January 25, 2008 Posted by | books, gratitude, spiritual growth, women | Leave a comment

collect them all


Then I realized that it is good and proper for a man to eat and drink, and to find satisfaction in his toilsome labor under the sun during the few days of life God has given him—for this is his lot. Moreover, when God gives any man wealth and possessions, and enables him to enjoy them, to accept his lot and be happy in his work—this is a gift of God. He seldom reflects on the days of his life, because God keeps him occupied with gladness of heart.

Ecclesiastes 5:18-20 (NIV)

“Collect them all” is the answer I gave my daughter when I asked her if she knew the three most hated words in a parent’s vocabulary.

Her guess for a parent’s most hated words? “Own it on DVD today!”

We were introduced to Webkinz in November when my daughter got some from her friends at her (early) birthday party. Then, almost everyone who gave her presents for her birthday (on her actual birthday) AND for Christmas gave her a Webkinz (some gave her two). We gave her one and her brother gave her one. Total number of Webkinz currently registered on http://www.webkinz.com?

23.

and we haven’t collected them all.

23.

At first I was embarrassed. What does it say about me as a parent? I have a kid with 23 Webkinz. There are the comments: “How many does she have anyway?” and “She sure has a lot of Webkinz.” (You overindulgent, irresponsible parent, what’s wrong with you? You’re raising a greedy, selfish child.) I’m raising Veruca Salt from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory!

Then I took the board out of my eye and looked around my house. What do I collect?

BOOKS!

By far the biggest of my collections. I love books. love. Love. LOVE. books. While I keep most of my fiction books at the library, I do have more non-fiction books than I have had shelving for. I just bought two new bookcases for my office. Cubby type shelving which I’ve placed on top my desk. I ran out of floor space for conventional bookcases and had to go vertical. We went to a friend’s for dinner and they had a LIBRARY! Later, on the way home I poke at my husband “Hey, honey why don’t we have a library?” “Our whole house is a library.”

True enough.

What else do I collect? Unusual cobalt glass containers. Snowmen. STOP. If you know me personally and have any reason to give me a gift, STOP. Do not buy me a cobalt vase. Put the cute little snowman figurine down. Step away from the cobalt glass snowman. (hmmm. that would be interesting . . . ahhh! NO!)

My cobalt and snowman collections are currently manageable, but some people have seen them in my house and have taken to giving me more. I have limited discretionary time and don’t want to spend more of it dusting stuff. I’m getting rid of stuff. I actually took a large snowman wreath holder to Goodwill recently and called my dad:

“Dad, I’m taking a snowman wreath holder to Goodwill. I just wanted to call you and tell you . . . Please DON’T buy it for me when you see it there.” (yes, we both shop there. I love the book prices!)

But I digress. Back to Veruca Salt. I thought about it for a few days. For all the things Veruca has, she lacks a very important thing. And my daughter has it.

Gratitude.

In the book “Simple Words of Wisdom” Penelope Stokes writes,

“We become happy, spiritually prosperous people not because we receive what we want, but because we appreciate what we have. What does it mean to cultivate a heart of gratitude? It means opening our eyes, looking around at the multitude of gifts and blessings that fill our lives. It means recognizing our family, friends and loved ones, as aqueducts through which God’s great love flows out to us. It means rejoicing in all we’ve been given rather than resenting what we lack.”

When I hear my daughter’s nighttime prayers – the sincere, heartfelt prayers of a 7 year old who LOVES Jesus – I am assured. When her prayers go on and on at mealtime, I am reminded. She understands and is genuinely thankful for her blessings. For our family’s blessings.

Yes, my daughter has a lot of Webkinz. I have a lot of books. Many of us have a lot of something. Maybe too much of something. But are we grateful? Do we thank God and enjoy his blessings? Do we thank others? Penelope Stokes reminds us:

“But gratitude doesn’t end with our private thanks to God. We need to show gratitude as well to those who touch our lives, who love us, minister to us, and make the world we live in a warmer, safer, kinder place.”

So I’m not going to stress about 23 Webkinz. Or about too many books. I’m going to be grateful, thank God daily and enjoy his wonderful blessings.

I will not tell you how many Rescue Heroes my son had at peak Rescue Heroes phase.

“In ordinary life we hardly realize that we receive a great deal more than we give, and that it is only with gratitude that life becomes rich.”
Dietrich Bonhoeffer

January 8, 2008 Posted by | books, gratitude, moms | 5 Comments

this is what you get . . .

when you combine:

a mid-life crisis
     (I turned 29 just 12 short years ago!),
a few good books
     (okay, more than a few),
a whole lot of soul searching
     (my husband LOVED the conversations – all 4,263 of them.)
a background of seemingly unrelated skills, education & experience
     (God can use anything, right?)
and two years of listening and waiting on God
     (I hate it when God teaches me patience – again.)

I’d like to tell you my plan, but you know what they say:
“How do you make God laugh?”
“Make a plan.”

SO,

I’ll tell you how I got here, keep you up to date on what’s going on and post my musings on what might happen in the future. Your guess is as good as mine. Here’s what I pray more than anything else:

“Thank you, Thank you, Thank you, Thank you . . . “
     (I do eventually stop.)

Here’s what I pray next:

“Lord, please use people, circumstances, your Word and your Spirit to guide me in the direction I need to go in order to glorify you . . . and please, please, please SLAM the door in my face if I even BEGIN to move in direction you don’t want me to go.”

Just be careful what you pray for.
(I’ll tell you about my recent nosebleed in a later post).

in grace,
Julie

September 14, 2005 Posted by | god's will, gratitude, patience | Leave a comment