Pragmatic Communion

pragmatic living in the presence of God

two minutes with God: 1 Corinthians 2:1-4

(changing from “one minute” to “two minutes.” A little more realistic.)

a Quote:
“. . . joining the church is supposed to make us automatically god-centered and not self-centered people. Consequently, our modern church is filled with many people who look pure, sound pure, and are inwardly sick of themselves, their weaknesses, their frustration, and the lack of reality around them in church. Our non-Christian friends feel either ‘that bunch of nice untroubled people would never understand my problems’ or the more perceptive pagans who know us socially or professionally feel that we Christians are either grossly protected and ignorant about the human situation or are out-and-out hypocrites who will not confess the sins and weaknesses our pagan friends know intuitively to be universal.

. . . by recognizing that all our efforts and enterprises both in and out of the church are tainted to the core with self-centered desires for recognition, power or social acceptance, we can come to God . . . in honest confession and acceptance of His perception and power . . .
The Taste of New Wine
by Keith Miller

my Prayer: Lord, please help me to be humble and authentic, especially in the church. It would be so easy to only allow part of me to be seen by the members of the body of Christ. To allow the few moments I stand on stage every week and sing praises to you to be seen as defining moments of my relationship with you. It would be so easy to allow people to believe that I am aware of your Holy Spirit much more than I really am. But I know how quickly I forget you – time and time again. I know how many times I come back to you, just in the course of one single day. Please, Lord, help me to remember that the church is filled with people who come seeking and striving, not with people who are “done and saved.”

Please help me to serve you – right where I am. Please help me to encourage your saints through humble service, authentic transparency and an awareness that the people right in front of me need you just as much as the people I encounter outside the church.

the Word:
When I came to you, brothers, I did not come with eloquence or superior wisdom as I proclaimed to you the testimony about God. For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. I came to you in weakness and fear, and with much trembling. My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit’s power, so that your faith might not rest on men’s wisdom, but on God’s power.
1 Corinthians 2:1-4(NIV)

the lyric.
“Take my voice and pour it out. Let it sing the songs of mercy I have found, for I have nothing, I have nothing without You . . . So all the world will see, that I have nothing without You
Nothing Without You
by Bebo Norman

This was dual published on my Pragmatic Compendium blog.

September 29, 2010 Posted by | bible, books, christian living, devotions, prayer, service, two minutes with God | Leave a comment

right here. right now.

Please use me right where I am, Lord.

Please use me in spite of my weaknesses and my sin.

Please reveal to me the sins I ignore and rationalize.

Please reveal to me the self-focused plans I have which don’t include You and Your story.

Please call to my attention the areas of my life that I can – and currently don’t – serve You.

Please allow me to serve You more.

May 28, 2010 Posted by | pragmatic presence, prayer, service, spiritual growth | , , , | Leave a comment

i am not alone

Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their work: If one falls down, his friend can help him up. But pity the man who falls and has no one to help him up! Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken. Ecclesiastes 4:9-10, 12

I’m the book lady. Every year, my church has a HUGE rummage sale. Two full weeks, weekends included, are spent unloading storage units, picking up and accepting donations, sorting, pricing and basically setting up an entire gymnasium for the annual “Whale of a Sale” held the first weekend of October.

I’m the book lady.

I take two weeks off from clients and work the Whale, every day. In that two week span, I literally touch thousands of books. They are categorized by topic and fiction is alphabetized by author’s last name. They sit on three rows of 6 or 7 folding tables (the big ones), in boxes, spine up, facing the shopper. Each box has a sign sticking up from it with my handwriting on it, indicating the contents of the box: Cookbooks, Physical Health, Emotional Health, Parenting, Travel, Military History, American History, World History, Gardening, etc. In each box, you can see the name of nearly every book without having to touch a single one. If you are looking for a particular book, just ask me. I”ll tell you if we have it and, if so, exactly where it is. The comments from people who see it range from, “Wow. This is amazing.” to “Who did all this?” (in a “that person is insane” tone of voice.) In the first few years, I did much of it myself, but now there are actually a handful of people who “get” me and can help sort without messing up the system.

The added benefit is that I get first pickings. At a $1.00 per hardback and $.50 for paperbacks and children’s books, I bring home a bookcase worth every year. My I.O.U grows ominously for two weeks as I sneak boxes of books into my house. Some women buy clothes, secretly hang them in the closet and when their husband comments the first time the clothing is worn, the women say, “This? I’ve had this for years.” Not me. I bring home books, quickly pull off the price tag and shelve them. I don’t say a word. I read so many books at one time, I never get asked, “Is that a new book?” My husband can’t keep up. This year was more difficult. I ran out of shelving space and had to reorganize the playroom. A six foot shelf that used to house toys, games and puzzles now houses fitness, diet and health books. (The shelf is right next to the treadmill after all.)

So, I’m the book lady.

I was asked to give my testimony at United Methodist Women Sunday last week and that’s how I started. It went something like this (and thankfully, with laughter in all the right places):

“My name is Julie Mills, but if you were at the Whale of a Sale, you probably know me as the book lady. I’m not a librarian. I just have freakish organizational skills. If I’m invited to your house and you have books, I may organize them while we chat. One of the books that came in this year was “Eat Pray Love” by Elizabeth Gilbert. I’ve been on the waiting list at the library for this book for more than 6 months, so when it came in, it was MINE! Liz Gilbert is a journalist who spend a year of her life traveling in Italy (to eat), Indonesia (to pray) and India (to love). She wrote about her experience, and although she’s not a professed Christian, I’ve gained so much insight as I run her words through my own perspective as a Christian. I’d like to read an excerpt I found particularly meaningful. In speaking about the differences between her sister, Catherine and herself, Liz wrote:

“A family in my sister’s neighborhood was recently stricken with a double tragedy, when both the young mother and her three-year old son were diagnosed with cancer. When Catherine told me about this, I could only say, shocked, “Dear God, that family needs grace.” She replied firmly, “That family needs casseroles,” and then proceeded to organize the entire neighborhood into bringing that family dinner, in shifts, every single night, for an entire year. I do not know if my sister fully recognizes that this is grace.”

See, they’re not so different after all. Compare me to another 40 something woman, with two children and a minivan. Although we look similar, we would probably say we are very different. But when you look more closely, those differences fade. What I discover is that I’m not alone. Especially in UMW. When you are a member of a UMW Circle, you have microwave friends. Instant friends. Women who support each other. Pray for each other. Bring food in times of trouble. Women who understand, because even if they aren’t going through what you are at the moment, some of them have already gone through it. Others may face the same issues in their future. We can learn from each other. Trust each other. Encourage each other. Accept each other. I feel like I’m ready to invite any one of my circle friends to my house . . . and not vacuum. Okay, I’ll probably leave the vacuum cleaner out in the middle of the room and say I was gonna.

The point is, we’re not alone. In UMW, you are never alone.”

After my testimony, I sang “Orphans of God” by Avalon:

Who here among us has not been broken
Who here among us is without guilt or pain
So oft’ abandoned by our transgressions
If such a thing as grace exists
Then grace was made for lives like this

There are no strangers
There are no outcasts
There are no orphans of God
So many fallen, but hallelujah
There are no orphans of God

Come ye unwanted and find affection
Come all ye weary, come and lay down your head
Come ye unworthy, you are my (sister) brother
If such a thing as grace exists
Then grace was made for lives like this

O blessed Father, look down upon us
We are Your children, we need Your love
We run before Your throne of mercy
And seek Your face to rise above

November 1, 2007 Posted by | books, grace, service, witnessing, women | 2 Comments

even GOD rested.

God saw all that he had made, and it was very good. And there was evening, and there was morning—the sixth day. Thus the heavens and the earth were
completed in all their vast array. By the seventh day God had finished the work he had been doing; so on the seventh day he rested from all his work. And God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it he rested from all the work of creating that he had done. Genesis 1:31-2:3 (emphasis added)

A client recommended a book to me on Tuesday and I found it at Goodwill on Wednesday for $1.99. I wasn’t really looking for it, the title just jumped out at me and said, “HEY! I’m the book Judy told you about!” God is so cool that way. The book is titled Boundaries by Dr. Henry Cloud and Dr. John Townsend. I haven’t really dived in yet, but my initial pre-read produced some food for thought. The book talks about setting boundaries and not allowing others to cross them. We allow other people to control our life – or just our time – because we don’t say “no” either to ourselves or out loud, to them.

I used to have this problem. Until very recently, in fact. For years, nearly every Christmas, I was sick. Sometimes a little sick, more often than not, VERY sick. I took on too many responsibilites, self-created even more responsibilites, slept way too little, ate sparingly (but very BADLY), abandoned exercise, and stressed out so completely that my immune system left skid marks and my body revolted. A few years ago, both my husband and I were both sick. We decided then: NO MORE.

I’m learning to say “no.” (Notice I didn’t say “I’ve learned.”)

First, I read a book (big surprise), Guilt-Free Living by Robert Jeffress. I learned (or was reminded) that even GOD RESTED!

Read the verse above again. Notice the words “completed” and “finished” and “rested.” Here’s what Jeffress had to say about it:

God was able to complete the grandest project imaginable. And once he finished that project, he rested from the act of creation. And he experienced satisfaction from his work.

In those six days, did God create everything that he could have created? I think not. There is no end to the galaxies, the planets, the animals, the plants and even the types of humans God could have created (why limit it to two?) Yet, after six days, God said, “Enough is enough! What I have done is great!”

And then again, talking about Jesus:

Throughout the thirty-three years of life on this planet, Jesus had one goal: to accomplish the work God had for him to complete. That singular, driving purpose is seen in Jesus words in John 4:34: “My food is to do the will of Him who sent Me and to accomplish His work.” When one thinks of all the needs Jesus must have seen around him – the disease, the heartaches, the broken relationships, the myriad of unsaved lives – coupled with the limited time he knew he had on earth we can only imagine the urgency Jesus could have felt.

And yet, as you examine Jesus’ life and ministry, you notice that he was never in a hurry. He walked everywhere he went. His schedule was never too busy to enjoy some lighthearted moments with his disciples, some playful times with children, or even a good party like the wedding at Cana. Jesus did not heal every sick person, raise every dead person, or even convert every sinner. Yet, when he hung on the cross he was able to say, “It is finished.”

Okay then. If the work of the Almighty God was followed by rest, who am I to think my work is so important? There is NOTHING wrong with going to bed the same day you wake up – instead of getting up the same day you go to bed! What was I thinking?

So, I’m learning to say no. But there’s a trick to it. Don’t explain why. If you are asked to do something, and you say no and give a reason, the person asking you will try to solve your problem. They will advise you, offer to do something, whatever they can – to remove the “obstacle” from your life – thus allowing you to say “Yes.” Don’t explain why.

I do apologize when I say “no.” I actually am sorry I can’t help. But not sorry enough to say yes to something that will sabotage my (and my family’s) daily life.

One of the big problems I’ve discovered is that people have expectations of me (you) based on their knowledge of my (your) gifts and abilities and they do not approve when I (you), don’t “use those gifts to glorify God.” When they verbalize this disapproval (wrapped in outward disbelief), the idea is that embarrassment and guilt will lead to a “yes.” No more. I used to do that. I’ve left a church because of that.

I’m a vocalist and I’ve sung in the choir for years. Over time, I also developed an interest in sign language. I combined the two interests and learned to interpret the music during the worship services at my church. The choir members were not happy. I was no longer singing in the choir. I was standing down in front of the first pew, signing the music instead. At first the comments were, “We sure miss you in choir.” At the end, I was interpreting music during worship on “Join the Choir” Sunday. During the service, each choir member was supposed to go down into the congregation and bring someone back up to the choir loft for the rest of the service. Two people came to get me. I was the assigned interpreter for music that day and the choir members wanted me to abandon that responsibility because they had decided my gifts were better used in the choir. I began looking for a new church soon after that day. I needed a church where my service could expand and not be limited to areas that others expected.

Recently, after singing a solo in my current church I was encouraged to join the choir by a few different members. When responding to the first person, I forgot my rule. I started to explain. I was quickly reminded when the person asking began offering suggestions as to how I might overcome the “obstacles.” So this is my answer. “I’ve sung in choir before, and I’m sure I will again, but now isn’t the right time for me. I’m sorry.” I won’t explain about my husband’s travel, the overlap of rehearsal and my daughter’s bedtime, my preference to worship with my family in the congregation on Sunday or any of the other reasons which lead me to say “no” to choir at this time in my life. I don’t see them as obstacles. They are priorities.

And that is the key. Priorities. Priorities help you determine which requests get a “yes” and which ones get a “no.” We are so busy that we often lose sight of our priorities – if we’ve even taken the time to think them through in the first place. We are so busy we start going through the motions, doing things we’ve said we would do, without even realizing some of these things are actually counter-productive to our priorities.


Can’t quit cold turkey? Make a list of your priorities today. Say no (and I’m sorry) to everything that doesn’t support those priorities. Give someone else an opportunity to serve. They may have been waiting for you to stop hogging all the work.

Need an extreme make over? Don’t take on any responsibilities which will require additional time and effort from you in the month of November and December. It will be the most amazing holiday season you’ve had in years.

Stop waking up the same day you went to bed and start going to bed the same day you wake up.
Julie Stiles Mills

July 1, 2007 Posted by | books, moms, service, spiritual growth | 1 Comment