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

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: Romans 8:37-39

a Quote:
“. . . somehow he [Paul] had the faith to believe that these “things” – surely not good in themselves – could nevertheless be used by God to accomplish good.

Confidence like that can go a long way towards solving discouragement over a ministry that never quite works out in the way we wish.”
Grace Notes: Daily Readings with a Fellow Pilgrim and
Church: Why Bother?
by Philip Yancey

my Prayer:
Lord, help me to see through your eyes. Through your perspective. I struggle with myopic vision every. single. day. Please help me to see objectively and to remember that you can do anything, without limitation.

Please help me to remember that when you ask me to put my weight against a boulder, it doesn’t mean I’ve failed if I don’t move it even one inch. It may be that Your will is for me to hold it steady, which from my point of view feels and looks like inaction. Please help me to be content in my obedience even when you don’t allow me to see the results of that obedience. Please help me to remember that you can take any offering I bring – no matter how flawed or weak or small – and use it to accomplish your purposes.

the Word:
No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Romans 8:37-39 (NIV)

the lyric.
“And this is my prayer in the battle, when triumph is still on it’s way. I am a conqueror and co-heir with Christ, so firm on His promise I’ll stand.”
Desert Song
by Hillsong United (Live)


This was dual published on my Pragmatic Compendium blog.

November 24, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

two minutes with God: Psalm 103:7-12

a Quote:
“Over the years Moses has learned something so sweet and strange and mysterious that only one word can begin to capture it: grace, God’s free, undeserved gift. He has learned that God loves him despite his failures, with a pure, stubborn, everlasting love. After more than a century of life, Moses has given up trying to figure out what God sees in him. Or sees in the rest of the Hebrews for that matter. He just accepts it and gives thanks.”
The Bible Jesus Read
by Philip Yancey

my Prayer:
Lord, thank you for Your grace. Thank you for showing me a small glimpse of Your unconditional love through the blessing of my children. My gratitude overwhelms me and I’m compelled to respond in the only ways I know how: Through praise and service and faithful stewardship of these and all the undeserved gifts you’ve given me.

Thank you for the joy of praise. Please equip me for Your service and illuminate the next step you want me to take. And please Lord, help me to be consistent as I strive to be a good steward; with my finances, the use of my time and talents, the nurturing of my family and most of all, my relationship with You.

the Word:
He made known his ways to Moses, his deeds to the people of Israel: The LORD is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love. He will not always accuse, nor will he harbor his anger forever; he does not treat us as our sins deserve or repay us according to our iniquities. For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his love for those who fear him; as far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us.
Psalm 103:7-12 (NIV)

the lyric.
“I know You’ve cast my sin as far as the east is from the west, and I stand before You now as though I’ve never sinned”
East to West
by Casting Crowns


This was dual published on my Pragmatic Compendium blog.

November 15, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

one minute with God: Philippians 2:15

a Quote:
“Moral authority is the credibility you earn by walking your talk. It is the relationship other people see between what you say and what you do, between what you claim to be and what you are . . . There is an alignment between conviction and action, belief and behavior . . .

Nothing compensates for moral authority. No amount of communication skills, wealth, accomplishment, education, talent or position can make up for a lack of moral authority. We all know plenty of people who have those qualities but who exercise no influence over us whatsoever. Why? Because there is a contradiction between what they claim to be and what we perceive them to be.” Visioneering: God’s Blueprint for Developing and Maintaining Vision by Andy Stanley

my Prayer:
Lord, please help me to be blameless today. For even one minute of today. Please help me to represent you well. Please help me to be honorable. Help me to be a woman of my word today, Lord. Please fill me with an awareness of your Holy Spirit and remind me include you in every conversation, every action, every thought. If you are with me every minute, I stand a chance of being blameless. I want to be a credible witness for your grace and glory today. I want to be trustworthy. Please help me.

the Word:
. . . so that you may become blameless and pure, children of God without fault in a crooked and depraved generation, in which you shine like stars in the universe
Philippians 2:15 (NIV)


This was dual published on my Pragmatic Compendium blog.

August 23, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

crazy woman singing in the van singing WHAT? “Glory to God Forever”

Loving the new praise song this week: “Glory to God, Glory to God, Glory to God Forever. Take my life and let it be all for you and for your glory. Take my life and let it be yours.”


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

August 21, 2010 Posted by | christian living, music, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

one minute with God: 1 Peter 4:10-11

a Quote:
“Where is God leading today? What are the priorities that need to be addressed? Who needs my attention? What do I have to learn? Where might be the landmines in the day’s journey? What needs to change? In asking these questions, I hope to tune my soul to the voice of God so that I will be conscious of His guidance throughout the day. With increasing frequency this actually happens.” A Resilient Life: You Can Move Ahead No Matter What by Gordon MacDonald

my Prayer:
Lord, please bless me with discernment today. Show me what I need to see, whether I want to see it or not. Lead me where I need to go, give me the words I need to speak and, please Lord, give me an awareness not only of your faithful presence, but an awareness of the needs of others that I so often miss even when they are smack in front of me. Allow me to serve you today Lord, even if I never get to know how you do it. Please allow me to be your hands and feet and voice. Please use me right where I am. Please allow me to be a witness for your grace and glory today.

the Word:
Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God’s grace in its various forms. If anyone speaks, he should do it as one speaking the very words of God. If anyone serves, he should do it with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ. To him be the glory and the power for ever and ever. Amen.
1 Peter 4:10-11 (NIV)


This was dual published on my Pragmatic Compendium blog.

August 20, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

who of you by worrying . . .

Who of you by worrying can add a single day to his life?
Luke 12:25

There’s something I pray about on a near daily basis. Something I want to change. Something I’m not in a position to change myself. Something I want God to change. I’m not picky. I’m not asking for a specific thing to happen. I’m praying for an end result, not a method to get there. I don’t care how God wants to work things out, I’m following His direction no matter where it leads. Even in the middle of this situation I don’t particularly like. (okay. this situation I HATE.) I’m praying for the people who are in a position to make the changes needed to get to the result. I know the situation isn’t simple. I know the details of the solution aren’t obvious. If it was easy, it would be done already. There are people and opinions and feelings involved, which always complicate things. So the last thing I’m saying every time I pray about this is “Lord, please let Your will be done.”

And I’m not gonna stop praying about it. I’m like the persistent widow. I already told God He was gonna get tired of hearing me ask for this same thing every flippin day. But I’m not gonna get tired of asking.

And still. The situation stays the same.

So I gotta believe that God is allowing the situation to continue for some reason I don’t understand. Because God can do anything. And if He wanted things to be different. They would be.

Until the situation is resolved – one way or another – I’m going to continue taking responsibility for what I CAN do myself.

And I’m going to keep praying.

Worry is both unnecessary and counterproductive…relinquish the
situation to Me…I will either take care of the problem Myself
or show you how to handle it. In this world, you will have problems,
but you need not lose sight of Me.
Jesus Calling
by Sarah Young

This was dual published on my Pragmatic Compendium blog.

June 8, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | 1 Comment

God has a desire for my affirmation of His love?

When they had finished eating, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon son of John, do you truly love me more than these?”
“Yes, Lord,” he said, “you know that I love you.”
Jesus said, “Feed my lambs.”

Again Jesus said, “Simon son of John, do you truly love me?”
He answered, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.”
Jesus said, “Take care of my sheep.”

The third time he said to him, “Simon son of John, do you love me?”
Peter was hurt because Jesus asked him the third time, “Do you love me?” He said, “Lord, you know all things; you know that I love you.”

John 21:15-17

I’ve heard this story countless times. But today, as I was reading The Only Necessary Thing: Living a Prayerful Life by Henri Nouwen, I was prompted to pay closer attention.

“If God is born like a little baby, God cannot walk or speak unless someone teaches God. That’s the story of Jesus, who needs human beings in order to grow. God is saying, “I want to be weak so you can love me. What better way to help you respond to my love than becoming weak so you can care for me? . . .

The God who loves us is a God who becomes vulnerable, dependent in the manger and dependent on the cross, a God who basically is saying, “Are you there for me?”

God is saying, “I want to be vulnerable, I need you love. I have a desire for your affirmation of my love.”

God has a desire for my affirmation of His love?

I had to stop reading. Sometimes I agree with something an author writes. Sometimes not. And sometimes, I need to think it through.

No. God doesn’t need our love. Who are we? Who am I? Compared to God? Nobody. I’m a fraction of a speck of sand compared to God.

And there it is. My human inability to fathom the idea that I might be important to God. My conscious mind, the one that does the Bible study, knows I’m important to God. It’s my subconscious mind, my heart that doubts. The Bible says I matter to God. My heart says, “Seriously? How is that possible?”

My mind immediately goes to Luke 15: The parable of the lost sheep, the lost coin, the prodigal son. And Matthew 6:26:

“Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?”

My mind tells my heart: “See? If I’ve told you once, I’ve told you a thousand times! I am important to God!” (my mind is a bit of an insufferable nag)

And immediately the question: “If I’m important to God, is my love important to Him?”

Why have I never considered this before? I click on over to http://www.biblegateway.com and read this verse again and again in different versions. Take a look at this version from the Amplified Bible:

15When they had eaten, Jesus said to Simon Peter, Simon, son of John, do you love Me more than these [others do–with reasoning, intentional, spiritual devotion, as one loves the Father]? He said to Him, Yes, Lord, You know that I love You [that I have deep, instinctive, personal affection for You, as for a close friend]. He said to him, Feed My lambs.

16Again He said to him the second time, Simon, son of John, do you love Me [with reasoning, intentional, spiritual devotion, as one loves the Father]? He said to Him, Yes, Lord, You know that I love You [that I have a deep, instinctive, personal affection for You, as for a close friend]. He said to him, Shepherd (tend) My sheep.

17He said to him the third time, Simon, son of John, do you love Me [with a deep, instinctive, personal affection for Me, as for a close friend]? Peter was grieved (was saddened and hurt) that He should ask him the third time, Do you love Me? And he said to Him, Lord, You know everything; You know that I love You [that I have a deep, instinctive, personal affection for You, as for a close friend]. Jesus said to him, Feed My sheep.

Jesus asked a different question the first two times. The third time, He changed his choice of words to match Peter’s answer.

I never knew this.

I went to www.blueletterbible.org, my go-to reference when I want to look up original Bible language. The first two times Jesus asks Peter if he loves Him, the word Jesus uses is “agapao.” Peter responds the first two times by telling Jesus he loves Him, but Peter uses the word “phileo.” Finally, the third time, Jesus asks Peter if he loves Him, but he uses the word Peter used in his first two answers: “phileo.”

agapao. phileo. I Google “Peter do you love me?” and an article references Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance: “agapao is more of a heart love and phileo is more of a head love.”

And that’s when I go back to Henri Nouwen.

“God is a jealous God in the sense of wanting our love and wanting us to say yes. That’s why in the end of the Gospel of John, Jesus asks Peter three times, ‘Do you love me?'”

I have never once considered this exchange between Jesus and Peter as anything but a lesson for Peter. A lesson in humility. In faith. In . . . I don’t know. I can’t figure out why God does things in my own life, how do I know what He wanted Peter to learn? But, I have ALWAYS viewed the fact that Jesus asked Peter this question three times as somehow related to the fact that Peter denied Jesus three times.

Looking at it today, from Henri Nouwen’s perspective, I see a glimpse of human vulnerability in Jesus. That doesn’t come naturally to me. I so rarely think of Jesus as human. I know he was human (if my mind has told me once, it’s told me a thousand times). But I don’t intuitively filter His words and actions through the idea that he was human, because, well, He was God. (FirstHusband always says I don’t like paradoxes.)

So I’m contemplating all this. I’m thinking about the devotion I wrote this week about our deepest human desire – the desire for communion with God. An idea also prompted by Henri Nouwen. I sit on the loveseat a while. Quiet. Moments pass. The Holy Spirit nudges me to dig through the piles of books surrounding me on the loveseat to find Jesus Calling and though I generally don’t read dated devotions on the actual date because it makes me feel like I’m consulting a Christian version of a horoscope, I open to today’s entry:

“I am calling you to a life of constant communion with Me . . . Talk with me about every aspect of your day, including your feelings. Remember that your ultimate goal is not to control or fix everything around you; it is to keep communion with Me. A successful goal is one in which you have stayed in touch with me, even if many things remain undone at the end of the day. Do not let your to-do list (written or mental) become an idol directing your life. Instead, ask My Spirit to guide you moment by moment. He will keep you close to Me.”

And my mind goes back to the C.S. Lewis quote in my last devotional, where he talks about falling away from God is sometimes a moment by moment occurrence. I think about Brother Lawrence and the Practice of the Presence of God. And I consider Nouwen’s statement again:

God has a desire for my affirmation of His love?

My mind accepts this and my heart is completely overwhelmed at the breadth and depth of God’s love.

Writers are mentors.

“‘When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is man that you are mindful of him?’ asks the psalmist. An excellent question, as well as a reminder of a point of view I easily forget. We are, we humans, a mere pinch of dust scattered across the surface of a nondescript planet. At the heart of all reality is God, an unimaginable source of both power and love. In the face of such reality we can grovel in humanoid humility or we can, like the psalmist, look up instead of down, do conclude, “O Lord, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth!”
Philip Yancey
Prayer: Does It Make Any Difference?

April 1, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | 1 Comment

I’d like to think I would.

“The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field. When a man found it, he hid it again, and then in his joy went and sold all he had and bought that field.”
Matthew 13:44

Recently, I was asked to deliver a short message about giving. The emphasis was to be on financial giving, a touchy subject for some. Especially in today’s economy. So, I got the obvious question out of the way. If I’m doing all this talking about giving, do I put my money where my mouth is? Do I give? So I admitted, right up front. We tithe.

When I first got married, tithing was a foreign concept for me, but my new husband took care of paying the bills and I was happy to be rid of the monthly guilt associated with the fact that I never opened my bank statements. I used to joke that I married him so I would have someone to balance the checkbook. And my new husband wanted to tithe. I was uncommitted. Meaning, I didn’t care.

That’s the admission. I began tithing because my new husband wanted to and I didn’t care.

Reading that back just now, it doesn’t say much for me.

Over the last twenty years, we’ve continued to tithe. We’ve had lapses, but they were more from laziness and disorganization rather than a conscious decision to hold onto “our money.” In the end, we found that the best way for us to give is to schedule our tithe on bill pay. What do I think about that? What I don’t see, I don’t miss.

But as I prepared to talk to others about giving, I was thinking I should have a better reason for doing it than “My husband wanted to and I didn’t care.” and “It’s set up so I don’t notice it.” I understand why I began tithing and the logistics of how we tithe, but why do I tithe?

Then I remembered story of Elijah and the Widow of Zaraphath in 1 Kings 17:

8 Then the word of the LORD came to him: 9 “Go at once to Zarephath of Sidon and stay there. I have commanded a widow in that place to supply you with food.”

“Commanded.” I saw that word before. In verse 4: “. . . I have commanded the ravens to provide for you there.” Then verse 6 reads: “The ravens brought him bread and meat in the morning and bread and meat in the evening, and he would drink from the brook.”

Birds brought Elijah bread and meat, morning and night, because the Lord “commanded” them. That’s impressive provision. At my house, we feed the birds. (and the raccoons, but, I digress.)

10 So he went to Zarephath. When he came to the town gate, a widow was there gathering sticks. He called to her and asked, “Would you bring me a little water in a jar so I may have a drink?” 11 As she was going to get it, he called, “And bring me, please, a piece of bread.”

Commentator Matthew Henry describes the widow as “very charitable and generous,” saying “She objected not to the present scarcity of it, nor asked him what he would give her for a draught of water (for now it was worth money).” She didn’t tell him she had more important things to do than fetch a stranger, an Israelite, a drink of water. She didn’t make excuses because she herself was weak from famine. She just stopped gathering her sticks and went to get Elijah some water.

Would I do that? I’d like to think I would.

But honestly? If the land was in famine and I had a starving child, would I? Or would I find out if this stranger could barter anything of value so I could take care of my child?

12 “As surely as the LORD your God lives,” she replied, “I don’t have any bread—only a handful of flour in a jar and a little oil in a jug. I am gathering a few sticks to take home and make a meal for myself and my son, that we may eat it—and die.”

That we may eat it – and DIE? That’s abrupt. Brutally honest. She only has enough flour and oil to make one meal for her child and then she expects they will starve to death. But she’s talking to a prophet. Didn’t she get the memo? Didn’t the Lord “command” her?

13 Elijah said to her, “Don’t be afraid. Go home and do as you have said. But first make a small cake of bread for me from what you have and bring it to me, and then make something for yourself and your son. 14 For this is what the LORD, the God of Israel, says: ‘The jar of flour will not be used up and the jug of oil will not run dry until the day the LORD gives rain on the land.’ “

She’s a Sidonian. Elijah is talking about the God of Israel. What kind of faith does she have in the God of Israel? What kind of faith does she have that Elijah has heard from the God of Israel? This guy could be a nutcase. He could be desperate and willing to lie for food or delusional from lack of food and water. She just told some stranger that she had just enough to feed herself and her child and then she expected to die of starvation and he responds with “Don’t be afraid. Make my bread first and then make something your child.” This Israelite is asking her to feed HIM before her starving child. And telling her she won’t run out of flour and oil. Won’t run out. That doesn’t make sense. How is that possible? She has a starving child in a land of famine and some stranger is asking that she FEED HIM FIRST?

Would I do that? I’d like to think I would.

Would I see then, as I can “objectively” see now – from my vantage point of having well-fed children tucked in bed for the night – that one meal would not save my child’s life? Would I be able to see that one “last” meal would just prolong the inevitable? Would I look at this man, this stranger, who professes faith in the God of Israel, and tells me my oil and flour won’t run out, and do as he asks me to? Would I put my hope in him and his God?

I’d like to think I would.

15 She went away and did as Elijah had told her. So there was food every day for Elijah and for the woman and her family. 16 For the jar of flour was not used up and the jug of oil did not run dry, in keeping with the word of the LORD spoken by Elijah.

Would I be willing to give up everything I have and think I hold as “mine” in exchange for something greater? Would I be willing to give up EVERYTHING in exchange for the blessings of faithful provision of an all-powerful God? I’ve never been asked to give up EVERYTHING for Him.

Or have I?

Romans 12:1:
“Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God—this is your spiritual act of worship.”
(NIV)

“So here’s what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life—your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life—and place it before God as an offering. Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for him.”
(The Message)

I’m asked to give up far more than my last handful of food or my last two coins. I’m asked to give myself. Do I do that? Not consistently. But by the grace of God, every time I’ve taken possession of my time, my day, myself, I’ve come to my senses, and given again. I love what Matthew Henry writes: “The meal and the oil multiplied, not in the hoarding, but in the spending.”

I believe the “treasure” in Matthew 13:44 has nothing to do with money or possessions. I understand the “treasures” of this world are fleeting. I’ve learned that joyful giving brings unimaginable blessings. And I’m also aware that you don’t get a gourmet meal from flour and oil.

This is why I tithe.

You have found a treasure: the treasure of God’s love. You know now where it is,
but you are not yet ready to own it fully. So many attachments keep pulling you away.

Henri Nouwen
The Only Necessary Thing, Living a Prayerful Life

February 18, 2010 Posted by | faith, giving, pragmatic presence, spiritual growth, Uncategorized | , , | Leave a comment