Pragmatic Communion

pragmatic living in the presence of God

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

don’t react. respond.

If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.
Romans 12:18 NIV

When I was in high school, I worked at McDonalds. I started on “fries and shakes” (back when they actually MADE the shakes – with ice cream and syrup and a real shake machine ). Over the years I worked every job, from birthday party hostess to counter to drive thru to grill . . . even manager trainee.

During my senior year of high school, I was assigned to work drive thru with another girl from 4:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m., Monday through Friday. One of us worked the window and the other “filled the orders.” Back then, McDonalds only had ONE drive thru window. Back then, working the window meant taking the orders at the speaker AND taking the money AND handing the orders to the customer. So, one of us stood in the same place for 4 hours every day and the other ran around like crazy, filling the orders. When I worked the window, I would take the order from the customer at the speaker, take the money from the customer at the window, turn around, grab the already filled bag and drinks, hand them out the window and repeat. All the while my friend and co-worker bobbed and weaved through the employees working the counter to grab food and fill the next bag. Some shifts I worked the window and she filled orders, some shifts she worked the window and I filled orders.

WE. WERE. FAST. Our goal was the “30 second drive thru” McDonalds constantly pushed. If the manager kept the food coming from the grill and there was an assigned “fry” person, we were very, very often able to meet that 30 second mark.

It got boring.

So, we looked for ways to make things more interesting. First we tried pranks and jokes. Like writing “HELP! LET ME OUT! on an empty bag and place it where the filled order should go, that kind of thing. That got boring. What to do. What to do . . .

We decided we were going to make people smile within 30 seconds. Getting the friendly people to smile was easy. Getting the distracted and indifferent people to smile – also easy. Each smile was a win. The challenge? Cranky people. We were going to get them to smile too. When a grouchy, mean, impatient, cranky, sarcastic (you get the idea) customer came to our drive thru, we were sickeningly sweet and friendly. We smiled, we were overly-nice, we joked, we smiled more. And when a cranky person drove away after giving a smile – or even just a grin? That wasn’t just a win, it was a bonus!

We used kindness as a weapon, adopting the “kill em’ with kindness” philosophy. It was fun, and we got through our shifts without hating the job or the customers. We were just kids, goofing around, thinking we were manipulating people and feeling impressed with ourselves.

But what I learned from that experience has stayed with me. It doesn’t take much to diffuse a situation. It actually takes very little. Very little pride or arrogance, I mean. It means giving people grace instead of what I think they deserve. When I diffuse a situation, it means no more “right back atcha” or “no you di ent!” It means consciously choosing to respond, instead of react. I’ve mentioned this before, that I want to respond instead of react. I learned it from my sister-in-law. She told me that one year her prayer and goal was to learn how to respond, instead of react. It was a l o n g year. Her next year’s prayer and goal?

To respond appropriately.

I love that. I’m working on that. Not that I’m able to do it all the time, mind you, but I have realized something. When I’m off balance, when I don’t get any solitude, when I’m tired and/or over-extended, when I don’t devote time to prayer or reading my Bible – I’m irritable. When I’m irritable, I take it out on other people. But, when I’M okay, when I have peace, I have the wherewithal to overcome my first reaction and instead, choose to respond. I can give people grace instead of what I think they deserve.

Strangers, acquaintances, friends, family – it doesn’ matter. Because it has nothing to do with THEM. It’s a decision I make about how I will respond to them, no matter the relationship. No matter the offense.

Sounds lofty. Pious. Impossible. Maybe. I can’t do it all the time. But I can try. And if I fail when I fail, I’ll try again.

Words can never adequately convey the incredible impact of our attitude toward life. The longer I live the more convinced I become that life is 10 percent what happens to us and 90 percent how we respond to it.
Charles R. Swindoll
Christian Reader, v. 33, n. 4.

This devotion was inspired by Amy’s post entitled “When You Give Someone a Cookie” at “God’s Work in Progress.

August 20, 2008 Posted by | grace, spiritual growth, Uncategorized, witnessing | , , , , | 5 Comments