From the Archives

Small_USPS_TruckFrom March 1998

Personal encounters with an obvious Work of God.
An obvious work of God-something that seems kind of rare; you don’t experience it everyday. So it’s nice to relate one such encounter for your reflection.
She was a postal worker; someone who had taken our packages and letters (like NEEDnews) and mailed them out for us over the past 10+ years. In many people’s eyes, someone just to glass over and get on with your life. But God had arranged a divine encounter, as it were.
My executive  assistant, was mailing out some correspondence for me last week when Anne noticed the NEED letterhead on the envelopes, “oh, you must work for Gary. Could you have him call me; there’s something I need to talk over with him.”
So Anne and I met at The Pub for some munchies. “I’ll be direct. I need to find a spiritual path for my life and I have no idea how to find one. You are one of the few spiritual people I know who will shoot straight with me. Where do I look?”
Anne went on to tell me of the personal unhappiness she carried with her, even with “the best husband in the world.” She talked about the 2-3 years of counseling she had just completed when her therapist told her “I don’t know what else to do for you.” She talked about her dreams and the weight of feeling unfulfilled as she approached 50. Then she said, “How would you guide me in the quest for a spiritual path?”
It was obvious that the Lord was drawing her to himself. It was his Spirit at work in her. I was just the guest at the party, the interpreter, the navigator.
So I told her of how Christ came to reestablish a connection between us and our creator. I told her that our ancestors rejection of God’s perimeters for our protection (that’s sin for most of us) had broken our relationship with God and badly damaged our human relationships.
“What you need, Anne is to be reconnected with the God who made you and loves you.”
“But that’s a big step, Gary, and I’m not a risk taker.”
“Anything in life worth going for is a risk, Anne.”
“I know. That’s why I need your help.”
“Well, okay. But really need to talk to God himself. He’s a lot more help than I’ll ever be.”
We just gave her the Guide Book, a Bible.
Gary
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Phases 12-Where do we go from here?

 we_can_do_itThis will be the last entry in our series- The Phases of the Christian Life.
     If you have been following this series, by now you have tried to determine where you are in the phases of your own Christian life.
  • Deliverance
  • Delight
  • Discipleship
  • Distraction
  • Disillusion
  • Discouragement (Despair)
  • Decisions
  • Dedication
  • Deliverance (again)
  • Delight (on and on and on)
Well, don’t bother. Time for me to ‘fess up.
     There is no sequence of phases to the Christian life. You might find yourself in one phase or another depending on your life circumstances and your responses to them: you may find yourself delighting in one area of your life and discouraged in another; this may last for a long time. Get some help.
     The goal, however, remains the same- Delight. Delight is the culmination of all the facets of our Christian journey: accepting Christ’s deliverance from and forgiveness for our sin, overcoming distraction and disillusionment, deciding daily to dedicate our lives to the joy of becoming Christ’s disciples; bringing all aspects of our life under His authority until it feels more like freedom than obedience.
     Do keep in mind that this is a life-long process. It is NOT an instantaneous “poof” and all is well. Some Christians never fully accept Christ’s forgiveness for their sins, deciding instead to wallow in chronic guilt and confession. Others rarely delight in their Lord; they always seem to be working harder at their Christian life. Still others avoid decisions at all costs, dreading they might make the wrong choice. Some never fully dedicate their lives to Christ, fearing they may miss something our world dangles before them.
     There are some practices that will help you stay the course, especially through the rougher times.
  • Private Prayer
  • Friendships
  • Time Alone Time in Community
  • Scotch
  • Exercise
  • Rest
  • Time Away
  • Productivity
  • Scripture (en mass)
  • Reassess your Routine
  • Prayer with Friends
     Everyone needs a Safe Person, a Safe Place, & a Safe Activity. A great meal out would be a good place to discover what yours are; and to put to use some of the ideas in the above list. My favorite place is the Sonterra Grill in Colorado Springs. Great Pineapple-Habanero Salsa. Bring a friend.
     Whatever you do, give God room to work in your life the way He wants to work. Don’t dictate to Him how things are to be done. It’s just not safe.
In Phase 3, or 5, or is it 7? Whatever!
  Gary

Phases #11 Delight, over and over again

gary davis, delight, deliverance, grace, depression, journeyYour first pony ride. The first snowfall of winter. The first ice cream cone of summer. Your first car. Your first kiss; okay, and the second. Your first REAL job. Your wedding. Your first child. Delights all!

     Do you remember when you first realized that your sins, your rebellion, were truly, genuinely, completely forgiven? Now run those feelings, those realities throughout the rest of your life.

     Oh, not there yet, huh? I’m not talking about people who don’t know Christ; well, in a way I could be. Rather, I’m talking to Christians who always get stuck in their lethargy, or who never quite entrust their lives to Christ; guarded Christians.

     Seriously, why would anyone want to live as a ½ committed Christian, hanging on to their ownership of who they used to be?!? That has to be one of the most frustrating, exasperating lives imaginable. Too much work, always keeping track of what you’ve said, or done wrong. No way!

     Delighting in Christ, knowing the freedom to dance before God with a clean slate, is one of the most amazing realities about being a genuine Christian, instead of a half-hearted, morbid self-condemning “Christian.” How does anybody live like that? Who would want to?

     Check yourself. How are you living? Like a guilty Christian or as a forgiven sinner? This is NOT just a matter of perspective: it is a reflection on how you view Christ’s work on the cross— for you. I’d rather be dancing and delighting than constantly wondering if I’m good enough for God.

     An end-note— I struggle with depression. [See this Patheos article for further insight.] I’m on meds to correct the imbalance in my body chemistry; but there are some days when even they don’t work. So I’ve learned to push through, to live through, to tough it out; but not everyone can do that. In the end I wind up doing what I should have done in the first place— turning to God for mercy, healing, and forgiveness.

     It is in those times that our Lord asks me—

Why are you cast down, O my soul?
And why are you disquieted within me? Hope in God;
For I shall yet praise Him, the help of my countenance and my God.

~Psalm 41:11 (NKJV)

     Delight, joy, and hope. This is a description of the normal Christian life. Get into to it.

I’ll be on the dance floor,
  Gary

Phases #10 Deliverance…again

sir_peter_paul_rubens_-_daniel_in_the_lions_den_-_google_art_project
Peter Paul Rubens, between circa 1614 and circa 1616

   By now you must be wondering if the Christian life is like going ‘round in circles— deliverance, delight, discipleship, discouragement, decisions, & now, deliverance, again. In many ways, you would be right. For a life of faith is not a straight line to the future, with no kinks, knots, bunny trails, or temporary suspensions. It has all of that and then some. Maybe even a lion’s den for some of us.

[]

     No Christian is perfect. We are always in process. [Although, I must admit to being PERFECT in 2004, for about 5 ½ minutes, in April. Most of the time, I am not even close.Our faith journeys are not set in stone, even though our salvation is. We all doubt, wander, reject, reaffirm, and celebrate over and over again. Our faith is set in the context of who we are designed to be as individual Christians, in the context of the whole Body of Christ.

     So in times when we need yet another deliverance from our anguish, our pain, our sin, it is good to have fellow journeymen around you who can attest to the power of God to free you from yet another mess you’ve made of your life. Christian community…, remember?!? I’ve often wondered if we go through these cycles so God can remind us we are fickle beings and must constantly rely on Him. Deliverance has a definite recurring role in our journey of faith.

     There is another side effect of deliverance. It is the reminder that we are also forgiven for our sins (READ— no condemnation!) Many of us never lay hold of this reality; instead, we wallow in the Dark Night of the Soul believing we will never get it right, never be good enough for Christ, never be worthy of heaven. Seriously!?! Can we be so stupid to believe that Christ’s work of the Cross was not sufficient to cover the price for all of our sins? Even the ones we have not come up with yet?

     You ARE in a state of grace. You have been declared holy. Get used to it. Get on with it in your journey and believe that you are truly forgiven— past, present and future. No defeatist wallowing allowed.

     AND, when you mess up again, again, and again…, and need the deliverance of the Father, know it is already there; and the forgiveness to go along with it as well. Seek forgiveness wherever you need it; then get back on track. Our Lord has all your bases covered.

You are my hiding place; You shall preserve me from trouble;
You shall surround me with songs of deliverance. Selah

~Psalm 32:7 [NIV]

 SMILE, Gary

Phases #9 Dedication

how-to-be-successful-with-weight-loss_1-1024x682There is a section in the Judeo-Christian scripture that asks a question—

“O Lord, who may abide in your tent?

Who may dwell on your holy hill?”

In other words, who would live long in Your presence? The Psalmist offers a number of criteria. For our consideration, I will choose only one—

“He swears to his own hurt and does not change.”

~ Psalm 15: 1, 4. NASB

     Dedication is our internal, decisive will power to stick to the matters at hand. It is commitment, determination, stick to-it-tiveness, perspicuity— call it what you will; it is a critical obstinacy that we use to fulfill a decision we’ve made, no matter how hard the road.

     When it comes to the Christian faith, this is the one characteristic that must be exercised the most…, after prayer, and worship, and probably a few more. But for me, it has been the one thing that has pushed my faith to the limit. Remember Never give up!? Well, never give in, either.

     In marriage vows we swear to be faithful and committed to one another. Loving, too. The primary reason marriages shatter is our lack of dedication to make it work, no matter what. The same is true of our faith in Christ.

     Too often in our life of faith, things go wrong, or we sin, rebel against God, or just find the journey too tedious and binding. So we jump ship. Or sex grabs us; and I don’t mean the kind within our marriage. Our entire faith gets dumped for some handsome guy or cute little thing. Just brilliant!

     G.K. Chesterton once said that Christianity has not been tried and found wanting; it has been found difficult and not tried. As long as WE continue to set the perimeters of our faith, it will remain just that— our faith. But if we are serious about our decision to truly follow the claims of Christ, no matter what, that’s when the required dedication needs to kick in.

     Setting our minds to the task of being a Christian is not a simple matter. The most probable reason Christ sent the Holy Spirit to dwell within us is that He understood that. He knows our weaknesses, our whimsical nature when things get tough. He knew our dedication to Him would be challenged. Therefore…, God within us: establishing our commitment to Him: forging a faith within that is unshakable.

 Dedicated, determined, and heading in the right direction,

  Gary

Phases #8 Decisions

Gary Davis, decisions, despair, depression, life, journey

     Rising above despair, or crawling your way out of it, is not easy. It might take more time than you initially thought. And you may never fully find yourself completely clear of it. Some pains leave deep scars.

     If there is one tool in the fight against deep, enduring despair it is this— make decisions. It will require every ounce of strength and determination you can muster, and then some. And you will get it wrong sometime. Fine! Try again. Don’t let failure defeat you; learn from it; grow from it. Get mad at your situation. What did Sir Winston Churchill say during World War II? “We will never give up! Never, never, never give up.”

     So also it must be with you.

     At some points you will not even have a hint of what those decisions are. That’s OK. But there will come a day, a moment, a tipping point when a decision, a resolution will become clear. You must make it. Right or wrong…, MAKE IT. It’s better to be engaged in doing something than to lie there sullen, mired in your own solidifying concrete.

     First, a disclaimer. I am prone to depression; to deep spirals; to feeling empty and useless. So, these thoughts do not originate from a book on counseling or self-help. They are real, just like the anguish you are now enduring.

  1. One, I’ve already mentioned— get mad at yourself. This will at least awaken your ire and challenge you to start fighting.
  2. Don’t over-analyze. Mulling the same think over ad infinitum has a way of breeding reptiles of the mind that gnaw at your soul and cramp your emotional/mental capacities.
  3. Pray. If you do not have faith in a God who created you and has your best interests at heart, then this idea doesn’t apply to you: but it should anyway. Call it external processing if you must. Unburden your heart to someone who can help. I vote for God.
  4. Seek medical help. Whether to get through your pain, or, to gain a sense of stability once again. God’s healing is both natural and supernatural; it’s hard to tell which is which sometimes.
  5. Eat the right stuff. Even though chocolate and coffee are essential food groups you still need a source of meat (cow, fish, protein), vegetables (fiber & vitamins), grains (bread, oatmeal, fiber), dairy (yogurt, cheese, hit fudge sundaes).
  6. Exercise. Brooding bloats the brain. Get out there and burn off some endorphins, stress, and calories.
  7. Again, talk to a wise friend. Or, pay a counselor. You need an external perspective.
  8. Make decisions that give you hope and a clear path of resolution and restoration.

Never give up! Never, never, never give up!

  Gary

Phases #7, Despair

people-who-dont-get-discouraged[Note: This EMPulse was initially intended to focus of discouragement. But the more I wrote, the more I realized it was about Despair. Thus, the shift to despair, which is far more lethal than being discouraged.]

     I didn’t think it would ever end— this despair, this gut wrenching emptiness. The anguish had taken over my body, my soul…, my very reason for living. Will this ever end? How can God let this happen to me?

In the loss of a wife, a parent, a daughter, the grief is understandable. But betrayal? That’s a whole ‘nother kind of anguish. It hits us like a 10 lb. sledge hammer; how can this be happening? Stunned, we try to make sense of it all; but nothing is clear.

Discouragement is something that hits each of us at some time or another in our life. Things just don’t work out the way we had hoped. But despair leaves us with nothing, emptiness, totally alone within ourselves. A child dies, a promotion denied, expectations & hopes—  smashed upon the rocks. We’ve all been there. But what to do about it? Some suggestions—

1.      Give in to the grief. You can never recover from your grief unless you let it have full sway over your heart. Reel in its devastation. Feel the depths of it grip.

2.      Talk to a safe-person. Not necessarily your lover or spouse. NEVER your child. Find someone who holds your confidence and open your heart to them. Cry. Sob. Weep. NOT to someone who will try to “fix it,” but to one who will simply let you be you in this moment.

3.      Cry out to/at God. You can blame Him. But you know it’s not His fault. Cornelius VanTil once said “The only way we can slap God in the face is if He picks us up and holds us in His arms.” ‘Nough said.

4.      Give it Time. Sometimes… lots of time. Whoever said Time heals all wounds, was right. And, truly, some pain never leaves us.

5.      Hope.  We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; [2 Corinthians 4:8-9] The hardest thing I have ever done is to hope in the midst of the darkness & despair— truly The Dark Night of the Soul[c. 1577-1579. Saint John of the Cross], takes on new meaning once we’ve been dashed upon the rocks.

6.      Make Decisions. Like what? No, wait, I’m getting ahead of myself. This topic is so important that it will be the focal point of my next installment.

For now, if you are just entering your despair, feel it deeply. If you are in the midst of your grief, grieve. If you are just recovering, somewhat, don’t beat up on yourself for not handling your pain better. The Psalmist David once wrote—

[Note2: These suggestions are in no way sequential, complete, or final. Facing despair is far more intricate than this article infers.]

 Why art thou cast down, O my soul?
and why art thou disquieted in me?
hope thou in God:
for I shall yet praise him for the help of his countenance.

  ~ Psalm 42:5. (AKJV)

Hope!
Gary