After There’s Nothing Left: Soul Rest – Pt 1

rest chairMy soul needs rest. It is not weary from being wounded; from those arrows it merely feels the inflicted pain and bears healing scars that eventually fade away. No, my soul needs rest from constantly putting out while not taking in enough. To be sure I am to blame for this imbalance: it is every true Christian’s task to provide soul sustenance for their own life-walk and personal growth. But I have this tendency to run ahead of myself. Thus, the need for soul rest.

Three places where I find my soul rests are at a Lakehouse on Newfound Lake in New Hampshire, on top of Pikes Peak (14,115’), and at Jenny Lake, in Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming. In Wyoming I breathe easier; my heart-beat slows. On Pikes Peak, near our home in Colorado, I am alone with God. I am invigorated! In New Hampshire I sit on the lake-dock and watch ducks land, studying the intricacies within the ripples of the water as the wind blows across its surface.

I need to get to these places more often.

Your soul probably needs rest as well. The hectic pace of our lives, whether urban or rural, has grown much more frantic since the industrial revolution of the late 19th century— more so in these early decades of the 21st century. Much of the machinery and technology designed to make our lives easier has not made them simpler. We are a more complex species today than when we entered the 20th century. There will be, to be sure, more discoveries and technological inventions in the future that will again make our lives “easier.” But will we have any more time to spend with friends, family, or even God? Will we be able to take the time we need to provide the kind of rest our souls will need to stand up to the challenges of this new cultural shift?

Defining Soul Rest

      Before you jump to your feet and yell, “It’s simple! You just need to stop! Get alone and rest. Your soul will follow suit.”  allow me to describe some of the factors you might want to consider.

  • Is soul rest for an Introvert the same as it would be for an Extrovert?
  • Is soul rest easier for a Type A (organized, controlled) or a Type B (more relaxed, flexible) person? And what about a Type C person (combination)?
  • How do you know if you are genuinely resting or merely following someone else’s formula? (A Spiritual Director’s prescription.)
  • How long does it take to get to soul rest?
  • When will you know you have had enough?

Hopefully, these peripheral considerations have demolished any simplistic view of soul rest you may have held. Finding rest for your soul is no simple matter. And these peripheral considerations become more central to our definition than is immediately apparent. Your personality and temperament have more to do with your soul than you might imagine.

Returning to the task at hand, defining soul restWell, at least MY Definition

            Soul Rest 1) the complete relaxation of the soul; resulting in the cessation of struggle and conflict within; 2) a coming apart from daily activities to a quiet place for reflection, refreshment, and rest; 3) any activity which provides one’s soul with a release from this world’s worries and cares— any activity that first rests one’s soul, then enlivens it.

      A definition such as this leaves considerable open-endedness to the mind and much to be desired. Let’s unpack it. Read on.

Honour God, honour people, make a difference,
Gary
Dr. Gary Davis, President

NEXT— Solutions— part 2, Unpacking Soul Rest.

After There’s Nothing Left-Starvation, Isolation & Unfulfillment

isolation-3155603_960_720  Although there are many more causes of depression, I will consider but three more here. Then we must move on to some practical solutions for the things that bleed us dry.

8.  Soul Starvation

As your soul continues to be drained of strength, Soul Starvation sets in. Your exhaustion turns to a relentless sense that you will never get back to who you once were. You will never find the emotional/spiritual resources you need to recover from this passionless, vacant life. You are starved for life, friendship, feeding, and a fresh start. But this continual stagnation of your spirit constantly adds to your emptiness and the exhaustion of your soul gets worse and worse.

  1. Isolation

      This, then, leads to Isolation. Not that you cut yourself off from your family, your work, or the rest of society. You continue to participate, sometimes as though by rote, in the daily rhythm of life, but within your soul you are intolerably alone. You are a shell. You are either in cover-up mode, intentionally living behind a façade, or have dropped out of the stream of life altogether. Even though you know this is not good for you, you do it anyway. It’s just easier.

      For when your soul is completely exhausted you have little strength to live, to do anything, let alone to intermingle with friends. Isolation, for some, sadly, leads to remorse. Thoughts of suicide enter their plans of coping with this incessant agony. Your agony is a denial of anyone who cares for you enough to make a difference, even the God who made you.

  1.  Unfulfillment

      The final cause of depression I will mention is Unfulfillment. We settle for less than we know who we are or what we can accomplish. Again, we become a shell— of who we once were, or of who we believe we can never become. (There are certainly many more causes of depression, but these are the ones I have found, in my experience, to be the most destructive of a person.)

      When we are young the world lies before us, wide and beautiful, full of love and wonder. I, like you, had dreams of what I would DO with my life. As I grew into my 20s and 30s those dreams were honed and clarified. I was ready! Of course, the organization for which I worked did not have the same dreams that I did and we had a very sad parting-of-the-ways. It was at that point I learned I would have to fight to bring my dreams to reality. Incidentally, what I dreamed as a youth had little to do with the scope of what I am doing today. I simply did not have enough life-experience to dream that big. That has changed.

      For what seemed like an eternity, my dreams were on the back shelf. I was unfulfilled. My mind was bursting with ideas and energy within; and I was told to wait. Finally, at age 40, I stopped waiting and drew my dreams off the back shelf and put them into action. It was risky, scary, challenging, and exciting! I regretted waiting ‘till I was 40 to begin my fulfillment stage.

      Living a life of unfulfilled aspirations, truly, inextricably, leads to soul exhaustion and depression. “Doing the next thing,” only creates a drudgery that epitomizes exhaustion.

      If your life is presently in an unfulfilled stage, and has been there for more than a year, it is time you started thinking about shifting to another reality; one, wherein, you have a greater sense of making a difference. NOT to do so is to allow one more cause of soul exhaustion to govern and defeat your spirit.

     Soul Exhaustion is a serious component of depression. There are many contributors and causes that can be identified. What we’ve considered so far is only a first step in dealing with this depletion of spiritual, emotional, and physical loss. The rest of this book (er, these articles) will offer some ideas, and some encouragement, on overcoming your own depression and living the life that God intended you to live.

Honour God, honour people, make a difference,
Gary
Dr. Gary Davis, President
NEXT— Solutions— Getting some rest.

After There’s Nothing Left: Physical exhaustion, fear, deep wounding

isolation-1685765_1280 These next three causes of depression may not be as obvious, yet they are at least the most common. Remember, you do not need to exhibit all of these symptoms to be depressed.

5. Physical exhaustion

            A fifth obvious cause of soul exhaustion is physical exhaustion. When you have no energy for the simple tasks of daily living it does not take long for spiritual exhaustion to set in. This is true of me; this is true of you. When our strength is sapped, so also is our soul. The naïve solution of “Get some rest.” is just not enough. So much more is involved— exercise, diet, attitude, and plain old sweat & perspiration. Without physical strength and stamina, it is virtually impossible to prevent your soul from melting into exhaustion; and that leads to depression.

  1. Fear

Fear grips us. It transcends every other emotion and governs our lives. Severe fear immobilizes us. Momentary fear startles us and leaves us with a somewhat temporary (or not) sense of exhaustion. Long term fear dissipates our energies and leaves us in a state of anxiety about anything new. This is the worst kind of fear. Seek help from a professional counselor for this one. It is more than spiritual— it is truly evil. Prayer also helps. Fear is a major contributor to overwhelming depression.

  1. Deep Wounding

Unless you are an incredibly young child, there are probably none of us who have not been deeply wounded. It’s just life. Dating disappointments, family difficulties, teenage angst, husband/wife conflicts that get nasty, divorce destruction, judgment or dismissal from gainful employment, to name just a few. [Sadly, there is even betrayal within the Body of Christ.] But no matter the source, ALL cause deep wounds that take a great deal of time to heal— if at all, if ever. Deep wounding is one of the most devastating causes of soul exhaustion. It can fracture your soul for years, leaving you to carry on with little to no strength, causing you to hesitate in trusting God, who made you for sustenance, rejuvenation, rest, and restoration. This kind of depression can only be met with God’s help.

              If not addressed, these causes will turn your face away from God to focus on yourself. This, in turn, leads to resentment. You have to blame someone else. But our Lord is a source of recovery and deliverance. He offers life when all seems lost. Give God some room to work His miracles in your life, and in others.

Honour God, honour people, make a difference,
Gary
Dr. Gary Davis, President

NEXT— Starvation, isolation, unfulfillment.

After There’s Nothing Left: Imbalance & Deception

6010535530_fb0c533fec_b[Note~ I have been very tempted to comment on the murder of George Floyd along with the subsequent protests, riots, and killings. So much of this has inundated our news-media in so many forms that I will not add my outrage to make sense to this horror. Being raised in an inner-city gang-based neighborhood was enough to taint my perception of the “good” of man for the rest of my life.  Instead, let’s direct our attention to further causes of depression— imbalance & deception.]

     For years, my wife and I were involved in rock climbing and highaltitude mountaineering (10,000’-14,000’). Not so much in these days. But we knew the critical nature of maintaining balance and a sense of where we were on the mountain. It is much the same in our own lives.

  1. Imbalance

              A third cause of soul exhaustion in life is imbalance. It is similar to #1, Over-Commitment, but far more complex. Through either over-commitment or a general laze of long-term haphazard living, you find your life has come apart and unraveled; it is in shambles. You feel off-kilter about everything. You give too much energy and time to non-essentials and too little time and energy to truly important things. In this state you cannot make a decision about the simplest of things. And you feel like you are constantly teetering on the edge of collapsing in on yourself. If imbalance doesn’t produce soul-exhaustion, nothing will.

              To maintain your balance, check in with the goals you’ve set for yourself. Measuring up? Or, ask someone who knows you how you come across these days.

  1. Deception

           It is pitiful to think that anyone would live a life of intentional deception. Sadly, too many of us do. Not in everything, to be sure; but in some areas of our lives we “fake good,” or “fake bad.” We pretend things are better or worse than they actually are. Or we try to put on a good front when we really do not have the slightest clue about what we are doing. (This may not be a bad thing in some cases.)

           Deception burns up energy: remembering what you said to whom; recalling which persona you need to put on in which situation; or reworking the truth to fit the conversation so you come out looking better. Whatever it is, deception eventually sucks the life out of you and exhausts the strength of your soul.

              Do not deceive yourself; this results in living a life as a shell, an untrue persona. We allow our minds to hide behind a projection of who we want to be, thus obscuring our genuine, transparent selves.

Honour God, honour people, make a difference,
Gary

Dr. Gary Davis, President
NEXT— Physical exhaustion, fear, & deep wounding.

After There’s Nothing Left- over Commitment and no Commitment

images (1)[Reminder: These are excerpts from a book I started writing in 2012 because it was the end of the world.  You do remember 2012?]

Building on my life experiences (see the last EMPulse) let’s start an examination of some of the causes of Depression.

Here are the first two—

  1. Over-Commitment.

Having multiple things going on in your life at any given period can lead to soul exhaustion. Granted, some of us can juggle more balls than others. Some of us have even acquired the knack of juggling a bowling ball with a flaming torch and an active chainsaw (mostly working mothers). But whatever your level of multi-tasking, we all are inevitably capable of reaching a point of over-commitment with too many irons in the fire. We DO so much that we have little time to care for ourselves, in body, soul, or spirit.

Do not take this cause of soul exhaustion lightly. Though you may pride yourself in your ability to multitask, it can leave a thorough feeling of left overs at the end of a day. Nothing left, for your family, for friends, for God, or for yourself.

Over-Commitment means nothing gets done completely right, let alone thoroughly. Not to mention the physical toll it takes on our bodies and the exhaustion it leaves behind. Over-committing ourselves has a way of bleeding us dry.

  1. NO Commitment

The other side of the coin that reads “Over-Commitment” is “NO Commitment.” Being uncommitted to anything is just as capable of deflating your soul as over-commitment. A lack of commitment denotes a hesitancy about life, about a timidity in relationships, that breeds some degree of mistrust in you as a person. In July 2012, I published an article with the seditious title of “Draw a Line.” It was seditious because it challenged people to “draw a line in the sand!” to “Take a Stand.” To let your yes be YES and your NO be no. Too many of us want to keep our options open, to hedge our bets, or to wait for the next best thing.

As a result, we shy away from commitment to, well, just about everything else; jobs, apartments, relationships, anything…, with the exception of our own individual wants and desires. I become the center of my universe! Everyone and everything is peripheral; it is there only for my utility and pleasure. Even you are tangential to my being.

It does not take too much imagination to see how no-commitment to anything except one’s self can lead to soul exhaustion and depression. If everything is a one-way street, with everything flowing into YOU, your capacity to remain self-indulgent will become satiated. You will grow fat with yourself and it will be quite difficult to shed the excess self-bloated baggage. Your soul descends into lethargy and languishes in a kind of affluent isolation. Dead, but not dead. Mostly.

Honour God, honour people, make a difference,
Gary
Dr. Gary Davis, President

NEXT— Imbalance & Deception

After There’s Nothing Left: the art of recovering your soul

imagesI don’t know what I was thinking when I wrote that we would begin a series on Disruptive Technologies & Innovation.WAY too heavy for Summer reading. Let’s save that for the Fall.

Instead, let’s look at something a little lighter— Depression, and how to overcome it. COVID19 recovery period is a good time to sort through the hard times in your life and seek some resolution.

Most of my life I have struggled with depression. In my teen days it came out as insecurity, isolation, an inferiority complex. I believed I could do nothing right. People around me reminded me of that often, reinforcing my sense of fear and total uselessness among my peers.

Even during my wedding to Starr I remember standing there thinking, How could any woman in her right mind marry me?!?

As I grew into adulthood, I had some amazing successes in the things I accomplished. Finally, I admitted I was worth something, that I had something to offer the world. But throughout it all, people found fault with me. After the first presentation I ever made my supervisor challenged me— That was the best presentation I have ever heard. Where did you get it? The implication being that I was incapable of having written it myself.

On another occasion I was accused of having deep-seated insecurities because I used to much humor in communication. It could never be that I found people responded to humor and remembered the point more vividly than if I had assaulted them with their guilt. Wow!

The next 10-20 EMPulses are excerpts from a book I started writing in 2012. That was the year, according to the Mesoamerican (Mayan) Long Count Calendar that the world was supposed to end.

Drat!

So these subsequent articles come out of a life of rejection, misunderstanding, and a sense of failure.

Seriously.

Let me be up front with you and say that the analysis and solutions I will set forth are designed for a Christian mindset and heart. Still what I have to offer may be helpful to you even if you’re not a Christian. I will try to present these ideas to be helpful beyond the Christian point of view. But they will most assuredly be from a theistic reference point.

My Christian faith has buoyed me up in this struggle more than you could know.  Let’s get started.

Honour God, honour people, make a difference,
Gary

Dr. Gary Davis, President

NEXT— Over Commitment & No Commitment

everest15 Lord, who shall sojourn in your tent?
Who shall dwell on your holy hill?

who does not put out his money at interest
and does not take a bribe against the innocent.
He who does these things shall never be moved.
 (ESV)

     O Lord, who shall sojourn in your tent? Who shall dwell on your holy hill? This is the question for which we have sought an answer over the past five weeks. For this last installment considering the solutions raised in Psalm 15, I’d like to zoom in on the last phrase— He who does these things shall never be moved.

      The only other place in the Bible that this phrase is used is in 2 Peter 1:10. “For if you do these things, you will never stumble,” Is the implication in both places that we shall never sin…, again? No. Never stumble, never move, yes. For our primary focus in life is set on the mind of Christ and what He desires for our lives.

      Then again, look back over the previous solutions in both sections, Psalm 15 and 2 Peter 1-10. I do try to live up to these solutions and to put them into practice. They form a great code to live by. Do I often come to a place where I have attained this level of commitment to God? Not exactly. How about not even close.

      Two of the things I’ve always cherished about our Christian faith are (1) that the goals of pleasing God are always just beyond my reach, giving me something to aspire to. The other thing (2) is that our faith in Christ provides us with a direct access to God the Father with no prerequisites or conditions to approach Him. He is simply there for us— as a father, a friend, a deliverer, a place of safety, or rest. He is also there when we need a swift kick in the butt.

      Remember the story of the Footprints in the sand? When the traveler saw only one set of footprints Jesus explained those were the times when He carried us. In my case, and maybe in yours, that’s not the case. For me, when only one set of footprints were there, Jesus explained that they were the times when He dumped me into the surf and said Sink or swim, buddy!

      Our Christian journey is a constant warp & woof between being buoyed along in the arms of our Savior and learning to stand on our own in the struggles with the darkness that is in this world. May we have the wisdom to understand the difference and proceed with discernment…, and decisiveness.

      Never shaken, never moved.

Honour God, honour people, make a difference,

Gary
Dr. Gary Davis, President

NEXT— Disruptive Technologies & Innovation

Making the Cut-Keeping an Oath

hands-joined-pinky-finger15 Lord, who shall sojourn in your tent?
Who shall dwell on your holy hill?

in whose eyes a vile person is despised,
but who honors those who fear the Lord;
who swears to his own hurt and does not change;

      Swearing an Oath. Some years ago, my wife and I attended a wedding. during the reception, the father of the bride turned to us and said, “It doesn’t matter. We all know the words [vows] don’t mean anything anymore.”

      My wife and I were both dumbfounded and yet not surprised. We live in a twenty-first century culture where oaths, vows, and commitments are taken quite casually. Beyond this, a lie is only a lie if you are caught lying; otherwise, you merely “misspoke.” Hum!

      Even before I became a Christian, when I was more of a politically radical, Moral Therapeutic Deist, I understood that vows and oaths meant more than casual convenient commitments. To be sure, sometimes those commitments turned out to be terribly bad decisions. Thus, the inauguration of the legal profession.

      But if anyone seeks to stand in the presence of God he swears to his own hurt and does not change.

      We need to seek the counsel of the wise in our lives to lower the risk level of our far-too-often impetuous commitments. You’ve made them, I’ve made them; and we all live with the consequences, sometimes for the rest of our lives.

      So what is this call to commitment really all about? Simply put, it is about sacrifice. When we devote ourselves to a particular path it usually requires surrendering certain other obligations and allegiances. If we dedicate ourselves to God, it will require moving away from some relationships and extraneous pursuits so that we can focus on this new commitment and what it entails.

      Sacrifice and commitment go hand in hand.

      Let your yes be Yes, and your no be No. [Matt. 5:37.] Undergird it with much prayer, fasting, counsel, and a serious sense of sacrifice. There are no cutesy pinky-swears.

      Sounds simple enough. Right!

Honour God, honour people, make a difference,

Gary

Dr. Gary Davis, President

NEXT— Making the Cut:  never shaken, never moved.

Psalm 15-Slander and Evil

skull-demonic-fingers-satan-1565457-pxhere.com
15 Lord, who shall sojourn in your tent?
Who shall dwell on your holy hill?
     [He] who does not slander with his tongue
and does no evil to his neighbor,
nor takes up a reproach against his friend;
      How often does my heart turn to the dark side? To inwardly seek revenge, retribution, retaliation?!? Years after claiming Christ’s grace as my own I still seek to lord something over another, to seek my own pleasure, to gain notice for success. I, who claim to be in service of the God most high, still seek a place in the sun. How often have we spoken in a derogatory way about our fellow Christians? How often have we questioned the integrity of others just to look good ourselves?
      God forgive me. And us.
      O Lord, who shall sojourn in your tent?  Who indeed! Our world calls this slander, and there is no place for it among us. Confession is good for more than just the soul. It is good all the way ‘round.
      Our neighbors, likewise, deserve our respect and protection. When Starr and I lived in Amherst, MA, we knew all our neighbors, so did our kids. Everyone had a key to everyone else’s house; we shared a community 22’ ladder, show blowers, power washers, tillers, ropes, and garden vegetables. And there were no fences. Where we live now is all fences. Building our community takes a little more work, but we’re getting there.
      This pandemic has provided us with great opportunities to serve those around us. How could we ever do evil to those we love who live next door? Still, I understand not all neighborhoods are like ours; but we could try to make them that way.
      A reproach against a friend enforces the previous two phrases to mark the seriousness of accusing someone of a serious deed. If this happens to you, there better be an uncontestable proof that the criticism is true. If it is true, own up to your failures. If it is not, you must stand your ground and rebuke your accuser. Gently, quietly.
      Lord, who shall sojourn in your tent? Who shall dwell on your holy hill? Indeed! Certainly few. By the qualifiers set forth so far, none of us would make the cut. But thanks be to God! All has been provided for us through the sacrifice of our Lord Jesus Christ!
      Unlike every other religion in the world, our God has provided a way for us to approach Him without proving ourselves. He paid the price for our rebellion and rejection of His rule over our lives. HE is our provision at the entrance way of heaven, to be received by our Father!
      Welcome home, son. Welcome home, daughter.
Hallelujah! What a Saviour!
 
Gary
Dr. Gary Davis, President
NEXT– Making the Cut

Define Blameless, Psalm 15

large-inmate-get-out-of-jail-free-card15 Lord, who shall sojourn in your tent?
Who shall dwell on your holy hill?
He who walks blamelessly and does what is right
and speaks truth in his heart.

      Throughout history we have refined the blame-game into a glorious art-form. She did it! The devil made me do it! It’s not my fault. That’s right. Blame the other guy. He did it.

      There is, however, a way out of this insidious cycle.

  1. Walk blamelessly.
  2. Do what is right.
  3. Be honest with yourself.

Let’s look at these three solutions more in depth.

      Walk Blamelessly. Easily said; not so simply accomplished. On the surface it means we cannot enter the blame-game; on a deeper level it is a challenge to live life as morally pure. Not morally pure as possible, morally pure.  None of us can do that, even with Christ’s forgiveness. Since the first humans, our nature is to cut across God’s perimeters of protection for us and to do what we want.

      Fortunately, God has provided us a GET OUT OF JAIL FREE card through Christ’s sacrifice for our rebellion on the cross. We are forgiven.

      Do what is Right. There is a line in the Jack Ryan movie series, in Clear and Present Danger, when Harrison Ford confronts a fellow senior government official and yells, “No! It’s right or it’s wrong!” If God’s Truth has been inscribed on our hearts since Creation then every human being is accountable before Him to do what is right. We know that. Social Anthropologists aside, we know. Now let’s DO IT.

      Be honest with yourself. This is the most difficult thing to do before a Holy God. If we are honest with ourselves, we know that we deserve nothing from our Creator; no blessing, no honor, no forgiveness, certainly no heaven.

      The question has never been “How could a loving God send anyone to hell?” Quite to the contrary, “Why should a loving & just God let anyone into His heaven?” If you don’t get this then you’ve created God in your own image, instead of the other way around.

      Thankfully, there’s Jesus. In a synagogue in Nazareth, where He was raised, He read from Isaiah (ch.42)

“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives
and recovering of sight to the blind,
to set at liberty those who are oppressed,
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor…”

      This is what He has done for us. Shouldn’t we at least try to do what He asks in Psalm 15?

Walk blamelessly, do what is right, be honest with yourself,
Gary

Dr. Gary Davis, President
NEXT— Making the Cut: … slander & evil