Challenging Challenges: Regrets

regrets

  Let’s see… . What are some of the things we do, or don’t do, that we later regret?

·         Irrational fears; being afraid of something, of someone.
·         Being insecure about something.
·         Losing my cool.
·         Not going for it. The RISK Quotient.
·         Putting myself first.
·         Not offering forgiveness…, first.
·         Or…, never seeking forgiveness.
·         Never admitting wrong.
·         Living behind a façade.
·         Standing forth for what is RIGHT.
·         Sacrificing.
·         Withholding love.
·         … & many, many more.

     What are some of the regrets that you carry with you? Some cannot be resolved, but some can be resolved. What are some creative ways you might bring about a resolution of some of your regrets?

1.       If in the last 2-3 years, go to the person or group and seek forgiveness in person.

2.       On the other hand, if you were the one offended, just let it go.

3.       If you regret what you did, seek forgiveness within reason.

4.       Some regrets from your past will just have to take their place in your history. There will probably be no resolution. Again, just let it go.

     Too many of us drag painful memories along with us in case we need to call on them as weapon in some future argument. Unfortunately, this leaves little room for new life and new growth to take place in your life. It drags you into an abyss of anger and resentment.

     Neither are options for genuine followers of Christ. Seeking forgiveness is. So is offering it. The time for forgiveness for past-wrongs is well overdue. If we are the recipients of God’s FORGIVENESS & mercy shouldn’t we extend that to those who done us wrong?

     Remember this conversation between Peter and Jesus? [Matt. 18:21-22]

21 Then Peter came to Jesus and asked,
“Lord, how many times shall I forgive
my brother or sister who sins against me?
 Up to seven times?”

22 Jesus answered, 
I tell you, not seven times,
 but seventy-seven times.

     We all carry regrets with us; things we have done, things we could have done, things done to us. For all and any, Jesus’ directs us to forgive. AND forget.

Honor God, honor people, make a difference,

Gary

Dr. Gary Davis, President

NEXT— ANGER

Challenging Challenges: Genuine Commitment

We attended a wedding once where we were invited friends of the parents of the groom. After the ceremony I asked the grooms father, “Do you think they’ll make it?” to which he replied, “Well, you know, these days the words don’t mean very much.”

     To say I was a bit taken back would be an understatement. His response came just moments after the ceremony. He did not think their marriage would last; turns out he was right. Within 2 years the couple had separated.

     In these early days of the twenty first century our adherence to the commitments we make are surely glancing at marginal. Businesses are ruled by the bottom line. Treaties are honoured, sort of. Government commitments are, well, tenuous. Everyone seems to be asking the same question— What’s in it for me?

     That doesn’t sit too well with me. My wife and I are coming up on our 50th Anniversary of marriage. Neither of us have ever asked that question. It’s always been What can I do for you? How can I help you fulfill your dreams? How can I encourage you in your walk of faith?

     There is a poem in the book of Psalms that starts with the dual questions— 

O Lord, who shall sojourn in your tent?

Who shall dwell on your Holy Hill?

[Psalm 15]

The poem goes on to answer it with a slew of brilliant admonitions. There is one answer I would like to draw attention to (verse 4)—

…who swears to his own hurt and does not change.

     Basically, you stick with the commitments you’ve made through good times and bad. Too many in our society simply drop their commitments when the going gets tough. Such wimpy fortitude will destroy marriages, break partnerships, and lead to wars. People will get hurt. People will be killed. Children will be shattered and scattered. That is the way of people who do not keep their commitments.

     What’s in it for me? is the major barrier to genuine commitments. Shouldn’t we rather be asking What can I do for you?

     KEEP YOUR COMMITMENTS!

Honor God, honor people, make a difference,

Gary

Dr. Gary Davis, President

NEXT— REGRETS

Challenging Challenges- Getting in the way of Yourself

    

    Far too often we get in the way of ourselves. Whether it be a big boisterous personality, a shy reticent more introverted one, or simply a bitter demeanor, our true passion in life is overshadowed by a persona other than who we truly are.

     Ask me how I know.

     The challenge for us is to become who we genuinely are both inside and outside. Not that we wear our hearts on our sleeves, but that there is generally a match between what people see is what they get.

     Let me explain. For most of my youth I huddled alone in our basement building models of the military industrial complex of WWII. I preferred being alone. Then, during the 2nd half of my sophomore year of college, shortly following my conversion to Christianity, my personality totally flipped. I became a total flamboyant extrovert. It was weird. Most of my friends thought I had gone completely berserk.

     What I needed to learn was to allow God to sculpt me, in each phase of my life, into whatever shape and personality He needed me to be. And my clay was not that pliable.

     Now, years later, I seem to be retiring into introversion. Hummm.

     I used to teach a course titled How Your Personality Filters your Faith. Simply put, God fashions our personalities to fit His purposes for every season of our lives. Our job is to make sure we don’t get in the way of ourselves OR who our Creator is molding us to be. When Scripture says we are fearfully and wonderfully made, [Psalm 139:14] [this should have included the admittance that we do not like to be fearfully and wonderfully made without our consent.] We are a stubborn creation.

     What are some of the ways we can overcome this natural inclination to fight God’s remaking of us? How can we stop getting in the way of ourselves? Some ideas on how to do that might be—

–  Think before you respond.

–  Listen more than you talk.

–  Ask a friend how you come across. Be sure you are sitting down when they tell you.

–  Ask God about His design for you in this phase of your life.

–  STOP all the frantic running around.

–  Be still…, and know that I am God. [Psalm 46:10] Meaning, stop trying to be god.

     Remember that our Lord can honor you and make use of you in whatever your circumstances. Just the way you are. Mostly. [Although some of us need to clean out a bit of our BS.] Then again, He may choose to remake you completely. Ask me how I know.

      Christ has made all of us for a purpose. Do you know what yours is? What can you learn about it from your situation, your personality, your weaknesses, and your strengths?

“My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” [2 Corinthians 12:9]

     Just don’t back your own car over yourself when you are supposed to be going forward.

Honor God, honor people, make a difference,

Gary

Dr. Gary Davis, President

NEXT— Genuine Commitment.

Challenging Challenges: an Introduction

    

This past year has been challenging to say the least. The COVID-19 pandemic (2,740,000 deaths to date), racial inequities, police violence, the murders of George Floyd & Breonna Taylor, the insurrectionist occupation of the US Capital building, seemingly random mass killings from massage businesses to supermarkets. We have a mess. The question on the minds of many is—  

Where do we go from here?

      It’s the right question to ask. We live in a fluctuating world of spinning constants and variables. An axion that best describes our era might be constants aren’t, variables won’t. Uncertain times lie ahead. Each of us has a role to play in this grand new drama.

      Thus this new series on Challenging Challenges. This is no time for any of us to cower in the corners to wait to see what happens. We need to get involved, on whatever level we find ourselves, to make a difference.

      For a long time now we at Clueless Christianity have signed off with “Honor God. Honor People. And Make a Difference.” Now, more that ever before, this needs to be our life-song.

      Some of the challenges we will consider are—

·         Loss.

·         Anger.

·         White blindness.

·         Our own mortality.

·         What’s worth dying for?

·         Getting in the way of yourself.

·         Regrets.

·         Redefining Success.

·         Genuine commitment.

·         Fighting God.

·         An inability to trust.

·         Making our relationships count.

      … and probably more.

      Like the ancient Greek myth of Sisyphus pushing the boulder up the mountain, only to have it come rolling down again, some challenges are ever before us.

      Throughout our lives we will face issues and difficulties that we must challenge. Some will phooff away like cotton candy: others, will stand against us like hardening concrete. But they do have to be confronted, conquered, gone around, or subdued for us to create a future. For all of us.

Honor God, honor people, make a difference,

Gary

Dr. Gary Davis, President

NEXT— Getting in the way of yourself.

After There’s Nothing Left: Final Thoughts

The words of the Teacher,[a] son of David, king in Jerusalem:

“Meaningless! Meaningless!”
    says the Teacher.
“Utterly meaningless!
    Everything is meaningless.”
All things are wearisome,
    more than one can say.
The eye never has enough of seeing,
    nor the ear its fill of hearing.
What has been will be again,
    what has been done will be done again;
    there is nothing new under the sun.

                                                Ecclesiastes 1

      These words of the Psalmist might best sum up our discussion on depression over these past seven months. It’s all been said…, and it will be said again. This was just my offering on our human condition and why so many of us seem so constantly defeated in life. It doesn’t have to be that way.

      There is always a way out. God has promised us that [1 Cor. 10:13]. Yet few of us seem to want this way out of our depression. We would rather wallow in its ensnarement and miss out on the joys of Christ in life.

      I will never understand that.

      If you are ever to recover your soul, if you are ever to recover that full sense of living again in the open sunlight instead of stealing back onto the shadows of your soul, you must attack the cause of your depression head-on. Don’t get me wrong. Gathering the strength to do this is no simple matter. You will need a person of safety, a soulmate with whom you can share your life safely. You will need a place of safety where you can escape, rest, and ponder. You will need people gathering around you who love and care about you. You cannot be in this alone. Above all you will need God’s help to get through the process. Again, you are not in this alone.

      Depression is a tool of our adversary to defeat us. Whether it be a chemical imbalance of a lingering response to a terrible experience depression will slowly eat away at your soul until it destroys you. Do not give in to it. FIGHT!

      We are all made to enjoy this world, defeat its enemies, and to rise victorious with our Lord Jesus Christ. Never doubt that this is God’s design for us, for you. Now…, go for it!

         24 Now to him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you blameless before the presence of his glory with great joy, 25 to the only God, our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion, and authority, before all time[a] and now and forever. Amen.

~ Jude

Honor God, honor people, make a difference,
Gary
Dr. Gary Davis, President

NEXT— to be announced… maybe.

After There’s Nothing Left: The Reality of Depression

 Sadly, for too many of us, depression is a way of life. Earlier in our marriage there was a time when my wife and I had lost a baby in her only pregnancy. On top of that I had just been fired from a job I loved; all within the same month. To say we were in the grips of depression would be a definitive understatement.

      To deal with such deep loss I turned to a long-time friend for counsel. After numerous talks he opened the DSM-3 (now 5) that listed the Criteria for Clinical Depression.

  1. Depressed mood most of the day, nearly every day.
  2. Markedly diminished interest or pleasure in all, or almost all, activities most of the day, nearly every day.
  3. Significant weight loss when not dieting or weight gain, or decrease or increase in appetite nearly every day.
  4. A slowing down of thought and a reduction of physical movement (observable by others, not merely subjective feelings of restlessness or being slowed down).
  5. Fatigue or loss of energy nearly every day.
  6. Feelings of worthlessness or excessive or inappropriate guilt nearly every day.
  7. Diminished ability to think or concentrate, or indecisiveness, nearly every day.
  8. Recurrent thoughts of death, recurrent suicidal ideation without a specific plan, or a suicide attempt or a specific plan for committing suicide.

https://www.psycom.net/depression-definition-dsm-5-diagnostic-criteria/ ]

      To be diagnosed as suffering from genuine depression an individual had to exhibit 3 of these symptoms for at least two weeks. At one point in my life I had five. To some degree I have suffered with this depression ever since.

      Over the years I have learned to cope through worship, prayer, confession, counseling, and a couple good friends. There is no replacement for any of these.

      In a quite literal sense, I’ve recovered my soul. I’ve become more of a person because I’ve faced myself, admitted who I truly was, and became a new me. But I could not have done it without the spirit of Christ rescuing me from myself. I believe I am becoming more of the person Christ has created me to be.

      Medication is great. Don’t thumb your nose at it. Still, if you want to recover your soul as you work through your depression, no matter how severe or mild, you will need to reconnect with yourself, and your God, at a deeper level. There are no easy paths to recovery or normalcy; a therapist can help a great deal— but the burden of the resolutions will rest on you…, and God.

Honor God, honor people, make a difference,
Gary

Dr. Gary Davis, President

NEXT— final thoughts— 30.

After There’s Nothing Left: Regrouping

 It is a terrible thing to lose track of your soul, to lose track of who you are at the very core of your being. In a very real sense, we can lose track of ourselves. We become missing persons still in place.

            Before we launch into our misplaced-persons report something obvious must be brought to the surface. There are some individuals who never think like this: they never think about their souls; they never think about being in limbo, about who they are as individuals, or about what it means to be whole. They just put one foot in front of the other and press on. Are you this kind of a person? I hope not. At least not so after reading this series on depression. If you are not one of these individuals, please do not be judgmental of those who are; they are living their lives the best they know how. They may not even be conscious that they have a soul. Their lives have been lived on the surface for so long that there is little to no depth to them.

A number of years ago I talked with a young profession about his soul. My shock came when I realized that there was no one at home. He had lived a life of deception for so long that there was literally no inner depth or development whatsoever. This was quite a devastating realization for me. I hope, pray, that somewhere in these ensuing years he has uncovered some of his own inner world.

But many, sadly, have no clue.

Pressing on…, here are some of my ideas on WHY we misplace ourselves and lose track of our souls.

  1. We either set NO goals or have messed up goals. If money is your goal, you may or may not acquire it. But if it overshadows your sense of personal being, or of cultivating some inner character, it will eventually eat you alive.

You may wind up with a lot of money, but little else. Is that worth it.

  1. We compromise our integrity and thus desecrate our human dignity. We may value our own life and possessions, but those around us become mere fodder, waste-products to be squandered and discarded. It’s all about me.
  2. We deny that we have a spiritual dimension to our lives and reject the existence of any divine being who might have authority or due claim over us. This is naïve at best and ridiculous at worst. How can we deny the postulations of 10,000 – 600,000 years of human history wherein people knew there must be a God who created all this and has dominion over it?!? Oh, I forgot, we’re “modern, or “postChristian” and do not need these myths to govern our lives. Really! Arrogant. Naïve?
  3. We are afraid to face ourselves. We are afraid to admit that we might be wrong about some things. Like young Narcissus in Greek mythology, we discover our reflection in a pool of water and worship it. This is our narcissistic inclination to cast godhood on ourselves. We cannot be wrong. In the extreme, some people cannot be wrong about anything. This is a major blemish on our souls, painting them with a façade of perfection which only our Creator can impart. Look in the mirror and see yourself for who you truly are. Now, if you don’t like what you see… . What are you going to do about it?

Maybe it’s time we reflect on who we are, who we are becoming, and on our failures in life, it might be helpful to remember King David’s words at the end of Psalm 139—

23 Search me, O God, and know my heart!
Try me and know my thoughts,
24 And see if there be any grievous way in me,
and lead me in the way everlasting!

Honor God, honor people, make a difference,
Gary
Dr. Gary Davis, President

NEXT— The Reality of Depression.

After There’s Nothing Left: Soul Love

    Soul love is something both hard to define and something craved by every human being on this planet. It is the total love of one for the other; unrequited and free, without qualification or limit.

     Very few of us have experienced this kind of love. Stories and fables speak of it— Ruth & Naomi, Cupid & Psyche, Romeo & Juliet, Dr. Yury Zhivago & Lara. Young teens suppose they have found it. Newlyweds know they have. But what is it, really?

      Soul love is an unanswered love, one given expecting nothing in return. Many relationships fail because of “expectations” placed on the other to perform, to return an expected love demanded by the one giving love. This is not soul love. It is a business contract. A deal. A love not based on the emptying of ones-self, but of requiring recompense. Genuine soul love expects nothing in return. It loves with impunity, with no thought of compensation.

            Though most of us have been loved by another by at least one person in our loves, I have known only two soul loves, soul mates. One is my wife Starr, for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish, till death do us part, according to God’s holy ordinance; and thereto I pledge thee my faith.” Except for the death do us part part, we have weathered & faced many storms; probably more to follow; but we will face them together as soulmates.

      The other soulmate in my life has been with me longer than Starr. Since my sophomore year of college, in March as I recall, I have lived with someone who has never left me, who has loved me no matter how I have treated him. Someone who has never changed even though I have floundered and risen to fame numerous times. And, yes, you have guessed it— it is the God who created me, Jesus Christ.

      It is an odd thing to know you have a daily, ongoing, safe relationship with the God of the Universe. But I am not unique; there are others around us who have this relationship. This relationship provides me with the richest of soul loves. And it makes loving other people as simple as having a cup of coffee, or tea.

Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.

                                ~ Matthew 11:28 ESV

      In your life, may you find as great a source of soul-love as I have found in mine.

Honor God, honor people, make a difference,
Gary
Dr. Gary Davis, President

NEXT— After There’s Nothing Left— sources of soul love.

After There’s Nothing Left: Soulfood – Learning silence

     Many people will eat whatever is set before them; I’m too picky. Thus has a mindless obesity taken over our land. The same seems true for many followers of Christ. They eat whatever soul-food is set before them, with little thought for its quality, character, or value. They suck it down, often devoid of spiritual, Biblical nutrients, and then wonder why their lives are in a constant state of depression and dissipation. Biblical Junk-Food. Faith-Fluff.

      What my soul needs is the kind of food that rebuilds strength, balances the needs of the many with the fulfillment of Christ’s resolve for the rest of my life. I am a persnickety eater. I hardly remember ever dining on Christian mush or platitudinous slop. Nor do I find spiritual food to be equated to intellectual erudition. Feeding the mind, my mind, is not equal to feeding the soul, my soul.

      My soul is fed as I remain still & silent before God. My soul is fed in those serendipitous moments when I happen upon those magical-works-of-God in process (phrase intentional) and find that I was already integrated into them all along. My soul is fed when I make a difference in another person’s life, male or female, old or young, Christian or otherwise.

      Three resources for my SOUL FOOD at present come from three unlikely sources— first, from the books I write— Clueless ChristianityEMPulsive ThoughtsWhen there’s Nothing LeftThe Whiskey Chronicles. They tear at my own soul and drive me to Christ. (If you’ve ever tried to write anything, you understand.) And second, through a fairly obscure man of God in Colorado Springs— Josh Lindstrom, one of the pastors of Woodman Valley Chapel. And he doesn’t even know it; he doesn’t need to. But he has fed my spirit more than anyone over these past 3½ years.

      Third, when we lived in Massachusetts, a man half my age entered my life— Bill Hodgeman, the new pastor (since 2015) at The College Church in Northampton, MA. He has been there just over 6 years so far. He has a grasp of Scripture and culture like few men I have met in my travels. He is a surprise gift of God to me.

      So I ride this underlying current rummaging around for more kinds of soul food I have yet to identify. Here is what I am finding so far—

  1. Seeking Silence opens a window for surprise treats from the Lord. I am not particularly looking for anything; but tasty morsels of His majesty suddenly fall into my mouth and I am full of His presence once more. Yum!
  2. My Emotions become more open to God as I worship Him. This is not a “renewing of your minds…. It a releasing of my spirit into His Spirit which clears the way for Him to feed me once again. The odd thing is that I am worshiping Him…, yet I am the one who is being fed.
  3. Prayer is a form of soul food for me. It is the time when I am the most vulnerable before God. It has become a time when my ongoing conversation with the Lord gets down and dirty, mixing praise with pleading, confession with deeper commitments, and an openness between the Father and me that is dangerously transparent— for me. It is a frightening thing to be an open book before God.
  4. People are another source of food for me. No, not eating them, but listening for God’s voice in them through our conversations and interactions. I can never forget the time I heard God speaking to me, feeding my soul, through a someone whom I was supposed to be counseling. Totally not what I expected. God is full of surprises… .
  5. The writings of certain authors are also soul food for me. The works of Alan Loy McGinnis, Henri Nouwen, David Rupert, C. S. Lewis, Herman Dooyeweerd, Leonard Sweet, and Michael Frost & Alan Hirsch also feed my soul. But these are mere starting points providing spiritual energy for the journey ahead. They provide meat as my sustenance; but I still need dessert.
  6. This is where I relish God’s provision of soul food— in the dessertFor me, this involves spending time with my friends who do not know Christ as their God. God invigorates my soul within through the banter, the congenial or combative conversation on the surface that draws any one of them closer to understanding and accepting the life God the Father is offering them through His Son Jesus Christ. For me, evangelism is not an endeavor, a chore, an obligation of the Christian life, it is food for my soul. Probably, it is the primary reason I enjoy the company of healthy (or not-so healthy) “normal people” so much. They renew my soul and strengthen Christ’s Spirit within me; and my prayers gain more of an eternal context, rather than merely daily problem solving. And, since God is the author of salvation I simply have to show up and enjoy what He is doing!

      So what feeds your soul? Do you know? Do you know where to find it again? You need to know where your sustenance will come from in those times of spiritual leanness, when you’ve lost some spiritual depth and context. You know the times— you just can’t seem to find your way around in your faith anymore. And, if I might suggest, (my mother would kill me) start with dessert. It just tastes better and enhances your appetite for the meat (vegetarians forgive me) of your spiritual appetite.

Honor God, honor people, & learn to be quiet,

Gary

Dr. Gary Davis, President

NEXT— After There’s Nothing Left— soul love.

After There’s Nothing Left: Silence

      What is the point in talking (writing) about soul silence? Isn’t the point to do the opposite— to simply stop talking, writing, doing! To STOP! And to be open to listen to what the Lord God of the universe has to say to you.

Our lives are constantly filled with noise; not just planes and trains and automobiles, but interruptions to our every waking moment. Staying connected to our cell phones, tablets, smart-watches, laptops, Switch, PlayStations…, and the all commanding Internet, has become the bane of the human spirit. We’re always “on,” always connected to noise and the draw of the electronic marketplace. We need things that 10 minutes ago we had never heard of, let alone wanted. We just WANT.

Many of us have fallen into the habit of constantly asking God for things; healing, resolution, forgiveness, mediation, financial security, individual guidance, etc. Sometimes I fall prey to this marketplace approach to God myself. I am not proud of it. Too often am I caught up in this world of things. My soul needs to be silent before God to listen, to hear what HE has to say, to me, individually, alongside what He has already revealed to us in Scripture. There is a great depth of meaning to be considered in “Be still, and know that I am God. [Psalm 46:10]. I am as driven to accomplish as many things as the next guy. But I must force myself, my soul, to be silent. In silence I learn: in busyness I get things done, but I do not renew my soul. Thus—soul silence.

I truly need a spiritual retreat. ASAP. I need to spend significant time alone with God. My brain (and my mouth) is always running. One of the hardest things I do every day is to fall asleep at night. I cannot “shut-off.” Sure, I keep a stack of 3×5 cards and a lite-pen next to my bed; just in case I have an idea that calls me from a deep sleep at 3:00 a.m. But then it is difficult to get back to sleep again.

If I cannot even shut down my brain at night how am I ever going to be able gain enough fortitude and composure to be silent before God?

Soul Silence is something, at least for me, that must become a goal, a concerted effort to come apart from all that calls me to responsibility and productivity (ok, and frivolity) and to calm my soul before the Lord God Creator. I am not a quiet person by nature. My wife, Starr, says I am too BIG. In public settings she often will squeeze her two fingers in a secret sign between us, meaning, “Be smaller.” Hummmm. For her, being silent before God is a way of life; for me, not so much. I worship God through music, blasting praise as loud as society will allow me without getting arrested. I worship BIG, like the rest of me.

So I am learning to be still and know that I am God alongside many others, maybe you. Kudos to those who are already there. For me, silence is work.

Honor God, honor people, & be quiet,

Gary

Dr. Gary Davis, President

NEXT— After There’s Nothing Left—Learning Silence