After There’s Nothing Left: On a Personal Note – Soul Reflection.

tumblr_mulyawTZb31sieg5zo1_500    When my soul comes to rest, as it must, it must take time to reflect on itself. Self-examination, cross-checking purposes, strengths, weaknesses, areas of temptation, and, of course, its own weariness. For some people this is something that must start in isolation, alone in a study or private place. My heart and mind are too prone to wander. I’m different; my soul reflection, at least some of it, must be done in intercourse and dialog with someone else. He/she must be a person of safety, of integrity, and of gentle truth. Not someone who will reply to my revelations— You’re a jerk. Rather, Well, that IS an unusual perspective. You get the drift.

      Identifying such a person, who has trudged through the mud of life, who has a number of arrows in his back, and one who has that humble wisdom which only comes from forgiving and being forgiven, is hard to find. Thus— I search for a comrade-in-arms who will bounce my soul off myself with gentle reflection and forthrightness.

      One such person comes to mind is David H. We have been friends, Christian brothers, fellow journeymen, and comrades-in-arms for the past 50+ years. We first met 1964, when he had just returned from a cross cultural mission. I was the measly cook at a Retreat House along the banks of the Hudson River. It was about 3:00 in the morning when we ran into one another wandering the House, each of us pondering quite different issues. David, wondering what had happened in American culture in the time he had been in Columbia: I was struggling with the way God seemed to be directing me in life. We stayed up late, each disclosing our struggles, one to another, for reflection and feedback. This formed what became a life-long bonding between us.

      Throughout our subsequent journey we kept a low profile together, imparting concerns about culture, family, and personal struggles, for the rest of our lives, to this day. I don’t see Dave as much as I used to. I miss him. Time to get together again, I believe.

      Another more recent friend is Laurie B. He is Canadian; and I LOVE Canada! Eh! After three years of being encouraged to meet, Laurie and I finally got together when I was an instructor at the eXcel Leadership Training Course for The Salvation Army. We hit it off immediately. Common interests, similar approaches to life, even wives who were a lot alike. As with Dave, Laurie and I had similar issues with our children and our admitted cluelessness on how to proceed in some areas. He and I shared deeply about our personal struggles, our sense of “getting up there,” age-wise.

      I must also bring into my entourage of Soul Reflectors one Julie E.M. Julie entered our lives when she was just ten or eleven years old. Things had not been good with her older sister; Julie sought a solace and perspective from Starr, my wife, and me. She spent a great deal of time in our home from the time she was eleven through Middle School, High School, and even during her college years. When her doctoral work took her to Madrid and Seville, we had to communicate across the Atlantic. Our relationship wasn’t always that smooth either; she vanished off the face of the earth for a good five years. But when she resurfaced she was full of life and yearning to get back in touch. Our friendship has now lasted 40+ years. So far.

      Soul Reflection requires mirrors like these people. These are three of my most important reflectors. But I would be quite amiss if I would omit from this list my wife Starr. Far and away, she is the closest, most perceptive, unapologetically honest reflector I possess. She knows me completely! At first, being known that thoroughly, that intimately was scary; now it is a place of safety. In our marriage, at least, we reveal ourselves to one another completely: no hidden areas, no concealed lives, no secrets. Except professionally; we maintain a shield of confidentially about those we counsel. Everything else is out in the open. EVERYTHING. We have weekly (and daily) check-ins, of course, but more often than not, we simply sense what is going on in the other person, set aside our life’s agenda, and ask, Is there something you want to talk about? Is something troubling you? The two of us have become one, in love, and in spirit. Thank God for Soul-Bonding! [She is still the most dangerous woman I know.]

      Taking time for soul reflection is never wasted. It serves as a periodic check-in with who you are. If you do it with trusted confidants, like I do, make sure they ARE trusted confidants. And NEVER keep anything from your wife, husband, or that person in your life with whom you are completely safe.

Honor God, honor people, make a difference,

Gary

Dr. Gary Davis, President

NEXT— After There’s Nothing Left— Grappling with Regrets- part 7  

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- 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

what’s happened to us? fear of engaging

gambar-1-27      Fear of engaging. Maybe it goes back to some fear in our childhood? Or to the Silent Generation, who could barely say anything after witnessing the horrors of the Second World War.

      One of the reasons our evangelical world first developed four-point gospel outlines (1949) was literally to put words into the mouths of those who could barely speak, or just simply didn’t want to talk anymore. It was truly a silent time in our land. [Coincidentally, the phrase daily quiet time also emerged at this time.] Or our silence could have been a result of the McCarthy investigations into possible Communist sympathizers. This laid the groundwork for the Cold War of the 50s–60s.

      Today, in 2020, Christians in the West still have difficulty, if not blatant fear, of engaging the world around us. We might not know what to say. We might not know the answers to their questions. We don’t know how to lead them to Christ. Worse yet, we may not know even one normal person (read non-Christian) to engage. We just have no point of contact with normal people in a religious way.

      So we unconsciously huddle within our Christian cultures fearing any significant contact with the World. We are afraid of being tainted, tempted, or taunted. But we do not find any of this in the New Testament.

      Instead, we find Jesus’ disciples transformed by the renewing of the Holy Spirit, bold to declare His deity and saving grace in the face of severe opposition, even unto death.

      What’s happened to us? Too many of the Christians I know are clueless when is comes to engaging anyone with the gospel of Christ. We steer clear of those conversations at all costs. Allow me to offer five ideas on how you can follow our Lord into people’s lives.

  1. Relax. Let the Spirit open doors for His witness. No need to tense up.
  2. Remember God is in control. You do not have to be. Nor do you have to get thru some pre-scribed gospel outline. Respond naturally using your heart and your mind.
  3. Place yourself in the midst where normal people gather. This may take some creativity while we’re in this COVID19 self-isolation period.
  4. Fall in love with people. The command to love hasn’t seemed to sink in. I find more meaning if we connect with people as if we’re in love with them, looking forward to our next meeting.
  5. Give God some room to work. Our job is to show up, be there, and love creatively.

      Our God is so full of surprises. Enjoy yourself and watch Him work.

Honor God, honor people…, make a difference.
Gary

Dr. Gary Davis, President

What’s Happening to Us? Time Alone

861750526_640x360  In this technological age, very few of us get the time alone we need. We neglect relationships and people in favor of time online with media, games, shopping, researching, reading, learning, and plain ol’ WEB-trolling. If things at home are difficult, we tend to immerse ourselves in work: if things at work are unpleasant, we run late, or are sick a lot. We fill our lives with entertainment and escape to avoid the harsh realities in which we move.

     With our present Coronavirus, Covid19 Pandemic our local, state, and federal governments are intentionally enforcing time alone. While a cure is being sought, we have switched to a defensive posture of confinement to curb the spread of this widespread disease.

     The Influenza Pandemic of 1918 – 1919 killed between 20-40 million lives worldwide. In America more than 675,000 died. This present coronavirus is ten times as lethal as the influenza of 100 years ago. Our present options are middling at best— isolate…, and wait for a breakthrough.

     So, what are we to do with all this alone-time forced upon us? Here are some options—

  1. Stay healthy! Eat healthy foods. Maintain some balance of exercise and rest. 10 minutes a day.
  2. Get to know yourself again. What are the really important issues you need to think about? Journal?
  3. Get to know your family again. Board games. Seriously.
  4. Serve others. Care for people who can’t or won’t go out.
  5. Be an Encourager. Pray over the phone with people. Send e-cards, bad jokes, emojis.
  6. Do not hoard. This is crazy people. Instead, share your resources. Especially toilet paper.
  7. We are all going to have to trust in God more…, even atheists. Ultimately, He is the one in control.
  8. Use wisdom and caution in all you do.
  9. Gather in small groups. Food. Movies in. Worship.
  10. Don’t forget to take care of yourself. Our God is full of surprises… .

     For some of us, time alone is the norm. For others, not so much. We are all experiencing this COVID19 pandemic differently. Many lives will be lost. Maybe even yours. Get your affairs in order and your relationship with God in a safe, forgiven, restored place.

     These are the times when genuine followers of Christ can make a great difference in peoples’ lives.

     One final thought— think of giving the gift of toilet paper to your friends & neighbors.

Honor God, honor people…, make a difference.
Gary

Dr. Gary Davis, President

NEXT— What’s happened to us?  Fear of engaging

What’s happening to us?

paradigm-shift2

     If you haven’t noticed, the Western world is in the midst of another paradigm shift. This time from a modern, scientifically verifiable facts, to a  postmodernpostChristian view of reality that is not related to facts or history or consents to “Ultimate Truth.” They say there is no such thing. How can they know that?

     Of course, I truly hope the people who designed this 737, and those that built it, were not so inclined but adhered to the laws of physics and flight…, especially the landing part.

     Most of us live in a world that relies on the dependability of continuous change; that is, new things are usually predicated on earlier ideas or inventions. But in a paradigm shift we experience an occurrence of discontinuous change. The NEW things are not connected to the past in any way. The automobile had as much to do with horse transportation as our smart phones have to do with landlines.

     The expressions of the Christian faith are going through a time of discontinuous change in our society. Although we hear many Christians cry for the old-ways of the liturgical calendar and liturgical worship, the fact remains that the format of faith constructed in the 400s or 1700s is not designed to face the assaults of this postChristian sensibility in which we life.

     Still, other Christians today, decry the loss of our “old-time religion.” They tell us that today’s contemporary worship service, with its culturally affinitive music and come-as-you-are mentality is nearing its end. Really?!? Oddly, Paul in his missionary journeys never considered NOT adapting his style or methodology to each new situation. Read Acts! Read Paul’s Letters! Nor did the earliest missionaries to the Far East, or to the Vikings.

     The Christian message should always couched in the idioms and formats of the host culture. When we try to import 17th century European Christianity to other cultures if always backfires. And that includes the postmodern/postChristian landscape in which we find ourselves today.

     There was nothing particularly sacred about the 100s–400s. Although a lot of Christian beliefs and practices were established in that period. Nor was there anything sacred about the 17th century. Why do we constantly try to return to their expressions of faith as if they had something we do not!?!

     We have the privilege of formulating new, multifaceted expressions of our faith for this time, our peoples, and for a world more closely woven together. Let’s get at it!

Honor God, honor people…, make a difference,
Gary

Dr. Gary Davis, President

NEXT disruptions & tenacity—  pass on, not out.

tenacity & disruptions – pass it on

Passing-e1470776100537   You therefore, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus. The things which you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses, entrust these to faithful men who will be able to teach others also. Suffer hardship with me, as a good soldier of Christ Jesus. No soldier in active service entangles himself in the affairs of everyday life, so that he may please the one who enlisted him as a soldier. Also if anyone competes as an athlete, he does not win the prize unless he competes according to the rules. The hard-working farmer ought to be the first to receive his share of the crops. Consider what I say, for the Lord will give you understanding in everything. 2 Timothy 2. [NASV]

     Let’s move on to reflect on the ideas in verse 2. For one, Paul had a sense that it was his responsibility to pass on to Timothy what the Lord had taught him. Probably out of love for the boy (a young man in that culture) But also out of a sense that the message of Christ needs a community context. For we are called to learn from our Lord, through Scripture, about the ultimate realities of this universe and our role in how they play out. And we are called to make a difference, to entrust what we learn to faithful men who will be able to teach others.

     This process is a selective one. Sadly, it implies that we are not to waste our time with people who do not want to learn; nor do they want to pass on what they’ve learned to others, let alone others who can teach.

     You’ve met them, so have I. They just want more with no intent or plan to pass it on. I presented a series of lectures on Christianity & Culture at Columbia University in NYC some years ago. When I finished they were eager to have me return so they could hear more. I said no. Why? They hadn’t utilized anything of what I’d already taught them to make any difference in their surrounding university.

     It’s great to have friends! I love the ones who put up with me. J But I want to invest in people who will take what I have taught them, ponder it, and put it to good use.

     My ever faithful Problem Solver, Melanie Lamere, left a note on my desk reminding me that my legacy was the changed lives I had left behind me all over the world. “Forget your books and writings. It’s the people you’ve left in your wake who will make a greater difference after you’re dead and gone. Get over it.”

     So…, are you making a difference for Christ in this world? How? What are you passing on? What are you leaving behind?

Honor God, honor people…, pass it on,
Gary

Dr. Gary Davis, President
NEXT disruptions & tenacity—  suffer hardship

Tenacity & Disruptions

disruption_680  For some time now, since the mid-1800s, I’ve been immersed in the letters of Paul to Timothy; especially 2 Timothy. Ergo, we are going to enter into a series of considerations on 2 Timothy 2. I’ve titled this series Tenacity & Disruptions, for, as you know, we are often interrupted in our Christian journey by things that draw us away from our focus and our faith. So…, let’s get started.

     You therefore, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus. The things which you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses, entrust these to faithful men who will be able to teach others also. Suffer hardship with me, as a good soldier of Christ Jesus. No soldier in active service entangles himself in the affairs of everyday life, so that he may please the one who enlisted him as a soldier. Also if anyone competes as an athlete, he does not win the prize unless he competes according to the rules. The hard-working farmer ought to be the first to receive his share of the crops. Consider what I say, for the Lord will give you understanding in everything. [NASV]

     So, let’s get started. You therefore, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus. It should be obvious that there is a prior relationship between the writer, Paul, and Timothy. It is a close one too. Son, Paul calls him. The first thing Paul directs him to do is be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus. Why? There are so many disruptions in the Christian journey that Timothy, like us, needed to be reminded to be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus.

     Our tendency is to be strong in our own strength. One of the banes of our lives is that we are quite capable of getting things done on our own with little to no dependency on our Lord. We are perfectly able of operating on our own without any reliance on the grace God has provided. I, for one, am most prone to this weakness. If there’s one thing I don’t like about the Christian life, it is having to have faith.

     What about you? Is it difficult for you to find your strength in our Lord’s grace? Or are you quite capable? Is it possible you can handle everything in your world because you haven’t put yourself in a position where the only thing left for you is to rely on His grace?

     Too many of us don’t trust God with the BIG stuff in life. We’ve become calculating Christians, where we’ve counted the cost so many times that we miss opportunities to join God’s miracles of grace in everyday life. Try stepping out in faith a little more over the next few days. You’ll be amazed at how our Lord will surprise you as you live in His grace. Tenacity, remember?

Happy New Year!

Honor God, honor people…, make a difference,
Gary

Dr. Gary Davis, President
NEXT disruptions & tenacity—  pass on, not out.

Untenable

ropeun·ten·a·ble  /ˌənˈtenəb(ə)l/  adjective
1. (especially of a position or view) not able to be maintained or defended against attack or objection: “this argument is clearly untenable”     – Oxford Dictionaries
     Over these past few weeks I have been reading and listening to lectures by Peter Boghossian, author of How to Have Impossible Conversations [DaCapo 2019]. Dr. Boghossian is a professor at Portland State University who argues that we are done with Culture Wars 1.0. We are now entangled in Culture Wars 2.0.
 “The rules of engagement relate to how we deal with our disagreements. In Culture Wars 1.0, if an evolutionary biologist gave a public lecture about the age of the Earth based on geological dating techniques, creationist detractors would issue a response, insist that such dating techniques are biased, challenge him to a debate, and ask pointed-if unfairly loaded-questions during the Q&A session.
“In Culture War 2.0, disagreements with a speaker are sometimes met with attempts at de-platforming: rowdy campaigns for the invitation to be rescinded before the speech can be delivered. If this is unsuccessful, critics may resort to disrupting the speaker by screaming and shouting, engaging noise makers, pulling the fire alarm, or ripping out the speaker wires. The goal is not to counter the speaker with better arguments or even to insist on an alternative view, but to prevent the speaker from airing her views at all.” https://americanmind.org/essays/welcome-to-culture-war-2-0/
     This shift to Culture Wars 2.0 is a new playing field for the Christian. We will not even be allowed a platform to offer our values. We will be shouted down. So where does this leave us in the marketplace of ideas and the public forum? Trying to present a meta-narrative about ultimate destinies and Truth has been eliminated from the discussion. There is no discussion.
     So, now what?!?
     Francis of Assisi (1182-1226) once said
No brother should preach contrary to the form and regulations of the holy Church nor unless he has been permitted by his minister. All the Friars should preach by their deeds. This eventually was condensed to Preach the gospel at all times, when necessary use words. Though it is impossible to proclaim the gospel without words the point is well taken.
     Like our Lord Jesus, our actions must supersede our explanations. Offering the love of Christ may often lead to the question Why are you doing this? Sometimes I explain my faith; sometimes I simply reply, because it is right.
     We have entered a new phase in the battle for the hearts of men. When we are informed in advance that we will not be allowed to speak. We are not there yet, but it is coming.

Honor God, honor people…, make a difference,
Gary

NEXT ungrateful at Thanksgiving

Of Cubes & Chaos: Paradigm Positioning

authograph-world-map-projection-4

    Ever see a map of the world that looks like this one? Probably not. This is one of the 2D maps that keeps the positions of the continents in correct proportion.

    Unlike the Mercator map (see below) which keeps the longitude and latitude parallels in line & makes Greenland look pretty much like the biggest continent on the face of the planet, whereas the AuthaGraph map is concerned with representing the continents in proper proportion to one another.

    This is a major shift in how we image, or imagine our planet to appear in a 2D format. It requires us to think differently.map 2

    For many of us this amounts to a new way of perceiving. It forces us to consider a new paradigm of the placing of the continents.

    The same kind of paradigm positioning is now thrust upon the Church of Jesus Christ. The Church has known for quite some time that she is no longer a dominant force in the world in a political sense. But she still holds the power of God to change cultures and individual lives. We need to learn a new way of intermingling that is in keeping with the new paradigms of our changing cultural attitudes to our faith.

    We need to position ourselves within a new way of perceiving, and of being perceived, in our rapidly changing world. ALL Christian witness is predicated on the following factors: Scripture, culture, personality, relationships, and the power of God at work in us, individually, and globally. Over the centuries, the Church has grown more organizationally than spiritually: as such, it has become more concerned with quantifiable control than empowered presence. This is an imbalance and must be adjusted.

    But how?!?  Might I suggest that we start by losing our fear and judgmentalism and learn to love our healthy pagan neighbors as themselves— the way Jesus loved people. His love was full of compassion, passion, patience, truth and grace. Should our love be any less than that?

    That’s right, even the way we love people has to change. Paradigm positioning is real.

NEXT— Paradigm Positioning 2…