After There’s Nothing Left: This Gets Personal

There is a line from Shakespeare that reads “How do I love thee…, let me count the ways.” In an oddly related way, this is how I often think when I ponder my own sin(s). Here is a list of some of the areas where I have struggled.

  1. A Need for Significance. For me, this has not been as much a need to control, to be in charge, as a need to make a difference. To be sure, nothing is wrong with this. Nonetheless, when it becomes a compulsion it ceases to be a gift to enjoy and is degraded to a self-promotional lust for influence.
  2. A Desire to have the Best. Have I mentioned I like Volvos? A well equipped XC60 with heated-massaging seats and all the goodies to bathe you in luxury. Then there are well made watches— Patek Philippe, Breitling. True representations of God’s handiwork in creation. Or, so I tell myself.
  3. A Sense of Self-Worth. Too often has the value of myself come from what I’ve done and the things I possess. But accomplishments and possessions weigh in very lightly in the grand scheme of the universe. My self-worth is turning out to be what I pass on to others.
  4. Aloneness. Throughout my life I have been in leadership positions. I have become self-sufficient in many ways. Although, in recent years, I find myself surrounded by a host of people to whom I can delegate much of the responsibilities of leadership. Nonetheless, I find myself feeling terribly alone far too often. It is not the case; I know that. My aloneness is an irrational feeling of isolation which leaves me in a state of despondency and depression. It is a struggle.
  5. Sexual fantasy. In a sense, I’ve told you nothing. What man does not struggle with this!?! For many this can be the same as drug addiction, or alcoholism. That was what it was like for me for many years. Now, not so much. But remember, I am a man just past 75 (stop laughing). If you are reading this in your 20s or 30s, it is still, probably, a very strong siren yowling in your heart and head. Do not let it take over your very being. Its cost…, could be your future.

      These things drain my soul. There will be similar things in your life that will drain your soul. So when you find yourself drowning in self-pity and depression, you should probably do a lot of soul searching. But you may also throw guilt on yourself as a way of understanding your failure. In reality you may or may not be guilty.

      Remember, our Lord is overflowing with compassion and forgiveness. He only calls to us to turn to him… and ask.

Honor God, honor people, make a difference,

Gary

Dr. Gary Davis, President

NEXT— After There’s Nothing Left— what forges forgiveness?

Things that keep me from fulfilling God’s design.

Continuing, there are a number of things that are at war within my soul to prevent me from fulfilling God’s design for my life. Maybe you have some of the same.

  1. Doubts. The Christian faith is, well, exactly that— faith. As a former philosophy major I know full well that there are a number of things in our experience that cannot be verified. Faith is one of them. So also are love, history, time & space, and an after-life. To be sure there is evidence for their existence, but no empirically verifiable proof. Thus, I could be wrong about this whole God thing. But I do not believe so.

      I have come to realize that empirically the most anyone can hope for is certitude, not certainty. Even in the sciences there is more faith than we might imagine. Get used to it. The more we examine a thing the more we influence its behavior. And this raises the level of doubt we have about the accuracy of our findings. My faith truly is faith. So at times I fall into a sea of uncertainty and doubt. Is this all real? I hope so; truly, I hope so.

  1. Fear. Flowing out of Doubt is Fear. Intensive doubt leads to fear. Irrational fear, in my case. As I have written these pages I have faced fear as I have not known before. Not of any specific thing, just fear. For many others, their whole lives are gripped by fear! They live nary a moment absent of genuine, all-consuming fear. Fear of going outside. Fear of groups. Fear of driving on a freeway. Fear of others. Fear of being known. Fear of failure. Fear of being wrong. Fear of never being good enough. Fear blinds people of seeing what it is God has for them. It binds them in boxes too small for God’s plan for them. So they settle into those boxes and dare not to look beyond. They lose so much.

      Fear can be overcome; but it is not a comfortable climb out of that box. It is a considerable challenge. You will need someone with a rope, a guidebook, a gentle hand, a commanding, encouraging voice. And someone to give you a push through. But anything, ANYTHING, is better than the confinement in your box of fear.

  1. Arrogance. I’ve often found myself arrogant, too full of myself, to listen to others. (Others have mentioned this to me with little subtlety.) I’ve stubbornly stuck to my own way of doing things that just could not work. But it was my way. I lost a lot of friends acting this way. I also failed a lot more than I needed to. If only I had listened. But, no, I knew it all. It has taken me a long time to learn the words, “I was wrong. Forgive me. Are you still willing to help me?” Arrogance is simply an admission that we are insecure and therefore we must know everything; thus, we don’t even ask for the simplest of directions. Directions to a location, how to sew on a button, how to repair a lawn mower, or how to mend a damaged relationship.

      It takes a strong person to overcome arrogance. A kind of self-blindness comes with arrogance that prevents us from seeing anything from any other viewpoint other than our own. Some of us don’t even want to hear, let alone consider, another opinion, another way of approaching a problem or situation. We dig in our heels and insist on our way, period. If our souls are ever to truly rest then we must give up our arrogance and become part of the human family: not as its center, but as a fellow traveler, learning from others who are much further along in their journeys than we might be. I’ve learned this the hard way. DO NOT follow in my footsteps.

  1. Disapproval from Others. Let’s be honest, we all want the approval and acceptance of family, friends, work associates, and from those who lead in whatever field of common interest where we invest our lives. This is a normal part of socialization. We want to be a part of something: it’s called being in community. In many ways human beings are defined by their inter-connectedness, their histories, their commonalities, their family & kinships, their relationships…, everywhere. So when we come up against the disapproval of someone important to us, it is a mortal blow. We feel less of a person, unacceptable, at least for the time being, if not permanently. A simple parental “No” to some children will shatter them to the core of their being. For other kids, it will present a challenge to circumvent in some clever, devious way. We are all so very different when it comes to disapproval.

      Most of my life I have met with disapproval in seemingly larger doses than normal. My father rarely approved of anything I did. In his eyes I could not even cut the grass right. When I bought my first car, a Volvo PV544, I was realigning the steering wheel when he screamed obscenities at me to let the entire neighborhood know that I could not do anything, ANYTHING, right. I knew right then and there that I would be on my own in life. During my college days my academic advisor encouraged me to drop out. “You’ll just never make the grade or measure up.” So encouraging. ( I completed my first Masters Degree before he did.) In my first professional job I was informed that I would need very close supervision. This devastated my confidence about ever getting things right. Then again, I saw my immediate supervisor three times that first year, once the second year, and only twice the third year. Odd definition of “close supervision.” I thought. I just kept pressing on and getting the job done.

      My personal need for the approval of others has faded over time. I still like to have people approve of me; I just don’t need it. Approval or disapproval have been supplanted by knowing who I am and knowing what it is I am supposed to be doing on this planet. I know God’s design for me. Do you?

      It’s really quite refreshing. Soul-lifting, actually.

      There are a couple more things that keep me from fulfilling God’s design on my life. Thus, plunging me into further depression. Therefore, sadly, there will be a section “c” to this present section.

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

NEXT— After There’s Nothing Left— Confession- a way out of depression

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: 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

Suffering Hardship

suffer hardship     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]

     There are areas on this planet where our Christian faith is not tolerated— Muslim dominated countries, Europe, the American marketplace and political arena. Genuine Christian faith is seen as an abnormality, a somewhat out-of-touch mythical hope in non-verifiable assertions. At varying degrees there is definitely a form of persecution being levied at genuine followers of Christ; in some places, it is demonstrably horrific, in others, like the United States, it is expressed as a slowly unraveling code of conduct being undercut in all areas of life.

     We are allowed to hold our beliefs in our “deity” as long as we keep it to ourselves…, so far. But the paradigm shifts through Modernism to postModernism will eventually expose a postChristian sentiment that is most probably quite aggressive and vicious. The time is coming upon us when we will know the suffering of our brothers and sisters, both subtly and overtly, in other regions of the world.

     Suffer hardship with me, as a good soldier of Christ Jesus.

     Our adversary has always sought our destruction. Remember, he is described as a roaring lion, prowling about, seeking whom he may devour. [I Peter 5:8] Namely us.

     WE dare not tell those who have recently joined the ranks of the redeemed that, now their sins are forgiven, their life will be a Christian cakewalk. It will not be so. We all have been enlisted in a great company of saints who have gone before and will come after, to lift the praises of our God and to serve the hurting, the dying, the poor, and the lost within themselves. And, yes, it is for this that we stand against our world to serve and not to use.

     Our faith will be tested with constant disruptions as we try to hold on to what is right and good and pleasing to our Lord.

[Note:  Since Monday was Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day, I want you also to read this accompanying post on the disruptions we face today, the racism, and the complacency that grips too many of us. We dare not be neutral.] https://www.patheos.com/blogs/zackhunt/2018/01/words-martin-luther-king-jr-white-american-christians-need-hear-today/

Honor God, honor people…, make a difference,

Gary
Dr. Gary Davis, President

NEXT disruptions & tenacity— entanglements.

“ad astra per alas porce”

lucky-pig-1843071_960_720     When John Steinbeck was in college he was told by one of his professors that he would become a published author when pigs fly. He liked the insult so much that he opened each pf his subsequent books with the phrase— ad astra per alas porce. “To the stars on the wings of a pig.”

     Steinbeck would not be deterred from what he was designed to do by the critical comments of one person. It was as if the comment had steeled his resolve to prove his professor wrong.

     It amazes me how so many of us give up so easily. One negative comment, one rejection, one disappointment, and we throw in the towel. How did so many of us get this way? Is it our educational system? Our family’s disapproval? When I was a young teen I could do nothing right in my father’s eyes; I couldn’t even cut the grass right!

     Since those days I’ve learned to rise above the negative comments of my friends. [Albeit, some negative commentary should be heeded.] We all need to answer to a higher calling; one where we live up to our abilities and to the levels of accomplishment that God has designed us to achieve. This is not an easy practice to incorporate into our daily mindset. We are quite content to base our self-worth on the belittling of others. I knew I wasn’t good enough. Really?!?

     For the nominal Christian, words like “I can do all things through Christ, who strengthens me,” [Philippians 4:13], or “What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us who can be against us?” [Romans 8:31] seem to have lost their thrust. Our fear of failure has crushed them to the ground. Have we ceased to believe what is true?

     If there is one thing genuine followers of Christ need to do in this present generation it is to regain their sense of adventure in their Christian lives. We need to truly trust God and take the risks our faith requires. There is no time left to continue in a Let’s wait to see what happens attitude. And the only way I know to learn faith is to step outside of our comfort zone into the uncomfortable. This will be a different step for all of us. For extroverts, they probably won’t even know they’ve done it. For introverts, it could be terrifying.

     Nonetheless, our Lord calls us to it. What is our Christian faith without the faith part? Mere social alignment with a religious institution. Yeah…, that’s meaningful!

     Our Christian faith could be so much more exciting if it were not mere religious attendance.

Flying with the pigs,
Gary

Of Cubes and Chaos: Paradigm Positioning 3- Dashed Dreams

   When I was in sixth grade I had a crush on a girl. She looked a lot like this. Carla Jean Stewart- the love of my life…, in fifth grade. Alas, it was not meant to be. She moved, I moved. Never saw her again. My dreams of a bright future with my precious blue-eyed blonde crush were never to be.
     Dashed dreams of childhood.
     Since then I have known many dashed dreams- some of them more devastating than others. But I recovered, mostly. Today they’re just an ancient memory. And I’ve learned something.
     Dreams are fun, fanciful, wonderful diversions from our realities. And it is good to dream them. (Most of them.) Some might even come true. Most, though, will hide in the back right corner of our minds and pop up later on in life. Like now.
     I don’t dream of young beautiful blondes anymore; actually, I married one! But she was a brunette by the wedding. I didn’t care. She was perfect for me! She was God’s gift to me. Still is. Who cares about hair color!?!
     Had I pined for my childhood crush I would have never met my wife. And if any of us hang on to a past love, dream, fantasy, etc., we will miss the better things our Father has in store for us. When I was first in ministry, I could see no other future for my life outside of the ministry’s opportunities for service. Little did I understand how I had adjusted my dreams to fit their realities, limiting both God and myself. What I am doing today is so far beyond who I was back then. What a surprise.
     The monkey on the vine image still holds true. Sometimes you have to let go of the last vine before you can reach out and grab the next one. Or, as we’re more apt to say around here- God is full of surprises…, don’t trust Him. And if you believe that I’ll send you Zac Efron’s cell number.
     Dashed dreams simply clear the way for you to move beyond your limited perspective to a more expansive, wilder, Christ-infused vision.
Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him, and watch your doors to be blown off.  [Proverbs 3:5-6. Sorta.]
     Dashed dreams are mere hints that you should be dreaming bigger, wilder, adventurous ways of God.
     Get with the program.

Honor God, honor people…, and watch out for flying doors,

Gary

NEXT— Paradigm Positioning 4: stepping up our game. 

of cubes & chaos- paradigm positioning 2 mass murder in America

These past two weeks in America we have seen what could be our new reality. Our government seems to have fallen to its lowest common denominator in extreme language, on both sides, to devastate anyone not on their side. Four mass murders have been carried out from Texas to Ohio and two in California. Seriously.

     WHAT IS GOING ON?!? Civil values in our country have taken a nose dive into deepest hell. And no one seems able to stop it. Not uncivil conservatives: nor socialistic liberals. Lots of promises, little action. After your initial reaction of surprise and shock, a search for meaning and solutions should be rolling around in your head. Seriously?!?

     I don’t know about you but I am heart-sick by all the killings, the rhetoric, and the mutual-hate practices in our country. What can we do?

     Nothing—  That appears to be the wait-and-see answer. I’ve never been a wait-and-see kind of person. I want to make a difference in this world. Think globally: act globally! Think locally: act locally. Our Christian enclave no longer has the luxury of sitting back and waiting…, waiting…, waiting.

     What used to be seen as acceptable civil values has shifted from the center to the edge. Any Judeo-Christian impact hasn’t been dominant in North America, or elsewhere, in quite some time. Yet many of us pretend it still holds some sway over the powers-that-be, the culture at large, world politics, and local manifestations. It may appear to be so, but Christianity’s influence on our world has become shallow, just-a-show-on-the-surface. Our deep values no longer even go that deep for the majority of American Christians, let alone others.

     One perspective I read summed up our new world cultural paradigm as “Anyone, Anything, Anytime, Anywhere.” [Big Blue Gumball]

     Three comments—

  1. It’s not all that new.
  2. Time for Christians to stop pretending.
  3. Why are we so afraid of getting involved?

     It’s time for genuine Christians to take a stand for the principles our Lord taught us when he was on earth. They still hold true; they still make sense. Yes, we are in a new paradigm of anti-religion, anti-Christian ideology. But our faith is neither Liberal nor Conservative. Jesus Christ owns our allegiance.

     Now let us, individually and corporately, get up and get moving. Talk’s cheap: action’s everything. I’m all in!

NEXT—  Paradigm Positioning 3: stepping up our game.

But…. I’m Afraid

Fear grips us. It transcends every emotion and dominates our lives. Severe fear immobilizes us. Momentary fear startles us and leaves us with a 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. 

~ Gary Davis, When There’s Nothing Left.

    Ever since I wrote this paragraph my empathy for those who live in fear every day of their lives has grown. How do they do it? Maybe you’re one of them. Scripture tells us that The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom. [Proverbs 9:10] But this is not that kind of fear. This fear wells up from deep within. It overwhelms everything we do— our thoughts, our confidence, our relationships, the way we drive (unless you’re in Boston or LA], our self-esteem, our ability to get anything done. This fear grips our soul and perpetuates itself.

    The difficulty comes when you try to break free of this spider web of venom saturated virulence. It is no simple matter. Allow me to offer some discoveries I’ve learned through counseling.

  1. For a Christian, you can trust in God for His resolution from the terror. Sadly, many of us don’t. We do not truly believe He can take away our fear, or even walk with us through it. I would point you to Psalm 42. The writer admits his fears and depression and goes on to fight his dire condition with Hope. Seriously, give it a try.
  2. Whether you keep these things more to yourself or talk them to death, you should seek help from a true listener who has perspective and older wisdom. Yes, older. Your college buddies or business drinking buddies just won’t do the trick. You must act on this. And that presumes a prior decision to trust. Not so easy.
  3. Get outside of yourself. I’ve known runners who run to hide. They tell me it actually helps…, for a little while. It separates them from their fears in physical exertion; but it’s still there.
  4. Go see AVENGERS: endgame. Trust me…, you think you’ve have problems!?!
  5. Switch your prayers from petition to practical meditation. Not the kind where you empty yourself of everything, but the kind where you open yourself to the God of the universe…, and listen. Intently. I process externally and get a load of stuff off my heart (mind) on long walks in the mountains; then I can hear Him more clearly. Oh, wait! You live in Boston?!? Bummer. Try the beach in Manchester-by-the-Sea. You live in Kansas? My prayers are with you.
  6. At least get a good massage. It will be the best $100 you’ll spend this week. A darkened room, soft music, and tranquil separation from the world outside.
  7. Sorry, you really do need to do more than breathing exercises. You need our Lord and someone who cares enough about you to listen.

NEXT— Excuses, excuses, excuses! 

Honor God, honor people…, make a difference,

Gary

BUT..3- Becoming a man, a woman, who doesn’t need a but

presmedalfreedom“Man is never truly himself except when he is actively creating something.”  ~Dorothy Sayers

     The image for this article is the Presidential Medal of Freedom, awarded to American citizens (and others) who have made a substantial contribution to the shaping and preservation of our American heritage and to the world. Recipients in recent history have been- Walt Disney, Bruce Springsteen, Ellen DeGeneres, Desmond Tutu, Maya Angelou, and Bill Gates.

     None of these men or women said “no” when they were told it couldn’t be done. They just did it. We need to emulate their perspicuity and perseverance. Too many of us give up midstream; or worse, we dream but never start.

     What are the characteristics of people who just do it? Who make no excuses? For one, they stick to it! Take Elon Musk:  he has found so many ways to fail that he has probably lost count; but he keeps at it. On a personal note, I used to say that I had failed so many ways that I had raised failure to an art form. Elon Musk stuck to it; so did I. And so do a lot of you. Keep it up!

     Another characteristic is listening to criticism, especially creative criticism. You know what to do with the negative critics. No you don’t. Actually, listen to them; listen to lots of people. One mouth, two ears…, remember? You want all the creative input and creativity you can get.

     Then there’s regrouping and starting over when you realize you’ve been heading down the wrong line of development. Don’t be ashamed; be smart.

     Psychologists tell us that the key to successful, long term relationships is humility. This is also true of anyone who seeks solutions rather than making excuses. One of our Board members recently designed reorganization for her business that eliminated her division. That’s creative, gutsy, and reeks of humility. She made no buts about it. She just did it.

     She could do it because her character gave her a base for such courage. If we are to become people that have no buts, we must pay dedicated attention to nurturing not only our skills, but our moral character and spiritual selves as well. Never doubt that your life has a spiritual dimension that calls for your attention. It is the basis for everything else you do. From the song in the movie, Saving Sarah CainTURN UP THE MUSIC, “make peace with God and make peace with yourself.” That’s good advice and as good a place to start as any.

     There is so much more to becoming a man, a woman, who doesn’t make excuses, but I will end these contributions with just one more— build bridges, don’t burn them. Too many of us burn our bridges behind us, or in front of us. Christians are especially good at building walls between one another; and the world outside. Christ never intended it to be this way.

NEXT— Butt-Out!

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