Phases 12-Where do we go from here?

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

Phases #11 Delight, over and over again

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

     It is in those times that our Lord asks me—

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

~Psalm 41:11 (NKJV)

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

I’ll be on the dance floor,
  Gary

Weeds in my Soul

weed, faith, weedkiller,

I have a confession to make. I hate grass! Ok, then you also know how much I hate weeds. The problem is…, if we killed all the weeds in our lawn there would be no green left. I swear the whole lawn is a field of weeds!Conundrum.

Weeds seem to sprout up no matter what I do. Weed Killer, Clover Obliterator, or Brush Fire Kits— nothing works. The same is true as I seek to live an honorable life before God & man. Weeds. Everything is basically green, but when you look closely— weeds.

One of the books I am presently reading talked about the weeds that grow up in our souls. We don’t always notice them because they are green like everything else. Sort of. They seem to creep amongst the lush grass that I have been cultivating and grooming most of my adult life. It’s like some of the Spiritual Turf Builder spread evenly over the green grass of my soul is snatched away by the weeds, just like on my lawn.

I’ve learned to live with the weeds in my lawn; not so sure I am all that comfortable with the weeds in my soul. Nestled within the deep crevices of my soul they can do serious damage. Not that I live with a pseudo-spirituality or surface-Christian faith. I do not. I live as upright a life as I can. But there are weeds.

For most Christians, green is green, weeds, grass, what’s the difference?!? But for professional Lawn-Keepers for-the-Lord, they can spot a weed from a mile away. Sometimes, that’s all they see. That’s all they focus on. Thankfully, the Father looks at us through the eyes of Christ. Our sins are forgiven and our weeds are taken away. Now that’s Turf-Builder!

So stop wallowing in your guilt and shame. Get on with grooming your soul to produce that pleasant aroma of freshly mown grass, announcing that your spiritual lawn is now trimmed and your weeds are gone.

Remember that about other people while you’re at it.

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

Gary

Falling Behind Before Fall

6086519585_59a875090b_bSit down. Breathe. Now breathe again. Two weeks from now is LABOR DAY WEEKEND. What?!? You forgot to get in your summer vacation? Oh, you’re on it now. So you’ll be all rested for the back to school bunch. Getting ready to head off to college with your brand new $1600 laptop, buying new clothes and school supplies for your kindergartner [They total over $125 this year], and wondering if your air conditioners should be put away just yet, or in November…, maybe never.

Conclusion: you’re already falling behind.

Mahatma Gandhi once said that There is more to life than increasing its speed. But every Fall in Western civilization that is all we seem to do; increase our pace of life to the breaking point. I’ve wondered why someone hasn’t yet engraved their tombstone with I didn’t finish everything.

Given the present pace of culture I’m not sure it is possible for us to finish everything. We have to pick and choose. What is critical? Next, what is important? Then, what is broken that absolutely demands our attention? NOW! Move to Critical list.

If you are married there is always the question of priority for you family. Are they? Will you interrupt your work load to spend time with your wife, your husband, your kids who desperately want your love and time?

In other words, if you don’t want to fall behind as we enter this Fall, STOP ADDING SO MUCH TO YOUR SCHEDULE. Wait…, is it jammed full already? Hummm. Let me think. CUT THINGS. Unless, of course, you’ve made yourself indispensable to every commitment in your life. Let other people fill in for you. How else will they be able to make the same mistakes you did, and learn from them?!?

You need to make a difference on this planet in the time God has given you to be here. You will be less effective if you are constantly worn down and cranky. So…, STOP now. Reassess, before you are so over-committed you don’t even have the time to do that.

For what it’s worth,
  Gary

Black and Blue…. and White

Black, white, violence, community, love, futureDallas PD, Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church Charleston, SC, Newtown CT, Orlando, San Bernadino, Oregon Community College, Boston Marathon, Kalamazoo, Washington Naval Yard, Virginia Tech.

These are the some of the communities who have found their place in American history through the tragic taking of innocent lives. These were men whose spirits were fueled with anger and resentment toward the police, the military, white people, black people, and innocent children. Their crimes were crimes of racism and resentment, of control and feeling out of control, of having no voice in the greater arena of our great American culture. Maybe we’re not so great after all.

These murders and assassinations are representative of deeper divides between black & white, between police brutality and criminal license. On a deeper lever, they belie a sickness and fear within the souls of men to dominate, to be right, and to win. This is not a healthy platform on which to build a civil society. It is a platform that lays the foundations for civil war, permanent racial tension, and mutual destruction.

Is this the country we want to leave to our children?!? Of course not! But unless we act, all of us, and act now, our children will be facing the same issues 50 years from now.

Allow me to offer a course of action4now.

  1. The violence must STOP, on all sides of our conflicts. I grew up in a racially torn Baltimore, MD. I made a friend who was black in the midst of a gang war. We had to feign a personal feud to cover up our friendship. That should not have been; but it was. What if we ALL learned friendship again? Friends…, with those who are different from us? It can be done.
  2. It is easily observable that America is not “one nation under God. We are a matrix of peoples—Muslims, Christians, atheists, agnostics, Jews, scientists, philosophers and some people who are too busy earning a living to even think about their “position” on things. We are a patch-work quilt at best. It is well past the time we should know about our differences and come to allow for, if not respect, other people’s viewpoints, other people’s plights. One size does not fit all.
  3. A system, not of Social Security, but of Social Assistance should be set up. Not one where $$$ is blindly doled out, but one where people come to work together, side by side, for the common good. [See- Habitat for Humanity.] Who knows, maybe even those “row-houses” of my youth can be made to shine again.
  4. As a nation, we need to return to God. [Again, atheists & agnostics honorably excused.] But for the rest of us, it is time we took the dictates of our faith, no matter the faith, more to heart. Let’s not merely be Christians, but genuine Christians, giving to the poor; let’s not be simply Jews, but the Jews of the Book, honoring our history and caring for our fellow human beings; and let’s be worthy Muslims, obeying and honoring the teaching of Allah, and of Muhammad ﷺ, His Prophet, not killing, which is a sin, but cherishing life, bringing about great changes for all mankind.

These suggestions may go unnoticed, be seen as invalid, or simply ignored. Nonetheless, my belief is that they are not as naïve and uncritically fanciful as they might appear. One of my mentors was the business consultant Peter Drucker. One of his more famous sayings was— The best way to predict the future is to create it. It’s time we all got down to some serious, creative work.

And did I mention the difficulty and necessity of forgiveness? Do I have to?

Honor God; honor people…, make a difference,

Gary

Resilience

????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????Resilience

Bouncing back. Getting up again. Beaten down and rising from
the ashes like the Phoenix. Overcoming failure and discouragement. Going for it again.

Why are some of us good

at it and others not so much?

Resilience is not necessarily based on generation, gender, cultural affinity, location or situation. It seems to be ingrained in certain people; they just have what it takes.

For others, who have been beaten down repeatedly, it becomes a matter of fortitude and determination. Sheer will-power. They have to fight not only their surrounding circumstances, but themselves as well. That is no simple matter. So what does it take to become resilient?

First, it requires that you make a decision; maybe two. 1) That you will not let this thing, whatever it is, overwhelm you. You will not let it win. And, 2) that you will fight, FIGHT, to overcome it. If these decisions are not made right up front, you do not stand a chance.

Second, you will need to surround yourself with friends of equal mind, kindred spirits, who share your dreams and goals in life. Do NOT hold back from seeking their advice, solace, and wisdom.

Third, you will want to set timely goals or check-points along the way for evaluating your recovery. How well am I bouncing back? Have trusted friends also give you feedback on how you’re doing. Be assured that setbacks will assail you; that’s life. But you are not back at Square-One. It’s just a setback.

Finally, and I hesitate to suggest this because so many of us use this as a scapegoat for being responsible- try PRAYING. (not for relief but for strength and wisdom) There’s something that cleanses the heart, mind, & soul through prayer. So, Christian or otherwise, try talking to the ceiling: you may just be pushing beyond it.

Resilience is every bit as much a matter of faith as it is fortitude. It is a determination within your soul that has its expression in the lives we live. Don’t hold back.

You can teach yourself to bounce back. Keep practicing. One day it will come more naturally.

Now, where’s my Pogo Stick,

  Gary

Serenity

reverie_preview

Serenity
Even the word feels good as it rolls off your tongue-  s  e  r  e  n  i  t  y. Like a magic word that calls forth a Genie from a bottle, the word beckons us to come apart to a peaceful place, to find solace, to rest, to be waited upon by a flood of servants! Or merely to be able to close our eyes on a warmed beach under a palm tree, or in a chaise lounge at a mountain retreat.
The serenity I need I find in front of a warm fireplace at the confiscated Lakehouse, deep within the Fall/Winter woods of northern New Hampshire. It is there that I contemplate the deeper questions of life-  like…, why my navel is an inny, or how did I ever wind up with such a wonderful wife. Or why God has honored us with His blessings and the privilege of serving others?
It seems that every now and again I push myself so hard that I border on collapse. Such was October, and September, and the prior Summer en toto. I don’t notice it so much as my wife. When she puts her foot down, “That’s it. You’re about to give way to the pressures of caring for people. You’re LEAVING! Go to the Lakehouse and get some rest!” Thus, I go! Granted, it’s only a day or two, but that’s enough for me, I think.
If you haven’t gotten the point of this emPulse yet, let me make it perfectly clear. Any of us can get caught up in the business of life, and work, and family, and other people, especially on a day when we are excited (or forced) to be around friends and relatives stuffed with turkey, so unsuspectingly, that we forget to take care of ourselves-  our bodies, our emotions, our spirits, our souls. We start to come apart because we have forgotten to come apart to take care of ourselves. Fortunately, I have a wife who knows when I’ve had enough…, even though I am clueless to the actuality. Don’t lose yourself to the importance of life. Remember to view yourself as expendable. Don’t lose yourself to the importance of life. You will be missed when you get away; but you will come back a renewed man, a refreshed woman.
A little serenity goes a long way to clear the mind and restore the soul.
27Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you.
I do not give to you as the world gives.
Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.
–           John 14:27 Christian Bible
Have a good Thanksgiving.
 
Gary