After There’s Nothing Left: Deterrents to Soul Rest

bricksIt will come as no surprise that there are deterrents to soul rest. Deterrents— work, people distractions, hindrances, impediments, problems, complications, barriers, and hurdles— all of which must be addressed if you are determined to enter a time of soul rest. No one is more responsible to provide for your soul rest than you; no one will push you into it; no one can make you want it. Albeit, they might point out to you that you are desperately in need it, it is still up to you to carve out the time and space to make it happen.

You may face seemingly insurmountable obstacles that will call your attention elsewhere; good, meaningful, productive things. But they are not what you should be doing if your soul is in need of rebuilding and refreshment.

Furthermore, do not discount the spiritual realm of restraints to your soul rest. There is a constant background war going on for the right to destroy your soul and drag you into hell to serve as an amusement for true evil. And you do not have to wait for the afterlife— it can happen just as easily in this life. You cannot stop feeding your soul, stop caring for it, let it become overwhelmed, exhausted, and depleted. You will be surprised at just how simple it is to slip into this darkness.

Our Lord God reminds us in I Peter 5:8 to—

Be of sober spirit, be on the alert. Your adversary, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.” (NASV)

Do not disregard the possibility that you have a target on your back with our adversary’s arrows are ready to release.

Soul Rest is imperative for anyone seeking to make a difference in western society or in the troubled emerging nations of this planet. For it is the foundation of maintaining a healthy, balanced, realistic and wholistic perspective on our individual role in the work of Christ among the human race. One of our adversary’s most effective maneuvers is to wear us down through meaningful service to those around us, especially within church walls. Our job is to be wise enough to see when enough is enough. You and I are quite expendable in the grand scheme of things. Soul rest extends that expendability just a little longer.

Know your place.

Honor God, honor people, make a difference,

Gary

Dr. Gary Davis, President

NEXT— After There’s Nothing Left— Soul Reflection part 6  

The Interior Castle

default  Beside Holy Scripture a good deal of my personal spiritual life has been shaped by the Saints who wrote of their journeys of faith and discovery. One such person is Teresa of Avila (1515-1582). She was a Spanish noblewoman within the Carmelite tradition of the Catholic Church (Protestants were forming throughout her lifetime) known for her mystical faith and writings. She was not prone to writing until she was directed to write by the head of her Order. One of her best known works is The Interior Castle, where she describes the chambers of the human heart as a series of Mansions through which we move in growing closer to Christ.

  1. The Mansion of Humility & Grace
  2. The Mansion of the Practice of Prayer and Growth
  3. The Mansion of the Exemplary Life
  4. The Mansion of Prayer of the Quiet, where the supernatural and natural meet
  5. The Mansion of Prayer of Union, where the soul is completely possessed by God
  6. The Mansion of the Bride & Groom, where the soul would receive more favors, but also afflictions
  7. The Mansion of Spiritual Marriage between Christ and His Church.

     Where would you find yourself in Teresa’s Interior Castle? In many ways, even at this stage of my life, I would place myself in the Mansion of Humility & Grace, needing a great deal of both. In other ways I am firmly planted in #4, the Mansion of Prayer and Quiet, wherein the supernatural and Natural worlds blend.

     Most certainly I am not in the Mansion of Prayer & Union, where my soul is completely possessed by God; although I am most definitively striving for that.

     It must be also noted that I more likely than not skipped over the Mansion of the Exemplary Life entirely. For this, I hold much regret. But I am not dead yet.

     The most encouraging aspect of this delineation is that it helps me measure where I am in my journey to holiness, in my journey to become more like Jesus. It was penned almost 500 years ago. Maybe you might write one in a more contemporary vein?

     My journey has been one of service, suffering, joy, and celebration. May our Lord grant you one of similar combination.

Honor God, honor people…, make a difference,

Gary

NEXT—  untenable

The Fear of the Lord

the-fear-of-the-lord2The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is insight.  Proverbs 9:10

     We have very little understanding of the fear of the Lord in our era. If anyone does think about it, an image of an awe-powerful God sitting on a throne on Mt. Olympus comes to mind. He is the awful, powerful God lording his power over us. For most of us, that is ancient myth, Greek fable, and not a real reality. Nor do we rarely give a thought to a real Satan, a roaring lion, prowling about seeking to devour us. (1 Peter 5:8)  Our world has moved beyond such myths.

     Nonetheless, should we, in some way, fear the Lord? For those who live outside our faith, the answer is yes. But what about us who have placed our lives in Jesus’ hands, should we fear our Lord?

     It might be noted that we do have a way of constantly stepping outside of the perimeters of God’s protection for us. I would dare say that if we continually stray from the Truth and the practice of the Christian life we have something to be concerned about.

     The question is not Am I saved? Rather, it is— Am I abiding within God’s grace and living by the principles of the Christian faith laid down in Scripture? Not that our outward actions necessarily reflect an inward reality, but they do go a long way toward clarifying what is important to us.

     So, the real question then becomes, Where is your heart? What is the general direction of your passion, your direction in life, how you use your time and how you spend and give away your resources? “Where your heart is…” (Matthew 6:21) These things are measurable, not measured by deeds-done alone, but by inspiration and devotion. These are the internal qualities the drive us toward God. To not have them makes us mere actors in a play. Play-acting the Christian life is always an alarm for fearing God.

     You can run… .

     Besides, a HEALTHY fear of the Lord is a good thing, especially if it draws us into the presence of the Holy One. C.S. Lewis gives us a wonderful image of God. “he’s not a tame Lion, you know.” Who doesn’t approach a Lion with some healthy fear?

     Or, maybe gaining a deeper knowledge of God through Scripture and silence does produce a proper fear of him. Hummm?

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

NEXT— “ad astra per alas porce…”.  

91119

4428688046_baabbdcaa4_b     Eighteen years ago America’s soil was violated in a three pronged terrorist attack that left many of us stunned. Most of us have recovered. Some of us weren’t even born. But this attack changed the way we viewed our safety, our stability, and our place in the world.

But what have we learned? We learned that our homeland is not impervious to attack. That 2,977+ Americans dies that morning. That wars are not always waged between nations but between ideologies. That ancient and extreme forms of Islam are alive and practiced today. Some barbarous. That America has some sins to be atoned. [We’re not a perfect pious country.] That many peoples around the world truly hate us and our way of life. They may have a point.

From our point of view, we created a lot of enemies that day. The reality is that we already had them.

Now let’s run ahead 18 years and look back. We are still fighting a war with certain branches of Islam. No resolution. Yet! But our God is full of surprises.

Most of us have been enemies of God for much of our lives. But God demonstrated his love for us in this: while we were still sinners Christ died for us. [Romans 5:8]  Even genuine Christians remain enemies in some areas of our lives. Hey, we’re only human! No. For too much of our lives we are worse than that. Nonetheless, Christ calls us to walk honorably before him, to care for widows and orphans, to feed the poor…, and to forgive our enemies.

It is the evil that invades our hearts and ensnares us that is the enemy of Christ; and ours too. We dare not lose sight of that.  Ever.

Many in the West don’t give much credence to good & evil. They’re just constructs of the mind and definitions we use to label us vs. them. SERIOUSLY! So men are neither good nor evil. We are neutral. Really?!? History records otherwise.

So as we commemorate this 9-11 remembrance let’s remember who the real enemy is; not Islam, not the radical right or left, not home grown terror. It is the evil that under-rides the world and the entire universe seeking to destroy us and divide us and take away any remembrance of God and his redemption.

Bastard!

If you are a genuine follower of Christ you have been set free from your rebellion and rejection of his holiness. You do not have to hate or hold grudges or ancient animosities. You can chose to live a life that makes a difference among men, that forgives wrongs done, that prevents future conflicts. Now get on with it.

Honor God, honor people…, and be a pain in Satan’s ass,

Gary

NEXTTEPID

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

Hidden

051048048057054055054050124053048048124052048048Why are we hiding? Or— What is it we try to hide? Too many of us exert a lot of energy trying to hide, or trying to hide something about ourselves that, if revealed, would expose us.

The artistry of Bev Doolitle (1947-   ) depicts objects hidden to the casual observer. We are so much like the horses in her paintings. If people were to look intently at our life, what is it we would try to hide? I’ve worked with some people whose biggest fear in getting married was being known. I tried to assure them that being known, and still loved, was the best part of being married; I’m not sure they bought it.

What drives us to hide things? Insecurity, fear, shame, dishonesty? Or worse, why do we hide ourselves? Of course, if you’ve been betrayed or used, there is some warrant for it. You don’t want to be hurt that deeply again.

The issue, basically, is one of safety. We ALL want to feel safe. So we hide the parts of us that would expose us. This is wise…, to a point. But our need for safety can also choke the spirit within us. It can bind us in a box with just slits through which we take in the outside world.

Would you like to escape your box and take in more of the outside world? Here are some ideas—

  • Spend time with people. Reflecting off of them will give you insights into yourself. You’ll surprise them; they’ll surprise you.
  • Try something that engages your soul. Doesn’t matter what. Just not too much over the line. Deeper discussion, life challenging experiences. Hold back on sky-diving.
  • Build one-safe-friendship. Create a confident.
  • Create a private novel about the kind of life you’d like to live. Then, slowly, start to live it.

Hiding takes a lot of energy. Think what you might be accomplishing if you didn’t have to work so hard at hiding your true self. Think of the energy you could invest in developing new dreams, new skills or new relationships. Be intentional. Remaining hidden, if pursued over a long period of time, results in further isolation; and that creates further fear of being known.

You do not need to stay hidden. Make the decision to be known.

For what it’s worth,

Gary

Vulnerable

dr, Gary, Davis, Vulnerable, Seth Godin, Clueless, Christians,

In 2012, corporate guru Seth Godin released a “children’s” book
titled V is for Vulnerable: life outside the Comfort Zone. In it, Seth runs through the letters of the alphabet along with some vulnerable captionof the significant ideas they represent— integrity, trust, and productivity in the workplace. It truly is a marvelous picture-book, appropriate for any business exec at any level in the grinding wheel. ‘Nough said.

But what about vulnerability? Why would this great guru of leadership pick this letter as the title for his book? Vulnerability is the critical attribute most wannabe leaders side-step to avoid exposing too much of themselves to curious eyes.

VULNERABILITY is about being open & honest with people. Granted, there is a difference between openness and honesty. We are always called to be honest in our personal and professional relationships. But openness depends upon the degree of trust between people, between companies, within families, or between nations.

It’s about safety. Am I safe with this person? To what degree can I trust this multinational treaty? What are my hesitations in this relationship? This is where mutual vulnerabilitybecomes a critical factor. Am I safe in revealing more of myself to this person? In thisbusiness contract? In this national concordat?

It is those subtle nuances that give us pause in our exposure. This is where a confidante or counselor could play a vital backdrop role in reaching a mutually safe agreement on how things should proceed. It always helps to see things though another’s eyes. This lowers the risk level a tad; but, as always, someone has to make the final decision, set the course of action, and seal the pact with an honest handshake. And a signature— YOURS.

Without question, if this person is you, make the decision within the wisdom and insights offered by others. But, make the decision. This will employ your sense of safety, your gut intuition, and your “read” of every party in the negotiations. It will include your willingness to be vulnerable with those across the table; it will involve their willingness to be mutually vulnerable with you.

Our ability to be vulnerable with people is in direct correlation with our ability to love and/or trust another person or group. If you cannot be vulnerable, you also probably have difficulties with trusting and loving. Doing business, resolving conflicts (especially in marriage), or creating the future are all issues of trust, safety, and vulnerability— on both sides.

So, work at being more vulnerable, more approachable. Sure, you’ll get burned sometimes; but that’s no reason to throw out the gains reaped from being vulnerable.

For what it’s worth,

  Gary

Depression

Robin Williams, Danger, Depression, Suicide, despair, needinc, dr, gary, davis             Depression is a silent killer. You don’t even have to die to experience its death. You live the death just under your skin, suffocating your soul, 24/7. It is an insidious infection that never lets up.

Sure, you have moments of elation, rest, momentary peacefulness, or escape. I’ve struggled with it for years. When I first married, my new bride would describe me as morbidly introspective. Nice.

Yet on the surface I was upbeat, forward looking, powerful, and optimistic. Underneath, I always wondered if I measured up to peoples’ expectations. I was sure I didn’t.

So I performed better. And better. And… tried harder and harder… .

Robin Williams recent suicide brought it all back to me—the acting, the humor, the insecurity-amidst-confidence; and especially the fear of being known. I even wrote an article on it.

What drives such a successful man to draw an end to his life? In a word— despair. Def.- The conclusion that life holds no more for you. That managing life is now beyond your ability and/or desire. During my journey as a counselor three individuals have committed suicide under my care; one, premeditated, the other two, on the spur of the moment. I’ve always wondered if I could have prevented these needless deaths. My depression spiraled downward to the deepest depths.

If you could have walked through Robin Williams’ depression with him, what would you have said? What hope would you have offered? What reason to continue living? What great purpose would have fulfilled his life? Certainly his success as an actor and comedian did not bring him the fulfillment he so desperately hungered for.

Many fellow Christians might have offered him the reasons he sought in a relationship with Jesus Christ. But do you realize how strange that could have sounded to someone who had no hope, who sat outside the perimeters of God’s protection? It would have sounded farcical.

So many of us, Christians and normal people alike, place our hope in our personal security, our financial stability, and in our own abilities and self-confidence. I don’t think this is enough.

There is a great deal to be said for reestablishing a relationship with the God who made us. And for cleaning out the garbage of our lives. And for clearing the air with our friends.

I grieve Robin Williams death. He left us, unnecessarily, too soon.

 

For what it’s worth,

  Gary

Building Blocks

Dr, Gary, Davis, Christian, Clueless, Christianity, Building, Blocks, Build up, Most of us know the things that wear us down, that tear us down. Chronic car problems, an over-demanding boss, tension at home, “teenagers.” But what about the things that build us up? Being content one evening will not strengthen you for long:  turning in for the night with a sense of accomplishment, night after night, will do more for you than almost anything else imaginable.

So allow me to offer a list of some of the things that have, and still do, build me up-

1.      Accomplishment.

2.      Healthy relationships.

3.      Restoring broken relationships.

4.      One good, yea verily, great, friendship.

5.      Being loved.

6.      Loving someone.

7.      Sharing your pain with someone else.

8.      Crying.

9.      Resolving issues.

10.  Giving to others.

11.  Self-care.

12.  Admitting, and facing, your guilt and failures.

13.  Identifying and defining tightly that which fulfills your passion.

14.  A sense of purpose

15.  Time alone.

16.  Forming an open, transparent relationship with the God who made you.

17.  Times in deeper realities through prayer and imagination.

18.  Difficult situations.

19.  Difficult people.

20.  Working hard.

There are probably many more things that build me up, but one in particular I MUST mention or go unwisely amiss of any advice I might offer. Spending time, both quality & quantity, with my wife Starr Lynn Davis.

For what it’s worth,

  Gary

Insufficient Evidence

Dr, Gary, Davis, Needinc, Clueless, Christianity, Christian, beliefs, evidence, values, known, Let’s start by considering the opposite of insufficient evidence—namely, sufficient evidence. The question put to us is simple, “Would there be sufficient evidence to convict you of what you say you believe?” or, “What repercussions do your values have for the way you live?”

Certainly, Navy Seals can boast ample evidence that their actions bespeak of a deep belief in “God & country.”  (Their motto is Ready to lead…, ready to follow. Never quit.) People of deep religious faith generally could be convicted for their faith; there should be sufficient evidence. (If there is not…, well.) There is probably a Gallup survey that asks “To what extent do you follow through on your commitments?”

Yet in our Western, postChristian, pluralistic world there seems to be more of an inclination toward tentative commitments and cautious relationships. The fear of being known has regained unusual ground in a culture longing for safety. There has also been a rise in the fear of being wrong, or making the wrong choice or decision. Therefore, many of us never fully commit to anything. We have prenuptial agreements, escape clauses, termination parachutes, etc. We are a people who do not like to be pinned down or labeled; Christian, Republican, Conservative/Liberal, even male/female.

Part of the reason for our hesitation-to-commit is our fear of being hurt. It is our fear of being rejected from “the group,” or our insecurity stemming from our own historical observations that commitments are simply inconsequential. So why make them? We have fed this innate fear that, if we make a mistake we need to cover ourselves; we need to provide an escape route that will free us from the whole mess, the marriage, the contract, the bond. We fear being hurt so much that we don’t fully give ourselves to anything, or anyone, anymore. We always need to protect ourselves— a way OUT.

Therefore, we can never be pinned down on what we hold dear, what we value, or what we believe:  it’s just safer for us that way. Or is it?

Without sufficient evidence to hold us to any belief system or set of values we may have escaped the wrath of some other group. We may have avoided another deep heartache. But we have also demolished our own core. We have morphed its solidity for mush, its certainty for wishy-washy equivocation, which is about as inspiring as tan wallpaper.

If our leaders, and ourselves, do not hold positional beliefs and values strong and clear enough to convict us then who have we become? Insufficient evidenceis the descriptor of weaker men who do not want to be held accountable for their actions.

Let’s stand up and be counted—  even if it costs us our lives.

‘Nough said,

  Gary