Challenging Challenges: Isolation

     Having just survived the COVID19 Pandemic (2019-2021) the world is faced with many Challenging Challenges. One of the strangest is a propensity for many of us to remain isolated.

     Oddly, the Pandemic was good for me. It isolated my wife and I within the cloister of our home. I wrote more, prayed for others more. And pondered my ancient question— What is God designing me for in this next phase of my life?

     There are a myriad of facets to consider: vision, strength, age, concentration, dreams, networks, support teams, spiritual disciplines, Starr, and numerous others. For me, I work best in context and conversation with other people. Give & take, argument, debate, sharpen my wits to produce better solutions about life.

     But I still need times of isolation for contemplation and reflection. These Colorado mountains offer great expanses to draw nearer to the mind of God.

     As followers of Christ, we dare not continue in a stance of isolation while our world is struggling to reboot. They need us. In Matthew 5 we are called to be the salt and light of this earth (13-16). Salt preserves: light clarifies. We cannot do that if we cloister in our churches or hide in our homes.

     Later, in John 17:13-19, Jesus prays to his Father that He should NOT take us out of this world. Rather, that we should be protected from evil. Considering we are postPandemic I do not believe continued isolation is an option for any genuine follower of Christ. Like I said, these people need us.

     For the sake of people’s redemption we need to reenter the warp ‘n wolf flow of our society. We need to be involved in the lives of the people around us. Even virtually! But not exclusively.

     Fear is Christ’s enemy. We need to overcome our fear and join in His ongoing mission to those He has chosen to place in our path.

    So where are you struggling with re-engaging? What keeps you in isolation?

     Get out there and enjoy the miracles our Lord has for you to discover.

Honor God, honor people, make a difference,

Gary

Dr. Gary Davis, President

NEXT—  same ol’ , same ol’ .

Challenging Challenges: Our Own Mortality

     When we’re young we rarely think about dying. Unless a friend is suddenly taken in an auto accident, or by cancer, or some extreme medical situation. These are rare, but poignant, reminders that, someday, we will all meet our Maker. Or, if you are an atheist, you will simply cease to exist. Or you’re just not sure about all this morbid stuff.

     Look at the health and beauty industry. We do all we can to prolong our life AND our beauty. For some of us…, it works. But for most, no matter how much moola we sink into ourselves it just doesn’t matter. We will get old (some, not so graciously) and we will die.

     For most people there is a great fear of death that shrouds our every breath. When my wife and I were engaged we had to go visit her dying grandmother. She lived for another 39 years. Some people live dying: others will die living life to the fullest.

     So why does death, and the reality of our own mortality, plague us? For one, it is the ultimate, final equalizer. The question we each need to answer is— Is death it? or, Is there something else? Beyond. Only a few of us have ever escaped this eventual actuality. Some have passed over and returned, with various stories of afterlife.

     For genuine Christians, there truly is an afterlife. For others…, well!?! The question then is— where? More explicitly, where we will join God, our Lord Christ, His Spirit, and a myriad of friends and followers? Or hell, which will be…, well, hell.

     Our mortality can be either a question of termination, or a matter of transition. Personally, I do not need a heaven to be rewarded for the joy of serving the God of the Universe while on earth. I see it more as frosting on the cake. Mind you, I love frosting. But I don’t need it to honor our Lord while in this life. The joy of being his servant is enough.

     The real question is one of termination! How can we grow, raise families, make a difference, and just have all that simply come to an abrupt END? THAT’s what doesn’t make sense.

     By logical sequence there must be some form of continuation beyond this present life. Our life doesn’t end. It continues. The only question is where and to what purpose.

     So, how do you see your own mortality? Or should I say, your immortality? Do surprises lie ahead? Or do you look forward to a transition into something totally wild!

Honor God, honor people, make a difference,

Gary

Dr. Gary Davis, President

NEXT—  Making our Relationships Count

Challenging Challenges: Cancer

     

OK, let’s get on with it. Yesterday I had my first treatment for cancer, prostate cancer, that has spread to the bone, to be precise. Today, it doesn’t seem that any side effects have kicked in. Praise God!

      This is uncharted territory for both of us. Then again, that is what Starr and I have given our lives to most of the time. Forging creative ways to be Christians in secular society, thinking deeply about the communication of the Christian message to an increasingly naïve, broken, and angry world. Moving the Gospel format from a Problem-Solving Model to a Fulfillment Model was a shift some are still not comfortable with.

     And many of our friends are still shocked that after 40 years in New England we moved to Colorado. We seriously love living by our beloved mountains. Few of our East Coast friends realized how much they were a part of our soul.

     This cancer certainly qualifies as one of life’s Challenging Challenges. On one hand, we are quite aware of the seriousness of this situation. On the other, we, I have utter confidence in the God we love that He is in absolute control. There is a great assurance and inner peace that goes with that. For those who have just this life, it makes no sense.

     Frederick Nietzsche, one of my distant influencers [who most Christians thought was attacking our faith], once said that “those who danced were thought to be completely mad by those who could not hear the music.”  I find the Christian life to be much like that in front of the normal people around us. They march to a different drummer. We follow a path of total dependence on the God of the universe who has called us to Himself. And we like His music.

         I often say in jest God is full of surprises…, don’t trust Him. You know I mean exactly the opposite. For once you put your trust in the God of heaven & earth, your need to control the world around you falls into the proper perspective.

     At the end of John’s gospel, chapter 21, Jesus asks Peter repeatedly if he loves Him. Finally, Peter replies in desperation, “Lord, you know everything: you know that I love you.” Jesus’ reply—

Feed my sheep.

     Our Lord is always asking us the same question. Do you love me? Will you continue to make a difference in My Name?

     Even with cancer?!? Yes, even with that.

Honor God, honor people, make a difference,

Gary

Dr. Gary Davis, President

After There’s Nothing Left: Silence

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Honor God, honor people, & be quiet,

Gary

Dr. Gary Davis, President

NEXT— After There’s Nothing Left—Learning Silence

After There’s Nothing Left: An Intermission: The space between us

     This will be the last Intermission offering, so I thought I’d draw you to ponder the space between us. There are many distances to consider— here are a few.

  •  Physical space— Since we’ve moved to Colorado, we’ve come to see how much our friends in New England have meant to us. Though we stay in touch with a great number of them it is sad we don’t see as much of each other as we would wish. Sometimes, this makes Colorado a very lonely place. And although we’ve made new friends here, New England is still in our hearts.
  • Spiritual space— Within the Christian world we often speak of being on the same page. Though united in Christ, we still seem to find reasons to separate from one another. This need not be the case. When we each stand before God on that great day of judgement we will all be asked the same question— What did you do with my Son and his friends when you were on earth?

“For there is one Lord, …, “ (Eph. 4ff)

We need one another if we are ever to make an impact for our Lord and be stalwart against the attacks of our adversary.

  • Political space— After this last election year I believe we all need to put a little space in terms of political differences. Politics has defined us more than our faith. This must end. Donald Trump was never our savior, nor is Joe Biden the antichrist. Jesus Christ is the One who establishes Kings and governments and removes them as He sees fit. Do any of us truly believe politics will save us?
  • Heart space— We’ve wept over a lot of people and terrible situations in 2020. Lost friends, social violence, political radicalization, and COVID. My heart has been broken too many times, as has yours, I’m sure. I’ve been torn between serving and giving more and throwing my hands up in forlorn disgust. My heart needs space.

Still, the space between us has drawn my heart to deeper prayer for you, and a richer love for you, our friends, near & far. For now, we have a longing that is hungry with anticipation. We really want you to come to our “ranch” after this whole mess clears up.

      As 2020 finally comes to a close and we all look forward to a somewhat better 2021, we need to be as close to one another as we can. The prediction for a rough COVID winter ahead should not dissuade us from love and serving each other and those around us. It’s what Jesus did; it is what we must do.

May you have the Greatest 2021 ever!

Gary

Dr. Gary Davis, President

After There’s Nothing Left: an intermission – Caring

It was a simple act. On a bitter cold, windy day a store employee was helping me load some groceries into the trunk of my car. As I thanked him, I offered him one of those wrapped little Life Saver mint. But his response poured out with gratitude. He wondered if anyone noticed the kind of work he did in this bitter weather. There was hardly anything I could do that would be smaller than this stupid Life Saver.

      It’s curious sometimes when such small acts of caring put such a smile of thankfulness on peoples’ faces. Now, whenever he sees me, he gets a big grin on his face…, and holds out his hand for the expected mint.

      Caring for people is so easy. Just think outside yourself. What do they need? What would they appreciate? What would make a big difference? A small difference. One of my friends left a $100 tip on a $65 meal. He was celebrating having just earned $1 million for the year, so far. It was the beginning of March.

      The difficult part is thinking-outside-our-little-self-absorbed-boxes. Putting other peoples’ needs before our own is critical in laying a foundation of caring. After a while, we don’t even notice that we are sacrificing; because it no longer becomes a sacrifice. It’s just the right thing to do.

   Allow me to propose some simple, yet significant, unexpected acts of caring.

  • Pay for someone’s gas at the pump.
  • Cover the meal for the table next to yours, without telling them.
  • Pay somebody’s rent.
  • Instead of trading in a car for a new one, give it away (unless it’s a clunker).
  • Pay for the groceries of the woman in front of you at the grocery check-out. The one with the screaming kids in tow.
  • Give more away. 10% is a minimum. Try 15%, 0r 20%. Off your gross.
  • Think Random-Acts-of-Caring.
  • LOVE…, expecting nothing in return.

      There! That should get you started.

      Oh…, and do I have to mention?!  Merry Christmas!

Honor God, honor people, show you care,

Gary

Dr. Gary Davis, President

NEXT— INTERMISSION— caregiving

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?

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.

Of Cubes and Chaos: Stepping up our Game

134294One of the oddities of our day, or maybe every era, is that genuine Christians never seem to rise to the occasion. We wait to see what happens before we respond or step in. To my way of thinking we need to step up our game. We need to be leaders within our culture and community, not waiting to see how things go and then reacting.

     One of the causes of this is that we are too wrapped up in church work. Nothing wrong with that, mind you, but if it keeps us from our primary mission of drawing people to Christ then something is seriously wrong. We create a comfortable confined faith imprisoning ourselves from the world out there. I never saw Jesus draw that us/them dichotomy.

     In the world, but not of it. Remember?

     So…, how do we step up our game?  Some thoughts—

     Start by cutting back. You are probably excessively frantic & over-committed. [Aren’t we all?]  You will never be able to have an effect on your surrounding community unless you make time for them— and that means cutting.

     Listen to people around you; friends, neighbors, work associates, waitresses. Learn from them. It may take a while before they open their lives to you, but there will come a time when you become a safe person for them. Wait for it. Wait for it.

     Up your silence before the Lord. Listen more before him than you ask for things. ‘Nough said.

     Find someone with a common mind and heart to yours; someone who shares your passion for this world and the people in it. Meet often. Talk about your discouragements too.

     Never forget that our Adversary prowls about like a roaring lion who wants to eat you up. [1 Peter 5:8]

     Finally, stick to it; stay committed. It is too easy to become distracted and exhausted when our Lord calls you to make a difference.

     There will always be challenges-to-complacency in life. Don’t give in to the illusion of safety.

Honor God, honor people…, make a difference,

Gary