Chapter 1. New Maps-Old Roads

51nopdewa5l-_sx326_bo1204203200_      My last few months as a senior in college I worked as the Athletic Director for the local YMCA. Since it was a somewhat smaller Y, I was responsible for just about everything. But it did have one perk I had not quite counted upon—the summer tour! So, the summer between college days and my first year of grad school found me working as a swimming coach for the YMCA on tour throughout North America. Our team hit national and local parks and swimming clubs across the United States, Canada, and Mexico.  We competed with local outcroppings of the Y and anybody else who wanted to swim against us. One of the places we toured was Jackson Hole, Wyoming. Now, growing up as an inner-city kid in Baltimore, MD, I could never have imagined a place so majestic, so alive, so grand. Jackson Hole got to me. I fell in love with the town, the people, and, of course, Grand Teton National Park. I vowed that I would return yearly!

      For the most part I was able to do so, until the onslaught of kids eight years into our marriage. But in our early marriage Starr (my dangerous wife) and I made the 2,400 mile trek from the East Coast to the Tetons an annual pilgrimage. For a couple of years we tried to see if we could find our way to Wyoming without ever opening a road map. I was guided by my heart, by my passion for the West, by my memory, and by a small piece of paper with route numbers. Yup, you got it, never missed a turn; well, okay, maybe a few where we had to back track.

      Until, one day, the Wyoming Department of Roads put in a NEW road, then redirected and renamed the old ones. I was forced into unfamiliar territory. You guessed it; we got totally lost. Old roads now had new route numbers; and there were now new roads where before there had been only buffalo and antelope. Now I‘m not one of these guys who is afraid to ask directions. By humorist Dave Barry‘s standards I may not be a real guy, but at least I don‘t stay lost long, either. I ask for help.  Saves time and frustration.

     You need to do the same.  When you‘re lost…, ask directions.

     The point of this chapter is this— unless you are consciously living your life continually immersed within contemporary culture, you need help finding your way. It is harder to find your way when new roads overrun the old ones. Simply put, you need a new map. Your cultural map is out of date; you think the old route, but find new signs that make you go ―HUH? You‘re on the wrong road, even though you want it to be the right one. What happened, you think?  You’ve been buffaloed (sorry, old Wyoming joke).

      Let‘s start by twisting our necks around to look back. Where did Christians get culturally lost? Where did the road take new turns?  What happens when we insist on following old maps?

Getting lost to find our way again,

  Gary

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How does love affect us?

gary, davis, love, live, heart, affect, christian, clueless

Your first thought should be, “You’re kidding right!?!” Everyone knows how love affects us. Do we? From The World of Psychology comes these ideas on How Being in Love Affects Your Personality. https://psychcentral.com/blog/archives/2014/05/30/the-science-of-love-9-ways-being-in-love-affects-your-personality/ .

  1. You’re a Combination of Happy and Anxious.
  2. You’re Addicted.
  3. You’re Capable of Taking More RISKS.
  4. You’re Over-the-Top Overprotective.
  5. You Can’t Focus.
  6. You’re Confident
  7. If You’re Neurotic, You Become Stabilized.
  8. You Don’t Judge.
  9. You’re Smarter.

In short, your dopamine level propels you to heights you never thought you could achieve. But it’s not simply chemical. That’s merely a scientific analysis.

Being LOVED is an enabler, a foundation, a definer, a source of personal strength, a reference point, and a reflective mirrorof who you are. When you know you are loved you feel safe, secure, and in a place where things make sense. This is true of romantic love, family love, brotherly love, or familiar love. Love provides the context for so much of our life that it can never be underestimated.

NOT being loved creates a vacuum in us which is not always filled by wonderful things! Just the opposite; we replace a healthy human love with a self-promoting, self-aggrandizing love. This kind of love may seem fulfilling at the moment, but in the longer view creates isolation, protective walls, and a façade we want others to see. Choose your loves wisely.

There is yet another effect of love on us. It stems from the love that we give to others. Because if love is to be grasped to the fullest, it not only must be received, but given. Dare I say that if you have difficulty receiving love, you will have equal difficultyexpressing love. Love’s manifold facets affect us in the giving and receiving of it; its volume expands exponentially as it is given. For that is what grounds love in its fuller context.

So, if I may ask, How’s your love life? Are you being loved in such a way that it fills your life? Are you loving another that enhances your own life (& theirs, of course)? Or do you find it hard to love or be loved? These are the kinds of questions to talk over with your spouse, a good friend, or a counselor.

 NEXT DISCUSSION:  What are the effects of NOT being loved? Of NOT loving?

 How do you say “I love you?

Gary

Learning to Love-Introduction

There’s really nothing quite like being in love, is there? Being loved, and loving, builds us in ways that nothing else can.

     We live in a culture where love has been lifted up to the highest pinnacle of experience…, and then we complicate it with sex, romance, and shattered relationships. We’ve lost something— a depth of love and any ability to love another selflessly. It’s always about me. Genuine love should be about the other.

     We need to learn to love again— with a rich love, a deep love. I’m not talking simply about romantic love…, but a love that is empowering— for our wives, husbands, our parents, our children, neighbors, and our workmates.

     Love cannot be merely a word or a feeling: it must be an attitude toward living, an underlying approach to everyone around us. Only then will we begin to grasp the wild stability found in selfless love.

     So if you’ve been hurt by love, or simply forgotten how to love, I invite you to join me over the next 6-7 weeks in this discussion about love. Invite your friends into the discussion too. Great fun lies ahead.

~ Dr. Gary Davis

[ALL OF THE STARS, Ed Sheeran—  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nkqVm5aiC28 ]

Some of the facets of love we will be discussing are—

  • Learning Love. What are the different kinds of love? Why does love even exist? To what extent does loving and being loved affect our lives? And what are the effects of NOT being loved, or NOT loving other people.
  • Love Games.  What are they? Why do we play them? What do they do to our relationships?
  • Your Personality and Love. Your individual personality has a lot to do with your interactions with other people. It influences how and who you love too.
  • Love Hurts. Surprise! Giving love that expects nothing in return can lead to deep wounds. How do I recover from them? Giving love expecting something in return is even more dangerous. How are we to recover from love’s life discouragements? Learning to love again is one of the most difficult challenges we will ever face.
  • Trust. Loving anyone involves a measure of trust that lets go of personal protection and says My life is in your hands. How do we learn to “trust?” What are the ingredients of trust?

More issues will probably arise as we move through our discussion. There’s no right or wrong here; only open, honest options for us to knock around.

 Let’s make love an action verb,

Gary

The cold never bothered me anyway

Disney, frozen, clueless, christian, new englandIt’s early morning. I wrap my hands around my coffee mug in front of the warmth of a wood-stove fire. A layer of fresh snow coats the hill out back where sledding is a favorite pastime. The sun is just on the rise. And…, it is COLD. -2F at the moment; but we could see 20F today if the sun is bright.

This is my kind of day!

We have a lot to do today. Writing, counseling, designing the future with some local Christian leaders. I will probably get to my office uptown at some point after my doctor’s appointment at 9:00. But right now, I am simply content to sit here and ponder the deeper questions of life in the flames of the fire.

You see, the cold never bothered me. I love it cold. When a lot of New Englanders head to more southern climes, my wife and I head north; usually to Freepost, ME, for a time of play at LL Bean and hiking snow covered beaches. We love the cold that much. And yes, you go right ahead and think we’re crazy. We are.

It’s a lot like that with faith too, isn’t it? When our faith seems cold we long for those warmer times. All of us go through cold times and hot times in our faith. Yet I wonder if this is more a commentary on our temperament than on the reality of our faith. We may feel cold in our faith at times; but that does not negate the genuineness of our faith. It is Christ that holds us. Christ before me, Christ behind me… .

If we could see our future would it then still be faith? No. For there would be no reason for faith. It would be more like following a map than carving a path through the wilderness.

My faith, though based in history and Scripture, often feels like blind faith. This is especially true in those seasons of cold realities, when there seems little to hope, little to celebrate. In those times, bland faith might be a better descriptor.

We who deign to be Christ followers need to learn to rise above the pain and trust again. I know I’ve had to this past year. And it was not easy. It was time and energy consuming. But I trusted that our Lord would never give me more difficulty than I could bear, more adversity than could be a crippling weight. Even David, in Psalm 42 was aware of his despair and depression. But he fought back and knew he would again praise God even for these times. Just not yet.

So don’t let the cold bother your faith. Push through it. Maybe you’ll even learn to love the cold. Go ahead. Go out and play in the snow. Wow! The temperature is almost up to 12̊ F!

 

Honor God, honor people, make a difference,

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

Still sleeping…but half awake

cat, asleep, awake, gary davis, christianity, thinkingMany genuine Christians in this postChristian era still do not comprehend the extent to which the influence of the Christian message has lost its hearing in Western Culture. The mighty dollar is the new God of choice. Power is the new religion; whatever it takes to stay alive or succeed is the practice of faith.

Christianity has lost sway over people’s lives, government decisions, and general morality. What genuine Christianity is flourishing here is doing so outside the mainstream cultural inclinations. But we are not at odds with our culture; we have been subsumed within its values so fully that we are barely noticeable; unless, of course, one of us tries some lame-brained stunt to get noticed in the name of Jesus. Thus do we verify our culture’s judgment that we are irrelevant to anything that matters.

We are still sleeping when it comes to understanding what normal people genuinely think of us; if they think of us at all. To be fair, though, some of us are waking up to the reality that we are in the minority; at least in American culture (referring to the US). Most Christians in the USA still need to come to grips with the realities of the cultural changes and blurring-of-the-lines that has taken place. Do you want to know what people think of us?!? Ask them. Take time to build rich relationships with people around you who never, EVER go to church. Do you want the truth, or do you want to stay asleep…, in a permanent daze?

Let’s wake up and get involved in the lives of those who sit just on the fringes of our lives, who need Jesus.

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

  Gary

Vice Versa

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Fractal Machine

A good friend of mine once said, “Life is painful. If you haven’t realized that yet you haven’t lived long enough.”

Life changes. So also do our perceptions of who we are and what we are yet to accomplish.

For example, when I was in my 20s I had a clear sense of calling—

“The Spirit of the Lord is on me,because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” Luke 4:18-19, (NIV)

With great energy and enthusiasm I plunged into the depths of our world’s myriad throngs, making one mistake after another. I was so intent on proclaiming that I have spent a lifetime relearning how to communicate our faith so those who need our Lord can understand it. The message is the same, but its transference is now attuned to the culture, experiences, and nuances of those who hear it.

Today, Our Lord Christ reminds me that He is the One who fulfills our faith. “Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders (us) and the sin that so easily entangles (us). And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Hebrews 12:1-2, (NIV)

Christ Jesus will be the One who will draw all the peoples of the world to Himself. He will fulfill the Great Commission given to us. Nonetheless, we are the ones who are called to not loose heart, to stay the course, to throw off everything that hinders, and the sin that entangles, and to keep our focus on our Lord. If we tilt our glance to one side or the other we may believe that we are no longer in the race. I assure you, we are.

Of a truth, I must admit to some discouragement and weariness along the way. Sometimes I’ve just wanted to throw in the towel and say, enough! All I hear back from God is, “Really! That’s interesting.”

Get the point? You are not the one who gets to decide when your calling, your race, is over. Do not mess with the God Who made you. It’s way too dangerous.

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

Gary