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  

After There’s Nothing Left: TRAGEDY

Mural_del_Gernika    Tragedy has such an all-encompassing way of devastating the soul; it destroys and shatters the very core of life; it wretches the gut, evoking extreme sorrow, weeping, and a disintegration of the spirit.  It leaves us, ostensibly, with nothing. We know it isn’t true; but it definitely feels that way.

      There was a time in my life when I took a two-month leave-of-absence from work because of issues with exhaustion and depression. My wife was pregnant with her first child, ever, and I was facing TMJ (Temporomandibular joint disorder) surgery that would leave my mouth wired shut for at least eight weeks (turned out to be twelve). Two weeks into my leave of absence I was dismissed from the company I had worked with for 17 years…, with two-weeks’ severance pay offered.  The surgery for my TMJ was already scheduled for the following month. The morning of my scheduled surgery my wife called from home (at 5:00 a.m.) to tell me she had lost her only pregnancy. We wept. We were at the bottom. We knew the only way we could go was UP. That somehow sustained us; that, along with the company of close friends, our trust in the God who made us, and our church. Over the next few weeks we adjusted to our loss, my intense pain from surgery, and the hope that God would not leave us alone. He did not.

      Over time our pain lessened, in all areas…, somewhat. Though to this day we still wonder what might have been had things been handled differently.

      The point is this— that Tragedy had a significant effect on my soul in a way immeasurably unlike anything else. Taking some time for soul rest, and recovery, following the devastation wrought by this kind of tragedy, or one like yours is imperative. You will not only need rest for your soul, but people who care for you, and even counselors who can guide you through its stages. (See Elizabeth Kubler-Ross, On Death and Dying, 1969).  Do NOT expect your soul to automatically reset, or recovery to come without difficulty. It will not. Do not deny your pain. Live through it as best you can.

      But, as a genuine Christian speaking, I can assure you that a personal faith in God makes a big difference. Reaching out to Christ for solace, comfort, and direction will help a lot.

Honor God, honor people, make a difference,
Gary

Dr. Gary Davis, President

NEXT— Solutions— part 5, Deterrents to Soul Rest.

After There’s Nothing Left: Soul Rest – Pt 1

rest chairMy soul needs rest. It is not weary from being wounded; from those arrows it merely feels the inflicted pain and bears healing scars that eventually fade away. No, my soul needs rest from constantly putting out while not taking in enough. To be sure I am to blame for this imbalance: it is every true Christian’s task to provide soul sustenance for their own life-walk and personal growth. But I have this tendency to run ahead of myself. Thus, the need for soul rest.

Three places where I find my soul rests are at a Lakehouse on Newfound Lake in New Hampshire, on top of Pikes Peak (14,115’), and at Jenny Lake, in Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming. In Wyoming I breathe easier; my heart-beat slows. On Pikes Peak, near our home in Colorado, I am alone with God. I am invigorated! In New Hampshire I sit on the lake-dock and watch ducks land, studying the intricacies within the ripples of the water as the wind blows across its surface.

I need to get to these places more often.

Your soul probably needs rest as well. The hectic pace of our lives, whether urban or rural, has grown much more frantic since the industrial revolution of the late 19th century— more so in these early decades of the 21st century. Much of the machinery and technology designed to make our lives easier has not made them simpler. We are a more complex species today than when we entered the 20th century. There will be, to be sure, more discoveries and technological inventions in the future that will again make our lives “easier.” But will we have any more time to spend with friends, family, or even God? Will we be able to take the time we need to provide the kind of rest our souls will need to stand up to the challenges of this new cultural shift?

Defining Soul Rest

      Before you jump to your feet and yell, “It’s simple! You just need to stop! Get alone and rest. Your soul will follow suit.”  allow me to describe some of the factors you might want to consider.

  • Is soul rest for an Introvert the same as it would be for an Extrovert?
  • Is soul rest easier for a Type A (organized, controlled) or a Type B (more relaxed, flexible) person? And what about a Type C person (combination)?
  • How do you know if you are genuinely resting or merely following someone else’s formula? (A Spiritual Director’s prescription.)
  • How long does it take to get to soul rest?
  • When will you know you have had enough?

Hopefully, these peripheral considerations have demolished any simplistic view of soul rest you may have held. Finding rest for your soul is no simple matter. And these peripheral considerations become more central to our definition than is immediately apparent. Your personality and temperament have more to do with your soul than you might imagine.

Returning to the task at hand, defining soul restWell, at least MY Definition

            Soul Rest 1) the complete relaxation of the soul; resulting in the cessation of struggle and conflict within; 2) a coming apart from daily activities to a quiet place for reflection, refreshment, and rest; 3) any activity which provides one’s soul with a release from this world’s worries and cares— any activity that first rests one’s soul, then enlivens it.

      A definition such as this leaves considerable open-endedness to the mind and much to be desired. Let’s unpack it. Read on.

Honour God, honour people, make a difference,
Gary
Dr. Gary Davis, President

NEXT— Solutions— part 2, Unpacking Soul Rest.

After There’s Nothing Left- over Commitment and no Commitment

images (1)[Reminder: These are excerpts from a book I started writing in 2012 because it was the end of the world.  You do remember 2012?]

Building on my life experiences (see the last EMPulse) let’s start an examination of some of the causes of Depression.

Here are the first two—

  1. Over-Commitment.

Having multiple things going on in your life at any given period can lead to soul exhaustion. Granted, some of us can juggle more balls than others. Some of us have even acquired the knack of juggling a bowling ball with a flaming torch and an active chainsaw (mostly working mothers). But whatever your level of multi-tasking, we all are inevitably capable of reaching a point of over-commitment with too many irons in the fire. We DO so much that we have little time to care for ourselves, in body, soul, or spirit.

Do not take this cause of soul exhaustion lightly. Though you may pride yourself in your ability to multitask, it can leave a thorough feeling of left overs at the end of a day. Nothing left, for your family, for friends, for God, or for yourself.

Over-Commitment means nothing gets done completely right, let alone thoroughly. Not to mention the physical toll it takes on our bodies and the exhaustion it leaves behind. Over-committing ourselves has a way of bleeding us dry.

  1. NO Commitment

The other side of the coin that reads “Over-Commitment” is “NO Commitment.” Being uncommitted to anything is just as capable of deflating your soul as over-commitment. A lack of commitment denotes a hesitancy about life, about a timidity in relationships, that breeds some degree of mistrust in you as a person. In July 2012, I published an article with the seditious title of “Draw a Line.” It was seditious because it challenged people to “draw a line in the sand!” to “Take a Stand.” To let your yes be YES and your NO be no. Too many of us want to keep our options open, to hedge our bets, or to wait for the next best thing.

As a result, we shy away from commitment to, well, just about everything else; jobs, apartments, relationships, anything…, with the exception of our own individual wants and desires. I become the center of my universe! Everyone and everything is peripheral; it is there only for my utility and pleasure. Even you are tangential to my being.

It does not take too much imagination to see how no-commitment to anything except one’s self can lead to soul exhaustion and depression. If everything is a one-way street, with everything flowing into YOU, your capacity to remain self-indulgent will become satiated. You will grow fat with yourself and it will be quite difficult to shed the excess self-bloated baggage. Your soul descends into lethargy and languishes in a kind of affluent isolation. Dead, but not dead. Mostly.

Honour God, honour people, make a difference,
Gary
Dr. Gary Davis, President

NEXT— Imbalance & Deception

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

Psalm 15-Slander and Evil

skull-demonic-fingers-satan-1565457-pxhere.com
15 Lord, who shall sojourn in your tent?
Who shall dwell on your holy hill?
     [He] who does not slander with his tongue
and does no evil to his neighbor,
nor takes up a reproach against his friend;
      How often does my heart turn to the dark side? To inwardly seek revenge, retribution, retaliation?!? Years after claiming Christ’s grace as my own I still seek to lord something over another, to seek my own pleasure, to gain notice for success. I, who claim to be in service of the God most high, still seek a place in the sun. How often have we spoken in a derogatory way about our fellow Christians? How often have we questioned the integrity of others just to look good ourselves?
      God forgive me. And us.
      O Lord, who shall sojourn in your tent?  Who indeed! Our world calls this slander, and there is no place for it among us. Confession is good for more than just the soul. It is good all the way ‘round.
      Our neighbors, likewise, deserve our respect and protection. When Starr and I lived in Amherst, MA, we knew all our neighbors, so did our kids. Everyone had a key to everyone else’s house; we shared a community 22’ ladder, show blowers, power washers, tillers, ropes, and garden vegetables. And there were no fences. Where we live now is all fences. Building our community takes a little more work, but we’re getting there.
      This pandemic has provided us with great opportunities to serve those around us. How could we ever do evil to those we love who live next door? Still, I understand not all neighborhoods are like ours; but we could try to make them that way.
      A reproach against a friend enforces the previous two phrases to mark the seriousness of accusing someone of a serious deed. If this happens to you, there better be an uncontestable proof that the criticism is true. If it is true, own up to your failures. If it is not, you must stand your ground and rebuke your accuser. Gently, quietly.
      Lord, who shall sojourn in your tent? Who shall dwell on your holy hill? Indeed! Certainly few. By the qualifiers set forth so far, none of us would make the cut. But thanks be to God! All has been provided for us through the sacrifice of our Lord Jesus Christ!
      Unlike every other religion in the world, our God has provided a way for us to approach Him without proving ourselves. He paid the price for our rebellion and rejection of His rule over our lives. HE is our provision at the entrance way of heaven, to be received by our Father!
      Welcome home, son. Welcome home, daughter.
Hallelujah! What a Saviour!
 
Gary
Dr. Gary Davis, President
NEXT– Making the Cut

Define Blameless, Psalm 15

large-inmate-get-out-of-jail-free-card15 Lord, who shall sojourn in your tent?
Who shall dwell on your holy hill?
He who walks blamelessly and does what is right
and speaks truth in his heart.

      Throughout history we have refined the blame-game into a glorious art-form. She did it! The devil made me do it! It’s not my fault. That’s right. Blame the other guy. He did it.

      There is, however, a way out of this insidious cycle.

  1. Walk blamelessly.
  2. Do what is right.
  3. Be honest with yourself.

Let’s look at these three solutions more in depth.

      Walk Blamelessly. Easily said; not so simply accomplished. On the surface it means we cannot enter the blame-game; on a deeper level it is a challenge to live life as morally pure. Not morally pure as possible, morally pure.  None of us can do that, even with Christ’s forgiveness. Since the first humans, our nature is to cut across God’s perimeters of protection for us and to do what we want.

      Fortunately, God has provided us a GET OUT OF JAIL FREE card through Christ’s sacrifice for our rebellion on the cross. We are forgiven.

      Do what is Right. There is a line in the Jack Ryan movie series, in Clear and Present Danger, when Harrison Ford confronts a fellow senior government official and yells, “No! It’s right or it’s wrong!” If God’s Truth has been inscribed on our hearts since Creation then every human being is accountable before Him to do what is right. We know that. Social Anthropologists aside, we know. Now let’s DO IT.

      Be honest with yourself. This is the most difficult thing to do before a Holy God. If we are honest with ourselves, we know that we deserve nothing from our Creator; no blessing, no honor, no forgiveness, certainly no heaven.

      The question has never been “How could a loving God send anyone to hell?” Quite to the contrary, “Why should a loving & just God let anyone into His heaven?” If you don’t get this then you’ve created God in your own image, instead of the other way around.

      Thankfully, there’s Jesus. In a synagogue in Nazareth, where He was raised, He read from Isaiah (ch.42)

“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives
and recovering of sight to the blind,
to set at liberty those who are oppressed,
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor…”

      This is what He has done for us. Shouldn’t we at least try to do what He asks in Psalm 15?

Walk blamelessly, do what is right, be honest with yourself,
Gary

Dr. Gary Davis, President
NEXT— Making the Cut: … slander & evil

What’s happening to us?

paradigm-shift2

     If you haven’t noticed, the Western world is in the midst of another paradigm shift. This time from a modern, scientifically verifiable facts, to a  postmodernpostChristian view of reality that is not related to facts or history or consents to “Ultimate Truth.” They say there is no such thing. How can they know that?

     Of course, I truly hope the people who designed this 737, and those that built it, were not so inclined but adhered to the laws of physics and flight…, especially the landing part.

     Most of us live in a world that relies on the dependability of continuous change; that is, new things are usually predicated on earlier ideas or inventions. But in a paradigm shift we experience an occurrence of discontinuous change. The NEW things are not connected to the past in any way. The automobile had as much to do with horse transportation as our smart phones have to do with landlines.

     The expressions of the Christian faith are going through a time of discontinuous change in our society. Although we hear many Christians cry for the old-ways of the liturgical calendar and liturgical worship, the fact remains that the format of faith constructed in the 400s or 1700s is not designed to face the assaults of this postChristian sensibility in which we life.

     Still, other Christians today, decry the loss of our “old-time religion.” They tell us that today’s contemporary worship service, with its culturally affinitive music and come-as-you-are mentality is nearing its end. Really?!? Oddly, Paul in his missionary journeys never considered NOT adapting his style or methodology to each new situation. Read Acts! Read Paul’s Letters! Nor did the earliest missionaries to the Far East, or to the Vikings.

     The Christian message should always couched in the idioms and formats of the host culture. When we try to import 17th century European Christianity to other cultures if always backfires. And that includes the postmodern/postChristian landscape in which we find ourselves today.

     There was nothing particularly sacred about the 100s–400s. Although a lot of Christian beliefs and practices were established in that period. Nor was there anything sacred about the 17th century. Why do we constantly try to return to their expressions of faith as if they had something we do not!?!

     We have the privilege of formulating new, multifaceted expressions of our faith for this time, our peoples, and for a world more closely woven together. Let’s get at it!

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

Dr. Gary Davis, President

NEXT disruptions & tenacity—  pass on, not out.

Tenacity and Disruptions – Consider What I Say

jesus2bpraying “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]

     Thinking, thinking, thinking. We do a lot of that in our evangelical enclave. We want to get things right. We want to think Biblically; from studying the Bible, to theology to worship to communication. Even Paul the apostle encourages us to consider what I say….  He must have had some sense that what he was writing carried some weight with Timothy.

     I wonder if the people I’ve taught over the years still consider the things I have said. Then again, do I still listen to the voices that come into my life? I feel like I still have a lot to learn.

     Heeding what others say to us, taking it to heart, may be just the way our Lord is driving home His point of what He has designed us for. His guidance comes in many forms— first, of course, is through the revelation we know as the Bible. That is inspired by God and binding on all humanity for all time. But the second, specific to us individually, may come from a consensus in a meeting, a whisper from your wife or husband as you nod off to sleep, or even through a little child in your neighborhood.

     Our Lord helps us understand His divine revelation and His personal guidance through many means. Do not try to tie Him down to our boxes of form and focus. He is full of surprises! I once heard the voice of God coming through an 11-year-old boy I was chatting with in a hallway at First Baptist Church, in Amherst, MA. Wasn’t looking for it, no buildup to it in our talk: just Boom! I don’t think he ever knew.

     When our Lord gives us understanding He also expects us to do something with what we now know. Has God been speaking to you about anything new through Scripture, or a non-descript 11-year-old boy, or someone else? Take heed. For as understanding comes, so does our responsibility to act.

     I end with a warning. Never put yourself in a position where you cannot hear your Father speaking to you. Stay immersed in Scripture. Have your “God’s-voice antennae” always fine tuned and ready to listen. [See I Samuel 3; Samuel, the Lord, & Eli.]

Honor God, honor people…, make a difference.

Gary

Dr. Gary Davis, President

NEXT— Being a Christian in a postChristian world.

Tenacity and Disruptions – Getting Dirty

download    “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]

     Farming takes up millions of acres across our planet. It also grabs the heart of many men and women who could not imagine living in a city. They love the early mornings, the hard work that leaves dirt under their nails and sweat on their brow. At the end of the day they rest with a sense of accomplishment. At the end of harvest they are rewarded with fruits of their labor being sold at markets around the world.

     The Christian life is much like this. There are seasons of intensity when we cultivate our world to make it ready for the return of the King. We study our Bibles with concentration, we learn the power in prayer, we give ourselves to those who have no idea of what the Christian message of live and forgiveness is all about.

     But we must also take breaks from our interactions to refurbish our souls. We need time alone with God, time alone with ourselves, those we love, and a mountain retreat or a sea-breeze blown beach. It is not wrong to rest from our labors. Our souls need it. It is wrong to rest when we have done nothing to extend the message of Christ in our world.

     Christians in other areas of our world have observed how lazy Western Christians have become; how much we are prone to entertainment worship and feel-good faith. It is time we examine ourselves to see if any of these accusations apply to us…, and then to correct it.

     Ask yourself— How much do I enjoy talking with God? Listening to Him? Am I a joyful giver? Do you give at all? Do I love normal people? (Read non-Christians.) How do they know I love them? What are their names? How many friends do I have who truly know me?

     Our salvation is NOT based on what we do. But if there is little evidence in your life that you are living up to the precepts of our Lord’s principles for living…, well?

     It’s time we get our hands dirty in the real struggles of life. Ours, and others. Farming is dirty work, but what it produces provides nutrients for us all.

Honor God, honor people…, get it done.
Gary

Dr. Gary Davis, President

NEXT disruptions & tenacity— thinking, thinking, thinking.