After There’s Nothing Left: An Intermission – Adventures in Advent

First three of five candles lit on an advent wreath

      Adventures in Advent! Wow!?! Where to start? Mary & Josephs’ journey from Egypt. No place at a guest house to stay…, except in the attached stable. Angels singing! Shepherds showing up. More Angels! Milk from a cow?!? Probably not.

      Moving along. Getting through 2020. Surviving COVID (sadly, not for all.). A “fascinating” Presidential election; which is now over…, right?!? Holiday traffic. More or less. Flying. In an airplane. Restaurants. “Business as usual.” NOT. Our booming economy! [Or have I spoken too soon.] Christmas Shopping. Making Jeff Bezos excessively wealthier.

      Whoa, partner. This is flustering even me as I write. Let’s get off the horse for a moment.

      Around our ranch we try to slow things down by using an Advent Wreath and Candles. I’ll reference a great link to their story Here. But here’s a quick synopsis of what the candles represent.

  • The first candle symbolizes hope and is called the “Prophet’s Candle.” The prophets of the Old Testament, especially Isaiah, waited in hope for the Messiah’s arrival. The purple color symbolizes royalty, repentance, and fasting.  
  • The second candle represents faith and is called “Bethlehem’s Candle.” Micah had foretold that the Messiah would be born in Bethlehem, which is also the birthplace of King David. The second candle is also purple to symbolism preparation for the coming king.
  • The third candle symbolizes joy and is called the “Shepherd’s Candle.” To the shepherd’s great joy, the angels announced that Jesus came for humble, unimportant people like them, too. In liturgy, the color rose signifies joy. This candle is colored pink to represent joyfulness and rejoicing.
  • The fourth candle represents peace and is called the “Angel’s Candle.” The angels announced that Jesus came to bring peace— He came to bring people close to God and to each other again. This color is also purple to represent the culmination of love through the Messiah.
  • The (optional) fifth candle represents light and purity and is called “Christ’s candle.” It is placed in the middle and is lit on Christmas Day. This candle is white to represent pure light and victory.1

Maybe it’s time we reconsidered all the hustle and bustle around this Christmas season and focused our attention on the grand scheme of the Incarnation— of the Lord God of the Universe coming to our planet to draw it from its disastrous path of self-destruction and back to its roots— God the Father.

Merry Christmas, & peace on the earth,

Gary

Dr. Gary Davis, President

NEXT— INTERMISSION— ‘twas the night before Christmas  

After There’s Nothing Left: An Intermission: Letting Go

2020 has been a year of hardships and sadness for too many of us around the world. Some of us have been through the horror of COVID19 and lived to tell about it. Others…, not so much. We’ve had to learn to let go of them. And, yes, it was painful.

     And it’s not over yet. There is more pain to come. And more sorrow. And more death.

     With this cheery intro I want to direct you to a question— What is it you need to let go? Decide now. Then hang on to what is more important, most precious, and most loved.

      But what if…? How will you handle it if your wife, your husband gets COVID? Or one of your kids? What if someone you love dies? These are serious questions in serious times.

      The issue, I believe, comes down to this. What do you have to rely on in these unstable economic days, in the uncertain times of COVID and death?

      It often seems that we hang onto things far too tightly. I’ve found that what I thought I needed when I was younger, I realized later I only wanted. Then as I matured (stop laughing) the things I thought I wanted I didn’t want, or need, at all.

      It’s all about relinquishing that desire to have MORE. MORE. Isn’t it time we all thought of a little sacrifice? Of giving to those in need.

      I’ve often tried to imagine the conversation that must have taken place in heaven prior to Jesus’ birth on earth. “Now as you descend to earth, my Son, you will be greeted by cows, and ox, and chickens. There will be a few humans there as well. Obviously, Joseph and young Mary, your mother. A few shepherds will trickle in throughout the night.

      “They will find you in a barn-like lean-to, lying in an animal feeding trough on a swath of hay, which I will prevent them from eating.

      “For the next 30 or-so years you will learn to work with your hands. Following which you will begin your short 3 year ministry to draw people back to Me. Most of your own kind will reject you. Actually, they will hand you over to their conquering overlords to be executed.

      “But not to worry…, I have a greater plan for you, and for them.

      “Now get going.”

      I wonder if Jesus had a hard time letting go?!?

Honor God, honor people, make a difference,

Gary

Dr. Gary Davis, President

NEXT— INTERMISSION— the Adventure of Advent

After There’s Nothing Left: An Intermission – Thankful

It was the best of times. It was the worst of times.” Thus began Charles Dickens novel about the French Revolution in March, 1859. A Tale of Two Cities. Those were tragic times to be sure; but minus the guillotine, we live in just as perilous times today. Heads aren’t rolling, but this COVID19 virus is ending the lives of too many people and disrupting the lives of millions more.

      If its’s hard to find something to be thankful for these days let me offer you some things to be thankful for.

  • Your life. Ask, why am I still alive when so many are dying? Good question, isn’t it?
  • Your family. Kids can drive you crazy, true. But they are a gift from God. Honor them. So are parents and in-laws, cousins and grandparents. Honor them too.
  • Friends, especially the kind you can say anything to. They too are a gift from God.
  • Food on the table. Though many will go hungry this Thanksgiving, you will be blessed. Give.
  • A roof over our head. So remember those in your community who are homeless. And do something.
  • Those who paved the way before you. You owe them mucho thanks.
  • If you are a follower of Jesus Christ, be thankful for his salvation. You know you don’t deserve it.

Starr and I want you to know that we are very thankful for you, who actually take the time to read my scribblings. And we are thankful for those of you who don’t have a clue of what I’m talking about. Thank you for being there, for being you. We are so thankful for you.

      23 For I received from the Lord what I also delivered to you, that the Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took bread, 24 and when he had given thanks, he broke it, and said, “This is my body, which is for[f] you. Do this in remembrance of me.”[g] 25 In the same way also he took the cup, after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.” 26 For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes. ~1 Corinthians 11:23-26 (ESV)

      If Jesus could take the time to give thanks to the Father for this last supper he would have with his disciples, his friends, knowing the cross that lay before him the next day, couldn’t we also, in our “worst of days” give God the thanks he deserves.

      Happy Thanksgiving!

Honor God, honor people, and thank you…, so much,
Gary

Dr. Gary Davis, President

NEXT— INTERMISSION— caregiving

After There’s Nothing Left: An Intermission

popcorn

If you have grappled with any of the issues in these posts (book) so far you might want to take a break at this point. This might be especially true if you are in a critical place in your life, a tipping point, but without hope. I have found through my own emptiness that you cannot, should not, continue with self-analysis and pondering 24/7. To do so depletes your strength and creates fearful concerns where none may be warranted.

     Most of us have a tendency to over-analyze. Then we over-analyze again, rolling around the data, the experiences, and interpersonal relationships in our heads to a fault. Too often, resulting in depression and loss of stability.

     So take a break. Process what you’ve read so far.

     I need a break. You probably do too. Dealing with depression and recovering your soul are not easy topics to dwell on for too long. Unless, of course, you are a counselor or psychologist, and it is your job.

      So for the next two months These posts will address the issues of this Thanksgiving and Christmas Season. There are other things we need to consider and set aside time and energy to ponder. Some of the ideas I want to look at are—

  • Kindness
  • Caregiving
  • Being loving
  • Thanksgiving
  • Transitions in Life
  • Dealing with Your Past
  • Letting go
  • Crazy Celebration

      Many of the people we know will find Thanksgiving and Christmas quite difficult times to live through. So let’s get down to the business of loving them in ways that reflect Christ, make a difference, and make sense.

Honor God, honor people, make a difference,

Gary

Dr. Gary Davis, President

NEXT— INTERMISSION— kindness

After There’s Nothing Left: What Forges Forgiveness?

forging, forgivenessThe title of this subsection is not merely titled for the sake of alliteration. Rather, it is a serious question around a quite somber difficulty for many, many people. Forgiveness. In general, people find it difficult to forgive; conversely, unless in a court of law, to receive forgiveness.

      Forgiveness is something that is forged, like a steel blade tempered in the fire, heated to the point of meltdown, then hammered to utility on an anvil. Finally, it is sharpened to perfection at the hand of a master sword-maker. So also is forgiveness. It does not simply show up. It goes through testing, hammering, reheating, reworking, and sharpening. Then, when its work is accomplished, it becomes one of the most powerful spiritual weapons anyone might possess. The admission that you are forgiven, truly, by the Lord God Creator of the Universe, is to realize that you can risk your life more than you ever deemed possible. To be forgiven is to be empowered by God to make a difference. (It is also quite a countermeasure against depression and defeat.)

      There are a myriad of aspects to forgiveness that could be considered here. But I will limit our discussion to only five. Here are the first two.

Forgiveness for Others

      Though we are admonished to forgive those who have wronged us it is not quite as simple as that. Some of those wrongs have wreaked havoc with our lives, our livelihood, our families, and our financial security. Forgiveness often takes quite an extended period of time. Here then, again, is the matter of trust. Can we ever trust the other person(s) again? That is a much larger issue. Mix in a reality that some people who have wronged us believe they have done NO wrong: they believe they were righteous and right in their pronouncement of judgment upon us. They were justified in what they did or said. Can/should we forgive those who have not come to repentance before us, let alone before the God of the Universe?

      It is extremely hard to forgive others…, especially if you believe they are in the wrong. Conundrum.

      I believe forgiveness of others can only be fête accompli thru true humility and contrition; a willingness to take the lower place, even if the other party or person is clearly in the wrong. This is not to say that your forgiveness is ignorant of the facts. Rather, it chooses to take the subservient position for the sake of resolution, of restitution.

      At times, it may be the case, that you are unable to extend forgiveness to another. This is usually reflective of a long-standing, deep-seated pattern of being betrayed or hurt by others who did not seek your forgiveness. Or, it could also mean you are just so mad at present, that you are still out for vengeance and/or revenge. Seriously, not quite healthy all the way around. Nonetheless, you need to deal with your anger/grief and come to a point of genuine, heartfelt forgiveness…, no matter how long it takes. It rests on you to take the higher ground. If you cannot, or will not, forgive, how will you ever receive it from others? How will you receive it from God?

Forgiveness from Others

      There isn’t one of us who hasn’t hurt another person. Accidentally, thoughtlessly, casually, or intentionally, we all have inflicted wounds on one another. Some wounds we inflict are intentional. Retaliation. Revenge. Reprisal. And we know we are doing it. If there ever were an instance of moving over to the dark-side, this would describe it; the deliberate act of hurting another.

      But our confusion arises when the one we have wronged comes to forgive us. What will we do?

      It comes down to an issue of individual arrogance. If someone offers you forgiveness the implication is that you have done something wrong. Of course, if this is true…, you don’t want to be reminded of it. If you DO receive their forgiveness, then you find yourself in an awkward spot. You’ve received forgiveness, admitting your evil intention, and now… what? Feels squeamish, doesn’t it.

      May I suggest that you admit your wrongness and simply say “thank you.” Or, “Thank you. I hope you can forgive me. How do we move beyond this?”

      Inversely, if you cannot receive forgiveness, how will you ever extend it to other people?

Honor God, honor people, make a difference,

Gary

Dr. Gary Davis, President

[note: you may never come to a place of forgiving another person without the assistance of the God who made you. It sounds trite, but I have found that the bond I have with Jesus Christ has done more to enable me to forgive another person than I imagined possible.]

NEXT— After There’s Nothing Left— forgiveness for myself, for God, and from God

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: flat-2-fantastic faith

Sistine Chapel      As promised, here some of the things I am doing to restore my faith from flat to vibrant. These actions have made a major difference in both recovering from depression and restoring my soul.

1.       Interfacing with a diversity of people. Surrounding myself with only like-minded friends would never expand my understanding and acceptance of them. I learn from those who are of a different mindset, a different culture and temperament. Maintaining this balance in my life seems to reinvigorate me; it draws me to a place where the earth and its peoples come into clearer perspective. I regain a sense of mission in life and what my role is in the grand scheme of things. (That’s why I still have to get above 14,000’ at least once a month.)

2.       Seeking more times of solitude. Please note that I am a genuine extrovert. Though significantly tempered from earlier in life, an extrovert in every sense of the word— grabbing life by the bal…, er horns and going for it! Ergo, solitude, for me, is difficult, yet critical. I tend to end my days earlier (usually with a wee dram of fine single-malt Scotch), pondering if I had made any difference this day, as its hours and minutes tick away. God willing, I have.

      If you are primarily an introvert, you need not heed this advice. It is true that you need solitude as much as us extroverts. But you also need to get out more and engage with God’s creation in the lives of others. And I’m not sure the single-malt Scotch would be a good idea for you; unless you are with someone.

3.       Furthermore, I read the Bible differently now. I read it not so much for content, or information, or to support a theological position; rather, I read it to see and sense how Jesus moved.  I track his movements, not topologically, but relationally. How did he interface with people? How did he meet them on their own grounds, in their own life situations, and reveal himself to them? Why did they respond the way they did? Why did he use questions and metaphors (parables) so much? Why was he cryptic on some occasions and not on others? What pushed him to seek time alone with his Father? And an especially important question for me— How did he love people, no matter their cultural diversity?

      In a way, I enter into the text of Scripture to feel its pulse as much as I used to analyze it for its content and truth. In my book CLUELESS CHRISTIANITY, I have a chapter subtitled “-the non-propositional nature of Truth.” If you enter into the times and culture, the life-situations and heartbeats of a text, you will see what I mean. When Jesus said, “I AM the way, the Truth, and the life.” he wasn’t kidding. He was shocking.

4.       I pray differently too. Though I have special times for deep, concentrated confession, worship, and intercession, I have also learned to “pray without ceasing,” as it were. That is, I arise each morning in an attitude of prayer (…er, after coffee) and maintain it throughout the day. This often becomes difficult, to say the least. It is often interrupted by lust or laziness, hunger, counseling, that guy who just cut me off, or writing (like now). But the attitude of constant prayer, that is, an open channel between myself, and Jesus Christ, the God of the Universe, is always, ALWAYS open. I do not believe I have ever had a simple two way conversation with anyone where the Spirit of God was not involved in the discourse in some way at some time. I’ve also learned to keep quiet in prayer. I now wait for God to speak. That’s important, and takes time.

      Granted, this three-way-open-prayer exchange has some side effects. We always have to listen, even if ever so briefly, to that funny little voice in the back of our head, before we respond to the person in front of us; which, of course, is a good thing for an extrovert. On the down side, having an open channel to God on an ongoing basis does ruin our enjoyment of sin. It truly, really, just is not as much fun as it used to be. This too may be a good thing for us…, and for me.

5.       Finally, I have been listening to astute Christian leaders from around the world [Ian Montgomery- Peru (now Vermont), Vaclav Havel- Czech Republic (through his writings), Phill Olsen- South Africa (now stateside), and Leonard Sweet, (Rings of Fire)] who can feed my soul. It would not be an understatement to admit that there are many men and women around the world who have a more significant grasp on Scripture, on the interface between the Christian faith and our world’s cultures, and on their own lives, than I will ever have. Thanks to the Internet I can now access many of them as I drive, sit in my study, or in front of my fireplace on a cold winter’s morn. I have learned that I know very very little. Thus, I avail my mind to learn from others, some of whom I find myself in cordial and vast disagreement. But that’s OK. My faith is being challenged, probed, assaulted, and fed. Thus, it is moving from flat to fantastic. Hopefully, by the time I am finished writing this book (yes, these EMPulsi are coming out in book form…, hopefully before I die), flatness of faith will be a thing of the past for me. That would be nice.

      Simply put, we need a faith that is Alive! Vibrant! and Full of Life! We need to live as if we are truly forgiven; for, in fact, WE ARE!

Honor God, honor people, make a difference,

Gary

Dr. Gary Davis, President

NEXT— After There’s Nothing Left— Things that Keep Me from Fulfilling God’s Design.

After There’s Nothing Left: Feeling Like a Failure

my-failures    So many people constantly struggle with guilt. I am not one of them. Mostly. Through years of rejection, depression, trial & error, and simple stubbornness I have somehow overcome my sense of failure and risen to a place of significance. Well, in some circles.

  When I listen to people who constantly struggle with a sense of failure I can barely fathom the depths of their sense of worthlessness. It must be terrible to never feel good enough, to feel always judged and condemned by either God or others…, or both. I wonder how people live who struggle with guilt all the time; so little joy, so little lightness-of-being. Only weight. There was a time in my life when I made so many mistakes that I felt like I had perfected failure to an art-form. Not that I no longer made mistakes; only now I’ve learned from them; and I do not let them weigh on me as much.

      I’ve learned to distinguish between a sense of failure and real failureReal failure must be admitted and addressed, especially if you are the cause behind it. Personal failure in relationships is tragic. Most people find it quite difficult to own up to their complicity in the breakdown of a relationship. It is just too painful. Some people simply get angry and blame everything on the other person. (Isn’t that helpful?) Their insecurity leaves deep scars across far too many lives. Real failure requires fortitude and maturity to first acknowledge and then to correct if it is possible. In some instances, this is not possible: in others, it remains open to the one who failed to come clean and seek reconciliation and resolution. Real failure has consequences. Never doubt that: do something about it.  [Please note—you may need help.]

      A sense of failure, usually has its birth through multiple failures, real or perceived. Though it is possible to feel like a failure and withdraw into a shell from the very first moment, it is not typical; it takes at least two or three close-together events to drive a person into a personal cloister of private self-doubt. That’s the bad news. The good news is that a sense of failure is significantly different than actual failure. When I was in my teens I felt like a total failure. It didn’t matter that I was a fashion model and drove a Volvo; I felt undesirable. It didn’t matter that my SAT scores were 686 & 782; I never showed them to my parents because I thought they meant a D and a C. I felt stupid. I felt I was a failure and that is how I lived. I was an ugly, insecure, scrawny 134 lb. failure. Throughout most of my college career I continued in this vein until it dawned on me how much more the other guys were studying— and I wasn’t. Hummm!?! My sense of failure slowly turned into “Well, maybe not so much.” What a revelation!

      One of my seminary brothers, during lunch, in a conversation with someone else, simply remarked “God don’t make no junk!” he probably never knew I overheard his comment; but that comment mulled around inside me and took root. I wasn’t junk. The God Creator of the universe had made me. Therefore, I did not have to be a failure. Neither do you. Remember, FAILURE simply means you have not discovered what you are designed for yet. Remember— “The only BIG risk in life is not taking any.”

Honor God, honor people, make a difference,
Gary

Dr. Gary Davis, President

NEXT— After There’s Nothing Left— Resentment and Forgiveness…, on my part, pt.9

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.