Challenging Challenges: An Inability to Trust

     Most of us would agree that trust is essential to human nature and human relationships. And, of course, to the affection and affinity we share with man’s greatest friend— our dog. What is it about dogs that draw us to them? What is it about us that draws them to us? Frankly, I don’t care. There’s just something special in the relationship between a human and their dog that is beyond description. A codependent bond not to be broken or challenged.

     So, when someone seems to exhibit an inability to trust other people, red flags should go off in our EQ [Emotional Quotient].

     There are many reasons people lose the ability to trust. Betrayal probably ranks up there at the top. Being used is another. Long-term insecurity contributes to a fear of trusting. So does fear of living. Another is loss; loss of love, loss of a life. Loss of interest in living (very dangerous).

     The challenge is twofold— Do you want to trust others again? and How do you get there?

     Some pain cuts so deeply that you truly doubt you will ever be able to trust anyone again. It’s not that forgiveness is impossible, although sometime even that takes time, if it ever comes at all. But trusting again…, that’s another issue altogether.

     The process of trusting starts with a softening of your heart. A hard heart holds a grudge, plots revenge, seeks to destroy the other person (group). Then, it is a decision— a commitment to trust God and let your heart be open to trust again. I’m not saying this is simple. It is not. But it’s a start.

     There’s a principle in the Christian Scriptures that reads

Do not let the sun go down on your anger. [Ephesians 4:26]

Easy, no. Necessary, yes. Cleaning out resentment and bitterness is a necessary component toward learning to trust again. Ask me how I know.

     If you decide to NOT trust again you will miss out on success, joy, sorrow, relationships, and the risks involved in claiming an incredible life. Personally, I’d rather take the risk of trusting again than wallowing in self-pity, isolation, and emptiness.

     God did not design us to live alone. It’s not good for people. We need one another. Granted, some of us would rather curl up with a good book than engage people at a social gathering. My wife is the former: I, the latter. The ingredient to our success has been the commitment we made to each other at our wedding and the prior commitment we made to honor God in our relationship. It hasn’t always been easy. But after 50 years of marriage (June 5th) we’ve got a few things figured out.

     I would encourage you to learn to trust again. It will take work, eventually, forgiveness, and a new commitment to live your life to the fullest. Plus, you may just smile a bit more. And, get a dog.

Honor God, honor people, make a difference,

Gary

Dr. Gary Davis, President

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

Challenging Challenges: Regrets

regrets

  Let’s see… . What are some of the things we do, or don’t do, that we later regret?

·         Irrational fears; being afraid of something, of someone.
·         Being insecure about something.
·         Losing my cool.
·         Not going for it. The RISK Quotient.
·         Putting myself first.
·         Not offering forgiveness…, first.
·         Or…, never seeking forgiveness.
·         Never admitting wrong.
·         Living behind a façade.
·         Standing forth for what is RIGHT.
·         Sacrificing.
·         Withholding love.
·         … & many, many more.

     What are some of the regrets that you carry with you? Some cannot be resolved, but some can be resolved. What are some creative ways you might bring about a resolution of some of your regrets?

1.       If in the last 2-3 years, go to the person or group and seek forgiveness in person.

2.       On the other hand, if you were the one offended, just let it go.

3.       If you regret what you did, seek forgiveness within reason.

4.       Some regrets from your past will just have to take their place in your history. There will probably be no resolution. Again, just let it go.

     Too many of us drag painful memories along with us in case we need to call on them as weapon in some future argument. Unfortunately, this leaves little room for new life and new growth to take place in your life. It drags you into an abyss of anger and resentment.

     Neither are options for genuine followers of Christ. Seeking forgiveness is. So is offering it. The time for forgiveness for past-wrongs is well overdue. If we are the recipients of God’s FORGIVENESS & mercy shouldn’t we extend that to those who done us wrong?

     Remember this conversation between Peter and Jesus? [Matt. 18:21-22]

21 Then Peter came to Jesus and asked,
“Lord, how many times shall I forgive
my brother or sister who sins against me?
 Up to seven times?”

22 Jesus answered, 
I tell you, not seven times,
 but seventy-seven times.

     We all carry regrets with us; things we have done, things we could have done, things done to us. For all and any, Jesus’ directs us to forgive. AND forget.

Honor God, honor people, make a difference,

Gary

Dr. Gary Davis, President

NEXT— ANGER

Challenging Challenges- Getting in the way of Yourself

    

    Far too often we get in the way of ourselves. Whether it be a big boisterous personality, a shy reticent more introverted one, or simply a bitter demeanor, our true passion in life is overshadowed by a persona other than who we truly are.

     Ask me how I know.

     The challenge for us is to become who we genuinely are both inside and outside. Not that we wear our hearts on our sleeves, but that there is generally a match between what people see is what they get.

     Let me explain. For most of my youth I huddled alone in our basement building models of the military industrial complex of WWII. I preferred being alone. Then, during the 2nd half of my sophomore year of college, shortly following my conversion to Christianity, my personality totally flipped. I became a total flamboyant extrovert. It was weird. Most of my friends thought I had gone completely berserk.

     What I needed to learn was to allow God to sculpt me, in each phase of my life, into whatever shape and personality He needed me to be. And my clay was not that pliable.

     Now, years later, I seem to be retiring into introversion. Hummm.

     I used to teach a course titled How Your Personality Filters your Faith. Simply put, God fashions our personalities to fit His purposes for every season of our lives. Our job is to make sure we don’t get in the way of ourselves OR who our Creator is molding us to be. When Scripture says we are fearfully and wonderfully made, [Psalm 139:14] [this should have included the admittance that we do not like to be fearfully and wonderfully made without our consent.] We are a stubborn creation.

     What are some of the ways we can overcome this natural inclination to fight God’s remaking of us? How can we stop getting in the way of ourselves? Some ideas on how to do that might be—

–  Think before you respond.

–  Listen more than you talk.

–  Ask a friend how you come across. Be sure you are sitting down when they tell you.

–  Ask God about His design for you in this phase of your life.

–  STOP all the frantic running around.

–  Be still…, and know that I am God. [Psalm 46:10] Meaning, stop trying to be god.

     Remember that our Lord can honor you and make use of you in whatever your circumstances. Just the way you are. Mostly. [Although some of us need to clean out a bit of our BS.] Then again, He may choose to remake you completely. Ask me how I know.

      Christ has made all of us for a purpose. Do you know what yours is? What can you learn about it from your situation, your personality, your weaknesses, and your strengths?

“My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” [2 Corinthians 12:9]

     Just don’t back your own car over yourself when you are supposed to be going forward.

Honor God, honor people, make a difference,

Gary

Dr. Gary Davis, President

NEXT— Genuine Commitment.

After There’s Nothing Left: The Reality of Depression

 Sadly, for too many of us, depression is a way of life. Earlier in our marriage there was a time when my wife and I had lost a baby in her only pregnancy. On top of that I had just been fired from a job I loved; all within the same month. To say we were in the grips of depression would be a definitive understatement.

      To deal with such deep loss I turned to a long-time friend for counsel. After numerous talks he opened the DSM-3 (now 5) that listed the Criteria for Clinical Depression.

  1. Depressed mood most of the day, nearly every day.
  2. Markedly diminished interest or pleasure in all, or almost all, activities most of the day, nearly every day.
  3. Significant weight loss when not dieting or weight gain, or decrease or increase in appetite nearly every day.
  4. A slowing down of thought and a reduction of physical movement (observable by others, not merely subjective feelings of restlessness or being slowed down).
  5. Fatigue or loss of energy nearly every day.
  6. Feelings of worthlessness or excessive or inappropriate guilt nearly every day.
  7. Diminished ability to think or concentrate, or indecisiveness, nearly every day.
  8. Recurrent thoughts of death, recurrent suicidal ideation without a specific plan, or a suicide attempt or a specific plan for committing suicide.

https://www.psycom.net/depression-definition-dsm-5-diagnostic-criteria/ ]

      To be diagnosed as suffering from genuine depression an individual had to exhibit 3 of these symptoms for at least two weeks. At one point in my life I had five. To some degree I have suffered with this depression ever since.

      Over the years I have learned to cope through worship, prayer, confession, counseling, and a couple good friends. There is no replacement for any of these.

      In a quite literal sense, I’ve recovered my soul. I’ve become more of a person because I’ve faced myself, admitted who I truly was, and became a new me. But I could not have done it without the spirit of Christ rescuing me from myself. I believe I am becoming more of the person Christ has created me to be.

      Medication is great. Don’t thumb your nose at it. Still, if you want to recover your soul as you work through your depression, no matter how severe or mild, you will need to reconnect with yourself, and your God, at a deeper level. There are no easy paths to recovery or normalcy; a therapist can help a great deal— but the burden of the resolutions will rest on you…, and God.

Honor God, honor people, make a difference,
Gary

Dr. Gary Davis, President

NEXT— final thoughts— 30.

After There’s Nothing Left: Soul Love

    Soul love is something both hard to define and something craved by every human being on this planet. It is the total love of one for the other; unrequited and free, without qualification or limit.

     Very few of us have experienced this kind of love. Stories and fables speak of it— Ruth & Naomi, Cupid & Psyche, Romeo & Juliet, Dr. Yury Zhivago & Lara. Young teens suppose they have found it. Newlyweds know they have. But what is it, really?

      Soul love is an unanswered love, one given expecting nothing in return. Many relationships fail because of “expectations” placed on the other to perform, to return an expected love demanded by the one giving love. This is not soul love. It is a business contract. A deal. A love not based on the emptying of ones-self, but of requiring recompense. Genuine soul love expects nothing in return. It loves with impunity, with no thought of compensation.

            Though most of us have been loved by another by at least one person in our loves, I have known only two soul loves, soul mates. One is my wife Starr, for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish, till death do us part, according to God’s holy ordinance; and thereto I pledge thee my faith.” Except for the death do us part part, we have weathered & faced many storms; probably more to follow; but we will face them together as soulmates.

      The other soulmate in my life has been with me longer than Starr. Since my sophomore year of college, in March as I recall, I have lived with someone who has never left me, who has loved me no matter how I have treated him. Someone who has never changed even though I have floundered and risen to fame numerous times. And, yes, you have guessed it— it is the God who created me, Jesus Christ.

      It is an odd thing to know you have a daily, ongoing, safe relationship with the God of the Universe. But I am not unique; there are others around us who have this relationship. This relationship provides me with the richest of soul loves. And it makes loving other people as simple as having a cup of coffee, or tea.

Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.

                                ~ Matthew 11:28 ESV

      In your life, may you find as great a source of soul-love as I have found in mine.

Honor God, honor people, make a difference,
Gary
Dr. Gary Davis, President

NEXT— After There’s Nothing Left— sources of soul love.

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: Digging Through the Dirt

Shovel in Dirt

         Scrutinizing who you are as a person will create a richer point-of-clarification of who you are to yourself and to those around you.

        This point-of-clarification happened to me somewhere between ages 38-40. My wife and I had just gone through some of the most devastating experiences of our lives— the loss of a pregnancy, the loss of a livelihood, the loss of close friends and coworkers. Add to that my impending surgery for TMJ (Temporo-Mandibular Joint Disorder), which turned out to be very painful, and you can imagine our distress and discouragement. We were at the bottom of our lives. It became apparent that I had given up on living any kind of productive, useful, (let alone) creative life ever again.

      But, somewhere in the latter portion of my 39th year of life I got mad, really mad— at myself and at the world around me. I fought every corner of myself, and a few other nay-sayers, to make a difference in this world. Again. What happened next astounded even me. My wife and I founded NEEDinc. Initially an evangelistic ministry that “tailor made” an evangelistic approach more suitable to our New England environment and culture.

      I was alive again! My soul refreshed, my vision clear, my purpose rising ahead of me. I committed myself and all that we had to this new venture of training Christians to make sense of evangelism in the new, emerging postModern/postChristian world.

      Soul Confession behind me, I began digging in the dirt clarifying what I was all about. For Soul Clarity involves a focus on a future path, of how and where to expend energy. It asks questions like—

What am I designed to do in the next phase of my life?

Where does God want me to spend my strength to make the most difference?

      Everyone will come to a point in their journey where the question of what NOT to do is as important as what TO DO. Options DO change as wisdom increases and strength diminishes. Again, seeking the perspective of others who know you seems an advisable path.

      Having founded and incorporated NEEDinc, we next constructed a Board of Directors. From Day One, NEED’s Board of Directors has provided me with consistent guidance that has kept me on the straight & narrow. Ok, not so straight, definitely not narrow, but definitively on a path which fulfilled the Mission of NEEDinc, and suited God’s design upon me, my strength level, and a course of action that kept me on track. Thank God for the critiques, criticism, caring, and cautions of friends!

      For the only ways to clarify what you are designed for is—

  1. To take risks, in fear & faith.
  2. To listen carefully to the advice and criticism of those who know you best. (Including testing.)
  3. Assess whether what you believe about yourself is proven accurate in the evaluations of your efforts.
  4. In the affirmation that comes directly from the God who created you.

      Soul Clarity works in two ways: first, to wash clean all the junk that has clouded your vision for so long; and, second, to grant you clear vision and long range sight. (2 Peter 1:11). Still, I must add that you will not continue to see things clearly if you clutter your purpose or cloud your vision with peripheral projects. There are many good and great things you can do. But what is the ONE THING you MUST do, no matter what? THAT is the question. Or, that is THE question we all must answer if we are to have a purpose for our existence.

      Some lingering depression may still be there; but it will be couched in a revitalized purpose.

Digging deeper,

Gary

Dr. Gary Davis, President

NEXT— After There’s Nothing Left— the incredible lightness of being.

After There’s Nothing Left: An Intermission – ’twas the Night before Christmas

‘Twas the night before Christmas,

when all thro’ the house,
Not a creature was stirring,

not even a mouse;

      This past Sunday we celebrated the fourth Sunday in Advent by lighting the Peace candle on our dining room table.

      This tradition is a good reminder that Christ came into this world to bring peace to all. In a very real sense He has passed that privilege on to us. So as we sit around a Christmas tree of sing Christmas Carols, let us all re-commit ourselves to being peacemakers in this world. Christmas is not about us, even though we give wonderful gifts to one another. It’s about the Lord God of the universe coming to this planet to inaugurate a new beginning for us all.

      So remember, the night before Christmas, when all thro’ the house, not a creature was stirring, it’s probably because we are all so dead tired from decorating, cooking, baking, shopping, or remembering that one thing we forgot. We need to take a breather and quietly reflect before our Christmas trees what is the reason for the season.

  • It is walking within our world because He came to do the same.
  • It is genuinely loving the people around us because He first loved us.
  • It is committing to sacrifice…, again.
  • It is giving to the homeless, the sick, the elderly, and those less blessed than us, like He did.
  • It is bringing hopefaithjoypeace…, and Christ to those who do not have a clue.

      The night before Christmas could be a time of recommitment to those things that should truly matter in your life. It should be a time to count your blessings and to bless others. It should be a time when you finally shut down, take a deep breath, a sip on some eggnog, and thank God for the life you have lived thus far.

      We will be doing so; come join us…, wherever you live.

      For there certainly is more to come.

For to us a child is born,
to us a son is given;
and the government shall be upon[a] his shoulder,
and his name shall be called[b]
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
~Isaiah 9:6

Merry Christmas, & peace on the earth,

Gary

Dr. Gary Davis, President

NEXT— INTERMISSION— the space between us

After There’s Nothing Left: Resentment and UnForgiveness… on my part

booker-t

  Throughout the course of my days I have come across individuals whose lives are filled with anger, resentment, and revenge. Over time, I watch as it eats away at them, devouring their energies and their spirit. To my amazement and sorrow these people hang onto their anger and rage like a dog with an old bone; and they keep gnawing at it. I try to tell them it will eventually destroy their spirit…, but they do not want to hear it. They would rather chew on the rot and feed their infection.

      Then there are also those who never, ever forgive. They hold a grudge, remembering “what you did to me” so long ago; and they want pay-back. Someday, somehow, “I will get you back for that!” I have had people write me asking my forgiveness for the anger they felt toward me 10-20 years ago. I cannot even remember who some of these people were. But I am glad they got it off their chest.

      But what a way to live!

      Far too many people let this life-sucking resentment-of-another consume their lives. When people live for revenge there is little energy remaining to live for anything else. The sad reality is that many of these people do not want to give up their vengeful spirit. So they remain angry, seeking to undo another person’s happiness or livelihood!

      What a way to die.

      One form of resentment should be more aptly branded as embittered jealously. You not only want what someone else possesses, you are incensed that they have it and you do not. Whether it’s their house, their car, their wife, their job, or their happiness, I deserve it more than they do. Allow me to pose a question— Then why do they have it? Maybe what they have was never meant for you for any number of reasons. The truth might actually be that you DO NOT deserve it more than the other person. Could it be that you have not worked as hard for it? The problem we are missing is that we have grown so accustomed to the infection of comparison-itis that we have lost our own way along the path hewn out for us. Most of us have our own idea of success. What we do not seem to grasp is that another’s success does not necessarily reflect on ours. In fact, we may already be successful but don’t want to accept God’s definition of success for us. Ask the unemployed Ph.D. raising four kids, or the under-employed executive working in a Third World country restructuring their government in the midst of a military upheaval.

Success is not always ours to define. Resentment will leave you with nothing but emptiness and unfulfilled longing. But in periods where soul reflection becomes necessary to your very being you must fight yourself to attend to these deepest of soul-sucking demons. To NOT address them is to pass over a festering wound and pretend it will go away if you pay it no heed.

During his college days John Steinbach (The Grapes of Wrath, Of Mice and Men) was told by a professor that the day he became an author pigs would fly. In each subsequent book Steinbach wrote he penned this Latin insignia in the front—

Ad astra per alas porci

-to the stars on the wings of a pig

      For those who need to let go of some resentment— Fly Free. And when you feel the urge to dump a little pig-poo on those who poo-pooed you in the past…, DON’T. Hold onto the grace you have within.

Honor God, honor people, make a difference,
Gary
Dr. Gary Davis, President

NEXT— After There’s Nothing Left— Flat Faith, pt.10.