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.

After There’s Nothing Left: resting your mind, body, & emotions

lonely-feeling-wait-tranquility-royalty-free-thumbnailAspects of Rest— (mind, body, physical, emotional, a person in community)

How do you rest your mind? How do you rest your body? What about your emotions, your sense of individuality, and your social relationships? Let’s look at these various aspects of Rest individually—

  1. RESTING YOUR MIND.Resting your mind does NOT mean you stop thinking! God forbid! Unless, of course, that is all you do, 24/7. Resting your mind may involve reading in a genre totally different from your normal sustenance. Try a science magazine. Racial justice, or political speculation? Switch to fiction, fantasy, or even a sports magazine. While we’re at it…, obsessed with sports? Take a breath…, w-a-l-k a-w-a-y! (This may require medicinal, medical, or mental assistance.)  Delving into an area of thought totally foreign to your field of interest can free your mind to make connections you might otherwise miss. Tunnel-vision will  creep into all our ways, given enough time.

There is a field of study known as Synectics. Ever hear of it? It is the application of the principles of one field of study to the problems faced in another field of study. Getting outside your box, resting your mind, may be just the thing the doctor ordered. Most of us never grow inside our own boxes; we just think we do. To have our field-of-focus sharpened it is absolutely necessary to be a part of something of a totally divergent character. Like bridge design & ocean surfing, or homemaking and marksmanship.

  1. RESTING YOUR BODY. Ceasing all exercise is not the answer. Curtailing, moderating, working on another body part, etc., are much preferable to becoming a couch potato(e). Besides, any sudden STOP in exercise can have serious consequences for your overall health. For some of us, exercise is what keeps us going, gives us stamina, makes us strong. It is an intrinsic part of our everyday routine. We would feel sluggish without it. But for others, exercising can feel like a hundred pound albatross draped around our neck, dragging us to exhaustion. For this latter person, starting an exercise program might be the way to rest their body. Lack of exercise is not rest; nor is it sloth. We do not rest our bodies by stopping. We rest our bodies by balancing feeding, what we put into it, with exertion, what we ask of it. But I will never discount the value of just lying on some tropical beach in the Caribbean waiting for that pineapple drink thing with the umbrella in it. Just don’t lie there too long.
  2. RESTING YOUR EMOTIONS. Resting the emotions is simpler for some of us than for others. Some of us barely allow our emotions near the surface of our daily lives; thus, forcing them deeper within. They still churn away, to be sure: we may be aware of it— we may not. Some of us do not want to be in touch with our emotions. Too unruly; easier to merely retain them on the surface and maintain our inner composure. But that can only take you so far. In my work as a counselor I have witnessed those moments when deep emotions have been exposed for the first time: amazement, anger, elation, Ah-ha!, rage, sorrow, collapse, restoration…, all come to expression in one form or another to connect a person’s inner world with their outer world. People leave my office with a new sense of resolution about them. Not that everything is, in fact, resolved; but it has turned a corner. I love corners.

Resting your emotions involves giving up resentments, past wounds, and that inner tumult that wracks your heart on a regular basis. To a quite serious degree, if you are to rest your soul, you must bring some degree of resolution to those things that churn & turn within. In the Bible, God admonishes us, “If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.” (Romans 12:18)  So, do what you can; but be advised that some of the resolution you seek may never come. Then, you must learn to live with it. That is the stark reality.

  1. RESTING YOUR PERSON IN CONTEXT. All of us live in a context; that is, we have a rubric of relationships that we classify in various categories— home, family, work associates, “buddies,” girlfriends, fellow sports enthusiasts, computer nerd groups, gamers, fellow Christians, etc.  We do this to manage our relationships, to keep them straight…, and to keep them separate.

There are also some people in our life who fit into these quite extreme categories.

  1. Truly Special People. These people are always there for us. OR, They have influenced us is significant ways. We need them in our lives; and we most definitely want them there.
  2. Quite Exasperating People.  These are people who want you to always be there for them. You are not important— they are. Given the opportunity, they will drain you of every ounce of your energy…, and then they will ask for more. Unless they are paying you, avoid this lot! You have neither time nor enough strength for them.

[For a more exhaustive delineation I refer you to Gordon MacDonald’s Restoring Your Spiritual Passion. It’s not easy to find.]

      Resting your Person-in-context involves a separation of yourself from some, if not all, relational communities for a time of aloneness. We ALL are so over-contexted in this hyperventilated life-pace we try to maintain.  Be still…, remember?

Honour God, honour people, make a difference,

Gary

Dr. Gary Davis, President

NEXT— Solutions— part 4, more Unpacking Soul Rest.

After There’s Nothing Left-Starvation, Isolation & Unfulfillment

isolation-3155603_960_720  Although there are many more causes of depression, I will consider but three more here. Then we must move on to some practical solutions for the things that bleed us dry.

8.  Soul Starvation

As your soul continues to be drained of strength, Soul Starvation sets in. Your exhaustion turns to a relentless sense that you will never get back to who you once were. You will never find the emotional/spiritual resources you need to recover from this passionless, vacant life. You are starved for life, friendship, feeding, and a fresh start. But this continual stagnation of your spirit constantly adds to your emptiness and the exhaustion of your soul gets worse and worse.

  1. Isolation

      This, then, leads to Isolation. Not that you cut yourself off from your family, your work, or the rest of society. You continue to participate, sometimes as though by rote, in the daily rhythm of life, but within your soul you are intolerably alone. You are a shell. You are either in cover-up mode, intentionally living behind a façade, or have dropped out of the stream of life altogether. Even though you know this is not good for you, you do it anyway. It’s just easier.

      For when your soul is completely exhausted you have little strength to live, to do anything, let alone to intermingle with friends. Isolation, for some, sadly, leads to remorse. Thoughts of suicide enter their plans of coping with this incessant agony. Your agony is a denial of anyone who cares for you enough to make a difference, even the God who made you.

  1.  Unfulfillment

      The final cause of depression I will mention is Unfulfillment. We settle for less than we know who we are or what we can accomplish. Again, we become a shell— of who we once were, or of who we believe we can never become. (There are certainly many more causes of depression, but these are the ones I have found, in my experience, to be the most destructive of a person.)

      When we are young the world lies before us, wide and beautiful, full of love and wonder. I, like you, had dreams of what I would DO with my life. As I grew into my 20s and 30s those dreams were honed and clarified. I was ready! Of course, the organization for which I worked did not have the same dreams that I did and we had a very sad parting-of-the-ways. It was at that point I learned I would have to fight to bring my dreams to reality. Incidentally, what I dreamed as a youth had little to do with the scope of what I am doing today. I simply did not have enough life-experience to dream that big. That has changed.

      For what seemed like an eternity, my dreams were on the back shelf. I was unfulfilled. My mind was bursting with ideas and energy within; and I was told to wait. Finally, at age 40, I stopped waiting and drew my dreams off the back shelf and put them into action. It was risky, scary, challenging, and exciting! I regretted waiting ‘till I was 40 to begin my fulfillment stage.

      Living a life of unfulfilled aspirations, truly, inextricably, leads to soul exhaustion and depression. “Doing the next thing,” only creates a drudgery that epitomizes exhaustion.

      If your life is presently in an unfulfilled stage, and has been there for more than a year, it is time you started thinking about shifting to another reality; one, wherein, you have a greater sense of making a difference. NOT to do so is to allow one more cause of soul exhaustion to govern and defeat your spirit.

     Soul Exhaustion is a serious component of depression. There are many contributors and causes that can be identified. What we’ve considered so far is only a first step in dealing with this depletion of spiritual, emotional, and physical loss. The rest of this book (er, these articles) will offer some ideas, and some encouragement, on overcoming your own depression and living the life that God intended you to live.

Honour God, honour people, make a difference,
Gary
Dr. Gary Davis, President
NEXT— Solutions— Getting some rest.

everest15 Lord, who shall sojourn in your tent?
Who shall dwell on your holy hill?

who does not put out his money at interest
and does not take a bribe against the innocent.
He who does these things shall never be moved.
 (ESV)

     O Lord, who shall sojourn in your tent? Who shall dwell on your holy hill? This is the question for which we have sought an answer over the past five weeks. For this last installment considering the solutions raised in Psalm 15, I’d like to zoom in on the last phrase— He who does these things shall never be moved.

      The only other place in the Bible that this phrase is used is in 2 Peter 1:10. “For if you do these things, you will never stumble,” Is the implication in both places that we shall never sin…, again? No. Never stumble, never move, yes. For our primary focus in life is set on the mind of Christ and what He desires for our lives.

      Then again, look back over the previous solutions in both sections, Psalm 15 and 2 Peter 1-10. I do try to live up to these solutions and to put them into practice. They form a great code to live by. Do I often come to a place where I have attained this level of commitment to God? Not exactly. How about not even close.

      Two of the things I’ve always cherished about our Christian faith are (1) that the goals of pleasing God are always just beyond my reach, giving me something to aspire to. The other thing (2) is that our faith in Christ provides us with a direct access to God the Father with no prerequisites or conditions to approach Him. He is simply there for us— as a father, a friend, a deliverer, a place of safety, or rest. He is also there when we need a swift kick in the butt.

      Remember the story of the Footprints in the sand? When the traveler saw only one set of footprints Jesus explained those were the times when He carried us. In my case, and maybe in yours, that’s not the case. For me, when only one set of footprints were there, Jesus explained that they were the times when He dumped me into the surf and said Sink or swim, buddy!

      Our Christian journey is a constant warp & woof between being buoyed along in the arms of our Savior and learning to stand on our own in the struggles with the darkness that is in this world. May we have the wisdom to understand the difference and proceed with discernment…, and decisiveness.

      Never shaken, never moved.

Honour God, honour people, make a difference,

Gary
Dr. Gary Davis, President

NEXT— Disruptive Technologies & Innovation

Advent – LIGHT! The Christ Candle

Advent wreath      It’s Christmas Eve. Our family lights the fifth candle— the Christ Candle! It is known as the Candle of Light because of the light that Jesus’ birth has brought into the world.

      For Starr and me lighting this candle is the seasonal reminder that we are to be the light of the world, especially in this time of such spiritual darkness. We believe that Christ came into this world to restore us to God and to make us messengers of His grace, love and forgiveness.

      Too often in our witness we dwell on the darkness within us and our need to have it exposed to the light. We forget that the Light does its own illumination and cleanses us from all unrighteousness. We are simply to be messengers of the Light, proclaiming that we can be made whole again; we can be reunited with the God who made us to make a difference in this world for His glory. For Christmas IS all about Him.

      But in another sense Christmas is also about us. Christ came to this earth to pay the penalty for our rebellion against God and to make our restoration [read salvation] possible.

      What a great privilege we have!

      Take time over the next day and a half to reread the Christmas story. Try to place yourself in the troubled dark times that Mary and Joseph lived in. Feel the jostling baby in your womb (women only); feel the discomfort of the journey, and the disappointment of finding no rooms available in your own home town. Then, conceive giving birth in a family animal stall. A feeding troth for a cradle.

      And then all heaven breaks loose! The emotions Mary and Joseph must have experienced could barely be imagined.

      We live in the wrong kind of “light” this Christmas season; too many twinkling lights on our trees, too many festive decorations all around us. Wonderful though they are, they can distract us from the True Light that we celebrate at this time of year; all the more important that we become Light to those around us. Clarification is the natural companion of Light.

      So, if you can grab any moments of peace and silence in our noisy culture this Christmas Eve, remember why our Lord came in the fullness of time to bring salvation to all mankind. Maybe you will capture a glimpse of the role you are meant to play in this great scene.

Merry Christmas!
Gary

NEXT …on a personal note

unSelfing ourSELVES

12764758_10207871278393338_48460173020244048_o    Over the past few months I have let some of the saints of the Church lead in my devotional life. One such person is Frederick William Faber (1814-1863). He is best known for his Lives of the Saints. But from his work The Creator and the Creature, there is one line which will not let my heart wander far.

Holiness is an unselfing (of) ourselves… .”

    When you think about it, that makes sense. How can Christ fill us with himself if we are supersaturated with ourselves?!? Any form of meditation, which is a quest for inner peace, calls upon us to empty ourselves…, and stay that way. I find that course quite dangerous. If I empty myself of myself, and do not refill that void with Jesus Christ, then I open myself to all sorts of devious invasions.

    For much of my life I believed that holiness was a thing to pursue, something that was a goal in the Christian life. Then again, it is also a platform granted to us by the Father through Jesus Christ. This is how God sees us the moment we put our trust in his son.

    Frederick Faber’s idea of holiness being an unselfing of ourselves is new to me. I am going to have to give it some thought. Yet as I probe within I find that unselfing is exactly what must take place. In Scripture we come across thoughts like “I must decrease; he must increase,” (John 3:27-36). We need to reexamine our priorities and reflect on what our supreme goal in life actually is; that which fills our time, that places our desires and dreams under Christ’s command.

    The ancient Greek maxim— You DO what you want, really is your definer of what is most important to you. Every six months to a year take an inventory of how you spend your time. Actually, start NOW. This should tell you where your heart is: money, sports, possessions, mission. Any revelations?

    One of the things I’ve noticed about myself through the years is that what I thought I needed, moved to the what I wanted category. Then I found that I wanted less and less in life. It was a good move. Still is.

    We all live at different levels in life— wealthy, poor, average, extravagant, sacrificing, giving. None of these definers is any more significant that the other. It is all a matter of what our God has designed you for.

    Whatever that is will call on you to continue in the process of unselfing yourself.

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

NEXT— The fear of the Lord…. 

Of Cubes & Chaos: Forgiveness

jesus-cross-summit-cross-37737 Another side of my Cube simply reads FORGIVE. It is important for us to remember how difficult it is to do that. We may say we forgive; but then we harbor a grudge, or a slander, or cast a shadow, for decades. We “share” a concern about the one who wronged us with others considering him/her for promotion or something; not fully trustworthy, possibly. Remember Truthiness?

     Our reality is that we haven’t actually forgiven that group or individual. So we disparage them to others. Subtle, isn’t it. Maybe not so much.

     Which is more challenging— to offer forgiveness, or to seek it? Two sides of the same coin? Over my life-span I’ve noticed that the people who are more willing to admit wrong, and seek forgiveness, are also those who forgive others more readily.

     But there will always be those who find it virtually impossible to admit wrong, or seek forgiveness whatsoever. Why? I think it has to do with their self-worth. If they admit to being wrong that somehow diminishes their personhood; it becomes a matter of personal pride.

     Some people simply cannot see themselves as wrong…, ever. That would make them less of a person; it would throw spurious doubt on their perfection. (Which they know, deep down, they are not anyway.) FYI— I was perfect once! For about 5 minutes in April of 1987. (You’d better be laughing.)

     To err is human (Duh!) To screw up is even more human. To forgive is not. It takes a special strength to confess you are wrong about something. You are going to need God on this one. Prayer matters.

     My wife and I have a principle we’ve tried to abide by our entire marriage. Always be the first to say you’re sorry; especially when you know you’re right.” 

     We admit we’re wrong much more readily now.

     “Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing.”

NEXT—   paradigm positioning— where are we?

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

But…BUTT OUT!!

black-man-yelling-into-phone-500x295

Ok, OK…, this “butt” piece may not be what I intended when I first started writing this whole series, but it seemed to fit. Why— because sometime you don’t want to deal with all the crazies nosing around or interfering in your business. You simply want people to BUTT OUT!!!

    In this over-connected techno era it seems like everybody has access to your information, your identity, your very personal and financial documents. You can run, but you cannot hide. More and more, the concept of personal privacy is being challenged. How much information about you do governments, clothing lines, credit card companies, medical practitioners and medical insurers, even grocery stores have a right to know about you, let alone, the right to share with their “partners”?!?

    Hamlet, in Shakespeare’s play of the same name, once pondered “To be, or not to be. That is the question.” Today that question would be more like “To be known, or not to be known.” A young bride once said to me that the greatest fear she had of getting married was being known.

    It’s not so much that knowledge is power, as it is the withholding of information, knowledge, is power. Too many prying eyes, too many internet connections, have made us a culture of isolationists. LEAVE ME ALONE! BUTT OUT! If you think privacy on the internet is an issue, try personal privacy in life. We crave personal privacy, personal space, and, not unexpectedly, a deepening desire to be alone, to be silent, tranquil, in a serene, safe place. Not easily accessed in our open-faced society.

    Some of us even want God to Butt-Out. He becomes too intrusive in our lives, always interfering with what we want, with our rights and pleasures. Does he really know what’s best for us? Who says? Well, he does. Contrary to popular opinion, God is not sitting up in heaven trying to think of ways to take the fun out of life, or steal our joy, or rob us of our pleasure. More likely than not, he is trying to protect us from ourselves. One of the consequences of wanting our own way, with no acknowledgement of the perimeters-of-protection he has set in place for us is that we are left to our own undoing. Ignoring Christ’s principles for living is simply not a smart move. Telling the Lord God Creator, in essence, to butt-out, is quite dangerous.

    Sitting humbly before him to learn is a much wiser choice. And safer.

    Your move.

NEXT— But I’m afraid.

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