From the Archives

Small_USPS_TruckFrom March 1998

Personal encounters with an obvious Work of God.
An obvious work of God-something that seems kind of rare; you don’t experience it everyday. So it’s nice to relate one such encounter for your reflection.
She was a postal worker; someone who had taken our packages and letters (like NEEDnews) and mailed them out for us over the past 10+ years. In many people’s eyes, someone just to glass over and get on with your life. But God had arranged a divine encounter, as it were.
My executive  assistant, was mailing out some correspondence for me last week when Anne noticed the NEED letterhead on the envelopes, “oh, you must work for Gary. Could you have him call me; there’s something I need to talk over with him.”
So Anne and I met at The Pub for some munchies. “I’ll be direct. I need to find a spiritual path for my life and I have no idea how to find one. You are one of the few spiritual people I know who will shoot straight with me. Where do I look?”
Anne went on to tell me of the personal unhappiness she carried with her, even with “the best husband in the world.” She talked about the 2-3 years of counseling she had just completed when her therapist told her “I don’t know what else to do for you.” She talked about her dreams and the weight of feeling unfulfilled as she approached 50. Then she said, “How would you guide me in the quest for a spiritual path?”
It was obvious that the Lord was drawing her to himself. It was his Spirit at work in her. I was just the guest at the party, the interpreter, the navigator.
So I told her of how Christ came to reestablish a connection between us and our creator. I told her that our ancestors rejection of God’s perimeters for our protection (that’s sin for most of us) had broken our relationship with God and badly damaged our human relationships.
“What you need, Anne is to be reconnected with the God who made you and loves you.”
“But that’s a big step, Gary, and I’m not a risk taker.”
“Anything in life worth going for is a risk, Anne.”
“I know. That’s why I need your help.”
“Well, okay. But really need to talk to God himself. He’s a lot more help than I’ll ever be.”
We just gave her the Guide Book, a Bible.
Gary
Advertisements

Phases 12-Where do we go from here?

 we_can_do_itThis will be the last entry in our series- The Phases of the Christian Life.
     If you have been following this series, by now you have tried to determine where you are in the phases of your own Christian life.
  • Deliverance
  • Delight
  • Discipleship
  • Distraction
  • Disillusion
  • Discouragement (Despair)
  • Decisions
  • Dedication
  • Deliverance (again)
  • Delight (on and on and on)
Well, don’t bother. Time for me to ‘fess up.
     There is no sequence of phases to the Christian life. You might find yourself in one phase or another depending on your life circumstances and your responses to them: you may find yourself delighting in one area of your life and discouraged in another; this may last for a long time. Get some help.
     The goal, however, remains the same- Delight. Delight is the culmination of all the facets of our Christian journey: accepting Christ’s deliverance from and forgiveness for our sin, overcoming distraction and disillusionment, deciding daily to dedicate our lives to the joy of becoming Christ’s disciples; bringing all aspects of our life under His authority until it feels more like freedom than obedience.
     Do keep in mind that this is a life-long process. It is NOT an instantaneous “poof” and all is well. Some Christians never fully accept Christ’s forgiveness for their sins, deciding instead to wallow in chronic guilt and confession. Others rarely delight in their Lord; they always seem to be working harder at their Christian life. Still others avoid decisions at all costs, dreading they might make the wrong choice. Some never fully dedicate their lives to Christ, fearing they may miss something our world dangles before them.
     There are some practices that will help you stay the course, especially through the rougher times.
  • Private Prayer
  • Friendships
  • Time Alone Time in Community
  • Scotch
  • Exercise
  • Rest
  • Time Away
  • Productivity
  • Scripture (en mass)
  • Reassess your Routine
  • Prayer with Friends
     Everyone needs a Safe Person, a Safe Place, & a Safe Activity. A great meal out would be a good place to discover what yours are; and to put to use some of the ideas in the above list. My favorite place is the Sonterra Grill in Colorado Springs. Great Pineapple-Habanero Salsa. Bring a friend.
     Whatever you do, give God room to work in your life the way He wants to work. Don’t dictate to Him how things are to be done. It’s just not safe.
In Phase 3, or 5, or is it 7? Whatever!
  Gary

Phases #8 Decisions

Gary Davis, decisions, despair, depression, life, journey

     Rising above despair, or crawling your way out of it, is not easy. It might take more time than you initially thought. And you may never fully find yourself completely clear of it. Some pains leave deep scars.

     If there is one tool in the fight against deep, enduring despair it is this— make decisions. It will require every ounce of strength and determination you can muster, and then some. And you will get it wrong sometime. Fine! Try again. Don’t let failure defeat you; learn from it; grow from it. Get mad at your situation. What did Sir Winston Churchill say during World War II? “We will never give up! Never, never, never give up.”

     So also it must be with you.

     At some points you will not even have a hint of what those decisions are. That’s OK. But there will come a day, a moment, a tipping point when a decision, a resolution will become clear. You must make it. Right or wrong…, MAKE IT. It’s better to be engaged in doing something than to lie there sullen, mired in your own solidifying concrete.

     First, a disclaimer. I am prone to depression; to deep spirals; to feeling empty and useless. So, these thoughts do not originate from a book on counseling or self-help. They are real, just like the anguish you are now enduring.

  1. One, I’ve already mentioned— get mad at yourself. This will at least awaken your ire and challenge you to start fighting.
  2. Don’t over-analyze. Mulling the same think over ad infinitum has a way of breeding reptiles of the mind that gnaw at your soul and cramp your emotional/mental capacities.
  3. Pray. If you do not have faith in a God who created you and has your best interests at heart, then this idea doesn’t apply to you: but it should anyway. Call it external processing if you must. Unburden your heart to someone who can help. I vote for God.
  4. Seek medical help. Whether to get through your pain, or, to gain a sense of stability once again. God’s healing is both natural and supernatural; it’s hard to tell which is which sometimes.
  5. Eat the right stuff. Even though chocolate and coffee are essential food groups you still need a source of meat (cow, fish, protein), vegetables (fiber & vitamins), grains (bread, oatmeal, fiber), dairy (yogurt, cheese, hit fudge sundaes).
  6. Exercise. Brooding bloats the brain. Get out there and burn off some endorphins, stress, and calories.
  7. Again, talk to a wise friend. Or, pay a counselor. You need an external perspective.
  8. Make decisions that give you hope and a clear path of resolution and restoration.

Never give up! Never, never, never give up!

  Gary

Phases #7, Despair

people-who-dont-get-discouraged[Note: This EMPulse was initially intended to focus of discouragement. But the more I wrote, the more I realized it was about Despair. Thus, the shift to despair, which is far more lethal than being discouraged.]

     I didn’t think it would ever end— this despair, this gut wrenching emptiness. The anguish had taken over my body, my soul…, my very reason for living. Will this ever end? How can God let this happen to me?

In the loss of a wife, a parent, a daughter, the grief is understandable. But betrayal? That’s a whole ‘nother kind of anguish. It hits us like a 10 lb. sledge hammer; how can this be happening? Stunned, we try to make sense of it all; but nothing is clear.

Discouragement is something that hits each of us at some time or another in our life. Things just don’t work out the way we had hoped. But despair leaves us with nothing, emptiness, totally alone within ourselves. A child dies, a promotion denied, expectations & hopes—  smashed upon the rocks. We’ve all been there. But what to do about it? Some suggestions—

1.      Give in to the grief. You can never recover from your grief unless you let it have full sway over your heart. Reel in its devastation. Feel the depths of it grip.

2.      Talk to a safe-person. Not necessarily your lover or spouse. NEVER your child. Find someone who holds your confidence and open your heart to them. Cry. Sob. Weep. NOT to someone who will try to “fix it,” but to one who will simply let you be you in this moment.

3.      Cry out to/at God. You can blame Him. But you know it’s not His fault. Cornelius VanTil once said “The only way we can slap God in the face is if He picks us up and holds us in His arms.” ‘Nough said.

4.      Give it Time. Sometimes… lots of time. Whoever said Time heals all wounds, was right. And, truly, some pain never leaves us.

5.      Hope.  We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; [2 Corinthians 4:8-9] The hardest thing I have ever done is to hope in the midst of the darkness & despair— truly The Dark Night of the Soul[c. 1577-1579. Saint John of the Cross], takes on new meaning once we’ve been dashed upon the rocks.

6.      Make Decisions. Like what? No, wait, I’m getting ahead of myself. This topic is so important that it will be the focal point of my next installment.

For now, if you are just entering your despair, feel it deeply. If you are in the midst of your grief, grieve. If you are just recovering, somewhat, don’t beat up on yourself for not handling your pain better. The Psalmist David once wrote—

[Note2: These suggestions are in no way sequential, complete, or final. Facing despair is far more intricate than this article infers.]

 Why art thou cast down, O my soul?
and why art thou disquieted in me?
hope thou in God:
for I shall yet praise him for the help of his countenance.

  ~ Psalm 42:5. (AKJV)

Hope!
Gary

PHASES #3, Delight

gary davis, christian, delight, discovery, life           Welcome to the Christian life! Can’t you just taste that cheesecake with strawberry topping and drizzled chocolate?!? And that huge scoop of cookies ‘n cream ice cream! Yeah…, me too. No? Go ahead…, take a moment to taste it. Yes, now.

            The first days of freedom and realization in the Christian life are like that. You can just taste your whole body smiling. The Delight phase, at least the initial one, is pure hot fudge! My first days as a Christian were a complete Lightness-of-Being. After 3 years of fighting and running from God I gave up; it was as if a tremendous weight that was pressing me down had been lifted off me. I was finally free.

            There is an peculiar sense of peace, of inner-grinning-joy that overcomes you when you realize you are forgiven and set free before God. If there were any subjective evidence of regeneration in Christ, as God’s grace is extended to us, it would be this internal delight.  This inward quiet peace that has a warming, soothing effect.

            Still, for many of us, when we lose our joy and return to a more settled Christian life, we wonder what happened. Let me see if this helps. Remember your first kiss? And the next and the next and the next? Of course you do. Well, as your relationship with Christ develops and deepens, those kisses take on a richer meaning beyond mere passion. They become symbols of your mutual commitment to one another. Your passion morphs into something far more powerful than initially.

            The same is true within your Christian faith. The passion is still there; but it manifests itself differently. It expresses itself in worship, longer times in prayer, and acts of grace to others. Its language takes on more practical and private expressions.

            Now, all this being said, it was a surprise to me that, as I aged, my original passion returned. And it did so within a much more informed, educated, experienced faith. It is a far deeper delight than I might have imagined.

            So as you move through the various Phases of your Christian life, and maybe recycle a few, keep in mind that it isn’t over ‘till you’re dead. You’ve got a few more Phases to grow through.

Reveling in the new reality!

  Gary

Making a Difference

difference, clueless, community, christianity, life, We all want to make a difference. Some of us want to make a difference exclusively for ourselves: more money, nicer house, vacation home, BMW 7 series. Nothing wrong with that— except for the “exclusively” part.

Some of us want to make a difference on a local playing field—literally; coaching a sport, serving the elderly, providing meals for the injured, etc. We care about our friends & neighbors.

Fewer of us want to make a difference in the world arena. We become the shakers & movers of world change. We may hold public office and be in the public eye or we may operate under-the-radar, making a difference on the sly. But we keep the world safer and less prone to self-destruct.

The challenge of this EMPulse is obvious.  In what ways are you making a difference in your neighborhood, your community, and the world? Notice the question was not Are you making a difference? Why? Because you are not the one who should provide the answer. The people around you should respond. As for making a difference in the world, giving from your bounty (not from whatever is left at the end of the month) should be a priority. But have you ever sought an audience with Theresa May, Michel Temer, Justin Trudeau, Enrique Peña Nieto or Xi Jinping? Some of us need to do that to make a difference.

Kent Julian, on his BLOG Dream to Do, suggests 7 traits of people who make a difference—

  1. Hard (& smart) worker
  2. Consistency and Perseverance
  3. People-Person
  4. Truth-Teller
  5. Problem-Solver
  6. Lifelong Learner
  7. Delivers the good

If you show evidence of any of these character traits, then you should already be making a difference. Add significant time in Prayer to that list and you become a lethal weapon in the hands of God.

If you do not exhibit any of these traits, why don’t you? Are you afraid of something, or self-absorbed? Or is personal gain that central to your life? Really?!? Isn’t making a difference worth a little sacrifice?

Do you really want to hear our Lord say to you “Depart from me, I never knew you… .” (Matthew 7:23).

We all need to make sure we are making a difference somewhere.

 

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

Gary

Weeds in my Soul

weed, faith, weedkiller,

I have a confession to make. I hate grass! Ok, then you also know how much I hate weeds. The problem is…, if we killed all the weeds in our lawn there would be no green left. I swear the whole lawn is a field of weeds!Conundrum.

Weeds seem to sprout up no matter what I do. Weed Killer, Clover Obliterator, or Brush Fire Kits— nothing works. The same is true as I seek to live an honorable life before God & man. Weeds. Everything is basically green, but when you look closely— weeds.

One of the books I am presently reading talked about the weeds that grow up in our souls. We don’t always notice them because they are green like everything else. Sort of. They seem to creep amongst the lush grass that I have been cultivating and grooming most of my adult life. It’s like some of the Spiritual Turf Builder spread evenly over the green grass of my soul is snatched away by the weeds, just like on my lawn.

I’ve learned to live with the weeds in my lawn; not so sure I am all that comfortable with the weeds in my soul. Nestled within the deep crevices of my soul they can do serious damage. Not that I live with a pseudo-spirituality or surface-Christian faith. I do not. I live as upright a life as I can. But there are weeds.

For most Christians, green is green, weeds, grass, what’s the difference?!? But for professional Lawn-Keepers for-the-Lord, they can spot a weed from a mile away. Sometimes, that’s all they see. That’s all they focus on. Thankfully, the Father looks at us through the eyes of Christ. Our sins are forgiven and our weeds are taken away. Now that’s Turf-Builder!

So stop wallowing in your guilt and shame. Get on with grooming your soul to produce that pleasant aroma of freshly mown grass, announcing that your spiritual lawn is now trimmed and your weeds are gone.

Remember that about other people while you’re at it.

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

Gary