Challenging Challenges: Making our Relationships Count

   Ok, Ok…, after you’ve stopped laughing at the photo let’s think about this.

How do we make our relationships count?!?

It’s one of the greatest challenging challenges of our era. Yes, divorce rates have dropped; but that’s only because people aren’t bothering with marriage so much anymore. Or, as one of my friends put it “I done with letting the law dictate my personal relationships.” Long term commitments are predicated on What’s in it for ME?

     As a genuine Christian I want to challenge this present mindset in direct opposition. At a reception after the wedding I heard the father of the bride comment “Everyone knows the words don’t mean anything anymore.” Mind you, this was at the reception, immediately following the wedding service and the exchanging of vows.

     Seriously?!? I was truly offended.

     Let me offer you some of what I’ve learned that makes a relationship count.

1.       Psalm 15 admonishes us to Swear to our own hurt and do not change. (v4). That means keeping our commitments, come hell or highwater. For my part, I’ve done that. You?

2.       Betray no one. It builds a track record of distrust. Not smart. Let your YES be Yes; and your NO be NO. [Matthew 5:37] Remember the KISS Principle?

3.       Immerse yourself in building up other people. It will make a difference in who you become.

4.       Love with all the kindness and compassion you have!

5.       Always forgive first! Especially when you know you’re right. It’s about the relationship, not the argument.

6.       Invest in things that matter. Not so much gifts, though they can be super nice. Rather, experiences that build up others.

7.       When our kids were growing up we would always tell them, “If you assume the higher position, there’s only one direction you can go. If you take the lower position, there’s only one direction you can go.” ‘Nough said.

8.       So many training courses today encourage us to be a servant of all if we are to rise in this world. Our Lord tells us, simply, to be a servant of all. ‘Nough said again.

Honor God, honor people, make a difference,

Gary

Dr. Gary Davis, President

NEXT— Reframing Our Faith

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

Yes!

61xpma7qt1l.sr160240_bg243243243  Late last month a friend of mine, David Rupert, released a book— YES. In it he recounts his journey to Living a Life of YES. It is a great book and you should read it…, and BUY it! Starving authors all agree heartedly.

    Last time I wrote about being TEPID, bland, unimpressive, dull, insipid. Too many of us are like that, Christians especially. We’ve come to equate humility with shy, quiet, insecure, introversion. I do not find that Jesus’ humility was even near that. He was unafraid, opinionated, forthright, daring, bold, assertive, forgiving and gracious. People wanted to be around him. Do people want to be around you?

    David Rupert found that saying Yes to life put him in over his head where he had to trust in God. No choice. From his work in the Middle East, to his neighborhood, even extending into his work, saying Yes removed him from being ordinary to a humble greatness he could have never anticipated.

    What do you think might happen to you if you prayed Well, God, here it goes. I’m going to step out of my safety zone and trust you. I’m going to say Yes. Go the extra mile. Care for someone who needs love. Give more money away than is safe. Open up my soul to others more than usual. Travel to some place that I sense God is directing me with little verification. I’m going to take a risk not because I want to, but because I need to. I must.

    I’m going to say Yes!

    The first thing that will happen to you, after you make this commitment, is a complete sense of peace, and confidence. The next thing is a total sense of terror. The good news— you’re on the right track. Next, some of your friends, and our roaring lion adversary, will try to dissuade you from your intended course. You’re still on the right track. Although, do not disregard wise counsel and insights of friends who know you.

    What would happen in your life if you started saying Yes? Most of us fill our lives with so much activity that we are more likely to say No to new challenges or commitments.

    How did we ever get this busy?

    If anything will quell the spread of the Christian faith it is the tepid isolationism of a life of saying NO. Cloistering within our Christian fellowships is not what our Lord Jesus intended when he commissioned us to GO. [Mathew 28:18-20]   Nor did he intend for us to be obnoxious manipulative peddlers of the gospel. But he does intend for us to be in the world, yet not of it.

    So what’s it going to be? Yes… or No? If Yes, then you will look forward to the exciting, scary, risky experiences Christ is creating for you even now. If NO, then you will live in fear and trembling that, one day, God may call you out of your safety zone and plop you in over your head. What are you going to do then?

    Growing a habit of Yes is a safety zone. Mostly.  Naugh, all the time!

Honor God, honor people…, say YES,

Gary

Empulse #12 A Christian Message for a postChristian Heart

kermit_the_frogSarah had come to faith in Christ during  college. After two years in the campus group she showed up in our home out of frustration. She was visibly distraught. Her Christian staff worker had told her she “just needed to trust Jesus.” “That,” she said, “just was too simplistic.” She was aggravated, angry, and very near the detonation point. As we sat that evening in front of our wood stove she collected herself to tell my wife and me a story we could hardly believe.

            Sarah[i] had grown up in a proper family in a rural area in New York; mother, father, two sisters and one brother, older. On the surface everything appeared to be status quo. But just below the surface lay insidious evil. Sarah’s older brother had been raping her every day of her life since she was eleven years old. One of her sisters found her in tears one day after one of her brother’s assaults. In the process of trying to shield her brother, Sarah’s sister Jennifer[ii] guessed what had been going on and told Sarah that she, too, was also being raped by their brother every day. When they confronted their brother he threatened to commit suicide. Sarah and Jennifer told Bob[iii] that he had to tell their parents within the week or they were going to the police.

            The two sisters were resolute in their determination and insisted that Bob follow through and tell their parents what he had done to them. Instead, to their shock, Bob committed suicide. He left a suicide note for his parents blaming Sarah for everything (leaving out any mention of Jennifer).  Sarah began to sob, scream, curse, and go completely out of control as she told us that her parents believed what her brother had written in his farewell letter. They told her that she would just have to admit her complicity in the ongoing, five year “affair” she had had with her older brother. After Bob’s funeral, Sarah’s and Jennifer’s older sister told them that she too had been raped by him, repeatedly; but they did not want to speak about it, ever again.

            It was now close to midnight. Starr and I were having trouble staying awake. As I put another log in the wood stove, Sarah cried, “How can I ever ‘just trust in Jesus!?!’ He suffered and died for my sins once and for all…, and it was done with. I died every day of my life for seven years. He has no idea what I went through.”

            Sarah’s story is not the only one of its kind. In my role as a counselor I have heard similar stories more times than I would have imagined.  There is truly a lot of pain out there. Not that the pain in our era is any greater or more severe than at any time. Each epoch inflicts its own form of tribulation and torture on its populace. Wars, genocides, rapes, wholesale slaughter of entire peoples and other gruesome agonies have found their way into our history books.  They remain glibly reported events of a distant past. But for those who lived through them, who suffered through assault, or war, or witnessed genocide, the actuality was excruciatingly devastating and left lifelong scars. Life was lost to an evil enemy from whom there was no escape; there seemed no end to suffering. But people always held out hope— hope of rescue, hope of survival, hope in their God. Hope that, in the end, things could be worked out.

Until now.

As we have shifted into this postChristian era any spiritual basis for hope has been totally obliterated.  It has been supplanted by forms of pragmatism, hedonism, self-absorbed isolationism, or a simple denial of the harshness of personal and global tragedy.  People are also disappointed in a god who is not there. Hope has become a contrived notion of a cynical society, held out like a carrot on a stick. Hope in a god, any god, is perceived as a naïve pretense couched in the spiritual jargon of religion.  Empty words.

So how can the message of hope that is offered by Jesus Christ be heard, understood, and believed in such a truth-weary & broken culture?

This is the question that we will now seek to answer. And the answer will cross many lines of safety, many given definers of the gospel and how to present the truth claims of the faith.

            On a personal note, this part of the series is not easy for me to write. I know Sarah, and others like her, who have sought hope in the Christian gospel and Christian community, and found only glib patronages.

Offering hope, in a deforested war zone.

Gary

Dr. Gary Davis, President

www.CluelessChristianity.com  

NEXT TIME~ A Christian Message for a postChristian Heart: part 2

[i] Not her real name.

[ii] Not her real name either.

[iii] Not his real name.

Beyond Words-Final Take-What the future holds

future, hoverboard, clueless, christian, gary, davisA good portion of the Christian landscape in the West seems to be all about impending gloom & doom. To address this, I refer you to this web-post last August, 2015— http://worldrevivalnetwork.blogspot.com/2015/08/why-you-have-been-duped-into-believing.html. Humanity, as a whole, is doing better than it ever has. But there are still a few of us who are the crazies, the conspiracy theorists, the terrorists; the prophets-of-doom who try to drag us into their spiral so only they can “show us the way” and pull us out.

If I remember things aright, the Lord God of the Universe holds the future in His hands and we are admonished to not be afraid.

In the light of being heralded a false-prophet, or even a heretic, I would like to make some predictions about the immediate future. The sun, in all likelihood, will come up tomorrow. Some parts of life will get better; some parts will get worse. We will ALL still have to pay bills, eat, and take out the trash. Some of us will not have food to eat; some, sadly, will not. Our world governments will continue to play with the balance of power between those who HAVE and those who HAVE-NOT. Some of us will get in a vacation: some of us have no concept of that in our language or culture. So, same ol’, same ol’— with continuing sophistication & refinement.

Not much of a prediction, is it? Hardly a prophesy either.

But I hope the point is clear. At best, our future is only marginally within our control.

Since time-travel to the future has not yet been perfected, the future remains a matter of trust and vigilance. We trust that our own efforts, individually and corporately, will make us ready for whatever curve-balls life will hurl our way. But vigilance must remain constant. We need to keep our eyes open in persistent awareness that we are not the final arbiters of all things. If you are trying to make it on your own, controlling and/or containing your immediate environment you are, of all people, absurdly in over your head.

So…, what does the future hold? It holds possibility, determination, hope, pain, struggle, sorrow, loss, and celebration. It is an open door for us to step through with trepidation and boldness. We live and move and have our being within the safe perimeters of the God who made us. If we can learn to flourish within them we can change the world. So help us God.

 

Honor God; honor people…, make a difference,

Gary

______________

check points

March 31st was determined as the last day of the year under the Julian Calendar of the Roman Empire. But this set in motion a time-drift of approximately 11 minutes a year between vernal equinoxes. By the time church astronomers recalculated the loss in time 10 days had been lost since Roman times. When this was reported to Pope Gregory XIII, he signed a Papal Bull (Inter gravissimas) correcting the time-loss, establishing a new calendar in 1582 (named the Gregorian Calendar, appropriately) that also designated December 31st as the last day of the year. [Albeit, many Protestants, including the Pilgrims, continued to use the Julian Calendar in opposition to the Church’s injunction, insisting on March 31st as the last day of the year.]

In this postChristian era, New Year’s Eve has been elevated (or denigrated) to a time of Baucus revelry and celebration, including the consumption of liberal amounts of alcohol. For many, New Year’s Eve is a time of laying aside the mistakes of the past and making resolutions of doing better in the coming year. As we all know this doesn’t work out so much; though for 1-2 weeks it seems right.

Nonetheless, it is good and right to establish check points throughout life to measure the progress made toward our aspirations. New Year’s Eve is probably a more significant point as it also marks the shift in the civil calendar. So as you begin your celebrations for the New Year, you may find it enjoyable and enlightening to reminisce on your life-progress of this past year.

On a 1-10 scale, what progress did you make toward your aspirations in —

– Your awareness of who you are

– Your sense of integrity

– Resolving interpersonal crises

– Your work-ethic

– Being safe before God

– In making a difference in life

– In learning to lead by example

– Being gracious

– Trusting others

– Letting go

Please complete these check points BEFORE further consumption of alcohol.

Happy New Year!

Gary

distant intimacy

Over the past 20 years we’ve developed a kind of barrier that allows people in, and keeps them out at the same time. We want to have friends, but not too many close friends. We want to be known, but not too known. We want to be loved, but we want to return love on our terms. We want to fully give ourselves to another, but our confidence in trustis cautious. A paucity of depth in our relationships has woven in us the threads of doubt, fear, and hesitancy. So above all else, we seek to protect our hearts from the outside world, even among those who are close to us.

This has resulted in a kind of distant intimacy between lovers, husbands & wives, siblings, and within many other relationships. We’ve grown careful with how much we bare our souls with another, how much and what kinds of information we pass on, and we think twice about our degree of openness with others. This blocks uncluttered communication and further damages the nurturing of any safety we might desire. Even the excitement of a first date with someone carries some relational tentativeness into it. And long-term commitments…, well, the idea has become a rarity.

Broken relationships, the dissolution of our families, and life shattering events have all but relegated intimacy to short-term sexual encounters with little thought to the context for that kind of intimate connection. Thus, some reflection on moving intimacy from distant to deep—

Deep intimacy takes work: it does not just happen.

  1. Deep intimacy takes time: it is more than a one night stand or a series of dinners out.
  2. Deep intimacy takes forgiveness: admitting you are wrong, versus pointing the finger.
  3. Deep intimacy takes trust: putting your life into another person’s hands.
  4. Deep intimacy takes courage: it is a risk. But, nothing ventured… .
  5. Deep intimacy will hurt at times: that’s where you will be put to the test.
  6. Deep intimacy will cost you— everything. Holding back leads to distant intimacy again.

So, is it worth it? The deep intimacy? Of course it is! But it cannot be possessed without giving something of yourself, with little thought to what you might, or might not, receive in return. Personally, I need God’s help to make every relationship work. You may be different, but I doubt it.

“Meallan muilte dé go mall ach meallan siad go mion.”

emPulse: Def. 1) something done on the spur of the moment, an impulse, like buying another pair of shoes or a BMW, or getting married in Vegas. 2) or, an EM-pulse, an electro-magnetic pulse, that shuts down everything and forces us to STOP what we’re doing and think about what’s going on.

EmPulse for Week of March 15, 2010

“Meallan muilte dé go mall ach meallan siad go mion.”

“Meallan muilte dé go mall ach meallan siad go mion,” meaning, “God’s mill may grind slowly, but it grinds finely.” ‘Tis an old Irish proverb to be heeded with some respect. For we all live out our lives with the hand of God upon us, want it or not. Some of us are aware, some of us are not. Some of us ignore His voice; some listen more attentively. Yet without exemption, we all lie in the hands of a Creator God who molds us, or grinds us, to be useful both in His Kingdom and in this world.

To be molded implies a sort of compliance on the our part, like malleable clay on a potters-wheel. The potter gently molds the clay with his hands until it is shaped to be useful to its purpose. The grinding-wheel works quite differently. The imagery in the Irish proverb is one of being slowly and steadily worn-down, until all the chaff of one’s life has been ground away and only a nutritious grain remains to be used. Both wheels do their job; in the end, both produce a useful product. So why is it that God must use the grinding-wheel on so many of us rather than a potter’s-wheel?

It is because we have grown thick-skinned, impervious to penetration by pain, hurtful words, judgment, and sometimes even love. We have fallen prey to that postmodern predilection best characterized as skeptical suspicion. We just don’t trust anyone. Trust in friends, family, employers, the “system,” government, or God…, doesn’t matter. Because of past experiences any inclination to truly trust, anyone or anything, is GONE. And thus the grinding-wheel of God must slowly smooth away our hardness, our jagged, frayed bitterness, our pockets of empty emotion and steeled-wills of isolation.

Sadly, only as we are worn down by God can we begin to feel the healing waters of His Spirit as they cleanse us from the pain, and soften us to become the potter’s-clay. It is only then that He can shape and mold us to become a thing of beauty.

A final thought—  The grain does not choose to be thrown under the grinding-wheel to be ground bare of its chaff. But it only becomes a nutritious, life-sustaining grain if it goes through such a grinding process. Also, the Potter’s clay does not tell the Potter how it wants to be molded, shaped; the Potter has full control over the kind of vessel into which the clay will be shaped. The Potter also has final say as to the way the pot, vase, cup, or bowl will be used.

Advice—  If you sense God shaping you for some purpose, grand or small, do not fight Him. Allow Him to mold you to fit the purpose He has designed for your life…, or you will most assuredly fall under his unyielding grinding-wheel. Remember St Patrick? Learn from his incredible life.

Have a nice week.

Gary