Masks

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The building that houses my office is an old school building.  Directly across the hall from my studio is an auditorium. It has a stage and is used for dance recitals, community theater and a host of other events.   I noticed the other day that outside this auditorium someone had put up the comedy and tragedy masks that are often associated with acting and stage play.  Seeing those masks got me to thinking about a definition I had heard for the word hypocrite and that the word meant to playact or to pretend.   In other words, a hypocrite is a phony or one who wears a mask.

    Most of my life I have been a hypocrite, I have been the wearer of masks.   

    I had a great life as a child. I grew up on a farm, had horses, dogs, cats, and loving parents who provided my needs, and yet didn’t spoil me.   My parents were role models of their faith in Christ. They took me to church with them  but more importantly they  lived out their faith by the way they treated the people they came in contact with.   They weren’t perfect, but God graced me with good folks when it came to parents.  They did most things right when it came to rearing me. They planted the seed of God in me; gave me boundaries; freedom to fail (and I did that alot), and they loved me at my best and my worst. 

    I have rebellion in my heart and I made (and still make) a lot of mistakes.  Fortunately, Mom and Dad didn’t know all the bad choices I made because most of them involved hiding the truth from them.   I was pretty good at this hypocrite business, this mask wearing.   

    There was the “good girl mask”.  The girl that got good grades, was an athlete, and was kind and generous to those outside my immediate family.  Then there was the other mask I wore, the dark side mask.  The young woman who was disrespectful to her parents; the girl who liked to experiment with drugs and alcohol; the girl who craved other people’s approval; the young athlete who blew her opportunities to excel  as she showed the world she was dedicated to working hard at her chosen sport, while hiding an eating disorder.   And there was the girl who gave away to too many young men her most intimate embrace, looking for love in all the wrong places.    

   I was dying on the inside, trying to please everyone on the outside by making wrong choices for the wrong reasons. I hid from the truth from others and from God, or so I thought.

    During the darkest times in my life, when I thought I was the farthest from him, God knew right where I was hiding, just like he knew where Adam and Eve where hiding when they chose to separate themselves from him in the garden.  God gives us the gift of choice (free will) and it comes with a hefty price tag.  We humans are a self-absorbed lot, never once being forced to obey him, the human race always, yes, always, chooses to wear masks and to hide in the bushes from others and from the One who created us and loves us most of all. 

    Freedom.   That is what we all want and it is both a blessing and a curse. Today I understand real freedom is not doing what I want to do but choosing to do what I ought to do.   As a teen, I wanted to be free to make my own choices.   I made some good choices, but many of my bad choices, the choices that caused me to cover myself in masks, created a larger and larger space between me and God.   The result was most of the time my inner life was in the ditch, my outer self looked good, but it was just a mask.   God let me do that, and while I was there He was always there with me, right beside me, reaching out saying “I will help you if you let me, and I still love you very much.”  I just could not or would not hear him and I was just too stubborn to want help.   The voices in my head and in this world drown out his voice.   This whole time I kept seeking my own will, having no clue what His will was for me, because I had the wrong idea about who He really is.

    I don’t know about you, but my experience is that most of us don’t want to ask for help.   We live in a culture that views that as  weakness, what a shame.   What happens as a result of that flawed thinking is that we wear our “Just fine, thank you.”  Masks and the whole time we are rotting on the inside.  Ask anyone, “How are you?”   99% of the time the answer will be, “Fine”.  “Just fine thank you very much!”  The mask is glued tight to our face, yet on the inside we may be hurting and dying and our inner life is in the toilet. But by golly, maybe, just maybe, if we pretend enough that it isn’t, it will just be okay and nobody will know our secret shame that our lives are a sham, and that we feel helpless to change it.

    I remember when someone would give me a compliment I would think, “Yeah, but you wouldn’t say that if you really knew me and then you wouldn’t want to be caught dead with me.”   Ever think that?  You wouldn’t say nice things to me if you knew I yelled at my kids when they stepped on my last nerve while we were trying to get out the door to church.   We pull in to our pew with our trophy Christian masks glued on, as if to say. “look at our perfect little family, we are just fine.”   I was dying on the inside while I continue to try to fix myself thinking, THEN God will love me, when I am good enough, which never works.   I can never be good enough. I will always be broken in some way, and it is the blessing of admitting my brokenness that sets me free.  If I don’t admit that I NEED God, I am still operating under my will and not God’s will which never, ever works.  

   Masks.   

   We have a great God, who, like my folks, loves us enough to let us fail; a God who walks patiently by our side while we wear masks and we become more and more broken as we try to fix ourselves.   And if we are lucky enough to finally get to end of ourselves, if we have the blessing of desperation, when we get sick and tired of the phoniness, the pretending, the mask wearing and cry out to God” I can’t do this anymore!   Can I have a do over?   I am willing to try it your way.”   It is there that we find freedom. It is there that the scales are removed from our eyes and heart and we discover that our God is not a judgmental God waiting to punish us. But a loving God who was always with us,  waiting for us to look up and let him remove our masks by accepting his gift of love and grace.  

    Slowly and gently he removes them.  There may be pain involved  letting go of the masks that kept us separated from his great love.  But as he slowly removes the layers of who we are not, he replaces them with the fruits of His Spirit.  These are the very things that our souls recognize and crave:  love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. It is the revealing of the real us, who he created us to be. Then something else happens.   We begin to have people who come into our life who have the courage to admit they too have broken their own lives, and who are letting God remove their masks!  We discover we are not alone.   Did you ever notice that in the Lord’s Prayer there are not the words me, my or I?  There is our, us and we. We are meant to be in fellowship in our brokenness together.

     I am a new creation in Christ.  I am not who I used to be and I am incredibly grateful for that.   My new life depends upon the maintaining my  connection to God, and staying honest about who and what I am.  If I don’t keep my eyes on Jesus Christ and stay open to knowing the heart of God the masks will return, and with them all of the misery that wearing them brings.

 Be joy filled always, 

Christine Davis

 

Pacing Peppy

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For the last day and a half our quarter horse mare Peppy has been pacing the fence line. Back and forth and back and forth and back forth she goes headed no where in a hurry.  Sometimes our gelding (her son) Banner will join in her frenzied march.  Like me, I don’t think he knows what she is so worked up about, but he clearly feels compelled to jump in the on the panic march.  At one point I led her into a safe, quiet stall and spoke calmly and reassuringly to her, telling her there was nothing to worry about.  It was to no avail, she was sure something was going to eat her (horses are animals of prey and think that way).  From time to time she would stop- and Banner would join her- clearly, he is the follower not the leader even though he dwarfs her in size- to stare across our field to the east.  What they were watching intently so very far away is a mystery to me.  There is an acreage with a horse and goat in their line of view and at one point I pulled out our binoculars hoping to see just what it was exactly that had gotten them so stirred up and you’ll never guess what I saw?   Nothing. No horse. No goat. Not. One. Thing.  Go figure.

Finally, I just threw up my hands and wished she could talk and just tell me what she was so worried about.   But I don’t really think it would help, because I know the truth is, she herself is not really sure.

Too many times in my life I have been just like Pacing Peppy. Worked up over some thing or event that may or may not have happened, I have found myself in frenzy.  Back and forth and back forth I go in a futile panic march making much ado about nothing and going no where in a hurry.  Sometimes others have been influenced by the chaos I have created and joined in, even though they may not even be sure why.  From time to time I have stopped and stared into the frozen and even distant past, or gazed to an imagined future whose outcome I am entirely powerless to control.

Sometimes I have to throw up my hands ask myself just what the heck is wrong with me.  Why have I have robbed myself of the gift of the present because I was too unwilling,  too stubborn or stupid (is there a difference really?) or too frightened to listen to the calming voice of reason of a trusted parent, family member, friend or confidant who pulled me aside and spoke calmly and reassuringly to me? Perhaps it is because humans are creatures of habit and habits are hard to break or because I just would rather pace the fence line of fear and worry.

Doing more of what’s not working never works and it is about as effective as hitting myself over the head with a hammer to relieve a headache.  Ugh!

There is a solution, and all that is required is a simple willingness to believe, trust and obey the tried and true truth of the Gospel of the God man Jesus Christ and here they are: Love God. Love self. Love neighbor as self.  

Our Solution loves us unconditionally and He is the Good Shepherd who loves His sheep, horses, and humans. He wants us to have and to live life to the full, with Him.

And that does not include a life full of fear.

Unlike the thief who wants to keep us pacing.

“The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy.  I have come that you may have life, and have it to the full.”  John 10:10

“I am a very old man, and have known a great many troubles. Most of them never happened.” Mark Twain

Be joy filled always,

Christine Davis

 

 

 

Liar, Liar, Pants on Fire

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There was money everywhere; floating in the air, laying on the roadway and scattered in the ditches.  The DJ on the radio reported it as a dream come true, an armored car’s back door had not been properly secured and as the truck drove down the freeway it was dispensing money, seemingly free for the taking.   The radio announcer went on to suggest all the things one might do with such a lucky find and compared it to winning the lottery.  

Isn’t it interesting that one thing he didn’t suggest was returning it? After all, the money belonged to someone else.  As much as I hate to admit it, there was a time I would have been all in with this idea, thinking I had hit pay dirt and filling my pockets. Today I recognize keeping it would be dishonest.  

I know, I know, you’re thinking “fun hater.” But it’s true.  And the thing about truth is, a thing is either true or it’s not. It is either my money or it is not. Stealing is taking something that doesn’t belong to you, no matter how much one would wish to justify the circumstances.   As I thought about where the money had come from, I knew there were people who had earned that money and were counting on it being credited to their bank account and of the chaos that was a result of the situation.  There is the security guard who was responsible for the mishap. Was he distracted by his phone?  Did he have a fight with his wife or was he suffering from a hangover when he neglected to do his duty properly?   I wonder if he was completely honest in his recounting the story, taking responsibility for his part in it?  I thought of the insurance company who was responsible for covering the cost and make no mistake there is a cost to be counted at the very least causing insurance rates go up. There are ripple effects and nameless victims I haven’t even thought of.  But most of all I thought how much less of a problem it would be for everyone involved if the people collecting up the cash turned it in and those responsible for its loss told the truth. It would send shock waves around the world! Honesty, after all is indeed the best policy. Unfortunately, it is also a rare commodity.   

Dishonesty usually begins by inches; a little trickle that turns into a mighty and destructive flood that will spread far and wide.  I lie about little things and it’s not long before I am lying about the big things. I get so far from truth that I choose to exchange it for a lie by attempting to justify my behavior or it by calling it modern or what everyone else is doing. And don’t miss this, there is always finger pointing and blame involved when we choose not to roll with the truth.  Others tend to respond in kind to our words and our actions and like a boomerang it comes back at us; and pretty soon an entire culture is perched on the edge of a precipice of destruction.  At that point few remember what is true and what is false because we have lost sight of truth as an absolute and truth becomes relative to our own ideas and experiences.  It is a path fraught with danger. God says, “So I gave them up unto to their own hearts lust; and they walked in their own counsels.”  I have been there, done that, and it has not worked; chaos inevitably follows.  Adolf Hilter said, “The best way to defeat your enemies is to divide them,” and absence of truth divides.

I think of all the times I have defended my own little white lies and dishonest behavior. Here is a short list: Didn’t want my folks to know who I was with and/or what I was doing, so I fibbed.  I don’t want to meet up with someone I dislike so I lie about my plans.  I want to lose weight and be healthy but keep lying to myself about eating right and exercise.   I want my marriage to improve as I continue lying to myself about my part in the troubles.  If I spend too much of my time listening to the lies whispered in my ear and promoted in the culture around me I fall in line with herd mentality. “It’s not so bad.” “Everyone does it these days.”   “It’s not your fault.”  “It’s ok, he/she hurt you first so they deserve what you give them.” When I buy into this sort of thinking I fall victim to the Master Deceiver, Satan. His very name means Adversary or Enemy. He is also known as the Devil, a name that comes from the Greek word Diabolos which is translated slanderer or liar. It is he who coaxes me on to buy the lie and it is me who completes the sale by doing the next wrong thing. From there the damage to self and others only grows.  

Because I have been given the opportunity for a do over by placing my faith and trust in Jesus, his Holy Spirit has taken up residence in me, and therefore I have hope! Jesus said, “Those who are on the side of truth listen to my voice.”  Christ in me means I have the very source of truth guiding my mind, heart and actions.   So, as a new creation I have to ask myself who I am listening to and why?   Why I would listen to the arch enemy of Jesus (God with skin on); who is also the arch enemy of all of mankind since human beings are created in the image of God?   Don’t I need to be listening to the Manufacturer, my Maker? In order to listen for God’s voice of truth, I have to know God.  Doesn’t that imply reading the Owner’s Manual might be helpful in learning to know the sound of his voice?

My biggest stumbling block is me and my stubborn pride.   It’s the same old song and dance that caused Eve to be deceived (and yes ladies it was the woman who was first deceived, don’t gloss over that fact) and because misery loves company she brought her husband Adam along for the ride.  (and gentlemen don’t miss the fact he went along willingly).   Sir Walter Scott is credited with the phrase, “Oh what a tangled web we weave when first we practice to deceive.”  A modern version is the old playground taunt, “liar, liar, pants on fire. “I think our pants are on fire because inevitably we end up in the hot seat!

Honest Abe Lincoln said, ‘Right makes might.”  Jesus said, “A house divided cannot stand.”  Living a duplicitous (double) life based on untruth divides me at the very heart of my being, my soul. It robs me of integrity, cripples me and leads down the path of despair.  Seeking truth leads me to have the courage to continue to do right and the peace of mind that is its best reward because when I tell the truth, I don’t have to remember what I said!  

Living an honest life is simple, but not easy and quite impossible without Divine intervention and assistance. Progress, not perfection is the goal.

Our only other option is pants on fire and a first-class seat in the smoking section.

For eternity.

Be joy filled always,

Christine Davis

Back to Basics

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   A few years back I had some low back pain that after a week or two became acute a week before Thanksgiving.  My current profession is personal fitness trainer and I teach my clients to develop a strong core to keep the low back healthy and I practice this in my own life.   Having had a surgery the prior spring forced me to cut back on my core work and muscles became weak.   Injury happened.  

      I also teach my clients that movement originates from the navel center area of the body and I got to prove that theory.  With my low back pain, just about every move I made hurt, including sneezing.   I did the usual self care, doc, chiropractor, physical therapy.  Progress was slow.  I spent a lot of time flat on my back.  Health care providers decided an MRI would be prudent and I took a trip to the neurosurgeon in early December.  I got good news, no surgery was necessary; he said I was just going through a rough patch. He told to take the rest of the year off from work and to rest as much as I could. So, I did as I was told.  I cut out almost all activities and I got better.  I got better not just physically, but mentally and spiritually.  I began to appreciate once again having time in my life.  I also realized that previously had little or no time in my life, that had been distracted from the main thing by being over busy, and I am beginning to understand the philosophy less is more and that I had been given a great gift.

     A while ago I had come to realize that modern conveniences added to my problem of over busyness.   Because I felt I “needed” things to make more time in my life.   But in reality, these things took more of my time because I simply packed more and more in. I had to work more  to purchase and pay for all this convenience.  Not only was modern technology part of the problem but I thought that I had to be a human doing; I forgot I was a human being.  

    During this “resting time” I have begun to understand that I had fallen prey to similar stinking thinking about finding God.  I incorrectly thought that to find God I had to be on five committees, sing in the choir, be a “trophy Christian”, and run myself ragged in the middle of it all.  I had little time left for an actual relationship with God through Jesus Christ.

     I was also under the misconception and my culture had taught me that to have value I had to be Super Mom, Wonder Wife or Career Queen, and I bought it hook line and sinker.  I have decided to hang up the cape and store those boots in the closet.

          I ran on that treadmill for a long time, until I had the gift of unexpected rest and space reentered my life.  And time was no longer the enemy, because I was longer racing against it.   Jesus even had to teach the religious teachers how to get it right, listen here:

One of the Teachers of the law came and heard them debating.  Noticing that Jesus had given them a good answer, he asked him, “Of all the commandments, which is the most important?”

“The most important one” answered Jesus, “is this: ‘Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one.  Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.”

Mark 12:28-30 (NIV)

     I concluded that my theme for the New Year was back to basics and I think that is what Jesus was telling this spiritual leader in our passage from Mark.  He said, “It’s pretty simple, there is one God.  And finding Him does not depend on chasing down the six hundred religious laws and rules, the most important thing is this:   To love God with every fiber of your being.”   I can’t do that if I got no time, doesn’t mean I become a couch potato, at least not all day; but perhaps some of the day.  Doesn’t mean I am not working, but I think I will work smarter and not harder.  Doesn’t mean I don’t have modern conveniences, I am just not going to worship them or the desire have them all.  Doesn’t mean I won’t be involved in worthy causes, just those I feel God calling me to.  No more guilty “yeses.”  You know, the yes that you really wanted to be a “no thank you”. I signed up for the less is more plan. 

     We don’t need to over do and over have to enjoy life.  Shall we join Christ and make time to love the One God and others with all of ourselves? 

    Might be just what the doctor ordered.    Let’s get back to basics, shall we?

Be joy filled always, 

Christine Davis

 

Swapped

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It is an incredible story. He traded his life for a stranger’s.

Several weeks ago, a terrorist took siege in a super market in France.  The lone terrorist held several shoppers hostage in the market and before long things came to a head.  Just when things looked their darkest, a French police officer stepped up and offered to swap his life for one of the hostages. Unarmed, the police officer traded his life for a woman he did not know.   Not long after the exchange was made, officers surrounding the building heard shots and stormed the building.  The terrorist was defeated but the policeman who had willingly offered himself up was shot, gravely injured and later died.

The French President called him, “ a hero with exceptional courage that gave his life for his country to which he had already given so much to end the plot of a deadly terrorist, he fell as a hero.”

It is an incredible story.  He traded his life for a stranger’s.

Several centuries ago, a terrorist took siege on this planet.  The lone terrorist held human beings hostage and before long things came to a head.   Just when things looked their darkest, Jesus of Nazareth stepped up and offered to swap his life for all of Satan’s hostages.  Unarmed, the perfect, sinless God-man traded his life for all humans including those he never knew.  Not long after the exchange was made, he was savagely beaten, mocked and hung on a cross to die. The sky went dark, the curtain of the temple was torn in two, and a great earthquake shook the land.  The terrorist was defeated and the Lamb of God who had willingly sacrificed himself was dead.

History is defined by him and his grace and courage because he gave his life for all people of the earth for all time to which he had already given so much to end the plot of the original deadly terrorist.  He traded his life for ours. Good Friday and the death on a cross looks like the end of the story.  But in fact, it is just the beginning.

Unlike the brave French policeman who shall remain in the grave, three days later Jesus Christ overcame death and rose from the dead. He fell as hero and rose Savior of the world.  ©

Rejoice!   Christ is risen! Christine Davis

 

 

Infected

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This winter has been one of the worst seasons for the flu virus in years.  With these wicked strains it seems as though everyone is at risk. Keeping one’s immune system strong is a good offensive strategy. As Ben Franklin said, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” Health professionals recommend simple precautions such as covering one’s mouth when sneezing or coughing, hand washing and staying away from others when you are infected and avoiding close contact with those already infected.

But sometimes we just get sick. We can take things to help ease the symptoms for a virus such as the flu but medicines are ineffective to cure the illness. Medicine may help us manage symptoms. Vaccines may or may not boost the body’s immunity. Eating right and taking regular exercise are excellent preventative measures that keep the body strong and healthy. Our best bet is to stay as healthy as we can and do our best to prevent spreading disease to other human beings when we become infected.  It seems like common sense to sneeze into a tissue or cover one’s mouth when coughing or washing hands after using the lavatory and before eating or staying home when we are sick.    But a surprising number of people don’t follow these simple practices, not only do they risk sickness and possibly death, they put others at risk in the process by the choices they do and don’t make.

It has been the one of worst seasons for sin in years. With these wicked verbal and physical attacks, it seems as though everyone is at risk. Keeping one’s soul healthy is a good offensive strategy.  Jesus Christ said, “Love the Lord your God with all your strength, heart, mind and soul; and love your neighbor as yourself.”  As a spiritual care professional, he recommends simple precautions such as not saying anything at all if you can’t say something nice or showing kindness to and praying for those we consider “our enemies”.  Kindness and courtesy seem like common sense.  Sometimes it means avoiding contact with others when we have a case of the nasties.  And sometimes it may mean avoiding contact with those infected with the spiritual sicknesses of meanness and negativity.

But sometimes we just get sin sick. And don’t we just hate the word sin. Just the sound of it is like fingernails on a chalkboard to both Christians and skeptics alike.  We can do good deeds to help ease the symptoms of separating ourselves from God. But good works are ineffective to cure the illness, because how good is good enough? And which set of human standards do we use as a measuring stick? And let’s face facts, when I think my good deeds redeem my bad ones, I end up with a bad case of the Holier than Thous.   

Perhaps I should ask myself these two questions on a daily basis:  1) What and who is infecting me?  Germs like anger, resentment, bitterness, hatred, lying, cheating, stealing, unkindness, rudeness, self- righteousness, greediness, lust, strife, and the like kill and destroy relationships, dignity and human hearts.

 2) With what and who am I infecting?   Am I spreading pain and sorrow or am I bringing truth, joy and life to those with whom I come in contact? Does what I say, what I do and how I interact with others build people up or tear them down?  

Entering into a personal relationship with Jesus Christ and reading the Bible are excellent preventative measures that build up immunity in a human soul. The best defense for wanting to verbally or physically rip off someone’s face, gossip about or just plain trash fellow human beings is a new life in Christ. This new life changes us from the inside out which is the best offense for chronic sin!   It seems like common sense to treat others how I would wish to be treated.   But a surprising the number of folks don’t or won’t take the medicine.  Which causes pain and misery not only for themselves but puts others at risk in the process.  And nobody is immune.   Nobody.

Like the flu virus, there is no cure for the dis-ease of sin through human effort.  It is a bad disease that all people, even good people get. We can manage symptoms.  But we, in and of ourselves can never, ever make things right between God and us. 

There is a cure.  The cure is found belief in the resurrection of Jesus Christ. The only perfect, sinless one was sacrificed to cure the gap between my wicked human heart (and yours too) and God and is the only cure for the soul sickness of sin.  

The choice is ours to make. It is available to all. My prayer for you, dear readers, that you are or will become infected with Christ and spread His love, light and life to every living soul you meet.  ©

 Be joy filled always,

Christine Davis

My Own Worst Enemy

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The other morning  I came downstairs and I was greeted by Bandit the dog who said to me, “This morning I went outside without my collar!”  Just kidding.  It was actually Farmer Jay who spoke those words for the grinning dog.

Why would it matter if the dog went out without a collar? Because if left to his own devices, Bandit is his own worst enemy.

Our farm borders a state highway and railroad tracks and both of these present a life-threatening danger to pooches if they are allowed to roam free. When we became dog owners we decided to invest in a wireless radio remote system that creates an unseen boundary to keep our dogs safe. This boundary has been the difference between life and death for our dear doggy friend Bandit.  The system is nearly fool proof as long as the dog chooses to play by the rules and not run through the shock emitted at the edge of the border.  We had another dog who from chose not to play by the rules and eventually, she paid the ultimate price.   

Hello, my name is Christine Davis and left to my own devices I am my own worst enemy.

My life borders the roads the roads of good and evil and both of these present a life-threatening danger to me if left to roam free. Luckily, when my folks became parents they decided to invest in following Jesus which provided for us an unseen fence of unconditional love coupled with an absolute moral code to keep us safe. This rescue mission through faith in Christ and obedience to the unenforceable is nearly foolproof as long as humans choose to play by the rules. Which has been for me and many before me, the difference between life and paying the ultimate price for my folly. 

On both sides of the veil.

The “thou shalt nots” trip me up much of my human life and that’s where I chose the evil road.   I think that is called temptation.  Tell me I should not and I want to.  What’s up with that?   I am in good company, the Apostle Paul who wrote nearly all the New Testament said he did the things he didn’t want to do and didn’t do the things he wanted to. No one is exempt.  Well, there was one exception and he got hung on a cross to cover my wandering ways (yours too if you only just believe it).

 

Such rebellion doesn’t make God angry it breaks his heart.  The Psalms tell us God says:” So I gave them up unto their own heart’s lust: and they walked in their own counsel.”  In other words, he allows me to make my own choices, right or wrong and wander around trying to heal my sick mind with my own sick mind.  I liken that sort of behavior to beating myself over the head with a hammer to relieve myself of a headache. Which never works. Like when I left the road of following evil and hopped on the good road also known as the self-righteous, earning my way to heaven and looking down my snoot at others road.  This is the road that tends to anger the God I see in Jesus Christ.

Most of the trouble in my life was self-created and I don’t doubt for a minute these are lessons I could have learned a softer way had I begun life in close relationship with my Creator.  But I was just too stubborn to believe it is that simple.  Because I knew (know, still struggling, but less so) better. Jesus said he came to save sinners not the righteous. And my armor of self-righteousness made it impossible for his light to penetrate the hardness of my heart.   His amazing grace wasn’t able to save a wretch like me until I was able to confess that I was (still am) a wretch.  

 And the closer I get to him and the more he shines his light over my life, the more and more obvious my character defects became.  Which is a humbling experience. A humbling experience called repentance. And repentance simply means I change direction and stop, when I get to the boundary of God’s spiritual principles.  Doesn’t mean I won’t have trouble.   But I do have less fear and more peace in the midst of trouble. And I become less of the problem and more of the solution while an earthling.

If I don’t stay within the border of this personal relationship with God through Jesus Christ by reading His Living Word- the Bible, through prayer, through fellowship with other believers, through regular confession and worship (worship of God that is, not worship of self, stuff or others) I will go right back to being the spiritually sick chick I used to be. There is no forgiveness with out repentance because if nothing changes, nothing changes.

It is a one day at time, in a row, gig to keep me from being my own worst enemy, and probably yours too.  ©

Be joy filled always,

Christine Davis

Fake News

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I remember it like it was yesterday.

I woke up early one sunny summer morning in my Aunt Mildred and Uncle Harold’s house. At the time I was a young pre-school aged girl staying with beloved relatives on their farm while my family was away.  My Aunt and Uncle had gone down the farm lane to do morning chores while I was still asleep and as young children often do, I woke up earlier than expected and found myself all alone in their home. I was too young to read, so they didn’t bother with a note and I have no doubt they thought I would sleep until their return. And for the record I was perfectly safe.  Even though my fear had no reasonable basis, all I knew was that I was scared.  But then again, fear isn’t reasonable now is it?  It is what we might describe as:

 

 

F alse

E vidence

A ppearing

R eal

In other words, fear is fake news. I am not talking about common-sense sort of fear, the kind that teaches you not to lay your hand on a hot stove burner and keeps you from doing foolish things like sticking a hot poker in your eye.  What I am referring to is the kind that robs us of living life to the fullest. That insidious, unseen predator that lurks in the shadows of our minds and hearts.

Fear is all about f words- no, not that one silly- these f words: false, fake, and future. All of my fears reside in the future and the large majority of my fears have never happened. They are fake news that don’t exist right now and most of the time never will.  Funny thing is in nearly any given moment in which I currently occupy space on this planet, ninety-nine-point nine percent of the time I am just fine and dandy.  Unfortunately, I just forget to notice that part of the equation. I have come to recognize it is when I am not trusting God that I am most fearful. What I mean to say is that when when the false evidence of fear is in the driver’s seat of my mind, I tend to lose my peace of mind and perspective of truth.   When I stay present in the moment (and don’t forget the present is a gift) and keep my thoughts in the here and now and in tune with my Creator, my fear levels tend to be lower and peace of mind higher.  I wish I could say that my fear is non-existent, but that wouldn’t be completely honest.  When my thoughts wander to the non-reality of “what if” land my serenity level is lower. 

So, why do we buy into the fake news of fear instead in the reality of truth?  If we look carefully, appears is the key word. The sad reality is most of us wouldn’t know truth if it conked us over the head and fear is easier to believe and let’s face it, it sells better.  Fear is bound up in what think we see or know to be true. And as spiritual beings attempting to be human we all too often fall for it hook, line and sinker.        

 I am speaking form experience, and have lived much of my life under the influence of some sort of low-level fear  without even recognizing what a stranglehold it had on me.  Fear has masqueraded itself in anger, pretend happiness, control, substance abuse, overeating, workaholism, people pleasing but primarily as a lack of trust in what God says is true.  Self-reliance is my worst enemy because it robs me of so much of the joy of real living God intended for me.  I’ll bet that statement is a bit of a surprise to you all, but dependence on God at all levels of my life is my strength, because like the Apostle Paul said, when I am weak, then I am strong.  You see following and depending on Jesus is not something I do, like being a member of a club or my job. 

It’s who I am.

 It is one thing to believe in God. It is altogether another kettle of fish to trust God.  And what I have learned through the school of hard knocks is that it is impossible for me to trust in God if I don’t know God personally. And the only way I will get to know God is to study (not just read, picking and choosing verses that make me feel all warm and fuzzy or worse justify a position that I want to make) but to study God’s very own Word to me,     And what I  and  the many, many, many others who have gone before me have found is that when I get to know THE God, made manifest in the person of Jesus of Nazareth, I find not just the truth, but complete truth.  And as Jesus said, if we stick with His word and keep following him we will know the truth and the truth will set us free and he goes on to say,  that who he (Jesus, that is) sets free is free indeed.  Free from what?   Free from fear.

And I like the f word free much, much better than the f word fear.   In fact, if you search the internet and ask how many times the Bible says “fear not” or “do not be afraid” you get one of two answers, either three hundred and sixty-five or three hundred and sixty-six.  One “do not be afraid” for every day of the year including leap years.   

The choice is ours: A) fear brought to you courtesy of fake news from that ancient liar the Devil or B) freedom brought to you by the Creator of the Heavens and earth through the simple act of trust. 

 In conclusion, if you follow Jesus, I ask you the same question Jesus asked his very first followers after he calmed the raging sea, “Why are you still so afraid? “ ©

Be joy filled always,

Christine Davis

 

 

Owners Manual

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This fall we gave our youngest daughter our decade old mid-sized sedan to take to college and purchased a replacement vehicle for lucky me.  We ended up with an SUV but because I am a farm gal I like calling it a truck instead which sounds farmish. We chose it in part because Farmer Jay drives a truck and it was hard for the old man (I can say this because he is eight years my senior and qualifies for Medicare on his next birthday) to get in and out of the sedan, but mostly because I fell for it the minute I got behind the wheel.  This rig is six years newer than my old car and a lot has changed in that small span of time.   The common-sense things haven’t changed take for instance when we (we meaning Farmer Jay) changes the oil we replace it with oil, not orange juice.   That would be dumb and ruin the motor.  And listen, I for one, don’t need to know the whys of how it all works, I turn the key and it starts and that serves me just right.  But there are plenty of things I do need to understand to get the most out of my relationship with my automobile. Therefore, I decided to read the owner’s manual.  Can you believe it?  You know what I am talking about and just why do I hate to read the owner’s manuals anyway? After all the manufacturer included it for me so I could have a better experience.  

By today’s standards the fanciest part of my previous car is the satellite radio and seat heaters. But with my new wheels things aren’t as simple.  The owner’s manual told me about all the important things and the fluff stuff it can do.  I won’t remember it all, so I know that I will be referring to it again and again.  One thing I will remember is the lane control button. It beeps at me if I slip out of my lane.  I kept it turned on until Farmer Jay said it would help remind him about my bad driving.  Then I promptly shut it off. But, that feature may help save my life if I take my eyes off the road, so I think I will turn it back on, regardless of my dear husband’s snarky comments.   In fact, it probably would be best if I continue to refer to the manual in order to reduce the likely hood of serious trouble in the future.

 I too came with an owner’s manual. The Bible, AKA the Holy Word of God and golly, since He is my (yours too!) manufacturer and He dictated it for all of us to read; wouldn’t it make sense to read it?  That way we might have not only a better relationship with ourselves but with Him and with other humans.   A few years back when I was younger, life was simpler.  Today it’s more complicated.  And my foolish pride is the only reason I didn’t read and trust in the Owner’s Manual. I spent far too much time looking left or right or at other human beings instead of up and down and in The Book to operate my life.  And it shows.  

Thank goodness, I finally did because it was there and only there I found complete truth.  I won’t remember it all so I need to refer to it again and again. It has the instructions I need to be sure my soul returns to the factory (Heaven) once my body ends up in the boneyard.  Not only that, I live in enemy (Satan) occupied territory here on earth and boy do I need to know the important stuff and the fluff stuff so I can keep my eyes on Jesus. That way I am less likely to wander out of my lane (the narrow road) and crash into someone else.   Joseph Stalin once said that America is like a healthy body with God as the head.  But somewhere along the line we chopped off the head. Instead of checking the Manufacturer’s Owner’s Manual in our confused attempt to play little g gods, we make up our own rules and/or make the rules our god. Which causes us to stumble along like the blind leading the blind rather than admitting that our Big G God – our Manufacturer -Creator – know what’s best for us.  We are substituting orange juice for oil and the end result is ruination.

The old line no God, no peace holds true and I see it all around us in the world today. Just so, the second part of the line: Know God, know peace is true in the midst of the world’s chaos. And there is only one place to get to know Him, the Bible, and only Christianity promotes a personal relationship with the God of the Universe and folks that is accomplished by believing and following Jesus Christ.   I have found it is not enough to simply believe in God, I must believe God.

 Honestly, I don’t know how my truck works and I don’t know how God works either and frankly I don’t care because since I began reading and following, my life is so much better.  Not trouble free, but fear free!  And joy filled despite the troubles that do come.   But I do know this, if I continue to refer to and trust in the Manufacturer Owner’s Manual, I will reduce the likely hood of serious trouble in the future.  © 

“The Lord is good, a stronghold in the day of trouble, and he knoweth them that trust in Him.  Nahum 1:7 KJV 

Happy reading and you will be:

Be joy filled always,

Christine Davis

The Harvest is Plentiful

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In the opening line in his 1889 book On the Wall, Rudyard Kipling, best known for writing The Jungle Book, is credited with dubbing prostitution the oldest profession in the world. I wonder where on earth he came up with that notion, and why the world has believed it ever since.  According to the world’s oldest and longest running bestseller but least read book, The Bible, which was inspired by the world’s oldest Author, God – Farming appears to be the most ancient of occupations.  And my husband Jay is a farmer.

This truth was born not long after the fall of man, when the serpent and Adam and Eve had their come to Jesus moment, in the garden of Eden. Genesis chapter three tells us Adam was demoted to farming for his part in the fall after following his wife Eve’s advice. Ouch.

 I am a farmer’s wife but I don’t farm. I would call myself more of an armchair quarterback farmers wife.  I grew up on a farm and I have been a farmer’s wife for thirty-four years, but I don’t farm.  Ask me how to live the fitness lifestyle, that I can help you with.  But don’t ask me which corn hybrid to buy.  That is Farmer Jay’s job.   I figured out early on in our marriage that if claim that I can do something, I may be recruited to do it.   So, there are certain things I play dumb with, like farm work.  But there are a few things I have learned by listening and through close observation over the years.  

 Invest in good seed. Plant early. Harvest is a marathon. The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. Oh yeah, Jesus said that last line. Farmer Jay invests in good seed. In fact, a few years back he counted the cost and made the decision to put all his eggs in one basket and buy one brand of seed. The price was high and there was risk involved, but he has never looked back.  Jay makes every effort to get seed in the ground early, so he can begin harvest early, knowing sowing and reaping are directly related.  All the in between watering and growing is left to the Good Lord.

Harvest is a marathon and a race against time and here in Iowa, and finding people to help with harvest is difficult.  Once you get to Thanksgiving, the weather can turn nasty quickly which can hurt yields. No farmer wants that.

And neither does Jesus.

Remember we reap what we sow. And if we want to reap a harvest of leading others into a personal relationship with Jesus Christ, we must sow good seed.  Jesus himself gives us the best seed for planting during the Sermon on the Mount. And don’t miss this, because I did for years, just before he launches into this message he looks at his disciples and the he says, “blessed are the poor in spirit.”   Did you get that?  He wasn’t talking to everyone at the time, but just those who had chosen to take a risk and put all their eggs in his basket.  His disciples, or followers. The big crowds weren’t yet all in for Jesus and so for them to hear this deep spiritual wisdom would have sounded just like “Wak! Wak! Wak!”. I know.   I gave my life to Christ at about the age of eight.   But I wasn’t an all-in follower until just a few years ago, when I got that wonderful blessing of desperation in the middle of a storm in my life, a time where I needed Jesus every hour.   Up until that time I would say I was more of a fan, sitting in the stands watching Jesus from a distance. Today, I absolutely know for certain, that when we get off the bleacher seats and get in the field he gives the best seed for sowing him into human hearts which is the seed of unconditional love.   That’s what changes the world. Jesus said it, Love God, Love self, love neighbor, Paul said it, the greatest of these is love…. the fruit of the spirit is love.  And since I chose to follow Jesus I have to live a radically different life than the world around me.   Did you know the root of the word saint means different? I used to think it meant you were nearly perfect.  But I like different better, because perfect, I am not.

Just before he tells his disciples that the harvest is plentiful and the workers few, Jesus looks around and his heart hurts.  He sees all these lost, wandering sheep and he knows he needs help to bring people back into right relationship with God and the best harvest begins with loving on folks, most especially those who don’t deserve it.   I did it wrong for so long, I wanted to bring people to Jesus by making them feel bad about who they were or what they had done or by beating them over the head with my Bible and I never liked it when others did that to me. Most of the time people don’t want our opinion, they want our unconditional love.

Like Farmer Jay, Jesus sends his disciples out for a test drive in the field with this good seed.  He tells them to take nothing with them, travel light.   As a woman that notion alone terrifies me.   But, I want you to know I have practiced this concept and the kitchen sink no longer goes in the travel bag.  Listen, Jesus wants them, and us, to depend on the seed (the Gospel=good  news=grace=unconditional love) and God.  Like Farmer Jay, once the seed is in the ground he wants us to let go and let him do the watering and the growing.  That was hard for me because for the longest time I lived under the illusion that it was my job to fix, manage and control other people.  I found I was suffering from Savior syndrome and that is above my pay grade.   It’s my job to love them, and God will take care of the rest.   

The workers are few.  Jesus taught us how to bring people to him and it is critical that we pay that forward.   It’s up to us to get out among the harassed and hapless crowds that surround us on every side and show them what being a Jesus follower looks like. Be the light.  Love unconditionally.   Together let’s change the world.  

The harvest is plentiful, the workers are few. ©

Be joy filled always,

Christine Davis