Hidden in Plain Sight

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I love the game hide and seek.  There is just something thrilling about both hiding and seeking. The seeker has to count to ten while the hider has to find a spot within the boundary, get out of sight and stay very still and very quiet which is nearly impossible if you have a dog or small child hiding with you.  And of course, if found, there are shrieks of joy and surprise by both seeker and sought.

Seeking is just as delightful. Looking under and behind things, for clues leading us to the hidden one. A foot sticking out from under something, a door ajar; and sometimes we miss the person hiding in plain sight, like missing the forest for the trees. But the best part of seeking is the joy of discovery.

We have a God who both hides and seeks. He hides himself in the most amazing ways, such as the complexity of DNA or the life-giving invisible breath he breathes into our nostrils. He is all-powerful putting it on display for all to see in a gorgeous sunset, majestic mountain or a starlit night.  Showing his faithfulness in the reliability of the sunrise bursting forth in a powerful blaze of glorious light day after endless day. He hides in the simple faith of a child, or the complexity of the human body. This hidden God is a God who delights when his children (that’s us!) discover knowledge (which is what the word science means, by the way) about him and the universe he created for us. He smiles when we stumble upon the reality of who he is and what he has done and continues to do behind the scenes for each and every one of us.

And yet the Hidden One is also the Seeker, seeking to draw us to him as a hen draws her chicks safely under her wings.  He coaxes and longs for us to, of our own choosing, enter into relationship with him and draw near to his powerful, protective presence. He loves, blesses and provides for us and most of the time we are too busy or too blind to see him at work in our lives.  God is a God who treasures us so much he would never force us into relationship and his love hidden in plain sight, knowing that true love must be a free choice since love by compulsion is not love.

The best measure of value is price one is willing to pay for the object of their desire.  We were bought at a great price, through the life, death, blood and resurrection of Jesus Christ. And when this truth is found by a human heart, the discovery brings shrieks of surprise and joy to both seeker and sought.

Happy seeking and finding.

Be joy filled always,

Christine Davis

 

One Bad Apple

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   We have an apple tree in our back yard and I look forward to harvest each fall.  The apples are delicious for eating, applesauce and pie! Last year we had such a large crop I decided to store some in a cooler in the stairwell of our garage.  Very carefully I choose only the best-looking apples.  I didn’t select any that fell on the ground, only those picked directly from the tree. I did my best to carefully inspect each one since we don’t spray our tree. But despite my best efforts, midway through the winter I discovered some of the apples were beginning to rot from the inside out and the rotten apples were spoiling the good ones too.  It was just like the old saying, “One bad apple spoils the whole barrel.”  Even though the apples look good on the outside, something had gone wrong on the inside.

   Usually, the culprit was a tiny, nearly undetectable worm hole my old lady eyes missed.   The itsy-bitsy worm had wormed his way inside and over time destroyed the inside of the fruit. It was only a matter of time before the inside spoiled the outside and the outside spoiled the apples around it.  

    And it’s not just true of apples, but of people.  We can look great on the outside, all shiny and nice, but some little something may be worming its way inside  us, creating a destructive rottenness in our inner self. Usually it is something so tiny it is nearly undetectable.  Left undiscovered, that little something will eventually rot us from the inside out. And before we know it, we are likely spreading rotten attitudes and behaviors to the people around us.  

   Jesus, more than once, warns us about this very thing, he says to watch out for the leaven – yeast – that rises up in people and infects the whole dough.  The Apostle Paul, who at first got things so very wrong (he was himself the bad apple), before Jesus knocked him upside the head  and then he got it so very right; said in his letter to the church he began in Galatia (we know it as the book of Galatians, chapter five to be exact) which sort of attitudes and behaviors worm their way into our hearts and lives when we live out of our sinful (that prickly word) nature.   Remember friends, sin means we are living separate or apart from God, so it is a very important prickly term. These sorts of thoughts turned into actions are the ones which will spoil us from the inside out.  Here’s the short list: worship of stuff, immorality-sexual and otherwise-, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dishonesty, drunkenness, envy and the like.  You get the not so pretty picture.   

   Whether we recognize and accept the truth of the matter or are still in denial doesn’t really matter because we don’t live in a vacuum.  All of us have parents, family members, friends, coworkers, classmates and so forth we come in contact with. What we choose, and yes, it’s a choice, to fill ourselves with that makes us yukky on the inside, tends to make us yukky on the outside; affecting those around us. Even though we may look good on the outside, something has gone wrong on the inside, garbage in, garbage out. I think Jesus was much more descriptive.  He called folks like this whitewashed tombs. Pretty outside, dead inside. Ouch.

    There is a solution!

    The solution is to change direction (which is what the word repent means) back toward God, and with his help we change what we put into ourselves and therefore what comes out! Paul goes on to list the fruits of the Spirit – the things that come out of us after we surrender our life and will to Jesus Christ.  His Holy Spirit through our communion with him, fills us with his truth and his love as we become new creations in Jesus Christ.  When better heart food goes in, much better living comes out of us. Attitudes of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, longsuffering and the like are turned into actions that follow suit. Which, not only changes us, but can and does affect for the better, those living with us in the apple barrel world of our lives.

    Christ told us not to hide or cover up His light in us but to bring it out and shine it around, destroying the bad stuff in our hearts that makes the world rotten.  He summed up the how-to formula in two simple commands:

1)      Love God with all of you! All of your heart, all of your soul (the real you) and all of your mind.  Not a quarter, not an eighth, but ALL of you in all areas of your living, home, work, so forth. That way nothing dark can worm its way in.

2)      Then, and only then, can you spread it around and fully love your neighbor , who, by the way,  is everyone in the whole wide world, especially those very unlikable, unlovable,  annoying family members, friends and enemies – the other fruitcakes, I mean apples, in each of our very own little slice of the apple barrel world.

And with the help of the Master Gardener you and I will be less rotten and more:

Joy Filled always,

Christine Davis

 

 

 

 

 

The Folly of Forgiveness

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I was shaking the last kernels from a feed bag in the barn when I heard a meow from the haymow, the voice was different from our old farm cat’s.  Looking up, I saw a creamy yellow tomcat face looking down at me. Climbing the ladder to the hayloft, I sat down on a bale of hay, and waited.  It wasn’t long and he was purring in my lap while I stroked his fur.   I had just been thinking we needed an additional barn cat to keep the rodent population at bay since our only other cat was now geriatric.  I didn’t want this young fellow to get away so I hopped in my vehicle, promptly drove to the store and bought a bag of cat food. He never left.

We decided to name him Eric Liddell because he runs everywhere and Maggie said we must therefore name him after a famous runner, so we did.  He earns his keep hunting as I had hoped. Now that he and Rascal, our other cat figured out who was top cat of the farm, he is chatty and friendly to everyone, even the thousand-pound horse he bunks with.  That is, almost everyone.  

Bandit the dog is king of the house yard. No cats or other small creatures are allowed within the radius of his wireless remote fence.  Early on he spotted Eric Liddell near the barn and barked at him endlessly since he was where Bandit could not go. Until one day. One day when Eric Liddell decided to join us near the house, us being several humans and Mr. Bandit.  As you can only imagine, this resulted in a dramatic chase all over the farm concluding with Eric on top of a hay-rack with a plumed-out tail and Bandit barking fanatically from the ground below.  

Fortunately, all’s well that ends well.  Bandit came home and Eric Liddell never again came near dog or house.  I was puzzled by the fact the cat would intentionally provoke his mortal enemy by walking boldly into his territory; and then it dawned on me, Eric Liddell wasn’t taunting Bandit, he simply didn’t know any better, he thought he had no enemies, that everyone was his friend. 

On April 9, 1865, thirty-four years to the day before my Grandmother was born, General Robert E. Lee, head of the Confederate Army of Northern Virginia surrendered to General Ulysses S. Grant of the Union Army of the Potomac at the Appomattox Courthouse in Virginia. Upon surrender, Lee fully expected to be arrested but was amazed when he was treated with kindness, dignity and respect and was told he and the men and boys in his troops were to simply lay down their arms and go home.  History reports from that day forward Robert E. Lee never allowed an unkind word to be spoken about General Grant in his presence.

 The interesting part of the story is that what General Grant so graciously did that day, didn’t originate with him, but with his commander in chief, President Abraham Lincoln. It was Lincoln who insisted this was how the war between the states must end. Lincoln once said, “Do I not destroy my enemies when I make them my friends?”  He is also famously quoted for saying, “A house divided against itself cannot stand.”  He knew that when it was over, in order for the country to be reunited, forgiveness had to win the day. The past had to be left in the past. He understood forgiveness was the only path to reconciliation and reconstruction. Many on the winning side (and the losing side for that matter) thought that very idea of forgiveness  folly, believing there was much damage done and there must be consequences and restitution. But Lincoln knew better; he knew that forgiveness was no gift, it was the only possible means to break the chains of bitterness and hatred on both sides. He believed the whole country needed emancipation from the resentment that had for too long plagued the United States of America.

Even though Lincoln gets the credit for saying and modeling forgiveness of the enemy, it was, in fact, his commander in chief, Jesus Christ, who first said, “Every kingdom divided against itself is brought to desolation, and every city or house divided against itself shall not stand.”  Jesus is the original culture shocker because he commands his followers to love their enemies and to pray for them. Who does this?  No other worldview, I can assure you, only the Judeo/Christian worldview demands its followers  treat others the way they would want to be treated and to forgive if you expect to be forgiven.   Honest Abe believed in this truth he read each and every morning from the Word of God.  Lincoln also knew that faith without works is meaningless and the folly of forgiveness must be accepted first or the works will be empty, they would simply be self-serving.  This truth has to be put into practice in the battlefield of life, not simply waxed eloquent from our lips.  President Lincoln knew forgiving the enemy wasn’t folly, it was the only way the people of this precious country could reconcile. He knew the truth of what the Bible taught, that God’s ways are foolishness to those who are perishing, but life to those who believe and live it out.  

 The south had rebelled against the Union and the war had taken a tremendous toll on the entire country. Forgiveness was the only way the two sides could come together without the blame game tearing the nation to shreds.   Yes, there were unfathomable atrocities committed on both sides both before and after the surrender in Appomattox County, the assassination of President Lincoln being one.   But the strong thread that bound this fragile beginning of once again becoming The United States was woven out of forgiveness.

Time and time again I see the ravages of unforgiveness all around me and it is important here to clarify forgiveness from condoning wrongs done. But you see, holding on tightly to wrongs done by others ruins you and me.  It keeps us chained to persons and events from days gone by that hurt us and turn us into prisoners in our minds and hearts. It keeps them in power over us.  The best amends is always changed behavior, but sometimes the offending party never changes or admits their part of the offense.  As long as he draws breath, Bandit the dog will not stop running other animals out of his territory.  I can’t change that.  Eric Liddell understands this, accepts the situation and now has clear boundaries.   Did he stop living and loving life? Not one bit.  Did leave his new home as a result?  No sir. And that goes for us too. Neither do we have to let unforgiveness turn our hearts to stone and chain us to the hurtful past, or rob us of our life and joy. We can’t change the past anyhow. 

If we have surrendered our lives to Christ, he has forgiven the black spots on our record of life.   He doesn’t remember them or hold them against us and we must imitate him.  As Lord of our life he commands that we do the same. He knows the damage resentment and self-pity does to our hearts our souls, our relationships and that it robs us of the joy of living fully.  And not only that, he tells us in plain words that if we don’t forgive others, we won’t  be forgiven. If we expect to be forgiven, we must forgive.

And so, my friends, in the shadow of the cross of Christ, I urge you not to be a house divided but united,  to forgive, love and pray for your enemies. Lay down your arms, and go home to Jesus. Join with me in receiving and paying forward the folly of forgiveness and I promise, you shall be:

Joy filled always,

Christine Davis

 

 

 

Travel Not Advised

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Spring has arrived, rebirth is real. A short while ago when all was brown and dead looking, spring seemed a distant dream. February went out like a roaring lion, pounding parts of several states with a massive blizzard. Travel was not advised, in fact, several major freeways and highways were closed for days on end.    

 In the aftermath of the destructive storm there was no shortage of photos and videos of stranded, abandoned and wrecked vehicles. Cars, trucks and tractor trailers were left in the ditches, on the roadway, along the roadside. Some drivers must have felt the words travel not advised did not include them.  Others may have had no other option but to drive into the storm and although they may have been driving cautiously ended up stranded, injured or wrecked due to their own or another driver’s loss of control and/or recklessness. Other unknown drivers may have made it safely to their destination through the vicious storm.

 Adulthood has arrived. As a youth it seemed a distant dream. In my early days I was given clear warnings about the storms in life which I would encounter and when and where travel was not advised. Looking in the rear-view mirror, it appears as though when it comes to this business of living, we are either entering a storm, in the middle of a storm or just exiting a storm. There were times I chose to travel where not advised ending up abandoned, stranded or wrecked. Sometimes I was in collision with others. Still other times I made it safely through only by the grace of God.  Why on earth did I ever think the boundaries for human behavior don’t apply to me?  When did doing the wrong thing become the right thing? When did my thinking become so distorted that I believed evil was good?  Perhaps I was listening to the wrong voices and like a herd bound sheep I blindly, yet of my own free will, drove into the storm despite having been properly warned.  I would be lying or badly deceived if I thought I was not guilty of leading others down the broad road that leads to destruction and despair.  That is a hard, but honest thought.

It was, and still is a mistake to ignore the warnings in God’s moral code. But I must say, most often it happens slowly, over time.  I fell prey to the idea the pleasure of forbidden fruit is fine dining.   Here’s the thing about pleasure, the right kind I pay for ahead of time, the wrong kind I pay for afterwards and usually is something I need to hide from others.  There are obvious things I avoided, as the story goes you throw a frog in a pan of boiling water and he will leap out to save himself. I have never murdered anyone in cold blood.  Other things were less obvious, like the abortion I had.

The broad road where travel is not advised is death by inches through justification. And I am not just talking about physical death here, I am referring to the death of innocence, joy, trust, relationships, dreams, and hope.  Willfully ignoring God’s boundaries is a pernicious poison which slowly eats one alive from the inside out making me, what Jesus called, a whitewashed tomb. Pretty on the outside, dead on the inside. Taking the road often traveled is like putting a frog in a pan of cool water and turning the burner on low,  and as the water heats imperceptibly he even won’t notice it slowly cooking him to death.

 

The painful truth is anything I do that I feel I must hide from others I should not be doing. The price tag is just too high!  Here are just a few of the roads where travel isn’t advised: Gossip, which is malicious conversation about someone who is not there to defend themselves; drunkenness or drug stupefaction – I make bad enough decisions on my own, why on earth would I need help?  Uncontrolled bursts of anger, nagging, bitterness, unforgiveness, grudges, resentment, being right at all costs, lust, gluttony, greed, selfishness and self-centeredness to name just a few.  These can be and frequently are gateway choices that lead to worse decisions on down the line.  We see the results of this all around us each and every day.

All my life there has been a tension in my heart, to do what I ought to do (good) and the temptation to do what I ought not to do (evil). Literally, an angel on one shoulder, a devil on the other.  The battle between good and evil is real and some days the battle (storm) is fierce, so intense we can’t see right in front of us. King Solomon said, “Tear down a wall and you will get bit by a snake. “     

Sin (there is a conversation killing word) is just as real as the law of gravity.  Jumping out of an airplane without a parachute will kill me make no mistake.  Just as driving through life without minding the boundaries of an unchanging, absolute moral framework given by a loving God will kill our souls. Boundaries and love go hand in hand, they are inseparable whether you are talking about loving parents or a loving God. Where there is no discipline there can be no real love, and freedom without boundaries ends in chaos and despair. Boundaries caution us not to go where travel is not advised,  obedience to what cannot be enforced is imprinted on our hearts and is always the best option. But it’s not the easy or popular option. In fact, it usually is very uncomfortable for us and others.  

The good news is spring has arrived, rebirth is real.  No matter how far down the broken road we have traveled. No matter how battered and beaten and bloodied we have become in this life. The lover of our soul, Jesus Christ, who does his best work in storms, waits patiently for us to return, to let him rescue us.

Do you know him? Is he your first line of defense or your last resort?  Or is he nothing at all to you? Is he not just the Savior of your life, but the Lord (Boss) of it too?

The ground is level at the foot of the cross and door of the empty tomb. We a have a loving, living Great Physician ready to dive in and pull us out of the wreckage and bandage our wounds.   Jesus Christ stands ready to give us a better guidance system to stay out of life’s blizzards. To help us to choose not to travel, where travel is not advised.  And to guide us safely home sweet home.

Now that is a reason to:

Be joy filled always,

Christine Davis

The Big Three

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We are several weeks into a new calendar year and I can say with confidence that most of us have let our well-meaning New Year’s resolutions fall by the way side.  The big three, in my opinion, are eating right and exercising to lose weight; giving up some negative habit such as drinking or smoking and handling our finances better. These cover about ninety percent of all resolutions.

All of these things are worth improving or changing in our lives. Unfortunately, as the old saying goes, most folks don’t plan to fail, they fail to plan and I would like to add fail to count the cost to achieve goals.  We forget that in order to make room for something new, something else must go, a sacrifice must be made. If we have a passion to tame the price tag is self-denial.  In order to be successful, we do something difficult and let old behaviors die, while developing new; exchanging one thing for another.

Change will pay significant dividends for a lifetime if one has the stick-to-it-tive-ness to, well, stick to it!  Reads easy. Lives much harder.

Unfortunately, another big three can and do hinder me from doing what I want to reach my desired goals. These are what I call the three D’s: deception, denial and despair.  I am befuddled as to why, usually after such a short time, I find myself abandoning my enthusiasm, resolve and goals and revert back to old habits! The only thing I can come up with is it is I am deceived in some way by my own thinking and/or have fallen prey to the deceptions and temptations of the culture I live in.  Once I fall prey to “Oh what the heck” thinking I have moved from D1, deceiving myself, to D2 – denial. And I am not talking about the good kind – self-denial – but the kind that trips me up. The Ostrich head in the sand kind of denial. Thinking such as denying I must act today.  I’ll start working out tomorrow. I’ll quit – you fill in the blank – tomorrow.  I’ll save for the future, tomorrow.  Blah, blah, blah. Just exactly what tomorrow am I thinking of? Because today was tomorrow just yesterday! I am kidding no one except myself. And there it is plain as day.

 Which finally drops me off at the doorstep of D3 -and I don’t mean the vitamin-I am referring here to despair.   The place where I have thrown in the towel and say this is too hard or too much work and return to my old behavior and thinking that keep me trapped and chained to something; something I hoped and need to be free of!  And once again, I am powerless to change.  I continue telling myself lies such as: Where I am is not that bad.  Or what I am doing is not so bad compared to…  Or worst of all I settle for far less than I am capable of!! Despair is where I lose hope! It’s a dark place. Another D word.  Paul of the New Testament calls himself a wretched creature when he is doing what he doesn’t want to do and not what he wants to do. Which describes our 3D situation to a tee. Wretched.

The good news is – that is what the word Gospel means, good news – there is help available!  Someone who can and will bring us out of the darkness of the three D’s deception, denial and despair and into the light of the 3Ls. Life, liberty and love. Someone with whom we can do all things and conquer our biggest giants and fears. Someone who will help us if we but do as he suggests.

Jesus says that if anyone wants to have life to the full here on earth and in heaven a decision is required – which is better than a resolution BTW – you must confess Jesus Christ as Lord with your mouth and believe in your heart God raised him from the dead. That’s it.  That’s all that is required.  If you’re a skeptic or unbeliever you can opt out here if you like. But do feel free to read on. Or better yet contact me if you want more information.  However, if you do claim his name and way of life you don’t get off the hook quite so easy because discipleship comes at a cost so please keep reading. Once belief is established, here are his big three through which we receive the keys to the kingdom. Found in the ninth chapter of Luke:

1)We must deny ourselves – there we go, that good old, beneficial self-denial again!

2)Take up our cross every day.

3) and follow him

And dropping down the chapter in Luke he said goes on to say in order to gain my life I must lose it. Talk about counter cultural expectations!

Denying myself means I have to die to myself.  My beliefs.  My wants. My needs. In order to gain his beliefs, his wants and his needs.  My self-will must die. My plans, my desires, my thoughts, my goals.   All replaced with his much better outline for my life.

That is where the taking up my cross part comes in.  He means there is going to be suffering and sacrifice involved as I die to the me, I built up. The old me went down in flames, kicking and screaming and it was ugly.   And that is where Jesus loses most folks. This is the faith equivalent of January tenth where we throw in the towel on our resolutions and settle for much, much less. In our soul it is where we settle for some sort of Christianity lite.  Or worse.

Six years ago, on December thirtieth I made the decision I was going to do more than just believe in Jesus.  I accepted his invitation to go after him.  I decided to deny myself, take up my cross and follow him just like he said. I was going to do what he said instead of what I wanted. He told me (and tells you) I had to lose my life in order to gain it and that is exactly what has happened.  I lost the deception and the denial and he removed the despair.   And I gained my true life found only in and through Jesus Christ.

Oh, by the way, Jesus didn’t ask me to do anything he hadn’t already done, he died on the cross and rose from the dead a new creation. The risen Christ invited me to meet him there, and when I met him, his Holy Spirit working in me moved my stagnant soul beyond January the tenth. I gained my life.

 And that has made all the difference.

Therefore, I am:

Joy filled always,

Christine Davis

I am with you. Keep peddling.

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I love to ride my bike.  I grew up and still live on a farm in the country and so I enjoy riding my bicycle on gravel and dirt roads.  And there is a difference,by the way my city dweller friends.  Most country roads in Iowa are rock (gravel) roads.  There are also what are called class B roads, which are dirt, no rock or gravel on them, just good old black, Iowa dirt.  Farmers used to use them quite a lot to get from field to field No one lives on these roads and they are shortcut roads the county no longer maintains.  These dirt roads are my favorite roads to bike because there is rarely traffic and they are peaceful and quiet. There are several of these roads strung together just north of our farm.  At the end of one of these dirt roads next to a blacktop road lived an elderly farmer and his wife and I have known all my life. And they had a dog.

Who was not always friendly and would sometimes bark and run toward me as I rode by.  Most days, it was no big deal, I would speed up and he would turn and would run back home.   But not this day, instead on this day he grabbed hold of my leg, breaking my skin with his teeth.   I tried not to panic and keep peddling while at the same time kicking and yelling at him to go home,hoping against hope the farmer or his wife would hear the fracas and call him off. No such luck, he kept coming at me barking and snapping.  I was afraid he was going to knock me down and maul me. And it was right smack dab in the midst of this chaotic, fear filled crazy moment I very clearly heard a still, small voice inside of me say:

“You are going to be alright, I am here with you.  Keep peddling.”

And at that very instant the dog turned back and I wasalright, and I kept peddling.   

Each one of us have a monologue of words in our minds called thoughts.  Unfortunately, most days in my mind it is constant stream of me.  However, this day a voice beyond my own interrupted my  fear filled thoughts. The voice of truth broke in and spoke into me in the midst of my fear.  He’s known for that.

It is not a new phenomenon. “In the beginning was the Word”.  God has spoken to us since the beginning of time. He is interested in us and he speaks our language, which makes perfect sense because “God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them.”  And because has created you and me in his image he has wired us to know the sound of his voice. “and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.”

Hearing God’s voice is like tuning in clearly to a radio station and tuning out the static. There are times I must admit, I have preferred my self-created static.  The prophet Zephaniah was talking about me in 630 BC when he said, “She obeyed not the voice; she received not the correction; she trusted not in the Lord.  She drew not near to her God.”   Which sounds to me like I have a comprehension and a relationship problem rather than a hearing problem. There is a difference you know.  I can hear just fine.  It’s listening that is the problem. This not listening is of no benefit to me, because the world is very much like the farmers dog.  Most days I can peddle by with little or no trouble. The dog of life might run at me, but would retreat without any serious trouble. And then comes that fateful day. The day of trouble.  When life grabs me by the leg with its sharp teeth breaking my skin or spirit, and I am nearly pulled down from the bicycle of my life and slammed to the ground and mauled.  Typically, the beast takes one of three forms: disease, death or loss. And loss tends to be material or financial loss or relational loss.  Sometimes I am attacked by all three at once and I kick and yell while life keeps barking and snapping at me hoping against hope someone or something will call off this hound of disaster.

Truth is, I won’t hear the still small voice in the midst of the fracas if I don’t recognize or don’t want to hear the still small voice.  It simply comes down to a matter of cannot or will not on my part.  The God in whose image we are created is a relational God and will be in relationship with us only if we chose to be in relationship with him.  I know the sound of my loved one’s voices because I spend time with them. It is no different with God. Even if we are peddling a hundred miles an hour in the wrong direction, he listens to the conversation in our heart and soul and if there is a tiny glimmer of turning toward his light while there is breath in our body, he hounds us down and whispers to us “It’s going to be alright, I am here with you. Keep peddling.” He won’t give up on you, if you don’t give up on him.

The million-dollar question is who and what am I listening to? The voice of God self-revealed to me (and you) in his Word?  Or something or someone else? How will I tune out the static of self-deception and lies and tune into grace and truth if I don’t know the sound of the voice of truth?  I must never forget the voice of non-truth comes disguised in a pretty package and carries a bull horn.  I must remember at all times the enemy was once an angel of light and rarely comes a courting dressed in ugly.  But I must never forget my experiences of not listening to him because it always ends with me lying on the roadside a mauled, bloody and hopeless pile of despair. And even if I didn’t listen to the wrong voice, I can still end up there through the choices of others who aren’t listening to the voice of truth. Either way I can’t fix me there in despair and the only remaining options are to get bitter or get grace, from the Word who became flesh.

Could it be God speaks to us best in the midst of our fear, pain and suffering because it is where he has our fullest attention? Could it be he meets us there because he experienced it himself? Just what was God up to in a manger and on a cross anyway?

 “And the Word was made flesh and dwelt among us. “

 “It’s going to be alright, I am here with you. Keep peddling.”

Be joy filled always,

Christine Davis

Seasons

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The other day I saw something I had never seen in my backyard before. A colorful male pheasant scooted from one pine tree to the next and I was startled, although I see them in the fields and along the roadways, I have never had one pass through our yard.   It reminded me that fall has officially arrived.  

I knew that, because the guys are finishing harvest.  

I knew that because the leaves have dropped from the trees. 

But, somehow seeing the pheasant just put paint to it.

Summer is long over.

Summer is my favorite season.  I love the long days and sunshine; the warm weather, even the hot humid days. I love going barefoot and wearing less gear.  As much as I love summer, I do enjoy all of the seasons and the have the luxury of being able to experience each season fully in Iowa.   Although, I  must admit I cast my  vain vote for winter to end January second, after the white Christmas and Happy New Year, which is wishful thinking.

The change of seasons reminds us that as human beings there is nothing more certain than change.    Like the change of the seasons of the year, change in life tends to typically come in increments.  It is a letting go of something as something else makes its way in. A letting go in order to receive something else.  But, like the seasons, the change sometimes can be sudden and we are forced to adapt quickly like it or not.

The fact of the matter is sometimes change can be hard and sometimes we make it much harder than it should be by our clinging to what was rather than letting go.  We have a hard time receiving the new because we are so focused on what was.   Acceptance can be as difficult as we decide to make it.   

Psalm 41:10 says, “Be still and know that I am God”, the words “be still” come from a Hebrew verb root, rapha, whose meaning is to be weak, to let go, to release. But in the Hebrew language when there are two commands the emphasis is on the SECOND command and in this case, it is the command ” and know that I am God “.     In this seemingly gentle phrase, we are reminded that in order to fully know the saving power of God, we must let go, be weak, release.  You know, let go and let God. Or vice versa, let God and let go. Which means to accept what is.

When we accept, we release to what will be.  Which grants us freedom to step into something different and quite possibly better.

The change of a season can be gentle or violent.  God knew what he was doing in creating the seasons, he was preparing us for change because the change of seasons inevitably means the death of one thing so that another can come to life. The plant of the summer season must die in order to reap the seed of the harvest. With the seed is the opportunity for new life, for new growth.

Seasons come in many forms:

Seasons of birth

Seasons of youth

Seasons of age

Seasons of friends

Seasons of jobs

Seasons of family

Seasons of sorrow

Seasons of joy

Seasons of sickness

Seasons of health

Seasons of maturity

Seasons of spiritual growth 

Seasons of spiritual dryness

Seasons of letting go 

Seasons of receiving

Seasons of living

Seasons of dying

There is nothing more certain than change.

Change can be scary and usually involves risk.

But the alternative is spending the rest of your life as it is and missing the beauty and adventure of change. 

The good news is the only thing that never changes and never fails is God’s everlasting love for us.

Be still, and know that I am God.

 

Be joy filled always,

Christine

 

 

Different

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an example of transformation fitness mascot - a butterflyWho wants to be different?   Not many folks, and especially not young people.  When our youngest daughter Maggie was a freshman in High School she had her school driving permit. One day her vehicle wouldn’t start.  Maggie’s pickup was Jay’s former set of wheels, a twenty plus year old truck called Whitey.  Because it is a farm truck, it has been “rode hard and put away wet”. The paint is peeling off, it has its fair share of dents and dings and a window which doesn’t roll down on one side.  Maggie, however, claimed it as her own.  So, on that fateful day her dad gave her a lift to school. To High School.  Afterward I got a call from my husband and he was laughing.     

Just the previous spring, if Jay were to give her a ride to school she was good with that. At least she didn’t have to ride the dreaded school bus any longer.  But over the course of the summer something changed. Perhaps it was the fact that now she could drive herself to and from school.  More than likely it is the fact that she was fifteen years old and most fifteen-year old kids don’t want to be seen too much with their parents.  

Jay told me that they drove up to the school, but not too close, and Maggie says, ” Dad, don’t do anything embarrassing.”  Then she goes on to tell him where to park “Whitey” when he delivers her truck to school later. Translated: “Get that truck fixed so I don’t need you to pick me up after school!!”   Before shutting the door, she adds, “and don’t be looking in the windows of the school for me or anything like THAT. Thanks Dad, love ya, bye.”  

And it happened just like that.  It was now embarrassing to be seen with parents who were cool four short months ago.

For those of you that have ever been (which is all of us) or who have raised teens we know this is just part of the growing up process.  The part where the little birdies start to flap their wings and leave the nest.  One of the most common traits of this particular stage of life is that most teens don’t want to stand out or be perceived as different from their peers.  Peer acceptance at this age is of primary importance.   Isn’t odd, that most of us could say that aspect of humanness never changes? The large majority of us are addicted to the approval of others.  We want to be unique or special, but not perceived as different. The fear of rejection is probably one of the top five fears on almost everybody’s list.  Truth is that if were to get ten “Atta boys” and one criticism we would agonize and focus more on the criticism than the ten compliments.    

 Rare is the person who is self-confident enough they could let history decide. Oliver Cromwell who was one of those rare folks. When a painter painted a portrait of Cromwell, who was disfigured with warts on his face, the artist, wanting to please the great man, left off the warts.  When Cromwell saw the picture, he said, “Take it away, and paint me warts and all!”   How very unlike most of us who don’t want our “warts” noticed.  To be seen as different.

But to those of us that choose to follow Jesus Christ, we are called to be exactly that, different.

In the book of Acts, members of the early church are called saints.  November first is recognized as All Saints day by the Christian church. This particular Holy Day is to recognize those Christ followers who have gone on to their eternal reward during the last year.  When we typically use the word saint we use it to describe someone who is a holy person or is officially recognized as having lived an especially holy life by a religious body. But the word used for saint in the book of Acts has a Greek root Hagios: Which means different.   

Followers of Christ were called to be different. Different how?

Radically different.  But not as moralizers pointing out everybody else’s faults. If we make the claim we follow Jesus, we must take our identity in him, not from our friends, or our job, or social media or the rapidly changing culture and world around us.  He calls us to do things that are, well very different from the rest of humanity.

Like loving our enemies.

Or Praying for those who treat us badly or persecute us.   Gulp. Who me?  Yes, you.  

To forgive others, especially those who don’t deserve it.

To love others, yes even those I disagree with, unconditionally and to treat them with dignity and respect.  With no expectation of anything in return.

And, here is one that would really make one stand out, to rejoice when persecuted for living this type of life, for speaking the truth in love for Christ’s sake.  Not for my own sake.

Or for simply being brave enough to say in our secular world that our world view is one based on Jesus Christ.

I can’t do any of that without Jesus help.  I tried. And I failed.  I can’t be like him, without him as Captain of my soul.  Jesus reminds me that my heart is desperately wicked and that I can’t trust my heart and that statement alone makes me different that most of the world.

Abe Lincoln said, “If the end brings me out all right, what’s said against me won’t amount to anything.”   And when I put my faith and trust in Jesus Christ, I am guaranteed to be brought out all right in the end.

Which makes me different. And a saint too, by the way.

Be joy filled always,

Christine Davis 

 

 

 

Distracted

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Look at me. 

That’s what I said to Bandit the dog as we strolled past a fenced in yard with an excited yellow Lab racing up and down the fence line barking.  Although Bandit and I remained in forward motion, his neck seemed suddenly made of rubber as he kept bending around to look at the Lab.  Over and over I said, “Look at me Bandit,” and over and over he kept looking at the barking dog.

Look at me.

That is what God says to me, when I get excited about other human beings running up and down the fence line of my life barking. God walks beside me and yet so often it seems as though I look straight through him  by turning to look at the people in the world around me.  I am so busy rubbernecking other human behavior  I forget to focus my attention on my Master.  Truth is,  I spend more time staring at people or some sort of electronic or print unreality than at Him who IS reality. He is ready to save, guide, direct, comfort and strengthen me only to the degree I am willing to look to him and acknowledge and accept these gifts from him. Most days I am too busy scrolling through my life to barely notice or acknowledge  his presence. The sad truth is far too many times he is the last thing I look to instead of the first.  I am shocked at how easily distracted I can become.

Seek first the kingdom of God and everything else will be added to you reads easy and lives hard unless I make a concerted effort to practice this principal in my life by looking to God to see just what his kingdom is.  My  distracted attention can be exacerbated by the false reality of our world found in social media, cinema, print or TV news and  drama. (Is there a difference I ask ?) Which all deceive me into believing the answers I am seeking to the hard questions in life lay outside of me instead of inside where Jesus tells me the Kingdom of God is found.  Of course, if I am not following Jesus, the world outside with all its running and barking would be where I would, and did and sometimes still do, direct my gaze.

When I look at Him, my soul remembers that when I see another human being I don’t see a person of a particular gender, or ethnicity or political persuasion.  What I see is someone else who is also created in the image of God.  What I find every time is reality based in truth, rooted in love.

Look at me! shouts the world.

Look at Me, whispers God.

Be joy filled always,

Christine Davis

 

Risky Business

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True story from a few years back. In the fall we take out part of the corn field behind our farm house for silage to feed cattle during the winter months.  What that amounts to is that a small portion of the field is chopped and bagged before the corn is actually ready for harvest.  Most days, I walk my dogs on leash down a nearby county road; but after the silage is chopped, I like to give them the gift of being off leash in the cornfield. They absolutely love running free.  Our lab Ali loves to follow her nose.  But she could care less about chasing birds or small creatures.  Bandit, our beagle something mix, is the exact opposite. If he spots a critter he is off in hot pursuit. 

Early one evening we took off walking in the field.  We got to the other side where there is a grass waterway and that is typically where we turn around and head home.   Ali and I start back and Bandit heads up the waterway a piece. Unharvested corn takes him out of my field of vision and I figure he will catch up. Ali and I keep walking. Before long I hear him barking and turn around to see this short, thirty-pound dog chasing a full-grown doe!   He is in hot pursuit and headed for the fence next to the railroad tracks.  I think to myself, “deer will leap the fence, dog will turn around and come back.”  So, the lab and I keep walking towards home. Before long I turn back to see what is happening next and low and behold Bandit is running back up the waterway, with a buck chasing him!  I think to myself, ” He got himself into this, he will get himself out. ”  

 Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.
 Faith is a risky business.  It means trusting in something that you can’t see.  That little dog chased the doe because he never once doubted he was created to be a pursuer of other critters!  He didn’t stop for a minute to get my blessing or permission.  He didn’t think about the fact he weighed three hundred pounds less than that animal.  It is embedded in the DNA of that dog to hunt, and he was hunting!  The flip side of faith is the risk part of the deal.  He wasn’t expecting the buck.   

Faith and risk are directly connected.  Faith means not being able to see around the next corner, yet trusting in something greater than yourself to see you through.  In order to have faith that is real, there is commitment involved, a buy into something. 

Faith is courage that has said its prayers which means there is an action step on our part, the buy in.  Stay with me, the Bible is full of examples of regular folks, who, against all odds step out in faith and have big results!  Think of the story of David and Goliath.  David was a young buck (pun intended) and he had gone to the battlefield to take lunch to his brothers who were part of King Saul’s army.  While delivering the food he heard Goliath hurling insults at the Israelite army.  He, like my dog Bandit, never thought twice, David had long ago placed his trust God.  David was acting on that already established faith, which gave him the courage to take the risky action.  

Now think about this.  You know how mean older siblings can sometimes be. David had just announced he was going go out and kill this giant enemy soldier of whom the best of the king’s men (including his older brothers) were terrified!  With a slingshot, no less.  I have no doubt he was ridiculed and it took courage for him to take the risk of doing what God wanted him to do and not to buckle under peer pressure, caring more of what other human beings thought.  You see he knew that the battle was God’s, not his and that God was going before him.  That is substance of faith, the certainty of trusting God will go before us.  We know how the story ends.   The giant Goliath face plants dead in the dirt. With a single stone. Oh, and BTW, David ran at Goliath before he hurled it.  

 It is not easy to step out of our comfort zones into the unknown. But that is where victory is found, in the mystery.  Change is hard and scary, but we may rob ourselves of amazing opportunities if we cling only to what is safe and seen.  Don’t forget we have a big God; a God who is true to His Word.  When we step out and risk in faith it means giving up knowing and attempting to manage the outcome.  When I do that my experience has been the end result is far better than anything than I could have imagined or dreamed.

Flash to the Bandit the dog.    I said a prayer and trusted he could out run that buck and find his way home. 

He did. 

Panting and tired he emerged from the cornfield just about the time Ali the Yellow Lab and I got to the edge of our lawn.  

I am pretty sure he was smiling.

 Faith, it’s a risky business.

 

Be joy filled always,

Christine Davis