The Diet Starts Tomorrow

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Change reads easy, lives hard.

I am a fitness professional by trade. I own and operate a business whose primary purpose is to guide individuals into a fitness lifestyle.  Folks have hired my services for many reasons, here is the short list: Need or want to lose weight; feel flabby and want to firm up; need to look better for a particular event; doctor said they must eat right and exercise for various reasons including but not limited to brittle bones; high blood pressure; elevated cholesterol or blood sugars etcetera. My personal favorite is because being healthy is cheaper than a nursing home.

Every client I have ever had has been fired up in the early phases of my program, the only exception being when someone else pressured them to be there. But nearly all who made the decision to seek my expertise, at some point, get to where the bloom is off the rose and  realize being healthy takes hard work and discipline. One client asked, “Do I have to think about eating right and exercising all the time?” I think, dear readers, you know what my reply was.

Taking care of our bodies is hard work and requires devotion and self-sacrifice for the long haul. It is a marathon, not a sprint. I like to tell people certain healthy habits must become as much a part of your daily round as brushing your teeth or taking a shower. Unless, of course you don’t shower or brush your teeth daily.  I remember one of our daughters’ middle school friends who happened to stay the night, proudly proclaimed she hadn’t brushed her teeth in seventeen days. Ugh. Hopefully, she changed her mind about that.

 It was Ben Franklin who quipped, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” And it is especially true when it comes to your health. What and how we eat is what the word diet actually means instead of something we go on. Which implies, by the way, that we will go off  at some point. What most fail to understand is whatever plan you choose, and most all of them work, only works as long as you keep at it.  In other words, eating healthy works when you work it and it doesn’t when you don’t.  Oftentimes we start strong and trip up when temptation comes our way or get over busy and fall prey to the “what the heck” thinking and throw in the towel.   Others never really buy into the eating/exercise plan itself or modify it, taking only the parts that aren’t too hard skipping the difficult parts. And then wonder why it doesn’t work.  

And let me be clear, once a person gets to where they want to be, they must keep doing what they have been doing to keep getting what they have been getting or they will end up right back where they were before, or worse. And sometimes we want to eat better and exercise, just not today.  The diet starts tomorrow, but the sad truth is tomorrow never comes. 

Change is hard. I get that. But, in these moments I sometimes pose this question, “If you are going to do what you want, why do you need me? “It’s as though instead of conforming to a new fitness lifestyle, some want to conform the fitness lifestyle to them. Never works; never has never will.

Living a new life in Jesus Christ reads easy, lives hard.

Jesus Christ is a New Life professional. His primary purpose is to save lost souls and lead them back into right relationship with God. Folks seek his services for a number of reasons here’s the short list:  Made a wreck of their life; life has made of a wreck of them;  have hurt others; have been hurt by other humans; experienced  suffering, loss or devastation; nothing else fills the bottomless pit of a hole in the soul and etcetera. My personal favorite is He gives me what I don’t deserve, grace, truth and forgiveness.

Nearly every new believer or follower of Christ are fired up at the beginning of their new life in Christ, I know I was, the only exception being when someone else pressured them to come to Him.  But nearly all who made the decision to seek his expertise, at some point, get to a place where the bloom is off the rose as they realize that following Jesus takes self-sacrifice of losing our own will and the daily discipline of continuing to seek His will.  At one point I remember asking the Lord, “Do I need to pray, read the Bible and do what you want me to everyday day for the rest of my life?”   I think, dear readers, you know what his reply was.

Taking care of our souls and transforming them into the image of Christ is hard work and requires devotions and self-sacrifice for the long haul. It is a marathon, not a sprint. Jesus reminds us soul healthy habits must become as much of our daily round as brushing our teeth or taking a shower.  I have talked with many “followers of Jesus” who haven’t taken time to pray or crack open God’s Word in years and years if ever. Ugh.  Hopefully, they have or will change their minds about that.

It was the Creator of the Universe who slipped on human skin and declared, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whoseover believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.  For God sent not his son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved.”  Who and how we fill ourselves is not just something we do once a week and check off the list.  It must become a lifestyle of a developing personal relationship with God through Jesus Christ, whose Holy Spirit fills the hole in our soul and gives us the will and the power to transform into the image of Christ.  Which is the goal, by the way.  What most fail to understand is faith only works as long as you keep at it.  In other words, following Jesus only works when you follow Him and it doesn’t when you don’t.  Oftentimes we start strong and trip up when temptation comes our way or get over busy and fall prey to the “what the heck” thinking and throw in the towel.   Others never really buy into the Good News of Jesus Christ itself or modify it, taking only the parts that aren’t too hard skipping the difficult parts. And then wonder why Christianity doesn’t work for them.  

And let me be clear, and here is the rub, it is hard work loving your enemies, being humble, keeping my tongue bridled and not repaying evil for evil. Of myself I could never do any of this. I must first receive it as a free gift by accepting that Jesus is who he says he is (Lord of all) and that he rose from the dead and forgives me for all the rotten junk I have done.  You see if you don’t want him in this life, he won’t force you to have him in the next, it is our choice because love by compulsion isn’t love.  In addition, if I don’t keep doing the daily deal of seeking his will, talking and listening to His Voice and knowing what His Voice sounds like by studying his Word, I will go back to being the sick chick I used to be.  And the truth in my life and the evidence down through history is that sometimes I think I want to do what God says, just not today.  The spiritual diet starts tomorrow. I’ll give up being judgmental or gossiping, tomorrow.  But the sad truth is all too often tomorrow never comes.

Change is hard. I get that. But, in these moments Jesus sometimes poses this most difficult question, “Why do you call me Lord and not do what I say? “It’s as though instead of recognizing we are created in God’s image; we want to create God in our image.

 Never works; never has, never will.

Because, as God reminds us,” My ways are not your ways.”

Be joy filled always,

Christine Davis

 

Mirror, Mirror on the Wall

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I don’t feel old.  At least not most days.  This weekend was my fortieth high school class reunion and it seems like just yesterday I was setting the numbers 4-0 on the forty-year class table for the “old folks” at the Alumni Banquet.  I suppose this officially makes me old.  But not older.  Earlier this week at the State Fair they had older folks’ day, where you got in for nine bucks instead of twelve if you were  sixty years and above, I gladly doled out the extra dough because I was just old, but not older.

We had a great time with those who attended the reunion events throughout the weekend. Some traveled a great distance to join in memory sharing.  One gal had just lost her husband to cancer just the week before, but he had insisted on his deathbed she not cancel her trip, so we loved on her a little extra. 

Here’s a great surprise!  None of us look the same as our senior photos in the year book! Can you believe it? Our hair has changed: color, style and even quantity, imagine that. And you’ll never believe it, our bodies have changed, in ways I will leave to your imagination. Some of you who qualify for being old or older know what I mean.

We have changed.

To which I would add, Thank. The. Lord. 

It was a terrific weekend.  Events were planned around our little hometown annual celebration, which is always a first-class event, I might add.  We had a float in the parade, toured the school which has changed enormously. We met at a friend’s cabin for food and conversation late Saturday afternoon and then at her home for breakfast on Sunday morning.  In addition, we had the option of attending the evening events uptown to see and mingle with other local folks over the course of the weekend.

One of my classmates attends the same house of worship I do, and asked me which service I planned to attend this particular weekend, and I said the Saturday night and he asked, “Aren’t you going uptown later?”

To which I replied, “Nope, that person is dead.”

To which I would add, Thank. The. Lord.

High School was not the best time of my life.   I wouldn’t go so far as to say I hated it, but it was a time in my life that I really had no clue who I was.   I remember I couldn’t wait to get to town for the annual celebration or just about any event because I was desperate to have someone else validate my identity.  I just wanted one best friend and one boy to just love me forever. But I went about looking in all the wrong places and in wrong ways.  I was imitating others, who, I would venture to guess, were looking for the same things I was in a similar fashion.  In a sense, in some ways, we became the blind leading the blind.  There were the usual groups of kids you find in school, the “popular crowd”, the athletes, the good students and so forth. And I would find my self looking to others in an attempt figure out who I was.  Which didn’t work out so well, because I was supposed to be me not them.   I made a lot of bad choices and trouble for myself along the way and I know I hurt other innocent folks as I roared through life looking for love in all the wrong places.  I was kind of like the wicked old step mother in Snow White asking, “Mirror, mirror on the wall, who’s the fairest one of all?” and then I would try to be like that person.

Until I met my BFF (best friend forever) and man of my dreams.  Jesus Christ, who was and is and always be the only solution for the world’s problems, not just mine.  And whom, if I choose to follow, I should take my identity in. When I did what he suggested and died to myself, which what going under the waters of baptism represents, I became a new creation in Him, which is what coming up out of the waters of baptism signifies.  That is when I stopped looking to the created and to the Creator to define me.  Which works a whole lot better since He made me.

Today, I take my identity in him.   Not in what you think of me (which is none of my business, by the way) or  my lame attempt to be you.  The old me is dead and buried, and the hole in my soul  I tried to fill with everyone and everything filled with and by Him!

Thank. The. Lord.

Fun to remember the good old days, better yet to have them in the rear-view mirror.

Mirror, mirror on the wall, who’s the fairest one of all? 

Be joy filled always,

Christine Davis

 

In God We Trust

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Bandit the dog has a wonderful life and he trusts his master, that’s me.  He is free to roam within the boundaries I have set in our yard using a wireless remote containment system. This invisible force keeps him from becoming roadkill on the highway in front of our farm.  Mr. Bandit wears a collar that emits a beep if he gets within ten yards of the boundary.  If he goes beyond that, he gets a shock; which has only occurred once during his training.  At that time, we set up flags and walked the boundary lines with him and when he passed out of the safe zone and got shocked, we brought him back to safety. He quickly learned the flags and the sound were a signal of danger. He could have ignored the boundary and run through the invisible barrier, all the while being shocked, but he didn’t. After two weeks we removed the flags because he understood the beep means stop. Bandit enjoys freedom with limits. What he doesn’t do is spend his day fretting and stewing because he can’t go “over there.”  Or he doesn’t doubt whether I love him less because I place limits on his freedom. He never worries that I will abandon him, not feed him or provide him a with a home.   He trusts me.

 I must admit I have no doubt there are times he may wish I would move faster when I don’t feed him right away or take him on his morning walk on his timetable. But in those moments what he does do is stay a little closer by my side and follow me around while patiently waiting. He trusts in me because he knows me, I have proven I am trustworthy. And I love him.

Christine the human being trusts her Master, that’s God.  I have a wonderful life! I am free to roam within the boundaries God has set for me in the world.  He uses an invisible, and enforceable only by choice, containment system found in his Word (The Bible). Which, if I choose to trust in will keep me from becoming roadkill on the highway of life.  When I study it, the truth it contains and the message of salvation become the boundary flags and warning signals for navigating this complex thing we call life, both this life and the next. But we are only saved if we choose to place our trust in God through Jesus Christ.

I have the option to and have ignored the warning flags and signals and been shocked, sometimes badly, in and by life.  My Master walks the fence line beside me and rescues me if I choose to let him. And there were times that I must admit I didn’t choose to roll with the “God is really in charge of everything” plan.   I wanted to trust in myself mostly, but nearly anything but God.  

Please allow me to clarify.   I have always believed in God. However, I have come to understand it is one thing to believe in God and is altogether another thing to trust God.  Let’s face facts here.  I was being “shocked” because I wasn’t trusting God and what He says is true.

Where did I get the impression God says things with a wink, a nod and his fingers crossed behind his back? That old fibber fear is the root of my trust issues. Why do I struggle trusting other people to God’s care and provision? Or trusting God with my finances or trusting him with my past and my future or with other humans’ opinions of me and many, many other things?  Jesus Christ and God’s Word both warn me fear is a big fat lie which has robbed me of so much living. Eventually, literally by the grace of God, and by placing my trust in him, I learned the thoughts, temptations and behaviors which are warning signals of danger he warned me to avoid. I enjoy freedom with limits. What I no longer do is spend my days fretting and stewing because I can’t go “over there.”  Or doubting he loves me less because he placed limits on my freedom.  I don’t worry that he will abandon me, or not care and provide for me.

I have let me down. Other people have let me down.  God has never let me down. And here is an uncomfortable reality, my greatest growth has come through suffering and pain and my greatest suffering has come through too much pleasure.   If I stop and look at God’s track record in my own life, I must conclude He has never failed me, that he is good for his Word and completely trustworthy!!   Running the universe is a big job he does so well!   The sun rises and sets each day, the earth rotates on its axis and so on and so forth, without our assistance folks, and the evidence he is trustworthy is all around us! As the Apostle Paul said in Romans so that we are without excuse!

 Our national motto is in God we Trust, but truth be told I believe that very few people really do trust Him! And that statement makes me incredibly sad. I think far too many folks believe he is some far distant disinterested being, malevolently watching us from afar. Rolling his eyes and laughing at us as we muddle through life instead of the God who is a close, caring companion.  I used to, but I don’t anymore, buy that lie for a single second, not because I embrace some blind, mindless faith, but because of the amount of evidence! Not only the evidence of his work in my life but the proof all around me and throughout history. And from what I have seen, many people of faith are stuck where I used to be, trusting more in themselves, other people, leaders, governments and money than they trust God.  But we are in good company! even Jesus closest companions at first, didn’t trust he could calm their storms, and they could reach out and touch God wearing skin!!  Doubt is normal for us finite creatures. But the disciples lack of trust was temporary, as should ours be.  The more we get to know his nature, character and trustworthiness through his Word and actions in our lives, the more we can recognize him in the world around us. Which builds our trust.

Today I know if I choose to stay close to him; he will act in his time and his way which is always the right time and way and guide me along the journey he has set out for me. Which may not be easy or comfortable.  He never hid the facts that if I follow him, I too would have a cross to bear, and a crown to wear in that order.  I must admit that there are times I become impatient when he doesn’t answer my prayers right away or on my timetable or in the way I want him to. But in those moments what I have learned to do is to stay a little closer by His side, waiting patiently and trusting. Because he is trustworthy. And he loves me.  And he loves you too.

In God we trust.

Be joy filled always,

Christine Davis

 

Blind, Deaf and Dumb

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Back in the stone ages when I was first learning to drive, my mother and I had gone to a nearby city.  At the time I had only my learners permit and I was all of fourteen or fifteen.  Being a farm kid, I had driven the lawn mower, go carts, mini bikes and even the family car down the quiet rock road in front of our farm, but didn’t have much town experience and I needed to practice so my Mother let me drive, God bless her.    

 I wanted to impress my Mom and I certainly did not want to have an accident.   I used to be a I can do it myself sort of a gal (a former character flaw) and I was driving along totally focused on the street and the big old four door sedan I was piloting. I don’t know exactly how long it took, but at some point, I realized I heard a siren. Looking in the rear-view mirror I saw an ambulance with its lights flashing right behind me. I have no doubt that by this time the driver was wondering what sort of idiot was not getting out of the way and had begun blowing his horn at me. I was paralyzed.  I had no idea what to do.  I hadn’t taken drivers education yet.   By now the driver is now “whoop whooping” the siren at me.  Mom calmly suggested I pull into the right lane and slow down or stop.  The ambulance driver finally gets around me (much to his relief I have no doubt).   And I pull off and let my mom drive the rest of the way.

Why had I not heard the siren? My hearing worked just fine.

Why had I not seen the flashing lights?  I wasn’t blind because my mother let me behind the wheel of the car.

Why were my senses oblivious to the obvious?

 Jesus is concerned with our senses of hearing and seeing.  During his time on earth he told the crowds and his followers about a farmer who sowed seeds.   As soon as he is done telling the story he calls out, “He who has ears to hear, let him hear.”   Later he tells another story and  concludes with the words ” Consider carefully how you listen.”  Later when told that his Mother and brothers were waiting outside for him, he says, “My mother and brothers are those who hear God’s Word and put it into practice.” I wonder how his mother felt about that.  Later he calls many of the religious leaders the blind leading the blind who fall into a ditch. That doesn’t sound like a complement to me.

 Jesus is right here with us with lights flashing, sirens wailing and horns blowing and his very great concern is that we are not seeing or hearing the truth, that we are both blind and deaf (and for me I will add dumb, and I don’t mean dumb in the sense that I am unable to talk but in the ‘duh’ sense). He sounds the alarm because our very lives depend upon it, both right now today and in the long stretch of eternity.   Perhaps that is exactly the point of the parable of the sower, we hear but we aren’t listening and if we do hear we aren’t putting into practice what he is suggesting we do, and he is concerned for us and our souls.    If we hear God’s Word, we must practice and live it out or what is the point?

Let me be quite clear about one thing before we proceed. The thing that makes following Jesus Christ so very different from all other religions is that in every single other religious world view the entry into paradise or heaven is dependent on what I do in order to make things right between God and I.   Christianity is based on who I know and whether or not I accept the free gift of grace being offered and choose to enter into a personal relationship with God who paid the price to make things right.   I must believe the giver of the gift is who he says he is and accept the gift. I don’t receive it unless I accept it. Nothing I could ever do would earn it.  My point is, this isn’t about being good to be saved, but our goodness is the  by product of receiving the gift of grace and forgiveness.

In my lifetime I have been every one of the four types of listeners he describes in the parable of the sower. 1) I have heard the word and it didn’t even have a chance to grow because I listened to the guy with red tail and pitchfork on my left shoulder and  his seductive voice instead of God’s.   

2) I have received God’s Word with joy but since I chose not to practice it in my daily round, it sounded more like “Wank, wank, wank.”   I was too lazy to study it and it quickly withered within me.

3) I have definitely been the seed that fell among the thorns and God’s Word has been choked by life’s worries, riches and pleasures.  Just like driving the car that day when I was totally focused on the street and piloting the family car I could see and hear nothing else. Not even a siren right behind me.   I have been that way in my wicked living, marriage obsession, child raising, career idolatry, fitness frenzy and my money will save me worship. The world has had me by the throat or should I say by the eyes and the ears, mouth and worst of all heart. I have been blind, deaf and dumb, guilty, guilty, guilty.

Today, I do a little better job at both listening and practicing because I passionately, with all my heart,  want to be the last seed sown, 4) the seed on the good soil which, which takes root and grows into one with noble and good heart, who hears,  retains, and produces a harvest.  A harvest of what?   Becoming a reflection of Christ to those around me so they want him too. I only get to keep it if I give it away.

How did I get to be a better driver?   I took driver’s education and I drove and drove and drove; I practiced.  I follow (most of the time) the rules and laws of the road.

How do I produce a harvest for Christ?   I read and study God’s Word, fellowship with other believers and pass the good news on to others by scattering seeds. I  practice my faith by living it out, and most importantly,  my senses are no longer oblivious to the obvious because I choose to pull over and let my Father be the one in the driver’s seat.

Which causes me to:

Be joy filled always,

Christine Davis

You Can’t Take it With You

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The story is told, upon the death of one of the richest American’s of the twentieth century, when asked how much money he left behind, his attorney was  said to have replied,  “All of it.”

You can’t take it with you.

It’s funny how attached we become to stuff.   I remember being at an estate auction and looking around at all of the remaining belongings, and thinking is this it? What I have worked and slaved for, fussed over and hung on to ends up going to the highest bidder?   

When Jay told me he was going to out live me I replied, “Good, because I don’t want to clean out your shop!”   A couple years back I adapted the philosophy that if a new item came home with me, I had to let go of something old. Otherwise you might end up watching me a few years from now on one of those hoarder shows.  

 Some items like outdated clothing or unused appliances don’t hold as much sway over me; others are less easy to let go of. Like photos, why did I take so many photos?  I have lots of photo albums and boxes of photos.   Most hold sentimental value only to me. Which ones do I keep and which ones do I dispose of or give away?  When my mother in law moved off the farm my husband brought home a box full of photo albums.  They were fun to look through, but now what?  Lately so much of what I own has begun to feel, well burdensome to be honest, and it all requires so much time and attention and I can’t take it with me.

 Letting go is hard. I remember when Mom was preparing to move to her apartment and as we sorted through each item there was a memory attached to it.   The meat grinder was from Aunt Mildred, the alarm clock that was my dads and it is the same for me.  It is the memory that I am attached to mostly.  Even that gets left behind at the end of it all.

 Some of the stuff that I have a hard time letting go of isn’t in material form.   Take for instance my need to be right.  That fatal flaw has been a part of my personality for too long.  Or how about gossiping, I would love to tell you that I don’t but that would just be a big fat lie. One walks a fine line between sharing news and sharing news, really.      

 We become attached to things, even when they don’t serve us well and can chain us to being less than who God created us to be.  It’s not a bad thing to have nice things or certain habits, but we can’t take money, behaviors or things with us.   Honestly, I realized not so very long ago that both money, things and even certain behaviors had become my God, particularly money because I believed for most of my life that if I had enough it would save me. I thought it would save me from things like: fear, want, lack, loneliness, even from being unloved.   But money and the stuff it buys didn’t fill any of those holes in my soul and at the end of the day it became the enemy that often brought: fear, envy and discontent to my soul and even sometimes my relationships.  

The rich man’s attorney is right, it all gets left behind. 

 Jesus warned us not to put our faith and hope in the things moths and rust can destroy. But to build up our treasure in heaven and what I can take with me from this land of shadows to the reality of heaven, is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness and most importantly other souls that I have been bold enough to influence for Jesus Christ.   The truth is love is the only thing that lasts.  How much we love God and love others in this life, especially those who don’t deserve love, is what we take with us and the more we love here on earth, the bigger our account in heaven becomes. Everything material is bound for decay; the real stuff is the unseen, the invisible. The stuff of the soul.

 Love big my friends, that is of God and because that you can take with you.

Be joy filled always,

Christine Davis  

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