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

 

Hoodwinked

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Squawk! Squawk! Squawk!  I couldn’t figure out where the squawking was coming from.   Squawk! Squawk! Squawk!  And then I spotted him.  An old crow was perched on the frame of a farm truck mirror, screeching at his own reflection.

He had been hoodwinked.

And so have I.

I have been hoodwinked by others. Early on I wanted to do what I saw others doing and not all of it was good. I fell under the spell of people pleasing and living my life for the good opinion of others -some of this was just to avoid being beat up and picked on – instead of living by a set of virtuous spiritual principles. Believing that if I were just – you fill in the blank – enough you would like me:  rich enough, fit enough, religious enough, pretty enough, successful enough, had a clean enough or nice enough house, perfect enough children, belonged to just the right organizations, had the just the right friends, leaned left or right enough (been both and today I find it better to look Up to down).  I was deluded by the idea that these things and more would cause other people to think I was all that. All what, I am still not sure. Following the crowd on the broad road, instead of choosing the narrow road I failed to heed abundant and clear safety warnings. I was a sheep following others, some of whom were stumbling blocks for me. And others followed me and I became a stumbling block for them. The blind leading the blind who ended up in the ditch. Jesus’s words, not mine.

Hoodwinked by listening to the world’s truth instead of God’s.  Pleasure and comfort became the end goal (or little g god you might say), things, food, lust, entertainment, mood altering chemicals (both legal and illegal).  Good golly, I make stupid enough decisions on my own, to think I needed chemical stupefaction to help me along with that is just plain silly.

 Hoodwinked by myself and my rebellion that led me away from truth.  Rebellion against authority, rules and absolutes, but mainly against God. I was fooled by the stinking thinking that God is a liar or some far distant, uninterested deity.  I fooled myself into believing that what He really said was, “Just kidding!”  Wink! Wink! when he rolled out the fence lines for human beings created in His image.  Like He makes mistakes with laws.  Let’s take gravity for example. It is a law that is still in effect the last time I checked right along with His don’t lie, cheat, steal, covet or commit adultery laws.  I was duped by the idea that He has changed his mind about what is true and what is not. Or that somehow His Word in which He reveals Himself to us through a backdrop of history is suddenly rendered invalid or subject to interpretation. Or was stung by the accusation that I am simple minded if I believe the Bible to be true. This was a time when truth became relative to me.  In other words, I wanted to play god (note the little g) and make up the rules.  I am not so good at running the universe.

  Here is an honest statement. I wanted my sin to not be sin.  Now there is a prickly word we don’t hear much anymore.  

 I fell into the trap of believing that evil was good and good was evil. I found myself defending society’s lies because I wanted to justify my sinful (that prickly word again) behavior as I ran away from God. I forgot that I was a soul with a body and not the other way around.

Is it any wonder the world is a mess?   It ain’t just me folks.

Like old Mr. Crow I believed a false reality. The false reality that a God-less world works. It doesn’t. Heading nowhere fast while I was squawking at myself and others. Anything I have to hide from God (like I can hide anything from Him, that’s really being hoodwinked) or others I shouldn’t be doing.   And when I am caught, I do what always is done. I either attempt to justify my behavior or point that old index finger and blame someone or something else for my self-created troubles.  Finger pointing and the blame game never solved anything. It just points four fingers back at me. Squawk! Squawk! Squawk!

I couldn’t see the forest for the trees.  Until I changed my reference point.

Today I take my identity in the God man, Jesus Christ and please lean in here, this is not just another thing I do, it is who I am.  First, above all else.  And I don’t take that lightly, so my actions better follow my words. I don’t always get it right, but at least today I am quick to see when I am wrong and wandering off track and can let God reset my GPS.  And since my mission in life is to lead others into a growing personal relationship with our one and only very personal God; found only in the person of Jesus Christ, I better get it right, because I don’t want to misrepresent Him and screw it up!  There is too much at stake to live a double life.

You may be thinking, “Now she has really been hoodwinked!” Perhaps, but I will take my chances with the forty-century old truth. This I do know, that the life I am living today is more true, honest, joy filled, logical, reasonable and real than ever before! And I wouldn’t trade my peace or the truth for anything.  But I only get to keep it if I give it away.  What a concept!

Why not give it a try? I guarantee, you won’t be in for a hoodwinking.

Be Joy filled always,

Christine Davis

 

 

Bye Bye Banner

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 It was the third time in the course of the evening Banner had reared up on me, and it was  then I decided I wasn’t enjoying myself anymore.

We had gotten a bred mare for our horse nut daughter (and for me) eleven years ago and Peppy gave birth to a colt we named Banner.  He grew and grew and we sent him off to work with a trainer and in due time we brought him home. It wasn’t long after returning home he developed an attitude and was just rather unpredictable.  Due to his unpredictability we didn’t ride him much as much as we should have. In the course of time  we sent him  for a  refresher course in manners.  He was good to go for a while, but not long after I developed back problems which nagged me for several years and put the kibosh on  horseback riding for quite a while. Track replaced horses in Maggie’s heart and eventually, I had a trainer come to our place and work with the Banner and I. Mary repeated what the others had said, he was a horse you would always want to lunge before riding.  Lunging is when the horse is put on a long line and  he goes around and around to get the bucks and kicks out before you climb on his back.  She explained that he wasn’t a bad horse, this was just his personality.  I get it, horses like people, have their own individual personalities.  Banner had a little stinker in his.

Last year we became empty nesters and one of my goals was to ride more often and this summer I began to chip away at that goal.   I had had some real success with Mr. Banner early on in the summer and then things got busy.  Recently, things have settled and I decided to get back to work with him.  I put him on the lunge line, but this time he wasn’t having it.  Not. At. All.   He weighs about twelve hundred pounds, I don’t weigh quite that much, and consequently it was as he was dragging me around the riding arena  I decided I had had enough. I got him settled down and we respectfully ended our time together. I walked back to the house and called my trainer friend Mary  and told her I was ready to sell Banner, and asked for her help to find a him a good home.

I am a loyal person, so part of me felt like a traitor.  The horse was born on our farm so he felt like a member of the family. We still own his well-behaved mamma which was part of my guilt,  I hated to split them up.  I hung on and hung on to the idea that it would get better.  But it didn’t.   I fully recognized my lack of horse savvy and expertise played a part in our dysfunctional relationship.  I wanted a pleasure horse to ride.  I didn’t want one to train. But the truth became clear as he was towering over me on his hind legs,  I finally realized he wasn’t the  right horse for our family. It was time to let go and it was okay to do so.  I prayed for God to take care of the whole situation.  And true to form He did.  By the next five o’clock the next afternoon Banner was headed for a new home.  It was a long day with lots of tears. But as soon as that trailer rolled off the farm I knew I had made the right decision for both of us and felt nothing but relief.

There have been times in my life where I have been guilty of hanging on to someone or something far too long; to the point where it was no longer enjoyable or in some cases perhaps not healthy or safe.   Here’s my short list, perhaps  you’ve hung on to some of these things too:  A personal relationship; a job;  an organization; an addiction (food can fall into this category folks); an item I couldn’t afford and should have never bought in the first place; a bad habit; self-pity; resentment; unforgiveness; anger; lack of self-respect; lack of respect for others; lack of self-responsibility; blaming others for all sorts of things, and the list goes on.  There are times when letting go and letting God is the best thing we can do.  To say bye-bye to whatever or whoever it may be that keeping us from what God has planned for us. It likely won’t be easy, there may be pain, tears and discomfort involved but letting go can free us up from chains that may have kept us bound. Free us up for the possibilities God has in mind for us when we but give Him our cooperation.

Before Banner left our farm I brushed him and thanked him for the fun times we had, because there were some fun times.  I thanked God for him and the lessons I  learned through him and for the gift he was, even though the time had come for us to part company. We ended our time together well, which is important. Especially when  letting go involves other human beings.  There are times we have to let go to stop the bleeding (I am speaking metaphorically here), which can be painful. But  we must take care not  leave others bloody (metaphorically and literally speaking) as a result of letting go with unkind words or behavior.  And, perhaps our own unkind behavior is what  needs to saddle up and ride off into the sunset. Don’t miss this, the GOD Man reminds us to treat others the way we would wish to be treated  with no exceptions. This doesn’t mean we are a doormat,  but what is does mean is that we can say what we mean, mean what we say,  and not be mean when we say it.

Banner is off to a new adventure and I am trusting him to God. His mamma Peppy and I are off on our own new adventure and have been enjoying  rides every day. Well, I can’t speak for Peppy, at least I have been enjoying them.

Go ahead, let go, let God and  say bye-bye.

Be joy filled always,

Christine Davis

 

 

Masks

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

   Masks.   

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

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

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

 Be joy filled always, 

Christine Davis

 

Pacing Peppy

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And that does not include a life full of fear.

Unlike the thief who wants to keep us pacing.

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

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

Be joy filled always,

Christine Davis