On Love and Loss

He simply wandered right into our life.  One fall while the men were harvesting our son Alex spotted a young pooch wandering down the nearby rock road. Good man that he is,  he scooped him up and took him up to the nearest house thinking he was returning the dog to it’s rightful owners.

Alex:  “ I brought your dog home.” 

Response: “We don’t have a dog.”

 So he brought him home and he became our dog, and we named him Bandit. Even though on the surface it appears we rescued him, in the end he rescued us. 

As a young pup he had plenty of energy and loved to chase cats and birds and play rough with our other dog Ali.  He chewed up all kinds of things he should not have and sometimes did his duty in the house, which was irritating to us of course, but that’s part of the gig and we loved him anyway.  He was a smart little fellow who learned quickly and loved to please. With some excellent assistance from a lifelong friend and animal trainer, our youngest daughter Maggie took him to the county 4-H fair dog show and he and she were grand champions for six years running.  He grew into not only an excellent watchdog, walking partner and constant companion to us and to all who visited our home, but a beloved family member and friend.  Cats, squirrels, deer, geese and birds excepted. 

He was with us through snow storms,  floods, droughts and a derecho. He was with us through births and deaths, graduations and weddings, ups and downs of all shapes and sizes.  He was with us when the other dog Ali died unexpectedly.  He was with us when Jay and I became grandparents and empty nesters.  Day after day, night after night Bandit was a steady presence in our home.  He was almost always (a little less when his hearing went)  there to greet us with his tail wagging and a sparkle in his eyes.  Always ready to eat. Always excited for Jay to come home and share his people’s food with him. Always watching me drive down the driveway from the kitchen door.  Always ready to run around the yard. And always ready to go up to bed when I woke him on the couch at night.  Bandit was always here. 

Over the last few years, he slowed down.  Eventually, he couldn’t take the long walks with me anymore, as they seemed to make him lame. He was, after all, the equivalent of one hundred and five years old in people years.  So instead he followed me around the house and the yard. Sometimes running giant circles in a sprint, barking at passersby or some critter; or simply enjoying the warm summer sun or apples on the ground under the apple tree. In the end he was found wherever I was. 

The day after Christmas Bandit took a sudden turn.  And just like he was always there for me, I was there beside him in what turned out to be the last week of his life and our longest journey together.  We lost him early one morning, just a couple days into the New Year. Both Jay and I were at his side in the kitchen (his favorite room of the house) as he breathed his last breath.  As Shakespeare so rightly said, “Parting is such sweet sorrow . “ 

Never in my wildest dreams had I imagined how very difficult Bandit’s passing would be and what a huge hole he would leave in our daily lives.  Jay and I both grew up on farms and are well acquainted with death. We have had pets die, both lost our parents, friends and loved ones down through the years. But the depth of grief and sorrow for this particular loss has taken us by surprise. 

The truth of the matter is if there had been no real love then there would be no pain now.  The source of our sorrow is because we loved and were loved and the two are directly connected, you cannot have one without the other. At some point in life love will demand loss. It’s a fact of life in a fallen, dying world. 

Shakespeare also said, “It is better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all.” 

Love is a risky business, there is the option to never take the risk in order to avoid the pain. How lonely and awful that must be.  In the end, unconditional love from others is what we humans crave most, a love that never fails or leaves or gives up on us; our greatest desire is to love and to be loved.  Bandit gave us a glimpse of what that looks like and so much more. In his own small way he rescued us for a short fifteen years from the morass of a broken world by simply being present and by being who God created him to be, someone who brought love and happiness to our lives.  He reminded us of what trusting without fear looks like and that there is beauty and joy in the world in the midst of brokenness.  

And if a little Jack Russell/Beagle dog can do this much, how much more must our Eternal, All Powerful, Ever Present, Loving Heavenly Father love us! He offers to rescue us from the quicksand of living in a world where death is inescapable. After all, He so loved, just chew on those words, so loved,  the world, that He gave His one and only Son  not only to show us what God Himself is like, but to save us from death and darkness and offer us the chance to get back into the light of a right relationship with Him, right now and for all of eternity! For God Himself knows all about loving and losing and love being a risky business because He was willing to bet the farm on us with His most precious possession, Jesus Christ, whom He gave over to death on a cross,  and who rose to life and lives and reigns as Lord of all today! Talk about loving and losing and loving again!

Whether or not we choose to recognize it, like our sweet boy Bandit,  God is ever present with us in all places, times and circumstances. And if you have room in the inn of your heart, He is quite willing, at your invitation, to wander right in, rescue you and take up residence giving you love and life to the full now. What are you waiting for? 

Which gives us reason great reasons to:

 Be joy filled always, 

Christine Davis

 

Under Grace

They’ve turned the speed cameras back on in a nearby city and I’ll bet you are chomping at the bit to know how I know this information.  Surprise! I got a ticket in the mail, complete with a photo of the back of my SUV, my speed, the time and the date. I knew exactly when it happened; the day after returning home from vacation. I was driving home from shopping in town and flapping my jaw with a friend via speaker phone and I was guilty as charged. I mailed the check and it cleared the bank.   

A couple weeks later I got another letter from the police department, I figured the second notice must have gone out ahead of my check. 

Wrong. This round the ticket was for the sedan in my name our college age daughter drives.  Noting the day and  time, I recalled she and a college teammate were visiting and  had hit a trail on the north end of the city for a long run that morning . 

She was guilty as charged. Now this had happened once before when she was in high school and I made her pay the fine.  But this time  I surveyed the situation as it stood, I noted the circumstances were different. Back then she was home living off mom and dad as most high schoolers do and she had money she could use to pay the fine.  Today she is in grad school and makes ends meet by rubbing two nickels together.  The fine would be a big bite out of her budget she really couldn’t afford, but after all it is what she deserved, to experience  the consequences of her choice to not pay attention while driving. Just like her mama, right?

Then a thought crossed my mind…what if…what if I paid the fine and just never even mentioned it to her?  The idea made me giddy inside.  Yes, that is exactly what I would do. I would pay her fine and she would never even know she had a ticket and that her fine was paid.  

She would be living under grace, and she wouldn’t even know it. 

Which is the story of the human race you know.  Because of Jesus Christ’s finished work on the cross the entire population of earth from then until He returns is living under grace from the Highest Authority, and the large majority don’t even know it.  What do I mean by that exactly?  Just this, that we are guilty as charged of living under and in the curse of sin. Also known as the fall of man (see Genesis Chapter 3). Sin creates a veil and keeps us separated from being in the right relationship with God and in rebellion against him, which  makes us enemies of God.   Which puts us under the penalty of death and as Paul’s letter to the Romans reminds us “the wages of sin is death.” and we are guilty as charged.

 Jesus Christ’s death on the cross and resurrection from the dead changed all of that. Paul reminds us in the same breath, “ But the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.”   

    We were bought at a high price, the life  of God’s own Son.  And His bodily (His physical body came back to life, it wasn’t just  spiritual ) resurrection from the dead proves Jesus is God, because not a single human being has risen from the dead and stayed alive as He has.  Even revived Lazarus eventually physically died, and stayed dead.  The cross and resurrection are what makes Christ the most important figure in the history of the world and here is why: 

There is a fine to be paid for our sin and the price is  His shed blood.  If we choose to believe Jesus Christ is the son of the living God and died and rose again His blood then covers the fine of our sin.  There is nothing else that can.  Not a lifetime of good works, nothing. Once we believe this in our hearts,  the response  demands us to act as if He is Lord over all of our life and obey Him by living as He commands.  

Like Maggie, whether or not we know it or choose it, we are living under God’s free ( it was paid at a tremendous cost) to us grace.  All that is required of us is:
    a) Recognize we are getting what we don’t deserve  – our sins paid for by Christ’s blood.  This is what is amazing about grace.

    b) Choose to receive that most precious gift. I do have a choice. If I don’t have Christ pay my fine, then I must pay with my life in the next one to come. God’s word says it is a terrible thing to fall into the hands of the Living God.

    c) And turn back to God being the boss. Now that we can be in right relationship with Him,  that’s what Christ’s work allows- which is also known as repentance we choose to die to our old selves and rise up in Him a new creation . And that means learning to trust in, obey and follow Him. And the best news is  we don’t have to wait to be in God’s Kingdom, we get it right away through the Person of the Holy Spirit. Who, according to Peter in the book of Acts, “Is given to those who obey God. “ And is the final witness to Christ.

Every single soul on planet earth since that first Easter morn is living under grace.  Some know it, most don’t. But grace is there, like the sun and the moon and the stars whether or not we choose to acknowledge it. And it is waiting for another lost soul to find it, which causes rejoicing in heaven according to Jesus!

Maggie is on this email list so eventually I told her the story of her ticket.  She was very grateful and said, “Mom, that fine might as well have been a million dollars, it would have been impossible for me to pay.”  I knew that.  

Nothing I (nor anyone on this planet past, present, future) could ever do on my own would ever pay my fine to God, it might as well be a gazillion dollars, it would be impossible for me to pay.

Thank God I have chosen to live  under His grace. Which gives me a gazillion reasons to:

Be joy filled always, 

Christine Davis 

 

Monsters of Our Own Making

As a child  I enjoyed terrorizing myself by staying up late on Friday nights and watching scary movies.  Most of the movies were old Hollywood classics and one such film was the 1931 version of Frankenstein  starring Boris Karloff which is based on the 1818 classic novel by Mary Shelley. The movie’s mute and murderous monster scared this little kid, which  is the point of a horror film, right? Unfortunately, in the film, the original story is hardly recognizable. For instance, the creature Victor Frankenstein brings to life in the novel (to my point, his name is Henry Frankenstein in the film) is far from mute, he actually becomes articulate and well spoken with  human-like emotions. Having recently turned the final page of the original, unabridged version of this book,  this now grown woman  found it a beautifully written, unnerving tale, rich with valuable lessons. 

Lesson number one:  Rebellion coupled with an unrestrained, unethical thirst for knowledge and blind ambition is a recipe for disaster. 

The word science in its purest form means knowledge. In the last century and a half  the definition has shifted more to refer to the natural sciences rather than knowledge in general.  Knowledge used for good is a beautiful thing;  I love to learn and explore new ideas and experiences and natural science has brought us many wonderful things, such as electricity and antibiotics.  In Shelley’s novel,  Frankenstein was a  bright young man blessed with  loving family and resources. He was a young person with the best of what one could have and learn at his fingertips and he was ambitious to do something big. Being warned more than once, both by his father and his professors at university, against treading a certain path of forbidden knowledge. He, not against better judgement but in spite of it, made the decision we all do at some point in our lives, thinking we know better than God and those who have gone before us, acting as if there are no boundaries whatsoever and we are free to do as we please.  Victor (he is never referred to as Dr. Frankenstein in the book, in fact he was a university student) did so by secretly and feverishly bringing to life a creature, a non human being. 

Unless it’s a surprise for someone else, anything we do that we are compelled to hide from others is a red flag.

 When we must hide what we are doing from others, perhaps we ought not be doing it. The consummation of rebellion and wrong headed desires done in secret will eventually take on a life of its own. Victor is, as we often are, horrified at the results of what he has done,  rejecting and sometimes running from the consequence of his actions. Denying the truth of what was done. In addition, we may think, as he did, no one else will be affected by the poor choices we so willfully made. 

Which is never the case.  

 None of us live in a vacuum. 

 Others are always affected either directly or indirectly by the choices we make.  

This is what I refer to as stinking thinking and only makes matters worse.   I am not going to spoil the story for you and I encourage you to read the book, but I will speak around the edges of the storyline for the key takeaways.  The first being, the choice to pursue knowledge of a particular something God has warned us against and acting upon it without consideration of the consequences  to self and others is reckless and dangerous. Let’s take for instance the person who chooses to try certain forbidden fruits such as sex outside of marriage or in any way other than how God created for humans to be intimate. Ignoring the boundaries which God clearly laid out,  may lead to an adultorous affair or an unplanned pregnacy, incest, pedophillia or the viewing of pornography to name just a few of the troubles that may arise. Others may include but are not limited to the use and abuse of legal and illegal drugs, alcohol, workaholism, power and control, money, food addiction, and I could go on and on ad infinitum. Here’s my point, the choice to act upon these temptations  usually boomerangs back on us, and others are often caught in the crossfire.  

Just because we can, doesn’t mean we should. Which leads us right into-

Lesson number two: Whether or not we choose to acknowledge it, the monsters of our own making hurt other people. 

As I said earlier, none of us  live in a vacuum, other people are affected by the choices we make, whether our choices are for good or for evil and to say otherwise is simply denial of the truth. Whether or not we choose to acknowledge the fact, sin- when we think we know better than God-  is  pernicious and contagious.   

In Victor’s case, the monster he brought to life suffers terribly from rejection, abandonment and loneliness because he is rejected by not only his creator but all of society. In the Afterword of the book, David Pinching sums up the heart of the issue, “ Because Frankenstein meddles with the act of creation, his tale is of parenthood and alienation: of one man’s attempt to destroy his past and his sadness by bestowing a ruined future and an unequalled loneliness upon his strange offspring. “  The results are ruinous not only to Frankenstein and his creature but to his most precious loved ones. Out of pain (hurting people hurt other people) and in retaliation the creature takes on an unquenched appetite of revenge which costs Victor the innocent lives of those he loves the most. Because throughout the entire tale he refuses to take responsibility for his actions.  Those are called unintended consequences.

 Think no one else is affected by our desire to know better than God? Think again. 

The classic Biblical equivalent is the story of  David and Bathsheba. David was Israel’s most beloved and revered King, “ a man after God’s own heart”, who became so obsessed with another man’s wife, that his blind ambition to have her for himself  leads to an adulterous affair which ends in an unplanned pregnancy.  Ya think?  David “gets rid” of the problem, her husband,  who just happens to be one of his most loyal soldiers – a very inconvenient truth for David because the guy won’t go home and sleep with his wife so David can have his crime conveniently hidden.. How does David repay Uriah the Hittites’ loyalty? By having him killed in battle. See how one bad decision leads to another?   The Bible says, and it is still true today, your sin will find you out. And it does. It always does.   David is called out by Nathan the prophet, but the monster has been created,  the damage is done and the destructive train of events is set in motion. The pain and devastation of this one monster of David’s own making has long painful entailments not only for himself but to those closest to him and his own countrymen in the generations to come. The good news is, David eventually takes responsibility, Victor Frankenstein never does. 

Lesson number three:  Forgetting and/or ignoring God never works.

A popular saying today is “You do you and I’ll do me. “  I detest this saying. It is incredibly false, selfish and self serving. And what’s more is It. Never. Works. How about we remember what God our Creator says because obeying God works, especially for those He created.

This never happens in Frankenstein.   One bad decision leads to another and things go from bad to worse, to quote Frankenstein’s monster, “ I recollected my threat and resolved that it should be accomplished.  I  knew that I was preparing for myself a deadly torture; but I was the slave, not the master, of a deadly impulse which I detested, yet could not disobey.”

 I was the slave and not the master. 

That is what happens when we give in to temptation, we become the slave and not the master. We separate ourselves from God, The Master. Throughout the book I  find myself saying (yes, out loud,  to a fictional  character in a book) ” Victor,  just  have the courage to be honest and come clean!  Tell the truth!”  But he doesn’t; he keeps hiding what he has done and trying to force solutions which only makes matters worse.  In the end he finally confesses the truth on his deathbed after leaving a trail of carnage in his wake. 

 We do the same things to one degree or another in each one of our lives.  We bring to life things that go terribly wrong and hurt ourselves and others. And in the end we have a choice, we can go on lying to ourselves like Victor leaving a train of damage in our wake. Or, we can start damage control by: 1) Being Honest.  Owning up to what we have done, confessing to God (He already knows, He was with you while you were doing it and loved you while you were doing it. Make no mistake, confession is for our benefit, not His) and to another human being the truth of the monster(s) we’ve made. 2) By surrendering our lives to Christ and turning back to God.  The Bible clearly tells us more than once, it’s not just enough to believe in Christ, what were Jesus’ words? “Even the demons believe and tremble.”  You have to have a relationship with Him, to know Him. Then and only then can we live out the lives He created us to live.  3) And then there is an action step on your part, you must obey Him. 1 John tells us we lie to ourselves if there is no obedience that follows our belief.  

And the obedience part would have kept the mess from happening in the first place. Imagine that. 

The Final Lesson: Doing the next right thing is always the right thing, it usually costs you something and it may help others. 

Frankenstein never gets to resolve this mess he has made. He and several others die far too young and their lives are wasted.  But the small glimmer of light at the end of this dark story is because Victor  shares his story with the narrator, the narrator learns from Victors mistakes and  is able to wield better  judgement by being less self centered and choosing for the greater good of his crew, even at the cost of failure of his expedition. Which lies at the heart of that remarkable verse in Romans eight that tells us God (not us) works all things together for good to those who are called according to His purpose.   It doesn’t say all things are good, but that God can use them for good.  

Even the monsters of our own making. 

Be joy filled always, 

Christine Davis

 

 

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Grace and Truth

Not long ago, the highway in front of our house was closed at the railroad tracks for repair. Although there were very few trains  and much less traffic,  all kinds of vehicles drove past the Road Closed Ahead sign; some stopped to ask for directions. 

 I would be lying if I said Jay and I aren’t flummoxed by this behavior.  However, when asked for directions by one of these drivers, and not all stop and ask for directions,  we generally find out where they are headed and send all that do ask back the other direction to the Road Closed Ahead sign and tell them to take a right.  We try not to make them feel stupid,  or rub in the fact they drove right by the sign and detour.  We do our best to extend grace and tell them the truth that they are headed in the wrong direction.

I can’t speak for Jay, but I respond in this manner for three reasons: 

 1) As a follower of Christ, I am called to extend grace to others. Especially if they are headed in the wrong direction, because God has extended me grace through His Son Jesus Christ when I was headed in the wrong direction. 

I would be lying if I said that there weren’t moments I wanted to ask:  a) why they weren’t paying attention or b) if they can read.  I am human after all.  However, my faith in Christ reminds me that in my past I got much, much better than I deserved while I was headed in the wrong direction at the speed of light.  I certainly ought to extend that same attitude to others. As Paul teaches me I must: “ take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ” 2 Corinthians 2:15 (NIV).  Especially when I don’t want to. 

To be the beneficiary of grace is to get better than we have coming to us; and grace is what sets Christianity apart from every other religion on earth.  In all other faiths, to get “there”, to reach paradise, nirvana, enlightenment or get into some form of “heaven” depends on what you do, your work.  Some religions may even require multiple lifetimes in order to achieve this desired state of bliss.  Can you imagine going through Jr. High/Middle School again and again? Ugh. That would be sheer torture. Then, at death you find out if you earned your way in. Or not.  Um… scary.

Not the case with Christianity. To become a Christian, one chooses to enter into a personal relationship with Jesus Christ, Lord of the universe by surrendering to His Lordship over one’s life and by choosing to receive His grace and forgiveness.  We also must believe He rose from the dead and accept what has already been done by Him on the cross which makes one right with God.  We believe, accept, depend on the finished work of Christ and change. And then we have the desire to turn back to God in this lifetime. We change direction, and move back toward Him and His way, the right way. This change of direction is also known as repentance. 

Recently I stumbled upon a powerful demonstration of grace and direction change I had never noticed in chapter 21 of the book of Acts.  The author Luke is narrating his journey with the Apostle Paul from the mission field back to Jerusalem.  As I read verse eight for the umpteenth time in my life, it struck me right between the eyes:

8 On the next day we who were Paul’s companions departed and came to Caesarea, and entered the house of Philip the evangelist, who was one of the Seven, and stayed with him. 

Did you see it?   “They stayed at Philip’s house, who was one of the Seven”.  You may be asking yourself what’s the big deal about them staying at Philips house? And who are the Seven? Back in Acts chapter six we read Philip was part of a group of seven men carefully chosen by the early church to perform acts of service in the community. Philip was one of these men, and so was a man named Stephen. Stephen was the very first person to die for his faith in Christ.  It is reasonable to assume Philip and Stephen were friends, likely good friends. At the end of Acts chapter seven while Stephen, Philip’s friend was falsely accused and eventually stoned to death, a young man named Saul is holding the cloaks of the men stoning him and was more than likely instrumental in setting up Stephen to be falsely accused and executed.  Pay close attention here, this very same Saul, who not long after becomes one of the, if not the key figure in persecution of the early church,  also caused Philip to flee for his life to Samaria, where he earned the name Philip the Evangelist because he kept right on sharing the gospel of Jesus Christ despite life threatening persecution.  Just a few chapters later, Saul has his famous Damascus Road conversion with Christ,  and  – taa daa – he eventually becomes the Apostle Paul.  Who, not only gives us most of the New Testament, and takes the Gospel to much of Asia and the non-Jews. 

And is  now staying at Philip’s house. 

 Philip who likely watched him kill his friend Stephen and who he ran for his life from. 

I love the Bible; you just can’t make this stuff up! Talk about amazing grace!

Paul sure didn’t deserve the grace he got first from Jesus (neither did I) he was killing Jesus followers after all!  But that is what he got.   He didn’t deserve to be welcomed into Philip’s home, but he was.  If and when our head and heart fully get wrapped around it, grace changes us.  When Paul got grace, he didn’t keep killing Christians, he changed direction. Grace comes first and repentance follows from a changed heart.. 

“For the law was given through Moses, but grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. “

John 1:17 NKJV

2) And after gracefully treating someone the way I would wish to be treated, we tell others the truth.  

When the drivers asked me for directions, they were asking for help. In order to give them the help they needed, I had to tell them the truth.  To turn around, go back to the Road Closed sign (that they ignored, consciously or unconsciously) and take a different road. If I don’t tell them the truth, they can’t get on the right road and I am useless to help them.  Some received that news resentfully and angrily, others with gratitude, some never bothered to ask.  I have come to see that’s how it is with the gospel.  Some chose to accept God’s grace, change direction and accept and act on the truth.  Some don’t and some never ask for help.  It’s not my job to make anybody see anything. It is my job to tell them the truth with grace in love.  The Apostle Paul took the truth he didn’t want to hear and used it to change the world.  And accepting the truth requires obedience.  Jesus says, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.” John 14:15 (ESV) Jesus heals people, loves them and tells them the truth, to stop sinning.  “Go now and leave your life of sin,”  John 8:11 (NIV), and  “Stop sinning or something worse may happen to you.” John 5:14 (NIV).  What he is telling us is “You have been given a do over, change direction!”.

This is what God requires of me: a) to believe He is telling me the truth, all truth is God’s truth by the way, not Christine Davis’s truth or some political party’s truth. And b) to turn around and take a different road.  The narrow road that leads to Him. In order to get into a relationship with Him, I must know the truth, and as Jesus promises, “The truth will make you free.”   

3) Reason # Three : I have been one of those drivers!!

I have literally done this very same thing.   Driven by a Road Closed Ahead sign because I: a) wasn’t paying attention. b) thought they must have it wrong or are just pulling my leg or c) somehow thought I am special and it just didn’t apply to me. In life, most, not all, but most of my trouble is of my own making because I willfully chose to drive on by or perhaps, I thought God was just kidding when he said “Thou shalt not”.  I blindly drove right by the Road Closed Ahead signs God put up in His world in which I live.  Although I wasn’t always punished for my sin, frequently I was punished by it. And sometimes others were punished by my sin too. By turning around, changing direction and returning to God ( going back to the Road Closed Ahead sign and taking a right)  I got grace but I also got the truth to get back on the right road.  You see, following Jesus is not a one or the other deal, it’s not just grace or just truth.  It is both grace and truth. 

Which gives me so many reasons to:

Be joy filled always,

Christine Davis

 

Let Go or Be Dragged

A while back I was walking with our dog Bandit in town and as I turned a corner, I saw a gentleman and his two dogs jogging toward us. Experience has taught me to never assume people have trained their dogs to behave well in public so I tend to err on the side of caution. Bandit and I stepped off to a side street giving about a ten-yard berth. I had Bandit sit so the man and his dogs could have plenty of space between us.  As they passed by one of his dogs slipped out of its collar, ran straight at Bandit, leaped on him and started a fight.  I knew better than to get in the middle of them, and that I had to let go of the leash or I would be dragged into the dog fight.  Fortunately, it didn’t last long, the second dog wasn’t aggressive and stayed on leash while their human ran over and threw himself on top of the aggressive dog pinning it to the ground.  Bandit and I made a clean break without serious injury. 

 

There are times when you must let go or be dragged. 

I don’t know about you, but sometimes I find myself hanging on to things far beyond the point I ever should have and wonder why I have skid marks and scars to show for it. . I have identified four areas where I have found it beneficial to drop the rope.

I have let go of my need to be right.

 The story is told of a psychiatrist of a mental hospital that asked each of the residents if they would rather be right or be free. Every single patient replied they would rather be right.  I totally get that, I used to wear self-righteousness like a second skin.  When I found myself clanging to that sort of thinking I wasn’t in a sound place mentally nor was I free. Unfortunately, when I had to be right at all costs, it meant someone else had to be wrong.  It was either black or white and much of the time I found what I was hanging so tightly to was everyone else’s flaws unable to see my own.  In fact, the need to be right, which is the evil twin of perfectionism, was one of the most damaging aspects of how I used to live my life.  I thought if I wasn’t right, I was somehow flawed which my sick mind equated with imperfection. My goodness I sure didn’t want you to see that!

Luckily, today I don’t have to live that way.  I can let go of my need to be right and listen to other points of view determining when it is appropriate to stand my ground based on God’s principles or to be able to admit I am off base.  Okay,  admit when I am wrong. How does that taste you might ask? Actually, pretty darn sweet because I am able to admit I am wrong! Today, with God’s help,  I can see I confused the need to be right at all costs with something good, standing in God’s truth respectfully and in love or admitting I am wrong, even when it makes me or others uncomfortable. And it does make others uncomfortable when someone willingly admits they are wrong. The Apostle Paul reminds us, “It is for freedom that Christ set us free. “ Today I would much rather be wrong and be free through Christ than right in my own eyes.  Oh, and did I mention it’s much easier to get on with folks when you don’t have a raging need to be right or perfect? Most of the time I live quite comfortably in my skin whether I am right or wrong. 

I have let go of my need to sit wrapped up in a warm blanket of self-pity.

 What a magnificent martyr I used to be.  I remember the miserable old days feeling oh so sorry for myself because other people weren’t doing my will.  I handed over much of my power to other people while squandering the moments God had given me in constant worry over many things which never happened. Mired deep in the manure pile of poor me’s I robbed myself of the joy of living.  What I came to find out is the best medicine for this ugly state of mind is an attitude of gratitude. 

Being grateful is a powerful tool in my toolbox of life these days.  As Paul wrote in his letter to the church at Thessalonica we do would well to: a) Be joyful always.  Which is a Herculean task in itself!  May I remind you the word always is an absolute.  I encourage you to try being joyful always for just a day.  Imagine the possibilities.  b) Pray without ceasing.  That alone would not only be life changing but world changing if we are praying for God’s will to be done on earth as it is in heaven.  c)  Give thanks in all circumstances.  Gulp.  I double dog dare you to try it out for a week. What a game changer!  Why?  Paul tells us because this is God’s will for us in Jesus Christ!  

God’s will for us is to be joyful, prayerful and grateful which will cure a bad case of   poor me in no time flat. 

I have let go of resentment
 Self-pity and resentment are two adjoining rooms in my heart, with a door that opens from one right into the other.  Self-pity always, yes always, leads to resentment.  The word resentment has a root that means to feel again which is exactly what happens. When we are struck in self-pity, we feel again what someone may have (real or perceived) done to us which chains us to the past and sets us up yet again for resentment. Both self-pity and resentment want to take up a permanent residence ,with a mailing address in my heart.  Not good. Not good.  One flows so smoothly right into the other, if I let go of feeling sorry for myself and develop gratitude, I have a much easier time letting go of the hardness in my heart for both my past sins and the wrongs done to me by others.  Through the power of the Holy Spirit living in me, I can then become willing to pray for others (praying for my enemies as Christ commands) which thaws the icy hatred, anger and fear freezing up my heart.  Which opens the door for me to step out of those adjoining rooms and into forgiveness.

 I have let go of unforgiveness.
 Being willing to recognize unforgiveness in myself is one of the hardest things to let go of.   I tend to want to justify my right to not forgive the behavior of other people, glossing over, of course my own flaws.  The need to be right, self-pity and resentment all drag me to the doorstep of the house of unforgiveness.  Which is not a place a follower of Christ wants to live.  Not often do we hear Jesus defend quid pro quo behavior but this is one the places he does.  Because he forgives us if we ask Him to!

  Jesus says if we want to be forgiven by God for our sins we must – not perhaps, not maybe – we must forgive others.  

Corrie Ten Boom tells the haunting story of speaking on forgiveness to the German people post World War II . She herself was asked for forgiveness by a prison guard from the concentration camp she and her sister were held prisoner in. Her sister Betsy died in Ravensbruck at the hand of this man and other guards.  Corrie told that in her heart she hated him, but at the same instant prayed to Jesus to help her to forgive him. Her hand shot out and the moment she gripped his forgiveness came. It came suddenly, was genuine – and of God.  Her forgiveness set them both free from the bondage of hatred.  And it happens whenever we are willing to let go and let God.

Our willingness to seek joy, to pray and be thankful coupled with forgiving both ourselves and others allows God to leap on what attacks us, our self-righteousness, self-pity, resentment and unforgiveness, pinning them to the ground for us so we can make a clean break through Christ’s finished work on the cross without serious injury to our hearts, souls and our eternity.. 

Let go, or be dragged. 

Be joy filled always, 

Christine Davis

 

The Best Defense

The best defense is a good offense, especially when you are talking about your health.  And your first line of defense from illness is preventative maintenance by, you guessed it, eating right and exercising, managing stress, proper rest and soul care   If you think of a person as an equilateral triangle, one side being body, another side soul (spirit) and the third side the mind we tend to live our lives not equal at all.

In our modern, fast paced world,  we tend to portion out time spent on self care time unequally.  We often  act as though we are one gigantic head, the mind side of our human triangle.   For the most part we spend very little time caring for the vehicle our soul rides around through life in, our body – eating right and exercising. And somehow everything else seems to take priority.  Until we have a health crisis.  And sadly,  many humans spend little or no time  caring for the real us, our soul. 

The mortality rate for humans is 100% .  We are all going to die, I am not trying to be morbid, but it’s true. But we do have the power to vastly improve much of our walk on earth by the choices we make. I would like to encourage you take some time for preventative care of your body, mind and soul.   Here are several simple suggestions.

Take time to quiet your mind through doing a non screen activity you enjoy,  and start with just five minutes a day.   

Take time to exercise daily.

Make a grocery shopping list which include good fats, lean proteins, fruits and veggies, whole grains and dairy.  Eat as many meals at home with those you love as you can. 

If you have a faith, practice living it out in your daily round and connecting with God.  Make it less theory and more reality. 

Start with small steps, but be consistantant. 

As Ben Franklin so wisely said,  ” An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.”

Be joy filled, 

Christine Davis

 

 

Everybody is Recovering from Something

On a cold February night nearly a decade and a half ago, desperate with nowhere left to turn I walked through the doors of a twelve step meeting. Searching for a ray of hope in my chaotic world I found it in a room of total strangers where I began what was to become both the most difficult and the most wonderfully transformative journey of my life. I entered the world of recovery.  

Recovery programs are most commonly associated with addiction to drugs and alcohol, neither of which were a problem for me. What I eventually came to understand is everybody is recovering from something.  I was addicted to other people, Not only the need for their approval but the desire to fix, manage and control  their circumstances and their interrelationship with mine. Particularly those closest to me. This type of attachment is sometimes referred to as codependency.  Needless to say, it wasn’t working very well for me or for them.  In fact, my life was in the toilet.  

If we consider the word recovery itself we think of gaining something back we have lost,  like a job or a person perhaps through the end of a relationship.  Maybe the loss takes the  shape of financial hardship, health issues, betrayal, fear, anxiety or depression.  And I think I can safely say we are all recovering from the year 2020!  

On that frigid February evening I felt as though I had lost my sanity -my soundness of mind-not to mention my ability to discern true from false and most certainly the ability to trust other people.  Something was terribly wrong and I was out of solutions.  

Albert Einstein is credited with saying,  “ The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.”  And by his definition, I was nuts. 

Not to mention powerless, which is right where God wanted me. 

To keep me from becoming conceited…

         there was given me a thorn in my flesh,

                         a messenger of Satan, to torment me.    2 Corinthians 12:7 (NIV) 

When I graduated from high school I didn’t think I’d end up in a  twelve step meeting, heck,  I didn’t even know what one was! Much less believe it would become one of  the most transformational events of my life.  I thought transformation would be along the lines of becoming rich and famous or some such thing.  But God had something much better in mind for me. 

 For I know the plans I have for you, declares  the Lord, plans to prosper you  and not to harm you, plans to give you a hope and a future. Jeremiah 29:11 (NIV)

God may have known the plan, but he had not shared the  roadmap with me and if I have learned anything in my walk with Christ it is that his roadmaps tend to take some significant detours and twisting roads with hair pin curves. Wild rides, where I can’t see around the next corner!  

I remember shaking my fist at him in a tearful conversation in the early days of my recovery  saying, no, I was shouting,  “This isn’t what I signed up for!” I felt completely hopeless and futureless. 

I repeat, this is right where God wanted me.  Because my powerlessness left me no option but to trust in and depend on him and his power. Because powerless he most certainly is not. 

 I was fortunate enough to have been introduced to the steps in my twenties.  Much like I was fortunate enough to have been  introduced to Christ as a child. There are no coincidences in the Kingdom of God, as both became cornerstones that I would later stand on when I finally got to the end of myself.  In fact, the twelve steps are Christian at their core. In the 1930’s a Christian evangelical group called The Oxford Group and their Four Points of Light were the basis that eventually became the twelve steps for the very first step program, Alcoholics Anonymous.  And for me, the steps became the form and framework I had lacked  to live out my Christian faith.  The four points that were to become the twelve steps are:

    1) Surrender to Christ                     

             2)  Confession of sins

                      3) Restitution to those I have harmed

                                4) Carrying the message to others

As I regularly attended meetings and took the medicine of the steps under the tutelage of a sponsor (mentor), it became clear the root cause of my troubles was the same root cause for the insanity of  the rest of the human race, self centeredness and separation from God. We humans are all recovering from  the fall from grace in the Garden of Eden. Through the use of our free will, by choosing to eat from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil we attempt to play God by thinking we know better than God. The first human beings infected the rest of the human race with this disease.  None of us are exempt nor can we escape it, and self deception is a huge roadblock that keeps us from the sunlight of the Spirit. Christ said we are known by the fruit we bear, and I might add the fruit we choose to eat! This is often referred to as the ever present, inescapable, hardwired in our DNA original sin.

What’s a body to do? 

It is said that when we reach a point of powerlessness, we either get bitter, or we get better.  I was sick of bitter and I wanted better and it required me to die to my old way of thinking and self  (which the waters of baptism make possible), to keep an open mind and do something new. Sound familiar? Again, there were four key elements to effect a successful consummation of this process. 

    1) Surrender to Christ. Recognize there is a God and I am not him.   I had to admit I was powerless and licked and surrender my life and will to his care. I had to trust God.

Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”  2 Corinthians 12:8 (NIV)

Reads easy, lives hard. Powerless, not me! Which is self deception number one.  Isn’t that what society says we shouldn’t be after all? I was to discover that if  I was simply willing to let go of what appeared to be true and trust the process I might possibly have something different! Something better and most importantly someone more powerful than little old me running the show – like…THE God of the Universe! Perhaps I could be free of the constant fear the sky was falling, all the time. The desire to not be driven by fear alone created in me a ready willingness to at least attempt to do more than just believe God exists, but to really trust him with  the most important things in my life, like other people and circumstances and money and the future and the weather ( I am a farmer’s wife after all).  I quickly learned recovery/ new  creation in Christ is a marathon, not a sprint, and if I wanted the peace that passes all understanding that is promised,  I had to be willing to be in the game for the long haul and to be completely recreated. 

I was desperate and I jumped in with both feet.   

   2) Confession of sins. I had to quit looking at the stick in others eyes and take care of the log in my own. I had to confess out loud to someone I trusted the worst things I had done.

Self deception number two was this: There is nothing wrong with me, I am a good person.  My thinking was often, if so and so would do thus and such I would be happy. Wrong. Just wrong. That’s called the blame game and I had it down to a science.  It was really hard to quit taking inventory of everyone else’s flaws and start recognizing my own.  And I won’t lie, it was painful because in the end I came to realize what I disliked most in others, was what I disliked most in myself.  I like to call this carrying out the garbage that was rotting me from the inside out.

    3) Restitution to those I had harmed.  I had to right  my wrongs. 

This piece of the puzzle is kind of like doing your income taxes, the worst part is thinking about it.   I began with the easy ones and those successes fueled courage to try the difficult ones.  The goal is to balance the scales of justice this side of eternity and my only responsibility was cleaning up my side of the street. The other person’s response was moot.  I truly learned to love my neighbor as myself with no expectation of anything in return through this exercise.  

  4) Finally,  I have to carry the message to others and to give away what I have  been given. 

I have come to understand that if I don’t give it away what I was given I don’t get to keep the precious jewel of peace that passes all understanding. This is the gift of recovery and Christianity if you don’t quit before the miracle. 

 And when I do give it away I have an endless supply of kingdom living.  I am laying up  treasure in heaven where moth and rust can’t destroy.  And the best part of paying it forward is I take the medicine of the steps over and over and over which keep me from becoming, once again, spiritually sick. Because in the end, that is what I have recovered, my spiritual health through the right relationship with God first and then others.   

We are all recovering from something. 

Be joy filled always, 

Christine Davis

 

 

 

 

Light in the Darkness

 As a little kid my older siblings and I would  watch scary television shows and movies and you’ll never believe it,  I was scared of the dark. In fact, I slept with the closet light on until I was in the eighth grade because I was convinced  evil things lived under my bed and waited in the cover of darkness to reach out and grab me and pull me in, never again to return to the light of day.  Like most children I had a vivid and sometimes wild imagination, but  I also had a basic grasp of the truth: evil lurks in the cover of darkness and is exposed by the light.

Light has come into the world, but men loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. John 3:19 (NIV)

And then snap! Just like that I was no longer afraid of the dark! Not only was I no longer afraid of it, it was no longer my enemy because you can’t recognize demons when you are running alongside them under the cover of darkness. Just before and during my first year of high school several persons I looked up to and  trusted in introduced me to  forbidden fruit activities.  Many of which took place under the cover of darkness, imagine that! Unfortunately,  I fell under the incorrect impression I was being set  free from the rules which bound me from really living.  Just like Eve in Genesis chapter three, I was deceived.   And it is important to note that Eve, just like me, knew and trusted her tempter because the text doesn’t indicate  she was  afraid of or unfamiliar with him.  And for a time, I can’t speak for Eve, but at least for me,  it was rather novel and exciting  to run with and through the darkness. 

 Until it wasn’t. And the age of innocence was over and I was left with my evil deeds and shame, and  I hid from the light of the truth.  As things began to fall apart I wanted to blame others for the troubles of my own making. Sound familiar?  Yes, the blame game also originated in Genesis  chapter three.  I was caught in a trap until I turned back to the light and the trap was  sprung by the journey out of darkness back into light. 

The opening lines of the very first book of the Bible instruct us on the nature of light and darkness.

 In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters. And God said, “Let there be light, “ and there was light. And God saw that the light was good, and he separated the light from the darkness. Genesis 1:1-4 (NIV)

 These four short sentences are packed with information, first that there was a beginning and God was there!  And like a potter considering a formless lump of clay, there was no shape or form to the earth as God prepared to act upon it. And there was darkness. Darkness was present because up until that moment God was not.  Which is exactly where I was,  in darkness, away from the light of the presence of God. 

We are told in these opening lines God is Spirit! And as his Spirit hovered over the waters (water often symbolizes chaos in scripture) there was darkness until God showed up and  spoke these words,  “Let there be light.” Did you ever stop to consider it is the very  presence of God who brought light and order to chaos during the first moments of creation? Do you realize his presence still brings light and order to chaos and darkness in our lives when we choose to return to life under the canopy of  his light and goodness? We know the light described here isn’t light from the  sun or moon, they came  later in creation.  This  very same experience of entering into the presence of this  Holy Trinity has transformed the chaos and darkness not only in my life but  millions and millions of  lives over the years, through the light and order of his presence.  God the Father offers his gift of  grace through Jesus Christ and the power of his Holy Spirit sealed in you through faith and baptism brings light, the light of God and his truth into our lives.   It is the only thing that can because all truth is God’s truth.  The passage goes on to confirm it is  his word and presence that actually separates light from the darkness!  

 And we  must not read these magnificent opening lines of Genesis, the book whose name means beginning,  without coupling them together with the opening lines of the Gospel of John!

In the beginning was the Word,

       and the Word was with God,

             and the Word was God.  

                He was with God in the beginning. 

Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made.  

In him was life, and that life was the light of men.  The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not understood it.  John 1:1-5 (NIV)

Wow.  Is. All . I. Can. Say.  Again, so much packed into so few words.  The Word the disciple John is referring to is Jesus Christ, the one and the same God man he walked and talked with. The one he watched die on a cross.  The one he saw risen from the dead. The author John is telling us this same God man is the very God who spoke all things into being, the Author of life! 

 The Greek word for Word that John used here is logos from which we derive our word logic. John is telling us Jesus is the logic and the light of the world and the bringer of the light, order and life to earth through the power of his voice and the Holy Spirit, which hovered over the waters. There is the Trinity right at the beginning! Bathed in light and life. John later goes on to confirm this truth, quoting Jesus’ own words,

I am the light of the world.

          Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness,

                          but will have the light of life.” John 8:12 (NIV). 

The scriptures are full light language that is so much more than just some abstract philosophy.  It is the lifesaver and preserver that drew me back from the dark abyss.  And all that was required was a willingness on my part to come back into the light and move out of the darkness and  away from death.  And one of the most beautiful discoveries is I don’t have to wait until I die to receive the keys to the kingdom and neither do you! His word is a lamp unto my feet and a light unto my path to guide my walk through this valley of the shadow of death in this world, in the here and now. 

 All I need do is turn on the switch. 

Be joy filled always,

Christine Davis

 

 

Weathering the Storm

Things began to unravel around  eleven a.m. that day.  I glanced at social media and noticed a post by a high school classmate who lives in a border state to our west. She had shared a video of a nasty storm that had rolled just through. 

Minutes later,  I received a text message from our oldest daughter Liz whose family had just set out that same morning traveling home following a visit. Liz said they had to drive one hundred miles per hour to avoid an encounter with a dangerous storm, which was now bearing down on our youngest daughter Maggie’s city in the center of our state. Immediately,  I called Maggie,  who had this to say when she answered, “Mom, I have never seen a storm like this, the sky was black, it was like a hurricane hit us. The streets are flooded, trees and powerlines are down everywhere.“

I disconnected and turned on the local news, only to discover that same wicked storm had us in its crosshairs.The newscaster  reported sustained winds of over one hundred miles per hour. It was a hot and humid August morning in Iowa, nothing out of the ordinary had been forecasted;  only a slight chance for pop up storms. It sounded like a doozy had certainly popped up and it was only a matter of time before this intense storm racing across our state at mach speed would be upon us. 

 We had about an hour and a half to prepare before zero hour. I have lived through many storms, I knew what to do. I ran across the farm to alert the guys. We battened down the hatches.  I posted a warning on social media to give others a heads up.  I didn’t know how long we’d be without power, but I knew it would likely be days. I texted others to please pray, ate lunch,  made a thermos of hot coffee and took a quick bath. I was to find out later most had little or no advance warning whatsoever.

And just like that it was here. The dog and I went to the basement. 

That weird voice came over the emergency broadcast system,  I couldn’t understand what it was saying.  The sirens blew, we lost power, it seemed like dusk at midday. And that was only just the beginning, for nearly forty five minutes the sirens and the wind blew and blew and blew.  I prayed.  The dog slept. 

When the worst seemed to have passed I came up out of the basement to assess the damage. Tree limbs down, horse, cat and farm buildings all intact.  But the tree debris in the road was incredible.  I later learned the DOT sent out snowplows to clear roads. I drove to our son’s house to check on his family as we had limited cell phone access and along the way I saw trees snapped off, buildings and grain bins destroyed and displaced, tossed in fields like giant discarded pop cans. Crops were flattened. By the grace of God there were few storm deaths. Some were without power  days and others for weeks.  The storm  added insult to injury for so many already hurting from the chaos of  2020. Not to mention the looting and thefts that followed.  And yet, there was so much good that came out of the storm, neighbor helping neighbor.  And the response one chose to the devastation, fear and chaos brought about by the storm seemed to  depend on where you had your feet planted. 

The floods came. the rain descended, and the winds blew and beat upon the house…   

These words  were spoken by Jesus at the end of his Sermon on the Mount given in the Gospel of Matthew. Even though he and his disciples do experience a nasty storm in a boat on the sea, and Jesus, like my dog, slept through the worst of it.  I don’t think  that is  what he is referring to here. Jesus lays out two responses to the storms of life  in this beautiful metaphor about who and what we build our life upon. 

1)The first house is built by a wise man upon a rock.

And it fell not, for it was founded upon a rock.

And to fully understand what he means in this statement, we must take a look at what was said and done before he makes this declaration. He has recently been declared to be the Son of God by both his cousin John the Baptist and God himself. Those declarations were followed up by Jesus with fasting, prayer, alone time with God and a successful standoff with temptation by the devil.  He gathers some folks to train up for the mission and shares with not them but thousands of others what the Kingdom of God looks like. AKA the Sermon on the Mount which spans Matthew Chapters five through seven.   In these few chapters he lays out to us what building your house on the rock looks like, which is revolutionary both then and now. Following Jesus and God’s way of doing things are quite contrary to the way the world says we should live.  

 Jesus lays out attitudes and behaviors such as living a humble life, avoiding temptation, being connected to God through private prayer, being peacemakers and loving your enemies and praying for them is what Kingdom of God living is about.  And makes clear that he isn’t abolishing the law or prophets but fulfilling them.  (Because he is God with skin on!).  And when we believe his words, place our trust in him and do these things, when, not if,  the storms come and we are beat on by the inevitable troubles in life, we will stand, because Christ’s infinite, eternal Kingdom is the solid rock we chose to build our life on.

2)  The second house is built by a foolish man upon the sand.

And it fell, and great was the fall of it. 

Jesus warns us in these few chapters,  and really the Bible is full of these  same warnings from start to finish,  if our faith and trust is built upon our finite selves, our things, our success or the shifting sand of the culture around us we are only fooling ourselves.   Hating your enemies only increases hatred in the world, that’s what everybody does, don’t get mad, get even, you know the gig.  The world teaches us to ask, “What’s in it for me?” And to make sure everyone knows how great I am, or at least I think I am and worrying about what to eat or wear, or the future.   But these are the very things he so radically said we, if we choose to follow him, must not do.  These very things are the sand the house that had a great fall was built upon. 

There have been times in life when I could see the approaching storm and paid absolutely no attention to the looming dark clouds I had seen all before.  We Iowans are famous for watching the storm roll in from our front porch because most of the time they aren’t as destructive and they are, in my midwestern state, a fact of life. And there have been storms brought on by my own choices and  pride or that of others,  that I seemed to slip through with only minor damage.  

And then there are the game changers.  Like the storm of August 10, 2020.

Where will you choose to weather the storm?  Where will you have built your house when the inescapable storm of life rolls in and has you in its crosshairs? With or without  warning, the floods will come and the rain will  beat upon you. Will you stand or will great be your fall?

Be joy filled always, 

Christine Davis

Road Closed

The road near our farm is closed temporarily at the railroad crossing and I am glad, because they needed to close and repair it, the crossing was terrible. It is necessary to make a better way going forward. The signs went up early this morning including  a sign two miles north at the detour turnoff. 

And guess what? No great surprise, cars, tractor trailers and other various vehicles continue to drive up to where the road is closed at tracks, slow down and turn around.  Which is fascinating,  since the road was clearly designated closed a few miles back up the way.  I find it particularly intriguing because I have done this very thing myself, and not so long ago. A  friend and I were taking a drive trip to a local Amish country store. Several miles from our destination the road was closed due to a bridge repair.  I took the road immediately to the right complaining the detour wasn’t marked. In fact,  I lamented loudly about it. Whined is another word describing what I did the entire time, “Why didn’t they mark the road closed by the freeway?” and blah, blah, blah ad nauseam. Finally, I turned around and drove back to the original exit by the freeway, only to discover there was  a sign that said, “Road closed 5 miles ahead.”

Of course there was.  It was only because I was so busy yapping with my friend and NOT paying attention, that: I. Had. Missed. It.  

And then there are the times that I just know better, Right? And stinking  thinking or just flat out denial takes over and I deceive myself into believing, “ Perhaps they are ‘just kidding!’” Right. Eye roll.  So I drive up just to make sure.   I am not making this up. Sometimes,  I am: Just. That. Stupid.  I don’t know any other honest way to say it.  And, I am ashamed to say, in both instances, my first reaction is annoyance and my second is to blame someone, anyone, other than the true source of the problem. Which. Is. Me. 

Roads are closed and signs are posted to warn us in advance for many reasons.  To keep us from driving off a cliff.  To point us in a better direction.   Because there is perhaps danger ahead or something new and better happening like construction.  Unfortunately, we often  fail to heed the warnings.

Gee this sounds familiar.  

 Lets see,  which road closed signs have I ignored or denied in life?  Here’s the short list: Obedience to and respect for parents, those in authority and to the Word of God. I have  been disrespectful and unkind to others;  dishonest – taken things that weren’t mine to take in whatever form that manifested itself;  I was sexually promiscuous before marriage. People pleaser. Prideful. Made poor health choices. Yada, yada, yada. Blatantly disregarding the solid ground of objective truth that would take me a better way; or simply oblivious because I was distracted and mesmerized, heeding the shifting sands of the culture around me.  Sometimes knowing in my head  I should make better choices  or other choices. And. Just. Not. Doing it.  It’s always the same three things that trip you and me and everyone else up. The lust of the flesh. The lust of the eyes and pride of life.  Every time. And I know God closes certain roads because he loves us and he is just, because they are  terrible options. Sometimes closure is necessary in order to make a better way going forward.

And of course we  complain (whine) the entire time that the road should have been better marked farther up the line. It was. Our first response is to blame everyone else, including God, because we were distracted or because we deliberately chose to ignore the signs.  And our stinking  thinking  or just flat out denial takes over and we think, “ Perhaps God was ‘just kidding!’” Right. Eye roll.  And there it is. The crux of the problem.  We think we know better than God. 

What’s a body to do?  First of all stop blaming God and others for the situation(s) we find ourselves  in. We are only fooling  ourselves if we think we weren’t warned five miles back up the road.  Second, turn back around to God. Jesus is watching and waiting for our return. And he loves and forgives us if we admit our mistakes. He then invites us to follow and walk with him on a different road by: accepting his forgiveness and grace and letting God be God. Making amends to others we have hurt and offer forgiveness to those who have hurt us. Next, we stay connected to him at the hip through prayer, study of his Word (truth) and fellowshipping with others on the same right road, also known as the church.  Finally, in  order to stay on the right road and keep what we were so freely given, we must give it away by carrying the message to others .  

Then and only then will we find ourselves on the right road that leads to life! No longer on the closed road that leads to death. 

And that my dear friends, is a reason to be joy filled always, 

Christine Davis.