Turn On the Fans

I have started and scrapped about ten different posts now. I can’t seem to get my brain really flowing on one particular thing this week.

I was running this morning . . . on the treadmill because it’s just above freezing and the wind is blowing 25 miles an hour, and I don’t do outdoor, cold weather runs . . . I like myself more than that . . . usually running or working out are the best times to think about writing because when my body is moving, and I’m pushing myself hard, my brain can finally calm and focus. This morning it wasn’t quite as focused as I like, but I did have some thoughts on some “stuff” . . . if you will indulge me for a moment.

I was thinking about our thoughts . . . I know that sounds weird . . . thinking about thinking, but I am the type of person that can live in my head way too easily. I also have a tendency to dwell and ruminate on things, and my thoughts can go from a fleeting thing that should pass through my mind to something that has decided to set up camp pretty rapidly if I’m not cautious and aware of my reactions. We’ve probably all heard something to the effect of, “You can’t stop the birds from flying over your head, but you can stop them from nesting there.” Meaning thoughts are going to come that we often don’t like . . . thoughts that could potentially cause fear, worry, anxiety, and even, behaviors and choices that are flat out wrong . . . but they don’t have to take up residence in our minds.

It’s a popular “thought” pattern (that was intentional) in Christian circles. And I agree with it to some extent. Here’s what I don’t agree with and what I was thinking about this morning . . . there is often this sense of power that is given to us to control our thoughts and even what happens to us within Christian circles, teachings, and groups, that is honestly, not biblical and borders on (maybe even crosses the territory into) new age thinking. There’s this “you create your own reality” attitude, and yes, our choices and decisions do in some measure create our world, but sometimes we can do it all right, and still face hardships. We cannot forget that we live in this fallen world. Jesus himself told us that in this world we will have trouble, but be of “good cheer” HE has overcome the world (John 16:33). And that’s the key. Jesus has overcome. Not me. Not you. It’s not in my might, my strength, or my power but in the power of the Holy Spirit that I overcome (Zechariah 4:6). We give ourselves way too much credit, and even worse, we often give the devil way too much credit while stealing the credit from the ONE to whom is truly due.

We live in a fallen, broken world, and even as Christians . . . maybe even more so . . . we’re going to face some stuff. We’re going to have to fight the good fight. But we don’t do it in our power. We do it through the power of the Holy Spirit . . . by seeking the wisdom of God and putting the armor of God (Ephesians 6:10-18).

Having said all that, sometimes we do create our own messes. Just ask Adam and Eve what happened when they listened to the serpent. So back to the bird analogy . . . there are these precious, sweet . . . okay I’m lying . . . they’re super irritating . . . barn swallows that come every year and want nothing more than to build their messy mud nests on my front porch. I probably shouldn’t, but I despise those little creatures. Every year, I forget about them until they start flying around, and I find mud and grass and a mess on the porch. And every year, I only have to do one thing to get them to go away. I turn on the fans. I turn on the fans, and they fly away. But those fans aren’t coming on if there isn’t any power to them, so I had best be sure they’re working before the birds start flying.

When the thoughts come that we know we shouldn’t be dwelling on . . . that we know are damaging or will lead us down the wrong path . . . how do we turn on the fans?

“For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds, casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ, and being ready to punish all disobedience when your obedience is fulfilled.” 2 Corinthians 10:3-6

We have to hook up to the power source. And it’s not ourselves. It’s not within us in our own right. It only comes through the power of the Holy Spirit in us. We open the bible. We meditate on scriptures. We pray and seek wisdom through the Holy Spirit. We obey . . . we obey the word . . . we obey its statutes and teachings . . . obedience is not popular but obedience is the key to unlocking so much of the power of God and His blessings in our lives. We often try to live this Christian life playing both sides. Living in a way that is directly and willfully rebellious and disobedient, but then wondering why we have no power in our lives. Y’all, I want to shout it from the rooftops. God doesn’t give us “rules”, for lack of a better word, just to make our lives miserable or because He’s the mean curmudgeon in the sky. . . He doesn’t tell us what is right and wrong just to keep us from having fun . . . His statutes . . . His precepts . . . His commands are protective not punitive. He created us . . . He loves us . . . He knows how damaging sin is . . . He knows what we need to live a life that can only be fulfilled through Him. He knew it in the Garden of Eden, and He still knows it today.

There is always grace and forgiveness and redemption at the cross. There is always a fresh start in Jesus, but there is also a transforming process that should come as we seek Him. So many of our struggles start with thoughts. Thoughts that we allow to nest in our minds. Thoughts that were never meant to be there. But if we want to turn on the fans, we’ve got to have the power. And the only way to get that power is through submission to the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit . . . in allowing them to transform and do a work in us and through us through the bible, prayer, and obedience. It’s that easy, and it’s that hard, and it’s a choice absolutely does lie with us.

“If you look at the world, you’ll be distressed. If you look within, you’ll be depressed. If you look at God you’ll be at rest.”

Corrie Ten Boom
Copyright 2022, Courtney G Davis, All Rights Reserved    

The writings and images contained within this site are the intellectual property of this writer unless otherwise noted and may not be copied or used without express permission of the author.

A little note: Don’t bother to email or comment about what a horrible person I am for not letting the birds build their nests.I’m still turning on the fans.

Marriage and Motherhood . . . Training Up Those Kids and Living Out a Truly Biblical Worldview

That’s a mouthful . . .

I have been working on something a bit on the lighter side because I promise, I’m not always super serious and heavy. But at the same time, when I feel like God is teaching me and dealing with me on something, I often feel led to share (that’s a lot of Christianese . . . I’m aware). Having said that, I want to be very clear, I don’t have it all together. I am a constant work in progress, and both marriage and motherhood are refining processes for me that I’m sure will continue until the day I leave this earth and enter the gates of heaven. I just hope that in learning and growing, I can help others learn and grow as well . . . and maybe avoid some of the mistakes that I’ve made along the way.

When I clean house (which seems like I’m always doing), I listen to podcasts, and along with a lot of true crime (because who doesn’t love a good crime story?), I also enjoy listening to podcasts that challenge me as a Christian, particularly in the areas of marriage and motherhood. Focus on the Family has some wonderful, solid, bible based podcasts, and two recent episodes contained statistics that really surprised me . . . even if they shouldn’t have.

The first was Equipping Your Kids’ Faith For A Challenging Culture with Natasha Crain and buried amongst so much good, challenging information was this statistic (taken straight from the transcript):

But the reality is that, today, about 65% of people in America say that they’re a Christian, so they self-identify as a Christian. But when researchers dig into what they actually believe and how those beliefs inform their lives, they find that only about 4% have a biblical worldview.”

4% . . . this isn’t just any old person out on the street. These are the people in our churches, serving and teaching and leading. This is a problem because the issues we’re facing aren’t just being faced “out there” in the world, but inside the walls of our churches and within our congregations. We aren’t going to live a victorious Christian life, if we aren’t taking the Bible at face value . . . if we aren’t believing it and living it out literally . . . if we’re twisting the meaning to fit our narrative.

Just a couple episodes later was Saving Your Marriage From Divorce (Part 1 of 2) with Dr. David Clarke which had some really great, solid, biblical insight regarding saving marriages in crisis. And you might not think that these two episodes are truly closely related, but the connection made for me was this, if only 4% of those claiming to be Christians have a truly biblical worldview then marriages within the church are going to struggle. If we’re not living out and in God’s word, if we’re not in relationship with Him, then there’s no way we’re going to live in the design that God has created for our marriages. Having said that, this is what jumped out and connected those dots for me (again directly from the transcript so it’s a back and forth between Jim Daly and Dr. Clarke):

“Jim: You know, let me ask you, David, that’s an interesting observation with the couples that come to you, how many come to you that are struggling that are … do have a, you know, a good, healthy relationship with God? They’re reading the word regularly, they’re praying regularly, maybe hopefully praying together regularly. How many of those couples come in for help?

Dr. Clarke: 3%.

Jim: 3%, think of that.

Dr. Clarke: I mean, seriously, that’s, that’s, that’s why it’s in the book, it’s majorly, I am not close to God. It’s only with God’s power that I can love this opposite sex person. Once I lose that connection, I, I literally cannot do it.

Jim: You know, that fits with national survey work that it’s somewhere around 1% to 3% that, uh, the whole, the whole country of Christians would say that. If we’re engaged with each other, if we’re healthy spiritually, very few people have marital difficulty at the level that it’s gonna tear it apart. Let me ask as you this, you believe the breakdown in most marriages is a breakdown in communication, and we see that here at Focus. It sounds so simple. I, I was talking to Jean the other night and we, we were talking about, how many generations do we have to go through? (laughing) You know, when will we say, oh, it’s communication? Because we’ve been talking about it for like 2000 years.”

97 % . . . 97 % of marriages in trouble have at least one person, but maybe both, who is not walking in a strong relationship with God.

This isn’t rocket science and yet, we keep circling around it. If we want our marriages to thrive and our children to grow up strong in God and confident in who He created them to be, then we have to walk it out day after day. We can’t depend on Sunday school or chapel at their private, Christian school or someone else to do it for us. We can’t preach one thing to our kids and live another. We can’t expect our marriages to be healthy if God isn’t at the center. We have to live it out in our daily walk. We have to personally seek that relationship with our Savior, day after day. We have to lead and serve and show what it means to have an intimate and real relationship with Christ. And yes, we have to stand on the word of God, in love, but without compromise.

I’m passionate about this because I’m convicted about this. I’ve been reflecting on my own actions, words, and examples set for my children. A couple years ago, God really started working in my heart regarding the effort, or lack thereof, I put into my marriage. When I asked why so many marriages around me were falling apart, I was brought to these words from Isaiah 5 vs 20-21:

“Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who turn darkness to light and light to darkness, who replace bitter with sweet and sweet with bitter. Woe to those who are wise in their own eyes and clever in their own sight.”

Too often, we’re living out what is pleasing to us as an individual rather than seeking what is best for our marriage. We’re all about self-fulfillment, independence, and happiness, and while I believe that there is a deep contentment, and yes, often happiness, that is a byproduct of a fulfilling marriage, I do not think that the end goal of marriage is to just make us “happy”. It’s to teach us and refine us and transform us.

In that same vein, parenting is also an incredibly refining process. As commonly happens, my kids are getting older. My oldest is now firmly into his teen years, and there will come a point, sooner rather than later, where he has to hash out, to work out, if you will, and choose whether or not to take ownership of the beliefs and values with which he has been raised. I can look back to my preteen and teen years and see where the transition started for me. Not that I didn’t believe in God or that Jesus was my savior prior to that, but as we move into young adulthood, those choices truly become our own in a way that they were not before. And as a mother, part of me was frightened by this.

Why do some children rebel? Why some choose to go the other way?

I can look back and see all the things I wish I had done better . . . even as recently as yesterday . . . but wishing that I had done some things differently will not change what has been done. I can also look forward and toward my Heavenly Father and ask the Holy Spirit to equip me, to pick up the pieces and heal and redeem where I’ve fallen short (not that we ever intentionally do this, but we are all human and all fail), and work out my salvation, in front of my children, in such a way that they see both the fact that I am far from perfect and that I also walk in a relationship, daily, with a loving, forgiving, and gracious God. I pray for their hearts to be soft and tender toward the things of God. I work, and yes, it’s work for someone as opinionated and independent as I am, to walk in submission (not a dirty word y’all) and allow my husband to be both the spiritual and physical head of this family. And I strive not in my own power, which never works, but under the guidance of the Holy Spirit to live in a relational, rather than dominating, way with my children . . . challenging them and allowing them to challenge to me to grow and be better.

Ultimately, they will still have to make the choice to walk with God on their own. And even if a person is raised in tough and traumatic circumstances, that is no excuse for not submitting to the leading of the Holy Spirit. But I also can stand on these scriptures knowing that God hears my every prayer. Knowing that it says in Isaiah 55:11 that God’s word does not return void but accomplishes the purpose that He intends for it (paraphrased). Knowing that He is a redeeming God. Knowing that He will lead and guide me . . . there’s no question on that. Knowing that He loves my family, my marriage, my children, and me deeply and unconditionally, and He wants us to live a life marked by following Him.

“Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it.” Proverbs 22:6

“Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of His might. Put on the full armor of God, so that you will be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places. Therefore, take up the full armor of God, so that you will be able to resist in the evil day, and having done everything, to stand firm.” Ephesians 6:10-13 (and the rest of the chapter is just as important so take a look . . . )

“The law of the Lord is perfect, converting the soul; The testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple; The statutes of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart; The commandment of the Lord is pure, enlightening the eyes; The fear of the Lord is clean, enduring forever; The judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether.” Psalm 19:7-9

Copyright 2022, Courtney G Davis, All Rights Reserved   

The writings and images contained within this site are the intellectual property of this writer unless otherwise noted and may not be copied or used without express permission of the author.

This or That

Wisdom versus Foolishness

Living Controlled by Fear versus Recklessness

Unapologetically Uncompromising versus Arrogant, Prideful, and Religious

When you write it out, it seems that it should be easy to choose, in every instance, the first rather than the second. But reality is often very different, and we have to go deeper than just the surface to figure which is happening. Not just with those around us but in our own hearts.

To some wisdom can look like fear and we can tout faith when we’re really being reckless. On the flip side, I think we can be so controlled by fear that reasonable and wise actions and choices don’t stand a chance. Refusal to waiver on biblical truths can seem, especially to those on the outside, to be hateful and unaccepting while other times we are so arrogant and prideful in presenting our beliefs that we forget to be led by love. We forget the end goal isn’t being right but bringing others to Christ.

No where in the bible does God tell us to abandon all wisdom in the name of trusting Him. We don’t jump off a cliff without a parachute just for sake of jumping off a cliff. God has given us functioning brains and the ability to seek, through prayer, reading His word, and yes, sometimes research and common sense, what is wise and good for us in every situation. That’s not to say we never take risks. There are going to be times that we must take risks and step out in faith, but taking risks without first seeking God’s wisdom is foolishness.

We must be uncompromising and unmoved on solid biblical beliefs. It’s a well known fact that is a non negotiable to me. But . . . we must also lead in love and with love knowing that we are first called to bring others to Christ . . . not to promote our own sense of self worth. If we are sacrificing our witness at the altar of “winning” the argument, we’re missing the whole reason Jesus came and gave His life.

I often hear people talking about Jesus throwing out the money changers (Matthew 21:12-13), but I think we need to remember where He was. He was in the temple. He wasn’t flipping tables on the street . . . although, He certainly could’ve. He was flipping tables in the temple. That’s not to say Jesus was ever soft on sin. He never compromised, but He was also full of grace. He was full of compassion and love. From the woman caught in adultery (John 8:1-11) to the Samaritan woman (John 4:1-42) and beyond. He didn’t deny their sins or refuse to acknowledge them. He addressed their sins directly. He was honest, straightforward, and also filled with compassion and love. And the thing was often the hardest on? Religiosity. Pride. The belief and attitude that somehow they . . . the Pharisees, the Sadducees, the rich young ruler (Mark 10:17-27) who thought he had done it all right . . . were good enough. He was hard on them because I think there is nothing more dangerous than thinking you’re good at following God’s word without the enabling and leading of the Holy Spirit . . . in thinking you can actually do it on your own. The truth is none of us are ever going to measure up, and it’s only by the grace of God through the blood of Christ that we are made “good” enough.

John 3:16 tells us that “God so loved the world . . .”. That’s the whole, wide world. Jesus wanted to see the sinner saved first and foremost. I often wonder, if that’s really what we want as well. Do we really want others to come to Christ? To be redeemed, delivered, and set free? Or would we rather them get what they deserve . . . what we, if we’re being honest, all deserve?

This or That

The choice isn’t nearly as easy to make as it seems.

Rather I’d say . . . we must remember that faith and wisdom are not mutually exclusive, and loving others well and standing firm on a biblical foundation are completely complementary. And pride, arrogance, and religious spirits have no place in the body of Christ or our hearts.

Copyright 2022, Courtney G Davis, All Rights Reserved   

The writings and images contained within this site are the intellectual property of this writer unless otherwise noted and may not be copied or used without express permission of the author.

Here’s to 2022!

Looking back over the past two years, like most of the world, there’s a part of me that can’t help but wish that so much of these past 24(ish) months didn’t happen. Lives lost . . . families hurt . . . so much unrest and division and heartbreak for so many reasons. The reality is life as we knew it is gone. We can’t rewind and undo all that has happened.

But then there’s this other part of me . . . it’s the part that realizes that the challenges . . . the hard stuff . . . even the heartbreaking stuff . . . of the past two years have changed me. They’ve changed how I look at the world. They’ve changed my perceptions. They’ve drawn me closer to God. They’ve deepened my belief in His goodness and His mercy and His transforming power. They’ve transformed and softened and smoothed parts of me I didn’t realize were rough. They’ve brought the realization that priorities matter . . . that boundaries are essential . . . that sometimes standing up for what’s right means you’re going to stand against the world and the culture and other times, it means you’re going to have to stand out and stand up when those who are part of your life, your circle, your church, etc. are refusing to . . . and they’ve shifted my mindset from the earthly to the eternal in a way that did not exist in me before. This life is short. Eternity is forever. God has a calling on my life, on every life, and I know longer want to waste time and energy on so much of the nonsense that goes on around me.

Over the past few months, I’ve been reading on and off in the Old Testament books of the prophets. I’ve read through Ezekiel (not an easy read at all . . . took forever), Daniel (much easier), and now I’m plowing through Jeremiah. And I see so much of our modern world in the children of Israel. God giving chance after chance . . . the children of Israel flat out refusing to repent and living in open defiance of and rebellion toward God’s statutes. I see it both in and out of the church. I see it in myself all too often. Sometimes, in blatantly sinful ways, but also, in ways that are less overt. Less obvious. But just as destructive. As I’ve said before, it’s not about behavior modification . . . about doing and saying all the right things . . . it’s about a heart transformation. About letting the Holy Spirit change me from the inside out.

If you read my last post, then you know that my “word of the year” is grace. Grace not as an excuse to sin but as the means to overcome sin. Grace doesn’t strong arm. Nor does it ramrod its way into people’s hearts. It’s not about control or legalism. Grace . . . true grace . . . the grace extended to each of us when Jesus died for us and took all our sins upon himself . . . has the ability to change everything.

I also have two passages of scripture that have stood out to me as I walk into 2022. Two passages to meditate and ponder and from which to draw strength going forward. Both from the Old Testament, and one, not surprisingly, from the book of Daniel.

“And He changes the times and the seasons;
He removes kings and raises up kings;
He gives wisdom to the wise
And knowledge to those who have understanding.
He reveals deep and secret things;
He knows what is in the darkness,
And light dwells with Him.”
Daniel 2:21-22

____________________________

“Trust in the Lord, and do good;
Dwell in the land, and feed on His faithfulness.
Delight yourself also in the Lord,
And He shall give you the desires of your heart.

Commit your way to the Lord,
Trust also in Him,
And He shall bring it to pass.
He shall bring forth your righteousness as the light,
And your justice as the noonday.

Rest in the Lord, and wait patiently for Him;
Do not fret because of him who prospers in his way,
Because of the man who brings wicked schemes to pass.
Cease from anger, and forsake wrath;
Do not fret—it only causes harm.”
Psalm 37:3-8

It’s probably not big news to anyone that I can be a fretter. I would use the old cliché, “if it (“it” being fretting) were an Olympic sport, I’d have long ago won a gold medal”, but I’m trying to not be so cliché. Having said that, I can dwell, ruminate, worry, and fret without any conscious thought of doing. It is that ingrained into my way of thinking. But really, it’s a choice. I can choose all of these things. They aren’t healthy. They don’t fix anything. They usually cause me far more trouble and harm than anything. Or I can choose to have peace in the midst of the chaos and calm in whatever storm I’m facing, knowing WHO my Father is. Knowing He is ultimately in control, and He loves me deeply and unconditionally.

My last thought on this New Year’s Eve . . . We cannot know God’s will and ways if we do not seek His heart and His face. We cannot seek His heart if we are continually seeking His hand. If we only look for what He can do for us, but not walking in relationship with Him. God isn’t our Santa Claus. He isn’t just sitting in the sky ready to grant all of our wishes. The words from Psalm 37 say, “Trust in the Lord, and do good; Dwell in the land, and feed on His faithfulness. Delight yourself also in the Lord, And He shall give you the desires of your heart.” God created us, and He knows us far better than we know ourselves. He knows what is best for us, but we’re not going to know what’s best for ourselves if we’re not seeking Him for all He is . . . if we’re not allowing the Holy Spirit to lead and guide the direction of our lives. Our desires, the true desires of our heart, can only be fulfilled when they line up with His desires and will for our lives. We can acquire all the “things” . . . have the most shiny, beautiful, envious life from the outside looking in and still be miserable because we’re not trusting and seeking our Creator.

May 2022 bring you peace and joy in the midst of all the madness. May you find yourself drawing closer to Him and resting in His deep, unchanging, and unconditional love for you.

Happy New Year!

Copyright 2021, Courtney G Davis, All Rights Reserved   

The writings and images contained within this site are the intellectual property of this writer unless otherwise noted, and may not be copied or used without express permission of the author.

Grace . . . As Taught By a Ten Year Old

I taught school for ten years. Looking back, I have so many great memories, lasting life lessons, and forever friendships formed during those years, and for the most part, I can say they were good years. But the last couple years in the classroom came with some especially rough and tough moments. We’ve all heard the old saying “hurt people, hurt people” and hurting children are no exception. When all a person receives in life are heartbreak and hurt and brokenness, that’s all they know how to give.

I often felt like the proverbial punching bag. I’d come in for the day, standing tall, only to get knocked down, mostly emotionally, but a couple times physically, over and over again. And by the end of those years, I was completely exhausted on all fronts.

It wasn’t that I had a “bad” class or even a bunch of difficult students. It was simply that I had a great group of kids with a few students who were so hurt from their lives outside of school that they didn’t know how to function well within the classroom environment. Their minds and their bodies were in constant turmoil, and they often dominated the classroom and wreaked havoc, not only on themselves, but on everything and everyone around them.

However, the sad reality was those students who did function somewhat well and “normally” (whatever that means), rarely got the best of me as a teacher. They didn’t get the time, attention, and passion for teaching and learning that they deserved. It is one of my biggest regrets when I look back at those years.

Tony was one of those kids. He was quiet. Reserved. Sweet. I don’t remember much about his work or his grades. Only that he mostly did what he was asked to do. I’m sure he had his moments. Moments when something was incomplete or lost, but honestly, I cannot begin to recall . . . he didn’t dominate. Like so many others, he often faded into the background because he didn’t demand every ounce of my time and energy. But, like every student, no matter how demanding or not, he was still one of my kids. And like every single student, I loved him as one of my own.

As the saying goes, “the days are long, but the years are short”, and as most teachers (and parents) can attest, school years are not the exception. Before we knew it, Tony’s year in fourth grade was coming to a close. The final week of school we always had an awards assembly. We dressed up and smiled for the pictures, and yes, everyone got some award . . . not because we had an “everyone gets a trophy” mentality, but because after years of working with kids, you realize the huge importance of someone feeling valued . . . you learn look for the good even when it’s hard to find.

With Tony, the good wasn’t hard to find. I didn’t have to go searching for some reason to give him an award, but I also couldn’t help feeling as if I had done him, and quite a few others, quite a disservice that year, not being able to give them the time and attention they deserved. Which is why I was so taken aback, when Tony came walking up to me with roses and a card thanking me for being “such a wonderful” teacher.

It is forever etched into my mind as one of the greatest moments of teaching. It still brings tears to my eyes. I didn’t earn those roses or those words in that card. But Tony didn’t care. He looked for the good and chose to see past the “bad”. He extended grace and mercy when I didn’t deserve either. And in doing that, he taught me so much about loving others well, even when, especially when, it’s most difficult.

As I’ve been reflecting on this past year and looking forward to a new year, I began to pray and ask God to give me direction for not only what’s tangible but for my heart and soul . . . for my relationships . . . for my family . . . for our present and our future. This is the story that came to memory, and I landed on one word, one goal (and two scripture passages . . . more on those later) for this year.

GRACE

To both extend and receive more of it . . .

That’s it. Unbelievably simple, yet, amazingly difficult all at once. Grace does not come naturally to my perfectionistic nature . . . grace for others or grace for myself . . . it’s just not a natural extension of my personality. But grace is what I feel God speaking to me as we go into this next year. In the easy and the hard and all the in between. Grace.

Copyright 2021, Courtney G Davis, All Rights Reserved  

The writings and images contained within this site are the intellectual property of this writer unless otherwise noted, and may not be copied or used without express permission of the author.

O Night Divine

My favorite Christmas song has always been “O Holy Night”. Originally written in 1843, in French, as a Christmas poem and set to music shortly thereafter, with the English lyrics later penned by John Sullivan Dwight in 1855*, it is arguably one of the most beautifully written and powerfully composed Christmas hymns of all time. But it’s not just the beauty of the lyrics or the power of the music that draws me in. It’s the truth of the words . . . the truth that has stood for thousands of years . . . the truth that predates this beautiful song and points us back to the truth of gospel . . . that causes my love of this song to run so deep.

O holy night! The stars are brightly shining,
It is the night of our dear Saviour’s birth.
Long lay the world in sin and error pining,
‘Til He appear’d and the soul felt its worth.
A thrill of hope the weary world rejoices,
For yonder breaks a new and glorious morn.

Fall on your knees! O hear the angel voices!
O night divine, O night when Christ was born;
O night divine, O night, O night Divine.

Led by the light of Faith serenely beaming,
With glowing hearts by His cradle we stand.
So led by light of a star sweetly gleaming,
Here come the wise men from Orient land.
The King of Kings lay thus in lowly manger;
In all our trials born to be our friend.

He knows our need, to our weakness is no stranger,
Behold your King! Before Him lowly bend!
Behold your King, Before Him lowly bend!

Truly He taught us to love one another;
His law is love and His gospel is peace.
Chains shall He break for the slave is our brother;
And in His name all oppression shall cease.
Sweet hymns of joy in grateful chorus raise we,
Let all within us praise His holy name.

Christ is the Lord! O praise His Name forever,
His power and glory evermore proclaim.
His power and glory evermore proclaim.
*

“Long lay the world in sin and error pining, ‘Til He appear’d and the soul felt its worth. A thrill of hope the weary world rejoices” . . . two thousand years ago . . . our world was weary . . . and today . . . our world is weary. Weary with fighting . . . weary with brokenness . . . weary with searching and seeking to fill a void that never seems to be filled . . .

“He knows our need, to our weakness is no stranger” . . .

“Truly He taught us to love one another; His law is love and His gospel is peace. Chains shall He break for the slave is our brother; And in His name all oppression shall cease” . . .

“Fall on your knees” . . .

“Christ is the Lord” . . .

In our weariness, we have rest.

In our weakness and sin, we have a Savior that forgives.

Amidst all the discord, animosity, hatred, and division, He came to teach us what unconditional love, truth, and peace are. He came to truly set us free.

That night changed everything. That night a baby was born who would forever alter the course of history. That night the angels appeared and the shepherds worshipped. That night our Savior left heaven, to become a baby, that would both live and die to save us from our wretchedness.

“Now there were in the same country shepherds living out in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night. And behold, an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were greatly afraid. Then the angel said to them, ‘Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people. For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be the sign to you: You will find a Babe wrapped in swaddling cloths, lying in a manger.’ And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying:

Glory to God in the highest,
And on earth peace, goodwill toward men!'”

Luke 2:8-14

In the midst of all the chaos this Christmas . . . with all the lights and the food, the family and the gifts . . . in the contradiction of both heartbreak and the joy that so many carry side by side through each holiday season . . . may we take just a moment to stop, to reflect, to remember the why and find the peace brought from our glorious Savior on that night so long ago.

O Night Divine . . .
Copyright 2021, Courtney G Davis, All Rights Reserved  

The writings and images contained within this site are the intellectual property of this writer unless otherwise noted, and may not be copied or used without express permission of the author.

* http://* https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/O_Holy_Night

* https://www.lyricsforchristmas.com/christmas-carols/o-holy-night/

A Sabbath State of Mind

“Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is the Sabbath of the Lord your God. In it you shall do no work: you, nor your son, nor your daughter, nor your male servant, nor your female servant, nor your cattle, nor your stranger who is within your gates. For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and hallowed it.” Exodus 20:8-11

The Sabbath was so important to God that He included it in the Ten Commandments. Sandwiched between not taking the Lord’s name in vain and honoring our parents . . . in the same list that commands us not to murder, lie, or steal . . . we find the command to remember the Sabbath and keep it holy. We are commanded to both worship, for the Sabbath is the Lord’s, and rest. Worship and rest are not necessarily mutually inclusive. They are not two concepts typically paired together. We can worship without rest, and we can rest without worship. God could’ve created a day of worship that neither included nor excluded rest. He could’ve created a day of rest that neither included nor excluded worship, but instead He created a union between worship and rest and told us to keep it holy.

If you know me, you know I struggle with the “rest” part of the Sabbath. I struggle with rest in general. It seems as if there is always something to be done, and my list of “to-dos” is never complete. For me, keeping the Sabbath, like so many other things, is a work in progress. And I’m learning that keeping the Sabbath, honoring and worshipping and resting, is about far more than attending church each Sunday and sleeping the day away afterward. Before anyone comes at me, I believe that attending church is so important (“not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together . . .” Hebrews 10:25), but worship is not exclusive to church. It’s not a guarantee that just because we’re showing up at church every Sunday, we’re actually worshipping. Likewise, resting isn’t always about that Sunday afternoon nap. Although, again, I’m not telling you not to nap. Jesus napped. Naps are good. Rest does not always equal naps, and naps don’t always equal rest.

There’s a quieting of both the mind and the body that comes with keeping the Sabbath. And there is a benefit, to us, in making the time and creating a space to honor this practice. In a world that never stops, it brings stillness. In a culture that, even within the church, says “go hard or go home”, it brings both quiet and peace. There is so much value, emotionally, physically, and spiritually, that comes from practicing the Sabbath.

Under the Levitical law the rules were incredibly strict regarding what you could and could not do on the Sabbath. In Matthew 12, Jesus goes head to head with the Pharisees regarding the “rules” surrounding the Sabbath. The Pharisees had created, as humans are so apt to do, a legalistic, performance regarding the Sabbath. But they had missed the point altogether. It isn’t about not plucking heads of grain, as the disciples did in Matthew 12 or not washing a few dishes, as one might need to do nowadays if they happen to have a houseful of children. Jesus came not to abolish the law but fulfill it, and so there is much grace even in this. It’s not about checking the right boxes while avoiding all the wrong ones. It’s about worship and rest and Jesus.

Psalm 91:1, “He who dwells in the secret place (shelter) of the Most High shall abide (rest) under the shadow of the Almighty.”

There is value in taking a day of rest each week, but even in our busy-ness, in our day to day lives, there is value in having a Sabbath mindset every single day. Of dwelling in that secret place . . . daily coming to God and submitting to His leading and guiding and sometimes, correction, but also peace . . . because it’s in that place that we find rest. Even when the world and life are swirling around us at a pace with which it seem impossible to keep up, we can be totally at rest.

And that’s where I find myself. Allowing God to teach me and guide me toward resting and worshipping in such a way that I honor the Sabbath day and keep it holy, but also in allowing God to teach me to dwell in His secret place and abide under His shadow. Having said all this, I find myself striving in areas where I neither desire nor have a need to strive. And one of those areas is in this space. This past year, the number of people reading and sending messages and emails increased, and that’s great. But I never started writing to get more readers, and I never want to write to earn more followers. I write because I feel it’s an area where God has gifted me, and while I am not the most eloquent person when speaking aloud, I do a far better job conveying what I’m learning and walking in with the written word. However, there is wisdom in taking a Sabbath, even when it’s something we love. It gives peace, rest, and direction. All that to say, a little break is in order. Not forever but between now and Christmas, I won’t be writing here (and likely only sporadically on social media). I’ll continue to write, the old fashioned way, via pen and paper in my journal. But I’ll also take the time to ask God to guide me, to speak to and through me, and to rest and enjoy this Advent season, celebrating the birth of our Savior, with those I love the most.

I pray you’ll take the time to do the same. To embrace rest, not only physically, but emotionally and mentally and to live fully in the moment with those you love.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Copyright 2021, Courtney G Davis, All Rights Reserved  

The writings and images contained within this site are the intellectual property of this writer unless otherwise noted, and may not be copied or used without express permission of the author.

Anxious for Nothing . . .

It’s quite possible I’ve used this exact title before, but it’s relevant today so if I have . . . well, I guess I’m sorry . . . maybe.

I love, love, love (maybe that’s one love too much? Nah . . . ) the holiday season. There’s something about the months of November and December . . . the blur of Thanksgiving into Christmas . . . and yes, like it or not, it all runs together . . . not to worry though, we love and celebrate all the holidays. We gobble ’til we wobble whilst decking those halls. But let’s be real Jesus trumps it all because He literally is the reason for the entire season, whether it be Thanksgiving or Christmas, as far as I’m concerned. (And I’ll stop with the clichés now . . .)

But also, November, in particular, is a crazy month that leads into an equally busy but slightly calmer December. From mid October to yesterday, between church and school, I ended up either being in charge of or very involved in helping with five different but important, events. While I generally am an advocate for either delegating or flat out saying “no” to things that take time and energy from my marriage and family, these events are ones that I feel the need, not compulsion but need, to say “yes” to. Because sometimes a “yes” is necessary. Add to that the normal holiday season stressors . . . family dynamics . . . upcoming holiday parties . . . disagreements about “stuff” . . . all the normal, read: crazy, that goes into all of it . . . and along with the love, love, love can come anxiety, anxiety, anxiety.

Anxiety is something with which I’ve wrestled my entire life. It can present in different ways, sleepless nights, my brain refusing to shut off, an upset stomach, or sheer exhaustion, but there are certain times when it amps up exponentially. And when I let anxiety get going I become rigid, my perfectionistic tendencies multiply, and I start to worry about and take on other people’s problems, to allow myself to be drug into the drama, when it is neither my place nor my issue.

Here’s the the thing. Anxiety is a liar on so many levels. It tells us we’re broken and unfixable, a total failure at everything . . . it tells us we can maintain control by worrying about all the things going on around us (this one is my personal favorite and one I find myself employing way too often) . . . it tells us we must do more, be more perfect, try harder but also, we are never going to measure up no matter how hard we try . . . which isn’t totally a lie because none of us are Jesus and that’s why we can’t measure up . . . He is our righteousness . . . He is our goodness . . . trying harder and doing more only lead to more exhaustion.

So what’s the solution to all the crazy? Because I know I’m not alone in this.

“Rejoice in the Lord always. Again I will say, rejoice! Let your gentleness be known to all men. The Lord is at hand. Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:4-7

Paul gives us step by step instructions here:

  1. “Rejoice (be glad) in the Lord always.” Always . . . all the time. And then he says it again . . . with an explanation point for good measure. “Again I will say, rejoice!” I can honestly say that I’m never more willing to relinquish control than when I’m praising God. It reminds me over and over that He truly is in control, and any control I have is only an illusion.
  2. “Let your gentleness (let your gentle spirit) be evident (known) to all men.” Full confession. Gentleness isn’t one of my natural tendencies, but thank God I am redeemed. Galatians 5:23 says that gentleness is one of the fruits of the Spirit, and I have the Holy Spirit dwelling and living and operating in me ergo I am gentle. It often means stopping and asking the Holy Spirit to speak to me and through me before I plow ahead. It means filtering my words and deeds through Him first. It’s definitely a work in progress, but it is a work that He is doing.
  3. “Be anxious (have care) for nothing (no one, nothing), but in everything by prayer and supplication (a need, entreaty), with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God.” The Bible says it, not me so if you don’t like it, take it up with God. It’s so simple, and yet, I struggle with it so hugely. I have to make a conscious effort to give it, whatever it may be, over to God. I have to be willing to give up control and basically dump all my junk, all my cares and worries on God. I have to earnestly pray and be thankful, knowing He does hear and He does listen and trust that He is working even when when I don’t see it. God wants us to communicate with Him. He wants us to ask. He wants to hear from us. It doesn’t have to be eloquent. It just needs to be real. And it’s okay to tell Him you’re struggling with anxiety.

And the promise that follows, in verse 7 is so very sweet, “and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding (comprehension), will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.”

But in order to receive that incomprehensible peace we first have to let go. I’ve said before that I can often be heard muttering, in a half joking manner, “Jesus take the wheel”, but the reality is, I never utter those words unless I really mean them. While the words may be lighthearted, the prayer is very real. I am totally unqualified to drive this vehicle without God, and when I try, the tension and anxiety mount until they are almost unbearable. I can buckle down and keep on trucking, or I can turn back to Paul’s words in Philippians. I do not have all the answers, but I know the One who does. The world may be absolute chaos around me, but I have a personal relationship with the Prince of Peace. Others may be harsh and unyielding, but I can allow gentleness to reign (amongst other things . . . see Galatians 5). I can trust God for peace and protection no matter what comes. However, all of it only happens if I seek God first and allow the Holy Spirit to have control of my heart and my life.

So here’s to Peace this holiday season. Here’s to remembering, amidst all the crazy, why we celebrate. Here’s to letting go.

Copyright 2021, Courtney G Davis, All Rights Reserved  

The writings and images contained within this site are the intellectual property of this writer unless otherwise noted, and may not be copied or used without express permission of the author.

No Justification Necessary

“Do you work?”

It’s a common and innocuous question.

Instead of just answering that I stay home, I often find myself launching into a detailed explanation, a justification, of why I no longer work a paying job.

I spent four years in college . . . I don’t regret one day of those years nor do I feel they were a waste. I grew so much in that time and was afforded a safe place, a space somewhere between childhood and full on adulthood that I know is an immense privilege, to grow up and into myself.

I spent ten years in education for which I’m immensely thankful. Those ten years taught me so much. They weren’t without a few tears but also brought a ton of joy (and lifelong friendships). In those first years of teaching, I thought I would return to school, earn my masters, and work my way up the admin ladder. Then, five years in, I had my son, and in the weeks following his birth, I realized that my desires had completely flipped. The desire to work my way to the top was replaced by a deep desire to stay home. It was five more years before I was able to transition from teaching full time (and then some) to working part time for my family’s business. Another two and half years passed before I was able to fully realize the dream of staying home when we brought our daughter home from Bulgaria.

So, no, I don’t go to work at a job that pays. But I do work. Probably harder than I ever worked in the years I was paid to show up and do a job. That’s not a play for sympathy . . . not in the least . . . but I am determined to stop apologizing and justifying the fact that I stay home.

And I’ve come to realize some very important truths regarding being a stay at home mom/wife:

  • It needs no justification. Unless you are directly affected by my choices, I owe you neither justification nor explanation. No, not everyone is afforded the privilege of being able to stay home (so please don’t send me an email or comment about how you were not able to . . . I fully realize it’s a blessing), but also, we work hard to make it work. And we do the things necessary to make sure I can continue to stay home.
  • It is not less than. What I do . . . day in and out . . . cleaning, laundry, cooking, grocery runs, taxiing kids, helping with school events, being available to help my husband with whatever “stuff” comes up (on the rare occasion the need arises) . . . it is not less than . . . it is important. We glorify careers. We see them as “more than”, while performing household duties is somehow “less than”. But both have value and purpose.
  • And to the last point, just like having a career isn’t for everyone, staying home is also not for everyone. We are not all called to the same things. We do not all have the same talents and giftings or the same desires. What you decide to do or not do is between you and your spouse and God. Period.
  • It’s hard. My children do have chores, but the lion’s share of the housework is my responsibility, and the never-ending cycle of tasks that come from staying home can be mundane and tedious and exhausting sometimes. It’s a 24/7/365 kind of job, and sometimes it can feel like all I do is wash clothes and dishes and clean floors and feed people (these people eat so. much. food.), but hard does not mean horrible. AND it’s also an incredibly precious gift and blessing to be here in this place, at this time, helping to create a safe and happy home for these people.
  • Finally, it doesn’t have to be perfect. I’m not June Cleaver, and this isn’t Leave it to Beaver. So if we order a pizza sometimes or the floors don’t get mopped one week, the world will not stop spinning on its axis, and my family won’t cease to function well . . . honestly, they probably wouldn’t even notice.

So the next time someone asks me if I work, I can give a witty answer . . . “I’m the CEO of my home” . . . or I can be humorous . . . “I’m a domestic goddess” . . . or I can simply say, “I stay home.” No explanation or justification needed.

This isn’t exclusive to my life or situation. Too many of us walk around making justifications and offering explanations when they absolutely are not necessary. There are times when we need to explain things to those closest to us, but also, we need to normalize not offering an explanation to the whole wide world every time we make a choice or decision. Likewise, on the flip side, sometimes we need to let people’s yes be yes and no be no without demanding an explanation or justification.

Copyright 2021, Courtney G Davis, All Rights Reserved  

The writings and images contained within this site are the intellectual property of this writer unless otherwise noted, and may not be copied or used without express permission of the author.

When Criticism is Valid

Raise your hand if you love receiving criticism. FYI, I’m not raising my hand over here. I hate criticism. I hate being wrong. Most of us do. It’s a pride problem. It’s a sin issue.

I witnessed an exchange earlier this week where a person, in Christian circles, received what was some very valid and constructive criticism on a recent book they had published, and rather than reflect on the actual feedback, said person called out the critics in a very dismissive way. (Yes I’m being intentionally vague. No I won’t tell you who or what was being criticized. That’s not my point here.)

It made me stop and think about criticism, feedback, correction . . . whatever name you wish to give it . . . and how I handle it. Do I take criticism well? Do I stop and ask myself if it’s valid and helpful? Or do I dig in my heels and insist I’m right?

Because the reality is criticism that is constructive has both a place and a purpose.

Criticism is not always a dirty word. Can it be damaging if given with the wrong intentions? Absolutely. But it can also be something that affects great change if used and given wisely.

Criticism gives us the opportunity to reflect and work toward meaningful change.

Criticism can often be protective. Especially in instances where we are leaders . . . sometimes we must both criticize in a constructive manner and receive criticism in order to protect those around us . . . those we are leading. We must be both discerning and wise about what and who we let in, and often times, that discernment can be perceived as having a critical spirit to those who disagree with us. Further, if we are above receiving and reflecting on constructive feedback, then we are below being a leader.

There’s a vast difference in being a fault finder . . . a complainer . . . or as we would say in Christian circles, having a critical spirit, and issuing criticism when it is necessary and needed.

Likewise, there’s a vast difference in coming under condemnation, which is neither helpful nor good and allowing constructive criticism to be a vehicle for positive change.

As I said in the beginning, I’m not a fan of criticism, correction, or feedback, but that issue is typically with me and not the person giving it. There are times, when, yes, people are critical just for the sake of being critical, but there are also times when someone is genuinely trying to be helpful in what they are saying . . . where that person is looking to help me see a different perspective. And rather than get in a huff the moment criticism comes, I am learning, albeit very slowly and not always super well, to stop and pray and ask the Holy Spirit if what is being said is valid. To listen rather than immediately respond and defend myself . . . to reflect on what is being said and why. Because if the criticism has merit, getting offended is only going to cause more harm than good.

I am also learning to pray for discernment and stand by what I feel God is teaching and telling me knowing full well that if ever I’m in error, He will show me. Yes, sometimes that means that people will be angry. Sometimes that means that people will walk away, but as long as I’m speaking the truth in love, at the end of the day, I answer only to God.

In Galatians 2:11-21, Paul openly tells the Galatians that he confronted Peter when he felt Peter was wrong. It wasn’t that Paul was aiming to humiliate Peter, but what Peter had done and said lead others astray. Paul had a responsibility to publicly correct that. I’m sure there were those that wondered if it was really necessary for Paul to call Peter out as he did. It was. In order to further God’s kingdom, and correct erroneous teachings, it was absolutely necessary.

There are two scriptures, from the same chapter of God’s word, that I think are so important to both giving and receiving constructive criticism.

“A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger. The tongue of the wise uses knowledge rightly, but the mouth of fools pours forth foolishness.” Proverbs 15:1-2

May the words I say always be said in a way that turns away wrath. May they bring peace and healing even while they are bringing correction.

“The ear that hears the rebukes of life will abide among the wise. He who disdain despises his own soul, but he who heeds rebuke gets understanding.” Proverbs 15:31-32

May I receive rebuke, reproof, in a way that brings both understanding and life even when, in the moment, it may feel unpleasant and uncomfortable.

Copyright 2021, Courtney G Davis, All Rights Reserved  

The writings and images contained within this site are the intellectual property of this writer unless otherwise noted, and may not be copied or used without express permission of the author.