When “Doing” And “Being” Converge

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For one of the sessions, I got to speak in the main worship center of Eagle’s Landing First Baptist Church.

In my relationship with God, my heart’s default position is to be a “do-er” for Him. Historically, I prefer task to love. Which, of course, is completely unsatisfactory to Him and destructive to me. Which, of course, is why much of my adult spiritual life has been about unwinding this soul-killing, task-oriented twisted-ness of mine. Which, of course, is why, His calling on my life is to learn to do the long, hard, painful and at times crushingly lonely work of learning to become a better and more complete “be-er” in Him. Which, of course, both breaks and re-makes my heart, all at the same time.

Recently, I was invited to speak at Confluence – the fall conference for the Georgia Baptist Campus Ministries. (If you go to the website, under Conference Details, you can see my photo and bio:)  It actually was quite a convergence of meaningful events for me…the chance to share with hundreds of university students some of what God has been teaching me along the way, an opportunity to reconnect with special friends who do student ministry across the state, and a time for me to be reminded of something of who I am and who God has made me to be. Because there have been moments in this last season of life, as God has been sowing the deep “being” lessons in my heart, when I’ve pretty much lost sight of how I might ever “do” for Him again. deanna teaching

Humorously enough, the topic I was asked to speak to was A Heart For Christ: longing to know Him more. The very same thing God has been talking with me about for the last season of life. And further adding to the chuckles, the only concrete instruction from the conference organizers about what to address was, “We don’t want to add to the students’ to-do lists, by piling on suggestions of disciplines for them to do.” Hmmm. They wanted me to speak on the dynamic of “being” with God, not just “doing” for Him. The very thing I’ve exhausted so much time and energy on gaining for myself. Confluence, indeed.

I am including a link to the talk, for those who might want to hear how it went.

A Heart For Christ – longing to know Him more, Deanna Davis, 9.26.15.

Healthy Rhythms pt. 4 – Solitude

(Part 4 in a series on a few healthy rhythms of life. The other posts in this series are…rhythms, conversation and intellectual depth.)

There are times when I feel anxiety rising in my heart. I’m not always aware of it right away. I

My daughter has some kind of app that tells you how you are doing...and it wasn't far off.

My daughter has some kind of app on her iPod that tells you how you are doing…and it wasn’t far off this particular day.

just begin to notice that I am shorter with the kids or less patient with Jeff. I may find myself staring off into space for longer periods of time or wrestling with thoughts that won’t stop having their way with me. Sometimes, I can be knee-deep into such an experience before I realize I’m knee-deep into such an experience. It creeps up on me. And as I begin the process of thinking, “Where is this coming from?”, I realize I need to get away for a bit. My present life is often too busy and loud for me to clearly hear what is going on in my heart.

Or…sometimes my ears…it isn’t that they hurt, but the background noise of a modern life can be so…relentless. So numbing. It can feel like I’m in an audio marathon, being bombarded with music, advertisements, demands on my time, traffic signs, internet stuff – all competing for a slice of my relatively small attention span. And it can feel like the part of me that manages my sensory intake is about to hit the wall at mile 20. When I get to the place where my nerves are about done and there is no more room for anything else to make its way into my life and heart, I realize I need to get away for a bit. That my external life is too loud for me to give my internal life the attention it needs.

When I come upon places like this on my journey, I realize the importance of creating rhythms of solitude. When hiking a trail, pulling off every once in a while is just part of it. Enjoying the view. Eating a snack. Putting moleskin on an emerging blister. Drinking some cool water and wiping sweat from my brow. My life is similar.

There are times where I just need to get off the trail for a bit. Maybe to rest. Maybe to reflect on where I’ve been and what just happened. Maybe to listen in quietness of soul in a way I just can’t when I’m moving so fast. Maybe to address a critical issue in my heart or life that requires more than drive-by attention. There is an African proverb that says, “Sometimes one must stop and sit by the roadside, and wait for the soul to catch up.” Yes, this captures it quite nicely.

Solitude isn’t time alone. It is time alone with Jesus. It is a voluntary retreat away from stimuli and input and a time to get quiet. Solitude and silence go hand in hand. But it isn’t really silence. It is a time to listen to Jesus. To ask questions instead of talking. It is a time to really focus in on my internal monologue, to listen to what my heart is saying, because it can get so drowned out in the volume of the very loud world I live in.

Whenever I go to the beach, time alone is ALWAYS on the agenda.

Whenever I go to the beach, time alone is ALWAYS on the agenda.

And as I’ve stated repeatedly in this series, it seems like a smart move to proactively plan these rhythms and get ahead of crisis and stress rather than react and try to recover, possibly after significant damage has been done.

In my own life, this looks like…getting up early (sometimes, not all the time) and allowing myself to enjoy the only truly quiet time in our house. Taking whole days on my calendar and intentionally not scheduling anything on it so I can do…whatever I want. Usually part of that day, actually a lot of that day, involves me being somewhere where my phone and computer aren’t, with my journal and Bible, and listening. To God. To my heart. And I write what I hear so that I can slow down my thoughts and fully engage. Sometimes it looks like taking a weekend and going somewhere alone – and doing what I do in the morning or on the day off, but for a longer period of time.

Sometimes, the things in my heart that I am looking for will only emerge with a long time to warm up. With the welcome that not rushing and my full attention can give. Sort of like how conversations work. You may talk with a friend for 5 minutes every day. It is a daily relationship. But it will never get deeper than you can go in 5 minutes time. And that isn’t very deep. However, there are some conversations that can take hours, days even to unfold to their richest point. It takes a while to get through the introductory/mandatory small talk that warms up our hearts. It takes time to progressively build trust, to relax, to move through the lead-up issues that lead up to THE ISSUE you both really want/need to talk about. A rhythm of solitude should include all three time cycles. Daily or several times a week, maybe monthly and then occasionally those longer stretches of time that show up on a calendar once or maybe twice a year if you are lucky -and don’t have young kids.

In fact, I often look at my calendar from 10,000 feet, from the monthly and yearly perspective, and think, “Where are the breaks? The rest pauses to get alone, to do my heart work, to really listen to what my Jesus might want to say to me?” And if I go too long without it in my schedule, I notice it. Because I’m anxious. Short with the kids or with Jeff. I sense that something isn’t right within me. So, I move some things on my calendar around till the time is there. I’m never too busy to eat. Never too busy to sleep. So why on earth would I ever be too busy to take care of my soul?

A regular rhythm of solitude, of pulling back from the busyness of the world can be a life saving discipline.

Mk 1:35  Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed.

The Dilemma of Saddling A Horse


While I am not a regular horse rider, I have on occasion over the years found myself on a horse’s back. And I’ve learned something that I think even horses know.

A horse reaches its true potential only when it is saddled properly – when it is capable of carrying someone – who knows, loves and wants to go places with him/her.

Getting a horse to wear his saddle properly can be a bit of a challenge, however. I know this because one time I rode a horse whose saddle was too loose. Let’s just say, it didn’t end well for me. I began tilting to the side till I was almost parallel to the ground and then…well, at least the ground stopped the tilting.

I’ve seen a number of folks attempt to saddle a horse and evidently this is a common problem. Most horses don’t want a saddle to fit as tightly as it needs to in order to support the rider. And who can blame them? It squeezes. Evidently, the smart ones  (which, I’ve found, is most of them…) will hold their breath to spread their gut. Then, as they walk away and can relax, the saddle fits looser.

How to solve this dilemma? I’ve seen two strategies. A saddler can repeatedly ram his knee into the horse’s side, forcing them to exhale, while they tighten the straps. The first time I saw this done, it looked exactly like it sounds – harsh. The horse and the person did not appear to have a very personal relationship. It was definitely a working one.

There is another way though.

The saddler can tighten up the saddle as much as it will go…and then stay close and wait. When they hear and see the horse exhale, they pull the straps a bit. Then they repeat this until the saddle fits properly. This method takes a bit more time. It requires the person to be attentive, patient…compassionate. In touch with the horse’s natural rhythms. To be willing to wait till the time is right and not force the issue. And the horse must learn to trust the saddler, that he has her best interests at heart.

Of course I’m painting a picture here of something of how God works in our lives. We, like horses, are created beings with great potential. And that potential must be harnessed. Saddled. For us to go places, we need a rider. And the rider needs a place to sit, a place to be close and in sync with us.

Discipleship is the process where we learn to wear our saddle properly. The spiritual disciplines are ways in which we give God a place to ‘sit’ in our lives. To lead us, to speak to us, to be present with us, to empower us to go places and do things we couldn’t or wouldn’t on our own. When done well, it enables us to become who we were created to be. It brings joy and relationship.

And yet, our first response to the process is usually resistance. We spread our gut and stubbornly refuse to cooperate. We don’t naturally like the squeezing that is required.

Which presents two options to God and the spiritual leaders in our lives, whose responsibility it is to help us learn to wear our saddle. A swift kick in the gut…or a relationship based on proximity, trust, affection and common purpose. In my experience, God almost always uses the gentle method. He even assures us that His yoke is easy and that He is gentle.

I’ve worked in discipleship ministries for a number of years and I’ve seen His people use both strategies. I’ve been the recipient of both. In my experience, banging on people may work for a little while, but it only breeds more resistance. Distrust. And this usually prefaces some sliding and an eventual crash of some sort.

And I’ve had a number of older women come alongside me for a season and love me. Encouraged me to trust them. Our relationship wasn’t always easy, but it always had an element of affection to it. I knew they had my best interest at heart and I was willing to go along with them because of that. They have been some of the most profound influences in my life – they are the reason God sits in my life like He does today.

Discipleship works best from a place of relationship, proximity, trust, affection, gentleness. For both the disciples and the disciple. 

“Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.” Matt. 11:29