“Make It Small.”

There is this scene in the movie Man Of Steel that deeply moves me.  It is where a young Clark Kent is in school and his powers of x-ray vision and super hearing are coming in.  He sees through people to their skeletons and hearts.  He not only hears what he is supposed to hear, but the things people whisper, that they meant to keep hidden.  And the sheer volume of it all is overwhelming to him.

I’m finding that there are people out there who have something of these abilities too.   It is like they have a spiritual/emotional type of x-ray vision and super hearing.  They see and hear pain in others.  They are aware that there are deeper layers underneath almost everything we say and do, and they are tuned into this spiritual/emotional wavelength.  It plays under the actual words of most conversations.  It reveals itself in body language.  It can hide in subtle facial expressions that are gone almost as quickly as they appear.  It is cloaked in what isn’t said, in pauses, in deep breaths and in misty eyes that glance away.  And they notice what others often miss.  These are the people who pay attention to others in a way that isn’t always common.

I think Jesus was speaking about these “tuned-in” people when He said in Matthew 13:16, ” But blessed are your eyes because they see, and your ears because they hear.”  Because people whose ears are acutely tuned into and aware of the pain of others, are often acutely tuned in to the voice of God as well.  They understand that He is ever-present, always working, constantly speaking and deeply invested in our goings-on.  They know how to look for Him and His handiwork in both their and in other’s lives.  They know how to listen for His voice and leading, both in their and in other’s lives.  They recognize that pain is often a door He walks through on His way into someone’s heart.

And in response, they are willing to step up and enter in and help.

I am also finding that this ability and heart posture, while a blessing, can be weight to carry as well.

It is a wonderful thing, to know your life has more meaning than just self-gratification, consumption and the pursuit of fun.  It is a gift to be a helper – and to know people and situations are better after your participation than before.

And it can be absolutely exhausting at the same time.  How is it possible to see just how dark the world can be… to know that most every person you encounter is managing some level of pain… to hear words in conversation that point to brokenness… to want to change, if not the world, then at least your corner of it…and not be overwhelmed by it all?

In his pain with seeing and hearing too much, Clark’s mom came to his side and taught him a most valuable skill.  When he, through tears said, “The world is too big, mom,’ she replied, “Then make it small.”  She helped him learn to focus.

The way our world works, sometimes it is too big.   With technology,  we are connected to too many people and their stories.  We have too much access to news, to statistics, to pictures.  The level of pain we are able to witness and touch – we were never meant to carry all this.   Not that we should run away and hide from the world we live in.  I am convinced that followers of Jesus should be more aware than most of what is going on in the world, let our hearts be broken by it and moved into action to bring the redemption of Jesus’ kingdom into people’s lives.

But we must learn to how to focus…on what we can carry…on what we should carry…on what is closest to us and where we should invest our emotional and spiritual capital.    Because if we don’t, we can get overwhelmed and crushed by the weight of a burden we were not designed for and never meant to hold.  Therefore, I am attempting to learn the spiritual practices of making my world a little smaller.  Not because I don’t want to engage the world – but because I so desperately WANT TO engage the world.  I’ve got to find a way to do it…and be able to survive at the same time. 

These include:

Limits on my use of technology …so that I don’t give away to others, the emotional energy that belongs to those in my immediate circle of affection and influence…so that I don’t allow the volume of information coming in to overwhelm me to the point of numbing.  Too much online time acts like spiritual Novocaine for me.  While not isolating myself, making sure that those with the most intimate access to me and my heart are healthy – so that my personal time is restful and not draining.  The embrace of regular silence and solitude.  Sometimes for long periods of time.   Allowing my heart to rest and recover…allowing me to assess where damage has been done…allowing Jesus to have full access to my heart so He can grow and strengthen it to hold some of the darkness I encounter.  Learning that some days, it is totally ok to turn my eyes and ears off and just focus on what is in front of me – like play time with my kids, a good meal or enjoying a walk in the gentle spring sunshine.  Learning that I don’t have to be super-serious and intense all the time.  Play is ok.  Small talk is ok.  Realizing that, while Jesus has called me to be aware, involved and compassionate, He has also called me to be human.

Learning to make things small, while not running away from big…I’m pretty sure these are skills of those who are able to live sustainable and beautiful lives, with healthy rhythms of both engagement and rest.   Lives not just of vision, but of focus.  Lives that are able to change their corner of the world…sometimes much more than that…and thrive in such away that they can then teach others to do the same.

Matthew 13:15 -16  For this people’s heart has become calloused; they hardly hear with their ears, and they have closed their eyes. Otherwise they might see with their eyes, hear with their ears, understand with their hearts and turn, and I would heal them. But blessed are your eyes because they see, and your ears because they hear.

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Learning To Trust My GPS – And Jesus Too

I did something today I have never done before.  I trusted my GPS.  I turned it on, listened to its guidance, and followed its directions.  I didn’t double-check it before leaving on my trip.  I didn’t argue with it as I drove. google map app I didn’t constantly verify that it, and I, were on the correct path.   I didn’t worry about two or three turns ahead.  I just listened for the next one and took it as it came.

I trusted and followed… and got where I needed to go.  And it was so refreshing to be able to relax along the way and enjoy the journey I was on.

Oh, I’ve used my GPS countless times in the past and find it very helpful in getting from one place to another.  I am not a Luddite or helplessly old school.  But I’m afraid I am THAT person.  You know THAT person.  Me and my GPS have a much more complicated relationship than we should.  I talk to her. I frequently question that she knows what she is doing.  Because I am never really sure she’ll be able to get me to where I need to go safely and in a timely manner. Because I kind of like to make my own plans.  Because, while I’m not a control freak…let’s just say I often prefer to reduce the number of people and things I am dependent on.  Therefore, I tend to do my route planning ahead of time so that, even though I take her with me everywhere, I don’t actually need her.  Even though getting me from point A to point B is her job.  Even though trusting her would make my life so much easier.

Today, Jesus let me know this is how I treat Him sometimes.  Sigh.

Years ago I told Him that I would let Him lead…and that I would follow.  In fact, we’ve spent years together, with me learning to hear and listen to His voice.  With me learning to trust that He is more than capable of handling the details of my heart and life.  With me learning to believe that He really, really loves me and wants the best for me…that He knows exactly where we are going and how to get there…and that He is very willing and able to take care of me along the way.

Yet there are so many times I try to orchestrate my life, my spiritual life even, so that I don’t really need Him.  So that functionally, He isn’t leading, but just accompanying me as I do my best to manage it all on my own.

And I realized how very tired that has been making me.  Basically, I’ve been trying to do my job and His at the same time.  And trying to do His job is like…well…it’s like trying to be God when you are not.  Those shoes are too big for anyone to fill.  It is not only exhausting, it is a recipe for getting so very lost along the way.

Again…sigh.

While not a perfect metaphor, (of course there are times we should look ahead, be aware of our location, make plans, etc) this day, my traveling experience was a gift.  It showed me something of my heart and practices – and invited me to do things differently.  It showed me that if I am willing to trust Him, to listen, to not over think His words and Word, I can learn to relax along the way and enjoy the journey I’m on.

John 10:27 “My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me.” – Jesus

Slowness Isn’t The Same As Abandonment (Jesus pt. 89)

There are days when my life feels so painfully slow. The times past when it all felt vibrant or active seems so far away that I almost can’t remember them. It can feel like Jesus is molasses. That my life is stuck in neutral with nowhere to go. I know the right answer here. My life isn’t slow. There is always much going on in it and inside of me, even if from an outside view it appears so…well…slow.DSC03569

Yet.

I am tempted in those moments and days, sometimes those weeks or months (or years), to view the slowness of my life as Jesus’ abandonment of me. I think and feel that if I can’t readily identify His work in and with my life in the terms I expect, then He must not be present. Must not be pleased with Me. Must have abandoned me. Must not love or want me.

I am learning that slowness isn’t the same as abandonment. On the contrary, His slowness in my life is often a sign of His deep work in my heart. Of His very near presence.

An earthquake, the power to move and shape continents, appears sudden and random to us on the outside. But it is actually the result of years of subtle, gradual, inexorable movement and foundational shifting that takes place under the surface. The build-up is hidden. The speed and power of an earthquake is predicated upon a prolonged season of perceived slowness.

Sanctification works in a similar way. We want the spiritual earthquake…the change now. We resist the tension and time required to move the truly big things in our heart.

Slowness doesn’t mean nothing is happening. It doesn’t mean we’ve been abandoned. It might mean there are things going on underneath our sight lines that are so big, they need time to develop fully. Then, when the shaping forces with in us have reached their fulfillment… the speed of things just might take our breath away, just might change the landscape of our lives so suddenly or dramatically that we are utterly amazed and profoundly delighted.

I am learning that God’s slowness may actually be a sign of His favor. Of His purposes. Of His intentional movement. Because He isn’t working on small things in me, but the continental.

And if I can learn to wait on Him, to cooperate with His work in my life for which time has no substitute…I just might be utterly amazed and profoundly delighted by the results.

2 Pet. 3:8 But do not forget this one thing, dear friends: With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day.

“Somebody Give Me A Xanax And Knock My @ss Out” –

Context: It was on a Friday night and Jeff and I were in the emergency room. He had been out of the hospital for just one week after our month-long ordeal there with Jeff’s cancer, surgeries, ICU stay and many, many complications. It was traumatic for us both to be back so soon. We didn’t know what was wrong yet, how serious things were or how long we would be there. We were tired. Not just physically, but emotionally. Spiritually. We were just done.

Into this moment, and I won’t reveal which one of us said it, these immortal Davis words were uttered…”Somebody give me a Xanax and knock my @ss out!” (Xanax is an anti-anxiety medication) To which the other said, “Can I have one too?”

The Davis comedy tour was rolling through the ER that night. Because sometimes things are just so bad, all you can do is laugh. That or go crazy. And they order the Xanax and a padded room for you whether you want it or not.

While Jeff was in the ICU, he had a tube down his throat that prevented him from speaking. So when he was awake, he wrote on a dry erase board. While watching one particularly disappointing Ga Tech football game, he proved his sense of humor was intact by writing this. There is no medication strong enough to take away the pain of rooting for the Yellow Jackets.

If you have kept up with our story (links at bottom)…well…we’ve had quite a few intense months here in the Davis household. We were in pain – of the prolonged sort that leaves you exhausted. Afraid. And so discouraged.  All we wanted at that moment was for it to end.

Pain relief. This is a such a universal desire, isn’t it? One which with we are all familiar. Some days we just want to get off the roller coaster – cause the fun has gone out of the ride and we are about to hurl.

Life can be quite painful. I know you know this. Things don’t work out. Something is lost. We get used. Stolen from. Wounded. Relationships nosedive and end. Hearts break. Guilt and regret follow us mercilessly. Dreams die. Sleep disappears. Uncertainty lives with us front and center. We want something, probably something good and God says no. Sometimes your husband’s health and life are threatened suddenly and you spend months in survival and crisis mode until something in your body or heart breaks. Or so I’ve heard.

In response, many, many choose to live their lives in ‘pain-relief’ mode. Pursuing whatever makes whatever is hurting so bad, not hurt so bad. Even if only for a little while. We sleep or eat too much. We drink or pop some sort of anesthetic. We search for another person to comfort us. We over-entertain ourselves, filling up those quiet moments so that we don’t have to hear our hearts crying. There are as many ways to do this as there are people. (My preferred methods? Buffalo wings, Phineas and Ferb, too much time on Facebook and going to bed as early as I can. I am a multi-level medicator.)

Let me tread carefully because I am not saying that all pain relief is bad. If I have a headache, I take an aspirin. If I injure my foot, I ice and rest it. If I am sick, I go to the doctor. Often, pain relief is a good thing. It can provide some of the space we need to begin healing. Maybe it is necessary for us to function normally. And it is crazy for there to be an easy and sensible solution to pain, to improving the quality of life, to allowing one to function normally when one really, really needs to be able to function normally – and to dismiss it.

Yet…

Sometimes, in the spiritual realm, pain has a work to do. And sometimes, our single-minded pursuit of pain relief can actually preempt the work of God in our lives.

Sometimes our pain can act like a light on the dashboard, alerting us to serious trouble with the engine. It can happen physically and definitely spiritually. Uncontrollable anger erupting at relatively small things. Deep heart sobbing that seemingly comes out of nowhere. Depression that lingers and won’t go away. These can be examples of pain that needs to be explored, to be felt. Because there is a cause for it. And treating the symptom without getting to the root of it is like putting a band aid on a cancer. It might cosmetically hide things for a while, but the problem is not going anywhere. Not until you rip off the band aid, look at it full on and truthfully diagnose the real issue.

Sometimes God chooses to speak to us through pain. He either causes or allows things in our lives that are leading us to something. To Him. To more of Him. To wholeness. To relational restoration. To character development. He leads us into the dark so we can learn to follow His voice, to grow our faith, to strengthen us from the inside out. Pain can focus our attention in a way nothing else can. Numbing it without listening to it can rob you of the chance to hear from God Himself.

And sometimes…and I don’t fully understand this… pain stirs something in our humanity. It awakens in us this deep desire for our healer, for things to be made right and Jesus to come back. It can act like a magnet, pulling us to the only One who can truly ease our pain and heal our wounds. It can change our terribly broken hearts.

Pain is this universal thing that every person walks through. It is one of the common experiences that unites everyone on the planet. Therefore, sometimes it is time for a real or metaphorical Xanax. For rest. For a chance to catch our breath and to create some space to begin recovering from whatever it is that is hurting. And sometimes our pain has a work to do. When this happens, it is in our best interests to lean into it, to listen to it, to feel it fully and to let it do its thing in us. Learning to discern the role of pain in our lives and how we should respond can be a powerful spiritual lesson, leading to a deepening of our faith. To more of Jesus. To healing. To wholeness.

Normal Is So Fragile

The Text Message That Saved Me

Jesus Leads Me Along Unfamiliar Paths

The Emotions Of ICU

While Jeff Has Been Sleeping

My Heart Is Showing

A Long Slow Fall Down A Winding Spiral Staircase

Jeff Is Finally Home

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