Wet Paw Prints

The rain continued to beat against the window pane as Carl looked up from his bed, and then rolled over. It was clear he had no intention of jumping off, and making his way outside to do his business.

For the last couple of weeks, the rain has come in waves, turning our backyard into a pond. Carl has tried to avoid getting wet, but even with his efforts, it is impossible to miss his muddy paw prints scattered across the wood floors.

Just like Carl, at times we leave muddy footprints across the floors of life. They can come from making rash decisions or stating harsh words in the middle of our own personal storms.

Given that life will bring days of squalls and dark clouds, we must prepare ourselves before their arrival.  And who best to emulate than Jesus, the creator of the storms.

“A furious squall came up, and the waves broke over the boat, so that it was nearly swamped. Jesus was in the stern, sleeping on a cushion. The disciples woke him and said to him, ‘“Teacher, don’t you care if we drown?”’ He got up, rebuked the wind and said to the waves, ‘“Quiet! Be still!”’ Then the wind died down and it was completely calm.” (Mark 4:37-39)

Many people have questioned how Jesus could sleep during this horrendous storm when all his disciples were scared to death. Just like these men, we often wonder where Jesus is when we go through storms. And when we can’t find Him, we have a tendency to react out of fear.

I have found that if I focus on what Jesus did during this storm, I will not be consumed with fear but faith. In order to sleep, Jesus must have known the outcome of the storm, and then once He was awoken, He demonstrated His power by calming the wind and waves.

This passage points me to Jesus when I am in the middle of heavy rainstorms. When it doesn’t look like it will ever stop and the sun is missing from the sky, I visualize Jesus sleeping in the stern of the boat.

Carl continued to sleep until the rain subsided and he could go outside without getting drenched. We appreciated his attempt to stay dry but had to laugh as he walked across the wooden floors and left a trail of wet paw prints.

Trading in Bitterness for Blessings

It was clear that Bee was bitter about her situation.  It had been three weeks of hearing the casted paw clunk across the wooden floor. Bee’s freedom had been compromised and instead of free reign of going in and out, she had to have her paw wrapped before going out into the yard.

As she dealt with the uncomfortable cast, her brother, Carl didn’t miss a beat.  He pranced right by his sister to go in and out as he pleased. After weeks of being immobilized, Bee had shown signs of a deep seated anger that could be clearly seen as she watched her brother run circles around her.

Miriam, Moses’s sister knew bitterness. She had lived with it for years as she watched her brother take center stage. She was fed up with being a supporting actress so she corralled her brother Aaron into helping her cause. But when she tried to slander Moses in front of the Israelites, God burned with anger.

Once God finished speaking, Miriam was covered with leprosy from head to toe. Miriam was banished from the Israelite camp and if it wasn’t for Moses’ plea for her, she would have died alone. (Numbers 12:1-3)

For seven days, Miriam lived alone in her bitterness. Because of her sin, everything was put on hold. The people of God were stuck.

Isn’t that what a sour heart does to us?  Keeps us separated and stuck. Unable to move forward in the direction that God wants us to go.

It’s too bad that Bee doesn’t understand how her feelings towards Carl can only hurt her. But as I observe her, I can be reminded of the dangers of focusing on the blessings of others, when God has so many blessings just for me.

Unintended Doors

Since the season has recently changed from winter to spring, Carl has made his way outside to frolic among nature. There is not a lot of wildlife for my little Frenchie to interact with but when a squirrel makes his presence known, Carl is sure to do his best to chase him up a tree or over the fence.

Bee, my other Frenchie, has just as much ambition to clear the backyard of unwelcomed guests as Carl. So one Thursday afternoon when both little pups saw the prey from afar, a chase began that ended with Bee falling and breaking a bone in her paw.

At first, I didn’t know if it was broken or just bruised, but after two days of limping and not putting weight on it, we took her to the vet where the x-ray showed a clear break. Bee was given a cast and we were given directions to wrap the cast to keep it from getting wet when she would go outside.

We have an electric doggy door which Bee has been using for several years.  Her collar has an electrical transmitter that lets the door know that she is near and will automatically open. But since we are supposed to keep her paw dry, we have taken the collar off to protect her paw from getting wet.

Bee doesn’t understand why this door is not responding to her presence. She has begun to give up on the door but every once in a while, Carl will trigger the door and Bee will slip through.

How often have we slipped through a door that wasn’t intended for us? This is why it is so important to closely monitor the friends we keep. I can remember in my past the times that I followed someone through a door that God never intended for me.

Proverbs 12:26 states it perfectly: “The righteous should choose his friends carefully. For the way of the wicked leads them astray.”

My past has been sprinkled with doors that I slipped through because of the desperate need for acceptance.  Times that I didn’t trust God enough to complete me with people that hungered for His righteousness.

Just last night, Bee followed Carl out into the backyard without our knowledge. When she returned, her cast was wet and moldy. And just like her cast will decay, our hearts will also wane from God if we keep going through the door that is not intended for us.

From a Distance

The car slowed to a stop and the man rolled his window down.  Not sure what he was going to say, both my husband and I leaned in. “I just want you to know that you have a good looking dog.” As we thanked him, we couldn’t help but say back in jest, “You can have him, if you want.” (We were just kidding!)

I have also seen Carl from a distance and have to agree that he sure is cute and desirable. But what Carl is from a distance and what he is up, close and personable are totally two different things.

What is it about us humans that cause us to crave the things that are at a distance? So often, we feel the need to have the very thing that can cause us such heartache.

All the Samaritan woman wanted was to have a husband that loved her and she ended up with five broken marriages and a compromised life. The rich young ruler only wanted his wealth and ended up lacking the peace that comes from putting God first.

Jesus clearly tells us in John 6:36 “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.”

If we can only stop looking in the distance for the bread of life and turn to the source, we will finally be content and full.

I personally can’t imagine life without Carl.  Even though it has been difficult at times, I am thankful God has used this little dog to help me draw closer to Him so that I don’t have to continue to desire what is at a distance.

Carl’s Comfort Spot

There was no disputing it. Carl was comfortable and he didn’t want to move. It was turning 9:00 am and he wasn’t even thinking about the possibility of getting up.  But do you blame him?  He had nowhere to go and the sleep he was going in and out of was just too enjoyable to give up.

How often do we wish for an easy alternative when we have been thrown a hard ball in life? I know for myself that when I have a problem that can’t be solved and keeps pestering me, I will tend to start daydreaming about my next vacation.

So why does God allow the hard times to come knocking on our doors of life?  And why does He allow them to not just knock on the door but shove through them and take residence?

Consider Peter. After Jesus was resurrected, this man spent the rest of his life telling others about Jesus. He was constantly persecuted and was crucified upside down for his faith. Peter chose a life of hardship over comfort for only one reason. He believed with his entire being that this world was not his home.

With a heavenly perspective, we all can withstand life’s hardballs. I have often heard that if we live our lives with heaven as our destination, we will be able to withstand the earthly storms that blow our way. But if we only look at life through a worldly perspective, we will end up hopeless.  

I don’t blame Carl for his choice for comfort. If I was a dog, I would look for the most relaxing spot in the house to lay my head. But we are not dogs.  Unlike all other animals, God breathed the breath of life into our nostrils, causing us to be eternal. (Genesis 2:7)

As an eternal being, I am looking forward to my life after this one ends. And I hope to see you there as well.

Slammed Doors

Carl stood at the door waiting for us to call his name to come along on a journey. But today, Carl wasn’t going to be able to come. Instead of joining us for a fun episode of life, the door was shut in his face.

How often do we wait at the door of opportunity to have a door shut in our face? We can be so excited about life one moment and then the next moment, we feel like God has played a joke on us.

It is during these times of trials and suffering, with no entrance in sight that we are forced to take our focus off of what is on the opposite side of the door. It is at this moment that we are provided other options, ones that we may not choose, but ones that have to be faced.

Most of the people Jesus interacted with had doors shut in their face. Individuals just like you and me that were locked out of the dreams that they had based their happiness on. Some chose the path of bitterness and resentment that left them facing the locked exit.

But then there were the few that understood Jesus’s power to show them an upward direction that would transport their earthly journey to a spiritual one.

There was a Gentile woman that knew what life was like to have doors slammed in her face. Her daughter was demon possessed and was suffering. This mother had heard about the miracles that Jesus had performed and believed that He was from God.

The woman respected Jesus’s mission. He had come specifically for the Jews but she had to try. So when she engaged Him in a conversation about dogs eating crumbs, Jesus opened the door of healing. (Matthew 15:21-28)

As we drive down the road towards our destination, I can’t help but think about the door that Carl is facing. Hopefully, he will realize that he needs to look beyond the door until we return. If not, he will be staring at a shut door for quite a while. Poor Carl.

Stuck

Carl is stuck. It has been several nights that he has not budged from the couch.  No matter what I say to him, he refuses to get up and go back to the chair that has been his bed for countless nights.

Carl’s Bed

I have several theories that may be causing my little guy to choose the isolation of the living room over the bedroom where we all have been joined together for the last couple of years. He could be avoiding Bee, who he has been fearful of or he could just be content with being stuck in the couch.

Carl’s greatest fear

If you live long enough in this world, you will encounter a sticky place in life. We can be moving forward and then something occurs that gets us to stay put.  The cause can come out of nowhere or it can be as simple as settling into a routine.

Jesus encountered lots of stuck people.  Some that seemed more set in their ways than others. It was evident that the paralyzed man that sat at the pool of Bethesda was stuck. He had been sitting at the pool for years waiting for someone to help him so that he could be healed. There was also the Samaritan woman who had been stuck in the cycle of sleeping with men to meet a need that she believed couldn’t be met in any other way.

These examples are obvious but have you ever thought of Martha being stuck? Here was a woman that opened her house up for Jesus and was busy preparing a meal for him.  How can her innocent behavior be perceived as being stuck? If you take away the layers of duty and good works, you will see someone stuck in bitterness and resentment.

I can totally relate to being stuck where Martha was. For years, I took pride in my works and as I looked around, anger would come gushing out towards the people that weren’t working as hard as I was. My heart grew a hard shell towards people that I believed were getting an easy pass in life.

But then Jesus spoke to me through Martha. “Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “You are worried and upset about many things, but few things are needed—or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.” Luke 38:41-42

I can envision Jesus doing what I do a lot with both Carl and Bee. He took his fingers and pointed them right at me and then turned them towards Him. “Cora, Cora, you are worried and upset about many things. Take your focus off of others and place them on me.”

Life has been so much better since the stickiness of bitterness and resentment have been unglued. I can’t say they don’t come to visit every once in a while but if I keep my eyes on my savior, I can keep them from sealing onto my heart.

Carl is still stuck to the couch and the fear that must be keeping him there. Hopefully, he will make a decision to unglue himself but until then, I know where I can find him.