In the Details

Every day, Carl waits patiently for his food.

He doesn’t see the food until I place it in his dish, but even so, he knows it is coming. Every once in a while when I forget to open the huge metal can and scoop a portion for him, he will remind me by bellowing out an ear piercing howl. I sure am hungry. I wonder if I will get some food.

For the most part, it is clear that neither dog spends a lot of time worrying that they will be fed. Even though they don’t see the food or know where it comes from, they live their lives without fear of going without being fed.

I wish I could say the same about me.  Even though I have lived a life of having food in the refrigerator and enough money to meet my needs, I can’t help but check my bank account every once in a while to know that all is well.

How often do we miss out on seeing the hand of God work in our lives because of the abundance from our own hands? As much as it scares us to experience hardship, isn’t in these times that God shows up?

Elijah was a prophet that was able to see the hand of God work in a powerful way. He had nothing and to make matters worse, he was called by God to tell the evil Israelite king that there would be a drought that would last for over three years.

As the weeks turned into months and the months turned into years, everyone blamed Elijah for the drought and wanted him dead.  But Elijah trusted God and obeyed Him when he was told to go to a Gentile country and find a widow waiting by a gate.

It’s hard to imagine what Elijah was thinking as he walked over a hundred miles over the scorched land with no sign of food or water. And as he put one foot in front of the other, he must have wondered why God would be sending him to a widow.

Why not send him to a wealthy king or a place that hadn’t been effected by the drought? Isn’t this what we think God should do for us when we feel like we are at our own dead end?  Aren’t we expecting our blessings to be in the form of abundance?

Though it must have made no sense, Elijah obeyed God and found the woman at the gate. And because of his obedience, Elijah and the widow experienced a miracle each day when just enough oil and flour could be found to meet their needs.

We have a lot to learn from this man as well as from my dog Carl. Elijah was willing to head in a direction that made no sense but he did as God called him to do. Carl doesn’t understand where his next meal will come from but he doesn’t spend his time on this earth worrying about it. IMG_4016

Maybe when we are faced with a situation that looks bleak and has no apparent resolution, we can search for God in the details. And as we look with faith, don’t be surprised by the miracles that will be found along the way.

A Small Jar of Oil

2 King 4: 1-2

“The wife of a man from the company of the prophets cried out to Elisha, “Your servant my husband is dead, and you know that he revered the Lord. But now his creditor is coming to take my two boys as his slaves.”

Elisha replied to her, “How can I help you? Tell me, what do you have in your house?”

“Your servant has nothing there at all,” she said, “except a small jar of olive oil.”

Several years ago,

after retiring from teaching, I was unsure what to do with my life. In some ways, I felt like I was starting over. With my career behind me and my children grown and out of the house, I thought I had nothing at all.

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But after looking out unto my back porch and seeing the little fawn colored French Bull dog, I realized that God had given me the perfect muse to work from.

2 King 4: 3-6

“Elisha said, “Go around and ask all your neighbors for empty jars. Don’t ask for just a few.  Then go inside and shut the door behind you and your sons. Pour oil into all the jars, and as each is filled, put it to one side.”

She left him and shut the door behind her and her sons. They brought the jars to her and she kept pouring.  When all the jars were full, she said to her son, “Bring me another one.”

But he replied, “There is not a jar left.” Then the oil stopped flowing.”

Carl has been like the small jar of oil for me.

Many days, when I didn’t see what direction my life was going in, I would look down at my sweet pooch, and God would pour into me a spiritual lesson.

Just like this woman, I have come to realize that God works best with empty jars. If we become so full of ourselves or the stuff that we obtain, we won’t have room for the oil that God wants to pour into us. So we shouldn’t be surprised when God has to clear the clutter from our hearts and even bank accounts in order to make room for the spiritual oil.

Another lesson that I have learned is that when we stay focused on our problems and not on what we do have, we will not be able to be used by God. But if we pour our oil into others, our own jars will be filled.

Carl doesn’t understand any of this but he doesn’t have to. 

All I know is that if I share with others about how God can use a little dog like Carl, He will continue to pour His precious oil into my life and hopefully into the hearts of my readers.IMG_1546

In the Midst of Being Ignored

Even though it was a short trip, I can tell that Carl missed me. Immediately after arriving in the house, the little dog was jumping up and down wanting my attention. To make sure that I would continue looking in his direction, he pulled the blanket off of Bee’s bed and pulled it down the hall. IMG_3957

After Carl pulled the blanket away from his sister and myself, he then started chewing on it and refused to give it up. I knew if I tried to pull it away from him, he would win the tug a war battle. So my only option was to ignore him.

Have you ever felt ignored?

It can bring the worst out of people.  Just this weekend, a woman that I met felt disregarded by a waiter. Instead of assuming the best, she complained bitterly to the manager which almost caused the employee to lose his job. All because she felt ignored.

But it is when we think we are being overlooked by God, that our perception of life can take a downward spiral. Watching people get promoted, achieving their dreams, or witnessing their success can create bitterness in our lives. Many times when we work hard and only see people surpass us in their endeavors, the bitterness can create a hardness towards God.

So how do we keep our hearts close to God?

Paul was a man who had every right to be upset with God. After giving his life to proclaiming Jesus as the Christ, his life plunged into a series of lifetime trials and struggles. But instead of becoming bitter, he made a decision to become what God created him to be.

Paul states it simply in Philippians 4:6-7:  “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.  And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”

Carl realized that he needed to take a different approach. Leaving the blanket on the floor, he came up beside me and rubbed his body up against my leg. As he pressed his body close, he seemed to relax and realize that he was loved without having to exhibit negative behaviors. Wouldn’t it be great if we could take on Paul’s attitude and imitate the actions of a little dog named Carl? IMG_2080

 

 

He Walks into our Pain

Carl made it home safely and even brought a couple of little friends with him. Given that we were staying in a pet friendly cottage should have been a warning that pets were not the only living creatures that resided in the house on a regular basis. IMG_0096

So once we were home, Carl had to be given a flea bath and the fleas were then taken off using a special comb.  This sounds pretty simple but when you have a dog that has been traumatized by a serious surgery, running this sharp device through his fur can be a difficult process.

Trauma can come in many shapes and appearances. There are major ones that everyone on the outside can understand, like the death of a loved one or a life threatening disease.  There are also the lingering effects of trauma that most people living outside of the event have trouble sympathizing with.

Just like Carl wouldn’t permit me to run the sharp bristles of the comb through his hair, people who have suffered a trauma will continue to experience the lingering effects in the most unlikely places. A smell, sound, or vision can bring the memories back without warning.

It is in these times that Jesus can bring a form of healing that cannot come from any other source.  Just remembering how He interacted with people who hurt can bring about some peace.  Never once did He minimize the pain of a person. From healing the woman who had bled for twelve years to giving forgiveness to the Samaritan woman for her adultery, He walked into their pain.

I will never forget being in the hospital after being in a serious boat accident.  I was in pain and whimpering as I waited for surgery.  A nurse came up to me and told me to be quiet, that my pain could be a lot worse, and pointed to a child that was having a spinal tap. I would never discount that others may be in more pain, but my pain was very real to me and the last thing I needed was to be told to suck it up.

I am so thankful for a Savior that is willing to walk into my pain, no matter when it occurs or how insignificant it can appear to others. Just like the woman who took hold of Jesus’s garment, we need to pursue Him for the healing that only He has to offer.

Thankfully, there were not many fleas and I didn’t have to use the comb many times in order to get rid of the unwanted house guests. Even though Carl continued to be suspicious when I approached him, he has returned to his normal playful self.IMG_0536

A Vacation Rescue

As we looked down at our fawn colored French bulldog, stuck between two carts and looking terrified, we knew we had to act quickly. Thankfully the cart behind us had smashed their brakes in the nick of time and saved Carl from a life threatening injury.

Once Carl was back up in the lap of my husband, we continued down the parade route. I couldn’t believe the number of carts that participated in this event. People of all ages and demographics took part in this spectacle. Later I learned that this golf cart parade has been going on since 1974.  CRAZY! IMG_3876

As the week went by, Carl enjoyed the attention he received from strangers. Many who had to leave their own pet at home just wanted a minute or two to stroke Carl’s back and share about their own dog that was left behind.

Early each morning, before the sun peeked out from the horizon, my husband would get up and call for us to join him on the beach. This morning we rose extra early so that we would make sure to see the bright orange ball rise above the ocean line.

It is a good thing that most people that were lingering on the beach had also been jostled out of bed by a loved one. Since I didn’t have a chance to run a comb through my hair, I felt like I was in similar company. IMG_3863 (1)

I must admit that watching the brilliant sun rise gave me a sense that our creator was providing a new day for all of us to enjoy. One tall man with a huge smile greeted us as he passed. Then before I knew it, he had clasped the hands of a middle aged man and could be heard praying.

Isn’t it cool how if you are looking for a spiritual connection, it can be easily found?  It is all about being in touch with the Holy Spirit.  This man was a great example of how God will place the exact person in your life if you keep an open mind and heart.

Days have taken on a pattern.  Getting up early for a walk on the beach and through the campground. Once we get back, Carl takes a little nap before everyone gets up from their slumber. After breakfast, it is off to the water park where there is an area suited for all age groups. IMG_3897

It has been extremely hot this week and Carl spends most of the daytime hours in the comfort of his air conditioned guest house. But once the sun makes its way towards the horizon and the sand is no longer hot, Carl makes his way onto the beach and prances down to the water. IMG_3882

As the week came to an end, Carl has made many new friends. Instead of the typical jumping up behaviors that we witness at home, the little dog has been transformed into a docile pooch.

The last night of our vacation, Carl and I made one last trip to the beach where the sky was being lit up by fireworks. And even though the popping noise is loud, he doesn’t seem fazed by it.  All he seemed to want to do is find the next person to rub his head and be told how wonderful he is.

But as we all know, vacations will always come to an end. And as wonderful as Myrtle Beach was, getting home to our own house and routine seems to be just what Carl is dreaming about. IMG_3901 (1)

Proverbs 16:9: “A man’s heart plans his way, but the Lord directs his steps.”

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Carl lay on his bed with his eyes open and stared at each move we were making. He could feel the excitement of a vacation in the air. With the open suitcase on the bench, Carl was not going to leave it up to chance that he would be coming with us. Once we were up and moving the luggage to the truck, the little dog started showing signs of anxiety.

Would Carl come with us or would he spend the week at a doggy resort? He didn’t know and it was driving him crazy…..

Once the car was packed, Carl heard the words he was dying to hear. “Come on, Carl, jump in the truck.” Leaving his sister Bee behind, we headed down the road.  (Bee is using her talents as a therapy dog this week to make two people very happy. She loves the people that she is staying with. )IMG_3826

So we headed down I-40 to the town of Leland where we were going to meet my daughter and her family.  After two hours of sleeping contently in the back seat, we arrived to a fresh bowl of dog food and into the loving arms of my granddaughter, Ellie.IMG_3828

After a trip to Walmart and a quick lunch of barbeque that we picked up from a fund raiser to help a firefighter who lost his home and wife to a fire, we headed south to Myrtle Beach. What we thought would only take us an hour to get to our destination, ended up taking three.

I am not sure if you have ever been to Myrtle Beach on a Saturday afternoon, and particularly to a huge campground like Ocean Lakes, but if you have, you will know that the traffic is CRAZY. It is a waiting game. Waiting to get to the entrance and at least forty-five minutes of waiting to get the pass to allow us into our destination.

After getting our pass, we thought we were home free but after a wrong turn, an easy drive turned into a maze of houses that seemed to always turn into a dead end. The map that they gave us didn’t help matters.  With eyes that are growing old, it was impossible to find the unit number in the hundreds of numbers that spread across a small space. This is when our patience with each other was cut very thin and our appreciation for our four legged friend was amplified.IMG_3829 (1)

Not once did Carl complain or roll his eyes.  He was just content to be with the humans that he loves. All he did was plaster his face up against the window in anticipation of his vacation home.  Thankfully after a couple of agonizing minutes the cottage was located and Carl was super excited to jump out of the truck.

We were blessed to have a place so close to the beach and it only took a couple of minutes to be on the wide open beach with the sea air swirling all around us. I had to hold Carl back from getting in the water.  His only desire seemed to get his little paws in the water and pick up the seaweed that floated on top of the waves.IMG_1326

Even though we arrived late, no moment was lost until late until the night.  My husband took Carl for his last walk around 9:30.  What he described when he returned sounded like something out of the movies.

If you have ever been to a campground like Ocean Lakes, you know that the mode of transportation is a golf cart.  So during the late evening hours, everyone gets in their ride and cruises down the main strip that parallels the ocean front.

The next day were filled with new smells and places to explore. Carl loved being around so many people and getting so much attention. Some friends of my daughters came over for dinner the next evening. One of the little girls has very limited sight but instantly gravitated towards Carl.  She immediately got on the floor and started stroking his coat. And the amazing thing was that he accepted all of the hands on attention without any signs of stress. It was like he could sense that this young girl was special and that they were giving to each other.IMG_3856

As soon as the friends left to go back to their RV, we all climbed up into the golf cart and made our way to the main strip.  And what we saw was hard to believe. For as far as the eye could see, golf carts were lined in both direction moving at a slow speed. Carl was seated in the back seat on my husband’s lap.

Every cart we passed, my five year old grandson put out his hand and someone from the other line would give it a warm slap or even a piece of candy. For the next thirty minutes, we moved slowly to the other side of the campground. It had now grown dark and it was tricky to maneuver the cart forward due to the tight squeeze between the vehicles.

Carl did a wonderful job of sitting while we went down the parade route. He sat as still as he could and even held out his paw to the people coming in the opposite direction.  And then it happened. The cart jolted to a stop and Carl tumbled off the seat and into the path of an oncoming cart.IMG_1337

The look of sheer terror by the woman in the cart behind us told the story. Was our little dog hurt? Had this fun adventure turned into a nightmare?

 

 

 

 

 

Without a Rudder or a Sail

Carl appeared to have control as he walked with his head held high leading the way through the neighborhood. It wasn’t until he encountered a cat that he realized that he wasn’t able to break free and pounce on his arch enemy. Instead of being in control, Carl realized that he could only go as far as the leash would take him.img_3808.jpg

We all want to be in control of our circumstances in life. And as long as we assume everything is going the way we think it should, we set ourselves on cruise control and hold our heads up high. It isn’t until we encounter a situation that we don’t see the outcome, that we realize that we don’t have any control at all.

Many years ago, my husband and I owned a catamaran sailboat. He absolutely loved the feeling of getting the air into the sails and bring the boat up on one side. On the other hand, I was petrified when the boat would rise above the surface of the water.

This was particularly true one Labor Day weekend when we placed the boat into the calm sound and steered the boat through the inlet over to the beach. For two days, everyone enjoyed riding out into the ocean and skidding across the water. But on the day that we had to return the boat to the sound side in order to place it on the trailer, the winds and waves picked up drastically.

As I climbed onto the boat, my adrenaline was pumping and a deep seated fear entered my entire being. I knew that if the boat turned over, it may be impossible for my husband to right it up again which could have led to our deaths.

As the winds whipped around us and the waves caused us to dip up and down on the water, my husband realized that something was very wrong. Apparently the ropes had not been tacked correctly and he couldn’t steer the boat. So with only one option, he handed me the steering device and told me to not let go while he climbed down the side of the boat to correct the situation.

During those few moments, I knew that I had no control of what would happen next. There was nothing that I could do but pray and hold fast. This is what it must have felt like when Noah and his family entered the ark and closed the doors.  With no sail or rudder, this family must have wondered what would happen as the rain hit the roof and the boat began to rock back and forth.

Genesis 7:17-24 states, “For forty days the flood kept coming on the earth, and as the waters increased they lifted the ark high above the earth.  The waters rose and increased greatly on the earth, and the ark floated on the surface of the water.  They rose greatly on the earth, and all the high mountains under the entire heavens were covered.  The waters rose and covered the mountains to a depth of more than fifteen cubits. Every living thing that moved on land perished—birds, livestock, wild animals, all the creatures that swarm over the earth, and all mankind.  Everything on dry land that had the breath of life in its nostrils died.  Every living thing on the face of the earth was wiped out; people and animals and the creatures that move along the ground and the birds were wiped from the earth. Only Noah was left, and those with him in the ark. The waters flooded the earth for a hundred and fifty days.”

I am sure the entire time that Noah and his family were inside the ark they must have known that they had no control.  They only had faith that God would see them through the situation.

Though my ordeal only lasted an hour, I prayed a lot and rested in the fact that God was in control, not me. As for Carl, he will never understand God’s sovereignty but that’s okay. I will let him think he is leading even when he isn’t. img_1328