Void Spaces

Poor Carl.  He has been removed once more. First he was taken from his home where he resides as the king and taken to my daughter’s home for the week we were on vacation. After spending less than two days with her family, he was taken to doggy daycare to finish out his days until our return.

Having the luxury of cameras to give us a clear view of Carl’s actions, we witnessed his removal from the play area after an altercation with another dog. We understood the decision to send him back to his cage, but the thought of him being secluded, hurt our hearts.

Every couple of hours we would turn the app on and seek out our little dog among the others only to see void space where Carl would be. Void space can also be found in our hearts where God should reside.  Ecclesiastes 3:11 states that God has put eternity into our hearts. A space where nothing or no one can fill.

Most people strive to fill the space with things, power, or success. They will even try to occupy it with a relationship or two. But no matter how much is crammed in, it just won’t fit. Given a square won’t fit into a circle peg, anything outside of the will of God, will not fit into the space that God has placed in our hearts.

Several hours later, we turned the app on once more to see Carl wondering around the large room among the many dogs. The girl in the room seemed to have her eyes set on him to make sure he behaved. Carl even seemed cautious as he wondered around, making sure that he could stay in this space that once was void.

Pouring Courage into One Another

I walked in the door after being away for a day and Carl was there to jump up and welcome me. I admit that I love the unsolicited encouragement that both he and Bee lavish upon me, no matter how long I have been away.

Dogs are so wonderful when it comes to demonstrating their unconditional love for us humans.  Particularly when we don’t deserve it. They don’t keep a record of wrongs.  All they want is to receive a little attention and stroking of the fur and they’re good to go.

“But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called “Today,” so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness.” (Hebrews 3:13)

Wow, if we could take a lesson from our four legged friends, everyone would be in such a better place.  If every day, we could encourage (pour courage) into the ones that are closest to us, what a better world we would live in.

God’s Grace- Unanswered Prayers

Carl ran through the doggy door and made his way from room to room in search of his male companion. Little did he know that my husband went out one door as Carl was waiting for the electronic door to open for him to come inside.

Once Carl made it through the door, he was confused and was in a state of despair. But instead of dwelling on the disappointing circumstances, he settled for a good petting from me.

How often do we go through doors in our lives, with certain expectations, only to find the rooms void of what we long for? Then when we are in the space and don’t find what we hope for, we sulk or become angry with God.

Moses, in Numbers 11, was given the responsibility of leading the Israelites after they were freed from the Egyptians. He may have thought that being delivered from their enemies would have humbled these people but instead he was left with millions of complaining people. Feeling totally overwhelmed, Moses prays to God to take his life.

Moses had entered a space in his life that lacked any hope or peace. His plea to have his life taken was clearly an indication that this wasn’t where he wanted to be. God saw this and instead of answering his prayer, he gave him seventy men, filled them with his spirit, and lightened Moses’ load.

This wasn’t what Moses had asked for but thankfully, God knew what Moses needed more than he did. In the same manner, we can be praying for a specific answer to a prayer that isn’t what is best for us. So instead of sulking when life doesn’t look like we think it should, trust in the God who knows what is best for us.

As for Carl, he became content after I scratched under his ears for a minute. He then laid on the floor and rested until the sound of the opening door woke him.

Intentions, A Personal Encounter with Jesus

Carl is very intentional in what he does. He knows what he wants and doesn’t waiver from doing everything he can to get it. Take for instance his desire for treats. Carl will sit, lie down, or stay in order to get a piece of food. If he wants attention, he will take his paw and claw at your arm until you pet him.

But as intentional as Carl is for food, Jesus was more so for the purpose set before him by his heavenly father. A great example of this comes in the fourth chapter of John when he travels through Samaria.  Most Jews never would go through this region because they knew the people hated them. But Jesus intentionally walked to Sychar and sat down at a specific well and waited.

Have you ever been in a time of life where you felt hopeless and that God was nowhere to be found? This is what Photina felt as she went to get her daily supply of water. Stuck in a cycle of searching for fulfillment through men, this woman had no understanding of how to get unstuck. Deep down in her soul there was a yearning for something more than the men that she slept with. But she was drowning with no way to save herself from the life that she had created.

Little did she know that a man was waiting for her at the well that would change her life forever. A man that had intentionally walked through a forbidden land until he was tired and hot just to have a personal encounter with her.

I have a hard time understanding the compassion that Jesus had as he waited. Compassion for a woman that others had rejected and saw nothing good in. But not Jesus. He saw something in this woman that would cause him to deliberately walk out of his way and wait.

And if Jesus would intentionally go many miles out of his way for this woman, why shouldn’t I believe that he will go out of his way for me?

Photina was never the same again after her encounter with Jesus. Her two sons and five sisters were known for their outspoken confession of Jesus as Lord. And as ironic as it is, Photina was ultimately thrown into a well by Emperor Nero’s orders where she died for her faith.

Carl just scratched my leg so that I would pet his coat and give him the attention he believes he deserves. His intentional actions are a good reminder to stop and think about how Jesus deliberately searched for Photina and is now searching for me.

(If you enjoy reading this blog, you will enjoy my new book, Empty Hands.  It will be on Amazon on September 6th.)

A Walk For Faith

Carl and I are very different when it comes to walks. Our little dog absolutely loves to go out into the world and stroll down any path or road near our house. It doesn’t matter how long he and my husband go or even what the temperature is.  Just call Carl’s name and follow it with the word, “walk” and we have a happy dog.

Now for me, I will join Carl and my husband on a regular basis but it isn’t something I really enjoy. I find walking a little on the boring side and choose other kinds of exercise to accomplish my fitness goals. I particularly don’t like going when I am not sure of the final destination.

This is why when I think about the amount of walking the disciples of Jesus did, I become amazed. There is one particular walk that blows my mind when I consider how far they went without having a clue of the purpose of their journey.

It is a story that is easily overlooked and most people don’t even consider the circumstances surrounding the walk. It begins with Jesus being bombarded by a bunch of religious leaders trying their best to prove that He is a farce.  His disciples are beginning to wonder about who Jesus is and so instead of trying to convince them with words, Jesus plans a field trip.

So they start walking. I am sure the disciples were like most children we know and asked Jesus countless times if they were close to their destination. Given how I felt yesterday when walking four miles, I can’t imagine how they were feeling after two days of trodding down a sandy path in the middle of nowhere.

After four days, they finally come to a small town near Sidon which is between fifty and sixty miles from where they began. The disciples must have been a little cranky as they waited for some incredible miracle to happen. But all they saw were Gentiles that looked at them like they were scum off the bottom of their shoes.

Not seeing anything worth coming this long way was probably causing these men to become frustrated. To top it off, a woman’s persistent scream for Jesus could be heard over the crowd without any signs of stopping. As the woman drew closer, the disciples began to become extremely annoyed.

The disciples were probably getting a little aggravated with Jesus. The woman wouldn’t be quiet and Jesus acted like He didn’t hear her. Even after several disciples tried to get her to be quiet, she continued. They then turned to Jesus, but He didn’t seem in the least bit interested in addressing the woman.

Finally, the woman makes her way to Jesus and kneels down in front of Him and calls out, “Lord, Son of David, have mercy on me! My daughter is demon possessed and is suffering terribly.”

Then Jesus makes a statement that most people would have thought would be insulting. He replied, “It is not right to take the children’s food and toss it to the dogs.”

The woman responded, “Yes it is Lord. Even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from the table.”

Then Jesus looked down with incredible compassion and stated, “Woman, you have great faith! Your request is granted.” (Matthew 25:25-28)

So why did Jesus and his disciples walk so far into Gentile territory?  There is no other miracles recorded here. There is no interaction with important people or famous landmarks.  Why would Jesus take at least ten days out of his busy schedule to travel so far?

There is only one answer. To celebrate the faith of this one Gentile woman. This woman’s declaration of who Jesus was demonstrated a stronger faith than any of his disciples had shown since Jesus started his ministry. And Jesus wanted his disciples to witness it first-hand.

In the future while I take my walks, I will spend some time contemplating the distance these men covered. But what I will remember the most is how Jesus was willing to take the time out of his busy schedule to seek out this woman of faith and the miracle she received.

I don’t think Carl thinks a lot when he is going on his walks. But even so, I can learn from his walking attitude and try and seek out the miracles that maybe right in front of me.

Carl’s Perception of Truth

Carl has been gone for almost two weeks.  His life hasn’t interceded with ours except through pictures and Facetime. And even though we see him on the screen, he isn’t a part of our present.

My husband and I have been on a cruise to Alaska while Carl has been rotating between staying with our daughter and a pet resort. So it is easy to say that our reality on the cruise ship is very different from our four legged friend.

We have been experiencing average temperatures in the 70s while Carl has been enduring scorching 90 degree temps. Our reality has been sailing across the ocean at about 23 miles an hour looking out over beautiful snowcapped mountains while Carl has been confined to the backyard with four little people to get along with.

In other words, our perception of life has been altered by our circumstances. Neither Carl or my husband and I are living the truth of the life that we are typically bound by. 

So how do we know what truth is when our circumstances have been changed so drastically?  There is only one way.  Only one person who spoke truth regardless of the circumstances. John 14:6 states, “I am the way, and the truth and the life.”

Jesus is truth and the barometer in which to compare ourselves by, no matter our present circumstances.  So no matter where we are on this planet, if we know Jesus through His words, we will have the life He planned for us.

Carl may think that this life he is presently living will be his reality for the remainder of his days. He doesn’t know when he will return or if he will. On the other hand, as I write this, I know that tomorrow I will port in Seattle and I will fly across the country to my home in North Carolina where life will return to the reality that I am accustomed to. No matter where Carl and I find ourselves, I know that truth isn’t found in my circumstances or even the place where I reside.

Life From a Different Perspective

Carl has literally been kicked off his precious couch. All week, Eli, our grandson, has been staying with us which means Carl doesn’t get first bids on the place he calls his. But that isn’t the only thing that has had to change. All of us, including Carl have had to change our perspective.

Eli sees life through a different lens than most people. He has a touch of Autism that impacts not only how he encounters life but how everyone around him does. If you haven’t had the good fortune to spend time with someone with Autism, I have to tell you that you are missing out!

As a special educator, I was blessed to spend entire days with children that have a “seat on the rainbow”. These incredible little people taught me so much about how to live life to the fullest. But in order to encounter the blessing, you MUST take off your conformity glasses. I can promise you that if you keep them on, life becomes one entangled mess. But if you are willing to go a bit out of your comfort zone and let go of your own reigns, you will experience a side of life that is only available to a select few.

Just the other day, my husband took Eli for a bike ride. When he returned he gave me a taste of this other dimension. The first woman that they encountered on their ride was a woman that greeted Eli with “good morning”. So of course in Eli’s mind, that was what you do. So every person he rode past on the trail received a “good morning”. It didn’t matter if they returned the salutation or not. Or even if they grumbled or gave an awkward look.  The rule was “good morning” and Eli kept it every single time.

God has blessed us with many different kinds of people in this world. Jesus embraced the ones that we might tend to dismiss or turn away from. But if you would take the time to take off your own conformity glasses and try and see people like Jesus did, you might be blessed like we have been.

As for Carl, he has been very patient and willing to give up his spot for Eli. He has even realized that there is a benefit to having our little house guest around. With extra pets and a warm body to snuggle up against, Carl has also been blessed by our guest.