Shaking Off the Anger

Bee was the first French Bull dog that we owned. She was a perfect little dog and loved her life with my husband and I. As a puppy, she got all of our attention which meant snoozing in my husband’s lap in the evening and sleeping at the end of our bed each night.

She loved the long walks we would take and other than pulling too hard on her leash, she was obedient and practically ignored all the other dogs on the trail. Her life basically revolved around sleeping when we were away and playing with her bones.

And then in December of 2014, her life changed drastically. It has been difficult to know how she has felt about her brother. With his demanding personality, Bee has had to fight for the attention that just came naturally her way.

I am proud of our little girl and how well she has handled the changes that have taken place in her short lifetime. She could have become very bitter and turned her feelings into angry rage. But not our little Bee.

Recently with the addition of a third dog, Bee has demonstrated that she doesn’t get her happiness from what is happening around her. Instead, it has been made clear that she has been blessed with a positive disposition and is able to go with the flow.

For some of us, going with the flow comes easily but for others it can be much more difficult to let the unwanted obstacles in life pass by without getting upset. Every time an unplanned circumstance that disrupts our life comes our way, we are faced with a decision. Do we get aggravated and wear our irritation on our sleeve or do we hand over our feelings to God?

Ephesians 4:26-27 is packed with some great advice about anger. It states, “In your anger do not sin: Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, 27 and do not give the devil a foothold.”

God knows we will become angry at times but it doesn’t give us an excuse to sin. He also knows that we need to let our anger go and not stay mad even for a day. There is nothing that Satan wants more than for us to stay angry and ultimately sin because of it.

One of the attributes that I love about dogs is their ability to let anger go. One minute Bee, Carl, and Leo can have their hair raised up and ready to fight and the next, they shake off their anger and walk away. The next time I become angry, I hope to remember how Bee has been able to move past her own feelings of being an only dog and give myself a good shake and move on.

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What Might Happen

A friend’s dog is staying with us.  Another French Bull dog. He is a good looking brindle with brown eyes and a face that you have to love. Carl has been tolerating the invasion of another male bully but there are rules that we must all follow. The most important one is that Carl gets the maximum amount of attention, no matter the circumstances.

This is being lived out as I write this. Leo has begun to bark at Carl and a staring contest is going on right behind my chair. Carl doesn’t want Leo to receive the attention that he believes belongs only to him.

A couple of minutes ago, I had Carl in my lap and was stroking his back as Leo slipped beside the chair. What happened next is so typical of my little dog. Carl began to show his dismay by growling under his breath. Here he was, in his favorite spot in the whole world, and he couldn’t enjoy it because of his obsessive thoughts about what might happen.

How often do we get sucked into thinking about all the things that might happen and disregard the pleasantries of the present? We can be enjoying a beautiful fall day without too many worries, and a thought about the future pops into our brain and takes over. Instead of sending the thought on its way, we allow the thought to make its home in our heads.

As I cruised through the Bible to find verses that can help us, I was amazed at how many verses addressed worry or thinking about things we need to stay away from. Proverbs 55:22 states, “Cast your cares on the LORD and he will sustain you; he will never let the righteous be shaken.”

So instead of worrying about situations that we don’t have control over, go to God in prayer. And when we pray, start with thanking Him for the power He possesses to overcome any and all situations that we may be worried about.

It is too bad that Carl doesn’t understand how to pray and move beyond the worries that have consumed him. Instead he converts over to the piercing howl that I have grown to know as his way of drawing more attention his way.

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Carl’s New Normal

I haven’t seen Carl in days and can only wonder how he is adjusting to his new family. It is strange not to have my four legged friend looking up at me with his soft brown eyes and scratching my leg so that I will reach down and give him the attention that he desires. I can’t help but think about how he is handling this drastic change in his life.

Drastic changes. Ones that we can’t predict and have no control over. There are many people in Florida and Houston that have had their world transformed with no idea of how to adjust to their new normal.

New normals can either make people bitter or better. What determines this can be found within the person and not necessarily the circumstances that surround them. A great example of this can be found in Numbers 13. Moses had assigned one man from each of the Israelite tribes to go and explore the Promised Land and come back and give a report.

We should remember that these people had been abused and used by the Egyptians for years. Then God trained up Moses to lead the Israelites out of Egypt and to bring them into a land that He had promised them through Abraham.

It would seem that these people should have trusted God after He had miraculously brought them through the Red Sea and then devoured the Egyptians. But as we all know, we can have a very short memory when we are placed in perilous situations.

So when the men came back, Only two out of twelve men had the faith to believe that God would provide them a way into the land that they had been promised.

Numbers 13: 30-31 states,” Then Caleb silenced the people before Moses and said, “We should go up and take possession of the land, for we can certainly do it.” But the men who had gone up with him said, “We can’t attack those people; they are stronger than we are.”

How often do we doubt that God can get us through the times of uncertainty?

More time than we think… Just as the men couldn’t believe that God actually had a place that was better for them, we also doubt how God can get us through times of trials.

As for Carl, he has been staying with some friends that have been living in our home while we have been away on vacation. I have heard that he has been behaving himself for the most part. I guess he has been able to adapt to his new normal better than we expected.

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Making Himself at Home

When I got home today, my husband told me that Carl and Bee had gone exploring down the road.  Apparently, the wind had opened the screen door and the dogs took their opportunity to escape.

But what Carl did after he got lose was surprising.  Instead of heading straight to the neighbors he loves so much, he decided to make his way to unchartered territory.

The houses on our street each have close to an acre and are pretty spread apart. Each yard is full of pine trees in the back of the homes with nothing but game land bordering the lots. Happy to be free, Carl and Bee ran past three houses and noticed that the backdoor of the fourth house to be open.

Being the curious dog that he is, Carl looked in and spotted a big sheep dog and the owner of the house and made his way past them, jumped up on the couch, and made himself at home. Bee on the other hand, wouldn’t come in and decided to run back in the direction of home.

The owner of the house thought this was very amusing but knew he needed to find out where Carl had come from. So he left Carl slumbering and walked down to find the owner of this peculiar dog. Once my husband realized that both Bee and Carl were missing, he grabbed a leash and headed down the road.

As I thought about how Carl could have made a bad decision that could have led him into danger, I can’t help but think about all the animals that are being impacted by Hurricane Irma and Harvey. It breaks my heart to think about the animals that will suffer because of these storms.

I couldn’t imagine having to make a choice of leaving for shelter without my two dogs. This provoked me to ask what God thinks about the animals that He puts in our lives. I was truly encouraged when I read Proverbs 12:10.  “A righteous man regards the life of his animal.”

Matthew 6:26 states, “Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?”

Both of these verses encourage me as we wonder how the animals will survive through these hurricanes. My prayers are definitely with these four legged friends.

As for Carl, when my husband made his way into our neighbor’s house, he couldn’t help but laugh at our little dog and how he had made himself at home.

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Allusions of Reality

Carl could see his reflection in the window pane and started to howl at it. He couldn’t be convinced that what he was barking at wasn’t real. So instead of ceasing, he took the barking up another notch. Determined to make the allusive figure leave, he looked right at it and then back at me. Realizing my little dog wasn’t going to stop the ear piercing screech, I opened the door so that Carl could go out and see that the image wasn’t real.

Reality. As I watched Carl react to the suggestive figure on the other side of the glass, I began to ponder how we can be just like him as we go through this life. Reality can mean many things to different people. For some, making money, seeking power, and climbing the ladder of success is their reality. For others, putting all their hopes and dreams into their family is their definition of what is true and right.

But what if this life is a temporal set of circumstances that isn’t reality at all. What if what Jesus tried to tell us when he walked this earth is the only true reality? In John 12, Jesus knew he would be crucified in only a few days and his words became more urgent.

John 12:44-46 states, “Then Jesus cried out, “Whoever believes in me does not believe in me only, but in the one who sent me. 45 The one who looks at me is seeing the one who sent me. 46 I have come into the world as a light, so that no one who believes in me should stay in darkness.”

Could this light he is referring to be the true reality? If so, where can we find it? And how can we be sure that we are living a life based on truth and not on an allusive falsehood?

I must remember the facts about this man. Jesus died. Just like we all will do. But this is where He was different. He actually rose from the dead and walked on the earth. He ate bread with his friends and even allowed Thomas to place his finger through the hole in his hand. But what gives me the most encouragement is that He ascended into Heaven and now sits at the right hand of the Father.

So if Jesus is the reality that lasts for eternity, it gives me a lot to think about as I ponder how to live out my life.

After a while, Carl stopped barking and laid down on the cool floor to wait for another allusion to bark at. As the daylight changed how it reflected on the window, the figure that he once saw disappeared and was no longer real.

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From Old to New

First of all, I want to let everyone know that Carl is doing well. He has stopped coughing and has resumed his normal activity. But whatever Carl had, Bee now has. She has been displaying symptoms for the last couple of days. The only encouragement is that since Carl is now better, I am hoping that she will also get over this sickness.

For two days, Carl, Bee and I were imprisoned in my bedroom while a team of four painters scurried through my house and painted all the walls. Once they were finally finished and we were able to leave the confines of the bedroom, I felt I was going into a new house. With each wall painted and no pictures displayed, it felt like we were at a fresh starting point.

Since I haven’t moved in over thirty four years, it felt good to think I had a new pallet to work with. I could display pictures in an original format and rearrange furniture. It will be the same house but new in many respects.

Jesus shared an interesting parable in Luke 5:37-38 that took some study to understand. He stated, “And no one pours new wine into old wineskins. If he does, the new wine will burst the skins, the wine will spill, and the wineskins will be ruined. Instead, new wine is poured into new wineskins.”

I am sure the Pharisees were just as perplexed as we are today when hearing this parable. The Pharisees were stuck in their traditions and didn’t want to change how they had worshipped God for centuries. Jesus had challenged their convictions and they not only didn’t like it but wanted him killed. The new wine, Jesus, could not be placed in the old wine skins, the Pharisees’ desire to maintain the power that comes from being religious leaders.

For us today, when we encounter the real Jesus, it will cause us to want to change. He will cause us to have a desire to be different than what we have been. And hopefully, the new wine of Jesus can go into our transformed vessels. As for my house, I am in the process of changing things up. Placing pictures that have meaning in the forefront and packing up pictures that have no significance.

Carl has been perplexed by all the changes but as long as he gets his food and has his usual throne to sleep on, he will be fine.

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Muzzled

Carl was awake most of the night. He had started throwing up two days ago and last night it became chronic. Several times my little dog placed his paws on the bed frame hoping that I would pull him up on to the bed. When he realized that he wasn’t going to sleep with us, he made his way to the couch until he became sick again.

Once the morning came, I called and made an appointment for him to see the vet. Even though he wasn’t feeling well, he still demonstrated to all of us that he didn’t like getting his temperature taken or having someone move their hands all over his body. So the muzzle had to go on to prevent anyone from getting hurt.

A muzzle is an interesting apparatus. The one that Carl wears allows him to see but he can’t open his mouth very wide. It has a purpose and if used correctly can ensure that our little dog can receive the care he needs.

As humans, we don’t need a muzzle to keep us from biting others but sometimes we should wear one when we can’t control what we say. I know several times a week, I will think about something I said and wished that I had used a muzzle to keep the words from coming out.

As I looked over the scriptures that pertained to speaking out of turn, I became more and more convicted about my own misuse of words. Psalm 141:3 states, “Set a guard, O LORD, over my mouth; Keep watch over the door of my lips.” Ephesians 4:29 states, “Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth, but only such a word as is good for edification according to the need of the moment, so that it will give grace to those who hear.”

But the verse that always makes me sit up and pay attention comes from James 3:5. It states, “So also the tongue is a small part of the body, and yet it boasts of great things.  See how great a forest is set aflame by such a small fire!” We may not realize how the words we say can have such a powerful impact on others.

Carl’s muzzle won’t fit over my mouth but it sure can serve as a visual reminder that I can use when I am tempted to say the words that I should keep to myself. It has been a day since we took Carl to the vet. The vet was puzzled by his symptoms and we still don’t think he is totally back to normal.  Only time will tell.

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