Author Archives: coradarrah

About coradarrah

Author of Here We Go Joe and Seasons at the Bus Stop. I am currently going into schools and sharing my life as an author.

Categories of the Mind

Today, Carl was a mess as we walked around the neighborhood. It seemed every time we turned a corner, there was a four legged pooch ready for an interaction with my dog. The problem is that Carl has yet to learn that he is not the king of the hill and all dogs are not going to bow down to him.

So after spotting the fourth dog coming down the slope, I decided that I needed to pull Carl onto an opposite path and get his mind off of the furry animals that seemed to appear from all directions.IMG_4096

The problem is that in Carl’s mind, he has established categories that his experiences fall into. Dogs on leashes always receive the same reaction from my furry friend, no matter how we try and change up the situation.

Before I can judge Carl too harshly, I need to contemplate the categories I have set up in my mind. Earlier experiences reaching all the way back to my childhood have structured my brain into thinking about certain people or situations with either a positive or negative vibe.

Even when I may not know a person or experienced a certain situation before, these categories in my mind take over and create a reaction. This is what happened when Jesus started his ministry and why the religious leaders of the time were so ticked off.

The religious leaders and the majority of the Jews had categorized in their minds what the messiah would look like. And Jesus was clearly not what they were looking for. Even today, we all have an idea of what church should look like as well as what it means to be religious. Often, we miss out on knowing the real Jesus because our spiritual category is set in stone.

As hard as it is, we must look at the categories that we have set in our minds and be open to the real Jesus. Just as we need to change, I hope that Carl will also be able to remove some of his categories about other dogs. It sure will make walking him an easier task. Only time will tell.

 

 

 

The Power of Love

As Carl made his way down the sidewalk and through the neighborhood, I absentmindedly followed. I was clearly not paying attention as my foot caught the lip of the concrete slab, which instantly caused a stabbing pain to rush through my foot.

IMG_3565

Carl was oblivious to the pain that I was experiencing. He was absorbed by his inner world and what I felt didn’t even come up on his radar. The fact that he didn’t seem to care about my welfare didn’t bother me too much. I know that I can be as insensitive to the needs of others when I get too wrapped up in my own affairs.

As I write this, I am sitting in an airport with a wide assortment of different kinds of people packed all around me. But with the closeness of all the people, I have no idea who they are and what their needs are.

Matthew 22: 36-40 gives us a clear picture of how God wants us to become.

Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’  This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”

As we go through this life, we need to discover the love of God that can only come from Him. Once we understand His love for us, we can begin to love ourselves. And lastly, once we have the love living in us that only He can create, then and only then we can love our neighbor.

So often, we don’t love ourselves enough to give to others. If we can understand how much God loves us it can transform us into confident people that can go beyond ourselves to meet the needs of others.

As for Carl, I know he will never comprehend this concept and thus will never be able to love others. It will always be about him and never about the people in his life. But that is okay. He is only a dog.IMG_4071

An Unpredictable God

One thing that I can tell you about Carl is that he is predictable. Just as I sat down to write this blog, I knew that he would come up and start scratching my leg for the ongoing attention he craves. Earlier this morning, I left Carl inside the fence to go water the garden and sure enough, he began to howl to let me know it was not acceptable to be left out of reach. IMG_4054

Most of us fall into habits that make us pretty predictable to the people who know us well. Our bodies seem to enjoy the rhythm of the habits that we have created over time. We find comfort in the routines and can become uncomfortable when we reach out beyond the safety of the known.

For many of us, it is the predictability of our lives that keep us from being used by God. I understand this because as I have pondered about this, I have come to realize that I expect God to show up in the predictable. But if you look at the Bible, this is the furthest from the truth.

From the very beginning of time, how God showed up changed. Only once did He create ten plagues to convince Pharaoh to let the Israelites go. Only once did the Israelites walk around the walls of Jericho seven times before the walls came crumbling down. Only once did a man live inside of a big fish to be transported back to where God wanted him to be. And only once did a young woman become pregnant without relations with a man.

If you think about it, God has shown up in our lives in different ways. The problem comes in when we think He will only show Himself to us in the ways He did in the past. Just as the Israelites of Jesus’ day thought the Messiah would come in the form of Moses or Elijah, we can get stuck in our traditions and miss out on seeing God work.

This leads me back to the challenge that I must ask myself. What can I do outside of my comfort level that may provide God a chance to use me?

I am not going to expect Carl to change anytime soon. He is pretty much stuck in his routines and habits. That is okay for my little dog but for me, I am hoping that I will be willing to reach into the unknown with faith that God has something very special waiting just for me.IMG_4061

Fighting off Anxiety

Anxiety swept over me like a wave splashing across my entire body.  I knew in my soul that something was terribly wrong and I didn’t know what to do. Carl could not be found and I truly believed that he might be gone forever.

Early each morning before the heat sets in, I have gone outside to water my garden.  Carl loves to follow me around and find something to smell or dig up. Typically, he stays close by and seems to know if he wonders off, he may lose his privilege of being free to roam.IMG_4042

This morning was different.  Before watering the yard, I placed my bag inside the car for an overnight trip with some friends. Carl knew something was up and started acting strangely. Instead of staying close by, he ran next door, sniffed around and then came back over to me.

This happened a couple of times until the little dog disappeared altogether.  To make matters worse, this was the busiest time of day for the commuters that speed by on the roads that frame our property.

As I realized that Carl was not to be found, my anxiety level increased and I began to pace up and down the road, calling his name. My greatest fear was that I would hear the screeching of brakes and find my little dog injured or killed in the road in front of my yard.

Initially I thought he must have made his way inside my neighbor’s house but when I looked inside the window, all looked quiet.  Afraid to wake them up, I made my way down the road to another house that Carl had entered a while back.

But there was no sign of Carl anywhere. At this time, my emotions were all over the place. I was fighting off the feelings that something horrible was happening.  My thoughts went from thinking the worst to believing that Carl would just appear.

How often, when we are faced with tragic circumstances, do we allow our thoughts to dictate our feelings?  Anxiety can come upon us in an instant and stay around way too long. David was no stranger to the feelings of anxiety. He had every reason to feel anxious as he was being pursued by Saul in his younger years and his own son Absalom in his older years.

How did this man overcome the anxiety that came with the threat of death?

Psalm 91:1-4 clearly demonstrates David’s conviction about how God will protect us.

“Whoever dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty. I will say of the Lord, “He is my refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.” Surely he will save you from the fowler’s snare and from the deadly pestilence. He will cover you with his feathers, and under his wings you will find refuge; his faithfulness will be your shield and rampart.”

David focused on a God that is much larger than any problem that we may experience. Instead of spending his time dwelling in self-pity, he set his thoughts on the Lord.

After pacing up and down the road, I made my way into my backyard.  It was then that I saw the little dog run around the corner of the garage and make his way towards me. A sense of relief consumed me. I could have been angry towards Carl but I just couldn’t muster up negative feelings towards him.

As I opened the gate that led to the backyard, Carl pranced in and started chasing Bee like nothing had happened. Just knowing that he was okay was enough to send up a thank you up to God and to realize how grateful we all need to be for the little blessings of this life.IMG_4046

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.

IMG_2800

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