Category Archives: children

Unexpected Outcomes

Carl had to stay with our neighbor while we were in the mountains. The campground that we were staying in had strict rules that I knew Carl could not abide by. When we were ready to pull out, I took off Carl’s collar and directed him to the house next door. I wasn’t sure if he would be upset that we were going to leave him but this concern quickly evaporated when he ran up to the door and began to scratch with his paw.

After we had settled into our campsite, I texted my neighbor to find out how Carl had been doing. What she said was a little disturbing. “Carl had a semi-serious incident with one of our cats but all is now in hand.”

I am not quite sure what happened but I can guess that Carl spotted the cat and without thinking, ran after it. Given the cat still had his claws, I am sure the incident wasn’t pretty.

How often do we run or walk into situations without understanding the implications? One day, while camping, we decided to walk one of the trails in the Smokey Mountain National Park. The sign said it was 1.2 miles long and that it would lead us to a waterfall. I should have realized that something wasn’t right when the trail took on a steep grade that was very difficult to walk.

As we continued to struggle upward, I had to stop to catch my breath and contemplate if the water fall was worth all this effort. But given my persistent nature and my husband’s encouragement, we made our way up the steep incline to our final destination.

The further into the dense forest we went, I had to question if we were on the right trail. The sound of rushing water had ceased and the possibility of a waterfall existing so far up seemed unlikely.

Finally as the trees began to thin, we could tell we were close to the end of our hike. In the distance, there was a clearing but no sign of a water fall. And what we found in the clearing was even more puzzling.

When was the last time that you can remember going down a trail in life and ending up in an unfamiliar destination? I am sure the disciples that followed Jesus began their journey with a preconceived notion of where it was going to take them and ended up in a place that they would have never imagined.

I can’t even conceive what Levi thought when Jesus approached him. In Luke 5:27-28 it states, “After this, Jesus went out and saw a tax collector by the name of Levi sitting at his tax booth. “Follow me,” Jesus said to him, and Levi got up, left everything and followed him.”

Giving up his income and status, Levi left everything he was familiar with and got up and followed Jesus. Just as we didn’t have an idea what would be at the end of our trail, Levi could have never guessed where his decision would lead.

Once we finally got to the end of our trail, three tombstones greeted us. Violet, Theodore, and Guy Wiggins. No date of birth or death. Just three fairly new stones up the steepest trail I have ever traveled.

I would have never guessed that at the top of a mountain in a national park, there would be a family cemetery. As we made our way back down, I considered our situation and what we had discovered at the end of such an arduous journey. It definitely wasn’t what we expected. In the same way, following Jesus can also lead us up trails high above the world below to unpredictable discoveries.

Sadly, Carl had no idea when he entered my neighbor’s house that this would be his last stay with this family.  Apparently, he had not been happy about being left and he made his feelings known to the dogs and cat in the house. He even unintentionally scratched the four year old boy that he loves so dearly.

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Carl’s Purpose

Typically, Carl doesn’t attend to the movies that come across the screen but for some reason, this one caught his attention. With ears perked up and eyes staring straight at the television, Carl was completely absorbed. Given the movie was all about a dog and his purpose, I was not too surprised at my dog’s reaction.

As we watched the movie about a dog trying to figure out his purpose, it was fun to think that Carl could be thinking about his God given purpose. Could my four legged pooch actually have a reason for being?

You see, Carl was not our first choice. I had specifically asked the breeder for a brown French bull dog with a dark muzzle. The puppy was born and I was elated that it was a female and looked exactly how I wanted. But as fate has it, the puppy died only days after it was born which left us in a predicament. Do we wait the months or even years for another brown dog or do we purchase a different colored pup.

When the breeder sent us pictures of our little Carl, we couldn’t resist. So on December 6, 2014, we brought home our baby boy. I am not sure if we immediately understood why Carl was in our lives but after a couple of months of his antics, the fog began to clear.

During those days, I was also searching for my own reason for existence. I had recently retired from teaching and felt like an Israelite wandering in the desert. I had started blogging about my own personal time of searching but something was missing.  

If anyone knew their purpose, it was Jesus. In John 12:27-28, He states, “Now my soul is troubled, and what shall I say? ‘Father, save me from this hour’? No, it was for this very reason I came to this hour.  Father, glorify your name!”

As I think about what He states in this verse, my own purpose becomes a little clearer. If everything Jesus did was to glorify His father, then shouldn’t I have the same mindset?

But how can a retired school teacher and a crazy little French Bull dog glorify God? We can’t. But God can. Can’t He who created us, give us just what we need in order to reflect His goodness to everyone we come in contact with?

As I gaze over at my little dog with his attention still on the screen, I have to laugh with God. He could have given me the perfect looking dog with the best temperament but instead, He gave me Carl.

 

Ended for Our Good

The word “good” struck a chord with me this morning. Yesterday, I was walking Carl around the block.  A neighbor who was walking her dog yelled out to me. “You have a handsome dog.”

“Thanks.” I responded.

“Is he a good dog?”

That was a very difficult question to answer. Just as I was going to respond, Carl began to lunge at her dog and began to growl furiously.

I couldn’t help but think about an hour earlier when a friend came in the door and how I had to pull him off of Bee when he couldn’t get the attention he desired.

But then there are the times that Carl is meek and mild and gives me that adorable little expression that I have come to love.

Today is Good Friday. What was possibly good about this particular day in the life of Jesus?

As the rooster crowed and the morning began, Peter could be found weeping over the fact that he had denied Jesus three times.

Judas, one of the men that had walked with Jesus for the last three years was found hung in the Field of Blood.

The night before, Jesus had been beaten and spat upon and mocked by the religious leaders. Now he was taken in front of the Governor to receive his sentence.

But the Governor’s wife pled with him after having a dream to have nothing to do with Jesus. But being afraid that he would lose his job, he washed his hands and gave the people the choice to have Barabbas, a known murderer or Jesus freed.

Incited by the religious leaders, the people screamed in unison to have Jesus crucified.

What came next was pure torture. Whips made with bits of glass were used to scourge Jesus to the point of death.

Then a purple robe was placed on his open wounds and a crown of thorns crushed onto his head.

After spitting on his face and making a mockery of Jesus, they ripped the robe off and led him up the hill where he would be crucified.

Once Jesus was at Calvary, the soldiers hammered nails into his wrists and feet and raised Him up high for all to see.

Then for six hours Jesus hung on the cross.

Again, I ask, “Why is this called Good Friday?”

Then something amazing happens. Around the third hour with the sun high in the sky, day becomes night.

At this point, could God’s heart be breaking?

And then if it couldn’t get worse, Jesus shares with us what was happening to Him by His last words, “My God, My God, Why have you forsaken me?”

And He gave up His spirit.

But it isn’t over!!!!  Maybe there is good in this.

Could the good come from what was happening behind the scenes?

The Bible states that the earth began to erupt and the graves of the saints were opened and they entered into the city and appeared to many.

The veil of the temple was torn from top to bottom so that now we have access to our God.

And we all know what happened three days later? So what started off as a day that couldn’t possibly be good ended for our good.

Thank you Jesus.

 

 

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Storms that Form

Carl curled up closer as the storm brewed outside our little camper. The rain pounded down all around us as we tossed and turned throughout the night. Once the thunder and lightning became more frequent and intensified, Carl drew closer and began to shake.

The night was tough on all of us. Sleep didn’t come easily and when it did, most of my dreams were laced with nightmares. After several hours of sporadic sleep and leg cramps, Carl and I arose.

It became clear from Carl’s behavior that he wasn’t feeling well. His body continued to shake uncontrollably and he ignored his breakfast. After several minutes, Carl finally was able to throw up the contents of his stomach.

Each of us have a unique way of dealing with the storms in our lives. Some become sick and have trouble sleeping. Others deny their existence until the volume of the storm cannot be ignored.

What does Jesus want to teach us when we encounter a storm in our lives? John 8 details how a woman caught in the act of adultery weathers the storm she is in the midst of.

She is being used as a pawn by the religious leaders to try and test Jesus so that they could discredit him. Given that the text states that Jesus came early to the temple, these religious leaders must have plucked this woman out of the arms of a man that wasn’t her husband.  Being completely humiliated she was then paraded through the streets only to be pushed through the temple doors where a crowd gathered around Jesus.

I can’t imagine the storm that was going on in this woman’s life. What had led her to committing adultery will never be known. But then to be pulled out of her bed and dragged to a temple full of staring eyes could be compared to a major storm with no way out.

Thankfully for this woman, the focus turns from her towards Jesus and how He is going to respond to the religious leaders. These men only placed their attention on the law and how a man of God should handle the woman in their midst. They want to see if Jesus agrees that the woman should be stoned for her misconduct. As they stand in arrogance, believing that they are right, Jesus leans down and begins to write something in the sand with his finger.

At this point, everyone is puzzled by His actions. What was He writing and how did it relate to the woman standing before them? And what was she thinking and feeling as the religious leaders held their stones ready to pelt her to death?

Then Jesus asks a simple question of the men with stones. “Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.” John 8:7. As soon as the question was out of His mouth, the men began to drop their stones and walk away, leaving only Jesus and the woman standing.

As the men pulled away, the sky began to clear and the storm clouds rolled away. What had started as a hopeless situation ended with a one on one conversation with the Son of God.

We have a lot to learn from this scenario and the storm this woman endured. Instead of focusing on our squalls, shouldn’t we draw into our own personal conversation with God?

After Carl emptied his stomach, he seemed to feel better. The storm had also subsided and the angry clouds parted for a beautiful day with bright sunshine and deep blue skies. Carl showed no signs of the effects of the storm and after his breakfast curled up in the warmth that only the sun (Son) can provide.

 

 

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Loss

Loss comes in many forms and usually makes an arrival in our lives at the most unwelcome times. Carl understands what it is like to feel the loss of something. When he was less than six months old, he lost his manhood. Only two weeks later, he also lost his tail.

Carl had what is known as a screw tail. It is when the tail will not move but is literally stuck. So when he would go out to do his business, it would stay in place causing all kinds of problems. The surgery was much more extensive than we thought. The tail is an extension of the spinal cord and what we thought would be a simple procedure ended up being extremely painful for our little dog.

For months, Carl would not allow anyone to come close to his backend. If we even looked like we were going to pet him near his rear, he would growl at us. This caused everyone to be on high alert when we were around our pooch.

Carl’s personality also changed after this surgery from being a calm and carefree puppy to becoming insecure and on guard. Even after two years, he is still very needy. Loss can do that to all of us.

Most of us have experienced some form of loss.  Many have lost a family member or a friend that rips at our heart. These are the times that we question God’s character and wonder if He is good and loving.

Thankfully, we have scriptures that help us to understand God more in the depths of our pain. In John 11:5, the Bible tells us that Jesus loved Martha and her sister Mary and Lazarus. So why did He stay away from them when he knew that Lazarus would die before he returned?

Even though Jesus knew He was going to raise Lazarus from the dead, He entered into their pain. The shortest verse in the Bible screams out how much God loves us. In John 11:35, it states, “Jesus wept.” It doesn’t say that he brushed away a tear or two but that he openly cried.

So why does God allow our hearts to be pierced by the pain when we experience loss? Is there something in this story of Jesus weeping with these women that could help us? Could it possibly be that in the pain is where we will encounter our loving God?

As I was getting ready to post this blog, I couldn’t locate the work that I had done several days earlier. It appears that God wanted me to feel some form of loss before I published this blog. As for Carl, his loss will have a lifetime effect. He will never be able to wag his tail to show us when he is happy or sad. But even so, my little tailless bully will never know how much his loss has drawn others close to God.

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Spiritually Parched

Carl walked out of the pantry and looked at me with a needy expression. Something wasn’t right, but I was too involved with what I was doing to go and investigate. A couple of minutes later he returned to the pantry, walked out and again gazed up with a pleading expression.

This time, I followed him back to the pantry, looked in the corner and instantly knew what had caused him such concern. There in the corner was his water bowl with not a drop of water left in it. It was dry and looked like it had been this way for hours.

Once I filled the bowl with cool fresh water, Carl lapped at it for several minutes. After he finished, Bee found her way to the bowl and drank until she was full. Both of my dogs had been parched for what we all take for granted. Water.

Many of us have lived our entire lives with this life supporting substance readily available to us. We have fountains in our parks, airports, malls, and grocery stores. All we have to do is turn on our faucets in our homes and it pours out to meet one of our most vital needs.

Jesus knew the importance of water and addressed it when he spoke to the Samaritan woman. Here was a woman that was scorned for the lifestyle she had chosen. Being an outcast by her community, she waited for all of the other women to go to the well before she took her water pot and made her way to get water. The sun was high and I am sure by now, she was parched.

Every day she would wait until the last woman had left before approaching the well. On this particular day, she felt the pangs of thirst as she watched the last woman leave. But as she approached, she noticed a man lingering near the well. Not sure what to do, she was amazed when he asked, “Give Me a drink.”

What started as a simple question ended in a life changing experience for this woman.  As they spoke, Jesus shared with her about living water that fills the soul until it pours out like a fountain. Then something happened deep within her being. Instead of feeling judged, she felt fulfilled, even though she never drank from the well. It even states in John 4: 28 that she left the water pot and went back to her community and shared with them about Jesus.

What had happened during this conversation that caused this woman to abandon the water pot? What motivated her to go back to her family and friends and share about this man?

I believe this woman was not only parched from lack of water but was also parched from life without meaning. Ecclesiastes 3:11 tells us that He has put eternity in our hearts. If this is so, we will all try to fill our souls with something but only God can fill that void.

And this woman got it. She realized after living a life of seeking fulfillment through men that only Jesus, who stood in front of her, could complete her.

In the future, I will strive to do a better job of keeping water in Carl’s bowl. But more importantly as we approach the day of our Lord’s birth, let us take Him out of the manger and remember that Jesus now sits at the right hand of the Father. And if you look closely enough, you may just see the cup of water that He is offering you.

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Second in Line

Okay, I must admit that Carl wasn’t my first choice. At the time, he wasn’t even on my radar. I had requested a brown colored female bulldog.  I was specific that this is what I wanted. But as life has it, it wasn’t meant to be. The brown colored beauty died only a couple days after birth. Her mother cuddled too closely and smothered her.

Being eager for a new baby bulldog, I didn’t hesitate when the breeder sent me a picture of a little fawn colored male. Little did I know at this time, that this precious pooch would become my muse for my blog.

Have you ever felt the effects of being a second choice or even last in line? I can remember the disappointment that tugged at my heart when people would be chosen before me. The thoughts of inadequacy would cloud my mind as more and more people would be chosen and my name not called.

As I think back at these episodes in my life, I find a security in the fact that David wasn’t chosen by his own father to be worthy of being the next king. In 1 Samuel 16, Jesse presents Samuel with all of his sons except David. But God tells Samuel that David is the one He has chosen. 1 Samuel 16: 7 states, “For the LORD does not see as a man sees, for man looks at the outward appearance but the LORD looks at the heart.”

How many times have I looked at the outward appearance of someone to decide if I want to associate with them? How often have I clung to people that are like me in appearance or ethnicity? But if I am to emulate Jesus, the Son of God, shouldn’t I look beyond the exterior and seek out the heart?

I am so thankful that God has provided me a bouquet of friends in my life that are from different ethnic and socioeconomic groups that are also seeking God’s heart.  But most importantly, I believe that God will continue to bless me with the assurance that I have been chosen by Him to be his daughter.

As for Carl, I know that God picked him out just for us. And I will be eternally thankful for my dog who was second in line.

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