Category Archives: death

New Normals

Carl woke from an evening snooze and looked over at the sofa. There, sleeping on his section of what had always been his spot, was the male dog that had made his way into his home and into his owners’ hearts. At first, Carl just stared at the slumbering animal. But then for no reason he jumped down off his father’s lap and went over to the edge of the couch and placed his head level with the pooch.

What happened next was shocking. Carl raised his leg and begun to urinate on the side of the couch. Why had our dog acted in such an inappropriate manner? Was he having to adjust to his new normal?

New normals. They come out of nowhere. Many times with no preparations for how to live through them.  A loved one develops Alzheimer’s and family members are faced with decisions that they have never encountered. A spouse dies and the uninvited new normal moves in.

Two thousand years ago, the most impactful new normal was born. The religious community was shaken to their roots by this event. Herod, the political leader of the day was so intimidated by this child that he had all male babies killed. Why would such a powerful man sink to such a wicked state of mind? Could it be that he didn’t want to live with the new normal?

And ever since this child was born, lived, died, and was resurrected, we have had to learn to adjust to the fact that life doesn’t rotate around us. We can try to brush his existence away by staying busy or feeding ourselves off of the world. But in reality, we will all have to face the truth either during this lifetime or the next.

Once my husband saw what Carl was doing, he moved quickly. With a pointing finger and a harsh word, Carl lowered his leg and moved away from the sofa. Overall, the dogs have adapted to their new normal but as we all know, it can get messy at times.

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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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Carl and the Serpent

At first, I wasn’t sure what I was watching. Carl and Bee were pulling on something and neither were going to let go. The problem was the thing was a black snake that had slithered up on the porch to sun himself and didn’t realize what he had gotten himself into.

All I could do was scream. I am not sure if I was crying out for the snake or for the safety of my dogs. I couldn’t tell if the reptile was poisonous from my distance and I wasn’t going to get any closer.  So after a couple of minutes of tug a war, the dogs were no longer pulling.

It was then that I went into the screened in porch and looked over to see the remains of the snake. The head was lying on one side of the porch and the rest of the creature was lying between both dogs. Foam was seeping out of their mouths as they protected their prey.

I called my husband for advice and he told me to get the snake off the porch and throw it over the fence. Even though the snake was dead, I still didn’t want to go near it. So I recruited a neighbor to come to my rescue and discard it for me.

As he went to pick up the head, the snake opened its mouth. This absolutely creeped me out. I couldn’t believe my eyes. The mouth continued to open and close while the rest of the body slithered around five feet away. What I learned later is that this isn’t that unusual.

I couldn’t help but think about this verse as I pondered the continued movement of the snake. John 15:5-6 states, “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. 6 If you do not remain in me, you are like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned.”

Just as the snake’s body had been removed from the head, we can also be removed from the vine. Sometimes, people may even look spiritually alive and make all the right movements, but in the end, if they don’t remain in Jesus, they are dead.

John 15:7 states how we are to remain in Jesus.  It states, “If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. 8 This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.”

If we stay in God’s word and it remains in us, we can ask whatever we wish and it states that it will be done for us. But we need to be careful in knowing that it may not happen immediately or even in our lifetime. And in many cases, the end result may look very different from what we have perceived it to be.

Just as the snake continued to open and close its mouth, my perception of what a dead snake looks like was definitely different from what it was in reality. As for Carl, he did suffer a battle wound on his left ear. It appears the snake must have dug in as Carl and Bee pulled him a part. But thankfully, he seems fine and ready for his next encounter with the wild.

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Living Oblivious

Carl was oblivious to the circumstances. He was prancing around like he was going to be chosen to go camping. On the other hand, Bee wouldn’t leave my side for fear that she would be left behind. I tried to comfort the little girl by telling her she would be the one to go but after being left in the past, she didn’t want to take a chance.

It is funny to think about the differences in the dogs’ behaviors and the assumptions that both made about what was going to happen. Carl appeared to be a little arrogant with his head held high as he pranced around. On the other hand, Bee seemed terrified of being left.

As I observed the posture that my dogs took, I couldn’t help but think about our own posture before God. Many people emulate the confidence the Pharisees portrayed regarding their final destination.  They were so prideful about knowing how to get to Heaven that they didn’t recognize the only Way to get there.

On the other hand, prostitutes, invalids, and the twelve disheveled men that Jesus selected as His disciples followed Him around for three years until it became crystal clear that this man was God’s son.

How often do we all live in a state of oblivion? Just the other day, I found Carl sleeping on the back porch directly under the sun roof. As he lay in the brightness of the sun, the light diminished his figure in the process.

The contrast of his figure made me ponder. Isn’t this how we should live so that we don’t get caught in a state of oblivion? Jesus states that He is the light of the world. John 8:12. If so, if we are living in His light, shouldn’t our figures be diminished and His enhanced?

Carl didn’t see it coming when I pranced him over to the neighbor’s house before loading Bee into the truck. He continued to appear confident and sure of himself. I almost felt sorry for him. Then it struck me. Isn’t that how we exist in our own state of oblivion, confident in ourselves without regard for God?IMG_1793

The Pain That Leads to Prayer

My husband has taken Carl and Bee for a walk while I am supposed to be resting. Yesterday I had a medical procedure that I had been putting off for some time. The reason was plain and simple.  I don’t like pain. I never have. I particularly don’t like thinking about an upcoming surgical procedure that would definitely start with the pain from the numbing injections and end with the pain of being cut open.

But after the gentle encouragement of my dermatologist, I decided to do what was best and bite the bullet. As the days and the hours got closer, I prayed for a peaceful state of mind. So I went about my normal routine of walking Carl and Bee and spending time talking to my husband.

To also make the experience less stressful, I brought along a friend to keep me distracted on the drive over. Instead of being consumed with my own negative thoughts about what was going to take place, my friend and I discussed scriptures and how grateful we were to have a relationship with Jesus.

If I was apprehensive about a procedure that I knew would cause pain, I can’t even imagine what was going through Jesus’ mind as the days drew closer to his death. In John 10:17, Jesus states, “My Father loves Me, because I lay down My life that I may take it again.”

Jesus knew when and how He would die. He knew it was going to be one of the most brutal deaths a man could go through. But He didn’t put it off for his own comfort. Instead, when the time had come, He first gathered his friends close by and went to the Garden of Gethsemane to pray.

Jesus demonstrated to us what we must do in order to pursue the things that will cause both physical and emotional pain.  He spent time in prayer with his Father and surrounded himself with the people He cared about the most.

I know that my tendency is to flee when I am about to encounter pain. Carl doesn’t like pain either. If ever I touch a sensitive spot on his body, he will growl and let me know that I better leave him alone. With his lack of understanding and inability to pray, he reacts.

But God gave all of us a way to take the focus off of the pain. It is called prayer.  And if we are honest with ourselves, it is when we experience pain that we are more apt to pray. Either we pray to prepare for the pain or we pray in the midst of it. Whichever I choose, it sure is comforting to know that I have a Heavenly Father that wants to hold me close as I pass through it.

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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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