Category Archives: French Bull Dog

The Act of Pruning

creativity is Intelligence having fun


Carl was not happy about being on the other side of the fence.  But he needed to be there as my husband cut down the grape vine that we recently discovered last summer. As Carl made himself known to us by his loud whine, we cut off the branches, pulled off the long thin climbers, and chopped the large vine down close to the ground.

Just like the grape vine, many plants need to be cut back in order to reach their full potential. Year after year, we have cut back our fig tree to see it come back with beautiful leaves and delicious fruit. So even though it looks almost impossible to believe that new vines will grow back and produce grapes, we just have to believe that they will.

It is interesting how God created plants to flourish when they are pruned back.  So why shouldn’t we think that He wants to do the same with us?

“I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in me that does not bear fruit he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit.” John 15:1-2

The word pruning means cutting or thinning. So when you think about how God prunes us, you probably aren’t thinking of a pleasant experience but one that will include some form of suffering or pain.

No one likes suffering and the physical, emotional, spiritual, or financial hardship that comes with it. But if we read this scripture again, we know it is for our good and God’s glory.

I personally would like everything to go as I plan but in the times of suffering, I can be encouraged by the fact that God is pruning me so that I will produce more fruit. And as I reflect on my life, I do believe that the hardships have molded me into someone who relies more and more on God.

Carl has also been pruned on several occasions in his life and I do believe that it has helped him to become the sweet little fella that we all love.  Having his tail surgically removed was probably the severest pruning he has lived through. But even though it was extremely painful and he no longer has a tail, Carl has adjusted and become an inspiration to us all.

Goodness in the Pain

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It was clear that Carl’s sister was agitated and was not going to tolerate the attention that Carl was receiving from all of the grownups in the room. Her eyes zeroed in and her body began to shiver. The hair on the nap of her neck was raised and before anyone could stop the quarrel, she charged in on her prey.

Immediately, the adults in the room started screaming and attempted to pull the two bulldogs a part. After a couple of horrifying moments, the dogs were separated.  Carl was immediately surrounded by concerned women with sympathetic words and soft pets to his head.

As I gazed into his deep brown eyes, it was clear that he was loving all of the attention he was receiving. As the women inspected his hurt paw, Carl sat as still as possible and looked down with a forlorn expression indicating that he was definitely hurt and would appreciate all the tender loving care they wanted to provide.

The situation was quite alarming for the women who experienced the two dogs fighting at their feet. As for Carl, it was very disturbing and quite painful. But even in the midst of the pain, there was an ounce of good in it.

How can I say there is good when there is pain present? When I was twelve, I was in a serious motor boat accident that left me scarred for life. I was thrown out of a boat and ended up in the exact path of the propeller. After the blades had made mincemeat of my left arm and side, I was rushed to Duke Hospital where I spent one of the most painful nights of my life.

So how can I say there is good when pain is present? I would never wish what happened to me on anyone but I can tell you that something incredible occurred during the pain. An awareness stemmed from that particular day of pain. An awareness that I had a purpose in my life.

Jeremiah 29:11 is a verse that I hold close to my heart because I truly believe it was not only given to the Israelites but to anyone that may not understand the pain in their lives.

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”

I would never want to relive that summer day in 1969. But as crazy as it sounds, I am grateful for the experience because I believe that God had a purpose in the pain to awaken me to His presence.

It would be great to hear your story on how God changed your life through pain.

As for Carl, he nursed his womb all night long and was still limping in the morning. I am sure he will be fine in the near future, but in the meantime, he sure seems to be enjoying all the attention he is receiving.

 

On Hands and Knees

This time I had to defend Carl in the incident that occurred in the depths of the night. I had an idea by Bee’s behavior that there would be an episode but I was just too tired to get out of bed to deal with it. I wish I had at least tried to stop what was about to occur but as we all know hind sight is best.IMG_2804

Bee was ready for the altercation with her brother and there was nothing I could do as the two bullies charged at each other. Thankfully, this exchange was over almost as quickly as it began. Something had caused the dogs to separate and make their way back to their beds. As I turned on the light and saw the mess, I realized why they had retreated.

This altercation was nothing compared to the one that Jesus caused when He entered the temple right before his crucifixion. “And Jesus entered the temple and drove out all who sold and bought in the temple, and he overturned the tables of the money-changers and the seats of those who sold pigeons. He said to them, “It is written, ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer,’ but you make it a den of robbers.” Matthew 21: 12-13.

I am sure Jesus didn’t make any friends on this day. Coming into the most important building in the city and turning over tables of the money-changers had to turn some heads. How could one man be so bold as to confront these men that were making money for Caiaphas, the high priest?

Because Jesus knew that selling sacrifices for extremely high prices to the people that were coming to make a sacrifice was wrong and angered God. Given that Jesus came to implement God’s plan on earth, He didn’t have an option but to address this wickedness in God’s sight.

So right before the eyes of everyone in the temple, Jesus knocked over tables and called them robbers.

This incident challenges me to be willing to do God’s will even when it isn’t popular with the general public. I just hope that I will consider what is meaningful to God the next time I see a situation that doesn’t please Him.

As for the mess that lay in front of me, I knew I had to deal with it as quickly as possible.  The short incident between my dogs had ended because of a glass of water that had been knocked off my bed side table. Apparently the water had startled the dogs and caused them to pull away and withdraw to the safety of their beds.

Once I turned the light on and looked in the direction of my pooches, I had to smile at how innocent they appeared. It was hard to stay mad at them, even if they woke me from my sleep and caused me to be on my hands and knees cleaning up their mess.IMG_2372

 

 

 

A Carl Pop

Carl refused to move. It was clear that he was cold because his entire body shook but never the less, he wouldn’t budge. This was a particularly cold day with temperatures in the low 20’s and I didn’t want to stand there and argue with my little bull headed bully.

Being hard headed is one attribute of my little dog that hasn’t changed for the three years that Carl has lived with us. No matter my strategy, he will not budge unless he can see the treat that he desires.

I have to admit that I can also be hard headed in certain areas of my life. And I have also noted that the older I get, these areas have extended to other parts that were earlier unoccupied. Age and experience can give us wisdom but it can also increase our pride if we are not careful.

I am sure Jesus’ disciples thought they knew everything they needed to know about God and what they had to do in order to enter His kingdom. Peter is a perfect example of this. He seemed to be the kind of person that spoke before thinking through what he should say. This makes him very relatable.

In Matthew 16, Jesus is telling his disciple how he has to go to Jerusalem and suffer many things. Even after being with Jesus for years, Peter just doesn’t get it. He thinks he knows more than Jesus and even has the audacity to pull him aside and rebuke him.

Well you can guess that this doesn’t go well. Jesus turns to Peter and tells him to his face, “Get behind me Satan! You are a hindrance to me. For you are not setting your mind on the things of God but on the things of man.” Matthew 16:23

How often do we set our mind on the things of man without thinking about the long term implications?  It can be so easy to think we know what is best for ourselves and leave God out of decision making process. If only we would consider what has eternal value and not the things of man.

As for Carl, once he saw the treat in my hand, he took a step inside the porch door, grabbed the treat and raced inside to recover from the cold. All I could do was shake my head and follow him inside. Will he ever change? Probably not. But I am going to love him anyway. As I looked over, Carl was still shaking and I had to laugh. He reminded me of a freeze pop on a stick.  A Carl pop.img_3032.jpg

Speechless

Carl has been a sleep on the couch all morning.  He has barely stirred. I hope that he is okay but only time will tell. Unlike people, Carl is unable to share with me how he feels or what he is thinking. I can only guess that he is well and just enjoying the warmth of the room on such a bitterly cold day.

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His lack of communication made me think of a sermon that my husband was listening to by T.D. Jakes titled Shut Your Mouth. This preacher was very animated and out right told people that they would have a lot less issues if they would just shut their mouths. As I thought about it, I had to agree.

How often do we get ourselves in trouble when we open our mouths and let filth come out?  Many times, our emotions get the best of us and instead of letting the words get filtered out through our brain, we just let them flow out without regard to the impact they may have on others.

I remember a wise woman who shared with me about how words can be like the feathers in a pillow. Once you open up the pillow and let the feathers out, it is very difficult to retrieve them.  This is the same with words. As much as we might regret what we say, it is very difficult to return our hurtful words to the original source.

James 3:3-6 states, “When we put bits into the mouths of horses to make them obey us, we can turn the whole animal.  Or take ships as an example. Although they are so large and are driven by strong winds, they are steered by a very small rudder wherever the pilot wants to go.  Likewise, the tongue is a small part of the body, but it makes great boasts. Consider what a great forest is set on fire by a small spark.  The tongue also is a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body. It corrupts the whole body, sets the whole course of one’s life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell.”

As harsh as it may sound, this is the truth. The tongue can definitely become like a fire that corrupts the whole body. This is why I am going to try harder to listen twice as much as I speak. Isn’t this why God gave us two ears and only one mouth?

I do find it fascinating that God only gave man the ability to communicate with the use of words. (I know there are some birds that can mimic.) As for Carl, he is still lying on the couch and refuses to share with me how he is feeling. Maybe that is for the best.  Either way, I am going to try and do as Carl does today and see if I can learn more when I am speechless.

Vulnerable

Carl is beginning to pipe up and has started that annoying howl that has gotten him in lots of trouble in the recent past. I am not sure why he has started to make this obnoxious noise except that he wants my attention. For the last couple of days, I have been very attentive towards his needs and today was totally different.

With winter weather that has kept us house bound, Carl has enjoyed the knowledge of having a back rub or sitting on a human’s lap.  Every day has been spent either sleeping or trying to get my attention. But these last couple of days Carl has realized that his human mother is not herself.

If any of you out there have turned 50, you know the right of passage that you are faced with.  The dreaded colonoscopy. Every ten years, each of us over 50 are confronted with not only the procedure but the prep that comes with it. I am not going into specifics but I can tell you that this process has lengthened and gotten a little more complicated.

Instead of just one day of prep, the new process includes four days of a low fiber diet which is totally different from the diet that I would have predicted. After eating carbs and bread for four days, the day prior to the procedure I was confronted with a liquid diet that ended with 64 ounces of Gatorade and Miralax.

I haven’t fasted in a while and wondered how I would handle a day without food. For someone who doesn’t want to miss a meal, how would my attitude be when I had to go without?  Around 1:00 in the afternoon, I was beginning to feel the effects of having nothing on my stomach. I could tell that my irritable attitude was rising up from within.

This is when I tried to consume my thoughts with distractions from the Australian Open and later with the NFL playoffs. I was feeling a little vulnerable with the knowledge that I had a ways to go and knew that my stomach wasn’t going to be satisfied for at least another 24 hours.

As I reflect over this experience, a verse in Matthew 17 keeps coming up.  Jesus had just been up to the mountain where He, Moses, and Elijah were transfigured in the presence of several of his disciples. Once He comes back down to the people, He is instantly confronted by a man that desperately wants his son to be healed from a demon.

The man tells Jesus that several of his disciples tried to heal the boy but couldn’t. It was clear the disciples thought they could, but were unable to. When asked by them why the boy couldn’t be healed, Jesus tells them, “However this kind does not go out except by prayer and fasting.”

Prayer and fasting. Why would God want us to fast? Being without food caused me to feel vulnerable. I didn’t feel as in control as I usually do. It is in this state of mind that we can go to God and have a better perspective of who He is. While fasting, I felt weak which made God strong.

As the day went on, Carl could tell that I wasn’t myself and gave me my space. But that evening, when I was at my weakest, I looked over at our little pooch and found him in a prayer stance. I could only smile and thank God for the lessons He has taught me through this little dog.IMG_2906

Overcoming our Feelings

I am not sure how Carl is feeling about being back under our roof. For the first two days upon returning from a house full of children, he seemed depressed. He basically laid on the couch and slept for the majority of the time. After several days, he now seems to be more content about his present situation.  I am not sure why I care so much about how he feels.

Why should how a person feels be so important to all of us?  I will never forget taking my father in law to the doctors after being diagnosed with lung cancer.  Every time we were approached by a nurse as she escorted us into the examination room we would always be asked the same question. “How are you doing?” Which could be interpreted as “How are you feeling about life?”

I am sure this is just a way to greet people, but in reality, what should we be asking people when we encounter them? Should a person’s feelings be the most important aspect of their being?

I just finished listening to a message by Joyce Myers that really challenged me. She explained that humans are made up of three different parts, the physical body, the soul, and the spirit. A person’s feelings fall under the category of soul along with the mind and will. Deeper into who we are is our spirit that should be dictated by the Holy Spirit and the Holy Scriptures.

She explained that if we live by how we feel or our emotions, than we are not going to experience the joy that comes from living by the Spirit.  Jesus even addresses this in John 15: 11. Since He created us, He knows what will complete us emotionally.

If I remain in Him, I can have joy no matter the circumstances. Even when it involves something as devastating as lung cancer. So how do I remain in Him? By reading the Scriptures when I don’t FEEL like it. It is only through the Scriptures that the Holy Spirit can push through our soul (feelings, mind, and will) and motivate our physical body to do the Will of God.

It was interesting, because just as I was writing this, I had the urge to go over and check on Carl and was tempted to turn the television set on. As I looked down at the dozing dog, I was reminded that I needed to return to what I believe is God’s Will (writing this blog) and dismiss my feelings.

Now that I have completed this entry and getting ready to send it off, I am filled with a sense of contentment that can only come from digging past my soul and pulling out what is of true spiritual value.

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Kicked to the Curb

He literally got kicked to the curb. My husband and I were headed on a cruise and we had worked it out with a young couple that they would take Carl for the week. Our flight was very early Sunday morning, so we dropped him off on Saturday afternoon thinking all was good.

The house was perfect for Carl. It had a huge back yard where he could frolic around and two other dogs for him to play with. The couple even sent us a picture of Carl hunting for food under a piece of furniture with a caption stating that he was doing well.

So when I got the long text Sunday morning after arriving in Miami, that the arrangement was not going to work, we were in shock and disbelief. Apparently, Carl had spent all night doing what he does best. Howling.  And when I say the word howling, I mean it in the most literal term possible.

The text read that they had tried almost every room in the house to pacify the little dog but nothing worked. They even allowed Carl to take up residence in their own bed but he would have nothing to do with it. His howl persisted throughout the night until the early morning.

And it was in the early break of day that the text was clearly written that Carl could not stay. Once we read the text, we began to brainstorm what we were going to do before getting on the ship and sailing out of cell phone range.

Our first thought was calling Leo’s parents to see if they could return the favor of keeping Carl since we kept Leo for over six weeks. But when my husband called Leo’s human father, he was met with a situation that wouldn’t work. His mother had been taken to the hospital and he was needed to assist in her care.

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So concerned

Our next thought was sending our little dog to our next door neighbors. But Carl had already burned that bridge after scratching their young child.  To make the situation even more challenging, they recently brought home a cat that our little dog felt the strong impulse to pursue throughout their house. Even though our neighbors love Carl, they had made it clear that he was just not welcome.

We were running out of options and time. Our bus was going to pull up in minutes and we would soon be taken one step further from resolving our situation. The couple had already packed up all of Carl’s belongings and driven him back to our house where he was greeted by the sound of silence.

Out of desperation, we made the call that we didn’t want to make. We knew it would be a major interruption in their lives but we just didn’t have a choice.

Our daughter and her family live over two hours away. They have four small children and a cat to boot but we had no option but to try. So we were pleasantly surprised when my son in law, who has made it clear in the past that Carl is not his favorite canine, agreed to make the inconvenient drive to pick up our abandoned pooch.

As clear as it is that my son in law doesn’t care for Carl, the opposite can be stated about my granddaughter. Ellie loves to pamper our little dog whenever she has the chance.  If she could have her way, Carl would be welcome at their house on a permanent basis. So she was absolutely elated to make the long drive to retrieve her little canine friend.

Thankfully, once we were on the ship we received the picture that calmed our fears and let us know that our little dog was going to be okay. There perched in his own seat, among the four little children, Carl was making the ride down interstate 40 to his temporary home.

Throughout the first night on the ship we couldn’t help but wonder how our little guy was doing. So the next morning after paying the extra money needed to make an international call, we telephoned our son in law to check on how the night had gone. Fearing that Carl may have repeated the howling episode we were elated to hear that all went well.

For Carl and Ellie it went better than just well. Ellie was allowed to let Carl sleep with her in her bed. A blanket had been placed on the end of the bed for the little dog. But when my son in law checked on the twosome, Carl was found in a deep sleep with his head on the pillow and his body tucked securely under the covers. And as for Ellie, a big grin was plastered across her face as her arm rested across Carl’s belly.

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Bon Voyage!

 

An Allusive Light

Every once in a while when I have the flash light in my hand, I get tempted to put the lazar function on and trace it over the floor. It only takes a minute until Carl spots the light and begins to hunt it down. He usually gets very excited and will slip and slide all over the floor until the light is turned off.

What is it about the light that causes such a reaction from my dogs? And why does this light cause Carl to become so consumed that he is willing to do anything to get to it?

More importantly, what was it about the star that rose in the sky after the birth of Jesus that caused the wise men to leave their homes and travel thousands of miles to find the baby? For months, they traveled, gazing up at the star that was directing them towards Bethlehem.

It is interesting that they are referred to as wise. Dictionary.com defines the word “wise” as “having the power of discerning and judging properly as to what is true or right; possessing discernment, judgment, or discretion.”

I am sure many didn’t see these men as wise as they packed their gifts and headed out into the desert in search for an unknown destination. Even so, every night when the shadows of the last light slipped behind the horizon, the star would appear even brighter than before.

As they drew closer to the Christ child, their excitement must have grown. And when they arrived in Jerusalem, people began to talk about them. They seemed so determined to locate this baby that King Herod called them into his chambers to find out more.

But being wise, they knew that this king only wanted ill will for this infant. So after leaving Jerusalem they determined not to go back to the king with the infant’s location.

Finally, after months of travel, they arrived at their destination. There was nothing about the house they entered that would indicate royalty. The parents were apparently very poor and the baby had no physical trait that would indicate that he would become a king over all humanity.

But none of that mattered. These men knew that they were in the presence of God. In reverence, they knelt in front of the baby and his mother and laid down their gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh.

These men must have felt a satisfaction that can only come from being in the presence of God. Unlike them, Carl will never feel the satisfaction of catching the light that is so allusive.

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No Comfy Beds

Carl loves a good walk. Because his snout is a little longer than most French Bull Dogs, he can tolerate an extended walk in both the heat and the cold. But as much as he loves to walk, when he is close to home, he picks up his pace and is clearly happy to walk through the doors and lie on the cool floor and drink from his water bowl.

I also enjoy walking but after about three miles, I am also glad to make my way through the screened in porch and into my house where I can sit down and rest. I have to say that I am truly grateful for the ability to return to my temperature controlled home with all its amenities on a daily basis.

Sometimes, during this season of the year, we can romanticize the birth of Jesus. But in reality, what Mary and Joseph had to go through was truly difficult. Instead of a three mile walk, they had to walk over a hundred miles to get from Nazareth to Bethlehem. This journey for a woman who was nine months pregnant had to be extremely challenging.

Joseph wasn’t sure how he would provide for his young bride and the baby that would come. He knew that many people would be coming to Bethlehem to be counted among the census and that rooms would be hard to come by. He only had his faith and the knowledge that God would provide for them.

Exhausted and famished, Joseph and Mary went from place to place to find a bed to lay their heads. No temperature controlled rooms with cold water coming out of a tap. No comfy beds with tons of pillows that we mold around our bodies. Not even a hard floor of an extra spare room.

When all options seemed closed, a farmer offers his barn for the young couple to reside in. Too tired to turn the offer down, the two make their way into the smelly space where they were greeted by a couple of sheep and a donkey.

For most of us, we would ask where God was in all of this. But I am sure Mary kept repeating the words that the angel told her nine months ago. “For with God, nothing will be impossible.” Matthew 1:37. She believed that He would give them what they needed. She only had to trust.

Carl has no reason to believe that his needs will not be met. Just yesterday when the temperatures were in the thirties, we purchased a coat for him and his sister Bee so they would be warm as we took a walk on the trail.  Which got me thinking. If we are willing to make sure our animals are taken care of, why wouldn’t God, our creator, take care of our needs?

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