Category Archives: Fear

Carl’s Feelings of Defeat

Carl lay on the floor and looked like he had been totally defeated. He had been crying out for my attention and I was too busy to give it to him. So when he realized that he wasn’t going to receive it, he lay on the floor in udder defeat.

Defeat. It comes in many different forms. Some are huge hits to our ego while others can be tolerated. I play a lot of competitive tennis and with it comes wins and defeats. But one thing I have realized when I lose a match, my life doesn’t change once I am off the court.

Then there are the big defeats. Several years ago after retiring from teaching, I decided to start a tutoring business. I began with an air of arrogance that I would easily find clients. But this isn’t what happened. Time and time again, I would talk with potential clients and they would decide not to use my services.

The feelings of inadequacy swept over me with every rejection. I questioned my skills and three decades of experience. What would seem an easy transition turned into a defeat.

But my experience was nothing compared to what the Disciples of Christ felt when their leader was tortured and then killed on the cross.  All of their hopes and dreams of a worldly kingdom with Christ as their king came crashing down as the blood dripped onto the ground.

This was supposed to be the greatest downfall in history. But what appeared to be a totally hopeless situation changed into the most ultimate victory of all time. And because of this spiritual triumph our defeats can also be transformed. For me, it ended up to be a blessing that my tutoring business didn’t work.  God had other plans for me.

As for Carl, he got a super long walk this morning and a lot of verbal stroking that made his ears perk up and his body walk in a self- confident strut.  And as I observed my pooch swaggering down the street, I smiled and thank God for my defeats that have been transformed into victories.

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Needy

Calling Carl needy is an understatement. If he is left in the backyard, it won’t take him long before the howling begins. If I come home after a few minutes of being gone, Carl will act like I have been gone for days. But the one time that he acts the neediest is when I come back from taking Bee on a walk. When we enter through the door, the little bully can’t contain himself. He is jumping up and pushing Bee out of the way so that I can only give him his desired attention.

Being needy can be considered a weakness by many people. But not to God.  He looks at our hearts and the need we have for Him. Even if we mess up, God will forgive us if He can see our desire to have a relationship with Him. This is demonstrated in the book of 1 Samuel during a very dark period for David.

David was tired of being hunted down by King Saul. He was relentless and wouldn’t stop until David was dead. This had been going on for years and David had been worn down. He wanted to please God but his faith had waned. So what does he do? Lies. Not just once but many times.

Now King Saul was also a sinner. After the Philistines had marched towards the Israelites to begin war, Saul tried to confer with God and got no response. So without regard to God, he visits a witch to find out his destiny. The spirit of Samuel, the prophet appears to her and to Saul. And what he says is not the news that Saul was looking for. He tells him that he and his sons will be killed in battle.

So why would God save this man and have King Saul killed? Only one reason. Because even though David’s lack of faith led him to lie, he ultimately had a desire for a deep relationship with God. If you read the Psalms that David wrote during this time, it is clear that he has a deep need for his maker.

This inspires me a great deal as I struggle through this life. When I think about how David’s life was spared and how he ultimately became king, I am encouraged.  So as Carl comes up to me with a look of need in his eyes I will reflect on how much God wants me to need Him.

Thank you God for using my little dog to help me see my need for You.

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My Lost Dog

We were on our way home. Just as we were going to turn the corner at the top of the hill, Carl got loose and ran as fast he could. I called his name but he was determined to run ahead towards our house. But what he didn’t know was there was a gang of dogs waiting for him.

When I finally got up to the top of the hill, I looked over to see Carl being chased past our house and down the road. A sense of dread swept over me as my little dog fled for his life. My dog was now lost from my view and I felt totally helpless.

This experience reminded me of a time when my daughter was only five years old. We were staying at a beach house with several different families. One midday, we decided to go out for lunch. Everyone packed into three vehicles and made our way to the restaurant. As we all began to unload, it was clear that my five year old daughter was not with us.

This was the time before cell phones and there was no way to contact her. My husband and I jumped back in the car and made the fifteen minute drive back to the beach house. Crazy thoughts raced through my mind as we rushed back.

God demonstrates through his word that He knows how it feels to be a parent of a lost child. In Luke 15, Jesus shares a parable about a wealthy man and his two sons. One son wanted to leave and take his inheritance. I am sure this hurt the father as he watched his son walk away with the possibility of never seeing him again. The story describes how the son squandered all his money and eventually took a job feeding pigs. After he finally came to his senses, humbled himself, he journeyed home to experience the consequences of his actions.

The father could have easily reprimanded his son but instead he demonstrated God’s true nature. Luke 15:20 states, “But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him.”

I am so thankful for this verse and the knowledge that no matter what we do, God has compassion for us and only desires for our return.

As for my daughter, she was waiting for us on the porch with a relieved expression across her face. As I wiped my own tears of thankfulness, I apologized and gave her a huge hug.

I couldn’t find Carl. No matter how hard I tried, he was lost. The sense of loss was so real I almost started crying. It was then that I woke myself up and looked over to where Carl was sleeping peacefully. As if he knew I was concerned about him, he raised his head and looked up at me with his soft brown eyes. Thankfully, what had seemed so real was only a dream.

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Our Internal Prison

Carl will now have to go to the kennel when we go out of town. Instead of roaming around in the freedom of our neighbor’s house, he is headed to spend at least 20 hours of his day in a cage. We will pay extra to allow him to play for three hours with other small dogs. But for the majority of the time, Carl will be in his designated pen on his bed.

I hate to do this to him, but for now, it is best for everyone. We won’t have to worry about him clawing at the small boy who lives next door. And if he does get too rowdy with the other dogs, he will be placed back in his cell. I mean cage.

Carl’s decisions and actions caused his move from freedom to being confined. And so can ours. People lose their freedom every day when they break the law. But many people who are walking around have also created their own prison. They live in the cell of their inner being without ever knowing true life.

Many things can place us in our own prison and keep us from growing in the way that God has created us. David was in his own prison and didn’t seem to realize it until God sent Nathan to give him a wakeup call. Most of the time, we think of David as the young boy who had killed the giant with one stone or the most notorious king of Israel. In 1 Samuel 13:14, David is described as a man after God’s own heart. So what happened?

Instead of going off to war, David gave in to complacency. Having plenty of time on his hands, his eyes began to wonder. And they landed on a beautiful woman that was married to one of his officers.  After having his way with this woman, she became pregnant. At this point you would have thought that David would have done the right thing. But David was in his own cell that he didn’t want to give up. The desire for this woman was stronger than the motivation to do the right thing. So David sends orders to have the woman’s husband sent to the front lines where he is killed.

Thankfully, after Nathan confronted David, he realized the sin he had committed and was given the key to freedom. Even though he had been given his freedom, he wasn’t given a get out of jail pass. David ended up paying a high price for his actions for the remainder of his life. Even though the rest of his life was frosted with the consequences for his iniquity, he no longer existed in the prison of unconfessed sin.

Carl is home from the time he spent at the kennel. He seems exhausted from the anxiety he must have felt as he waited to be taken out of his pen. He seems more humble than usual. Hopefully, he has learned something from this experience. Not sure though. Either way, I hope that I can imitate our heavenly father and extend some grace to Carl like God extended to David.

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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 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