Category Archives: forgiveness

Carl’s Identity

Carl pulled so hard that I thought I was going to fall forward on my face. He wasn’t pleased at all with his situation. Instead of leading the pack, he was steps behind the two dogs and it was clear that he felt doomed.

When he is walked alone, he usually struts himself with a confident air and appears totally carefree. But when walking with the other two dogs, if he isn’t steps ahead of them, his demeanor totally changes.

In the last two days, our country has suffered a great blow. 59 of our American citizens lost their lives when a man with no apparent cause sprayed gunfire down on a country music concert in Las Vegas.

What has hurt the most is the lack of compassion for the families of the individuals that lost their lives. Instead, politicians have used this opportunity to stand on their platforms and once again, we have become more and more divided.

If only our country could stand together and grieve with the victims of this senseless act. But unless we can place our identity in Christ this will never happen. Just as Carl wants to extend his lead over the other two bulldogs, we take our stand with our political or cultural affiliation.

It will only be when we go to our Heavenly Father in prayer and extend ourselves to the individuals that are suffering that we will find healing.

Carl will probably never understand how to get over his need to be first and in front of the pack. I am sure that the next time we go out for a walk, he will pull the leash and try to push ahead with his own agenda. But I have to remember, he is only a dog. Didn’t God create us to be so much more?

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A Tender Side of Carl

All is calm. Leo left to go to the groomers and both Carl and Bee are resting quietly. Since Leo has been with us, I have noticed a tender side to Carl as he relates to Bee. He has been very protective of his Frenchie sister. Many times, I have caught him sitting very close to her and nipping tenderly at her ear.

This behavior reminds me of how a courting young man holds his girlfriend close to him. It also paints a picture of how God draws near to us in the midst of difficult situations.

Joseph was a man that went from being his father’s favorite with a promising career to a man who was imprisoned for no valid reason. Throughout the book of Genesis, Joseph’s life is portrayed for all of us in the darkest most trying times of our lives.

I am sure he had no idea why he was sold by his brothers to foreigners. And just when he seemed to be getting his life on track, Potiphar’s wife accuses him of rape and he is wrongly imprisoned. To make matters worse, he is forgotten by Pharaoh’s butler and left in the dungeon for two more years.

How often have we felt forgotten by close friends, family, and even God? It would appear by what had happened to Joseph, he could have focused on being forgotten. But he didn’t. Genesis 39:2-3 tells us, “The LORD was with Joseph, so he became a successful man. And he was in the house of his master, the Egyptian. Now his master saw that the LORD was with him and how the LORD caused all that he did to prosper in his hand.”

Joseph serves as a model to all of us in the depths of our suffering. He could have easily blamed God and become bitter but he didn’t. Instead Joseph focused on God and all the blessings that he had received even in the direst times of his life. Even the Egyptian, an ungodly man, saw this and contributed Joseph’s success to God.

Joseph didn’t understand why he had to go through such suffering but if we study our Bibles, it is clearly stated. In the same way, we don’t understand why we have to experience the trials that we go through but there will be a day when it will be revealed to us.

Watching Carl interact with his sister has been a great reminder of how God wants to comfort us in our times of need. Even though we can’t see God, if we pay close enough attention, we will be able to see the picture He is painting in our lives.

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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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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Seized with Revenge

Carl is definitely the top dog at our house. But whenever he sees his sister Bee get preferential treatment, he has a hard time with his emotions. If she walks in front of him on a walk, Carl will nip at her to let her know that she needs to get back. At dinner time, Carl will always be fed first and treats also need to be given in that order.

But if you want to see Carl get into a fighting mode it is when attention is given to Bee from friends and strangers. Whenever someone will reach down to pet his sister dog, he goes crazy mad! His calm demeanor is immediately changed to a dog with only revenge on his mind. And don’t even think about reasoning with him when he is in the heat of the moment.

As many times as we have tried to reason him out of his hostility, it does no good until he is given some time to cool down. Isn’t Carl like so many of us when our buttons have been pushed? Can you remember a time that you were so angry at someone that all you wanted was to see harm done to them? You may not have actually acted out the feelings, but the thoughts were clearly being played out in your mind.

It is moments like these that I am thankful that God included David in the Bible. We think of him as the one that was constantly being sought after by Saul because of the hatred he had towards David. But God demonstrates through his word, that even men like David, a man after God’s own heart, could become seized with revenge.

David had been running from Saul and found himself in the wilderness surrounded by six hundred needy men. During this time, he sent these men out to protect the local shepherds from bandits and to literally create a wall of protection. There was one particular wealthy shepherd by the name of Nabal that had benefited from David’s safeguard.

It was shearing time and was the custom, David had expected his men to be given some of the meat from the slaughter. So when David had sent several men to Nabal to receive what was rightfully his, Nabal blatantly refused to give him anything.

Seized with anger, David put on his sword and led his men to kill Nabal and all the males of his family. David was determined to act out on his revenge and nothing could stop him. Oh but wait. Who do I see in the distance with donkeys carrying enough food to feed an army?

Nabal was an evil man. No one disputed that. But his wife Abigail was exactly the opposite. She was a wise woman with integrity. When one of the servants had heard that David was coming to destroy Nabal’s family, he went to Abigail and told her the situation. This woman probably had every reason to allow the slaughter of her husband to take place, but she didn’t.

Instead, she prayed to God and He gave her the words to speak to David. Incredibly, what she said had such impact that David turned his men around and went back into the wilderness. And she went home to her husband.

But God wasn’t finished yet. It states in 1 Samuel 25:38 “And about ten days later the Lord struck Nabal, and he died.” And doesn’t it say in Romans 12:19 “Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord.”

Many times when we are so angry and can only see the wrath we want to impart on others, we should stop and allow God to work. David would have had suffered major consequences for the death of Nabal. In the same manner, when we act before giving the situation to God, we will also have a cost to pay.

As for Carl, he usually gets over his feelings towards Bee once he receives the attention that he craves. If only he could understand that God cares about him and will supply his needs. Realistically, he is only a dog. But one that has taught me so much.

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Carl’s Desire for Freedom

As the sun poured through the window, Carl fluttered his eyes and looked around. After seeing that no one was stirring, he snuggled deeper into his bed, closed his eyes and slipped back to sleep. Once I awoke and looked over at my slumbering pooch, I could only wonder what he was dreaming about. Could he be dreaming about running free alongside the dogs he is forced to stay away from when we are walking? Or could it be a dream about prancing through the forest that lines our backyard, with no fears of being caught and having the dreaded collar placed around his neck?

As young teens, we hope for the day that we can be free from the restraints of living under the rules of our parents. Then once we grow independent from our family, we realize the freedom we thought would be in front of us has been replaced by the responsibilities of raising our own family. As the years pass, we hope for the day the children will be on their own and we will have enough money to leave the work that has kept us shackled.

Life after work and no longer being responsible for others does seem freeing but never completely satisfying. How can we actually experience the freedom that our souls desire? We can live for just ourselves and pursue the desires our flesh yearns for. But is living for ourselves truly freedom? There must be more.

In Galatians 5:13, Paul states, “You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh; rather, serve one another humbly in love.”

This sounds like a paradigm to me. I have heard all my life that I will be the happiest when I don’t have the responsibility of taking care of others. But this verse states exactly the opposite. My freedom comes from my relationship with Christ and my gratitude for what He did for me will be seen through the love I extend towards others.

Since Jesus is the author of life, I believe He knows how I can receive true freedom. On the other hand, I am not sure Carl will ever understand how the restraints we place on him are a demonstration of our love. And that is okay. Just as Jesus knows what is best for us when we don’t understand, we will do the same for Carl.

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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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