Category Archives: forgiveness

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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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