Category Archives: mourning

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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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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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.

Making Himself at Home

When I got home today, my husband told me that Carl and Bee had gone exploring down the road.  Apparently, the wind had opened the screen door and the dogs took their opportunity to escape.

But what Carl did after he got lose was surprising.  Instead of heading straight to the neighbors he loves so much, he decided to make his way to unchartered territory.

The houses on our street each have close to an acre and are pretty spread apart. Each yard is full of pine trees in the back of the homes with nothing but game land bordering the lots. Happy to be free, Carl and Bee ran past three houses and noticed that the backdoor of the fourth house to be open.

Being the curious dog that he is, Carl looked in and spotted a big sheep dog and the owner of the house and made his way past them, jumped up on the couch, and made himself at home. Bee on the other hand, wouldn’t come in and decided to run back in the direction of home.

The owner of the house thought this was very amusing but knew he needed to find out where Carl had come from. So he left Carl slumbering and walked down to find the owner of this peculiar dog. Once my husband realized that both Bee and Carl were missing, he grabbed a leash and headed down the road.

As I thought about how Carl could have made a bad decision that could have led him into danger, I can’t help but think about all the animals that are being impacted by Hurricane Irma and Harvey. It breaks my heart to think about the animals that will suffer because of these storms.

I couldn’t imagine having to make a choice of leaving for shelter without my two dogs. This provoked me to ask what God thinks about the animals that He puts in our lives. I was truly encouraged when I read Proverbs 12:10.  “A righteous man regards the life of his animal.”

Matthew 6:26 states, “Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?”

Both of these verses encourage me as we wonder how the animals will survive through these hurricanes. My prayers are definitely with these four legged friends.

As for Carl, when my husband made his way into our neighbor’s house, he couldn’t help but laugh at our little dog and how he had made himself at home.

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To Be Touched

My heart went out for Carl. He was clearly depressed and there wasn’t anything that I could do to improve his state of mind. He had been left by himself at the pet resort for four days. His sister Bee had gone to stay with a family and wasn’t there to share the kennel that they had occupied in the past.

During the days, he spent his time playing with the other dogs but none were his sister. I am sure the nights were probably the hardest as he lay in his crate waiting for a familiar face to appear.

Once he got home, his entire demeanor was somber.  The playful Carl was nowhere to be found. Instead a quiet subdued dog occupied the body of my little pet.  It was clear that he had missed the human touch that he was so accustomed to receiving.

Human touch. We can take it for granted. Particularly if you get a large dose of it on a regular basis. But not everyone experiences hugs or holding hands. Many people are either rejected or don’t understand the significance of this basic need.

Jesus knew the importance of touch. Many times He reached out to the ostracized.  In Matthew 8:2-3, He is willing to put his hand out to someone who has been shunned for years. “Suddenly a leper came and knelt before Him, saying, “Lord, if You are willing, You can make me clean.” Jesus reached out His hand and touched the man. “I am willing, He said, “be clean.” And immediately his leprosy was cleansed.”

Jesus could have easily healed this man without the personal touch he extended. But He knew that this man needed more than just being healed. He needed the contact by another human being.

Carl also needed the touch of his family members. He had missed it deeply. But after a night of resting on my husband’s lap and receiving the stroking of his hand over his furry back, Carl transformed back into the rambunctious Frenchie that we have grown to love and adore.

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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

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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Loss

Loss comes in many forms and usually makes an arrival in our lives at the most unwelcome times. Carl understands what it is like to feel the loss of something. When he was less than six months old, he lost his manhood. Only two weeks later, he also lost his tail.

Carl had what is known as a screw tail. It is when the tail will not move but is literally stuck. So when he would go out to do his business, it would stay in place causing all kinds of problems. The surgery was much more extensive than we thought. The tail is an extension of the spinal cord and what we thought would be a simple procedure ended up being extremely painful for our little dog.

For months, Carl would not allow anyone to come close to his backend. If we even looked like we were going to pet him near his rear, he would growl at us. This caused everyone to be on high alert when we were around our pooch.

Carl’s personality also changed after this surgery from being a calm and carefree puppy to becoming insecure and on guard. Even after two years, he is still very needy. Loss can do that to all of us.

Most of us have experienced some form of loss.  Many have lost a family member or a friend that rips at our heart. These are the times that we question God’s character and wonder if He is good and loving.

Thankfully, we have scriptures that help us to understand God more in the depths of our pain. In John 11:5, the Bible tells us that Jesus loved Martha and her sister Mary and Lazarus. So why did He stay away from them when he knew that Lazarus would die before he returned?

Even though Jesus knew He was going to raise Lazarus from the dead, He entered into their pain. The shortest verse in the Bible screams out how much God loves us. In John 11:35, it states, “Jesus wept.” It doesn’t say that he brushed away a tear or two but that he openly cried.

So why does God allow our hearts to be pierced by the pain when we experience loss? Is there something in this story of Jesus weeping with these women that could help us? Could it possibly be that in the pain is where we will encounter our loving God?

As I was getting ready to post this blog, I couldn’t locate the work that I had done several days earlier. It appears that God wanted me to feel some form of loss before I published this blog. As for Carl, his loss will have a lifetime effect. He will never be able to wag his tail to show us when he is happy or sad. But even so, my little tailless bully will never know how much his loss has drawn others close to God.

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His Presence

It’s like Carl knows when I am going to leave the house before I even make any steps towards the door. For one thing, he is always looking in my direction to see if I am going to reach for my keys or other personal belongings. All I have to do is look towards him and his ears perk up and his eyes glare right at me.

Because he is so intuitive, I have had to try to sneak out before he comes pouncing out the door with me. Over the last couple of years, I have tried many techniques to get out, but Carl just outwits me.

Carl’s pursuit of staying with me reminds me of a verse I recently read in Psalm 139. Verse 7-8 states, “Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence? If I go to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there.”

I have had times in my life when I haven’t felt God’s presence. I felt truly alone and wondered why He had abandoned me. But if His word is true, then my feelings were lying to me and He was and is with me, no matter where I go.

Then how can I feel his presence in those times of deep despair when I feel so alone? By reading this passage and many more like it. When I go through troublesome times, if I am in His word and meditating on it, my soul can be reassured of His existence.

I often wonder what Carl is doing when I am away. By his high pitched howl when I leave him behind the screen door, I think he is truly suffering from my absence. No matter what he is doing, I know he is elated when I return. In the same manner, I know I will be ecstatic when Jesus returns to take me home. How about you?

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