Category Archives: mourning

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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Sleety Changes

The sleet came first and continued through the night. After thinking that the precipitation had stopped, the snow began as small flakes and gradually picked up. Carl wasn’t sure what to make of the white dust that covered the back porch. After sniffing it, he jumped up and down and spun in circles sending white flakes in all directions.

Just as Carl was beginning to enjoy his first experience in the snow, a gust of wind came through with a bitter cold that shook his body. The little dog immediately realized the temperatures were too low for him and ran towards the doggy door and into the warm house. After entering, he ran straight towards the fireplace and shook off the snow that had gathered on his coat.

Only two days ago, my husband and I had been in Miami bathing on the beach in 80 degree weather. Now the temperatures were hovering around 25. Our bodies easily adapted to the warm weather but getting used to the bitter cold was an entirely different matter.

I have always heard that the one thing you can count on in life is change. Change comes in many different forms. Some that can be predicted, like the change in temperatures and others that come out of the blue. There are times in everyone’s lives that preparations can be made for the changes that will take place. But it is the changes that come from nowhere that leave us grasping onto our faith.

After getting home safely on Friday, several people called to ask if we had flown from Fort Lauderdale. Unlike our smooth trip in and out of an airport, the people standing around the baggage claim in Terminal 2 experienced a life changing event. Without any warning, a man took a gun from his baggage and started shooting down innocent bystanders. What started off as a typical day ended in devastation for so many people.

It is in these times that we can relate to David as he calls out to God in Psalm 25:16-18.

“Turn Yourself to me, and have mercy on me.

For I am desolate and afflicted.

The troubles of my heart have enlarged.

Bring me out of my distresses!

Look on my affliction and pain.

And forgive my sins.”

I am not sure what was going on in David’s life when he wrote this psalm but given the many pursuits by his enemies, it was probably another unexpected change that David had to come to terms with.

As for Carl, he is dealing with the change in temperatures by staying close to the fireplace or laying close to me. As for me, I must also stay close to God by keeping my eyes on Him and not on the changes that will always be a part of life.

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Mourning in the Morning

For Carl, this morning was just like all others. We got up early and placed the silver collar around his neck. Then after the leash was attached, he went to the screen door where he waited until it was opened. Once the door was cracked open, Carl pushed his compact body through, making sure that he was out and down the stairs before Bee could get through the door.  For him, this walk was like all others.

But for us, a change had taken place that kept the conversation to a minimum and our thoughts buzzing around in our heads. This was a morning of mourning. My husband’s father had passed and we were now preoccupied with mixed feelings of relief and sadness. Relief that he would no longer be suffering and sadness because we would never see him ever again.

I was also consumed with an identity crisis that comes from being in a supporting role for so long that no longer existed. As much as I didn’t want to admit it, my identity as a caregiver meant more to me than I wanted to believe. And now it was gone.  I was now face to face with the reality that who I had become over the last three years was now a part of my past and I felt a strong void.

What was I going to do now to replace the days that were spent driving the two hours to see my father-in-law? How would I spend the time that now stretched in front of me that would bring on a new identity? No matter how much I didn’t want to think of his passing in a selfish manner, I couldn’t help but think about its impact on who I was.

God knows what each of us go through and if we try and listen hard enough, He will reveal to us how to take our circumstances mixed with our feelings into his will.

And so it happened today at church when we were looking at Matthew 4:8. In this passage, Satan is tempting Jesus with the kingdoms of the world. All Jesus needs to do is worship Satan. But Jesus refuses and states in Matthew 4:10 “Away with you, Satan! For it is written, You shall worship the Lord your God and Him only you shall serve.”

Jesus could have received the kingdoms of the world while living on this earth and ultimately his identity would have been established as a king. But instead, He chose what was best. He placed his identity in God and trusted in Him, knowing that once He returned after his resurrection and ascension into heaven, He would rule over the kingdoms of the world.

In the same manner, my identity should never be based on the works of my own hands but instead in Jesus. After thinking about what Jesus did, I appreciate the fact that He was willing to put his trust in God and lose his identity. As for me, I will strive to do the same and trust that I will be consumed with a sense of satisfaction that comes from only Him.

As for Carl, his identity is still wrapped up in being first in all things. No matter the circumstance, he exerts all his energy into being recognized which in turn leads to insecurity. And even though it is sad to watch, I will be grateful to God for giving me my little dog as a reminder of what my true identity is in Him.IMG_0733