Category Archives: Social

Front Row Seat

I have to make a confession. Neither Carl nor I like the night time. I don’t like driving in the dark and you won’t see Carl or I walking after the sun has set. But if there was to be an exception, it would have to be during the Christmas season when many have their houses lit up with glowing lights.

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My distaste for the darkness of night gives me more respect for the shepherds that spent night after night tending to their sheep. Instead of being nestled in their beds they were out in the fields protecting their livestock from the dangers of the dark.

As we all have probably experienced in the darkness, shadows take on a life of their own. We can think we see something but in the light, it ends up being nothing but an overblown imagination.

But this was different. Instead of a shadow, an angel surrounded by a brilliant light appeared among the shepherds. Their initial reaction was a deep seated fear of this heavenly being. But as quickly as the fear set in, the angel comforted them with words that would be remembered for the rest of time.

“Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people.  Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord.  This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.” Luke 2:10-12.

As the shepherds were digesting these words, what happened next sealed their belief that this was truly from God. “Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.” Luke 2:13-14.

And sure enough, the shepherds left the field and found the baby wrapped in swaddling clothes lying in a manger. After seeing the baby, they were so filled with joy that they couldn’t stop talking about the child and what the angel had told them.

Why did God have his angels appear to these shepherds? What was it about these men that gave them a front row seat to the most incredible event of mankind? Weren’t shepherds considered unreliable and on the bottom of the social ladder? Weren’t shepherds unable to enter the temple because they were considered unclean?

Humble hearts. These men were chosen for their humble hearts. Even today, God doesn’t choose the prideful man with everything this world can offer. Instead He seeks out the ordinary. The ones that have a hunger in their hearts for the truth.

Just the other night, I was driving through a neighborhood with all the lights of Christmas all around me. As I rode in awe of the lights that portrayed different interpretations of Christmas, I couldn’t help but think how pale it all was compared to the brilliance of the glory of God that lit up the skies on that night so many years ago.

 

 

 

The Gift of Friendships

Poor Carl. He was barred from his bed and once again had to sleep on the couch. Bee, stood in the doorway and made it crystal clear that he was not going to enter. So instead of experiencing the abuse of the Frenchie, he turned and walked down the darkened hallway to sleep alone.IMG_2403

I am sure he feels that no one understands his plight. Others would call him a wimp if they knew how his smaller sister was bullying him. As much as I wish I could teach him to stand up for himself, Bee has taken the role of the alpha and they need to work it out.

Mary must have felt similar feelings when the angel came to her and told her that she would carry the Son of God in her womb. Who would have any understanding of the situation and how to find peace in it?

When we go through trials alone, we can become very self-absorbed and just feel sorry for ourselves. But if we can find someone that has gone through a similar situation, we can find peace and purpose in our hardships.

God knows us and knew the importance of having someone for Mary at this time. Luke 1:39-41 states, “At that time Mary got ready and hurried to a town in the hill country of Judea, where she entered Zechariah’s home and greeted Elizabeth. When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the baby leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit.”

For the next three months, Mary stayed with Elizabeth as she came to full term and delivered her baby. This must have been a very special time for both of these women as they shared the joy of being a first time mother.

God loved these two women so much that He gave them each other at such a sensitive time in their lives. And if He demonstrated his love for these women by giving them each other, why shouldn’t we acknowledge His love in the friendships that He has given us?

 

Harnessed

My first guests had started to arrive and Carl was his predictable self. He was overly excited and no matter what I said to him he wouldn’t listen. Reprimanding him wasn’t preventing him from jumping up and snipping the knees of everyone that he could reach.  I knew that I had to try a different tactic. Then I thought about the harness that hung up on the nail in the porch.

It was crazy how quickly Carl transformed into the submissive and meek dog that I believed he could become. It was like the harness weighed a massive amount and kept his body from trying to jump up. Instead of the hyperactive dog that usually greets my friends, Carl lay down on his bed and calmly stared upward.

Everyone enjoyed being around this meek and mellow dog. But when our society hears the word “meek” we don’t usually attribute it to a positive trait. Instead, we think of someone who is insecure and pitied. Then why does Jesus say in Matthew 5: 5 that the meek will inherit the earth?

If we turn our television on we definitely don’t see the meek capturing the attention of the world. So who is Jesus referring to? If we go back into the Old Testament, David writes in Psalm 37:9 that those who wait on the Lord will inherit the earth. He then repeats this again but changes the wording to meek in verse 37:11.

How do the meek wait on the Lord? Can you picture someone you know that doesn’t get easily angered? Someone who is criticized and doesn’t spat back what they are feeling? Can you think of a time that your feelings were hurt and you wanted to retaliate? Do you remember how hard it was to hold your tongue and not share the injustice with someone? This takes power. Power that comes from waiting on the Lord.

When we trust God, we will wait for Him to implement the judgment that is due. This is the meekness that Jesus and David are referring to. An inner strength that will allow us to enjoy our inheritance.

I was thankful for the harness that physically helped Carl become the meek dog that my friends enjoyed having around.  Hopefully, in the future when I want to snip at people for the injustice that will surely come my way, I will remember the harness of God’s word and turn my attention to waiting for Him.

As for Carl, once everyone left, I released the harness and he returned to his crazy self. Got to love him.IMG_2346

A Vacation for Carl

Carl wanted me to let everyone know that he is doing well but wanted to take a little vacation this week. He is enjoying this special holiday and all the food that goes along with it.  Carl has been receiving treats through out the day and hopes to get a couple of pieces of hamburger or hot dogs  right off the grill this evening.

Carl will be going to bed early tonight and forgoing the fireworks. The noise  startles him and his body will begin to shake.

He wishes everyone a wonderful day and will be back with all of his antics next week.

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Carl’s Purpose

Typically, Carl doesn’t attend to the movies that come across the screen but for some reason, this one caught his attention. With ears perked up and eyes staring straight at the television, Carl was completely absorbed. Given the movie was all about a dog and his purpose, I was not too surprised at my dog’s reaction.

As we watched the movie about a dog trying to figure out his purpose, it was fun to think that Carl could be thinking about his God given purpose. Could my four legged pooch actually have a reason for being?

You see, Carl was not our first choice. I had specifically asked the breeder for a brown French bull dog with a dark muzzle. The puppy was born and I was elated that it was a female and looked exactly how I wanted. But as fate has it, the puppy died only days after it was born which left us in a predicament. Do we wait the months or even years for another brown dog or do we purchase a different colored pup.

When the breeder sent us pictures of our little Carl, we couldn’t resist. So on December 6, 2014, we brought home our baby boy. I am not sure if we immediately understood why Carl was in our lives but after a couple of months of his antics, the fog began to clear.

During those days, I was also searching for my own reason for existence. I had recently retired from teaching and felt like an Israelite wandering in the desert. I had started blogging about my own personal time of searching but something was missing.  

If anyone knew their purpose, it was Jesus. In John 12:27-28, He states, “Now my soul is troubled, and what shall I say? ‘Father, save me from this hour’? No, it was for this very reason I came to this hour.  Father, glorify your name!”

As I think about what He states in this verse, my own purpose becomes a little clearer. If everything Jesus did was to glorify His father, then shouldn’t I have the same mindset?

But how can a retired school teacher and a crazy little French Bull dog glorify God? We can’t. But God can. Can’t He who created us, give us just what we need in order to reflect His goodness to everyone we come in contact with?

As I gaze over at my little dog with his attention still on the screen, I have to laugh with God. He could have given me the perfect looking dog with the best temperament but instead, He gave me Carl.

 

Encountering a Stranger

I left Carl and Bee a couple of days ago and flew into Philadelphia to visit my daughter and her husband. Less than forty-eight hours later, I am sitting in the airport waiting for the plane that will take me home. As I sit here in the back corner up against the window, my tendency is to watch the people that walk pass me.

Everyone with their own destination and unique story. One gray haired woman walks up to a row of chairs, dusts one off, and seems to be nestled in until the plane is boarded. But when a worker with a vacuum cleaner begins to suck dust nearby, she retreats to a chair further away. In a distant corner, a young couple snuggles together watching something on her phone, oblivious to the world around them.

People in wheelchairs, airline pilots and the stewardesses with their crisp uniforms walk by with the sole purpose of doing their jobs. But the one person that stands out the most is an older woman that stands near the entrance of the airport sobbing. As I made my way up the escalator, I hear the sound of despair from this person who stands clinging to the wall and wiping her eyes.

A thought races through my brain to turn and go to her and somehow comfort this stranger. But I am on the way up the escalator being pulled away from this person with her own unique story. A story with a sorrowful chapter that is being played out right in front of me.

Why didn’t I turn around and go to this woman? Why did I feel that getting on with my own story was more important than becoming a part of hers? What has caused me to become so selfish and not willing to give up a couple of minutes of my day?

The moment is gone.  I can only pray that she did find some solace for the agony that caused her to weep in the public arena of an airport. As for me, I will ponder the lesson that lays before me. I believe I forfeited a spiritual encounter for the convenience of going on with my story where I play the lead role.

Jesus clearly states in Matthew 25:40 “Truly I say to you, as you did to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.”  In this passage, Jesus is stating how the sheep will be divided from the goats when we meet Him in heaven. This stranger that I left could have been the very person He was referring to in this passage.

I can only go forward. Home to Carl and Bee and my own story. But hopefully, next time I encounter a stranger in need, I will look beyond the surface of the circumstances and see Jesus holding out His arms. And even if the stranger pushes me away, I will know that Jesus will be waiting for me in my heavenly home. And He will say to me. “Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world.” Matthew 25:34

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Weeding Through Life

This morning Carl seems to be a little more on edge than normal.  You would think that walking a dog day after day, he would begin to understand the rules of how to engage with other dogs. But not Carl. Today I realized that what should be a typical walk around the block is nothing but ordinary. I just don’t understand why Carl’s behavior is always changing.  And not always in a positive direction.

The one thing about life that you can count on is change. Just when you think life has a normalcy that fits well, something happens that puts it in a topspin. Which leaves us with unanswered questions and emotions that glaze over the circumstance like an oil spill over the ocean.

We can resort to questioning why the change has happened but it usually is best to weed through the issues and decide what actions need to take place. I have personally found that making a plan in unchartered waters can give me a sense of peace, even when I may not have any control over the situation.

In Psalm 73, the author begins grumbling about the unfairness of life and how the ungodly seem to get a free ride through life. In the middle of the psalm he enters the sanctuary of God and turns his focus off of himself and unto God. His ingratitude for his life transitions into gratitude once his eyes are placed upward. Maybe in times of change, we should imitate this psalmist and pull our thoughts towards heaven.

Holding on to Carl and Bee and noticing the tension in the air, I needed to think quickly.  Carl had spotted a dog ahead of us and couldn’t get to it. His hair on the back of his neck shot up and he began to squeal which should have alerted me into action. But before I could move Bee out of the way, Carl lunged towards her and they locked up in a full blown dogfight. Thankfully, I was able to ask a bystander to take a hold of Bee and draw them apart.

As the scene unfolds in front of me, I know that I must devise a plan to keep this from happening again. So I decide to walk the dogs separately and hope that Carl will feel special enough not to act out. Only time will tell.

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