Category Archives: Social

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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Four Legged Cheerleaders

I hate doing sit ups but with the passage of time, my stomach muscles have loosened up and all my extra weight seems to have settled right in the middle of my belly. Carl seems to understand my displeasure as I curl up on the exercise ball and count each excruciating sit up. The problem is, if he isn’t contained, he will scratch at my hair or stomach until I have to stop and move him. A couple of days ago, I was able to eliminate this issue with a simple solution. I lifted Carl up and placed him into the large Jacuzzi tub that is adjacent to my exercise mat. So now, when I am doing my exercises, Carl rests his paws on the side of the tub and looks at me with an encouraging stare that gives me just enough motivation to get to the finish line.

The other day I was playing tennis and found myself yelling for my partner to run towards difficult balls that were a little out of her reach.  I asked her if she minded and she shared that she loved having a cheerleader to encourage her to go after the balls that she might not go for. Nehemiah is one example of someone who was a great cheerleader. When he was given the opportunity to go back to Jerusalem and rebuild the wall of the city, he was able to motivate thousands of people to help rebuild the wall that had been destroyed. How did he do this? Most importantly he avoided the skeptics and listened to the people that worked with him on the wall.

As I think back on how Nehemiah was able to rebuild a wall under such opposition, I began to think about how important encouragement is for all of us. Paul writes in 1 Thessalonians 5: 11 “Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.”

I have to confess that building people up takes more effort than tearing someone down. If I am not careful, I can open my mouth and before I even know what I have said, slanderous or discouraging words can come tumbling out. On the other hand, building others up takes more energy and restraint. Dr. David Jeremiah recently shared a conversation a foreman had about tearing down a building. The foreman stated that he didn’t need trained men to tear a building down but he definitely needed skilled workers to build one up.

What kind of world we would live in if we were all cheerleaders for each person we came in contact with? Instead of the demise we see on TV each day, we could be experiencing acts of kindness and encouragement. It would be an amazing planet to live on if we just cheered people on… Thankfully, Carl has the mentality to be my cheerleader. During my workouts or just when I am relaxing in a chair, my four legged cheerleader comes up to me with his deep brown eyes and crooked smile to inspire me. Got to love it..IMG_0536

The Squirrels In My Life

I am sure it wasn’t funny to Carl but I had to laugh. He was walking along looking at a squirrel that was running across the yard and ran straight into a telephone pole. His head literally bounced back from the impact.  Carl was definitely not paying attention and he paid the price.

Before giving Carl such a hard time, I have to ask, “What squirrels am I chasing?”

I know for me I have often chased the squirrel of acceptance. For years, I have wanted to be recognized and valued by others, particularly my family. I have also fallen into desiring the wealth and power of this world instead of a relationship with Christ. And when I became fixated on these squirrels, I ended up banging my head against some type of pole that just showed up out of nowhere. Why? Because I wasn’t focused on the best thing.

Casting Crowns, a contemporary Christian band wrote a song called While You Were Sleeping that sums it up best.

“America, what will we miss

While we are sleeping

Will Jesus come again

And leave us slumbering where we lay

America, will we go down in history

As a nation with no room for its King

Will we be sleeping?

Will we be sleeping?”

In Matthew 25:1-13 the Message Bible states it like this:

25 1-5 “God’s kingdom is like ten young virgins who took oil lamps and went out to greet the bridegroom. Five were silly and five were smart. The silly virgins took lamps, but no extra oil. The smart virgins took jars of oil to feed their lamps. The bridegroom didn’t show up when they expected him, and they all fell asleep.

6 “In the middle of the night someone yelled out, ‘He’s here! The bride-groom’s here! Go out and greet him!’

7-8 “The ten virgins got up and got their lamps ready. The silly virgins said to the smart ones, ‘Our lamps are going out; lend us some of your oil.’

9 “They answered, ‘There might not be enough to go around; go buy your own.’

10 “They did, but while they were out buying oil, the bridegroom arrived. When everyone who was there to greet him had gone into the wedding feast, the door was locked.

11 “Much later, the other virgins, the silly ones, showed up and knocked on the door, saying, ‘Master, we’re here. Let us in.’

12 “He answered, ‘Do I know you? I don’t think I know you.’

13 “So stay alert. You have no idea when he might arrive.”

In other words, we don’t know when Jesus will be returning so we need to be like the wise girls and make sure we are focused on eternal things and not things from this world. For me, I know that I need to stop running after the squirrel of being accepted or seeking money and power and turn my thoughts to what truly matters. “And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard my heart and my mind in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:7

As for Carl, I expect he will continue to chase the squirrels every chance he gets, but hopefully next time, he will stop long enough to see the poles that pop up in his path.

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Slipping Through the Backdoor

Disappointment was etched across Carl’s face as he watched the labradoodle walk obediently past him without even a glance. It was clear that he didn’t understand why this dog could look straight ahead and prance by without a hint of recognition. Being such a little dog and possessing such a strong Napoleon complex, Carl’s disappointment manifested itself through an angry growl and a lunge towards his sister Bee.

Carl never fails to show his emotions for all to see. On the other hand, I typically bury my feelings under the surface so others won’t see the hurt that I am experiencing. Disappointment is one emotion that I try to dodge by ignoring that it exists. If it doesn’t get in through the front door it will invade and take over like a thief entering my house without my knowledge.

What do we do with this emotion that only wants to take us down a path that leads to bitterness and self-righteousness? How can we turn our thoughts into actions that bring us closer to God?

Peter was one man that was clearly disappointed the night that Christ was taken away to be crucified. What happened that night that one minute Peter was willing to cut off the ear of a soldier and then only hours later, retreat and deny Christ three times? God must want us to learn from Peter’s wade through disappointment because what he did that night is recorded in all four Gospel accounts.

For three years Peter had given up his livelihood, his friends, and everything that was meaningful to him to follow a man that was proclaiming to be the Son of God. Peter perceived Jesus to be an earthly leader that would free the Jews from bondage.  The Jews were being oppressed by the religious leaders along with the Roman Empire. The shadow of men hanging from crosses stood as a constant reminder to conform or be put to death. Even though Jesus had told his disciples on many occasions that he was going to be killed and rise after three days, Peter couldn’t comprehend how this would actually happen.

So when Jesus was taken by the Roman Soldiers, Peter’s dreams of Jesus becoming king of an earthly kingdom and saving the Jews from bondage came crashing down.  Immediately after seeing Jesus taken away, major disappointment set in and Peter went into an emotional tailspin. All of Peter’s expectations were shattered and all he wanted to do was leave the scene and go into hiding. His motivation to defend Jesus was gone and he just wanted to be left alone.

Isn’t this what we typically feel when we build up an image in our minds on how a certain event or project should turn out and it doesn’t? A person hurts us or after dieting for a while the scale goes up and not down. When disappointment sets in, how do we turn it around so that we are not left emotionally drained or feeling defeated?

I believe the answer to changing our emotions can be found by observing Peter and how his disappointment was eradicated. For three days, while Jesus was in the grave Peter and the other disciples were downcast and just couldn’t understand what the implications of Jesus’ death meant to them. And if Jesus had stayed in the grave, there would have been no avenue to turn around their emotions. But Jesus didn’t stay in the grave. Instead He not only rose from the grave but He also conquered death. And when Peter realized this, his disappointment was transformed into joy. A joy that we all can possess when we focus on the fact that no matter how bad life appears, we are promised a heavenly home where disappointment will not exist.

As for Carl, I am not sure he will ever be able to shrug off the disappointment that comes when a well-bred pooch frolics by without giving him the attention that he thinks he deserves. And while he stands at attention with hopes of being noticed, I will look to God and thank Him for my little dog that serves as a reminder of all my many blessings.

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Oblivious to the Danger

Just yesterday, Carl got out once more and was found in the middle of the street. I couldn’t watch as the cars whizzed by and my neighbor went out and retrieved him. He was totally oblivious to the danger he was in and how frightening the experience was for me and the other onlookers that watched with terror. Once he was rescued, Carl walked over to me and I picked him up, hugged him, and held him close. Instead of wanting to yell at him for his foolish decision, all I wanted to do was draw him close to my heart and love up on him.

I can’t imagine the number of times that I have been close to death. A poisoning when I was three, a major boat accident when I was twelve and many other times that I am not even aware of. I also believe that on several of these occasions, God sent down angels to intervene on my behalf. I can remember a time when I was talking on the phone and didn’t see the car in the right hand lane and tried to move over. I believe I should have been hit, but amazingly the car was able to move out of the way preventing a collision. This is only one of many unexplainable rescues that I have lived through that could have led to my demise. But thankfully, by only the grace of God, I have been spared to live another day.

When I think of the odds being against someone that should have been destroyed, I think of King Hezekiah. In Isaiah 37 and 2 Kings 18-20, the Bible states two times that King Hezekiah should have died. The first time was when Hezekiah had been rescued from death when he was very sick with a boil.  The prophet Isaiah went to Hezekiah and told him that he should put his house in order because he was going to die. Hezekiah immediately begins to pray and pleads to God for healing. And the amazing thing is that God heard him and added fifteen years to his life.

The second time was more astonishing and gives insight to why God healed Hezekiah. A decade after Hezekiah had been saved from death, the Assyrian nation under the leadership of King Sennacherib, became the greatest external threat to the Israelites since they had entered into the Promised Land. Due to spiritual decay and captivity of Israel, the nation of Judah was left to defend for itself against a growing Assyrian Empire. After defeating all of the nations in the region, they were in a perfect position to take over the city of Jerusalem and put to death King Hezekiah. But as we know, this scenario is a perfect platform for God to demonstrate that He is in control and sovereign over all.

After a failed attempt to buy off an attack with gold and silver from the temple, King Hezekiah fortified the walls and blocked the water sources on the outside of the city. He then ordered workers to dig a 533 meter tunnel to channel the fresh water into the city. Knowing the chances of survival were steal bleak, “Hezekiah went up to the House of the Lord and spread his request before the Lord.” 2 King 19:14. After his plea to Almighty God, Isaiah, the prophet sent word to Hezekiah stating that the Lord had heard him and would indeed save Jerusalem and kill King Sennacherib.

2 Kings 19:35 gives the very cool account of what happened next. “And it came to pass on a certain night that the angel of the Lord went out and killed in the camp of the Assyrians one hundred and eighty-five thousand, and when people arose early in the morning, there were the corpses—all dead.” Once the King Sennacherib saw his army destroyed he departed and went back to Nineveh. And the Bible states that as he was worshipping to his god, his own sons strike him down with the sword and flee.

So what can I learn from this Biblical account of King Hezekiah? First of all, I believe that God does hear our prayers when we come to him with a humble heart. I also believe that He has a purpose for our lives and will save us from calamities if we have not completed the purpose that He has scripted for each of us. As for Carl, I believe that God hasn’t finished with this little pooch and hopefully will continue to work through him. But to make sure that he does stay safe, I will watch the door more closely the next time I close it behind me.

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