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The Positive Power of Immediacy

As soon as Vern was taken out of the stroller and placed down on the hard concrete, he immediately took the lead. He was not going to let his sister Bee push ahead of him through the neighborhood. No, he was determined to be in charge.

How often do we immediately act? Vern doesn’t even consider thinking about his choices, he just does what his little puppy brain tells him. That can include eating rocks or flipping bugs up in the air until someone gets hurt. No matter what he does, he acts immediately.

I never thought of doing things immediately as a positive attribute. Many times, if we rush into an act without too much thought, we can be considered rash and irresponsible. So why is the word “immediately” used over thirty-five times in the book of Mark?

After Jesus was baptized, it states the Holy Spirit immediately drove him into the wilderness. When Jesus approached Simon and Andrew and asked them to follow him, they immediately dropped their fishing equipment and went after him. When Jesus and his disciples arrived in Capernaum, they immediately went to the synagogue where Jesus entered and taught. And the use of this word goes on and on throughout the book.

How often do we over think the things that the Spirit puts on our hearts? How many times have you thought of a good deed that you could do but your created excuses took over? Instead of reacting immediately, it is easy to think the situation right out of our minds.

Vern on the other hand, acts without thinking about any of the consequences or outcomes of his actions. He just does. Even if the end result doesn’t always produce a positive outcome, at least he does it. I can learn from Vern and act when it is clear that the Spirit of God is directing me. How about you?

Son Drenched Days

The sound of the pitter pattering of Vern’s web shaped feet could be heard as he made his way across the back porch. For the first time in five days, the rain had stopped and the sun was making a strong come back. Finally, after being cooped inside with little to do, the puppy appears delighted to be able to explore the outside world.

But instead of spending a lot of extra energy on petty things like eating pine cones or digging up dirt from the wet ground, Vern has found a spot in the warm sun and has sprawled down to take in the balminess of the day.

For many of us, the clouds of life have covered up the Son and all his goodness. We have been so focused on the troubles that have come raining down on us, that we have been unable to see the hope that is ever present.

James 1:2 states, “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds.”

This might be one of the hardest verses to wrap our minds around, particularly when we are experiencing trials that don’t appear to be ending. Clouds of life have closed in and all we want is to get out of the trials.  If we could change our mindset and consider the joy that is all around us, we might be able to see life from an entirely different perspective.

We can begin by training ourselves to think of the blessings that we still have. Instead of negative thoughts, scream out the goodness that is present. You may have forgotten about these hidden treasures that just need to be recognized.

Vern hasn’t experienced a lot of life up to this point, but I can tell that he lives in the moment, whatever it has to offer. Either in rainy days or in sun drenched mornings, his demeanor is bright and sunny. A clear reminder of the goodness that is ever present.

Looking Forward

Vern was gently placed inside his crate. The latch shook into place and he was suddenly left on his own surrounded by a metal cage. From Vern’s perspective, the black metal bars served as a means of protection. Protection from the outside world. Protection from everything that could cause him harm.

The crate is covered with a thick gray blanket that creates a cave like feel. Vern can only see the world outside of his habitat by looking through the front bars. All other perspectives are cut off from his sight. Surprisingly, he seems to be content with this arrangement as long as he can see his human friends.

It is so easy in today’s world to be preoccupied with the views that come to us from all directions. Everyone has their opinion about Covid-19 and the problems that it has caused. It is so easy to be sucked into the dismal outlook the world has to offer. But if we would place our focus towards our Heavenly Father and remember his Word, we can enjoy peace, even in these crazy times.

Psalm 123:1-2 states, “I lift up my eyes to you,

    to you who sit enthroned in heaven.

 As the eyes of slaves look to the hand of their master,

    as the eyes of a female slave look to the hand of her mistress,

so our eyes look to the Lord our God,

    till he shows us his mercy.”

In the mornings, Vern has to be prodded to come out of his crate. Only when he looks up and sees my husband’s hands reach in, does the puppy eagerly climb into his arms. Once, he is lifted up and taken out into the yard, does the little dog run free.

If only we could be more like Vern and the Psalmist. Both looking upward and keeping their eyes focused on the one that knows best.

Peace Rolled In

Vern held on to the tip of the foam mattress with his baby teeth and pulled it through the door. Before letting go, he shook it violently. Instantly, he lost interest, went over and took a long sip of water, and proceeded to walk through the doggy door that led into the bright sunlight.

Within seconds, he positioned himself in the warm beam of the sun and fell asleep. Noise that resembled an old man snoring immediately came from the little puppy. Peace had rolled in and taken over.

Sometimes all we need to do is look at life from a different angle. This is what Vern has shown me in the last couple of weeks. As much as this little dog can teach me, there is no comparison to opening up the scriptures and taking hold of a verse.

Just today, as I was reading my Bible, my perspective of the power of God forever changed. Acts 16:14 states, “One of those listening was a woman from the city of Thyatira named Lydia, a dealer in purple cloth. She was a worshiper of God. The Lord opened her heart to respond to Paul’s message.”

The words, “The Lord opened her heart” never had stopped me in my tracks like it did this time. These words freed me from the feelings of being responsible for the reaction of others to God’s word. Paul was not held accountable for how he shared his faith. In the same manner, neither are we. All God wants us to do is share the love he has for everyone.

I know I can get weirded out when I try to take on the responsibility of sharing God’s love with others. God will do the rest.

Our puppy Vern doesn’t care what we think of him as he does life. Even when he pees in the wrong place or takes out one of our shoes to chew, he is loved. In the same manner, shouldn’t we be content in God’s love for us?

Taken Up and Carried

Vern just doesn’t understand why he is unable to open the doggy door. Even though he walks up to it, nothing happens. Bee on the other hand, just has to approach the opening and the plastic sheet magically rises up long enough for her round body to enter.

At first, Vern got pretty agitated with it and tried to follow Bee through the opening. But once after his paw felt the weight of the door come down on it, he stayed away.

Why does it appear that doors open for certain people and remain closed for others? Why do certain people seem to have an easy time of reaching their goals while others struggle their entire lives?

If we look at it from an earthly standpoint, it can appear very unfair to us. Why would wealth come so easily for some and impossible for others? When we compare our circumstances with others, we can become jealous and angry with God.

Instead of looking towards the treasures of this world for our joy and peace, we should look to the author of life. Given that he created each of us to be unique individuals, shouldn’t we try and discover the doors he wants us to walk through?

Jesus stated in Matthew 7:7-8, “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.”

I am excited about the distinctive door that is just for me. The one that can be opened if I just seek.

In a week or so, the electronic device that Bee has will also be placed on Vern’s collar, so he will also be able to enter and exit the house at his leisure. Until then, Vern seems content to be taken up into our arms and carried in and out.

Maybe, the next time you can’t get through the door you so desperately want to enter, look around. You may just find that you are also being carried.  

Living a Full Life in Difficult Times

It is amazing how such a small puppy can consume so much food. The first couple of days Vern was with us, he ate very little. After he got acclimated to his new environment, he drastically changed. Vern now eagerly awaits the sound of the food being poured into his bowl. Even when he has finished his portion, he rushes over to Bee, our older Frenchie, in the hopes of a left over morsel.

During this time of being shut in the house, my appetite has also increased. I enjoy watching cooking shows which of course leads to baking more. I have also been pulled into watching more television and exercising less. Every day begins with the desire to do things that are good for my physical and spiritual self. But usually these important activities get pushed to the side for the things that feel comfortable.

If there ever was a time to imitate Jesus, this is it. He demonstrated how to live a fulfilled life in the worst of situations, starting with the event of being tempted in the desert by Satan. Jesus had been fasting for forty days and he was extremely hungry. (I can’t help but think that this is how long we have been in a stay home order from our government.)

Jesus was vulnerable. He was weak and alone. The conditions were perfect for temptation to turn to sin. Satan knew this and pounced on Jesus with all that he had to offer. The first temptation in Luke 4 would have probably broken every one of us.  “The devil said to him, “If you are the Son of God, tell this stone to become bread.” (Luke 4:3)

Satan went after Jesus’ physical need for food. And that is where most of us are today. I know that I have justified how much I have eaten during these days of having nothing else to do.

Jesus didn’t budge so Satan went to plan B. “The devil led him up to a high place and showed him in an instant all the kingdoms of the world.  And he said to him, “I will give you all their authority and splendor; it has been given to me, and I can give it to anyone I want to.  If you worship me, it will all be yours.” (Luke 4:5-7)

Notice how Satan offers Jesus the authority and power of the world to Jesus. And if you read on, you will note that Jesus doesn’t dispute the fact that Satan has the authority over this world. But Jesus doesn’t accept the power that could have been easily his. Why? Because Jesus wasn’t willing to sacrifice our salvation for his own desires of power. How do you feel about your loss of power in these days of being told to stay home?

The last temptation Satan threw at Jesus tested his pride. Satan told Jesus to jump off the pinnacle of the temple so that the angels would catch him. This temptation would clearly demonstrate to everyone that Jesus was truly the Son of God. If everyone saw angels saving him, they would bow down and worship him.

How often have we sought out some kind of recognition in these times of being anonymous? Everyone wants a voice in how to solve this pandemic. No matter what television channel you listen to, someone wants the platform. Even in our own homes, we shout out our self-righteous opinions.

We sure can learn from our four legged friends. Vern only eats when food is placed in front of him. He does tussle with his sister with an understanding that she is the alpha dog in the house. Occasionally, Vern will bark out loud, but typically is quiet.

Thank you Lord for the animals you place in our homes and hearts. Help us to follow your Son’s example as we go through these uncharted waters. Give us the faith to look to you to meet our daily needs.

Entangled in Our Own Power

Vern looked up from his bed, gazed around the room to see who was present, cushioned his head between the bumps in his blanket, and drifted off to sleep. With a sense of peace, the little puppy drifted into a land of slumber filled with other puppies frolicking around him, making him the king of the world.

Being a new arrival to this life, Vern has no understanding of the changes that have taken place in our world. In his mind, life couldn’t be better. With no worries and all his needs met, he is one happy pup.

Vern has no control over who will put his food in his dish or why the water never runs out. He just believes it will happen which leads to the serenity he possesses.

All of us humans could learn from this little puppy. In this time of Covid 19, the economy closing down, and fear ripping through our country, we can easily get entangled in our own power or loss of it.

There have been times in history that have looked just as bleak. One specific period of time, a little over two thousand years ago, the brutality of the Roman Empire consumed the thinking of everyone. Crosses of innocent men lined the borders of the city to intentionally let everyone know who ruled.

Then entered a man with talk of a new kingdom, an eternal one that extended beyond the grave. A man who healed people and forgave the sins of the wicked. He not only promised freedom from the physical world but also the spiritual soul of every man.

Jesus didn’t change the brutality of the Romans nor did he make life easier for the ordinary people that followed him. What he did, was far greater. He gave those who believed hope. Hope in a loving God that didn’t just love from a distance but came down to earth and endured the pain for each one of us.

No one knows what will happen in the coming days, weeks, months, and years. But we do know what happened outside of the city of Jerusalem. Jesus actually rose from the dead and walked among us. All he wants is for us to transfer our focus off of the unknown and place it on him.

Vern is fast asleep. A sense of trust dictating his every move. Knowing that even when he tears up my hostas or pees on the floor, he will still be loved. And if he can trust the imperfect humans that have given him a home, why can’t we trust our Heavenly Father who was willing to sacrifice his only Son for you and me?

Seeds of Faith

Vern has been spending a lot of time outside with me in the last couple of weeks. As he has been growing, my seeds in my greenhouse have also been taking form. Three weeks ago, I planted the tomato seeds in small containers, watered them, and now have been waiting for God to do his job.

When I planted my tomato seeds, I also planted some old squash seeds that I thought would sprout. But to my disappointment, nothing happened. The seeds had just as much water and sunlight as my tomato plants, but they just didn’t pop out of the soil.

Unlike my squash plants, Vern has been rapidly growing from the little puppy that I could hold in one hand to a little dog that is getting heavier by the day. His body is taking on a different shape and even though he is still a puppy, he is beginning to look more and more like a dog.

Both the seeds and my puppy have their own unique purpose. They are both growing and changing in an intentional manner. One will end up producing fruit and the other is becoming a loved member of our family.

In the same manner, Jesus compares the kingdom of God to a mustard seed. (Luke 13:18-19)  The mustard seed is one of the smallest seeds but it grows up to be so large that birds can make their nests in them. He also tells us that if we can have faith like a mustard seed, we can move mountains. (Matthew 17:20)

Every year, I love taking seeds out and planting them in the soil and watching them grow into plants that produce fruit. In the same manner when I act within the will of God, I can have confidence that the seeds of my faith will produce much more than I can ever expect or consider. And in my case, one of the sown seeds sprouted into a puppy named Vern.

Give us Today

Vern and Bee just returned from their morning walk. Vern rode in a puppy stroller surrounded by blankets and a bone for chewing, while Bee led the way. Once we got home, Vern was placed in the backyard so he could do his business. He was a little subdued given that he slept through most of his stroll. But as he got orientated to his surroundings, he began to look around the yard at all the green grass, hostas, and the pink azaleas that serve as a border.

For Vern and Bee, the days have not changed except for the inclusion of our presence on a constant basis. Everything else seems normal for them, making them clueless to the fear and uncertainty that has permutated the world. All they see is a beautiful spring day with green leaves sprouting from trees and freshly mowed grass.

Matthew 6:11 states, “Give us this day our daily bread.”

Jesus knew that there would be periods of time full of insecurity and anxiety. Times that could cause us to be consumed with dread if we focused on the future. He knew the importance of keeping our eyes on only today.

Matthew 6:34 states, “Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.”

Vern is lying on his bed fast asleep without a single concern. Since being in our home, he has been fed and given a safe place to sleep. He trusts that we will provide for him. Why shouldn’t he?

In the same manner, we should focus on today and trust that God will abundantly provide for us. I pray that we will take a minute to thank God for specific blessings that he has revealed to us during this time of uncertainty. Blessings that we may never have experienced if life had gone on as it was.

Walking Through Life Without a Word

Since Vern arrived a week ago, he has learned to climb steps, pee outside, and leave Bee alone when she is sleeping. He has spent quite a bit of time in the backyard buried in ivy or hanging out on the back deck. Only once, Vern jumped to the ground from the three foot porch. Thankfully, he landed on all four paws and walked off without any lingering effects.

Vern doesn’t say much. He really has no need to speak. To be honest, we have only heard his squealy voice when placed in his crate or if he is antagonizing Bee. At other times, his voice is silent.

Vern has a lot to teach us, particularly during these difficult times of being home bound with our family members. Instead of being quiet, I know that I have a tendency to want to be heard now more than ever. Since so many restrictions have been placed on my life, I want to have a voice in the few things that I do have control over.

Thankfully, I can find some guidance during these moments, even if it isn’t always what I want to hear. “Too much talk leads to sin. Be sensible and keep your mouth shut.”(Proverbs 10:19 NLV)

I do find it interesting that God gave only humans the ability to speak. And with this talent, there is a responsibility. As hard as it is, I do believe if I can keep my mouth closed when I am most tempted to let my feelings known, my closest relationships will flourish and not falter.

Vern and Bee are able to communicate without speaking. They can show their feelings without uttering a word. In this last week, I have learned so much by observing them walk through life without using a single word.