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Not the Dog I Wanted

I have to confess that Carl was not the dog I wanted. I wanted the brown female dog that had died when her mother rolled on top of her. But knowing it could take a long time before a brown female was born, my husband and I settled on the fawn colored male.img_4753

Earlier in my life I had owned a male dog and found him harder to train and just didn’t bond with him. So when we brought Carl home, I knew that I had to have an open mind and a willingness to cultivate the relationship.

Before working with Carl, I had to cultivate positive thoughts about this little puppy. So instead of focusing on Carl’s obnoxious behaviors of constantly nipping everyone who walked in the door, howling in the middle of the night and marking his territory, I shifted my thoughts to how much joy he was bringing to my family and friends.

I had to be intentional with this cultivation.  My thoughts towards this little Frenchie had to be positive and encouraging. When a negative thought came fleeting through my mind, I had to transform it into a hopeful outcome.

After four years with this little dog, I have realized that nothing worth having in life will come easily.  The most precious things will take time and effort.  Each meaningful relationship, career, and hobby has taken a lot of cultivation to witness a bountiful harvest.

Ecclesiastes 3: 1-4 states it beautifully:

To everything there is a season. A time for every purpose under heaven:

A time to be born and a time to die;

A time to plant and a time to pluck what is planted;

A time to kill, and a time to heal;

A time to break down and a time to build up;

A time to weep and a time laugh;

A time to mourn and a time to dance.

As we cultivate our lives, we need to be attentive to the specific timing that God has created for our unique lives. If we try and rush the outcomes, we will lose out on the harvest that God is creating for us.

So as I write these words and think about my little dog, I know that there will always be more cultivating to do. And that is fine with me.img_4765

 

 

 

Living Life in the Present

Carl loves his walks.  Next to being fed, taking a walk around the block is what he lives for. He and his sister Bee constantly compete for who will lead their pack around the three mile path marked out by their humans.IMG_4776

With his ears perked up and his body stiff and alert, Carl walks like he is on a mission. As he struts forward, he is always attentive to his surroundings. You could say that Carl lives in the present.

We all could learn from Carl.  So often, I find myself drifting in my thoughts to either my past or my future.  This is particularly true right before a vacation.

My husband and I will be going on a cruise in the near future. Just the thought of being out in the middle of the ocean with 80 degree temperatures can sweep my thoughts away. Carnival Cruise lines has an app that you can open and it states to the minute how long it will be before we will set sail. At this time it will be 8 days, 1 hour and 59 minutes.

Every day for the last week, we have opened the app just to see the numbers drop and the time draw closer and closer to our cruise. There really isn’t anything bad about doing this. We all have thoughts that captivate us and send us into another time and place. Even though it isn’t bad, there is a better way to spend my moments. In the present.

I have come to realize that if I spend too much time focusing on the future, I miss out on the gift of the present. The Apostle Paul learned a lesson that I believe we all can benefit from.  He stated, “I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances.  I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through him who gives me strength.” Philippians 4:11-13

So instead of dreaming about the future, I need to be content in the present. God doesn’t promise me the days ahead but as long as I am breathing, I do have the present to enjoy.

Carl is back from his walk and resting in his favorite place. He sure knows how to live his life to the fullest. Even when he is sleeping, he seems pleased with his present circumstances. If my dog can be happy with his life, surely, with the help of Jesus who gives me strength, I can  enjoy mine.IMG_4774

 

 

Carl’s Christmas Outfit

Carl knew it was coming.  If it wasn’t for the car ride and being ushered into the pet store wasn’t enough of a clue, being surrounded by several employees assisting with the buckles and straps was a sure sign that he was going to get a Christmas outfit.

Given that Carl can sometimes be mistaken for a baby deer fawn, reindeer ears would be the most appropriate for this holiday season. So with the prompting of a little treat, Carl allowed all the humans to smash his head into the brown head piece.IMG_4748

As cute as Carl looked as a reindeer, it was clear that this wasn’t what he was. He was a French bulldog with an outfit on. God had created him to be a dog, no matter what costume he was wearing. How often do we put on costumes and pretend to be something that we aren’t?

We can play many parts as we go through our lives but unless we are living out the life that God has given us, we are going to feel like a bull dog made up like a reindeer.

Jesus was the most authentic person that ever walked the earth. He knew who he was and his true purpose. John 14:6 states it perfectly, “Jesus answered, “I am the way, the truth, and the life.”

If we truly believe this, we should be getting to know Jesus and finding out how to live out the life that God has created us for. This can begin by reading the Gospel and praying for insight.

As for Carl, he knows he is a French bulldog.  If he has to be dressed up for Christmas, he will tolerate the reindeer outfit, but a Christmas tree is taking it a little too far.IMG_4750

 

Our Deepest Desire

It was clear what Carl wanted. We were sitting at the breakfast table when Carl placed his paws in my lap.  Looking at me with those soulful brown eyes, if he could speak, he would be asking for some of the sausage dish that could be seen on our plates.

I pushed his paws off me and firmly told him that he would not be getting any food off my plate. With a sad demeanor, Carl turned from me and slowly walked back to the couch and curled up in his familiar spot.56605741629__FFAC95CB-502E-4A67-BCDA-3817A1CED79C

Carl is not the only one that wants.  We all do.  And the want list only seems to increase during the holiday season. Children are conditioned from birth that Christmas means getting what you want. Presents are stacked under the tree by parents with the hope that their loved ones will find enjoyment from the gifts that are given.

But if you think about it, will the presents fill the desire of what we really want?  As the gifts are unwrapped, a sense of anticipation rises up in our hearts. But no matter what is inside, it just can’t give us the long lasting satisfaction that we all yearn for.

So where can we find this satisfaction that our hearts so desperately desires? Will it be in the things that take up the space in our homes? Or in the accomplishment of a lifetime goal? Could it come through a relationship that has been sought after?

What if our greatest want or desire could be satisfied by the baby in the manger? The newborn cuddled up in the hay.

Take a long look at the babe.  The one that the angel told the shepherds to come worship.  The one that the star directed the wise men to. God’s only son. Christ the king.

So often we lose sight of the gift that God has given us. The only gift that will fill the void that He actually created within us.  So in this season, let us not forget the reason to celebrate. If this means opening up your Bible and reading the story as it is actually written, do it. Or if music can resonate in your heart, play music that is intended for worship of our savior’s birth.

Carl will surely return to the table and try to persuade me to give him what he wants. And as he places his paws on my lap and looks at me with his soulful brown eyes, I will use this as a reminder of what is truly desired.IMG_4656

“Thank you Lord for sending your only begotten Son to earth as a baby. I want to particularly thank you for allowing this baby to grow into a man, one that understands my frailty and temptations. Thank you for allowing Him to die on the cross so that I can live life to the fullest.”

Why Someone Like Me?

Carl had to adjust his eyes when the bright light was turned on.  It was clear he had been woken from a deep dream. The light made him shake his head and get his bearings.

Just as Carl had to adjust to the light, I can’t imagine what the shepherds in the field thought when they were awoken on that Christmas morning so many years ago.IMG_2345

Luke 2:9-11 states, “An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, “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.”

It is hard to imagine how the shepherds must have reacted to the appearance of the angels. Given that they were the outcasts of society, they probably were pinching themselves and questioning why would God send His messengers to us with the news of His Son?

We may ask the same question.  Why would God send His Son into the world to be born in a smelly stall by a teen age peasant? And instead of sending his angels to more reputable people, he chose the lowest of all the social classes to share in this miracle.

Why is it such good news to know that Jesus wasn’t born a king but a peasant? Because it allows every person who ever walked, walks, and will walk on this earth an opportunity for a relationship with Him.

If He had come as nobility, it would have portrayed a God who only felt a certain social class was worthy of His salvation. Instead, He entrusted the news of His Son’s birth to shepherds.

As Carl adjusted his eyes to the light, it was clear that he was wide awake and watching my every move. Once I began to leave the room, he jumped off the couch and followed me down the hall. Just as Carl followed me, I am sure the shepherds had all the sheep follow them into Bethlehem to witness the miracle that would change the world.IMG_2788

 

 

Christmas Preparations

Carl moved into the narrow kitchen space and looked up at me with his deep brown eyes. It was clear what he wanted.  Any kind of morsel would do but he definitely favored the salty taste of meat. Since I have been spending more time in the kitchen to prepare for Christmas, Carl and Bee have been following my every move.IMG_4616

No matter when I return to this location, they can be found underfoot just waiting for me to drop something into their dishes. It can be annoying at times but I have to admit that when I am desperate, I can take the same posture towards God.

I find it interesting that the weeks leading up to Christmas can be a time that I find myself shooting arrow prayers up to God for things that I want but may not necessarily need. With a fuller than usual calendar and a burning need to fit in, I can end up with feelings of anxiety that don’t usually exist at other times of the year.

When I find myself feeling apprehensive about my Christmas circumstances, I find it best to reflect on the exact details of the events that led up the creation of this holiday. Instead of baking cookies, shopping for presents, and going to as many parties as possible, Mary was preparing for the birth of her son.

There were no parties for her to attend. Just the opposite. The gossip must have been freely flowing about how this young girl had become pregnant. Friends and family were probably quick to think the worst and offer no support.

But even though she had been alienated from society, she did find comfort with her cousin Elizabeth and her betrothed husband Joseph. Elizabeth and her husband were experiencing their own miracle with the birth of their own son after being barren for all of her child bearing years. And Joseph had been visited by an angel in a dream that clearly told him to take care of this young woman.

As I reflect on my own circumstances and that of Mary’s I have come to the conclusion that God will always provide. This provision may not come in the form that we expect but it will come.

Carl’s waist line clearly demonstrates that his needs have been met and will continue to be met as long as he lives in our home. He may not always get an extra morsel of food but he will have plenty. IMG_4603

As for me, when I struggle with all my Christmas responsibilities, I will try to take my thoughts back to over 2000 years ago when a young woman was willing to give up the comforts of life for the salvation of the world.

 

Outside Looking In

Carl’s nose was pressed against the French door as he watched the people inside mingling around. He wanted to come in but the electronic door wasn’t working and he seemed to be stuck on the outside. IMG_4601

How many times have you ever felt like you were on the outside of a group or situation and just didn’t know how to get in? I know I have felt this way many times in the course of my life.  I have wanted something that others had and felt the insecurity that comes when I didn’t feel like I measured up.

Hagar definitely struggled with being on the outside. She was an Egyptian maidservant living in the home of Abraham and Sarah. Looking in on this couple, I am sure Hagar longed for her own husband and a man to love only her.

To make matters worse, Sarah told her husband to take Hagar as his second wife and bear a child. Instead of being happy about conceiving Abraham’s child, Hagar began to detest Sarah for the situation she was now in. Genesis 16:4

It is easy to understand Hagar’s feelings. We have all felt the nagging anger that comes when our lives don’t turn out like we expect them to. And to make it even more difficult we seem to draw others around us that appear to have just what we want.

So what do we do when we are stuck on the outside looking in? How can we be content in all situations?

Paul tells us in Philippians 4:11-13. “I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances.  I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through Him who gives me strength.”

So the next time you start looking through the glass from the outside, take your focus off of the people inside and look towards Christ. Paul was so right, only when we focus on our savior can we be content with any and every situation.

Carl doesn’t have the ability to see beyond the glass and the humans that are mingling within the confines of the room. He only has the capability of focusing on what he sees. But thank goodness God created us with an eternal perspective that can help us see beyond the confines of this world.IMG_4427