Category Archives: vulnerable

The Act of Pruning

creativity is Intelligence having fun


Carl was not happy about being on the other side of the fence.  But he needed to be there as my husband cut down the grape vine that we recently discovered last summer. As Carl made himself known to us by his loud whine, we cut off the branches, pulled off the long thin climbers, and chopped the large vine down close to the ground.

Just like the grape vine, many plants need to be cut back in order to reach their full potential. Year after year, we have cut back our fig tree to see it come back with beautiful leaves and delicious fruit. So even though it looks almost impossible to believe that new vines will grow back and produce grapes, we just have to believe that they will.

It is interesting how God created plants to flourish when they are pruned back.  So why shouldn’t we think that He wants to do the same with us?

“I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in me that does not bear fruit he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit.” John 15:1-2

The word pruning means cutting or thinning. So when you think about how God prunes us, you probably aren’t thinking of a pleasant experience but one that will include some form of suffering or pain.

No one likes suffering and the physical, emotional, spiritual, or financial hardship that comes with it. But if we read this scripture again, we know it is for our good and God’s glory.

I personally would like everything to go as I plan but in the times of suffering, I can be encouraged by the fact that God is pruning me so that I will produce more fruit. And as I reflect on my life, I do believe that the hardships have molded me into someone who relies more and more on God.

Carl has also been pruned on several occasions in his life and I do believe that it has helped him to become the sweet little fella that we all love.  Having his tail surgically removed was probably the severest pruning he has lived through. But even though it was extremely painful and he no longer has a tail, Carl has adjusted and become an inspiration to us all.

A Carl Pop

Carl refused to move. It was clear that he was cold because his entire body shook but never the less, he wouldn’t budge. This was a particularly cold day with temperatures in the low 20’s and I didn’t want to stand there and argue with my little bull headed bully.

Being hard headed is one attribute of my little dog that hasn’t changed for the three years that Carl has lived with us. No matter my strategy, he will not budge unless he can see the treat that he desires.

I have to admit that I can also be hard headed in certain areas of my life. And I have also noted that the older I get, these areas have extended to other parts that were earlier unoccupied. Age and experience can give us wisdom but it can also increase our pride if we are not careful.

I am sure Jesus’ disciples thought they knew everything they needed to know about God and what they had to do in order to enter His kingdom. Peter is a perfect example of this. He seemed to be the kind of person that spoke before thinking through what he should say. This makes him very relatable.

In Matthew 16, Jesus is telling his disciple how he has to go to Jerusalem and suffer many things. Even after being with Jesus for years, Peter just doesn’t get it. He thinks he knows more than Jesus and even has the audacity to pull him aside and rebuke him.

Well you can guess that this doesn’t go well. Jesus turns to Peter and tells him to his face, “Get behind me Satan! You are a hindrance to me. For you are not setting your mind on the things of God but on the things of man.” Matthew 16:23

How often do we set our mind on the things of man without thinking about the long term implications?  It can be so easy to think we know what is best for ourselves and leave God out of decision making process. If only we would consider what has eternal value and not the things of man.

As for Carl, once he saw the treat in my hand, he took a step inside the porch door, grabbed the treat and raced inside to recover from the cold. All I could do was shake my head and follow him inside. Will he ever change? Probably not. But I am going to love him anyway. As I looked over, Carl was still shaking and I had to laugh. He reminded me of a freeze pop on a stick.  A Carl pop.img_3032.jpg

Vulnerable

Carl is beginning to pipe up and has started that annoying howl that has gotten him in lots of trouble in the recent past. I am not sure why he has started to make this obnoxious noise except that he wants my attention. For the last couple of days, I have been very attentive towards his needs and today was totally different.

With winter weather that has kept us house bound, Carl has enjoyed the knowledge of having a back rub or sitting on a human’s lap.  Every day has been spent either sleeping or trying to get my attention. But these last couple of days Carl has realized that his human mother is not herself.

If any of you out there have turned 50, you know the right of passage that you are faced with.  The dreaded colonoscopy. Every ten years, each of us over 50 are confronted with not only the procedure but the prep that comes with it. I am not going into specifics but I can tell you that this process has lengthened and gotten a little more complicated.

Instead of just one day of prep, the new process includes four days of a low fiber diet which is totally different from the diet that I would have predicted. After eating carbs and bread for four days, the day prior to the procedure I was confronted with a liquid diet that ended with 64 ounces of Gatorade and Miralax.

I haven’t fasted in a while and wondered how I would handle a day without food. For someone who doesn’t want to miss a meal, how would my attitude be when I had to go without?  Around 1:00 in the afternoon, I was beginning to feel the effects of having nothing on my stomach. I could tell that my irritable attitude was rising up from within.

This is when I tried to consume my thoughts with distractions from the Australian Open and later with the NFL playoffs. I was feeling a little vulnerable with the knowledge that I had a ways to go and knew that my stomach wasn’t going to be satisfied for at least another 24 hours.

As I reflect over this experience, a verse in Matthew 17 keeps coming up.  Jesus had just been up to the mountain where He, Moses, and Elijah were transfigured in the presence of several of his disciples. Once He comes back down to the people, He is instantly confronted by a man that desperately wants his son to be healed from a demon.

The man tells Jesus that several of his disciples tried to heal the boy but couldn’t. It was clear the disciples thought they could, but were unable to. When asked by them why the boy couldn’t be healed, Jesus tells them, “However this kind does not go out except by prayer and fasting.”

Prayer and fasting. Why would God want us to fast? Being without food caused me to feel vulnerable. I didn’t feel as in control as I usually do. It is in this state of mind that we can go to God and have a better perspective of who He is. While fasting, I felt weak which made God strong.

As the day went on, Carl could tell that I wasn’t myself and gave me my space. But that evening, when I was at my weakest, I looked over at our little pooch and found him in a prayer stance. I could only smile and thank God for the lessons He has taught me through this little dog.IMG_2906

Overcoming our Feelings

I am not sure how Carl is feeling about being back under our roof. For the first two days upon returning from a house full of children, he seemed depressed. He basically laid on the couch and slept for the majority of the time. After several days, he now seems to be more content about his present situation.  I am not sure why I care so much about how he feels.

Why should how a person feels be so important to all of us?  I will never forget taking my father in law to the doctors after being diagnosed with lung cancer.  Every time we were approached by a nurse as she escorted us into the examination room we would always be asked the same question. “How are you doing?” Which could be interpreted as “How are you feeling about life?”

I am sure this is just a way to greet people, but in reality, what should we be asking people when we encounter them? Should a person’s feelings be the most important aspect of their being?

I just finished listening to a message by Joyce Myers that really challenged me. She explained that humans are made up of three different parts, the physical body, the soul, and the spirit. A person’s feelings fall under the category of soul along with the mind and will. Deeper into who we are is our spirit that should be dictated by the Holy Spirit and the Holy Scriptures.

She explained that if we live by how we feel or our emotions, than we are not going to experience the joy that comes from living by the Spirit.  Jesus even addresses this in John 15: 11. Since He created us, He knows what will complete us emotionally.

If I remain in Him, I can have joy no matter the circumstances. Even when it involves something as devastating as lung cancer. So how do I remain in Him? By reading the Scriptures when I don’t FEEL like it. It is only through the Scriptures that the Holy Spirit can push through our soul (feelings, mind, and will) and motivate our physical body to do the Will of God.

It was interesting, because just as I was writing this, I had the urge to go over and check on Carl and was tempted to turn the television set on. As I looked down at the dozing dog, I was reminded that I needed to return to what I believe is God’s Will (writing this blog) and dismiss my feelings.

Now that I have completed this entry and getting ready to send it off, I am filled with a sense of contentment that can only come from digging past my soul and pulling out what is of true spiritual value.

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In the Middle

He was in a pickle. Carl wanted to go outside but he was afraid if he did so, he would miss out on something. A treat, a chance to lay in front of the fire, or the attention that he always craves. So instead of crawling through the doggy door to the world, he stood in the middle of in and out.

Most of our lives we are in the middle of here or there, beginning or ending, or like Carl, in and out. And while we stand in this position of limbo, we have a decision to make. Do we finish the task that is given to us or do we lay it down and settle for where we are.

Joseph was caught in the middle. He had fallen in love with a young woman named Mary and planned to marry her. It was what romance novels are made of. A young couple with their lives full of potential and hope for a life without troubles.

But the script didn’t call for smooth sailing ahead. Instead, Mary dropped the bombshell. She was pregnant. And Joseph knew it wasn’t his. The problem was that he knew what would happen to Mary if word got out that she was with child. So as he was thinking about how to make the problem go away, he had a dream.

This wasn’t an ordinary night of slumber. This particular time of sleep would change Joseph’s life and in the end, change the outcome of eternity for all humanity.

As we stand in the middle of this dilemma, let us consider what we would do. As for Carl, he decided to stay inside and find a comfortable spot on the couch. And as I write, he has slipped into his own dream world.

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The Power of Fear

Power. It takes all kinds of shapes. Last night I saw it in its most primitive state. After feeding Carl and Bee, I went back into the bedroom and went back to sleep. A few minutes later I awoke to a feeling that something wasn’t right. I sat up and looked at the two dog beds and found them vacant.

Anxiety filled my heart as I arose and walked down the darkened hallway back into the kitchen. I wasn’t sure what I was going to find but I knew it wasn’t going to be good. There shivering in the corner was Carl. He had been trapped there by the power of fear.

Fear takes on a life of its own if it isn’t dealt with. In the last couple of months this has been clearly played out in the life of my dog Carl. But I know there are areas of my life that fear can grasp on to and squeeze harder if I am not careful.

When I was a young girl, I was involved in a boat accident that left me scarred for life. As I was under the water with the boat coming straight towards me, a fear was born. Little did I know that it would take on the shape that it did.

Obviously, I was afraid of boats but specifically catamarans. The flat surface of the boat was a perfect place to get trapped under if the boat flipped over. And then there are bridges, particularly high ones that lift the cars far above the water. Just the thought of these, makes my heart race and palms perspire.

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.  And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”

Philippians 4:6 sums up how we should all deal with our fears. The power of fears comes when we give it time to fester in our minds and hearts. If we instead turn our focus onto God and all His blessings, fear will lose its power.

But as for Carl, his fear has taken the shape of his sister dog Bee. Every time she stands in front of him and he backs down, her power over him increases. What started off as a little anxiety has blown up into a nightmare for all of us.

I would love to hear from anyone that may have a suggestion on how to resolve this issue.  I am out of ideas and am willing to try anything to bring our dogs back into a harmonious relationship.

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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