The Pain That Leads to Prayer

My husband has taken Carl and Bee for a walk while I am supposed to be resting. Yesterday I had a medical procedure that I had been putting off for some time. The reason was plain and simple.  I don’t like pain. I never have. I particularly don’t like thinking about an upcoming surgical procedure that would definitely start with the pain from the numbing injections and end with the pain of being cut open.

But after the gentle encouragement of my dermatologist, I decided to do what was best and bite the bullet. As the days and the hours got closer, I prayed for a peaceful state of mind. So I went about my normal routine of walking Carl and Bee and spending time talking to my husband.

To also make the experience less stressful, I brought along a friend to keep me distracted on the drive over. Instead of being consumed with my own negative thoughts about what was going to take place, my friend and I discussed scriptures and how grateful we were to have a relationship with Jesus.

If I was apprehensive about a procedure that I knew would cause pain, I can’t even imagine what was going through Jesus’ mind as the days drew closer to his death. In John 10:17, Jesus states, “My Father loves Me, because I lay down My life that I may take it again.”

Jesus knew when and how He would die. He knew it was going to be one of the most brutal deaths a man could go through. But He didn’t put it off for his own comfort. Instead, when the time had come, He first gathered his friends close by and went to the Garden of Gethsemane to pray.

Jesus demonstrated to us what we must do in order to pursue the things that will cause both physical and emotional pain.  He spent time in prayer with his Father and surrounded himself with the people He cared about the most.

I know that my tendency is to flee when I am about to encounter pain. Carl doesn’t like pain either. If ever I touch a sensitive spot on his body, he will growl and let me know that I better leave him alone. With his lack of understanding and inability to pray, he reacts.

But God gave all of us a way to take the focus off of the pain. It is called prayer.  And if we are honest with ourselves, it is when we experience pain that we are more apt to pray. Either we pray to prepare for the pain or we pray in the midst of it. Whichever I choose, it sure is comforting to know that I have a Heavenly Father that wants to hold me close as I pass through it.

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A Carl Sighting

There has been a Carl sighting. He was spotted hanging out the window of a big black truck. If you look close enough, it appears that he seems to be very happy with his situation.

This morning, my husband called Carl’s name as he left the house. Carl immediately jumped down from his comfy bed and followed my husband out the door to the driveway where the big black truck was parked. It didn’t take any prodding by my husband to encourage Carl to be placed on his favorite seat.

I have tried to encourage Carl to get up out of the bed on any given morning but if he isn’t ready to get up, he ignores me. On the other hand, if my husband just looks in Carl’s direction and says his name, the little fawn colored dog will show no hesitation to follow him out the door.

Why will Carl only respond to my husband and no one else? We can ask this same question of sheep and how they will only respond to the voice of their shepherd.

As I was reading John chapter 10, I was perplexed by the illustration of Jesus as he refers to himself as the shepherd and the people who follow him as his sheep. How could these curly haired animals teach me how to be a better follower of Christ?

John 10:3-5 “He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. 4 When he has brought out all his own, he goes on ahead of them, and his sheep follow him because they know his voice. 5 But they will never follow a stranger; in fact, they will run away from him because they do not recognize a stranger’s voice.”

In the same manner, if Jesus is my shepherd, I should hear his voice and follow Him. But what about all the other voices I have heard in my life and followed? In today’s world, I have been particularly distracted by the many voices screaming from my computer, television, and iphone.

Instead of allowing these devices to feed me what the world wants me to hear, I have been trying to use them to feed me what Jesus wants me to hear. Christian radio when I wake up, Bible study, and prayer will hopefully keep me in tuned to Jesus’ voice.

Carl’s response to my husband’s voice reminds me of the curly sheep that will only respond to the voice of the shepherd. So instead of getting aggravated with him, when he won’t budge when I call, I hope that it will remind me to listen intently for the voice of Jesus.

 

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A Robe for the Scarred

It was clear. Carl was devastated. His human father had left him behind. Every Saturday and Sunday morning, Carl had the opportunity to sit in the front seat of the big black truck and ride down the road with my husband. But not this Sunday. This morning, Carl had been left.

Maybe my husband was just too preoccupied to call for Carl to get up from his bed and join him. But after the backdoor closed and the truck’s engine began to purr, Carl began to whimper. I tried to console him but it was clear that he was a hurt little puppy.

With his ears down and head almost touching the floor, Carl slowly made his way back to his bed. I tried to pet him but he turned his head away and closed his eyes.

There is no relationship like the one between a child and a father. Given that we get our first glimpse of who God is from our father, it is crucial that earthly fathers give their children the time and attention needed to raise them up to love God.

But as we all know, there are fathers that are just too absorbed with their own desires and needs which leaves the children emotionally wounded. 2 Kings 16-18 tells the story of a king and his son and how the desires of the father could have destroyed the future of his son.

It states in 2 Kings 16:3, “Indeed, he made his son pass through the fires.” Did I hear that right? Yes, Ahaz made his son Hezekiah pass through more than one fire. This was a sacrifice to a pagan idol and typically the child would die. But Hezekiah didn’t. So without burn units and medication to help with healing, Hezekiah lived with both the physical and emotional pain of a self-absorbed father.

Once Ahaz died, at the age of twenty-five, his son Hezekiah became king over Judah. Given his upbringing, we would guess that he would follow in his father’s footsteps. But he didn’t. Instead of worshipping idols, Hezekiah did what was right in the sight of the Lord.

If anyone had reason to be bitter and angry it would have been Hezekiah. But from all accounts, he trusted God with his past. With scars from the fires, God placed a robe on this young man and he ruled for twenty-nine years. And isn’t this what God wants to do with all our broken and scarred souls? Place a robe on them and adopt them for His own. All we need to do is turn from blaming others and trust God with our lives.

My husband came home and Carl ran up to him and rubbed his body against his leg. It was clear that Carl had forgiven my husband and just wanted to be near him.

In this lifetime, Carl may never wear a robe and I probably won’t either. But I am going to put my order in for one that I will wear when I reach my eternal home.

 

 

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Seasons at the Bus Stop

IMG_1732Bee has been very busy these days. She has been spotted helping a boy who comes to the bus stop each day and waits with him until he leaves for school. Bee would love for you to discover more about her in her new book. 

To purchase her book Seasons at the Bus Stop, please go to the Children’s Book page and order one for any child you may know. 

Ended for Our Good

The word “good” struck a chord with me this morning. Yesterday, I was walking Carl around the block.  A neighbor who was walking her dog yelled out to me. “You have a handsome dog.”

“Thanks.” I responded.

“Is he a good dog?”

That was a very difficult question to answer. Just as I was going to respond, Carl began to lunge at her dog and began to growl furiously.

I couldn’t help but think about an hour earlier when a friend came in the door and how I had to pull him off of Bee when he couldn’t get the attention he desired.

But then there are the times that Carl is meek and mild and gives me that adorable little expression that I have come to love.

Today is Good Friday. What was possibly good about this particular day in the life of Jesus?

As the rooster crowed and the morning began, Peter could be found weeping over the fact that he had denied Jesus three times.

Judas, one of the men that had walked with Jesus for the last three years was found hung in the Field of Blood.

The night before, Jesus had been beaten and spat upon and mocked by the religious leaders. Now he was taken in front of the Governor to receive his sentence.

But the Governor’s wife pled with him after having a dream to have nothing to do with Jesus. But being afraid that he would lose his job, he washed his hands and gave the people the choice to have Barabbas, a known murderer or Jesus freed.

Incited by the religious leaders, the people screamed in unison to have Jesus crucified.

What came next was pure torture. Whips made with bits of glass were used to scourge Jesus to the point of death.

Then a purple robe was placed on his open wounds and a crown of thorns crushed onto his head.

After spitting on his face and making a mockery of Jesus, they ripped the robe off and led him up the hill where he would be crucified.

Once Jesus was at Calvary, the soldiers hammered nails into his wrists and feet and raised Him up high for all to see.

Then for six hours Jesus hung on the cross.

Again, I ask, “Why is this called Good Friday?”

Then something amazing happens. Around the third hour with the sun high in the sky, day becomes night.

At this point, could God’s heart be breaking?

And then if it couldn’t get worse, Jesus shares with us what was happening to Him by His last words, “My God, My God, Why have you forsaken me?”

And He gave up His spirit.

But it isn’t over!!!!  Maybe there is good in this.

Could the good come from what was happening behind the scenes?

The Bible states that the earth began to erupt and the graves of the saints were opened and they entered into the city and appeared to many.

The veil of the temple was torn from top to bottom so that now we have access to our God.

And we all know what happened three days later? So what started off as a day that couldn’t possibly be good ended for our good.

Thank you Jesus.

 

 

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Storms that Form

Carl curled up closer as the storm brewed outside our little camper. The rain pounded down all around us as we tossed and turned throughout the night. Once the thunder and lightning became more frequent and intensified, Carl drew closer and began to shake.

The night was tough on all of us. Sleep didn’t come easily and when it did, most of my dreams were laced with nightmares. After several hours of sporadic sleep and leg cramps, Carl and I arose.

It became clear from Carl’s behavior that he wasn’t feeling well. His body continued to shake uncontrollably and he ignored his breakfast. After several minutes, Carl finally was able to throw up the contents of his stomach.

Each of us have a unique way of dealing with the storms in our lives. Some become sick and have trouble sleeping. Others deny their existence until the volume of the storm cannot be ignored.

What does Jesus want to teach us when we encounter a storm in our lives? John 8 details how a woman caught in the act of adultery weathers the storm she is in the midst of.

She is being used as a pawn by the religious leaders to try and test Jesus so that they could discredit him. Given that the text states that Jesus came early to the temple, these religious leaders must have plucked this woman out of the arms of a man that wasn’t her husband.  Being completely humiliated she was then paraded through the streets only to be pushed through the temple doors where a crowd gathered around Jesus.

I can’t imagine the storm that was going on in this woman’s life. What had led her to committing adultery will never be known. But then to be pulled out of her bed and dragged to a temple full of staring eyes could be compared to a major storm with no way out.

Thankfully for this woman, the focus turns from her towards Jesus and how He is going to respond to the religious leaders. These men only placed their attention on the law and how a man of God should handle the woman in their midst. They want to see if Jesus agrees that the woman should be stoned for her misconduct. As they stand in arrogance, believing that they are right, Jesus leans down and begins to write something in the sand with his finger.

At this point, everyone is puzzled by His actions. What was He writing and how did it relate to the woman standing before them? And what was she thinking and feeling as the religious leaders held their stones ready to pelt her to death?

Then Jesus asks a simple question of the men with stones. “Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.” John 8:7. As soon as the question was out of His mouth, the men began to drop their stones and walk away, leaving only Jesus and the woman standing.

As the men pulled away, the sky began to clear and the storm clouds rolled away. What had started as a hopeless situation ended with a one on one conversation with the Son of God.

We have a lot to learn from this scenario and the storm this woman endured. Instead of focusing on our squalls, shouldn’t we draw into our own personal conversation with God?

After Carl emptied his stomach, he seemed to feel better. The storm had also subsided and the angry clouds parted for a beautiful day with bright sunshine and deep blue skies. Carl showed no signs of the effects of the storm and after his breakfast curled up in the warmth that only the sun (Son) can provide.

 

 

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Loss

Loss comes in many forms and usually makes an arrival in our lives at the most unwelcome times. Carl understands what it is like to feel the loss of something. When he was less than six months old, he lost his manhood. Only two weeks later, he also lost his tail.

Carl had what is known as a screw tail. It is when the tail will not move but is literally stuck. So when he would go out to do his business, it would stay in place causing all kinds of problems. The surgery was much more extensive than we thought. The tail is an extension of the spinal cord and what we thought would be a simple procedure ended up being extremely painful for our little dog.

For months, Carl would not allow anyone to come close to his backend. If we even looked like we were going to pet him near his rear, he would growl at us. This caused everyone to be on high alert when we were around our pooch.

Carl’s personality also changed after this surgery from being a calm and carefree puppy to becoming insecure and on guard. Even after two years, he is still very needy. Loss can do that to all of us.

Most of us have experienced some form of loss.  Many have lost a family member or a friend that rips at our heart. These are the times that we question God’s character and wonder if He is good and loving.

Thankfully, we have scriptures that help us to understand God more in the depths of our pain. In John 11:5, the Bible tells us that Jesus loved Martha and her sister Mary and Lazarus. So why did He stay away from them when he knew that Lazarus would die before he returned?

Even though Jesus knew He was going to raise Lazarus from the dead, He entered into their pain. The shortest verse in the Bible screams out how much God loves us. In John 11:35, it states, “Jesus wept.” It doesn’t say that he brushed away a tear or two but that he openly cried.

So why does God allow our hearts to be pierced by the pain when we experience loss? Is there something in this story of Jesus weeping with these women that could help us? Could it possibly be that in the pain is where we will encounter our loving God?

As I was getting ready to post this blog, I couldn’t locate the work that I had done several days earlier. It appears that God wanted me to feel some form of loss before I published this blog. As for Carl, his loss will have a lifetime effect. He will never be able to wag his tail to show us when he is happy or sad. But even so, my little tailless bully will never know how much his loss has drawn others close to God.

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