Tag Archives: Christmas

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.”

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.

 

Left in the Manger

Carl doesn’t understand Christmas with all the comings and goings. Our schedule has changed with all the parties and people dropping off gifts. All the changes seems to have caused our pooch to become edgy and he appears to only want life to get back into a normal routine.

I enjoy spending time with friends, baking cookies, and getting into the shopping rush but I also like the predictability that life has provided us over the last couple of years. One of those routines that I have enjoyed the most is writing this blog and reflecting on how Carl may view life along with a spiritual lesson that I feel the need to share.

This season I have particularly been preoccupied with the reality of what actually happened two thousand years ago in a stable that could have been easily the side of a cliff. With the sound of Christmas music in the background, I can’t help but feel that many of us only know Jesus as the little baby lying in swaddling clothes in the manger with a bright light shining all around him.  Oh and let’s not forget the shepherds and the wise men that came by to worship the baby.

Just as they left with baby Jesus lying in the manger, we can easily walk back into our lives without considering who this baby grew up to be. As you begin to step away from this season, consider the young mother who couldn’t walk back into her previous life. Instead in Luke 2:19 it states, “But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart.”

For the next thirty-three years, she must have pondered over who this baby had become. And as she stood near the cross where her son was being crucified, she must have only been comforted by the knowledge that she knew that He was truly from God and was God.

So give yourself a true Christmas present this year. Open the Book that God gave us. The one that may be collecting dust. Turn to the third chapter of Luke and follow the journey that Mary must have taken as she watched her baby become a man.

Carl is getting antsy as he notices that we are getting ready to leave once more. This time to the Christmas program that our church puts on each year. He is following us around like he knows that we will be exiting any minute. And as we close the door behind us, he will find his way back to the comfort of his sofa.

Carl and I would like to wish everyone a very Merry Christmas and a New Year full of God’s eternal treasures.

As a side note: Please let me know if I should continue to write this blog by liking it or writing a short comment. I am considering taking up a different style of blogging but would like input from you before doing so.

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Front Row Seat

I have to make a confession. Neither Carl nor I like the night time. I don’t like driving in the dark and you won’t see Carl or I walking after the sun has set. But if there was to be an exception, it would have to be during the Christmas season when many have their houses lit up with glowing lights.

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My distaste for the darkness of night gives me more respect for the shepherds that spent night after night tending to their sheep. Instead of being nestled in their beds they were out in the fields protecting their livestock from the dangers of the dark.

As we all have probably experienced in the darkness, shadows take on a life of their own. We can think we see something but in the light, it ends up being nothing but an overblown imagination.

But this was different. Instead of a shadow, an angel surrounded by a brilliant light appeared among the shepherds. Their initial reaction was a deep seated fear of this heavenly being. But as quickly as the fear set in, the angel comforted them with words that would be remembered for the rest of time.

“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.  This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.” Luke 2:10-12.

As the shepherds were digesting these words, what happened next sealed their belief that this was truly from God. “Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.” Luke 2:13-14.

And sure enough, the shepherds left the field and found the baby wrapped in swaddling clothes lying in a manger. After seeing the baby, they were so filled with joy that they couldn’t stop talking about the child and what the angel had told them.

Why did God have his angels appear to these shepherds? What was it about these men that gave them a front row seat to the most incredible event of mankind? Weren’t shepherds considered unreliable and on the bottom of the social ladder? Weren’t shepherds unable to enter the temple because they were considered unclean?

Humble hearts. These men were chosen for their humble hearts. Even today, God doesn’t choose the prideful man with everything this world can offer. Instead He seeks out the ordinary. The ones that have a hunger in their hearts for the truth.

Just the other night, I was driving through a neighborhood with all the lights of Christmas all around me. As I rode in awe of the lights that portrayed different interpretations of Christmas, I couldn’t help but think how pale it all was compared to the brilliance of the glory of God that lit up the skies on that night so many years ago.

 

 

 

An Allusive Light

Every once in a while when I have the flash light in my hand, I get tempted to put the lazar function on and trace it over the floor. It only takes a minute until Carl spots the light and begins to hunt it down. He usually gets very excited and will slip and slide all over the floor until the light is turned off.

What is it about the light that causes such a reaction from my dogs? And why does this light cause Carl to become so consumed that he is willing to do anything to get to it?

More importantly, what was it about the star that rose in the sky after the birth of Jesus that caused the wise men to leave their homes and travel thousands of miles to find the baby? For months, they traveled, gazing up at the star that was directing them towards Bethlehem.

It is interesting that they are referred to as wise. Dictionary.com defines the word “wise” as “having the power of discerning and judging properly as to what is true or right; possessing discernment, judgment, or discretion.”

I am sure many didn’t see these men as wise as they packed their gifts and headed out into the desert in search for an unknown destination. Even so, every night when the shadows of the last light slipped behind the horizon, the star would appear even brighter than before.

As they drew closer to the Christ child, their excitement must have grown. And when they arrived in Jerusalem, people began to talk about them. They seemed so determined to locate this baby that King Herod called them into his chambers to find out more.

But being wise, they knew that this king only wanted ill will for this infant. So after leaving Jerusalem they determined not to go back to the king with the infant’s location.

Finally, after months of travel, they arrived at their destination. There was nothing about the house they entered that would indicate royalty. The parents were apparently very poor and the baby had no physical trait that would indicate that he would become a king over all humanity.

But none of that mattered. These men knew that they were in the presence of God. In reverence, they knelt in front of the baby and his mother and laid down their gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh.

These men must have felt a satisfaction that can only come from being in the presence of God. Unlike them, Carl will never feel the satisfaction of catching the light that is so allusive.

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The Gift of Friendships

Poor Carl. He was barred from his bed and once again had to sleep on the couch. Bee, stood in the doorway and made it crystal clear that he was not going to enter. So instead of experiencing the abuse of the Frenchie, he turned and walked down the darkened hallway to sleep alone.IMG_2403

I am sure he feels that no one understands his plight. Others would call him a wimp if they knew how his smaller sister was bullying him. As much as I wish I could teach him to stand up for himself, Bee has taken the role of the alpha and they need to work it out.

Mary must have felt similar feelings when the angel came to her and told her that she would carry the Son of God in her womb. Who would have any understanding of the situation and how to find peace in it?

When we go through trials alone, we can become very self-absorbed and just feel sorry for ourselves. But if we can find someone that has gone through a similar situation, we can find peace and purpose in our hardships.

God knows us and knew the importance of having someone for Mary at this time. Luke 1:39-41 states, “At that time Mary got ready and hurried to a town in the hill country of Judea, where she entered Zechariah’s home and greeted Elizabeth. When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the baby leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit.”

For the next three months, Mary stayed with Elizabeth as she came to full term and delivered her baby. This must have been a very special time for both of these women as they shared the joy of being a first time mother.

God loved these two women so much that He gave them each other at such a sensitive time in their lives. And if He demonstrated his love for these women by giving them each other, why shouldn’t we acknowledge His love in the friendships that He has given us?

 

A Life Changing Dream

As I look towards the fire, I can’t help but smile at my little white dog. He is cuddled up on the couch as close to the fire as he can get. The blower to our furnace is broken, so for now, the gas fire place is the spot to be near to stay warm. Carl’s eyes are closed and he seems to be preoccupied in his world of dreams.

Dreams. Many of them can be unpleasant and others can take you to the edge of ecstasy. I can’t say that I have had any in my lifetime that changed the course of my life. Some have given me something to think about but for the most part, nothing earth shattering.

But this isn’t the case for Joseph. Ever since he had found out that Mary was pregnant, he couldn’t think about anything else. He wanted to believe her but how could it be possible that she was pregnant without sleeping with another man?

And the nights were the worse. Sleep didn’t come easily. But this night Joseph finally drifted into a deep coma. This is when it happened. An angel appeared to him and even though he was asleep, Joseph knew that this was the most real experience he had ever had.

The angel shared a clear message from God. ““Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.” Matthew 1:20-21.

Joseph awoke and knew that he had to honor God by coveting the relationship he had with Mary. The angel was very clear and Joseph knew he had to do whatever it took to protect this woman and the baby she carried. And this is where the journey began that would ultimately change the course of humanity.

Unlike Joseph, Carl’s dreams seem to be only a fleeting set of pictures that may consist of his doggy family or a wild adventure that has no real significance. On occasion, Carl has awoken with a strong reaction to something that appeared in a dream. But after a few moments of adjusting his thoughts, he has been able to calm down and fall back to sleep.  IMG_2048

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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God’s Intentional Love

Carl has continued to let us know that he doesn’t like it one bit when we leave home. It seems to be a form of separation anxiety that is causing us to leave him outside while we are away. I spoke to the veterinarian the other day and she suggested we purchase a special kind of collar for him. The collar secretes a chemical that is supposed to imitate a natural hormone that reminds Carl of his mother. Instead of being anxious, Carl should now be calm and happy.

I never thought that there was a hormone that gives babies a warm and fuzzy feeling when they are near their mother. But after observing my five month old grandson around his mother, I can believe it.

This time of year, draws my thoughts to the birth of Jesus Christ. It is hard to think of him as a little baby cuddled up to his mother. But that is exactly how he entered our world. As an infant, he was totally dependent on a young woman for the nourishment and love to survive.

Why would God come to us as a vulnerable baby?  Why not as a full grown man? He could have zipped through eternity and landed here for a brief period to let us know that he existed but he didn’t. He came to us in the same manner that all of us do. As a newborn.

If for no other reason, we should take a minute to pause and take in this incredible miracle of this baby’s birth. So many of us miss it. We are so busy buying the presents, sending the cards, and putting up the tree, that we miss experiencing the birth of our Lord and Savior.

If we could only see that our God is intentional in every move that is made. Jesus didn’t just happen to be born a baby, God intended this to happen from the beginning of time. God loves us so much that he not only came for a visit but he became a human, with flesh and bones and a heart that beats just like ours.

And the cool part of Jesus’ time here wasn’t only his birth but his death and resurrection. You see just as he lived on earth with his flesh and bones, when he was resurrected from the dead, he was also flesh and bones. He ate meals with his disciples and allowed Thomas to place his finger where one of the nails had been.

So, in this particular Christmas season when you are celebrating the birth of Christ, remember that he is alive and is planning an awesome home for all who call him Lord.

As for Carl, it has been over a week since he has worn his new collar and there is no sign of the calmness that we hoped for. Even so, he is loved by all of us and will continue to call our house his home.

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