Vern looked up from the back seat and began to whimper. Was he distressed or just didn’t understand where we were going without his sister Bee. As much as he enjoyed being with us, it appeared that he just couldn’t figure out why she was left behind. We would have thought Vern would love the idea of having our undivided attention, but given he has never been away from Bee, he probably did miss her.
We can’t fault Vern for wanting his doggy companion to be with him. Aren’t we all like him to a certain degree? From an outsider’s point of view, everything should be wonderful, but it just isn’t. That one thing that we desire, is missing.
So how can we be content in our circumstances, no matter what is going on? Particularly now, with life turned upside down and normalcy nowhere to be found. Sometimes, I personally want to scream for the life we had before Covid-19.
There is a scripture tucked in the book of Psalms that can serve as a springboard for all of us. “Take delight in the LORD, and he will give you the desires of your heart.” (Psalm 34:4) But how do we take delight in the LORD when our treasures are bound in the things of the world? “Trust in the LORD and do good; dwell in the land and cultivate faithfulness.”(Psalm 34:3)
As we go through these times of uncertainty, we need to trust in the LORD and do good. If we cultivate faithfulness, our desires will change. Instead of looking to the ways of the world for our contentment, God promises us to change our hearts. As for Vern, he seems to have calmed down and is now content being close to his daddy.
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.
Carl. He has been removed once more.
First he was taken from his home where he resides as the king and taken to my
daughter’s home for the week we were on vacation. After spending less than two
days with her family, he was taken to doggy daycare to finish out his days
until our return.
luxury of cameras to give us a clear view of Carl’s actions, we witnessed his
removal from the play area after an altercation with another dog. We understood
the decision to send him back to his cage, but the thought of him being
secluded, hurt our hearts.
of hours we would turn the app on and seek out our little dog among the others
only to see void space where Carl would be. Void space can also be found in our
hearts where God should reside. Ecclesiastes
3:11 states that God has put eternity into our hearts. A space where nothing or
no one can fill.
strive to fill the space with things, power, or success. They will even try to
occupy it with a relationship or two. But no matter how much is crammed in, it
just won’t fit. Given a square won’t fit into a circle peg, anything outside of
the will of God, will not fit into the space that God has placed in our hearts.
hours later, we turned the app on once more to see Carl wondering around the
large room among the many dogs. The girl in the room seemed to have her eyes
set on him to make sure he behaved. Carl even seemed cautious as he wondered
around, making sure that he could stay in this space that once was void.
I walked in
the door after being away for a day and Carl was there to jump up and welcome
me. I admit that I love the unsolicited encouragement that both he and Bee
lavish upon me, no matter how long I have been away.
Dogs are so
wonderful when it comes to demonstrating their unconditional love for us
humans. Particularly when we don’t
deserve it. They don’t keep a record of wrongs.
All they want is to receive a little attention and stroking of the fur
and they’re good to go.
encourage one another daily, as long as it is called “Today,” so that
none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness.” (Hebrews 3:13)
Wow, if we
could take a lesson from our four legged friends, everyone would be in such a
better place. If every day, we could
encourage (pour courage) into the ones that are closest to us, what a better
world we would live in.
Carl and I
are very different when it comes to walks. Our little dog absolutely loves to
go out into the world and stroll down any path or road near our house. It doesn’t
matter how long he and my husband go or even what the temperature is. Just call Carl’s name and follow it with the
word, “walk” and we have a happy dog.
Now for me,
I will join Carl and my husband on a regular basis but it isn’t something I
really enjoy. I find walking a little on the boring side and choose other kinds
of exercise to accomplish my fitness goals. I particularly don’t like going when
I am not sure of the final destination.
This is why
when I think about the amount of walking the disciples of Jesus did, I become
amazed. There is one particular walk that blows my mind when I consider how far
they went without having a clue of the purpose of their journey.
It is a
story that is easily overlooked and most people don’t even consider the
circumstances surrounding the walk. It begins with Jesus being bombarded by a bunch
of religious leaders trying their best to prove that He is a farce. His disciples are beginning to wonder about
who Jesus is and so instead of trying to convince them with words, Jesus plans
a field trip.
start walking. I am sure the disciples were like most children we know and
asked Jesus countless times if they were close to their destination. Given how
I felt yesterday when walking four miles, I can’t imagine how they were feeling
after two days of trodding down a sandy path in the middle of nowhere.
days, they finally come to a small town near Sidon which is between fifty and
sixty miles from where they began. The disciples must have been a little cranky
as they waited for some incredible miracle to happen. But all they saw were
Gentiles that looked at them like they were scum off the bottom of their shoes.
anything worth coming this long way was probably causing these men to become
frustrated. To top it off, a woman’s persistent scream for Jesus could be heard
over the crowd without any signs of stopping. As the woman drew closer, the
disciples began to become extremely annoyed.
disciples were probably getting a little aggravated with Jesus. The woman
wouldn’t be quiet and Jesus acted like He didn’t hear her. Even after several
disciples tried to get her to be quiet, she continued. They then turned to
Jesus, but He didn’t seem in the least bit interested in addressing the woman.
woman makes her way to Jesus and kneels down in front of Him and calls out,
“Lord, Son of David, have mercy on me! My daughter is demon possessed and is
makes a statement that most people would have thought would be insulting. He
replied, “It is not right to take the children’s food and toss it to the dogs.”
responded, “Yes it is Lord. Even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from the
looked down with incredible compassion and stated, “Woman, you have great
faith! Your request is granted.” (Matthew 25:25-28)
So why did
Jesus and his disciples walk so far into Gentile territory? There is no other miracles recorded here.
There is no interaction with important people or famous landmarks. Why would Jesus take at least ten days out of
his busy schedule to travel so far?
only one answer. To celebrate the faith of this one Gentile woman. This woman’s
declaration of who Jesus was demonstrated a stronger faith than any of his
disciples had shown since Jesus started his ministry. And Jesus wanted his
disciples to witness it first-hand.
future while I take my walks, I will spend some time contemplating the distance
these men covered. But what I will remember the most is how Jesus was willing
to take the time out of his busy schedule to seek out this woman of faith and
the miracle she received.
think Carl thinks a lot when he is going on his walks. But even so, I can learn
from his walking attitude and try and seek out the miracles that maybe right in
front of me.
clearly showing signs of insecurity. He wouldn’t come into the bedroom because
of his fear of his sister. After going out into the hall and literally pushing
him inside, it was clear our pooch needed support to enter.
and on his bed, he was shaking uncontrollably. Carl, who stands only a foot off
the ground, typically portrays himself as the size of a great dame on his walks
but now had shriveled into the body of a Chihuahua.
How can a
dog who one minute appears so confident be transformed into a pile of mush?
Before judging this little Frenchie, we should look in the mirror and ask
ourselves the same question.
We all have
sensitive spots in our personality that cause the wall of insecurity to keep us
from going forward. The question arises when we are face to face with the wall
and how we are going to get over it. Or in some cases, if we are even going to
attempt the climb.
Many of us
are forced to make the ascent over our personal insecurity when we are in
occupations that require it. Others, make the choice to fight through uncertainty
when an important relationship is on the line.
there are others that avoid facing their barricade or pretend it doesn’t exist.
King David was a perfect example of this. After his son Absalom was killed, the
king was paralyzed by his insecurity. Instead of leading his country, he became
absorbed with self-doubt and drew inward. The result of his actions had a
devastating effect on the country. Without a leader, all the people went back
aimlessly to their own tents.
Joab, his right hand man, had the confidence to speak sternly to the king. Then
and only then did King David take his position of authority and push through
his insecurity. Once he was seated on his throne, the people were willing to
come out of their own hiding places and give respect to the king. (2 Samuel 19)
understand how his insecurity impacts us. He doesn’t see the inconvenience of
being awakened by his howl and having to get up to move him through his
self-doubt. Many people who lack confidence don’t see how their actions hurt
the people around them. But just like David, it only takes a decision to take
the position that God has given us.
the future, Carl will climb over his personal wall of self-doubt and make his
way to his sleeping position that he has been assigned. And just like him, the
next time I come face to face with my own wall of insecurity, I will be willing
to make the climb upward and over.
up at me and then turned toward the door and pranced out with my husband for
his daily walk. If he could talk, he would say something like, “If you want to
come with us, that is okay, but it doesn’t matter to me.”
When he takes
to the streets, Carl makes it clear that it is all about “us” and “them”. He
really doesn’t care about the feelings of the other dogs or humans that he
comes across, just as long as he has the undivided attention of my husband,
Carl is perfectly content.
media has given people their own personal platform, people are becoming more
and more about us and them. Social apps are bombarded with extreme views that
automatically categorize friends and family into “us” or “them”.
comment, a brick goes up into the wall that divides “us” from “them”. A wall
that is being built without concern for others. So how do we take down the
bricks to create a world that focuses more on “we”? It starts when we take our focus off of “me”
and place it on a man that walked the earth two thousand years ago.
lived each day of His life for everyone to be a “we”. As He was getting ready
to die for each one of us, He prayed to God for unity. “I have given them the
glory you gave me, that they maybe one as we are one.” (John 16:22)
am tempted to put an “us” and “them” brick into the wall, I have to take my
thoughts to a hill covered with blood and tears. And when I am there in my
mind, I look around and see others that could be on the other side of the wall
looking up into the eyes of the man who died for “we”.
Being a dog,
Carl will never understand how he may be hurting others when he walks by them with
his nose in the air. But unlike Carl, I hope the next time I am feeling the
temptation to place a brick of “us” into the wall, I will remember the “them” who
resides on the other side.
ever has his eyes totally closed when I am nearby. He is constantly on alert for any unusual
movement I make. I think Carl wants to
make sure he doesn’t miss out on anything fun or entertaining.
No matter if
he is in his bed, on the couch, or lying down on the screen porch, his eyes are
looking in all directions for any detection of movement. When I need to go
outside without Carl, I usually have to tippy toe past him and open the door
without making a sound.
If I am
caught, Carl will slither through the door beside me, and wander around outside
until he is placed back inside. This can be aggravating when I am in a hurry or
have a task that doesn’t call for the help of a Frenchie with no tail.
the folly of exploring outside the boundaries of the house. He is unaware of
the dangers of the busy street that borders our yard. He typically won’t go out into the street
unless he spots a dog being walked. Then all bets are off.
Carl, we all have a tendency to folly out beyond the boundaries set before us
by God. Proverbs 15:21 states it simply but profoundly.
“Folly is a
joy to him who lacks sense, but a man of understanding walks straight ahead.”
How often do
we slither outside and wander where we are not intended to travel? This can
take place in our minds or in our actions. No matter, there are times when we
lack sense and need to return to the straight path.
As for Carl,
he will continue to dart outside every chance he can. And you will find me
taking a hold of his collar and dragging him back to the safety of the screened
continued to beat against the window pane as Carl looked up from his bed, and
then rolled over. It was clear he had no intention of jumping off, and making
his way outside to do his business.
For the last
couple of weeks, the rain has come in waves, turning our backyard into a pond.
Carl has tried to avoid getting wet, but even with his efforts, it is
impossible to miss his muddy paw prints scattered across the wood floors.
Carl, at times we leave muddy footprints across the floors of life. They can
come from making rash decisions or stating harsh words in the middle of our own
life will bring days of squalls and dark clouds, we must prepare ourselves
before their arrival. And who best to emulate
than Jesus, the creator of the storms.
squall came up, and the waves broke over the boat, so that it was nearly swamped.
Jesus was in the stern, sleeping on a cushion. The disciples woke him and said
to him, ‘“Teacher, don’t you care if we drown?”’ He got up, rebuked the wind
and said to the waves, ‘“Quiet! Be still!”’ Then the wind died down and it was
completely calm.” (Mark 4:37-39)
have questioned how Jesus could sleep during this horrendous storm when all his
disciples were scared to death. Just like these men, we often wonder where
Jesus is when we go through storms. And when we can’t find Him, we have a
tendency to react out of fear.
I have found that if I focus on what Jesus did during this storm, I will not be consumed with fear but faith. In order to sleep, Jesus must have known the outcome of the storm, and then once He was awoken, He demonstrated His power by calming the wind and waves.
points me to Jesus when I am in the middle of heavy rainstorms. When it doesn’t
look like it will ever stop and the sun is missing from the sky, I visualize
Jesus sleeping in the stern of the boat.
continued to sleep until the rain subsided and he could go outside without getting
drenched. We appreciated his attempt to stay dry but had to laugh as he walked
across the wooden floors and left a trail of wet paw prints.
slowed to a stop and the man rolled his window down. Not sure what he was going to say, both my
husband and I leaned in. “I just want you to know that you have a good looking
dog.” As we thanked him, we couldn’t help but say back in jest, “You can have
him, if you want.” (We were just kidding!)
I have also
seen Carl from a distance and have to agree that he sure is cute and desirable.
But what Carl is from a distance and what he is up, close and personable are
totally two different things.
What is it
about us humans that cause us to crave the things that are at a distance? So
often, we feel the need to have the very thing that can cause us such
Samaritan woman wanted was to have a husband that loved her and she ended up
with five broken marriages and a compromised life. The rich young ruler only
wanted his wealth and ended up lacking the peace that comes from putting God
clearly tells us in John 6:36 “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me
will never go hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.”
If we can only
stop looking in the distance for the bread of life and turn to the source, we
will finally be content and full.
can’t imagine life without Carl. Even
though it has been difficult at times, I am thankful God has used this little
dog to help me draw closer to Him so that I don’t have to continue to desire
what is at a distance.