Tag Archives: Faith

Carl’s Purpose

Typically, Carl doesn’t attend to the movies that come across the screen but for some reason, this one caught his attention. With ears perked up and eyes staring straight at the television, Carl was completely absorbed. Given the movie was all about a dog and his purpose, I was not too surprised at my dog’s reaction.

As we watched the movie about a dog trying to figure out his purpose, it was fun to think that Carl could be thinking about his God given purpose. Could my four legged pooch actually have a reason for being?

You see, Carl was not our first choice. I had specifically asked the breeder for a brown French bull dog with a dark muzzle. The puppy was born and I was elated that it was a female and looked exactly how I wanted. But as fate has it, the puppy died only days after it was born which left us in a predicament. Do we wait the months or even years for another brown dog or do we purchase a different colored pup.

When the breeder sent us pictures of our little Carl, we couldn’t resist. So on December 6, 2014, we brought home our baby boy. I am not sure if we immediately understood why Carl was in our lives but after a couple of months of his antics, the fog began to clear.

During those days, I was also searching for my own reason for existence. I had recently retired from teaching and felt like an Israelite wandering in the desert. I had started blogging about my own personal time of searching but something was missing.  

If anyone knew their purpose, it was Jesus. In John 12:27-28, He states, “Now my soul is troubled, and what shall I say? ‘Father, save me from this hour’? No, it was for this very reason I came to this hour.  Father, glorify your name!”

As I think about what He states in this verse, my own purpose becomes a little clearer. If everything Jesus did was to glorify His father, then shouldn’t I have the same mindset?

But how can a retired school teacher and a crazy little French Bull dog glorify God? We can’t. But God can. Can’t He who created us, give us just what we need in order to reflect His goodness to everyone we come in contact with?

As I gaze over at my little dog with his attention still on the screen, I have to laugh with God. He could have given me the perfect looking dog with the best temperament but instead, He gave me Carl.

 

Carl and the Serpent

At first, I wasn’t sure what I was watching. Carl and Bee were pulling on something and neither were going to let go. The problem was the thing was a black snake that had slithered up on the porch to sun himself and didn’t realize what he had gotten himself into.

All I could do was scream. I am not sure if I was crying out for the snake or for the safety of my dogs. I couldn’t tell if the reptile was poisonous from my distance and I wasn’t going to get any closer.  So after a couple of minutes of tug a war, the dogs were no longer pulling.

It was then that I went into the screened in porch and looked over to see the remains of the snake. The head was lying on one side of the porch and the rest of the creature was lying between both dogs. Foam was seeping out of their mouths as they protected their prey.

I called my husband for advice and he told me to get the snake off the porch and throw it over the fence. Even though the snake was dead, I still didn’t want to go near it. So I recruited a neighbor to come to my rescue and discard it for me.

As he went to pick up the head, the snake opened its mouth. This absolutely creeped me out. I couldn’t believe my eyes. The mouth continued to open and close while the rest of the body slithered around five feet away. What I learned later is that this isn’t that unusual.

I couldn’t help but think about this verse as I pondered the continued movement of the snake. John 15:5-6 states, “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. 6 If you do not remain in me, you are like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned.”

Just as the snake’s body had been removed from the head, we can also be removed from the vine. Sometimes, people may even look spiritually alive and make all the right movements, but in the end, if they don’t remain in Jesus, they are dead.

John 15:7 states how we are to remain in Jesus.  It states, “If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. 8 This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.”

If we stay in God’s word and it remains in us, we can ask whatever we wish and it states that it will be done for us. But we need to be careful in knowing that it may not happen immediately or even in our lifetime. And in many cases, the end result may look very different from what we have perceived it to be.

Just as the snake continued to open and close its mouth, my perception of what a dead snake looks like was definitely different from what it was in reality. As for Carl, he did suffer a battle wound on his left ear. It appears the snake must have dug in as Carl and Bee pulled him a part. But thankfully, he seems fine and ready for his next encounter with the wild.

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Living Oblivious

Carl was oblivious to the circumstances. He was prancing around like he was going to be chosen to go camping. On the other hand, Bee wouldn’t leave my side for fear that she would be left behind. I tried to comfort the little girl by telling her she would be the one to go but after being left in the past, she didn’t want to take a chance.

It is funny to think about the differences in the dogs’ behaviors and the assumptions that both made about what was going to happen. Carl appeared to be a little arrogant with his head held high as he pranced around. On the other hand, Bee seemed terrified of being left.

As I observed the posture that my dogs took, I couldn’t help but think about our own posture before God. Many people emulate the confidence the Pharisees portrayed regarding their final destination.  They were so prideful about knowing how to get to Heaven that they didn’t recognize the only Way to get there.

On the other hand, prostitutes, invalids, and the twelve disheveled men that Jesus selected as His disciples followed Him around for three years until it became crystal clear that this man was God’s son.

How often do we all live in a state of oblivion? Just the other day, I found Carl sleeping on the back porch directly under the sun roof. As he lay in the brightness of the sun, the light diminished his figure in the process.

The contrast of his figure made me ponder. Isn’t this how we should live so that we don’t get caught in a state of oblivion? Jesus states that He is the light of the world. John 8:12. If so, if we are living in His light, shouldn’t our figures be diminished and His enhanced?

Carl didn’t see it coming when I pranced him over to the neighbor’s house before loading Bee into the truck. He continued to appear confident and sure of himself. I almost felt sorry for him. Then it struck me. Isn’t that how we exist in our own state of oblivion, confident in ourselves without regard for God?IMG_1793

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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The Waiting Room of Life

Carl spends a lot of his waking hours waiting. On any given day, you can find him waiting for someone to come home or for someone to put those wonderful morsels of food in his dish and lower it to the floor. No matter what he is waiting for, he doesn’t like it one bit.

The time we spend waiting is just as annoying for us humans as it is for Carl. No one likes to wait in a long line or be stuck behind an accident on the interstate. Some of us stay prepared for these unexpected times of waiting with games on our phone or glaring at Facebook to keep our mind occupied while we stay wedged in time.

It’s not the short inconveniences that cause us to scream out to the Lord. It’s the times when we want closure to a situation or a response to an unanswered prayer.  Days, weeks, months, and sometimes years can go by with no sign of an end to the waiting. How we approach these circumstances can define our relationship with God.

Hannah was one woman that had to live day after day with unanswered prayers and the endless ridicule that came with being a barren woman. To make the situation even more interesting, there is a phrase in 1 Samuel 1:6 that can cause many to struggle. “Because the Lord had closed her womb.”

Why would God close the womb of such a righteous woman? Why would He create a situation that would cause Hannah to spend years waiting for a child? And even when Hannah received confirmation from the priest that she would conceive and have a child, the Bible states in 1 Samuel 1:20 “So it came to pass in the process of time that Hannah conceived and bore a son.” Instead of an immediate response to her prayer, she had to continue to wait.

Romans 8:28 states, “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” If this is true, why does God take his time in answering our prayers?

If we examine what is happening in the process of waiting, we will be able to understand God’s intent.  Isn’t it during the period before our prayers are answered that we rely more on God than ourselves?  Don’t we pray more and spend more time in the Word to try and locate what God is trying to teach us?

I am so thankful for stories like this one to encourage me when I feel the agonizing pain that comes with the unknown. If Hannah had had a baby without effort, she may never have dedicated her son Samuel to God. If she had been blessed with children, her husband Elkanah may not have had the opportunity to demonstrate his unconditional love for his wife. But most importantly, Hannah may not have sought out God and trusted in his sovereignty.

Carl continues to wait and still doesn’t understand why he has to spend so many countless minutes with his face pushed up against the screen door in hopes of the sound of footsteps. But hopefully, I will feel a little more closer to God and his will when I am left in the waiting room of life.

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Storms In Our Lives

Carl has done it again.  His separation anxiety continues to be clearly displayed. This time, Jay’s new recliner was attacked and the chair lost.  Because Carl cannot be trusted in the house when we are away, he and Bee have been banned to the porch and back yard. If they want to come in, they can only come into the pantry where a gate closes off the rest of the house.

Another storm of life. Compared to other storms, this is minor but it is still a storm for us. And with the storm, questions about why it continues and how to get out of it rise in my mind. Why would God continue to set up storms for us?  We pray that God will take away the storms, but they keep coming. I believe the answer to this crucial question can be found in Matthew 14.

Jesus just fed the five thousand and he then makes his disciples get in a boat and travel ahead of him to the other side. After dismissing the crowds he takes the time to go up on a mountain and pray. While Jesus is praying on the mountain, a storm comes up. The waves are bashing against the boat and the disciples are feeling like they are going to die. Then what happens next is crazy. Jesus walks on the water towards the boat.

I wonder what I would have thought if I was trapped in a boat during a horrific storm and saw a man walking towards me. I am sure I would have been terrified and just wanted to close my eyes and pray that it would all go away. It is clear that these men had absolutely no control over their situation and were forced to rely on God.

Peter is the only one that demonstrates the faith needed to walk out on the water. But when he realizes his situation and takes his eyes off Jesus, he begins to doubt.  At that moment, he begins to sink and cries out to Jesus. And our savior did what he does best. He reaches down and saves Peter. Once they are back in the boat, the wind dies down.

There are a couple of events that took place here that can help us understand a little more about our Lord. First, notice that he made the disciples get in the boat even though he knew there would be a storm. In the same manner, God may create storms in our lives. Not to harm us but to encourage us to draw closer to him.

But it is what Jesus did after he made the disciples get the boat that brings me comfort. He goes to the mountain and prays. Which is what he does now when we are going through storms.  He is sitting at the right hand of God the father interceding for us as we fight off the squalls.

It only gets better here. After leaving the mountain, he comes to the disciples in the midst of their storm. He hasn’t abandoned them but draws near in the worst of times. All he asks is for us to do is to take our eyes off the storm and place them on him. Peter was able to do this for a moment but then he shifted his attention. Once he lost focus, he began to sink and cries out to Jesus.

The Bible in Matthew 14: 31 states, “Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught Peter. You of little faith, he said. Why did you doubt?” I am so thankful that Jesus is willing to reach down and pull me out of my mire during the storms of my life. All I need to do is ask and believe that he has my best interest at heart. Even when no answers can be found. I just need to trust him.

As for the storm with Carl. Jay has covered the hole with masking tape and we have been able to let go of the anger towards our little dog. This storm has helped us realize that the stuff that we own has no eternal value but forgiveness does.

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Dropped Blankets

I can hear the hum of the washing machine and the soft sound of the refrigerator. Other than these familiar noises, all is quiet. Carl and Bee have finally settled down after a rough housing episode that included Carl holding onto the blanket that Bee was sleeping on and dragging her across the floor. With teeth bared and a distinct growl, Carl was determined to claim the blanket, even if that meant pulling Bee around and around until the blanket was pulled out from under her. Bee appeared to be just as determined to hold her ground and refused to abandon ship. Finally, Carl crouched on the floor and looked up at Bee and as if all the fire had left his body, he dropped the blanket.

I sometimes wonder why we drop our blankets and turn away from the yearnings of our heart. Why is it that one minute we can be bound and determined to pursue a dream and then just leave it, like a blanket sitting in the middle of the floor. Recently, I had a thought that would change my world. An idea that wouldn’t leave my mind. Over the course of several days, I contemplated it and even shared it with friends. After receiving positive feedback, the idea grew like a snowball being rolled over fresh fallen snow. The next step to my idea involved action, the kind that once in place wouldn’t be easy to reverse.

As I contemplated my dilemma, a scripture in Isaiah came to life. One that I knew in my heart was meant for this situation. It states in Isaiah 54:2 “Enlarge the place of your tent, stretch your tent curtains wide, do not hold back: lengthen your cords, strengthen your stakes.”  I now wonder if God is telling me to move forth and enlarge my vision for my life.  To not only dream the dreams but live them to the fullest.

Time will only tell.

But for Carl, he seems pretty content that he dropped his blanket, climbed up on his cot in front of the fire, and is resting peacefully.

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