Life for Vern has been different this week. Instead of having free reign over his environment, he has been living in confined spaces and directed with a leash to where he can roam. For the first time in his predictable life, Vern has been taken away from all he recognizes and thrust into a world full of dogs of all sizes.
Vern could be seen through the eyes of a camera from our vacation home. Our little dog was viewed hopping in front of strange breeds, eagerly wanting them to notice him. From the perspective of the camera, Vern appeared happy in his short term location. But, the truth of how our little bully felt would never be known.
Over two thousand years ago, Jesus spent the last three years of his life going from location to location, spreading the good news of the Gospel, healing the sick, and feeding the hungry. People from all directions left the comfort of their homes in search of this man, hoping to find something that would fill the empty space in their hearts.
At one point in his ministry, Jesus and his disciples were headed to Bethsaida. But the men found themselves in the midst of a storm. So instead of Bethsaida, the small vessel slid onto the shores of Gennesaret, a small community on the Sea of Galilee. Once Jesus stepped out of the boat, he is surrounded by locals that have heard of this man that heals. Word quickly spreads and people come from far and wide to experience the healing for themselves.
The people in this small village were healed because they believed in this man named Christ. No one knows the changes that took place in the hearts of the people that Jesus healed. Some may have gone home, but others turned from their predictable lives to discover the empty space in their hearts filled.
Vern will return to his predictable life today where he can once again know the freedom of life without leashes and cages. And even though the young Frenchie may never understand why he was removed and then returned, Vern will be fine.
Vern looked up from his bed, gazed around the room to see who was present, cushioned his head between the bumps in his blanket, and drifted off to sleep. With a sense of peace, the little puppy drifted into a land of slumber filled with other puppies frolicking around him, making him the king of the world.
Being a new arrival to this life, Vern has no understanding of the changes that have taken place in our world. In his mind, life couldn’t be better. With no worries and all his needs met, he is one happy pup.
Vern has no control over who will put his food in his dish or why the water never runs out. He just believes it will happen which leads to the serenity he possesses.
All of us humans could learn from this little puppy. In this time of Covid 19, the economy closing down, and fear ripping through our country, we can easily get entangled in our own power or loss of it.
There have been times in history that have looked just as bleak. One specific period of time, a little over two thousand years ago, the brutality of the Roman Empire consumed the thinking of everyone. Crosses of innocent men lined the borders of the city to intentionally let everyone know who ruled.
Then entered a man with talk of a new kingdom, an eternal one that extended beyond the grave. A man who healed people and forgave the sins of the wicked. He not only promised freedom from the physical world but also the spiritual soul of every man.
Jesus didn’t change the brutality of the Romans nor did he make life easier for the ordinary people that followed him. What he did, was far greater. He gave those who believed hope. Hope in a loving God that didn’t just love from a distance but came down to earth and endured the pain for each one of us.
No one knows what will happen in the coming days, weeks, months, and years. But we do know what happened outside of the city of Jerusalem. Jesus actually rose from the dead and walked among us. All he wants is for us to transfer our focus off of the unknown and place it on him.
Vern is fast asleep. A sense of trust dictating his every move. Knowing that even when he tears up my hostas or pees on the floor, he will still be loved. And if he can trust the imperfect humans that have given him a home, why can’t we trust our Heavenly Father who was willing to sacrifice his only Son for you and me?
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 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.
that we were leaving. He just wasn’t
sure if he would be included in the departure or would be left. To improve his
odds of being allowed to join us, he placed his paws in front of him and took a
prayer stance. His body was shaking with fear as he waited patiently to see the
outcome of what would take place. Carl was living in the middle of fear and
How often do
we reside somewhere between the fear that wants to stop us from acting in
faith? Personally, I have to confess that I have allowed fear to dictate too
many of the decisions in my life.
one woman that stood firm in her faith and brushed the fear that was brewing in
her heart to dissipate. When she heard that David was coming to kill off all
her family because of her husband’s foolish behavior, she knew she had to act
So with fear
trying to convince her to stop, Abigail chose to act out of faith. Immediately,
she packed enough food to feed an army, and rode out into the desert to meet
the one who had the power to end her life.
Abigail saw David, she quickly got off her donkey and bowed down before David
with her face to the ground.”(1 Samuel 25:23)
humility, Abigail made her case and stopped the demise of her family. If she
had chosen the path of fear, the story would have ended very differently. But
because she elected to act, God took care of the situation and her family was
up coming with us and spent the day playing with other dogs in a pet resort. He
met new friends and enjoyed frolicking around with no cares. What could have
ended as a lonely day turned into a fun filled excursion.
at the door waiting for us to call his name to come along on a journey. But
today, Carl wasn’t going to be able to come. Instead of joining us for a fun
episode of life, the door was shut in his face.
How often do
we wait at the door of opportunity to have a door shut in our face? We can be
so excited about life one moment and then the next moment, we feel like God has
played a joke on us.
It is during
these times of trials and suffering, with no entrance in sight that we are
forced to take our focus off of what is on the opposite side of the door. It is
at this moment that we are provided other options, ones that we may not choose,
but ones that have to be faced.
Most of the
people Jesus interacted with had doors shut in their face. Individuals just
like you and me that were locked out of the dreams that they had based their
happiness on. Some chose the path of bitterness and resentment that left them
facing the locked exit.
there were the few that understood Jesus’s power to show them an upward
direction that would transport their earthly journey to a spiritual one.
There was a
Gentile woman that knew what life was like to have doors slammed in her face.
Her daughter was demon possessed and was suffering. This mother had heard about
the miracles that Jesus had performed and believed that He was from God.
The woman respected
Jesus’s mission. He had come specifically for the Jews but she had to try. So
when she engaged Him in a conversation about dogs eating crumbs, Jesus opened the
door of healing. (Matthew 15:21-28)
As we drive
down the road towards our destination, I can’t help but think about the door
that Carl is facing. Hopefully, he will realize that he needs to look beyond
the door until we return. If not, he will be staring at a shut door for quite a
while. Poor Carl.
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.
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.
“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.”
Carl stayed put. He didn’t seem in the least bit interested in moving from his bed. He was cold and didn’t want to take a chance at losing the little warmth that his body had generated throughout the night. Little did he know that even though the heat wasn’t working, there was a little fireplace in the bathroom that was blasting out heat.
How often do we stay put because of the fear of losing what we so desperately are trying to hold on to? Just like Carl who didn’t want to lose the warmth of his bed, we can hold on to things in our lives that can keep us from the real blessings that God has in store for us.
Jesus was constantly confronting people to let go and move forward. In the book of John, chapter five, He addresses a man that had been afflicted with an infirmity for over thirty-eight years. This man had spent most of his time with others that had afflictions at a pool called Bethesda. It was believed that an angel would stir up the pool and the first person to go down into the water would be healed.
When Jesus asked the man if he wanted to be healed, the man told Jesus that he didn’t have anyone to help him into the pool. This could have been true but I wonder if the man really didn’t want to let go of what he had come to know and become comfortable with.
We can all become comfortable and complacent in our present situation, even if it involves emotional or physical abuse. We can become paralyzed by the thoughts of a change in our lives. Too many times, we stay put when just around the corner is a blessing that God has created just for us.
Carl finally got up and walked into the bathroom to see his Frenchie sister curled up in front of the fireplace. Given the warmth of the room, he made his way to another bath mat and laid down and fell into a deep sleep. It was clear that he was glad that he had left the cold spot in the bedroom.
I couldn’t help but think about the many times, that I have forfeited the blessings for staying put in the cold spots of my life. Thank you God for the reminders of your presence that come through my little dog.
Loneliness swept over my little dog like a hurricane swirling onto shore. Carl starred at me as I left the back porch with a look of sure terror. It was clear that he wondered if I would ever come home and if he would be left stranded in the solitude of his existence.
So many of us experience loneliness on a regular basis. My husband is a courier that travels to remote places where people are literally stranded without human contact. He has shared with me how some people will do anything to extend a conversation so that they don’t have to walk back into isolation.
The other day I was listening to a talk show and the topic of loneliness was being discussed by a psychiatrist. The doctor mentioned that being alone can be just as bad for your health as obesity and addictions. Given our society’s push for independence and how needing people is seen as a weakness, it isn’t difficult to understand why loneliness has become such a problem.
Psalm 68:6 states that God puts the lonely into families. If this is the case why are there so many lonely people out there? In the same verse it states that the rebellious live in a sun-scorched land. In other words, when we act independently or prideful and give the air that we don’t need others, we will probably end up alone.
Carl is hardly ever left alone for more than a couple of hours. And when he is left, his sister Bee is always with him. But it is clear that he has an intense need for human contact. Even though it can be a pain at times, we have come to appreciate feeling so needed.
A lot can happen in 48 hours. The clouds have gotten heavy and the winds have started to blow. Instead of being alone though, Carl now has four other dogs and a cat to keep him company. Four children are making our house their home, and my son in law and his mother are hunkering down to ride out the hurricane.
Carl seems happy to have so much attention and is enjoying this time without a clue of the reason for the onslaught of humans and canines. The television is on more than usual and everyone is praying that Florence will not create the devastation that the forecasters are calling for.
There must be countless numbers of other families that are feeling the impact of this storm even before it has made landfall. People who are headed west without a clear destination. Others that have settled in with family or friends that ordinarily they would never consider spending a night with.
God is good and good all the time. He is sovereign and even though no one can understand the reason for the devastation that is getting ready to take place, we must put our trust in His will for our lives. I know for me, there are many lessons that I am in the midst of learning.
“Lord, please help all of us, particularly me, to see your goodness through the storms of our lives.”