Tag Archives: friends

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 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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Blueberry Crunch

Last night I prepared a Blueberry Crunch for some friends that were coming over to play Bridge. Once we had finished dinner and began playing cards, no one seemed interested in the dessert. The full casserole dish of scrumptious blueberries, pineapple, and pecans over a layer of a yellow cake mix stood dormant on the kitchen counter.

Instead of being discouraged, I decided to bring it to my Saturday morning prayer group. When I offered the Blueberry Crunch as a breakfast, everyone dug in until there was not a trace of a blueberry in sight. As we ate off paper plates and drank milk out of red solo cups, we talked about how we could change up the recipe, laughing at all the new versions of this creation. While everyone was enjoying their surprise breakfast, I couldn’t help but sit back and reflect on how much pleasure this little dish had brought to all of us.

Many of the major events in Jesus’ ministry happened around food. Jesus demonstrated his compassion by multiplying the fish and bread so that the thousands would not go hungry. He spent the last night before his crucifixion with his disciples sharing an intimate meal. Twice after his resurrection he broke bread with his followers to demonstrate that he actually was physically alive. There are countless times in the book of Acts where meals were shared. Thinking back to our breakfast I wondered if this was how the first Christians felt when they broke bread together in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts? (Acts 2:46) Could this also be the reason Paul told the church in Rome to share with God’s people who are in need and practice hospitality? (Romans 12:13)

Preparing a meal and sharing it can only bring people together in a very unique way. Memories are formed and friendships are sealed for eternity. But most importantly, a strong sense of the Holy Spirit can be felt as we share a meal. As a rush of emotion takes over, I have to smile as I clearly envision Jesus asking to scrape the dish and finishing it with a swallow of the cold milk from his red solo cup.

A Perfect Chocolate Chip Cookie

I know I shouldn’t make them but the urge for a gooey, melt in your mouth chocolate chip cookie every couple of weeks is just too difficult to pass up. Because I make them so often, I know the recipe by heart. Over a course of time, I have learned that it isn’t just the ingredients that make the cookies scrumptious but it is the order that I place them into the mixing bowl. If I put in the flour too early in the process, the cookies just don’t come out with the texture that calls everyone back for more. I have also learned that the pan makes a difference as well as taking them out of the oven once the cookies are a light brown color.

Over a lifetime of making friends and maintaining close relationships, I have found keeping a good friendship intact is like making a chocolate chip cookie. The ingredients of having a couple of common strong interests and mixing it with respect and attention can lead to a special connectedness that is hard to find. It is not just the ingredients that makes a durable relationship but also the test of how it endures through the heat of tragedy and crisis.

My daughter had to have a scoop of the chocolate chip cookie dough. She was hungry and couldn’t wait for the cookie to come out of the oven. She seemed to enjoy the uncooked batter but once she bit into the cookie, her opinion of it drastically changed. She told me that batter was not anywhere as good as the hot fresh cookie.

Isn’t that the way it is with a really strong relationship? In the go lucky times of life, a friendship is fun and carefree. But once a heated crisis appears on the horizon, the relationship takes on an entirely new dimension.

This is exactly what it was like for Jesus and his disciple John. Jesus and his twelve disciples had been through three years of great ministry and the witnessing of incredible miracles. Life was exciting and full of hope. But when Jesus was arrested and tortured, all but this disciple abandoned him. And then as Jesus breathed his last breath, only John was left standing beside his mother.

I can’t even imagine how John must have felt when he saw his best friend hanging from the cross. His heart must have been torn apart to know that Jesus was leaving him. But what came next, truly demonstrated how much Jesus cared for this man as a brother.

John 19:25 states: “Near the cross of Jesus stood his mother, his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. When Jesus saw his mother there, and the disciple whom he loved standing nearby, he said to his mother, ‘Dear woman, here is your son,’ and to the disciple, ‘Here is your mother.” From that time on, the disciple took her into his home.”

So as I go back to baking my chocolate chip cookies and I place them in the oven, I know that heating the raw dough will create a perfect cookie. In the same manner, I know that as we go through life and endure hardships and tragedies, our relationships are also being refined. And ultimately we may receive a little glimpse of what eternity will be like with the best friend we could ever have. Jesus.

My Garden of Friends

In John 15:12 Jesus stated, “My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you.”

The tears are fresh and the hurt continues to stab at my heart. I need to change my thoughts to the gifts that I have been given. My grandson’s birthday. I remember the two hour drive to Statesville, not yet a grandmother. At that point, not sure if I wanted to be one. Then this beautiful baby was born. I never would have thought a red headed boy could be so beautiful! Thank you Lord for my grandson. I pray I will always appreciate this amazing gift.

Speaking of gifts. They come in all shapes and sizes but the most special ones are the people God has given us. They come in the shape of grandchildren, children, husbands, sisters and brothers. And then there are the friends, the chosen gifts. We can take them for granted if we are not careful. These friendships need to be nurtured like flowers in a garden. If we are not careful, weeds can grow up all around our relationships and the distractions of this life can choke out the blossoms of a friendship. On the other hand being together creating memories and finding reasons for laughter will surely cause the flower to open wide and display all of its wonderful glory. Through the highs but particularly the lows of this life can loosen our souls and create the rich soil needed for my garden of friends. So as difficult as this time is, I do believe God is creating a beautiful arrangement that will withstand this present storm and ones to follow.