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Slipping into Loneliness

Carl slipped underneath the ottoman and acted like neither Bee nor Leo could see him. He laid very still with only the tip of his nose exposed. Bee sat next to the ottoman and Leo stood in front of it and began to bark at the piece of furniture.

After a couple of moments, Carl soared from his hiding place and charged at the door where I stood waiting for the three amigos to dart by me. I am not sure what Carl wanted to accomplish by hiding himself. But I knew for sure that he wasn’t going to stay concealed and alone if I left the room.

Carl doesn’t like being alone. He will follow me around the house and beg for a good stroking or scratch on the head. In the past three years, I still haven’t figured a way of escaping the house without having to throw treats at him so I can slip through the door.

Being alone can be awkward at times. I personally don’t feel totally comfortable walking into a restaurant by myself and having a meal. I can also count the number of times I have gone to the movies by myself with one hand.

I have been blessed to have a husband that comes home every night and enjoys my company. Since I have been married for over 38 years and being a twin, I have rarely had to go places on my own. This is why I have found the Bible to be so comforting when I feel a pinch of loneliness sneak into my thoughts.

In Psalm 94:14 it states, “For the LORD will not cast off his people, neither will he forsake his inheritance.”

In other words, the Lord is with me, no matter where I go.

It is too bad that Carl can’t understand that he is not alone. Even if I am not around, he is always surrounded by other dogs. But for him, it just isn’t enough. He needs human contact like we need spiritual contact. I have to admit that I am grateful for Carl’s need for me.  As a pet owner, we all know how great it feels to experience unconditional love by our dog or cat. And being Carl’s guardian is no exception.

If you want to see a short video of them go to https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yasTTPafl-o

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Shaking Off the Anger

Bee was the first French Bull dog that we owned. She was a perfect little dog and loved her life with my husband and I. As a puppy, she got all of our attention which meant snoozing in my husband’s lap in the evening and sleeping at the end of our bed each night.

She loved the long walks we would take and other than pulling too hard on her leash, she was obedient and practically ignored all the other dogs on the trail. Her life basically revolved around sleeping when we were away and playing with her bones.

And then in December of 2014, her life changed drastically. It has been difficult to know how she has felt about her brother. With his demanding personality, Bee has had to fight for the attention that just came naturally her way.

I am proud of our little girl and how well she has handled the changes that have taken place in her short lifetime. She could have become very bitter and turned her feelings into angry rage. But not our little Bee.

Recently with the addition of a third dog, Bee has demonstrated that she doesn’t get her happiness from what is happening around her. Instead, it has been made clear that she has been blessed with a positive disposition and is able to go with the flow.

For some of us, going with the flow comes easily but for others it can be much more difficult to let the unwanted obstacles in life pass by without getting upset. Every time an unplanned circumstance that disrupts our life comes our way, we are faced with a decision. Do we get aggravated and wear our irritation on our sleeve or do we hand over our feelings to God?

Ephesians 4:26-27 is packed with some great advice about anger. It states, “In your anger do not sin: Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, 27 and do not give the devil a foothold.”

God knows we will become angry at times but it doesn’t give us an excuse to sin. He also knows that we need to let our anger go and not stay mad even for a day. There is nothing that Satan wants more than for us to stay angry and ultimately sin because of it.

One of the attributes that I love about dogs is their ability to let anger go. One minute Bee, Carl, and Leo can have their hair raised up and ready to fight and the next, they shake off their anger and walk away. The next time I become angry, I hope to remember how Bee has been able to move past her own feelings of being an only dog and give myself a good shake and move on.

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Carl’s New Normal

I haven’t seen Carl in days and can only wonder how he is adjusting to his new family. It is strange not to have my four legged friend looking up at me with his soft brown eyes and scratching my leg so that I will reach down and give him the attention that he desires. I can’t help but think about how he is handling this drastic change in his life.

Drastic changes. Ones that we can’t predict and have no control over. There are many people in Florida and Houston that have had their world transformed with no idea of how to adjust to their new normal.

New normals can either make people bitter or better. What determines this can be found within the person and not necessarily the circumstances that surround them. A great example of this can be found in Numbers 13. Moses had assigned one man from each of the Israelite tribes to go and explore the Promised Land and come back and give a report.

We should remember that these people had been abused and used by the Egyptians for years. Then God trained up Moses to lead the Israelites out of Egypt and to bring them into a land that He had promised them through Abraham.

It would seem that these people should have trusted God after He had miraculously brought them through the Red Sea and then devoured the Egyptians. But as we all know, we can have a very short memory when we are placed in perilous situations.

So when the men came back, Only two out of twelve men had the faith to believe that God would provide them a way into the land that they had been promised.

Numbers 13: 30-31 states,” Then Caleb silenced the people before Moses and said, “We should go up and take possession of the land, for we can certainly do it.” But the men who had gone up with him said, “We can’t attack those people; they are stronger than we are.”

How often do we doubt that God can get us through the times of uncertainty?

More time than we think… Just as the men couldn’t believe that God actually had a place that was better for them, we also doubt how God can get us through times of trials.

As for Carl, he has been staying with some friends that have been living in our home while we have been away on vacation. I have heard that he has been behaving himself for the most part. I guess he has been able to adapt to his new normal better than we expected.

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From Old to New

First of all, I want to let everyone know that Carl is doing well. He has stopped coughing and has resumed his normal activity. But whatever Carl had, Bee now has. She has been displaying symptoms for the last couple of days. The only encouragement is that since Carl is now better, I am hoping that she will also get over this sickness.

For two days, Carl, Bee and I were imprisoned in my bedroom while a team of four painters scurried through my house and painted all the walls. Once they were finally finished and we were able to leave the confines of the bedroom, I felt I was going into a new house. With each wall painted and no pictures displayed, it felt like we were at a fresh starting point.

Since I haven’t moved in over thirty four years, it felt good to think I had a new pallet to work with. I could display pictures in an original format and rearrange furniture. It will be the same house but new in many respects.

Jesus shared an interesting parable in Luke 5:37-38 that took some study to understand. He stated, “And no one pours new wine into old wineskins. If he does, the new wine will burst the skins, the wine will spill, and the wineskins will be ruined. Instead, new wine is poured into new wineskins.”

I am sure the Pharisees were just as perplexed as we are today when hearing this parable. The Pharisees were stuck in their traditions and didn’t want to change how they had worshipped God for centuries. Jesus had challenged their convictions and they not only didn’t like it but wanted him killed. The new wine, Jesus, could not be placed in the old wine skins, the Pharisees’ desire to maintain the power that comes from being religious leaders.

For us today, when we encounter the real Jesus, it will cause us to want to change. He will cause us to have a desire to be different than what we have been. And hopefully, the new wine of Jesus can go into our transformed vessels. As for my house, I am in the process of changing things up. Placing pictures that have meaning in the forefront and packing up pictures that have no significance.

Carl has been perplexed by all the changes but as long as he gets his food and has his usual throne to sleep on, he will be fine.

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Carl’s Desire for the World

Carl was afraid to move. He didn’t want to lose sight of where I was sitting so he lay on the floor looking intently in my direction. Carl is petrified that he will miss out on a chance to go out into the world. He loves being at home but if he can rush through the door and explore the great outdoors, he is there. So if he sees me move towards the front or back exit, he is ready to pounce his way out.

I can remember as a teenager being caught in the same trap of being afraid to miss out. I loved going out into the world beyond the four walls of my home. Everything was an adventure that couldn’t be missed. This led me into several compromising situations as I grew up and made my way into adulthood. The desire to experience the unknown didn’t always turn out the way I hoped it would.

I am sure King David felt this same way as he reflected back on his own life. As a middle aged man, he began to grow apathetic in his role as a leader. So instead of fighting with his soldiers for the cause of Israel, he spent his time daydreaming about being out in the world. And it was in this moment that his life changed forever.

King David saw a beautiful woman bathing outside beyond the palace and wanted her. At that moment everything changed. He was determined to have this woman, no matter the cost. If only he had been grateful for the women God had already blessed him with. But after a cutting remark by one of his wives, his thoughts turned from inside his home to the outside world.

What started as an adventure turned into a desire that he couldn’t resist. His heart became hard towards being righteous and pleasing God. All because David believed the lie that we are all so gullible to believe. If I can just have this one thing, I will be happy. This happens so often when we turn our sights away from our own home and become determined to have what isn’t ours.

How often do we make bad decisions because we want to leave what we have been blessed with for the world? If only we could enjoy the life that God has given to us.

Carl has come in the house and is now scratching my leg to seek my attention. He seems content with playing with Bee and running up and down the hallway. After playing until exhaustion sets in, he has laid his body down right in front of the door in anticipation of his great escape into the world.

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Living in the Shadows

For the last week, Carl has been living in the shadows. I never thought there would be a day that Carl would not be in the center of our home’s attention. But given our grandchildren are staying with us, Carl has been living his life beyond the forefront.

There are many of us that never live in the forefront. We may appear insignificant to the masses and walk around without ever being noticed. We may have mundane occupations that never receive the awards and accolades that others we know receive.

What is interesting is as I read the story of David, I have realized he is one of us. When Samuel went to anoint a son of Jesse to become king,  he thought he knew exactly who would be chosen. Samuel asked Jesse to present his sons to him. The first son to parade before God was Abinadab. Since Jesse chose him first, he must have had a special place in his father’s heart. But God told Samuel that he would not be king.

As Jesse called Shammah, he must have thought that it had to be this son. If it wasn’t Abinadab it must have been this strong young man that demanded the attention of others. Perfect candidate for being a king. But once more, Samuel hears no word from God.

I can’t imagine how Jesse felt as the sons that he would have chosen paraded by the prophet without even a second glance. All seven of them didn’t even get a nod.

Then Samuel asks Jesse if this was all of his sons. Just the thought of not even being considered states a lot about how Jesse felt about David. Can you imagine how David must have been treated as a child if he isn’t even a blimp on the radar?

Jesse responds by telling Samuel that there is one more BUT there is no way God would be considering anointing him.  He is out shepherding the sheep. A job that would be given to servants or ones that you don’t want around. I am sure Jesse must have been thinking that Samuel had it all wrong. Why would God want David?

In the isolation of the fields, God had been preparing David for his position as king over Israel. The lonely nights where David only had God to speak with and to rely on. God knew David’s heart. He knew that in this mundane, out of the forefront life, God had a man that he could etch into the greatest king that was ever known.

This encourages me as I sit here and peck out words that I believe God put on my heart. For so many years of working in a classroom without recognition and being the youngest of five. I can relate to David. I know that I was never chosen to be a king but I do believe I was chosen to be a child of God.

As for Carl. The grandchildren will eventually go home and he will once again return to the forefront of our attention. But until then, you can find our little pooch living in the shadows.

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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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