Vern slipped his little body through my legs and slithered outside where he began to explore the freedom of the world. My first attempt to catch him was unsuccessful as his small black frame slipped from my grasp. I had to take a different approach so I rushed back inside and found the treats that stopped him in his tracks.
Even though Vern is a little guy, he has made a huge impact on our lives. His sweet personality and curious nature have brought a smile to our hearts.
Have you ever noticed how God uses little things to draw us closer to him? It could be so small at first that we might not even notice it. A tiny voice in the back of our mind, a new friend that speaks a different way of doing life, or a virus that can’t be seen with the naked eye.
Jesus stated in Mark 4:30-32, “To what shall we liken the kingdom of God? Or with what parable shall we picture it? It is like a mustard seed which, when it is sown on the ground, is smaller than all the seeds on earth, but when it is sown, it grows up and becomes greater than all herbs, and shoots out large branches, so the birds of the air may nest under its shade.”
God uses little things to create the biggest changes in our lives. This has become apparently clear as we all have struggled to be grateful in the times of Covid-19. But if we focus on the little things that we have been given, hopefully, we will not miss out on the shade God is providing.
Vern was incessant on picking up any small pebble or plant that he could find along the hard concrete road. If it was in anyway in his reach, it was in his mouth for at least a good tasting. After he would roll it around for a taste test, he would decide to either swallow it or drop it back on the road. It was just what he does.
Vern’s behavior of picking up stones reminds me of the parable of the sower. Jesus states in Mark 4:3-4 “Listen! Behold a sower went out to sow. And it happened, as he sowed, that some seed fell by the wayside; and the birds of the air came and devoured it.”
The crowds of people listened intently to the parable but most didn’t understand what he was trying to say. Today, in our world there is a sower sowing for all to hear. Right now as you read the words that Jesus preached, the sower is sowing.
What happens to the word will depend on the softness of your heart and your willingness to take it in and mull it over. If you let the words fall to the ground without taking it in, the birds of the air, or Satan himself will pick it up and take it away.
Instead of letting it drop away without much thought, pick up your Bible and cultivate the word in your heart. You might be surprised at how impactful it can be in these unprecedented times.
As for Vern, hopefully with time, he will quit putting everything in his mouth. But for now, I can’t imagine what is mulling around in his mouth.
Vern and Bee stayed at the campsite as we made our way to the trails that circled Stone Mountain. I had been warned about the number of steps that you must climb upward in order to get back up from the waterfall. So when we saw that there was a trail that would take us around the back of the mountain, we took it.
Little did we know that what we gave up in stairs, we drastically multiplied with steps. At first the path through the woods was flat with tangled roots, but as the day went on, the incline became steeper and more intense. At one point, we even lost sight of the trail we were supposed to be using and took a primitive path that only headed straight up.
The ascent seemed like it took hours. As we continued the steep climb I found myself covered with perspiration and having a difficult time catching my breath. The steps had turned to stone and it seemed impossible to find a place to lodge my foot to continue the climb.
As I struggled with the ascent upwards, I couldn’t help but think about the steps Jesus took towards the cross. If you ever have a chance to take a walk in the mountains, each step is essential to get to your destination. It is particularly mind boggling when you get to a point that you know that you have no choice but to go forward even when the terrain screams out to turn back.
I wonder sometimes if Jesus wanted to turn back as he made every step along the way. At the very beginning of his ministry when he was baptized in the Jordan, he must have known his final destination. Miles of walking through the dessert led him to Samaria where he spoke to a woman by the well. As he conversed with her and she was awakened to who he was, it must have provoked a thought of the journey ahead. Or what about the time he fed the thousands of people with a holy happy meal. To witness all the people experience a full stomach for the first time in their lives must have been a reminder of where he was going. Later towards the end of his ministry, as he rode into Jerusalem on the back of a mule, he must have known that there was no turning back. While the people waved palm leaves and created a path for him, he knew he had come to his final destination. (Visit Luke 19:41-44)
Once we had finally made it to the summit of Stone Mountain and enjoyed the spectacular views, we walked down a gravel path to the car and safely back to our campsite where we were greeted by Vern and Bee. Neither of them had any idea of the treacherous journey we had just encountered. But that was okay. Vern acted like he was truly happy to see us.
My excursion up Stone Mountain was nothing compared to the journey Jesus took in my place to the cross. But I am grateful for accomplishing this feat and particularly the reflection of Jesus as I took one step in front of the other.
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.
As soon as Vern was taken out of the stroller and placed down on the hard concrete, he immediately took the lead. He was not going to let his sister Bee push ahead of him through the neighborhood. No, he was determined to be in charge.
How often do we immediately act? Vern doesn’t even consider thinking about his choices, he just does what his little puppy brain tells him. That can include eating rocks or flipping bugs up in the air until someone gets hurt. No matter what he does, he acts immediately.
I never thought of doing things immediately as a positive attribute. Many times, if we rush into an act without too much thought, we can be considered rash and irresponsible. So why is the word “immediately” used over thirty-five times in the book of Mark?
After Jesus was baptized, it states the Holy Spirit immediately drove him into the wilderness. When Jesus approached Simon and Andrew and asked them to follow him, they immediately dropped their fishing equipment and went after him. When Jesus and his disciples arrived in Capernaum, they immediately went to the synagogue where Jesus entered and taught. And the use of this word goes on and on throughout the book.
How often do we over think the things that the Spirit puts on our hearts? How many times have you thought of a good deed that you could do but your created excuses took over? Instead of reacting immediately, it is easy to think the situation right out of our minds.
Vern on the other hand, acts without thinking about any of the consequences or outcomes of his actions. He just does. Even if the end result doesn’t always produce a positive outcome, at least he does it. I can learn from Vern and act when it is clear that the Spirit of God is directing me. How about you?
The sound of the pitter pattering of Vern’s web shaped feet could be heard as he made his way across the back porch. For the first time in five days, the rain had stopped and the sun was making a strong come back. Finally, after being cooped inside with little to do, the puppy appears delighted to be able to explore the outside world.
But instead of spending a lot of extra energy on petty things like eating pine cones or digging up dirt from the wet ground, Vern has found a spot in the warm sun and has sprawled down to take in the balminess of the day.
For many of us, the clouds of life have covered up the Son and all his goodness. We have been so focused on the troubles that have come raining down on us, that we have been unable to see the hope that is ever present.
James 1:2 states, “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds.”
This might be one of the hardest verses to wrap our minds around, particularly when we are experiencing trials that don’t appear to be ending. Clouds of life have closed in and all we want is to get out of the trials. If we could change our mindset and consider the joy that is all around us, we might be able to see life from an entirely different perspective.
We can begin by training ourselves to think of the blessings that we still have. Instead of negative thoughts, scream out the goodness that is present. You may have forgotten about these hidden treasures that just need to be recognized.
Vern hasn’t experienced a lot of life up to this point, but I can tell that he lives in the moment, whatever it has to offer. Either in rainy days or in sun drenched mornings, his demeanor is bright and sunny. A clear reminder of the goodness that is ever present.
Vern was gently placed inside his crate. The latch shook into place and he was suddenly left on his own surrounded by a metal cage. From Vern’s perspective, the black metal bars served as a means of protection. Protection from the outside world. Protection from everything that could cause him harm.
The crate is covered with a thick gray blanket that creates a cave like feel. Vern can only see the world outside of his habitat by looking through the front bars. All other perspectives are cut off from his sight. Surprisingly, he seems to be content with this arrangement as long as he can see his human friends.
It is so easy in today’s world to be preoccupied with the views that come to us from all directions. Everyone has their opinion about Covid-19 and the problems that it has caused. It is so easy to be sucked into the dismal outlook the world has to offer. But if we would place our focus towards our Heavenly Father and remember his Word, we can enjoy peace, even in these crazy times.
Psalm 123:1-2 states, “I lift up my eyes to you,
to you who sit enthroned in heaven.
As the eyes of slaves look to the hand of their master,
as the eyes of a female slave look to the hand of her mistress,
so our eyes look to the Lord our God,
till he shows us his mercy.”
In the mornings, Vern has to be prodded to come out of his crate. Only when he looks up and sees my husband’s hands reach in, does the puppy eagerly climb into his arms. Once, he is lifted up and taken out into the yard, does the little dog run free.
If only we could be more like Vern and the Psalmist. Both looking upward and keeping their eyes focused on the one that knows best.
Vern just doesn’t understand why he is unable to open the doggy door. Even though he walks up to it, nothing happens. Bee on the other hand, just has to approach the opening and the plastic sheet magically rises up long enough for her round body to enter.
At first, Vern got pretty agitated with it and tried to follow Bee through the opening. But once after his paw felt the weight of the door come down on it, he stayed away.
Why does it appear that doors open for certain people and remain closed for others? Why do certain people seem to have an easy time of reaching their goals while others struggle their entire lives?
If we look at it from an earthly standpoint, it can appear very unfair to us. Why would wealth come so easily for some and impossible for others? When we compare our circumstances with others, we can become jealous and angry with God.
Instead of looking towards the treasures of this world for our joy and peace, we should look to the author of life. Given that he created each of us to be unique individuals, shouldn’t we try and discover the doors he wants us to walk through?
Jesus stated in Matthew 7:7-8, “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.”
I am excited about the distinctive door that is just for me. The one that can be opened if I just seek.
In a week or so, the electronic device that Bee has will also be placed on Vern’s collar, so he will also be able to enter and exit the house at his leisure. Until then, Vern seems content to be taken up into our arms and carried in and out.
Maybe, the next time you can’t get through the door you so desperately want to enter, look around. You may just find that you are also being carried.
It is amazing how such a small puppy can consume so much food. The first couple of days Vern was with us, he ate very little. After he got acclimated to his new environment, he drastically changed. Vern now eagerly awaits the sound of the food being poured into his bowl. Even when he has finished his portion, he rushes over to Bee, our older Frenchie, in the hopes of a left over morsel.
During this time of being shut in the house, my appetite has also increased. I enjoy watching cooking shows which of course leads to baking more. I have also been pulled into watching more television and exercising less. Every day begins with the desire to do things that are good for my physical and spiritual self. But usually these important activities get pushed to the side for the things that feel comfortable.
If there ever was a time to imitate Jesus, this is it. He demonstrated how to live a fulfilled life in the worst of situations, starting with the event of being tempted in the desert by Satan. Jesus had been fasting for forty days and he was extremely hungry. (I can’t help but think that this is how long we have been in a stay home order from our government.)
Jesus was vulnerable. He was weak and alone. The conditions were perfect for temptation to turn to sin. Satan knew this and pounced on Jesus with all that he had to offer. The first temptation in Luke 4 would have probably broken every one of us. “The devil said to him, “If you are the Son of God, tell this stone to become bread.” (Luke 4:3)
Satan went after Jesus’ physical need for food. And that is where most of us are today. I know that I have justified how much I have eaten during these days of having nothing else to do.
Jesus didn’t budge so Satan went to plan B. “The devil led him up to a high place and showed him in an instant all the kingdoms of the world. And he said to him, “I will give you all their authority and splendor; it has been given to me, and I can give it to anyone I want to. If you worship me, it will all be yours.” (Luke 4:5-7)
Notice how Satan offers Jesus the authority and power of the world to Jesus. And if you read on, you will note that Jesus doesn’t dispute the fact that Satan has the authority over this world. But Jesus doesn’t accept the power that could have been easily his. Why? Because Jesus wasn’t willing to sacrifice our salvation for his own desires of power. How do you feel about your loss of power in these days of being told to stay home?
The last temptation Satan threw at Jesus tested his pride. Satan told Jesus to jump off the pinnacle of the temple so that the angels would catch him. This temptation would clearly demonstrate to everyone that Jesus was truly the Son of God. If everyone saw angels saving him, they would bow down and worship him.
How often have we sought out some kind of recognition in these times of being anonymous? Everyone wants a voice in how to solve this pandemic. No matter what television channel you listen to, someone wants the platform. Even in our own homes, we shout out our self-righteous opinions.
We sure can learn from our four legged friends. Vern only eats when food is placed in front of him. He does tussle with his sister with an understanding that she is the alpha dog in the house. Occasionally, Vern will bark out loud, but typically is quiet.
Thank you Lord for the animals you place in our homes and hearts. Help us to follow your Son’s example as we go through these uncharted waters. Give us the faith to look to you to meet our daily needs.
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?