Tag Archives: pet lovers

Vern’s Break for Freedom

A break for freedom. All Vern could think about was making it through the gap in the door and out into the world where the possibilities were endless. He didn’t care that he had a huge fenced in back yard to play in. No, that wasn’t enough. He had to have more. More space and places to discover. More smells and underbrush to climb through.

Isn’t it funny to think about how we are all very similar to Vern? Some people have been given lots of space and others very little. But no matter how much we have, we all tend to hunger for more. If it isn’t space, it can be things. Just an additional this or that to add to what we already possess.

This past weekend, I was camping in a state park when I saw an older woman and a young boy come cruising around the corner on a golf cart. She slowed down to tell us how much she liked our camper and we began conversing. She shared that four years ago, she and her husband sold everything they owned and have been living in their camper that has only a little over 250 square feet for all of their belongings.

When I asked her how difficult it was to give up her stuff, she said that it was quite freeing. Instead of obtaining things and space, she had given it all up for a lifestyle of travel and exploring our great country.

Jesus was also a man with no possessions. When he headed out of Nazareth to preach to the world about an eternal kingdom, he had no belongings. And never once did he ask for a material thing. Instead, he spent his time sharing about a kingdom that wasn’t physical but spiritual in nature, where people could find joy and peace that would outlive all of the things of this world. If only we could change our mindset about the things we covet so close to our hearts.

Thankfully, Vern didn’t make it far. He was caught in the neighbor’s yard and brought back inside where he is now sleeping peacefully on the couch. I am sure he will try and escape once again. And when he does, I will remember how similar we are, and forgive the little guy as he returns safely into our arms.

Misplaced Power

Bee stood in the way of Vern’s food. She sat down and wouldn’t budge. She didn’t say anything. She didn’t have to. Vern was under her spell. No matter how many times we placed the food near Vern, he refused to eat. Instead, he scanned the room to note where his female companion could be found and wouldn’t take his eyes off of her.

Vern has grown to be the size of Bee and is stronger than her. So why would he allow this mellow Frenchie to have so much power over him? Before we start calling Vern a coward or calling Bee a bully, we need to turn inward to where we misplace our power.

Jesus knew that we would struggle with placing our feelings onto people that don’t seem to care for us in the way we want. In his day, he was particularly concerned about the people that were trying to please the religious leaders that set unbearable rules and regulations onto the masses. Jesus knew that it was impossible to please this establishment and it hurt him deeply.

In today’s world, we struggle with wanting approval as well. It could be from the church we attend but mostly it is from social media. With technology allowing us to share our lives for everyone to see, we can get caught up in our self-worth being defined by the number of likes we receive.

So what is the answer? Jesus gives it to us in Matthew 11:29. “Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.”

Instead of striving to impress others, take on the yoke of Jesus and learn from him. It is where rest for our souls can be found. Give it a try. Instead of reaching for Facebook, pick up your Bible and learn from Jesus.

As for Vern, he finally did eat his breakfast and shook off the shackles of being under Bee’s power. More than likely, it will happen again. But thankfully, we don’t have to live with misplaced power.

The Neon Lights of Fear

Vern’s cries could be heard upstairs. Not sure why there was such a commotion, I peered down to find Bee in front of the fire. The place I left Vern only moments earlier. And there lying on the carpet steps away from the ideal spot was Vern with body creeping ever closer to the place he gave up.

There is only one reason Vern would give up such an idyllic location. Fear. Plain and simple. Even though his sister is smaller and much older, the little French Bull dog is afraid of the bully that he resides with.

Why is he afraid? Before giving him such a hard time, look at your own fears. The unwelcome thoughts that come through your mind coupled with the emotions that enhance them. The road blocks that stand in your way of going down the path that God has etched for you.

Are you afraid of failure? How about success? Or what about change? Could it be a conversation that you need to have with someone you care about? And it goes on and on. The four letter word that can take over, if we aren’t careful.

So when the neon lights of fear flash in front of you, what should we do? Ignore them and they will come back, hold back and they will take hold. The answer is simple and complex all at the same time.

“So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” (Isaiah 41:10)

If we can place our focus on our God, our mighty and compassionate Lord, He will lead us through the fear and create a confidence within us.

As for Vern, it is hard to predict if he will overcome. As long as he succumbs to Bee’s stern approach, fear will hold a grip on our little bully. Only time will tell.

Close to Home

Vern only knows what is directly in front of him. He doesn’t know how other dogs live. He only knows about his yard, house, and what he spots when we walk around the block. Vern knows what he will be receiving when I say “treat” or “dinner”. But if he wanted a different yard to play in or a different kind of food, he would be out of luck.

So far, life has treated the little French bulldog well. But if he was to get hurt or lost, he would have a difficult time without our assistance. And as little as our puppy knows, he does have the sense to realize how much he needs us for direction and protection.

In Mark, chapter 6 a multitude of people come running after Jesus. They didn’t have food for the day or a way to protect themselves from the elements. But they came anyway. And what is Jesus’ reaction to these people that appeared to be lost? Mark 6:34 states, “And Jesus, when He came out, saw a great multitude and was moved with compassion for them, because they were like sheep not having a shepherd.”

Have you ever thought of yourself as lost or unprotected from the hurled rocks that are being thrown at you from all directions? If so, you are just like these people that came to Jesus. And just like them, there is a shepherd that wants to guide you home.

Vern rarely tries to get out of the fence or squeeze through the screen door. He has become content in knowing that if he stays close to his human provider, he will be safe and loved.

If only we could imitate the animals that God gives us to help us home….

Facing our Fears

Vern loves to go camping but when it is time for sleep, he transforms from a confident male to a meek puppy full of fear. Last night as we lay our heads down and turned the light off, Vern began to cry. At first it was a soft whimper but when we didn’t react, it transitioned into a loud howl. No matter how many times we reassured him that it would be okay, the cries continued.

So finally, he got what he wanted. As I reached down and brought him up into the bed, I knew that it was not going to be pleasant. And I was right. All night, Vern snored right in my ear. An intermittent sound that reminded me of riding a bike over gravel. If that had been the only issue, I believe I could have gotten some sleep, but it wasn’t. Either his paws were pressed into my back or he was moving around to get comfortable.

Fear is one of the strongest motivators known to man or beast. We will persist down the wrong path in life due to being afraid of change. We will stop our dreams in midstream when the fear of failure or even success takes over. Fear is why so many people never reach their full potential.

Jesus knew fear like no one else and he looked it right in the eye and conquered it. Matthew 26:38-39 paints a clear picture of this fear. “And going a little farther he fell on his face and prayed, saying, ‘”My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as your will.’”

As we know, Jesus took the cup of the cross and went straight into the depths of death for our sake. Hopefully, because of his willingness to fight off fear, I can do the same.
I am not sure where Vern will sleep tonight. I hope he will conquer his fear and sleep on the floor. But only time will tell.


(I want to dedicate this entry to Lucita Lyons, my sister in Christ. She passed away this week from breast cancer. This woman of faith encouraged me to keep writing, even after my main muse, Carl died. I will always remember her for supporting me through my fears.)

The Art of Contentment

Vern appeared perfectly content. After breakfast had been served, he went for his morning walk around the neighborhood. He spotted a deer in the distance and pulled tightly on the leash when another larger dog came into view. But now that he was home, Vern had nothing else on his agenda but to do a little relaxing before taking a short nap.

Life for Vern is light and free of burdens. Not so much for all of us humans. All of us have concerns weighing on us. Covid has impacted all of us in our own unique way. And if it isn’t this nasty virus on the top of our minds, then it must be the political craziness that stirs all around us. And the list can go on and on….

So I was reflecting on Jesus and if he was present today what he would be talking about and doing with his time. And as I studied what he talked about and what he did, I was a little surprised. Jesus never discussed politics nor did he get involved in heavy discussions about the way the Romans were treating the people of the day.

Instead, Jesus focused on the kingdom of God. He spoke in parables to the masses that had come to him for hope. He healed people and removed demons. He raised people from the dead and fed thousands with only a loaf and a couple of fish.

Jesus saw our inner needs being far more important than all the stuff swirling around. And I believe if he was here today, he would say exactly what he said over two thousand years ago. “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:28-30)

Vern has found a cool spot near Bee and is enjoying a moment of tossing around on the rug. With no cares or worries, this little dog has a lot to teach me. When I want to place the afflictions of the day upon my back, I need to look down at my four legged friends and remember the one who is always there to take on my burdens.

In the Shade of Little Things

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.

Words of Life

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.

Destinations

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’s Idea of Contentment

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.