Tag Archives: prayer

The Last Will Be First

Carl hasn’t been challenged that much in life. Every day, he has a similar routine that begins with a walk, lunch, sleeping in the sun, dinner, and then finding a good spot to spend the night. Every once in a while, his routine is broken up but nothing to get his panties tied in a knot about.

Most of us would initially say that we would love to have a life like Carl’s. Just drifting from one fun thing to the next without giving much thought to anything but our pleasure and basic needs. Initially, everyone says, “Sign me up!”

Yesterday, I went to my second go cart race with my nine year old grandson. He has driven five races and initially he did extremely well. Since he just started, he began in a division that didn’t require much skill. He easily came in first or second place without much effort.

But as most of you who have played a sport or been involved in developing a skill, there are different levels that change up the effort and perseverance needed in order to be successful. So my grandson was now racing among boys his age that had raced fifty races to his five. They had cars that had been fine tuned to the race conditions and lots of people supporting them.

My son in law and his good friend are both mechanics and raced when they were young and are now getting back into the sport after being away for decades. So as you can guess, winning wasn’t in the picture. But on the other hand, an unforeseen gift was.

Everett, my grandson, and his best friend started the first race with high hopes. Everett had made a mistake in qualifying and ended up at the end of the pack. He was extremely upset but pushed through the emotions and went out determined to do his best.

Yesterday’s conditions were challenging to say the least. It was over 95 degrees and the course was hard and slick which made it difficult to stay on the track when making turns. After about the fifth lap, my attention was deferred from my grandson to his friend. A car started spinning right in front of him and he had no choice but to run right into him. From afar, it didn’t look good. And when the ambulance pulled on the track, my heart started racing.  All I could do was start praying.

With my other grandson and Everett’s friend’s brother running toward me, I pulled them close to me and comforted them. And then something happened that touched my heart more than any victory could ever. Eli, my five year old grandson took his friend’s hand and said, “Let us pray for your brother.” And then he closed his eyes and asked God to take care of his friend.

It seemed forever before finally, Everett’s friend was able to walk off the track on his own. He was shaken up and had to be closely monitored for the rest of the time we were there. The paramedic came over to our trailer and double checked on him, but he was ultimately okay.

Everett raced his last race without his friend. He got out there and did the best job he could, spinning out several times, but just like the ready ever battery bunny, Everett pulled back into the race and finished last.

But to me, Everett and Eli finished first. First in character and integrity. First in reaching out to God, when so many children would have become angry and self-absorbed. First where it truly matters in life. In my mind, this is what Jesus meant in Matthew 20:16 “So the last will be first, and the first will be last.”

As for Carl, I believe he has a great dog life. But as for me, I want to be more like my grandson, who was willing to be put in a situation that challenged more than just his driving skills, but also his character.

Our Deepest Desire

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.56605741629__FFAC95CB-502E-4A67-BCDA-3817A1CED79C

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.IMG_4656

“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.”

Staying Put

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.IMG_4342

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.IMG_4343

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.

Caged Anger

Bee, my other French Bull dog would not stop barking.  Carl and I were at a neighbor’s house and I couldn’t concentrate due to the constant high pitched bark that was coming from my yard. I had an idea of what she was barking at but wouldn’t know for sure until Carl and I went home to investigate. IMG_4236

Since the evacuation of my grandchildren, son-in-law, and animals from Wilmington, North Carolina on September 12th, their cat had been missing.  He escaped once he got out of his crate and hasn’t since been seen.  We placed a notice on our neighborhood website but the cat has only made one appearance.

Trying to catch the cat, my husband placed a live trap out behind our back yard in hopes of catching Henry and returning him to his home. Yesterday afternoon, the trap was checked and sure enough an animal had been caught.

Live traps can be tricky. They don’t guarantee the animal you are pursuing will be the one that is caught. Just like animal traps, life can have its own set of snares that we can end up in with no likely way out.

Anger can be perceived as a trap in life that is hard to get out of. Once we have been wronged we can enter its hold and believe there are no options but to stay entrapped by the tentacles of strong emotions.

James 4:1-2 in the Message version of the Bible puts it this way. “Where do you think all these appalling wars and quarrels come from? Do you think they just happen? Think again. They come about because you want your own way, and fight for it deep inside yourselves. You lust for what you don’t have and are willing to kill to get it. You want what isn’t yours and will risk violence to get your hands on it.”

Anger is defined as the appalling wars and quarrels that battle within our hearts. We usually want something that we can’t have or am furious over the fact that something happened that we can’t change.

So how do we free ourselves from the cage of this insidious trap? We pray. We go to God and ask for a grateful heart. We stay on our knees so that He can reveal to us the changes that need to be made in our souls. Only through prayer and reading the scriptures can we find the key that opens the cage of anger.

My husband called me over once I returned from my neighbors to find a possum trapped inside the cage that was intended for Henry. The possum was not very happy and hissed at all of us as we stared at the wild animal.IMG_4233

Thankfully, after being released, the possum’s scent evaporated into the air and Bee stopped barking. She finally made her way into the house and clambered into her bed where she had a peaceful night sleep.

Dear Lord, help us to be more like our furry friends and let go and take hold of the peace that you want so desperately for us to enjoy.

On Hands and Knees

This time I had to defend Carl in the incident that occurred in the depths of the night. I had an idea by Bee’s behavior that there would be an episode but I was just too tired to get out of bed to deal with it. I wish I had at least tried to stop what was about to occur but as we all know hind sight is best.IMG_2804

Bee was ready for the altercation with her brother and there was nothing I could do as the two bullies charged at each other. Thankfully, this exchange was over almost as quickly as it began. Something had caused the dogs to separate and make their way back to their beds. As I turned on the light and saw the mess, I realized why they had retreated.

This altercation was nothing compared to the one that Jesus caused when He entered the temple right before his crucifixion. “And Jesus entered the temple and drove out all who sold and bought in the temple, and he overturned the tables of the money-changers and the seats of those who sold pigeons. He said to them, “It is written, ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer,’ but you make it a den of robbers.” Matthew 21: 12-13.

I am sure Jesus didn’t make any friends on this day. Coming into the most important building in the city and turning over tables of the money-changers had to turn some heads. How could one man be so bold as to confront these men that were making money for Caiaphas, the high priest?

Because Jesus knew that selling sacrifices for extremely high prices to the people that were coming to make a sacrifice was wrong and angered God. Given that Jesus came to implement God’s plan on earth, He didn’t have an option but to address this wickedness in God’s sight.

So right before the eyes of everyone in the temple, Jesus knocked over tables and called them robbers.

This incident challenges me to be willing to do God’s will even when it isn’t popular with the general public. I just hope that I will consider what is meaningful to God the next time I see a situation that doesn’t please Him.

As for the mess that lay in front of me, I knew I had to deal with it as quickly as possible.  The short incident between my dogs had ended because of a glass of water that had been knocked off my bed side table. Apparently the water had startled the dogs and caused them to pull away and withdraw to the safety of their beds.

Once I turned the light on and looked in the direction of my pooches, I had to smile at how innocent they appeared. It was hard to stay mad at them, even if they woke me from my sleep and caused me to be on my hands and knees cleaning up their mess.IMG_2372

 

 

 

A Carl Pop

Carl refused to move. It was clear that he was cold because his entire body shook but never the less, he wouldn’t budge. This was a particularly cold day with temperatures in the low 20’s and I didn’t want to stand there and argue with my little bull headed bully.

Being hard headed is one attribute of my little dog that hasn’t changed for the three years that Carl has lived with us. No matter my strategy, he will not budge unless he can see the treat that he desires.

I have to admit that I can also be hard headed in certain areas of my life. And I have also noted that the older I get, these areas have extended to other parts that were earlier unoccupied. Age and experience can give us wisdom but it can also increase our pride if we are not careful.

I am sure Jesus’ disciples thought they knew everything they needed to know about God and what they had to do in order to enter His kingdom. Peter is a perfect example of this. He seemed to be the kind of person that spoke before thinking through what he should say. This makes him very relatable.

In Matthew 16, Jesus is telling his disciple how he has to go to Jerusalem and suffer many things. Even after being with Jesus for years, Peter just doesn’t get it. He thinks he knows more than Jesus and even has the audacity to pull him aside and rebuke him.

Well you can guess that this doesn’t go well. Jesus turns to Peter and tells him to his face, “Get behind me Satan! You are a hindrance to me. For you are not setting your mind on the things of God but on the things of man.” Matthew 16:23

How often do we set our mind on the things of man without thinking about the long term implications?  It can be so easy to think we know what is best for ourselves and leave God out of decision making process. If only we would consider what has eternal value and not the things of man.

As for Carl, once he saw the treat in my hand, he took a step inside the porch door, grabbed the treat and raced inside to recover from the cold. All I could do was shake my head and follow him inside. Will he ever change? Probably not. But I am going to love him anyway. As I looked over, Carl was still shaking and I had to laugh. He reminded me of a freeze pop on a stick.  A Carl pop.img_3032.jpg

Speechless

Carl has been a sleep on the couch all morning.  He has barely stirred. I hope that he is okay but only time will tell. Unlike people, Carl is unable to share with me how he feels or what he is thinking. I can only guess that he is well and just enjoying the warmth of the room on such a bitterly cold day.

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His lack of communication made me think of a sermon that my husband was listening to by T.D. Jakes titled Shut Your Mouth. This preacher was very animated and out right told people that they would have a lot less issues if they would just shut their mouths. As I thought about it, I had to agree.

How often do we get ourselves in trouble when we open our mouths and let filth come out?  Many times, our emotions get the best of us and instead of letting the words get filtered out through our brain, we just let them flow out without regard to the impact they may have on others.

I remember a wise woman who shared with me about how words can be like the feathers in a pillow. Once you open up the pillow and let the feathers out, it is very difficult to retrieve them.  This is the same with words. As much as we might regret what we say, it is very difficult to return our hurtful words to the original source.

James 3:3-6 states, “When we put bits into the mouths of horses to make them obey us, we can turn the whole animal.  Or take ships as an example. Although they are so large and are driven by strong winds, they are steered by a very small rudder wherever the pilot wants to go.  Likewise, the tongue is a small part of the body, but it makes great boasts. Consider what a great forest is set on fire by a small spark.  The tongue also is a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body. It corrupts the whole body, sets the whole course of one’s life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell.”

As harsh as it may sound, this is the truth. The tongue can definitely become like a fire that corrupts the whole body. This is why I am going to try harder to listen twice as much as I speak. Isn’t this why God gave us two ears and only one mouth?

I do find it fascinating that God only gave man the ability to communicate with the use of words. (I know there are some birds that can mimic.) As for Carl, he is still lying on the couch and refuses to share with me how he is feeling. Maybe that is for the best.  Either way, I am going to try and do as Carl does today and see if I can learn more when I am speechless.

Vulnerable

Carl is beginning to pipe up and has started that annoying howl that has gotten him in lots of trouble in the recent past. I am not sure why he has started to make this obnoxious noise except that he wants my attention. For the last couple of days, I have been very attentive towards his needs and today was totally different.

With winter weather that has kept us house bound, Carl has enjoyed the knowledge of having a back rub or sitting on a human’s lap.  Every day has been spent either sleeping or trying to get my attention. But these last couple of days Carl has realized that his human mother is not herself.

If any of you out there have turned 50, you know the right of passage that you are faced with.  The dreaded colonoscopy. Every ten years, each of us over 50 are confronted with not only the procedure but the prep that comes with it. I am not going into specifics but I can tell you that this process has lengthened and gotten a little more complicated.

Instead of just one day of prep, the new process includes four days of a low fiber diet which is totally different from the diet that I would have predicted. After eating carbs and bread for four days, the day prior to the procedure I was confronted with a liquid diet that ended with 64 ounces of Gatorade and Miralax.

I haven’t fasted in a while and wondered how I would handle a day without food. For someone who doesn’t want to miss a meal, how would my attitude be when I had to go without?  Around 1:00 in the afternoon, I was beginning to feel the effects of having nothing on my stomach. I could tell that my irritable attitude was rising up from within.

This is when I tried to consume my thoughts with distractions from the Australian Open and later with the NFL playoffs. I was feeling a little vulnerable with the knowledge that I had a ways to go and knew that my stomach wasn’t going to be satisfied for at least another 24 hours.

As I reflect over this experience, a verse in Matthew 17 keeps coming up.  Jesus had just been up to the mountain where He, Moses, and Elijah were transfigured in the presence of several of his disciples. Once He comes back down to the people, He is instantly confronted by a man that desperately wants his son to be healed from a demon.

The man tells Jesus that several of his disciples tried to heal the boy but couldn’t. It was clear the disciples thought they could, but were unable to. When asked by them why the boy couldn’t be healed, Jesus tells them, “However this kind does not go out except by prayer and fasting.”

Prayer and fasting. Why would God want us to fast? Being without food caused me to feel vulnerable. I didn’t feel as in control as I usually do. It is in this state of mind that we can go to God and have a better perspective of who He is. While fasting, I felt weak which made God strong.

As the day went on, Carl could tell that I wasn’t myself and gave me my space. But that evening, when I was at my weakest, I looked over at our little pooch and found him in a prayer stance. I could only smile and thank God for the lessons He has taught me through this little dog.IMG_2906

Wavering Faith

Carl is out with his human dad buying a snow shovel. The guys already have cabin fever after only a couple of hours of snow that could paralyze our community for the next few days. Carl is not much a fan of the snow but he wasn’t going to pass up a chance to spend time in his favorite place in the world, the big black truck.

Once they returned and we had lunch, we all got in our winter gear and made our way out into the winter wonderland. Both Bee and Carl tolerated the wet snow for the chance to get some exercise. The dogs weren’t sure what to think about all the white flakes floating through the air. Every couple of minutes they would shake their bodies sending the snow in all directions.

Sending the snow in all directions reminds me of the night when Jesus was taken by the soldiers in the Garden of Gethsemane. Apparently after Jesus was taken prisoner, all the disciples scattered. And this was only hours after the disciples proclaimed that Jesus was from God.

Many times we can know something in our minds but if the conviction isn’t in our hearts, it won’t impact our lives. James states this perfectly in James 1:5-6 “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to him. 6 But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for he who doubts is like a wave of the sea driven and tossed by the wind.

I must admit that my faith can waver like the waves in certain situations. It is so easy to believe God will show up in the times that I feel confident but when I see no hope in certain circumstances, I can begin to doubt. This verse has convicted me and hopefully I will not allow doubt to reign in my heart.

As for Carl and Bee, they continued to shake the flakes from their coats. We ultimately turned back and made our way home to the warmth of our fire place. After entering the house and taking their coats off, it didn’t take long for the two bullies to find a spot where they could remain warm and watch the snow fall from a distance.

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Overcoming our Feelings

I am not sure how Carl is feeling about being back under our roof. For the first two days upon returning from a house full of children, he seemed depressed. He basically laid on the couch and slept for the majority of the time. After several days, he now seems to be more content about his present situation.  I am not sure why I care so much about how he feels.

Why should how a person feels be so important to all of us?  I will never forget taking my father in law to the doctors after being diagnosed with lung cancer.  Every time we were approached by a nurse as she escorted us into the examination room we would always be asked the same question. “How are you doing?” Which could be interpreted as “How are you feeling about life?”

I am sure this is just a way to greet people, but in reality, what should we be asking people when we encounter them? Should a person’s feelings be the most important aspect of their being?

I just finished listening to a message by Joyce Myers that really challenged me. She explained that humans are made up of three different parts, the physical body, the soul, and the spirit. A person’s feelings fall under the category of soul along with the mind and will. Deeper into who we are is our spirit that should be dictated by the Holy Spirit and the Holy Scriptures.

She explained that if we live by how we feel or our emotions, than we are not going to experience the joy that comes from living by the Spirit.  Jesus even addresses this in John 15: 11. Since He created us, He knows what will complete us emotionally.

If I remain in Him, I can have joy no matter the circumstances. Even when it involves something as devastating as lung cancer. So how do I remain in Him? By reading the Scriptures when I don’t FEEL like it. It is only through the Scriptures that the Holy Spirit can push through our soul (feelings, mind, and will) and motivate our physical body to do the Will of God.

It was interesting, because just as I was writing this, I had the urge to go over and check on Carl and was tempted to turn the television set on. As I looked down at the dozing dog, I was reminded that I needed to return to what I believe is God’s Will (writing this blog) and dismiss my feelings.

Now that I have completed this entry and getting ready to send it off, I am filled with a sense of contentment that can only come from digging past my soul and pulling out what is of true spiritual value.

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