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Vern’s Surgery

Vern is going into elective surgery today. Maybe I should rephrase this. Vern is having surgery we determined necessary for him. As much as we liked the idea of little Verns running around, it will be easier for everyone involved to have him snipped.

Have you ever experienced something in life that was totally out of your control? Maybe a loss of a job or an illness that sent your world spinning in a different direction. But then later after you had time to reflect on the situation, you could say the experience was one of the best things that could have happened.

As Jesus walked through Galilee, healing and preaching the Good News, he saw a blind man from birth. His disciples were curious. Someone’s sin must have caused the man to be born this way. So they asked Jesus, “Who sinned, this man or his parents?”(John 9:1-2)

How often do we think when bad things happen there is a direct correlation to our sin or bad decisions? Many times, stuff happens as a result of our actions. But there are times when horrible things happen to us so the works of God might be displayed through us. Because of the man’s blindness, he had the privilege of meeting Jesus, the son of God.

The next time pain or emotional turmoil occur, take some time to reflect on how you can display the works of God through it to others. If for no other reason, it will take the focus off of yourself and bring refreshment to your soul.

Vern will be sore for a couple of days. During his recovery, he will receive a lot of love and attention from his human family. Feel free to send the little guy positive thoughts and prayers. And hopefully, God’s work will be seen.  

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The Desire for Attention

Vern can’t understand why Bee doesn’t want to have anything to do with him. All he wants is what dogs want, some companionship and attention. But Bee knows better. She has been around the block a couple of times with other male dogs, and knows the attention Vern wants to give, isn’t welcome.

Humans are similar to our canine friends. We also have an inward desire to receive attention from others. Some may need more than others, but everyone’s DNA is set up to only be complete when we are surrounded by a network of friends and family.

The problem comes when we’re only expecting others to give us our daily dose of attention, without reaching out to others.  Many times, we think friends and family should give to us before we reciprocate. When this cycle begins, it usually ends with feelings of inadequacy and insecurity.

If we would turn our attention to the approach Jesus took, everyone could have their needs met, and some left overs to pass out. “When he had finished washing their feet, he put on his clothes and returned to his place. “Do you understand what I have done for you?” he asked them.  “You call me ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord,’ and rightly so, for that is what I am.  Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet.  I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you.  Very truly I tell you, no servant is greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him.  Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them. “(John 13:12-17)

If attention is what you are looking for, then you will find it in the act of serving. Reach out to the friend that may need a kind word or a neighbor that may need help. It will be in the act of service that you discover your own needs will be met.

Vern’s need for attention may not come through his sister dog. That’s okay. He has been learning that his attention can come from all his human friends that enjoy a good Vern petting every once in a while.

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Our Predictable Lives

Life for Vern has been different this week. Instead of having free reign over his environment, he has been living in confined spaces and directed with a leash to where he can roam.  For the first time in his predictable life, Vern has been taken away from all he recognizes and thrust into a world full of dogs of all sizes.

Vern could be seen through the eyes of a camera from our vacation home. Our little dog was viewed hopping in front of strange breeds, eagerly wanting them to notice him. From the perspective of the camera, Vern appeared happy in his short term location. But, the truth of how our little bully felt would never be known.

Over two thousand years ago, Jesus spent the last three years of his life going from location to location, spreading the good news of the Gospel, healing the sick, and feeding the hungry. People from all directions left the comfort of their homes in search of this man, hoping to find something that would fill the empty space in their hearts.

At one point in his ministry, Jesus and his disciples were headed to Bethsaida. But the men found themselves in the midst of a storm. So instead of Bethsaida, the small vessel slid onto the shores of Gennesaret, a small community on the Sea of Galilee. Once Jesus stepped out of the boat, he is surrounded by locals that have heard of this man that heals.  Word quickly spreads and people come from far and wide to experience the healing for themselves.

The people in this small village were healed because they believed in this man named Christ. No one knows the changes that took place in the hearts of the people that Jesus healed. Some may have gone home, but others turned from their predictable lives to discover the empty space in their hearts filled.

Vern will return to his predictable life today where he can once again know the freedom of life without leashes and cages. And even though the young Frenchie may never understand why he was removed and then returned, Vern will be fine.

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Voices

It was clear that Vern was not feeling well. He ignored his food and only wanted to lie down in front of the fire. Bee, on the other hand, was eager to go after the extra bowl of food that she didn’t need, given we are watching her waist line. All morning, we tried to place the bowl down in front of our little friend. But every time we did, Vern would walk away.

Later in the morning, Vern regurgitated several leaves that he must have eaten while spending time outside. After the third time of emptying his stomach, he seemed to be feeling better. Once we cornered Bee and held her back from the bowl, Vern finally finished his breakfast.

As much as I want to be upset with Vern for grazing on leaves, I know that I am guilty of doing the same thing. I may not eat leaves, but I have been known to consume an extra dessert every now and then or have a little too many evening drinks.

What really messes me up is my consumption of the voices that I don’t need to be hearing. Voices from the television that provoke me to feel anger and hatred. Voices from social media that paint pictures of perfect lives that cause me to feel jealousy or envy. Voices, voices, voices.

If only I would stop consuming the voices that cause my soul to get sick and turn my ear to the one voice that brings life. Jesus spoke, “Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock.  The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock.” (Matthew 7:24-25)

Vern is now resting comfortably beside Bee. The effects of consuming the leaves are past, and hopefully he will stay away from grazing on plants that are not meant for ingesting. And like him, I will also try to take in what is good and shut out the unwanted voices that cause damage to the soul.

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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.)

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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.

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Taken Up and Carried

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.