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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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A Carl Sighting

There has been a Carl sighting. He was spotted hanging out the window of a big black truck. If you look close enough, it appears that he seems to be very happy with his situation.

This morning, my husband called Carl’s name as he left the house. Carl immediately jumped down from his comfy bed and followed my husband out the door to the driveway where the big black truck was parked. It didn’t take any prodding by my husband to encourage Carl to be placed on his favorite seat.

I have tried to encourage Carl to get up out of the bed on any given morning but if he isn’t ready to get up, he ignores me. On the other hand, if my husband just looks in Carl’s direction and says his name, the little fawn colored dog will show no hesitation to follow him out the door.

Why will Carl only respond to my husband and no one else? We can ask this same question of sheep and how they will only respond to the voice of their shepherd.

As I was reading John chapter 10, I was perplexed by the illustration of Jesus as he refers to himself as the shepherd and the people who follow him as his sheep. How could these curly haired animals teach me how to be a better follower of Christ?

John 10:3-5 “He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. 4 When he has brought out all his own, he goes on ahead of them, and his sheep follow him because they know his voice. 5 But they will never follow a stranger; in fact, they will run away from him because they do not recognize a stranger’s voice.”

In the same manner, if Jesus is my shepherd, I should hear his voice and follow Him. But what about all the other voices I have heard in my life and followed? In today’s world, I have been particularly distracted by the many voices screaming from my computer, television, and iphone.

Instead of allowing these devices to feed me what the world wants me to hear, I have been trying to use them to feed me what Jesus wants me to hear. Christian radio when I wake up, Bible study, and prayer will hopefully keep me in tuned to Jesus’ voice.

Carl’s response to my husband’s voice reminds me of the curly sheep that will only respond to the voice of the shepherd. So instead of getting aggravated with him, when he won’t budge when I call, I hope that it will remind me to listen intently for the voice of Jesus.

 

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The Waiting Room of Life

Carl spends a lot of his waking hours waiting. On any given day, you can find him waiting for someone to come home or for someone to put those wonderful morsels of food in his dish and lower it to the floor. No matter what he is waiting for, he doesn’t like it one bit.

The time we spend waiting is just as annoying for us humans as it is for Carl. No one likes to wait in a long line or be stuck behind an accident on the interstate. Some of us stay prepared for these unexpected times of waiting with games on our phone or glaring at Facebook to keep our mind occupied while we stay wedged in time.

It’s not the short inconveniences that cause us to scream out to the Lord. It’s the times when we want closure to a situation or a response to an unanswered prayer.  Days, weeks, months, and sometimes years can go by with no sign of an end to the waiting. How we approach these circumstances can define our relationship with God.

Hannah was one woman that had to live day after day with unanswered prayers and the endless ridicule that came with being a barren woman. To make the situation even more interesting, there is a phrase in 1 Samuel 1:6 that can cause many to struggle. “Because the Lord had closed her womb.”

Why would God close the womb of such a righteous woman? Why would He create a situation that would cause Hannah to spend years waiting for a child? And even when Hannah received confirmation from the priest that she would conceive and have a child, the Bible states in 1 Samuel 1:20 “So it came to pass in the process of time that Hannah conceived and bore a son.” Instead of an immediate response to her prayer, she had to continue to wait.

Romans 8:28 states, “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” If this is true, why does God take his time in answering our prayers?

If we examine what is happening in the process of waiting, we will be able to understand God’s intent.  Isn’t it during the period before our prayers are answered that we rely more on God than ourselves?  Don’t we pray more and spend more time in the Word to try and locate what God is trying to teach us?

I am so thankful for stories like this one to encourage me when I feel the agonizing pain that comes with the unknown. If Hannah had had a baby without effort, she may never have dedicated her son Samuel to God. If she had been blessed with children, her husband Elkanah may not have had the opportunity to demonstrate his unconditional love for his wife. But most importantly, Hannah may not have sought out God and trusted in his sovereignty.

Carl continues to wait and still doesn’t understand why he has to spend so many countless minutes with his face pushed up against the screen door in hopes of the sound of footsteps. But hopefully, I will feel a little more closer to God and his will when I am left in the waiting room of life.

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Dropped Blankets

I can hear the hum of the washing machine and the soft sound of the refrigerator. Other than these familiar noises, all is quiet. Carl and Bee have finally settled down after a rough housing episode that included Carl holding onto the blanket that Bee was sleeping on and dragging her across the floor. With teeth bared and a distinct growl, Carl was determined to claim the blanket, even if that meant pulling Bee around and around until the blanket was pulled out from under her. Bee appeared to be just as determined to hold her ground and refused to abandon ship. Finally, Carl crouched on the floor and looked up at Bee and as if all the fire had left his body, he dropped the blanket.

I sometimes wonder why we drop our blankets and turn away from the yearnings of our heart. Why is it that one minute we can be bound and determined to pursue a dream and then just leave it, like a blanket sitting in the middle of the floor. Recently, I had a thought that would change my world. An idea that wouldn’t leave my mind. Over the course of several days, I contemplated it and even shared it with friends. After receiving positive feedback, the idea grew like a snowball being rolled over fresh fallen snow. The next step to my idea involved action, the kind that once in place wouldn’t be easy to reverse.

As I contemplated my dilemma, a scripture in Isaiah came to life. One that I knew in my heart was meant for this situation. It states in Isaiah 54:2 “Enlarge the place of your tent, stretch your tent curtains wide, do not hold back: lengthen your cords, strengthen your stakes.”  I now wonder if God is telling me to move forth and enlarge my vision for my life.  To not only dream the dreams but live them to the fullest.

Time will only tell.

But for Carl, he seems pretty content that he dropped his blanket, climbed up on his cot in front of the fire, and is resting peacefully.

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Finding Treasures Along the Way

Yesterday, a dear friend of mine had a brain aneurysm that almost took her life. When I first heard the news, I was taken over with an overwhelming sense of sorrow. I was torn between wanting to go immediately to her side or giving her husband some space to process what was happening.  After realizing that I couldn’t do anything at that moment, I decided to run the errands that I had planned on doing.  First, I went to the DMV and renewed my driver’s license and then I went to the post office to mail a package.

I felt numb as I stood in line waiting for my name to be called, looking around at all of the different shades of humanity that lined the walls. Thinking about how precious life is and how easily it could be taken from us. After leaving the DMV, I made my way to the post office where I ran into an old friend from my past. She immediately asked about me and I couldn’t help but begin to cry. Concerns about my friend flowing freely.

I then asked her about how she was doing and she told me how she had had stage four colon cancer. She explained how God was ever present throughout her long treatment and recovery period. She shared how her relationship with God had been transformed because of the cancer and how she was truly grateful for it. As I listened to her, I couldn’t help but think about how God had placed her in my path at just the right time.  He gave me the gift of hope which I will forever be thankful for.

Yesterday afternoon, I did get to see my friend.  She was extremely groggy but clearly thankful for having survived. When I walked into the room, it was clear she was glad to see me and began asking about my family.  With all that she had been through, she cared enough about me to look beyond herself. I couldn’t help be in awe of having such a dear friend, a true treasure from God.

No Matter the Circumstances

The tennis match didn’t go as expected. My first thought when I walked onto the court centered on the knee brace that my opponent was wearing. Pride had seeped into my soul after winning several recent matches pretty easily. This match should be similar and I would be ready to go home in no time at all.

Was I ever wrong!  I felt like I was hitting against a backboard. Every time I would hit a ball to my opponent’s backhand, she would return it cross court. When I hit a short ball, she would take advantage of it and hit an angle shot that I was unable to reach.

The first set went back and forth until we finally reached 6-6 and had to play a tie breaker. The first person who reached 7 with a two point span won. She was up 6-5 when she hit a ball that barely touched the outside of the baseline. From her body language, it was clear she thought it was out. I gave it only a brief thought when I yelled across the court, “Your ball was in.  Good play.”

I knew in my heart of hearts that knowing the ball was in and not calling it would nag at my soul. Over the years, I have realized that losing a tennis match was something I could live with. On the other hand, knowing the truth and not speaking it was like stating a bold face lie. That was something that would eat at my heart and for far longer than the loss of a game.

My thoughts through the second set were similar to the game we were playing. As a ball goes back and forth across the net, my thoughts went from negative to positive time and time again. After losing the first two games of the set, I started feeding myself positive thoughts and talking out loud to boost my confidence. Before long the set was over with me winning 6-2.

Now we had to play a tie breaker to see who would win the match.  Again, we rallied back and forth running each other to all parts of the court. At one time she was ahead 7-6. I knew that I needed to go up to the net more but I have never felt comfortable being there. Each of the next couple of points, I pushed myself to move my body closer and closer to the net waiting for the high ball to smash down in the corner for a winner. It was only the last point of the game, that I had found just the right loopy ball to use my overhead shot to put it away.

I can’t say that I learn a lot of lessons every time I go out onto the tennis court but this time, I definitely did. I am glad that I won but I am not sure if I would have been too upset if I had lost this particular match. I felt the key to my success was keeping my mind positive and clear of all negativity. But most of all I learned that there is power in the truth no matter the circumstances.

My Personal Thunderstorm

Have you ever had days where you seem to be stepping from one problem to the next and haven’t a clue on how to get back on solid ground? This is how I have felt today. I do find it humorous that this morning I was reading a book by Joyce Meyer called Power Thoughts. Maybe God wanted to give me an opportunity to practice being positive so he set up a perfect storm just for me.

We all face crisis of many shapes and sizes in our lifetime, but it just seems like lately, I have had an extra helping. Okay, don’t laugh at my most recent thunderstorm. I woke up this morning to Carl, our six month old French Bull dog throwing up. I could tell he wasn’t feeling well because he didn’t want to eat. This typically wouldn’t be alarming except that he is still recovering from having his tail surgically removed. For the last two and half weeks, we have had to closely monitor him because it is easy for infection to set in around where his tail used to be.

He was sleeping peacefully when I left to go to the grocery store. When I returned, the vomiting was now being accompanied by diarrhea. I am probably grossing you out but if you had seen how it was just oozing out of his bottom, with no tail to cover up the mess, you would understand why I thought of this as a crisis.

It was so bad that we couldn’t do anything but clean one spot off the floor and then move to the next one. Jay and I were pretty concerned about our little pup so we called the doctor and are taking him in. We truly love this little guy and would be crushed if something happens to him.

Maybe it is the unknown part of the situation that I don’t like. And I am sure it was the unknown that scared the Israelites when the twelve spies came back to tell them that they were like grasshoppers to the people that occupied the land that God had promised them. If I am not careful I could be just like the Israelites and turn my fear into grumbling. But as I read in the book of Numbers, grumbling will only give you more time in the desert. So, I think I will keep working on being positive and wait for the storm to pass.