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Front Row Seat

I have to make a confession. Neither Carl nor I like the night time. I don’t like driving in the dark and you won’t see Carl or I walking after the sun has set. But if there was to be an exception, it would have to be during the Christmas season when many have their houses lit up with glowing lights.

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My distaste for the darkness of night gives me more respect for the shepherds that spent night after night tending to their sheep. Instead of being nestled in their beds they were out in the fields protecting their livestock from the dangers of the dark.

As we all have probably experienced in the darkness, shadows take on a life of their own. We can think we see something but in the light, it ends up being nothing but an overblown imagination.

But this was different. Instead of a shadow, an angel surrounded by a brilliant light appeared among the shepherds. Their initial reaction was a deep seated fear of this heavenly being. But as quickly as the fear set in, the angel comforted them with words that would be remembered for the rest of time.

“Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people.  Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord.  This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.” Luke 2:10-12.

As the shepherds were digesting these words, what happened next sealed their belief that this was truly from God. “Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.” Luke 2:13-14.

And sure enough, the shepherds left the field and found the baby wrapped in swaddling clothes lying in a manger. After seeing the baby, they were so filled with joy that they couldn’t stop talking about the child and what the angel had told them.

Why did God have his angels appear to these shepherds? What was it about these men that gave them a front row seat to the most incredible event of mankind? Weren’t shepherds considered unreliable and on the bottom of the social ladder? Weren’t shepherds unable to enter the temple because they were considered unclean?

Humble hearts. These men were chosen for their humble hearts. Even today, God doesn’t choose the prideful man with everything this world can offer. Instead He seeks out the ordinary. The ones that have a hunger in their hearts for the truth.

Just the other night, I was driving through a neighborhood with all the lights of Christmas all around me. As I rode in awe of the lights that portrayed different interpretations of Christmas, I couldn’t help but think how pale it all was compared to the brilliance of the glory of God that lit up the skies on that night so many years ago.

 

 

 

Harnessed

My first guests had started to arrive and Carl was his predictable self. He was overly excited and no matter what I said to him he wouldn’t listen. Reprimanding him wasn’t preventing him from jumping up and snipping the knees of everyone that he could reach.  I knew that I had to try a different tactic. Then I thought about the harness that hung up on the nail in the porch.

It was crazy how quickly Carl transformed into the submissive and meek dog that I believed he could become. It was like the harness weighed a massive amount and kept his body from trying to jump up. Instead of the hyperactive dog that usually greets my friends, Carl lay down on his bed and calmly stared upward.

Everyone enjoyed being around this meek and mellow dog. But when our society hears the word “meek” we don’t usually attribute it to a positive trait. Instead, we think of someone who is insecure and pitied. Then why does Jesus say in Matthew 5: 5 that the meek will inherit the earth?

If we turn our television on we definitely don’t see the meek capturing the attention of the world. So who is Jesus referring to? If we go back into the Old Testament, David writes in Psalm 37:9 that those who wait on the Lord will inherit the earth. He then repeats this again but changes the wording to meek in verse 37:11.

How do the meek wait on the Lord? Can you picture someone you know that doesn’t get easily angered? Someone who is criticized and doesn’t spat back what they are feeling? Can you think of a time that your feelings were hurt and you wanted to retaliate? Do you remember how hard it was to hold your tongue and not share the injustice with someone? This takes power. Power that comes from waiting on the Lord.

When we trust God, we will wait for Him to implement the judgment that is due. This is the meekness that Jesus and David are referring to. An inner strength that will allow us to enjoy our inheritance.

I was thankful for the harness that physically helped Carl become the meek dog that my friends enjoyed having around.  Hopefully, in the future when I want to snip at people for the injustice that will surely come my way, I will remember the harness of God’s word and turn my attention to waiting for Him.

As for Carl, once everyone left, I released the harness and he returned to his crazy self. Got to love him.IMG_2346

Vulnerable

A lot has happened in the last couple of days.  Bee has been having a very difficult time keeping her emotions in check. She and Leo have been fighting more and blood has been spilled too many times to let this arrangement continue. So with a heavy heart, I had to call Leo’s owner and ask for him to be removed from our home.

After a thorough survey of the damages, both Bee and Carl have had some battle wounds that needed to be addressed. A quick trip to the vet unveiled several places that will need an antibiotic to speed the healing.

Since Leo has left, both Bee and Carl seem like different animals. The tension has dissipated and the four of us have slipped back into our familiar routine. Carl no longer has to wonder if he has to share the couch but can take up residence lying on his back with his legs pressed against the cushion.

Many times during the last days, I felt torn emotionally. Feelings of vulnerability swept through me as I tried to break the dogs up. I desperately wanted this arrangement to work but I was just not able to predict the triggers that would send the dogs over the edge.

Most of us don’t like feeling vulnerable. We feel exposed and have nothing to hide behind. Whenever we find ourselves in this position, we assume that God is punishing us. I am sure the Israelites felt this way when they reached the outskirts of Jericho.

This generation of Israelites had been raised in the desert, waiting to go to the Promised Land and their first conquest was the city of Jericho. But before pursuing their enemy, God had one command for all of the men. Joshua 5:2 states, “At that time the Lord said to Joshua, “Make flint knives and circumcise the sons of Israel a second time.”

Did I hear that correctly?  God wants Joshua to circumcise all of the sons of Israel. I am sure most were wondering about the timing of this command. Joshua must have known that they were truly vulnerable with all the men healing from a very painful procedure.

So why then? Why would God command the men to be made weak right before this major battle? Could it be that God knew that it would be easy for the Israelites to win the battle of Jericho and put their trust in themselves and not God?

I know that during those last days of having Leo with us, I struggled with the fact that I couldn’t fix this issue. I didn’t want to believe that I had no power over the situation. So I ended up letting go of the problem and putting it in the hands of God.

Once again, God has demonstrated his will in my life through the actions of my little muse, Carl. As he sleeps peacefully on his section of the couch, I can’t help but thank Him for knowing what is best.

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Living in the Shadows

For the last week, Carl has been living in the shadows. I never thought there would be a day that Carl would not be in the center of our home’s attention. But given our grandchildren are staying with us, Carl has been living his life beyond the forefront.

There are many of us that never live in the forefront. We may appear insignificant to the masses and walk around without ever being noticed. We may have mundane occupations that never receive the awards and accolades that others we know receive.

What is interesting is as I read the story of David, I have realized he is one of us. When Samuel went to anoint a son of Jesse to become king,  he thought he knew exactly who would be chosen. Samuel asked Jesse to present his sons to him. The first son to parade before God was Abinadab. Since Jesse chose him first, he must have had a special place in his father’s heart. But God told Samuel that he would not be king.

As Jesse called Shammah, he must have thought that it had to be this son. If it wasn’t Abinadab it must have been this strong young man that demanded the attention of others. Perfect candidate for being a king. But once more, Samuel hears no word from God.

I can’t imagine how Jesse felt as the sons that he would have chosen paraded by the prophet without even a second glance. All seven of them didn’t even get a nod.

Then Samuel asks Jesse if this was all of his sons. Just the thought of not even being considered states a lot about how Jesse felt about David. Can you imagine how David must have been treated as a child if he isn’t even a blimp on the radar?

Jesse responds by telling Samuel that there is one more BUT there is no way God would be considering anointing him.  He is out shepherding the sheep. A job that would be given to servants or ones that you don’t want around. I am sure Jesse must have been thinking that Samuel had it all wrong. Why would God want David?

In the isolation of the fields, God had been preparing David for his position as king over Israel. The lonely nights where David only had God to speak with and to rely on. God knew David’s heart. He knew that in this mundane, out of the forefront life, God had a man that he could etch into the greatest king that was ever known.

This encourages me as I sit here and peck out words that I believe God put on my heart. For so many years of working in a classroom without recognition and being the youngest of five. I can relate to David. I know that I was never chosen to be a king but I do believe I was chosen to be a child of God.

As for Carl. The grandchildren will eventually go home and he will once again return to the forefront of our attention. But until then, you can find our little pooch living in the shadows.

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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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