TRYING TO UNDERSTAND

Cuddles, one of our two Miniature Pincher dogs, always seems to want to understand what is going on.  She will watch what we are doing and cock her head to the side, with her eyes piercing ours, as if she was trying all her best to know what is going on.  Perhaps she is thinking that her people are really goofy, I don’t know, but it seems as if her mental wheels are spinning when she focuses and looks at us like that, at least my humanizing of the canine would think like that!

Recently my husband was going to fix a leaking kitchen faucet.  He got all the materials together to do the job and then opened the cabinet under the sink.  In Cuddles’ mind, this was a perfect opportunity to help Daddy!

Cuddles helping daddy 1

You are not aware of the step of faith this is for her.  This cabinet houses the dreaded garbage disposal, and each time I turn it on, she will come running from wherever she is in the house and bark at it. When it stops, she walks off as if she had killed the monster that was threatening Mommy.  This time, though, she had Daddy with her, and she was proud to stand side by side with him.

Cuddles helping daddy 2

Getting into the nitty-gritty of the issue under sink, Daddy was leaning far forward, and Cuddles was standing close to him, with eyes forward as if she were inspecting or monitoring his actions.  Even a flash bulb would not divert her attention from Daddy and the cabinet.

Cuddles helping daddy 3

At this point, she really was trying to assist him because now her front paws were on the floor of the cabinet.  She was absorbed in trying to understand what he was doing.  But, she couldn’t help, and she did not know what was going on.  Her inquisitiveness had to yield because it was just beyond her ability to comprehend.

These pictures present a sort of image of me and God.  There have been times that I felt just like Cuddles.  I want to help, to do something, but I just can’t understand what needs to be done.  God is working in my life, but I don’t comprehend what I am supposed to do; I don’t know where He is leading, I don’t know why something painful happened. 

Can you relate?  Perhaps all is well, and you are not peering under the cabinet for answers now, but you have done so at some point in the past.  Or, perhaps you are now seeking answers as you are under the protection and guidance of your Heavenly Father, but you are wondering where He is leading you, or why your circumstances have changed.

Perhaps you are trying to understand why a dreaded disease has attacked your child or spouse, or yourself.  Perhaps you are trying to understand why a beloved family member was taken from you too soon, or why your dream job came crashing down when the company closed. 

There are too many scenarios to list, and each of us has to deal with situations and problems that come our way, seemingly with virtual regularity. 

But, Beloved, know that our Heavenly Father has written us a love letter, the Holy Bible.  It details what God’s plan is and how we are to live. 

“You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.”

Deuteronomy 6:5

It tells of His provision of a Savior to atone for our sins so that we can have an abundant life now and eternal life with Him after death envelops our body. 

“Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”

John 14:6

And, God has given us His Holy Spirit to quicken our hearts which are dead in sin, Who then speaks to us and opens our eyes so that we can understand the Bible as we read it, and Who guides us in prayer.

“But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you.”

John 14:26

Beloved, you don’t need to peer into the cabinet of the future in fear.  You don’t need to cock your head to the side and wonder what God has planned for you.  You don’t need to be in panic when something comes at you out of that cabinet, God has you in His hand and He is omniscient and omnipotent. 

There is one reality and God knows it in its entirety, as it exists by, through, and for Him.  This omnipotent God has said that if you seek Him, He will be found.

“I love those who love me, and those who seek me diligently find me.”

Proverbs 8:17

You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart.”

Jeremiah 29:13

Just as Cuddles tried to understand but could not, some things are simply beyond our capacity to understand; but even those difficult things are not outside God’s control or knowledge.  As a child of God, as a Christian, you are secure, and you are the child of the Omniscient, Omnipotent God of all creation.  Trust Him and obey His Word.  Him and He shall be found.

Father, thank You for giving us little animals who can remind us of eternal principles.  Thank You for Your Word, for Your Son, and for Your Holy Spirit.  Thank You for salvation and for the promise of life eternal through Jesus Christ my Lord.  May these words be encouraging and of comfort to those who read them.

DOCTORS, HOSPITALS, PETS AND FEARS, REVISITED

One of our canine daughters, Cuddles to be exact, has a problem with her feet. 

Apparently, at some time in her past, she was abused in and around her paws.  When she first arrived at our home, we tried clipping her nails and could not get her to hold still.  She violently pulled back — never snapped, but clearly was terrified.

So, we took her to the groomer’s and asked them to clip her nails.  They returned the dog to us, with one or two nails a bit shorter, but clearly not clipped as we expected, and the groomers appeared to have fought in some battle, rather than attending to her paws!  Again, she was clearly terrified.

cuddles-rin-min-pin-stance
Cuddles in her “Rin-Min-Pin” stance.

Next stop on the journey for reducing nail length was the veterinarian.  We told him that no one had been able to clip her nails and he gave us the “You poor guys, can’t even get the dog to hold still for a minute!  We’ll take care of it!” look as he carried her into the treatment area.

About 8 minutes later, a very harried vet returned carrying Cuddles.  Her nails are no shorter, and he is significantly humbled by the strength of our little MinPin.  And, as per previous encounters, she is clearly terrified.

“We were not able to calm her sufficiently to do the job”, this being a complete understatement if I had ever heard one.   He then said we had two options: 1) to bring her back on another day and have him clip and cauterise her nails under anesthesia (the expensive option) or 2) to have our limbs shredded when our skin came in contact with her paws (the cheap option).

We chose the costly option rather than experiencing Samurai sword claws when she jumps up onto our lap. She has been with us for 4 years and her fear remains as a visceral barrier to a normal pedicure.

So, is this post about our travails with Cuddles nails?  Yes, but just a bit. 

Like Cuddles, I am facing a fearful situation – another spinal surgery where 2 broken rods will be replaced and 2 more will be added in an attempt to stabilize my spine so as to alleviate additional curvature and pain.

I have had this type surgery twice and doing it again is fearful.  But, I am sure I am not alone in this.  Whether the injury is physical, psychological, mental or emotional, whether it is from the past or something you are facing in your immediate future, fear is visceral.  .

Cuddles trusts us — she, in her own doggie way, knows we would not intentionally harm her.  But her trust is not sufficient to overcome the fear that some other event had imprinted on her psyche.

Cuddles and I are different, however. I understand that perfect love casts out fear.

There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love.

1 John 4:18

While my fear from past events knocked me down, it could not overpower my Lord and Savior. Fear of the upcoming surgery will not overwhelm me now. My Lord is sovereign and trustworthy, and I am in His hands. 

“And those who know your name put their trust in you, for you, O LORD, have not forsaken those who seek you.” 

Psalm 9:10

We are repeatedly admonished in Scripture to trust the Lord.  For example, the Psalmist compares objects of trust in Psalm 20:7 where he affirms:

“Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the LORD our God.”

And, the writer of Proverbs says:

Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding.

Proverbs 3:5

The God that is described in the Old Testament as being trustworthy is the same God we serve in the New Testament body of Christ.  The writer of Hebrews says in Hebrews 13:8 that:

Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.”

So, who do you trust when you come face to face with your fears?  Do you trust in human wits, Oprah, psychology, or tabloid suggestions? Or do you trust the Creator of the Universe, the omniscient, omnipresent God who sent His Son to be our Savior?

May we say, along with the prophet Isaiah:

Trust in the LORD forever, for the LORD GOD is an everlasting rock.” 

Isaiah 26:4.

Father, forgive me for the myriad of times when I let my fears and insecurities rise to the surface so that they distract me from living my life in victory in the power of your Son through your Holy Spirit.  I praise You for being an everlasting rock upon whom we can trust.  I praise You, also, that You have never forsaken me even when my fears turned my eyes away from your beloved Son.  Thank You for your overwhelming love and protection, despite my fears.

 

Snow — fun, beautiful, and cold!

Spoiler Alert : nothing profound or thought-provoking here – just fun!

We just had our first snow of the season in East Tennessee.  The mountains received significantly more than we did in the valley, but it was still pretty as it covered the grass and laid softly on the leaves and branches in the back yard.  When I looked out the window and saw the first snow, I was reminded of a video I made of Snickers and Cuddles as they ran in the snow wearing their yellow slickers, complete with reflector strip across their back end, in case they get lost at night!  

We adopted them from Young Williams Animal Shelter here in Knoxville.  Bill always says that they “won the lottery” when we brought them home with us, but I believe that we were the winners in those transactions when you think of all the joy and love they provide on a daily basis.

Here is the video — please bear with it for about 9 seconds and you will see them come streaking in from the right side of the screen.  Cuddles is the one with her tail curved over her back – Snickers has the straighter tail.  The video always brings a smile to my face.  I hope you enjoy it as well.

Happy New Year and, if you have snow, enjoy it before you have to start shoveling your way out of it!  I know shoveling can be a bear, but enjoy the beauty for a little while.  Please don’t let the obligation to get going eliminate your appreciation of the beauty of God’s creation, even in a little snowflake.  

Blessings to you today, and throughout the new year.

WHATEVER SHE HAS, SHE WANTS SOMETHING DIFFERENT!

Cuddles, our MinPin canine daughter, often seems to provide vivid illustrations of Biblical truths.

cuddles-rin-min-pin-stance
Cuddles in her “Rin-Min-Pin” pose.

Recently, she wanted to go outside.  Now she had been outside earlier in the evening, and at that time she had barked incessantly until we let her out and the barking was transferred to the neighbors instead of to us.  Then she barked to come in and we, as properly trained dog parents, got up and obeyed her bark.

Moments later, she was again barking to go outside.  At this point, my husband said “Whatever she has, she wants something different!” 

When she was outside, she wanted to be inside.  When she was inside, she wanted to be outside.  When she was playing with a toy, she wanted a different one (the one her sister was playing with, actually).  When she got that toy, she put her paw on it and barked for something else.

 

cuddles-playing-with-toy-2
Cuddles playing with her toy.

After reading thus far, you might say that she is not well-trained and we need to get her to a trainer post haste.  I agree with you – but we did have her with a trainer who was great, and then we failed to continue with the regimen — now we have this.

But it seems to me that she exhibits what many of us do on a regular basis.

When we have good health, we want more money.  When we have money, we want better health.  When we have ample food but no self-discipline, we want to be slender but we don’t want to do the work to get there.  When we are young, we wish we were older so we could do things that we cannot yet do, but when we are seniors we look with longing at the young and wish we were young again so we could do some things differently (of course this desire for youth also comes with the requirement that we retain the wisdom that age brings).

Are we satisfied with what God has given us?  As Christians, Scripture exhorts us to be content in whatever circumstances we find ourselves for our God is in control:

For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

2 Corinthians 12:10

Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content.

Philippians 4:11

Keep your life free from love of money, and be content with what you have, for he has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.”

Hebrews 13:5

used-thanksgiving-meal
Table set for the Thanksgiving Day feast.

In just a few days we, in the United States, will be celebrating Thanksgiving Day, the national holiday where we set time aside and thank God for those daring folks who came to this country when there was little to draw them here.  It was a harsh land and the transition from European “civilization” to the American frontier life was anything but easy.  They relied upon God daily as they worshiped and prayed for each other during those difficult early years.

It surely is right that we honor and remember the Pilgrims and their sacrifices so that, hundreds of years later, we could live in an incredible land of abundance, majestic beauty and awesome breadth.  It is right that we offer prayers of thanks to God for their acts of heroism and for His providential care of them in coming to and in establishing our country.

But it is even more appropriate for us to, daily, thank God for His provision, love, grace and mercy toward us.  We ought not reserve our thanksgiving for a day with that moniker! 

USED praying hands
Praying hands.

 

  • When was the last time you thanked God for life, for His gift of air to breathe, for His provision of food for your table, for His grace to our sin-cursed heart by sending His Son for our salvation?
  • When was the last time you thanked God for whatever position or condition you are in, even if it is difficult and/or painful, even if it is not what you would have chosen for yourself?
  • When was the last time you thanked God for difficulties in the secure confidence that He will use these circumstances for your good and His glory?

Will you pray like this on Thanksgiving Day? 

Will you pray like this in December, when Thanksgiving is just a memory?  What about in 2017?  Will you pray like this daily and thank God for what He has blessed you with, even if that “blessing” is difficulty or a trial?  God is in control and He will use all those experiences for His glory even if that is outside the scope of your vision right now.

And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to His purpose.

Romans 8:28

You may never know what effect your response to difficulty will have on others, but God knows and He will bless you for your obedience to His commands.   

Christian, give thanks to Him for all things and you will be blessed, now and for all eternity.

 

Father, we thank You for the gift of your love, grace and mercy; for your atoning work through Jesus Christ and His sacrificial death on the cross all for the purpose of providing us salvation and release from the bondage of sin so that we may have eternal life through His name.  Father, we thank You for your provision of all the things that we need for life and we pray forgiveness when we have squandered them or when we have claimed to have merited them through our own efforts.  Give us eyes to see and hearts to understand that all we have and all we are is a result of your grace, mercy and provision as You are the one and true God, and through Christ You are our Father.

 

 

COMMANDED TO LOVE

 

Love is a hot topic in our world every day.  We speak of “falling in love” or “having lost my love” as if love is something that just happens, whether we want it to or not.  While the concept of marriage is under incredible attack in today’s world, love is still a hot topic.

 

We read in the tabloids of love between two people and then, one paragraph later, we read of the separation of two others.  We celebrate the many years of marriage of one couple while we are hurting for another couple going through separation and dissolution of their marriage

 

Then, too, as parents, we love our children.  And, as adults, we love our children and their children, and we love our parents, and miss them when they are gone.

Alice, Harold and Linda (C)
My Mother and Father reading my Golden Book, circa 1950

 

And, if we look carefully, there even are times when our children love each other!

USED Brother and Sister
Siblings showing affection, at least one is!
USED Brother and infant sister (C)
Brother giving baby sister some “love”.

 

While the children may not be as demonstrative as they get older, loving sibling relationships are precious.

 

We say that we love flowers.

USED Flower garden
Beautiful flower garden.

 

We love food.

Chocolate covered strawberries
Anyone for some chocolate covered strawberries!

 

We love to travel and take vacations, like a cruise going to faraway places in style.

USED Grandeur of the Seas Cruise Ship
The Grandeur of the Seas cruise ship in the Royal Caribbean fleet, seen from a distance.

 

And, it goes without saying, we love our pets.

USED Skipy hiding under the bed
Skippy, our Lhasa Poo, peeking out from under the bed, gave us 18 blessed years..

 

USED Goldie on sofa in rv
One of our retired racing greyhounds, Gold E Locks, otherwise known as Goldie, graced us with her presence for 11 years.  She loved riding on the sofa in the RV.

 

And now we have our two canine MinPin daughters, Snickers and Cuddles.

USED Snickers wishing camera flash would stop
Snickers in dreamland on her favorite blanket.

 

USED Cuddles and her boy (C)
Our grandson and Cuddles, sound asleep, with just a little doggie grin, next to him, because he is  “her boy!”

 

Our love for people, animals, objects and activities is a love that is conditioned on various factors.  We love those related to us in a different way than we do our generalized acquaintances.  We love some flowers and not others, and some like to eat lobster and others wouldn’t touch it!  In other words, there is self-motivated volition involved in our love of things and others.

 

In stark contrast, this is not how we are to love our God.  We are COMMANDED to love the Lord our God, and not just a little bit or for a limited time!

 

In Deuteronomy 6:5 we read:

 

You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.”

 

That essentially covers everything!  It is repeated elsewhere in the Old Testament, for example:  Deuteronomy 11:1 and 13:3, and Joshua 22:5.

 

We cannot shrug our shoulders and mumble, “Yeah, but that was okay thousands of years ago, not for us 2016!”  Rather, Jesus reiterated that this was still a commandment for us in Matthew 22:37 when He repeated these exact words.  But Jesus didn’t stop there — not only are we to follow the command in Deuteronomy, Jesus expanded it in Mark 12:29-31 by commanding us to love our neighbor as we love ourselves.

 

Jesus takes love out of the mental/spiritual world and puts it into the physical/material world.   This turns love into action, not just thought or emotion.  We see our neighbor and we are to love him/her.

 

Loving God and loving our neighbor as ourselves means to serve others as Jesus Christ exampled for us, as He lived, and as He died in complete obedience to His Father.  We surely cannot live a sinless life and comply with God’s will in all things as He did, but we can keep His commands on a day to day basis as we are enabled by the Spirit.  We can love God; we can read His Word; we can meet with fellow believers and worship Him regularly; we can love others, if for no other reason than because He tells us to do so.

 

Note that our obligation to love our neighbor does not depend on whether the neighbor is either lovely or loveable – it is a command to Jesus’ followers that has no qualification as to the one being loved.  It is between us and the Lord.  “If you love me, keep my commands.”  John 14:15.

 

There is no wriggle room. It is an “if … then” statement.  If you love me, then you will keep my commands.  Or, stated another way, if you do not keep my commands, then you do not love me.

 

This is not optional – it is not a suggestion.  It is a direct command that indicates whether

  • I do or do not love my Lord and Savior,
  • I will or will not allow His Spirit to guide my steps through the day,
  • I will or will not follow His direction.

 

If I say that I am His, do my actions support my statement or do they undermine it?

 

What about you?  Prayerfully consider these questions and seek the Lord’s face as you look at your life, your speech, your actions, your thoughts, your motives, etc.

 

“If you love me, keep my commands.”   Am I one of His disciples or not?   Are you?

 

Everything depends on the answer to that question!

 

Father, I pray that the meditation of my heart is acceptable to you this day.  I pray that your Word would be used by the Spirit to illuminate the hearts of those who do not know You.  I pray that you would forgive me when I have failed to love You with my whole heart, soul and might.  Thank you for calling me to Yourself through the atoning work of your Son, my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

 

DOCTORS, HOSPITALS, PETS AND FEARS

Cuddles and Snickers are at the doctor’s office today.  Normally they are in the family room, balancing on the recliner while looking out the window through the blind slats … not at all sure what they can see, but they are intent.

But today, they are at the vet’s office for their various shots, tests, nail clipping and baths.  While it sounds routine, it is anything but routine for Cuddles.

Apparently, at some time in her past, she was abused in and around her paws.  When she first arrived at our home, we tried clipping her nails and could not get her to hold still.  She violently pulled back — never snapped, but clearly was terrified.

She is not terrified to look out the bedroom window at the birds feeding just a couple of feet away.  So we don’t know what caused her terror at having her claws clipped.

I see you, birdies; I just don't want to get out there, that's all!
I see you, birdies; I just don’t want to get out there, that’s all!

So, we did what anyone would do, we took her to the groomer’s and asked them to clip her nails.  They were successful in “grinding” some of them, but could not get all of them done and none of her claws were significantly shorter than when we left her for the grooming.  And, again, she was clearly terrified.

Cuddles with her long nails
Cuddles with her long nails

Next stop on the journey for reducing nail length was the veterinarian.  Surely, with all the staff, equipment, etc., he will be able to clip her nails and we will be on our way.  Cuddles disappeared into the back of the animal hospital with the smiling vet carrying her, assuring us that it would be a simple task for them.  [You can read into his expression “You poor guys, can’t even get the dog to hold still for a minute!  We’ll take care of it.]

About 8 minutes later, a very harried vet returns carrying Cuddles — nails are no shorter and he is significantly humbled by the strength of our little MinPin.  And, as per previous encounters, she is clearly terrified.

“We were not able to calm her sufficiently to do the job.”   He then said that our only option was to bring her back on another day and have him operate on her … just put her under anesthesia for about 10 minutes and they would clip and cauterize her nails.  She would not be declawed as that is not a good thing for a dog, but the nails would be very short and it would take several months for them to grow.  Of course, the operation costs money, as does the anesthesia, treatment, etc. and it would be an, almost, all day affair for her.  We had this as one option — the other option was to have our limbs shredded when our skin comes in contact with her paws.

Needless to say, we have taken her to get her “nails done” today so that when we bring her home she will no longer shred our legs with Samurai sword claws when she jumps up onto our lap.

We don’t know what terrified her so much when it comes to her feet.  She has been with us almost two years and there certainly has not been anything here to foster that kind of reaction, but it matters not because her fear is visceral and there is no way to prepare her for the normal clipping procedure.

So, is this post about our travails with Cuddles nails?  Yes, but just a bit.

I want Cuddles’ experience to cause us to consider what terrifies us.  I am fairly confident that there is something in each of our lives that has hurt us, burned us, or abused us whether the injury is physical, psychological, mental or emotional.

When I was a very young child, I had polio and it resulted in scoliosis that showed up before I started school. Because the doctors warned that the severity of the curve would claim my life by the time I was 25, my parents opted for experimental treatment that involved spinal fusion surgery and over a year in a body cast.  I turned 10 years of age after surgery and 6 months in bed in a body cast that went from my head to my knee.   The Lord was gracious, the scoliotic twist was not cured but it was halted, and I was able to live a normal life, including having two children.

I tell you this to say that, even though I credit the Lord as the Great Physician and his messengers, my human doctors, for sparing my life, the horrors of the treatment and body cast were imprinted on my heart and mind.  But, I never thought of them until a doctor suggested that one of my children might have scoliosis.  All at once my greatest fear was staring me in the face.  All the memories that I thought were gone came crashing down and I was wailing, sobbing and utterly drained.

My beloved husband kept repeating that decades had passed since my surgery and the traumas that were associated with it, but I could almost touch my fear it was so real.  I had to come to the point where I could say, truthfully, that my children were the Lord’s and that, if He wanted them to go through this, I had faith in Him that He loved my children even more than I did and that He would handle the situation according to His plan for them, and for me.   As it turned out, there was no scoliosis diagnosis from any orthopedic or neurosurgeon specialist and the children are now adults, both of whom tower over me in height!

Cuddles trusts us — she, in her own doggie way, knows we would not intentionally harm her.  But her trust is not sufficient to overcome the fear that some other event had imprinted on her psyche.

Cuddles and I are different; however, because while my fear knocked me down, it could not overcome my Lord and Savior. He is sovereign and trustworthy, and I am in His hands.

“And those who know your name put their trust in you, for you, O LORD, have not forsaken those who seek you.” 

Psalm 9:10

We are repeatedly admonished in Scripture to trust the Lord.  For example, the Psalmist compares objects of trust in Psalm 20:7 where he affirms:

“Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the LORD our God.”

And, the writer of Proverbs says:

Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding.

Proverbs 3:5

The God that is described in the Old Testament as being trustworthy is the same God we serve in the New Testament body of Christ.  The writer of Hebrews says in Hebrews 13:8 that:

“Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.”

So, who do you trust when you come face to face with your fears?  Do you trust in human wits, Oprah, psychology, or tabloid suggestions? Or do you trust the Creator of the Universe, the omniscient, omnipresent God who sent His Son to be our Savior?

May we say, along with the prophet Isaiah:

“Trust in the LORD forever, for the LORD GOD is an everlasting rock.” 

Isaiah 26:4.

Father, forgive me for the myriad of times when I let my fears and insecurities rise to the surface so that they distract me from living my life in victory in the power of your Son through your Holy Spirit.  I praise you for being an everlasting rock upon whom we can trust.  I praise you, also, that you have never forsaken me even when I have tried to run and when my fears turned my eyes away from your beloved Son.  Thank you for your overwhelming love and protection, despite my fears.