THE HORRIBLE/WONDERFUL CAMPING TRIP!

We are getting ready to go on a short camping trip and in considering the things to take, I remembered a camping experience in March 2014 where I thought I had covered all the bases, but, the Horrible/Wonderful Camping Trip was the result!

One month earlier we had adopted Cuddles, the first of our two miniature pinchers.

Cuddles is showing her
Cuddles is showing her “I’m so small, but so cute” expression!

She was just getting used to us at home when we took her on a camping trip with our then 7-year old grandson who wanted to go camping for “Spring Break” which happened to be toward the end of a very cold winter.

The snowy terrace and backyard
The snowy terrace and backyard

While our grandson had been in the RV before, Cuddles had not. (Picture of us on the way to the RV … excitement and anticipation oozing out of every pore!)

On the way!
On the way!

The response of our canine daughter was much less than enthusiastic when the sounds of travel in the RV began, and when she was harnessed into a seat which she did not particularly appreciate.

When we arrived at the huge campground we found only one other RV and it was being stored, not used. (This shows a big campground that is not filled with campers … picture this with rain and mud, then you get the idea!)

Empty campground
Empty campground

Another clue that this was going to be a memorable (?) trip was the weather – not only was it cold, we drove through heavy rain all the way to the campground. But Grammy and Papa persevered because they had promised a camping trip and, by golly, we were going to produce on our promise!

Cuddles, on the other hand, was not as excited since she was a bit more realistic … going to the bathroom in freezing cold rain, on wind-swept frozen grass is just not her cup of tea. (Here she is shown shortly before this trip in our backyard with her coat on, standing at the window while looking at the snow … “do I really have to get in that? I am, after all, a member of the family!”)

Snowy Cuddles by window
Snowy Cuddles by window

And the 7-year-old grandson anticipated, correctly, that it was likely going to be his job to walk Cuddles at the campground, with his jacket on and hood up, until she went to the bathroom since Grammy and Papa were old, or rather “seniors”!

We, however, dismissed the bad weather outside because we were ready for inside recreation. We came armed with games, DVDs and video games to play since the rain would prevent us from doing much outside – but within minutes the [new] DVD player developed a thumping sound that permeated the heart and mind of all of us. It was a pitiful sight to see us viewing Wallace and Grommit when we missed every 4th word or more because of the persistent pounding.

When the movie failed, we decided to run some water in the sink for hot chocolate — and the frozen hose burst. Same held true with the shower hose, so our entertainment became a trip to a delightful RV supply store with Papa and the grandson installing replacement hoses and faucets.

Thinking, perhaps, that a rest might have helped the DVD, we tried the movie again but Wallace and Grommit still thumped their way through missing words.

We noticed a “dog park” when we pulled into the campground, so we promptly took off for that once the rain had ended. When we got there, we saw all the elements of a doggy playground … teeter/totter, tunnel, low fence to jump, ramp up to a trestle and a ramp down on the other side, with a lot of room to run and all of it was fenced so no leash was needed. Just what the doctor ordered after confinement in the RV. But, it was MUDDY after all the rain … no grass, just mud. When our grandson started to run to entice Cuddles to run, both the dog and the boy rained mud and neither of them liked it!

We marched back to the RV with one very dejected young man. But then he cheered up when he remembered that we always had a campfire to make s’mores. (Note, this is the campfire our grandson was dreaming of!)

Campfire of your dreams!
Campfire of your dreams!

But, Papa correctly said no campfire that night because the wind was blowing far too hard: a campfire would not burn as it was too windy and too wet, not to mention cold!   Dejection reigned supreme!

But Dejection had met its match when it encountered Grammy!

I had seen a “portable s’more maker” advertised in a catalog. It looked interesting so I purchased it. When it came, I described it to a coworker and she said: “A portable s’more maker? That’s a pile of wood and a match!”

Well, no one really took me seriously, but my time to shine had come … I looked at my grandson and said “We don’t need a campfire because we can make s’mores inside where it’s warm with Grammy’s portable s’more maker!”

While he was a bit of a doubter at first, when I brought out the box, the potential promise of s’mores was too strong — he was willing to open it, just in case I was right. The ceramic pot with sterno fuel provides the heat to cook, or burn, the marshmallow, as your discriminating taste may prefer. He loved it and we had fun making s’mores that evening, even if it was blustery outside in the frozen, virtually empty campground. Papa even joined in the fun although it was a bit crowded around the small “campfire” in the RV.

S'more on fire!
S’more on fire!

We left the campground early the next day and returned to the warmth of the fireplace at home and talked about our camping trip … laughing about the broken hoses, the dog park mud, the empty campground, and the inside s’mores.

I had planned for a camping trip because it was something that our grandson said he wanted – what he really wanted was time with us and memories that were unique to our experience. Those he got in abundance.

How like our relationship with God. In Deuteronomy 11:13 we are commanded

“to love the LORD your God, and to serve him with all your heart and with all your soul”.

This commandment did not end when Jesus arrived because He reiterates this as the greatest commandment for us in Matthew 22:37.

In fact, Jesus promised that His Spirit would be with us, enabling us to do that which He commanded. See John 14:16-17:

“And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever, even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, for he dwells with you and will be in you.”

How do we show our love? Think about your first love, your spouse, children, or parents. The ways love can be expressed are as many and myriad as there are people.

Papa and grandson playing hotwheels
Papa and grandson playing with Hotwheels
Multigenerational family playing football
Multigenerational family playing football

But one of the prime characteristics of love in action is that you spend time with the object of your affection. This love does not ignore the many obligations that we have on a day-to-day basis; nor does this mean that all the time together must be at play. But spending time with the one you love is paramount, just as is your desire to do so.

Grandfather and grandson working together to fix yard equipment
Grandfather and grandson working together to fix yard equipment

So, we say we love the Lord. Do we desire to be with Him? How do we show our love for God?

Psalm 106:1 says:

“Praise the LORD! Oh give thanks to the LORD, for he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever!”

In Psalm 77:12, David says:

“I will ponder all your work, and meditate on your mighty deeds.”

So:

  • Do you meditate on Jesus?
  • Do you contemplate His worthiness for praise and glory?
  • Do you read His Word and feed upon it?
  • Do you worship Him privately as well as in corporate worship with other believers?
  • Do you praise Him for all His marvelous works?
  • Do you joy in your relationship with Him?

The camping trip certainly could have been better from a camping perspective … but the time we spent with our grandson was wonderful as well as memorable.

Now, remember that the Lover of your soul, the omnipotent, creator God, the One who has loved you since the foundation of the world.. it is this God Who desires to spend time with you!

Make yourself available and see what He will do!

BIRTHDAYS – THE CELEBRATION OF … US!

The Birthday Princess
The Birthday Princess

I was thinking about birthdays the other day. Children long for the day that is theirs, they can be the Princess or King for the day. Often the family lets the “birthday boy/girl” pick what the family will eat for dinner, what movie or television show the whole family will watch, etc.

Of course, there are also the decorations, streamers, balloons, and banners …

 

Birthday decorations
Birthday decorations
Birthday Banner
Birthday Banner

… and the birthday cake (or pie or cookies or whatever special treat the birthday child orders) …

Dinosaur Birthday Cake
Dinosaur Birthday Cake

.. or enjoys!

Yummy Birthday Cake
Yummy Birthday Cake

We celebrate birthdays when the child is growing into a youth.

Youth Birthday Boy
Youth Birthday Boy

We celebrate when the youth is racing toward adulthood.

Skateboard Birthday Cake for Youth
Skateboard Birthday Cake for Youth

And adults enjoy birthday recognition, even while recognizing that age waits for no person!

Adult Birthday Party
Adult Birthday Party

Additionally, for some of us who are animal/pet lovers, we may even celebrate the birthday of our domesticated children.   Here is Goldie, one of our greyhounds, whose birthday happened to fall on a “Meet and Greet” Saturday – so she put her Birthday Princess hat on and provided all the other hounds with treats for her “party”.

Doggie Birthday Party
Doggie Birthday Party

We celebrate birthdays in our culture because we believe that recognizing the day of our birth is important. For one day in the year, we are important just because we exist. We celebrate that we were born to do whatever destiny lies ahead of us. No matter where on the chronological chart we may fall, young or not so young, we all have a job to do for all of our days. (Even Goldie who was a therapy dog at a nursing home.)

Birthday celebrations are not limited to our culture or to this century, or even this millennia!   In the Old Testament of the Bible, in Genesis 40:20, we read that on “Pharaoh’s birthday, he made a feast for all his servants and lifted up the head of the chief cupbearer and the head of the chief baker among his servants.”

In the New Testament, we read of Herod’s birthday celebration which, unfortunately, turned into a drunken mess that ended up with the beheading of John the Baptist.  Matthew 14 and Mark 6.

Interestingly, there is no indication from Scripture that Jesus ever spoke of birthdays … rather, when He speaks of birth, it is our spiritual birth that is important.

In John chapter 3, Jesus talks about entering the kingdom of God and expressly states that:

“Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.” Nicodemus said to him, “How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born?” Jesus answered, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.   So not marvel that I said to you, “You must be born again.’”

So, when was your spiritual birthday? Do you remember when you were born again; when the Spirit touched your heart and entered your life? When Jesus Christ became your Lord and Savior?

Celebrate! Jesus said “I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance.” Luke 15:7.  Even the heavenly beings celebrate when one becomes a new person in Christ, when he/she is born again.

Celebrate!  You are God’s and He has you in the palm of His hand. While there may not be a physical present you can open, rest assured that you have been given the gift of spiritual blessings in Christ including eternal life. Ephesians 1:3. And, that, my beloved, is a gift that will not be returned and will never wear out!

Celebrate! May my life/your life be a celebration of my love for my Savior, Redeemer and King, the Lord Jesus Christ.

HELPING OTHERS

I came across a picture the other day that made me smile; okay, it made me laugh. I copy it here for your consideration. And, I suspect that you are at least smiling too!

Doggie giving a head's up to infant
Doggie giving a head’s up to infant

I don’t know the name of either the photographer or the child nor do I know the name of the considerate canine. But, I do know that the little one could not have had as clear a view of the outside but for the help of his friend.

The ways of helping others are as varied as there are people and needs. We could help a child overcome the fear of water.

Helping child to overcome fear of water
Helping child to overcome fear of water

We could take care of the wildlife in our sphere of influence.

 

Ruby throated hummingbird
Ruby throated hummingbird
Squirrel at corn cob feeder in backyard
Squirrel at corn cob feeder in backyard

And we could enable young children to participate in feeding the backyard critters, thereby teaching them that all of God’s creation is important — that we are stewards, not owners!

Helping child learn about feeding backyard friends
Helping child learn about feeding backyard friends

Often we think that we need to help others by being busy about doing things … hurrying here and there, bustling and caring for others while our frenetic schedules are clamoring for our attention.  But, sometimes, helping others means stopping and being still. Sometimes all that is needed is a little help to get a different view of the situation, a new perspective. Sometimes the best help we can give is just being with someone who needs an ear, or a shoulder, or a smile. Take time to pray with them, or cheer for an accomplishment, or perhaps give encouragement to take the next step!

Toddler learning to walk
Toddler learning to walk

The Bible often talks about helping others. For example:

Acts 20:35: “In everything I did, I showed you that by this kind of hard work we must help the weak, remembering the words the Lord Jesus himself said: ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’” [NIV]

Philippians 1:18‐19: “Yes, and I will continue to rejoice, for I know that through your prayers and the help given by the Spirit of Jesus Christ, what has happened to me will turn out for my deliverance.” [NIV]

1 Thessalonians 5:14‐15: “And we urge you, brothers, warn those who are idle, encourage the timid, help the weak, be patient with everyone. Make sure that nobody pays back wrong for wrong, but always try to be kind to each other and to everyone else.” [NIV]

Lord, in answer to your commands and as I respond to the guidance of the Holy Spirit:

  • I pray that I am kind to each person with whom I interact.
  • I pray that I will help those I come in contact with who need special attention, whether family, friends or neighbors.
  • I pray that my help will address the need of the individual, rather than my own need for recognition.
  • I pray that my help will be sacrificial and that it will be done in secret, without concern for receiving thanks.
  • I pray that in all things I will bring glory to God and his Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, without whom I would, most likely, not be inclined to help at all!

Amen.

OUR DOGS AND I WANT THAT! (A repost)

We have two Miniature Pincher (MinPin) canine children, Cuddles and Snickers.  They are shelter dogs so we don’t know their life stories.  Although not related or the same age, they get along famously, even sleeping in the same “bed” as we are working in the office.

Cuddles and Snickers - Two Peas in a Pod
Cuddles and Snickers – Two Peas in a Pod

At times, they do their “Doggie Meerkats” impression as they peer through the window blinds, balancing on the arm of a rocking recliner, no small feat (feet!).

Snickers pretending to be a Meerkat
Snickers pretending to be a Meerkat
“Can you see anything?”

Then there are other times they play outside, running and chasing as if they were greyhounds (the breed of dog we had prior to downsizing!).

MinPins Running in the Snow
MinPins Running in the Snow

However, such is not always the case.

A very long time ago, Aesop created a fable about a dog and its reflection.  The dog is carrying a stolen bone [although other variations say it was a piece of meat or cheese] as he crosses a stream.  He sees his reflection in the water and believes that it is another dog.  He also notices that the “other” dog has a bone and it is bigger and better than the one he has.  So, he opens his mouth to bark at the other dog to get that trophy and, in so doing, the bone in his own mouth falls into the stream. Now, neither the dog nor his reflection has a bone. Aesop fables

I see this fable played out in our own family room.  When one dog is playing with a toy or chewing on a bone, it matters not that there are 3 other toys/bones on the floor; the second MinPin is jealous and wants what the first dog has.  In short, the only toy that is worthwhile is the one that I don’t have! So, often, a tug of war ensues.

I want that!
BUT, I WANT IT …!

How like children to fight over the blue ball when there is a red one right next to it!  How like teenagers to fight and maneuver their way into dating the “in” person when there are others in the peer group who never even merit a glance!  How like adults who want the next electronic toy when they haven’t really figured out how to use the one they already have!

What the dogs, and we, are reflecting by their activity is discontentment.  We laugh when we see our MinPins doing this, and we laugh when we see toddlers doing this; we hurt when we see teens doing this; but seldom do we recognize when we are doing it.

I don’t believe that God sees any humor in this type action.  We can seek to make our lives better or to do more for others, but in all things the watchword should be contentment!

In Philippians 4:11-12, Paul said that he was content in whatever the circumstance that was presented to him — plenty and hunger; abundance and need.

Further, we should be content even when no one is watching. In Ephesians 6:5-6, Paul is talking to slaves about their relationship with their taskmasters:

“Slaves, obey your earthly masters with respect and fear, and with sincerity of heart, just as you would obey Christ. Obey them not only to win their favor when their eye is on you, but like slaves of Christ, doing the will of God from your heart.”

In 1 Timothy 6, Paul speaks of contentment and the lure of greed.  In verses 6-9, he says:

But godliness with contentment is great gain, for we brought nothing into the world, and we cannot take anything out of the world. But if we have food and clothing, with these we will be content.   But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation, into a snare, into many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction.”

Rather than hustling for gain, it is contentment that honors the Sovereign God who reigns over all and in whom we find our life and salvation through His Son, our Lord.  He knows His plans for us … our salvation is secure, and because that is so, everything else falls into proper focus.

Your current circumstance may not be to your liking, but we are called to be content, even as we seek His face for relief. Look to the Lord — contentment in our heart and soul is possible through the King of Peace.  Watch Him work and be amazed!

Don’t drop the bone as you try to grab for something else … be content.  This is the Lord’s desire for His children.

SECURITY – WHERE DO YOU FIND IT?

Remembering a childhood over half a century ago (okay, I am legitimately old at least in my children’s opinion), we could ride bikes throughout the city without fear.  No mobile phone, no texting, no lunch!

We find Mayberry’s Andy and Opie humorous and we remember when life was like “Leave it to Beaver” – generally carefree and congenial.  But that was then, not now.  Security seems to be something that we long for and search after more these days than ever before.  For good reason, some would argue … more violent crimes; more terrorist activity; more drug related crimes; more … and the list could go on ad nauseum.

I don’t know if there is actually “more” of these activities than in the past, but I do know that these events are more readily visible now.  We have our cell phones and ipods with built in cameras that take video of offending activity as it occurs – no matter where in the world it is taking place.  Yes, it seems that there is more reason for security measures than in the past.

Cuddles asleep on heart pillow
Cuddles asleep on heart pillow

We can have guard dogs to attack anyone trying to get into our home.  (Okay, Cuddles is hardly the sterling example of a guard dog as she is reclining on her heart pillow, but if there was an intruder ….!)

We can hire security firms to put locks and sensors on the doors and windows of the house.  We put our valuables in safe deposit boxes.  We put our money at the bank. We go to the doctor even though we know that the body is aging and that there is a limit to what medicine can do.

In Matthew 6:19, Jesus tells us that we should not focus on gathering treasures here on earth where they are only temporary.  Rather, we should lay up treasures in heaven. In short, eternal treasures trump earthly ones every time! In verse 25 Jesus says that we should not be anxious about our life—what we should eat or drink or about what we should wear.

In giving these illustrations, Jesus has covered the waterfront of necessities – food, drink, and clothing.  He then says that God knows we need such things. If we are not to be anxious over necessities, we certainly should not be anxious over the frivolous add-ons that take up so much of our attention.

Our job is to focus on putting our treasures in the kingdom of God.  We are to seek His kingdom and His righteousness … and the rest will be added to us from God.  Matthew 6:25-34.

The writer of Proverbs says “Anxiety in a man’s heart weighs him down, but a good word makes him glad.”  (Proverbs 12:25)  I suggest that many of us can verify the truth of this statement!

Paul says: “[D]o not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.  And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”  Philippians 4:6-7.  If we do this, verse 6 promises that we will the peace of God guarding our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. This doesn’t mean that we ignore what we need or what situation or circumstance faces us; we just are not to stress over it.

Do we want security?  I suggest that we rest in God’s arms.  Lose the anxiety and worry; the fret and cares.  Hand them to God through prayer and then let Him exchange your cares for His peace.  Focus on His kingdom, rather than this world.

Snickers asleep on Daddy's lap.
Snickers asleep on Daddy’s lap.

I realize that no analogy is foolproof and I don’t want this to be misunderstood – but when I visualize resting in God’s arms, I can’t help but see it illustrated in our canine children.  Snickers falls asleep, and snores, when laying on my husband’s lap – tummy fully exposed and head dropped back with eyes virtually glued shut.  Vulnerable? Yes.  Relaxed?  Yes.  Scared?  No.  She is secure in the arms of one who loves her and will care for her.

So, the question is — do you trust in things of this world, or in the God who created this world?

Where do you find your security?