REFOCUS ON CONTENTMENT

Have you ever given your young child or grandchild a shiny quarter with their eyes open wide at the wonder of the coin in their hands?  Then, when we are a bit older, we receive our first paycheck.  No matter the work, you remember the first time you see a check with your name on it because we are seeing the fruit of your labor.

Something happens as we move on with our life.  Suddenly we realize that we don’t have that same joy over our situation as we did when we were young.  This is not a new phenomenon.  Rather, it is as old as mankind itself.

And the LORD God commanded the man, saying, “You may surely eat of every tree of the garden, but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.”

Genesis 2:16-17 ESV. 

Adam and Eve had everything at their disposal, except the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.  Seems like they would be contented, doesn’t it? 

Ozark Mountain River
Mountain River in the Ozarks

But then came the serpent who misquoted God when he asked “Did God really say …?“

Ultimately, Eve’s eyes were refocused:

So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate, and she also gave some to her husband who was with her, and he ate.

Genesis 3:1-6 ESV.  They became discontented when they looked at the one thing they could not have and desired it so much that they disobeyed their Creator God to get it.  Of course the result of that disobedience was swift punishment – expulsion from the garden accompanied by hard work and labor.

Contentment.  Why was she not content with what she had?  Because she looked at what she did not have instead of what she had.

Yosemite water fall and downsream 2011 (C)
Yosemite National Park waterfall and downstream.

How much happier would we be if we were content with what God has given us rather than comparing our condition with others, specifically with others who we believe are more wealthy, more healthy, more wise, more … whatever, than we are.

Jesus said:

Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’  For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.

Matthew 6:31-33 ESV

Think about what the Lord endured for you and for me.  Then look at what He has blessed you with … even the hard things and know that nothing can compare with what He went through.  Praise Him for all things, and you will see that your joy has returned and you are contented in a way that was inconceivable before.

Relax, you know that your Savior and your Heavenly Father know you better than you know yourself!  The Holy Spirit will provide that which you need most.  Seek first the kingdom of God and all the rest will fall into place.

USED Asleep on daddy's lap - snickers
Contentment — Snickers is asleep on Daddy’s lap.

Contentment comes when we focus on our Lord Jesus Christ and rest in Him.   

Father, forgive me when I have focused on things that I don’t have or can’t do rather than focusing on You and giving thanks for all the marvelous blessings You shower upon me each moment of every day.  Refocus my attention on You and away from that which would cause discontent and unrest.  Thank You for Your love, grace and mercy.

EXCITEMENT

 

Do you remember the last time you were excited about something … I mean, really excited?

I came across this picture of my young grandson who was clearly excited about something that he saw.  The focused expectation that is plastered across his face is priceless.

expectation
Anticipation can bring excitement!

There are many events that trigger excitement in our hearts.  A soldier returns from a long deployment.  A student leaves from home for the first year at college.  From the parents’ perspective, excitement reigns when that same student returns home.  A young couple experiences the birth of their first child.  

One example of excitement that we have on a daily basis is Snickers’ excitement to get into the backyard.  Despite her diminutive height, She jumps higher than the door knob, with her tail wagging and her sister trying to stay out of her way!

In the Bible, and even today, a time of widespread excitement is the Passover celebration.  It is the feast that reminds the people of Israel when God acted mightily causing Pharaoh to release them from bondage in Egypt.  The night of the last plague, the people were to kill a lamb and put its blood on the door frame of their homes.  Then, the angel of death passed over the country and killed the first-born in each home; but the angel “passed over” the houses that had blood on the doorway.

While Passover is a time of solemn remembrance, it is also a time of excitement.  This was true even in Jesus’ day.  The people were excited … on the day we know as Palm Sunday, they were going to Jerusalem to celebrate their deliverance from bondage.

Not only that, they had just found the One who they believed would be the Messiah, the One who would crush the dominance of Rome, and the One who would again lead the people, militarily, to a kingdom such as David had ruled over centuries before. 

They were so excited that they put their garments on the ground and waved palm branches shouting “”Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord, even the King of Israel!”  It was a parade with the only “float” being Jesus, riding on a donkey’s colt.  Read John chapter 12 for the whole story.

In my mind’s eye, I envision the people jumping and screaming, rather like Snickers.  Going full-out, no holding back, excited to the core.

When they were praising Jesus as King, they did not know that at the end of the week they would be screaming again, but this time it would be “CRUCIFY HIM” as Pilot stood wondering what he should do with this innocent man, Jesus.

Rather than taking the high road and releasing Jesus, Pilot succumbed to the demands of the people on that Thursday night.  He let the mob determine justice and he, quite literally, washed his hands of the whole thing.  He sent Jesus off to be crucified.  Read Matthew 27, Mark 15, Luke 23, and John 19. 

The King of Kings and Lord of Lords, the sinless Son of God, was put to death to pay for the sin that each of us has committed.  Dr. R. C. Sproul says this about sin:

Sin is cosmic treason.  Sin is treason against a perfectly pure Sovereign.  It is an act of supreme ingratitude toward the One to whom we owe everything, to the One who has given us life itself.  Have you ever considered the deeper implications of the slightest sin, of the most minute peccadillo?  What are we saying to our Creator when we disobey Him at the slightest point? We are saying no to the righteousness of God.  We are saying “God, Your law is not good.  My judgment is better than Yours.  Your authority does not apply to me.  I am above and beyond Your jurisdiction.  I have the right to do what I want to do, not what You command me to do.” 

The slightest sin is an act of defiance against cosmic authority.  It is a revolutionary act, a rebellious act in which we are setting ourselves in opposition to the One to whom we owe everything.  It is an insult to His holiness.  

R. C. Sproul, The Holiness of God, Tyndale House Publishers, © 1998, p. 115-116

The week started with the people joyfully screaming in honor, blessing and allegiance to the King, the One riding into Jerusalem on a colt. 

The week ended with the people again screaming but this time their malevolent demand was for the murder of this Man; He was not simply to be killed, they demanded that He be killed by crucifixion. 

Sin and evil, Satan, appeared to have won the battle.  Satan knew people disobeyed God – he caused Adam and Eve to sin in the very beginning. The pure Son of God was going to die this ignominious, excruciating and humiliating death, and Satan thought he would then have full sway in this world.

Instead, the pure Son of God voluntarily went to the cross, not in payment of any sin that He committed.  Rather, He endured Calvary in payment for my sin, and for yours.  By His death, He spanned and closed the chasm that had existed between man and the Holy God..

Because He lived a perfect life as required by God’s law, because He committed no sin, His death paid the price that the broken law incurred and that a just and holy God demanded.  Sin could not be forgiven and forgotten unless God’s justice was satisfied. 

This is what the cross accomplished.  Justice was meted out and now forgiveness could be granted.  Jesus Christ died … but Satan did not win the victory.  On the first day of the week, the tomb was empty because Jesus rose from the dead.  And, he lives today, even as He is in heaven interceding for each of us before His Father, the Almighty God. 

Now that is something to be excited about!

Father, I pray that these words would be used to prick the hearts and minds of those who read it.  I pray that Your Spirit would work in each of our hearts so that we would reflect our Lord to others.  I thank You for the great give of grace and salvation that has been given to us through faith in Your Son.

 

 

 

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.

PERSEVERANT PUZZLING

I love puzzles – word puzzles like Word Search, Word Brain, crossword puzzles, even Sudoku and Mahjong.  I practiced law for 30 years so I had any number of legal puzzles to unravel and “solve” on behalf of my clients.  I love the challenge of a puzzle and I love the feeling that you get when you successfully solve it.  But I don’t do jigsaw puzzles.

 

One Christmas I gave each of the grandchildren a 30+ piece jigsaw puzzle that was made from a picture of them.  My granddaughter started it and then walked away, so I thought I would finish it.  As I was trying to figure out where the pieces went, my second eldest grandson (then about 8 years old) walked past … walked past mind you, not studied it or pondered, just walked past!  Almost without a stop he said:

“What are you doing, Grammy?”

“Trying to put this puzzle together.”

“Oh, here you go.”

And with that, he twisted and turned the remaining pieces into the picture and off he went.

 

Long before I realized I was seriously jigsaw puzzle challenged, I purchased a 3D Jigsaw Puzzle of Notre Dame Cathedral.   I think it was on sale for 95% off or something ridiculous – you know, a bargain you can’t refuse!  But, when I got home and looked at the box, I realized that it was a puzzle with 950+ pieces and I had no idea how to make it 3D.  So, I did what any puzzle challenged person would do, I put it on a closet shelf and forgot about it.

 

Fast forward to 10 days ago.  The puzzle genius that solved the puzzle years ago found the 3D puzzle on the closet shelf.

“Look what I found.  Can I put this together, Grammy?”

 

I almost said “No” since his family would be moving in a couple of weeks and I certainly did not want this thing to be partially finished when they left the house.  But, being rather indulgent when it comes to the grandchildren (sometimes), I gave him permission, figuring that I could vacuum up the pieces that fell and chuck the whole thing later.

 

The next morning, after he had opened the box, he came to us and said:

“It appears that I seriously underestimated how much space 950 puzzle pieces would take!”

 

All the tables, TV tables, boxes and any flat surface in the room had puzzle pieces on them. Not to mention the floor, until I pointed out that the dogs in the house might enjoy nibbling on a stray piece!

 

I checked on the status of Notre Dame’s construction a couple of times and was very impressed with how he was doing.

IMG_20160830_2013085_rewind
3D puzzle in its infancy.

The number of tables had been reduced, but there were still quite a number of pieces in differing levels of completeness, and there were a host of single pieces strewn around, but overall, I was surprised at how far he had come.

IMG_20160830_2013296_rewind
Puzzle pieces in various states of completion.

But with school, band, homework, etc., I still didn’t think he would finish it even though he was exerting a good effort in the cause.

 

The day after these pictures were taken, and just 4 days before they were going to move, this is what he brought downstairs.

 

IMG_20160831_221051
The completed 3D Puzzle of Notre Dam Cathedral, on a board in the living room.

 

The completed 3-dimensional Notre Dame Cathedral!  I was stunned!

IMG_20160831_2211091_rewind

 

Needless to say, the entire family joined in the celebration of a job well done.  (Even Snickers was looking at it in admiration – or perhaps wondering what the cathedral would look like if she had eaten a couple of pieces, not really sure about her expression!)

IMG_20160831_2211148_rewind

 

It was as if we could not get enough pictures of the work.  Phones, ipods, kindles … all were emitting binding flashes as the cameras were working overtime to record this epic achievement.

IMG_20160831_2212368_rewind

 

In less than 10 days he had finished the 950+ piece 3D puzzle.  Granted, each member of the family had put their fingers in it, you know the kind of assistance that is almost irrelevant in the grand scheme … “Here’s a piece that looks like that one!” and then you walk away glad that you could “help” him accomplish his goal. But, it was his work that sat before us on the table!

IMG_20160831_2212197_rewind

 

IMG_20160831_2212582_rewind
The puzzle’s Cathedral view from the top!

 

The look of accomplishment and achievement that radiated from his face was palpable, as the family congratulated him on achieving a goal that Grammy had dismissed as impossible and had put on a closet shelf.

IMG_20160831_221359
The puzzle genius who persevered and constructed the Notre Dame Cathedral 3D puzzle.

 

Perseverant puzzling.  Facing a task that is big and tricky, and sticking with it until it is conquered; being unwilling to call it quits even if the job is huge.

 

Now I don’t intend this post to be arrogant bragging about my grandson, nor does it reflect my brilliance in purchasing this 3D puzzle in the first place.  No, I think this is a sort of illustration of what Jesus was talking about relating to the perseverance that we need in our life as we walk with the Lord.

 

“If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily and follow me.”

Luke 9:23

 

Jesus is saying that there is a cost to discipleship.   We must consider what the cost is and then determine whether we are willing to pay that cost and then we are to persevere through the fight that will ultimately come.  See Luke 14:27-28, 33.

 

Jesus reminds us to be perseverant when He said:

“But the one who endures to the end will be saved.”

Matthew 24:16

 

Each puzzle piece was specifically designed to go in a specific place, and if any piece was missing the puzzle would not be as sturdy or complete.  In like manner, each of us, as Christians, has a job to do in Christ’s kingdom, and it will require us to persevere as we do it.   No one else has our exact job – we are called to do it and the Body of Christ will not function quite as well if we ignore our job and think someone else will handle it.  And, the one who ignores her job misses out on the tremendous blessing that comes from being a faithful servant fulfilling the mission given to her by her Master.

 

“And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up.”

Galatians 6:9

 

Living the Christian life is difficult because it requires us to be holy, to be separated to God, to be obedient to our Lord.  It requires us to be counter-cultural as we march to a very different drummer than the world follows.  It requires that we persevere despite the challenges and difficulties.

 

My grandson illustrated perseverance in his completion of the 3D puzzle.  I realize that he enjoys a challenge and that it was fun for him, but it was also hard work and took time that he could otherwise have used in different endeavors.

 

That is similar to our walk with the Lord.  It is enjoyable because we are with the King of Kings and Lord of Lord who also happens to be our Heavenly Father.  But it also is hard work to reach out to others, to spend time preparing their meals or to create the children’s studies.  It is hard work to love those who dislike us, to reject the way of anger and to embrace the attitude of love in difficult situations.

 

The way of perseverance is difficult, but the rewards are worth the effort.

 

Father, may I persevere in my Christian walk.  May I do that which you have called me to do.   I ask that You would bless those with whom I come in contact, so that You will be glorified.

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.

 

WATCH AND WAIT … IT IS OUR COMMAND!

Have you ever watched children as the months of the year go by and November gives way to December?  It’s not the anticipated chill in the air that gets their childish juices flowing into excitement that is palpable when you enter their room.  It’s not, necessarily, the potential end-of-semester party that they can have if they successfully traverse their schoolwork obligations.

 

No, it is the anticipation of Christmas. The celebration of Christ’s birth and a time when presents are exchanged and wishes granted. Some families even have advent calendars where there are doors to open for each day of the month leading up to Christmas Day, with small surprises behind the doors for the children. The children count the days left and look eagerly at the calendar to see if, perhaps, THE day was closer than they thought when they went to bed the night before. Sometimes my grandchildren can hardly stand up without jumping from foot to foot in excitement. Such is the challenge of watching and waiting.

 

At our house, however, we don’t have to wait for Christmas to see an illustration of watching and waiting. We see it multiple times a day when our little MinPin Snickers sits at the window looking out at either the front or the back yard. The window or shade does not have to be open much, just enough to let her get a glimpse of the yard.

 

Snickers on the lookout
Snickers sitting on her crate while looking out the window into the front yard.

 

She watches for the birds, squirrels, occasional cat, whatever enters her domain challenging her security and sanctity. Now, she is not all that much bigger than the squirrels or cat, and we have had some hawks that would think she was the appetizer for their luncheon. But, she is unaware of that.

Snickers on alert sitting down
Snickers sitting at the bedroom window looking out into the backyard.

 

She sits, literally by the hour, and watches out the window. Changing position, looking out the window wherever she can get a glimpse, standing sometimes, sitting often, and wagging her tail in sheer enjoyment. Sometimes her sister, Cuddles, will sit and look out, but then Cuddles will run away and get to a toy. Not Snickers – it does not matter that she is the only one watching … she remains vigilant at her post.

Snickers on alert and standing
Snickers on alert as she spotted something in her backyard, If the threat continues, her next move is to run from room to room to get attention so she can get out into the yard!

 

When she sees something she is ready to spring, except there is the pesky window issue. But that is an issue for a blog on another day.

 

The issue here is her watching, patiently waiting and watching for something to happen.

 

We all have a hard time watching and waiting. We want things done promptly, perhaps even before we asked! We have instant on TVs; microwaves for instant food; single cup coffee brewers so we don’t have to wait for a full pot to brew; instant return on investments; instant information on our cell phones, ipods, computers … I don’t even know all the names of the digital electronic devices that are available today.

 

The point for our society is that we don’t want to wait. We want everything NOW. In fact, when our children were young there was a song with the refrain “I want it all and I want it now!” [Needless to say, that song was not one of my favorites!]

 

That is not the way of the Cross. Jesus said that His people are to watch and wait. For what are we watching and waiting? For His return. Matthew chapter 24 goes into great detail, but I have excerpted some pertinent verses:

 

As he sat on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to him privately, saying, “Tell us, when will these things be, and what will be the sign of your coming and of the end of the age?” – Matthew 24:3

And this gospel of the kingdom will be proclaimed throughout the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come. – Matthew 24:14

For as the lightning comes from the east and shines as far as the west, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. – Matthew 24:27

Then will appear in heaven the sign of the Son of Man, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory. And he will send out his angels with a loud trumpet call, and they will gather his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other. – Matthew 24:30-31

“But concerning that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father only. – Matthew 24:36

Therefore, stay awake, for you do not know on what day your Lord is coming. – Matthew 24:42

Therefore you also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect. – Matthew 24:44 [ESV]

 

While we are waiting and watching for His return, we are not to sit at the window and look out. Rather, we are to serve Him and witness for Him, spreading His gospel to those who don’t know Him. And, we are not to do this alone – He has promised His Spirit to be with us and to guide us into what to say and do.

 

After his death and resurrection, He appeared to the apostles and believers and told them that they should remain in Jerusalem and wait. They would receive power and then they should go out into the world in His Name. This discussion is recorded in Acts, chapter 1 and is excerpted here:

And while staying with them he ordered them not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for the promise of the Father, which, he said, “you heard from me; for John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.” – Acts 1:4-5

But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” And when he had said these things, as they were looking on, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight. – Acts 1:8-9 [ESV]

 

While the early Apostles and believers were following His instruction and were waiting for the promised power, the Holy Spirit came to them on the Day of Pentecost. Jesus fulfilled His promise from Acts 1. He will fulfil the promise in Matthew 24 too.

 

Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away. – Matthew 24:35 [ESV]

 

Snickers provides an example in that she does not care if anyone else is standing with her as she watches the yard.  I pray that even if it is unpopular, we will follow Jesus’ command to wait and watch.  May we be vigilant at the post Jesus has assigned to us.

 

Waiting. Praying and working. Witnessing and testifying to what Jesus has done in our own lives. Always while we are watching for our Lord to return.

 

Father, help me to have the patience that little Snickers illustrates when she sits watching and waiting. Help me to be so aware that Jesus’ return could be at any moment that I will measure my life and activities with that in mind. Help me to remember that my home is with Jesus and I have been directed by Him to watch and wait for His promised return. May I live in anticipation of His return.

 

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.