Perspective from a Dog’s Eye View

So do not be afraid of them, for there is nothing concealed that will not be disclosed, or hidden that will not be made known.  Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground outside your Father’s care. And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. So don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows. Matthew 10:26, 29-31

It was first thing Monday morning 4 weeks into my new routine, birds singing their varied songs somewhere in the treetops just off my back deck, a cool breeze soothing the senses, and Pow! The Father dropped a word picture in my life as He often does if I’m looking with spiritual eyes.

I’d come to this new routine by way of a needy, black fur ball, Poppy, a charming little black Markiesje mix that had attached himself to me over these few weeks. A job out of the country for my daughter necessitated finding him a new home. It only made sense he’d come to live with us; he is our “grand dog” after all.

Poppy has quickly trained me to get up as soon as he dances circles on my bed just after sunrise each morning. He yaps and spins incessantly until I roll out of the covers and start talking to him, at which time he bounds to the floor and spins ever more aggressively as I try to throw on some workout pants and a t-shirt. We head to the kitchen with him following me – because one day he went ahead of me and I got side-tracked with laundry on the way to the kitchen – so now he herds me like a sheepdog to the back door.

IMG_7504Mr. Poppy spins ’round by the back door until I open it. When I let him out, he waits looking back at me impatiently, because in a scant 28 days he’s learned my routine: grab a cup and start the Keurig; gather up my Bible, journal, and pen; put cream and sugar in the freshly brewed coffee; and head out to my morning spot at our intricately designed cast aluminum table on the deck.

This particular day I was perched as usual on our deck high above the ground  facing my neighbor’s back yard. Poppy headed down to do his morning business, romp in the wet grass, chase squirrels, and sniff out and dig up moles. It’s a dog’s life!

Well into my cup of coffee, while notating something in my journal, I vaguely noticed a car engine crank up next door. Immediately Poppy sprang to action. Bark-bark-bark! He would eat up whatever the threat was. He dashed to the fence on that side of the yard, ears alert, scampering back and forth trying to get a better view, alarmed and aggressive to protect his domain. He was on flat ground and could not see what was going on. I, however, was 15 feet up with a totally different perspective on the scene. Having a perfect sight line to my neighbor heading out to work, I summed up the scene casually with no worries, while he remained ever vigilant and ever anxious for the next 5 minutes as the neighbor loaded her car and finally pulled out.

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Immediately I saw myself and my heavenly Father in this scene.

Earthbound as I am, I cannot not see and decipher certain earthly events correctly. I hear and experience alarming things that ignite a fear response or cause me to be perplexed and to not understand what is going on. I run my fence and yap at the “problem” just like Poppy. But all the time my Father is on His Heavenly “deck” and has a totally different perspective knowing and understanding things I don’t. He realizes this will pass quickly. It’s just a part of life. A higher perspective changes everything.

Psalm 55_22 Cast your cares on the Lord and he will sustain you; he will never let the righteous be shaken..pngAs much as I call Poppy and speak in a calming way to him when he’s upset, he still runs and yaps and gets anxious. And I am much that way with my Abba Father. I’m anxious, alert, wondering if He understands that something big is going on over there. Do I need to jump this fence and do something God? Are you not aware? Why are you just sitting there? What if this lasts forever? What am I supposed to do? Aren’t you going to do something, Lord?

Nothing. 

Many times that is my answer, just as it is with my sweet Poppy.

Nothing.

Poppy just needs to relax and keep chasing squirrels and having a good doggie day. And me? I also need to relax, to cast my cares on the Lord and just keep doing the things he gave me to do, being the one he made me to be, and walking faithfully through the unknown.

But that is not what we humans like to do.

We like to yap (complain), run the fence (go through life in a tizzy as we say here in Alabama), rankle our fur and perk up our ears (become obsessed with our issue), become alarmed, bark at people closest to us (out of fear no doubt), and aggressively try to protect our domain. All of these are signs of my lack of faith.

If Poppy could listen and understand my ways, trust them, and believe me to be true to my word to love and care for him, he could relax and not rile himself. As can we. The next time you find yourself in the midst of the Barking Dog Syndrome, turn to your Heavenly Father who is on deck, aware, and has it all in hand. Listen to Him. Seek to understand His ways. Trust Him. Take Him at His word that He loves you. He cares for you. Relax! No need to be riled up.

Cast all your cares on him, because he cares about you. 1 Peter 5:7
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My Story: Underestimated Peace

Peace I leave with you; My peace I give you.

by Guest Contributor Lisa Greene

Depending on the season of life, my roles have varied from daughter, sister, mother, wife, school principal, teacher, daycare administrator, missionary, pastor’s wife, and business owner. Through all these roles that God has given me, I have claimed Phil 1:20, “According to my earnest expectation and my hope, that in nothing I shall be ashamed, but that with all boldness, as always, so now also Christ shall be magnified in my body, whether it be by life, or by death.

Those roles are all a part of who I am, but as with all of us, I am sometimes a hidden person on the inside that people never see. Being very blunt, openly honest, I am a naturally negative, sometimes fearful, quite anxious, and a controlling person who has learned some very difficult lessons at the Hand of God. All of these led to a low self-esteem for years, a feeling of never being able to measure up, never being good enough, always fearful that someone might see who I really was on the inside and see how terrible I was. In reality though, it was a sin condition that led to who I was and am on the inside.

It wasn’t until I caught a glimpse of God’s peace that I came to understand how His peace could change my life. It’s what I call God’s underestimated peace. It truly is a peace that is far beyond all human understanding, but it is attainable and absolutely necessary for our relationship with God. Just as we sometimes underestimate the power of God, I believe as children of God, we underestimate how God’s peace can change our lives and deepen our relationship with Him.

I wish I could say that my journey to attain God’s peace in my life began at my salvation at the age of 12, but it actually began about 15 years after that. During that time in my life I had been blessed with a wonderful husband, two beautiful children, and a church that was supportive and nurturing. God had opened doors and Sam and I were entering full-time ministry on staff at Liberty Baptist Church in St. Petersburg, Fl. We were happy, we were following God’s leading in our lives, we were fulfilled. All should have been peaceful, right?

baby-2922564_1920.jpgWhen our children were about 7 and 5 years old, God began to stir my heart to have another child. My husband couldn’t understand this and I will never forget him saying, “We have a girl and a boy, what else could you want?” When I realized he was not going to be a pushover in this area, I became what many of us wives become when we don’t get our way – a nagging, whiny, selfish woman – like the woman that Proverbs 21 talks about – “It is better to dwell in a corner of the housetop, than with a contentious woman in a wide house.” I began to back my husband into a corner, trying to play God. He in turn was not swayed by any of my whiny, manipulative ways! Our home, my heart, during that time was anything but peaceful.

I was discontent, not thankful for what God had already given me, filled with worry that God would not give me what I asked for. Little did I know how much more He wanted to give me, but He knew I had lessons to learn before He could give me more. At around the same time, I was asked to participate in leading a Bible study at our church. The study was on being a content woman of God! You talk about a struggle! Praise God, it was through that study I learned about God in a way that I had never seen Him before. He became my ENOUGH! He became my FULLNESS! He became my ALL! For the first time, I took complete ownership for my relationship with God. Though my husband was the spiritual leader of our home, I learned that I was accountable to God for my own spiritual growth and relationship with Him. Most of all, I learned contentment.   It was during this time that I claimed another verse in Philippians that God used to help me realize that I was worthy and He was enough — Phil. 1:6 “Being confident of this very thing, that He which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ.”

This verse began to affect my relationship with God in a way that made me realize that I had worth, I was somebody in God’s eyes, I had a special purpose. Through this time God taught me that He was enough for me AND I could be enough as I was. I did not need to be controlling of my circumstances and those around me, because He was in control. I did not need to be anxious, because He was the Great Provider! Presenting myself to God as a living sacrifice just the way I was became my first step toward the Peace of God.

When His peace came into my life, it came with a contentment. I began to pray God’s will, not mine, and ultimately I began to pray more specifically, “God, if you want us to have another child, please change my husband’s heart. And Lord, if you don’t want us to have another child, please change my heart and take the desire that I have away.” I prayed that prayer for many months, learning more about God’s peace, and the contentment and the perfect rest that comes with it. You see, it wasn’t that God didn’t want me to have the desire of my heart. It was that He knew I needed to learn to rest in Him and grow in His grace and peace before I could handle what He wanted to give me.

Little did I know how at the same time, God was working in the heart of my husband. One day, out of the clear blue (I had been praying, but not talking to him about it) he came and said, “I think we should have another child!” In March of the following year God gave us a son. Two years later he gave us the daughter that would complete our family of six.

PeaceThrough this time in my life I learned what God’s peace really is. How it demonstrated itself inside of me was life-changing. It is a PEACE that passes all human understanding. It is a PEACE that is possible regardless of circumstances (in us OR around us). It is a PEACE that dispels all negativity. It is a PEACE that comes to those who ask for it and believe. It is a PEACE that produces a rest within us. It is a PEACE that triumphs over fear and anxiety. It is a PEACE that proclaims God’s power and God’s presence.

Just as I have come to learn what God’s peace is, I have come to understand how my worry is an actual affront to Almighty God. Worry is me saying that I don’t think God can handle it! As the Psalmist David said, “Lord, when I am afraid, I will put my trust in You.” (Ps. 56:3). Worry is simply being afraid – of the future, of the past, of the present. We can have victory over the worry that often claims us by using the weapons of warfare that God has equipped us with.

In Tony Evans’ book, Prayers for Victory in Spiritual Warfare, he states that we have to put on the shoes of PEACE to combat Satan, and have victory over fear and anxiety. When we trust in Him, He exchanges our fears for His PEACE. We put on the shoes of peace by trusting in His presence and power and seeking Him in the midst of our fear and anxiety. Dr. Evans further explains by saying,

“I put on the shoes of PEACE by humbling myself. I recognize my inadequacy and my lack of control. Much of fear stems from a need for control, but ultimately I do not control anything. Being anxious on an airplane does not keep it in the sky. Being fearful of ill-health does not keep me healthy. Being afraid that my marriage or relationships will deteriorate does not keep them strong. This is because ultimate control is in His hands, and no matter what happens, He will use it for good when we love Him. Humility allows me to acknowledge that He knows better than I do.”

It was a difficult season in my life but one of the most rewarding times of growth in my relationship with God. By humbling myself to His authority, I gained His peace as a companion in my spiritual walk. I can claim I Peter 5:6-7 (“Humble yourselves, therefore, under the Mighty Hand of God so that at the proper time He may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on Him, because He cares for you.”) as a promise that He has fulfilled in my life. I have lived it, and continue to live it and claim it each day. Some days, some trials, some valleys, are easier to claim it in that others, but through the lessons of the past I am reminded of His promise.

When God closes a door, it is this PEACE that reminds me that He is in control. When I face struggles in relationships, it is this PEACE that reminds me that I am His, wonderfully made and created in love. When financial difficulties come, it is this PEACE that triumphs over my fear and anxiety to remind me that He is my Provider and He has a plan to prosper me. When I lost two brothers last year within six months of each other, it was this PEACE that brought me through the valley of despair and reminded me that I have a Heavenly Father whose loving arms are always open wide.

We have no excuse as believers to not live a life of peace. We have been given every tool we need to conquer negativity, dispel the darkness around us, and defeat Satan. The Word of God has been given to us full of promises that, if we live and abide in them, will lead us into a peaceful relationship with our Heavenly Father where we can rest in His loving arms. David, the Psalmist, in Psalm 4, so sweetly pictures it for us, “I will both lay me down in peace and rest, for thou, Lord, makes me dwell in safety.” By allowing the peace of God to rule our hearts and minds, we are able to present ourselves to our Heavenly Father as believers of faith and love, always confident in His power and keeping.

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I will both lay me down in peace and rest, for thou, Lord, makes me dwell in safety. Psalm 4:8

For the Love of a Dog, A Life Lesson

by Morgan Ramsey

Snoring is now my new favorite sound in the whole world. I’m being completely serious. I used to hate it with a passion, especially before my dad got his C-PAP. I’m almost 103% sure that his snoring would shake the house. I would hear it in my dreams sometimes. Like I’m not meaning to go on and on, but seriously I would wake up occasionally from hearing it. Meanwhile, my brother across the hall could sleep through a F-5 tornado along with a hailstorm in the middle of a hurricane, and be sound asleep. For real. But anyways I used to hate that sound, until very recently. But let me explain.

wood-animal-dog-petSo do we have any passionate dog lovers out there? Same. We’ve had our dog, Buddy, for almost 10 years now and every day is an absolute gift. And when I say he is the best dog, I mean it’s no comparison. What other dog can successfully play hide-and-go-seek with you and pull off the couch cushions just to aggravate mom? Obviously, he reigns supreme over all dogs.

A few months ago we found a cancerous spot and some fatty tumors on Buddy and our veterinarian decided that he needed to operate. Buddy came through the surgery just fine and was enjoying life just as any other Labrador does. Then a couple of weeks ago my mom and I found another suspicious spot on the back of his left leg. So a couple of days later we took him to the vet and the doctor again decided to operate. We picked him up a couple of days ago, and we thought everything was fine. He acted tired, but normal. Before we went to bed Buddy seemed a little bit anxious so my parents decided to give him his prescribed sedatives. I didn’t think anything more to it, and went to bed.

Around midnight, my mom woke me up and I knew something was wrong just by the way she said my name. “Morgan, something is wrong with Buddy.” So I went into my parents’ room and found Buddy on the floor with my dad lying down beside him. Buddy was lying there and it was all he could do to wag his tail to greet me. Apparently the anesthesia was still in his system and had mixed with his sedative to produce a negative effect on him. He had zero strength and the way he was looking at me made my heart sink. He couldn’t walk and it was all he could do just to breathe. My mom was on the iPad trying to research and see if there was anything we could do. We called the emergency pet hotline number to see if we should bring him into the nearest emergency pet hospital, and they told us that there wasn’t a lot for us to do except give him water, watch him, and pray.

pexels-photo-128817So we prayed. And prayed some more. Dad slept on the floor with Buddy, and I crawled into my parent’s bed so I could watch over Buddy. I would check every so often to see if his chest was moving up and down. About 20 minutes after we settled down to go to sleep, I heard something that in that moment was the most beautiful sound: I heard Buddy start snoring. In that moment complete peace washed over me, because I knew that everything was going to be okay.

Has anyone out there ever been there? So completely panicked that you don’t know what in the world to do? Same. In more situations than this one, I can assure you. Trials are scary. Trials are unexpected. Trials are hard. And the thing about them is that they can make you very, very afraid if you’re not careful. But that night as I was going to sleep I realized something. I’ve been sleeping on the same pillowcase for probably the last five years. And it was just then the verse printed on the pillowcase became alive. My mom bought them for me when I started college, and she probably knew in advance that I needed a verse to actually sleep on to help me fight my anxiety. Thanks Mom.

“Don’t worry about anything; instead pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus”- Philippians 4:6-7.

Ladies, whether it’s your dog, your grandmother, your spouse, your children, your future, your test results, your ACT score, or your siblings, the Lord tells us in His word that worrying won’t add an hour to our life. So why worry? My prayer for you as you are reading this, is that you completely surrender every worry to Him. Every thought, every word, and every action to Him. The God who made the universe and intimately made you cares so much about you. And he promises that everything that was intended to harm us will be used for His good. He’s got you exactly where He wants you in this season! And this trial that you are going through is going to be used for His good! So drop the worry and pick up the cross.

I believe that the biggest way to fight worry is to be thankful in our prayer life, just like it says in His word. So that night as we prayed together, I started thanking Jesus for Buddy’s life, the way he has brought inexplicable joy into our lives, the way that he has been through the good and the bad times, for all of the times that he’s greeted me at the stairs wagging his tail, acting like he hadn’t seen me in years, for the many times he has made me laugh, for all of the snuggles, and even for all of the aggravating times like when he used to pee on the floor when he got too excited or when he pulled all of the cushions out of the couch. Thankfulness trumps worry. It’s true. And as I was pouring out my heart to Jesus asking him to heal my dog, I realized that every time I asked God to heal buddy, he kept giving me even more reasons to be thankful.

Thankfulness Trumps worry

After I told the Lord what I needed, and thanked him for all that he has done, I felt the Holy Spirit’s peace wash over me. And after I surrendered it to Him, I noticed myself at peace and attentive to the details. I was grateful for snoring. I was grateful for a pillowcase that I had used for five years. I was grateful for the blessing of having a dog.

So ladies, what in your life needs to be surrendered? It’s usually the things that scare us to the core. What in your life do you need to truly be thankful for? It’s usually the things that we take for granted every day. But you know what? Once you surrender and say “thank you Jesus”, something incredible happens. You experience the peace of God, which vanquishes every fear, every doubt.

So I ask again ladies. Why worry?