Monday’s Musings — A Shelter Pup, Me & the Safe Place

Maya sitting in a chair watching baseball on Saturday
Maya sitting in a chair watching baseball on Saturday

My youngest son had a baseball scrimmage on Saturday evening.
I decided to take along our dog, Maya.

She’s a shelter pup.
She’s a shelter pup we adopted just over two years ago.
She’s a shelter pup who, we believe, came from an abusive situation.

Maya doesn’t like riding in the car.
Maya doesn’t like men.
Maya doesn’t like men wearing hats.
Maya doesn’t like little girls.
Maya doesn’t like people she doesn’t know.
Maya doesn’t like other dogs.
Maya doesn’t like paper towel rolls, cords of any kind or objects which look like bats.

Taking Maya to baseball activities can – obviously – be a challenge.
So why do I take her?
I want to help her to overcome some of her fears in a safe way.

She is a wonderfully perfect dog for us at home; it’s just when she comes into contact with these things that her nervousness, fearful growling and hesitancies occur.

Maya is part German Shepherd and part Chihuahua (…uh-huh…go ahead…you can ponder that one for a bit…). At home, she’s all Shepherd…she smells everything, she’s a fantastic watchdog and alerts us to anything going on in the house, driveway or yard that isn’t in her view of 100% normal, and she’s loving and protective. However, should something outside her view of normal persist, should she encounter one of her fears, or if we take her out of her environment, then the yippy, growling, shaking and fearful Chihuahua comes out in her.

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I can relate to Maya. I like my home environment. My things are where I want them, my thoughts are where I need them, and my routine is mostly mine. I’m like a Momma Shepherd at home, but I’ll let doubts and hesitancy flare up when I’m away from my comfort zones.

I’ve had to deal with new people and new situations a lot over the last few years…many of which I would never have imagined or have chosen. I’m not a hermit by any means, but I can get a little nervous when I’m called to step out of my comfort zone, even if it is in a safe place.

Sometimes I wonder…
What will others think?
What will they think of me?
Am I up to the task?
Will I be good enough?
I cherish when there are others near me who know me and who can help me walk through hesitancies or challenges.

Through my own challenges, I’ve found comfort and confidence in a few close friends, but mostly, I’ve found my strength in the Lord.

I’ve had to repeatedly tell myself that if He has allowed me to walk through this season of my life, then He will be with me. I’ve found comfort in His Word and in knowing He will be my shield, my strength, my comforter and my defender. He has, and — despite the challenges of life — my joy has overflowed as a result of His presence.

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That’s what I have to do with Maya. When she’s shaking and staring at me with that “I’m so afraid” look, I need to be a good master by helping her to confidently walk through the hesitancies and by helping her to safely (for her and for others) deal with her fears.

She knows she’s safe when I’m near and when she can sit at my feet,
and I know I’m safe when He is here and when I can sit at His feet.

 

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Seeking What Sustains through a Lesson from the Birds

My winter view from that leopard-print chair...
My winter view from that leopard-print chair…

Winter’s snows have passed. Throughout the cold, harsh months of winter, I enjoyed watching the birds at the feeders.

I have a set of comfy, micro-leopard-print chairs in my library, one of which sits in front of a window. Between the chairs, a not-really-big-enough pedestal table holds my Bible, tablet and study materials, and also a coaster for the all-important cuppa coffee or tea. The cathedral ceiling rises high to the wrought-iron railing lining the loft, and the ebony oak bookshelves with their rolling ladder dominate one end of the room. It’s a haven for me. The room was once a vision and a dream, but now it’s a respite I enjoy.

The chairs used to face into the room, but the view of the birds was always at my back. It’s amazing how “doing a 180” can change a person’s perspective. Turning around one of those chairs opened up my pondering thoughts in a whole new way.

I can accomplish a lot of talking to God and listening for his “voice” from this place.

The two large feeders just a few feet from the window needed to be filled every 10-14 days during the winter. At any given time, there were a dozen birds there to choose between the black-oil sunflower seeds, the cracked corn or the millet. The finches, cardinals, wrens, sparrows, titmice, chickadees and even the occasional downy woodpecker would come to feast from the feeders, while the other cardinals and the juncos seemed content to patrol the snowy ground to catch what would drop. Now that the weather has turned, the community has started to change and move on, but I’m still blessed to see the cardinal family and their new addition, the towhees, and an occasional goldfinch join in to see what might still remain.

There wasn’t a time when they didn’t have food to eat during the winter. The feeders were always there with an adequate supply for them. On snowy and blustery days, there were dozens of birds flitting to and from the bushes to the feeders; on dreary and rainy days there were fewer birds, but still many who came to eat.

But the sunny days? The ones where the snow shimmered like diamonds and the sun warmed the spirit for a welcomed retreat? There was rarely a bird on these days. I’d go to the chair to enjoy my study time, and there would only be an occasional bird to distract my pondering mind.

It boggled me a little. Those sunny days were the days I felt so motivated to read and accomplish more page turning in the Word. I would SO want to sit there to study and watch the birds, but few would come. These were the kind of days I’d MAKE the time to pray for longer periods of time, take the time to talk longer and in a more focused way with God, and would always accomplish so much more. These were the days I loved getting out to walk in the snow or to take the dog out for her runs. The sunshine would bring light into my days like the bleak and gray winter ones could not.

The overcast and almost ne’er-ending days of snow would be the days I’d have to give myself a pep talk to go anything beyond my daily commitment to the Word. These were the days where the distracting voices or mental to-do lists would interrupt my prayers, and the conversations with God were much shorter. These were the days in which my grumbling “might” tend to increase. 😉

But the birds?…they’d be there in abundance…so much so that they often seemed to be fighting one another for a chance to roost on one of the 12 perches to indulge in the seed smorgasbord.

We share a Creator, so how much are we alike? You know…us and the birds?

How much do we yearn to get outdoors on a sunny day and stay close to home on a dreary one?

For those of you who run (um…that is not me), how much do you look forward to a run in the sun and fresh air as compared to a run on the treadmill on the cold and rainy days?

Don’t we all appreciate the crunch of the snow underfoot when the sun is shining overhead, yet grumble at just another winter’s day when the storm clouds skew our view of the sky?

Where were all the birds on those sunny days? Had they, too, been yearning for the sunshine and mild weather? Had they, too, been looking forward to a flight in the fresh air and sunshine? Were they, too, tired of staying close to home in the warmth of the bushes?

I just have to wonder if, they, too, were a little more motivated to meet with their Creator on the bright and beautiful days…

Spring is here.
The birds are moving on, so the feeders will come down for the next few months, as there are now plenty of chances for them to find their sustenance away from my window and my seat in the library.

Spring is here.
It’s not only time to “do a 180” and turn that chair back around, but it’s time to be obedient as I feel Him moving me with gentle direction and giving me plenty of chances to find His sustenance…not only in His Word and in my quiet time with Him, but also out there…out there where the birds fly.

 

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Monday’s Musings — It Ain’t Over

Jville.Redeemed.HS2

How many of us woke up this morning to proclaim, “HE IS RISEN, INDEED!”?

A lot of us DID do that yesterday, but did we do it today?

Yesterday was a day where, upon waking, I’m sure we thought about the sacrifice He made and the glory of His resurrection. We went to church and thought about it some more. We took the time to celebrate that He is no longer on the cross, and He’s no longer in the tomb.

The story of His redeeming love is absolutely awesome and awe-inspiring.

The thing is…it wasn’t just awe-inspiring yesterday on Resurrection Sunday;
it is awe-inspiring EVERY SINGLE DAY.

For over 2000 years, it’s been awe-inspiring, and that won’t end.

What He did then was just as amazing as it is today. Yesterday’s proclamation is today’s proclamation, and it will also be tomorrow’s proclamation.

His redeeming love is worthy of our awe-filled thoughts every day, not just on the “holy day.”

Before your feet hit the floor tomorrow morning, take a moment to revel in His love.
Think about what His resurrection means to your eternity.
Think about what His resurrection means to your life.

When your feet hit the floor, allow the awe of redemption to make a path for your day.

 

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Finding the Good in Friday

CrossOnHill.HSGood Friday.

For the longest time, I did not understand how this particular Friday could be labeled as good.

To be beaten, flogged and scourged to nearly unrecognizable;
to have a crown of thorns pressed into my head;
to be nailed to a tree with spikes through my wrists and feet;
to die by crucifixion alongside common criminals…
No. None of this, I’ve imagined, could be good if I would have had to experience it.
I didn’t have to, but I knew Jesus had experienced it all.
How could it be that we’d wind up called this a “good” kind of Friday when He had to go through that?


I attended a Presbyterian church as a child. Church was something we did on Sundays, and during my high school years, I also attended a youth group during most weeks. I was raised with good morals. We were taught to do the right thing, to fear and respect authority, to pray before dinner and bedtime, and to be good people.

Sunday mornings at church were almost the same each week. Being there wasn’t the most enjoyable part of my week, but there were two particular services I especially looked forward to each year:  the 11 p.m. Christmas Eve Candlelight Service and the solemn Good Friday service.

The Good Friday church service was also known as the Tenebrae Service. “Tenebrae” is a Latin word meaning “shadows” or “darkness.” This service was different from any other during the Christian year because it was supposed to be very solemn. There were a few quiet hymns, readings about the events leading up to Christ being nailed on the cross, and sober readings from the Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke and John) about Jesus’ time on the cross.

Much of the Tenebrae Service was done in dim light or candle light. Following the readings, the chancel area in the front of the church was stripped of the Bible, the offering plates, and the gold cup and plate. The candles were extinguished and the gold candlesticks were removed, and the cloths that covered the front table and pulpits were taken away. All of this was done in silence. Everyone would sit in complete silence while observing these items being removed from their places in the church.

Then, we’d leave in silence. The lights were turned up just enough for us to see, but we’d all leave in silence. Complete silence. There were no greetings, no hugs, no handshakes, no well-wishes to one another. There was no Reverend to greet us as we’d make our way out the door. We’d just walk back the aisle, down the steps, out the door, and we’d get into our car to go home. The silence even continued in the car.

I think this service touched me in some way, because it seemed to contain emotion. I remember often being bored with the monotony of Sunday services. The hymns, messages and sermons varied each week, but the order was always the same. I don’t remember feeling much joy or worship-filled emotion about the services unless we’d sing something like “Go Tell it on the Mountain,” “Alleluia,” or “Jesus Christ is Risen Today.”

The Tenebrae Service did have emotion. I felt the emotion, even though it wasn’t full of joy. The service always felt mournful. It felt dark and without light – a mere glimpse of what it must have been on that crucifixion day two thousand years ago.


Jesus was nailed to the cross in the morning at about 9 a.m.** after enduring questioning, a trial and brutal beatings. Once that cross was set into place, He hung there until noon, at which point the skies overhead darkened. The darkness lasted for three hours, and around 3 p.m., Jesus cried out amid His suffering and suffocation to proclaim, “Tetelestai!” before giving up his spirit and breath of life.
It was finished.

Most of us automatically equate the “it is finished” to His life, since, just moments afterward, His life was over on this particular Friday afternoon – the day we commemorate in remembrance as “Good Friday.” However, the “it is finished!” was much more than just a part of the final words he uttered in the final moments of His life before giving over his life and spirit. The “it is finished!” was His “paid in full” proclamation regarding our sin.

He paid the ultimate price by taking the sins of all mankind – the past, present and future sins of the past, present and future mankind – upon himself and shedding His own blood to redeem us in exchange for Himself. The ransom price was paid, and the salvation plan was now complete. He had completed the will of God and the will of the Father.


That’s where the “Good” comes in. He suffered for us. He demonstrated his self-sacrificing love for us and for our wrongdoings by dying for us (Romans 5:8). What He did for us once, does not have to be repeated by all of us (1 Peter 3:18) in order for us to live eternally in His presence (John 3:16).

For the longest time, I didn’t understand how His death could be “good” and recognized as “Good Friday.” I knew He died for us, but I guess I just didn’t fully grasp that He died for ME.


About 13 years ago, I went to a new church. On my first visit to this church there was a song sung by the congregation which stood out to me. I didn’t know it, so I didn’t sing it. I just listened. I didn’t understand what the words meant, but that song awakened something within me.

The song was Above All. The words which resonated with me were:

“…crucified, laid behind the stone.”
I understood this.

“…lived to die, rejected and alone.”
What did this mean?
Ok, He died on that cross, but what did it mean that he “lived to die?”

“…You took the fall and thought of me above all.”
Me? Me?!? What did that mean?
What did I have to do with what He did?
I didn’t get it, but I was curious.

I’ll never forget those words. An awakening within me had begun. I had come to that new church with questions, but now – after only one visit – there was an even bigger question burning within my mind…and in my heart. It was one that would lead to knowing what He did for ME, and one that would lead to me knowing HIM personally.

That’s what is good about Good Friday.

He died for US.
He died for ME.
If He died for us, and if He died for me, then he also died for YOU.
That’s what is good about Good Friday.

 

CrossOnHill.HS.Verses

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 **Notes about the times of day:

The Gospel of Mark uses “the third hour” to designate when Jesus was crucified or put on the cross. This would have been 9 a.m. (Mark 15:25). Mark then goes on to say that at “the sixth hour,” darkness came over the land (Mark 15:33). This would be noon or 12 p.m. In Mark 15:34, we are told that Jesus cried out in the ninth hour, at 3 p.m., and then, shortly afterwards, took his last breath (Mark 15:37).

The Gospels of Matthew and Luke use similar time designations (see Matthew 27:45 and Luke 23:44). This way of calculating time was based on the Jewish method, where 6 a.m. would have been the first hour of the day, so noon would have been the sixth hour and 3 p.m. would have been the ninth hour. It is believed the Gospel of John, which presents a different time for the start of the crucifixion, used a Roman method of time calculation, which would have started the day at midnight (John 19:14). There could have, however, been a three-hour period of time between his sentencing before Pilate (sixth hour) and time Jesus spent under the charge of the soldiers, time spent carrying his cross (John 19:17) and arriving at Golgotha where the crucifixion took place.

Various commentaries show a consistency in these interpretations of time. I’ve used Sonic Light, The Bible Knowledge Commentary (see my Recommendations page on the last tab above) and Got Questions for my sources in this post.

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