When the World Doesn't Understand

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Hold not thy peace, O God of my praise; For the mouth of the wicked and the mouth of the deceitful are opened against me: they have spoken against me with a lying tongue. They compassed me about also with words of hatred; and fought against me without a cause. . .For I am poor and needy, and my heart is wounded within me. I am gone like the shadow when it declineth: I am tossed up and down as the locust. My knees are weak through fasting; and my flesh faileth of fatness. I became also a reproach unto them: when they looked upon me they shaked their heads. Help me, O Lord my God: O save me according to thy mercy: That they may know that this is thy hand; that thou, Lord, hast done it.
— Psalm 109:1-3,22-27

David and I have a lot in common.  He was easily swayed by his emotions as am I.  He messed up in some pretty big ways, and I have too.  He truly wanted to live his life for the Lord, but sometimes his “want to” and his “know how” didn’t see eye to eye.  And, as we see in the passage above, David understood all too well what it was like to do the right thing and be despised for it.  Unfortunately, I now know that pain as well.

In our attempts to find a good home for Barnabas, I thought it would be a good idea to reach out to fellow dog-lovers, particularly those who love pit bulls.  So, I joined a couple of “pit bull lovers”groups on Facebook and described our situation.  I felt if anyone would understand what we’re going through and be able to give helpful advice and suggestions, it would be these people.  Boy, was I wrong!

I cannot even tell you some of the things that were said to me because I do not use such language.  To hear most of the people within these groups talk, I was more evil than Satan himself for even thinking about giving away my dog.  I was ridiculed.  I was called every name under the sun.  Some even stated it would have been better for Barnabas if we had never adopted him because we’re such horrible people.  I was not prepared for such an onslaught of animosity, and my heavy heart could not bear it.  I dropped out the groups, refusing to read another single post.

I guess I shouldn’t have been surprised.  After all, most of those people probably were not saved, and the world simply cannot understand why any sane person would give up their home, family, and yes, dog, to go to another country to tell others about Jesus.  It doesn’t make sense to them.  In their minds, there’s nothing greater than living the American dream (or the equivalent to that in other countries around the world).  They don’t understand that there’s something out there bigger than themselves and their happiness.  They’ve never tasted the grace of God, so they cannot comprehend why we would give up everything to tell others about it.  To be honest, on my tougher days, I have to remind myself why we’re doing what we’re doing.

But even though I know we’re doing a great work, it’s difficult when others look down on us because of it.  It’s hard to be ridiculed and thought a fool.  It’s discouraging when people demean our efforts to be the best person we can be and accuse us of being cold and uncaring.  Like David, I took my pain to the Lord, and I poured out my heart.  That’s when God directed me to Psalm 109, particularly the last couple of verses.

I will greatly praise the Lord with my mouth; yea, I will praise him among the multitude. For he shall stand at the right hand of the poor, to save him from those that condemn his soul.
— Psalm 109:30-31

No, the world may not understand what we’re doing and why we’re doing it, but God does.  And He will stand by us and save us from those who are condemning us.  He may not shelter us from the insults, but He will give peace and blessed reminders that any work done for Him is a good work and will be rewarded.  We’re not alone.  The world may mock and criticize, but it doesn’t matter what they think.  All that matters is what God says.  And with that in mind, I can worship and praise Him for all He’s done and all He will do.  And then, I can follow God’s leading and help the world to understand, one soul at a time.

For the Love of a Lizard!

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It was a hot day. Far too hot for Barnabas to be outside for as long as he had. He is, after all, of the “Goldilocks” persuasion in that he doesn’t enjoy weather that is too hot or too cold. Only weather that is just right. Concerned about his prolonged stay outside, I went to the back door to find him digging a hole underneath our gas grill. I watched as he dug, then bent down to peer into the darkness under the grill. Being directly in the sun, he panted, his tongue lolled to the side. He was getting overheated, and I knew it. But I also knew there was no way he would leave that spot until he caught whatever it was under the grill or until he could be sure it was no longer available to be caught. Still, I tried.

I called. I coaxed. I commanded. But nope!  His attention was fixed on the ground beneath the grill. He circled his unseen prey, pawed at the ground, and repeatedly stuck his nose as far under the grill as he could. Worried he was going to hurt himself or turn the entire grill upside down, I called Jason and explained the situation.  

Jason planned to lift one side of the grill and expose the prey, hoping it would run off before Barnabas could catch it. But the moment Jason lifted the grill, my crazy pooch lunged into the darkness, intent on capturing his prize. There was a flurry of movement as predator and prey danced around the grill—a literal display of “cat and mouse.” Then, in one final pounce, it was over, and Barnabas proudly lifted the limp body of a large lizard (and when I say “large,” this thing was the size of a chipmunk. Gross!). He carried his prize into the shade, played with it for a few more minutes, then finally made his way into the comfort of the air-conditioned house.

The first thing I noticed was his bleeding face. I thought maybe the lizard had fought back, but upon further examination, I realized these wounds were self-inflicted. He had cut his face up while trying to wedge it under the grill. All for the love of a lizard!

As I cleaned his wounds and worked to cool him off, I wondered what would possess him to put his safety at risk for a stupid reptile. Not only had he created gashes in his face, but he had also nearly overheated. He knew that. He knew he was hurt, uncomfortable, and in danger of doing himself serious harm, but the temptation to have that lizard was too much to pass up. So, he pressed on despite his instincts of self-preservation.

Don’t we all tend to do the same? We work too hard, eat too much, and rest too little. We stress over the big things and take for granted the little ones. We chase dreams and goals, so focused on what we think is best we ignore the still, small voice warning of danger ahead. We do what we want, watch what we want, eat what we want, go where we want. And all the while, we put ourselves in danger. The danger of falling into temptation. The danger of getting in way over our heads. The danger of becoming prey ourselves.

Why? In Barnabas’ case, it was because of a lizard, but more than that, it was about focus, and the same can be said for our situation. We can become so focused on what we want that we lose sight of all else. We can become deaf to the voice of our Master (just as Barnabas ignored my commands). We can put our safety and that of others at risk. And in the end, what will we have to show for it? Barnabas’ victory celebration was short-lived, but the wounds on his face will last for quite some time. Our outcome could be the same. Sure, there may be a few moments of satisfaction, but then what? More than likely, wounds that will take a lifetime to heal. It’s not worth it!

I don’t know what you’re focused on today, but I urge you to be careful. The temptation is strong. Self-satisfaction is enticing. It’s good to be persistent but only if we’re persistent about the right things. Stop chasing the lizard. It’s not worth your time. Instead, focus your efforts on being the best Christian you can be and serving the Lord with all your heart, soul, and mind. That way, you’ll reap much greater rewards than a dead reptile.

Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal: But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal: For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.
— Matthew 6:19-21

Walking in Unfamiliar Territory

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Barnabas loves to hike! It doesn’t matter if we’ve walked the same trail a hundred times; he acts like it’s a whole new experience. He runs and plays and wears himself out. And because he is so good at hiking off-leash, Jason and I can hike at our own pace. Barnabas knows his boundaries. He understands he is allowed to venture off the trail, run ahead, or lag behind as long as we are always in his sight. And Barnabas follows the rules better than any other dog we’ve had. He’ll run over to the side to study something and pop his head up every few seconds to be sure he can still see us. If we move far enough away that he loses track, he forsakes his current study and runs after us. He stops at every bend in the trail to ensure we’re never out of sight. Every hike is a pleasant experience for each of us, and we love that we can depend on him to be so cooperative. Despite his many quirks, he truly is a good dog!

When we took him out yesterday for some much-needed exercise, we did a portion of the trail we’ve only done once or twice with him, and we immediately noticed something. Because the path was unfamiliar to him, he stayed within ten feet of us at all times. He still explored and kept his own pace, but he never strayed too far from our presence. Once we reached the familiar portion of the trail, however, he let loose and did his own thing though still within the bounds of what he knows we expect of him. As we discussed his behavior, Jason made a comment that echoed the words of my prayer that morning. He said, “Yes, he stays close when in unfamiliar territory, but once he’s back in his comfort zone, he feels more comfortable to stray farther from us.”

During my prayer walk earlier that day, I had poured out my heart to the Lord about how far out of our comfort zones Jason and I felt lately. For me, I’m a creature of habit and routine, so the concept of being in a different church every week and always meeting new people is a bit overwhelming. For Jason, he is one who loves to be active and doing, so sitting at a desk for hours on end calling and emailing pastors and churches to book meetings is tiresome and tedious. We’ve both had to fight the temptation to say, “Let’s do something else today. Let’s do what we’re familiar with, what we’re comfortable with.” Some days, we have to make ourselves to what we know we need to do.

As I laid out my heart, a thought struck me, and I verbalized it to the Lord. “But maybe that’s the way you want it to be, Lord. Maybe you want us to be out of our comfort zones so we’ll stay close to You, so we’ll lean on You for strength and support. Maybe our time here is so we can learn to depend and trust on You more. So, Lord, please help us to keep this in mind when we get discouraged and want to quit. Remind us there’s a purpose for being in unfamiliar territory and give us the grace and strength to accept where we are.”

I guess we’re no different from Barnabas. When we’re in familiar territory, we tend to do our own thing and go our own way. Sure, we stay within sight of our Master, but are we really walking with Him? Once we’re out of our comfort zones, it’s an entirely different story. We stay close to the Master. We have to. We don’t know which way to go or what to do. We need His guidance. We crave His assurance. We depend on His knowledge and strength. Yes, in our uncertainty, we’re less likely to stray. And considering that—as difficult as it is for me to say—I thank God for removing us from our comfort zones. I praise Him for loving us enough to lead us through unfamiliar territory. The entire process serves as another reminder that what I think is good is not always what is best. Thankfully, God knows the difference!

The steps of a good man are ordered by the Lord: and he delighteth in his way.
— Psalm 37:23
A man’s heart deviseth his way: but the Lord directeth his steps.
— Proverbs 16:9
And they commanded the people, saying, When ye see the ark of the covenant of the Lord your God, and the priests the Levites bearing it, then ye shall remove from your place, and go after it. Yet there shall be a space between you and it, about two thousand cubits by measure: come not near unto it, that ye may know the way by which ye must go: for ye have not passed this way heretofore.
— Joshua 3:3-4