Don’t Take Blessings For Granted

It is often our tendency as humans to get so enveloped in ourselves, our worries, our sadness, our distress, our happiness, our achievements, our responsibilities that we take people and things for granted around us.

Our fallen nature is to naturally see ourselves as the world revolving around us and our needs and our desires. This exudes taking things for granted. The little blessings in our life that we see as nothing or sometimes as an annoyance.

The sad thing then is to realize when that person or thing is gone from our life, we had greatly taken it for granted. When one proclaims “each day is a gift from God”, this is not a mere cliche to be shrugged off. It is an actual gift. Just ask those who did not get one more day on this earth.

It is easy to do, again the natural thing to do is to look beyond or not even at all at the blessings in our life because of the circumstances. But even in the darkest of times, there is always a blessing. Take this current stay in place order because of the worldwide pandemic. Your life might have had to change a bit, but did you see the blessings? If not, you are most likely taking them for granted. Did you talk to someone you didn’t before or as much as you did before, or go to a place you didn’t before, or maybe you found that you were capable of doing something you never knew you did. Just maybe the pandemic gave you TIME from seeing yourself in the mirror to do these things.

Again, when it is over, it is over. If you had taken someone or something for granted, when they are gone, all you have will be your regret. And regret is something you can’t fix, it doesn’t go away, it will stay with you and haunt you for the rest of your life.

If you found yourself arguing with me as you read this, you most likely are in the extreme category called narcissism. A narcissist has trained their mind so selfishly that there really is no care for others, so that there can then no regrets. The folks who by a delusion say, “I don’t want to get close to anyone” for example, they realize they might then naturally take for granted the person, then regret it in the end. But in reality, they ARE taking for granted the blessings whether they realize it or not.

We all do it, we take things for granted, it is natural. The unnatural thing to do is to break from this thinking. It took a dog to train me for example. He would greet my neighbor each day of his 8 years on this earth as if my neighbor just came home after a long war. He never took him for granted up until the death. I realized by this how very self-centered I was, how many things I took for granted.

If one says by reading this, “I don’t need this, I don’t take things for granted”, most likely again you are fooling yourself. And you will realize this when that something or someone you did take for granted is gone from your life. So each day, the least we can do is look at it as a blessing! The sun rose this morning, you are here on this earth, breathing and alive. Don’t take God for granted!

God’s Providence

I think of many memories of my dog Leo, but one came to me this week of which when I look back on it, I can only share and smile. Our Christmas Eve was spent in Colorado where Leo was receiving treatment for lymphoma. He made a miraculous reversal in health in the first couple of weeks as we went day to day trying to figure out our new temporary home and city of Fort Collins, Colorado.

I was not planning on bringing Leo outside of Fort Collins until he was in full remission, but on Christmas, God placed it in my heart not to wait. So we journeyed a long winding canyon to Estes Park. Leo was now strong enough to look out the window where we saw many things, including a herd of elk.

We spent the morning in Estes Park, where we visited some shops which were open where Leo made quick friends with the owners of these businesses and also customers. I had not planned on this in the past, but here we were. It was a nice sunny day, beautiful weather. What we take for granted as well comes to mind, the restaurants were still open. I was able to administer Leo’s chemo in the warm entry of one.

But the great memory I have is when we traveled back to Fort Collins. The year I adopted Leo as a puppy, I went to a small church near the downtown for Easter, and since it was Christmas Eve, I thought why not go there. Leo had never been to a Christmas service, so this would be a first for him.

Upon arriving at the church in afternoon, the lower section was filled, and the only available seating was upstairs. The stairway was rickety, dark, and winding. And Leo and I climbed these stairs. I can only think now, is how Leo did this. He was not in the best condition, but didn’t object. He climbed these stairs with me. As we got to the top, we found a seat. Leo sat through the entire service by my side. I don’t think anyone there would recall a dog being there because Leo was behaved, and silent.

At the end of the service, I was worried because we had now to go down that same rickety dark staircase. Leo made it with ease. He had no sickness, no signs of his cancer either. I don’t recall anything of the service, but I do recall now how pleasant this really was considering what we were going through.

I had hoped it wouldn’t be his last Christmas, but realized it very well could have been. And what a better memory for me than this. Leo was a remarkable blessing from God. And God’s providence led us to this church on a Christmas Eve. It was just Leo and I in this foreign city surrounded by people we didn’t know. This time he was with me as God was with me.

Recovery After a Loss

Psalm 30:2 O Lord my God, I cried out to You, And You healed me.

Recovery after a loss is a process. There are no set standards of this recovery. One can recover quickly and one will recover longer, there are no set guidelines as in days, weeks, months, years etc. Mourning, grieving, acceptance, and growth are all a part of this process. One will spend more time in mourning and grieving than another, and some will spend more time trying to accept and grow from a loss.

But make no mistake, those who cry out to the Lord in faith will be healed. And the process of this healing will be to His timing to His will. Sometimes with a loss discipline is being also given by the Lord, meaning we will for example spend more time in mourning and grieving so that we learn from the event of the loss. The healing will be slower or faster all depending on what God has willed, but there will be healing nonetheless.

God’s common grace also extends to those who don’t believe in Him in this healing. How do I know this? Because many unbelievers recover from loss and go through the same process as believers do. If not for that grace, no human being would recover. We would stay in the moment of the darkness of the loss for the rest of our lives. The sun shines and the rain falls for unbelievers as it does for believers.

So in my view, recovery from a loss is in the common grace arena of God’s counsel. It is just that those who cry out to the Lord, know who is doing the healing and extend the glory only to Him! On Judgment Day, the unbelievers will then realize who was behind all the healing, it wasn’t their psychiatrists, or their pills, or self-help books, it was the Almighty God.

Having just went through a devastating loss, I can say without the Lord in my life, I do not know how I could recover of which I am the road to recovery. The days since the loss have been about the same, I grieve and I mourn this loss. I cry out to the Lord to heal me and I know He is listening. Imagine losing everything good in your life on this earth, that is what I am going through. I don’t know how this road will go, but am willing to accept whatever the Lord has in store for me. I am more than anything grateful for the blessing He gave in the time He gave me. I don’t really know if He will replace this good, but know He works all things to our good to those who trust in Him, and that is where I place my trust. In Him alone.

Psalm 107:19 Then they cried out to the Lord in their trouble,
And He saved them out of their distresses.
20 He sent His word and healed them,
And delivered them from their destructions.

A Side Note: About 8 years ago, I drove 4-5 hours pick up my new puppy Leo. I made a MP3 disk with the Book of Psalms of which I listened to all the way there and back. Looking back, little did I know at that time that it would be these Psalms would be the very thing that comfort me now in the loss of Leo. God is always working! I praise Him for His providence.

Losing Your Best Friend

My heart still grieves and mourns with the loss of my beloved dog Leo. I believe the closest we will come to God’s grief with the death of His son Jesus Christ is by seeing your perfect obedient dog die at a young age.

Leo was obedient from the very day I adopted him. It was natural for him to listen to me. I never had to tell him twice. I don’t believe I was even close to this with my parents who had to tell me several times with a few whippings so that I would finally listen.

Those who have never lost of dog, will have a hard time understanding but also have not realized the perfection in so many ways that they bring. They unconditionally love, they forgive, they live each day trying to make it a great day in every way they can for those around them. The line “man’s best friend” rings true in every way. it isn’t a cliche.

We know as dog owners, our time is limited with them. God’s will doesn’t allow them the same amount of years humans have. If your dog lives past 10 years old, you are on borrowed extra time with them. But this doesn’t prevent us as owners to become attached in every way. I think mainly because they have so many qualities we wish and hope we could possess.

Leo would greet those he loved each time with pure joy and excitement. He would never hold back in expressing his devotion. He could see the same person each day, and still greet them like this. I always said that IF other human beings would greet those in their life this way, what a different world we would live in. There was nothing fake about Leo’s excitement either, he always showed it.

In the back of every dog owner’s mind is the day they will need to say goodbye. We hope they live out long lives, but nothing is assured. But when that day comes, despite all the preparations you make, the grief will not subside. Leo’s prognosis was cancer, I had to accept we were on borrowed time. But when the day came, the grief hit me like an avalanche.

Now imagine God from all eternity preparing for the day of Jesus Christ’s torture and death on the Cross. To see His perfect Son die a gruesome death on the behalf of sinners who were in rebellion against Him and His Kingdom. There was NO GREATER LOVE than this! And we get a mere glimpse of this with our beloved pets who loved us without so much as one condition. They loved us on our good days, our bad days, and every day in between without chastisement, guilt, or manipulation. It was always genuine love! And I believe it is God’s way of showing us fallen human beings what love actually is.

How Do You Know You are Saved

This question is a main one I have seen since my rebirth. How do you know you are saved? How do you know you are God’s child? This passage for me more than any other sums up the answer.

Ephesians 1:11 In Him also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestined according to the purpose of Him who works all things according to the counsel of His will, 12 that we who first trusted in Christ should be to the praise of His glory.

13 In Him you also trusted, after you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation; in whom also, having believed, you were sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise, 14 who is the guarantee of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, to the praise of His glory.

If salvation has come to you, it is an unmistakable event. It is not a temporary feeling, but a deep eternal realization of who you are, and what God has done via the work of Jesus Christ. He left His throne to become man, born of a virgin, lived a life of perfection, marched to His crucifiction on the Cross for the redemption and propitiation of sin, and proved He was this Messiah by His rising again. Ask yourself what does this mean to you? Do you believe Jesus paid your sin debt? That He took your place and satisfied God’s demand for justice on your sin?

Back to the question on knowing if you are saved. There is one way to know for sure and I will use an analogy. When I was training my hunting dog as a puppy for his first hunt, I tried to get him prepared for everything. The one unknown I had is if this dog would bolt and run off on me as soon as I let him off the leash. His natural instinct would have told him to do so. So in the back of my mind, I hoped he wouldn’t. Honestly looking back on our first hunt and walking out the blind, this is all I worried about. He didn’t bolt, he didn’t run off.

Now let’s look at God and an actual saved sinner. Every world religion will teach a relationship with God from a human standpoint. “Will they run off because they can”. But this not in the least how that relationship is! You see God is all-knowing, omniscient. When He makes a promise, He keeps it. Despite your human tendency to think otherwise, He KNOWS you will never run from Him. Why? Because as V11-14 explain above, it is God’s will that you are saved, who seals you with the indwelling Holy Spirit, barring any inclination that you will ever leave Him. And why would you want to if you have seen the Kingdom of God? That desire to rebel against God and His Kingdom is gone forever, this is HOW you know you have been saved!

False humanistic religions such as Roman Catholicism sets the human empowered OVER God’s will. It teaches that although God would save one, your stronger free-will could empower your leaving of Him at any moment you desire. The relationship is a cooperation. God must stand down and allow you this, or in this unsaved mindset He would be forcing salvation on you. Which I always have found ODD. “Forcing salvation on you”.

If God did not intervene, if He as my example with my dog above allowed you to do as you wished? You in a natural fallen state WOULD ALWAYS run off, you’d choose to disobey Him. God would be reduced to a human owner, where we just hope and pray those we love don’t run off from us. And in this Jesus would have died as some giant cosmic gamble! God would have rolled the dice with His Son, hoping that just one could believe in this redemption without His intervention knowing FULL WELL, man in their fallen state cannot.

How do you know you are saved? When the tests of life come your way, you have NO desire to leave God, rather you run to Him. Through thick and thin, God is your center of your life, He is not a bystander following you on Facebook, but your actual Father who you cling to for your every need. You STOP desiring the things of this world, and rather desire only the things of Heaven, your heavenly Kingdom is your desire. The word of Jesus Christ is your food and drink, He is your all in all! You love God, and you hate the things He hates. You love your neighbor as yourself, and desire them only to see the Kingdom as you have. And by the way, “tough love” is STILL love, so you are bold in sharing the Gospel.

If you are still contemplating if you are saved, there is a great possibility you have NOT been saved. When salvation enters your life, there is no doubt. You naturally start doing things you did not do before such as repenting of sin, and you have NO desire to continue on with your former decrepit rotten sinful life. If you carry the name of the King Jesus Christ, you realize fully whom you are representing of which there is no other who can compare!

He Saved Your Life

I received a card from dear friend recently who offered her condolences with my loss of my beloved dog, Leo. She had known Leo since he was 12 weeks old, and because she was also Angie our Vet tech, she knew more about his health than anyone. In her beautiful words, she ended with “you saved his life, and he saved yours”.

Those words perfectly summed up God’s blessing of Leo in my life. It was something I had realized, and the words from this person to me were a Godsend. A very much needed message from God in my time of mourning.

Before Leo, my life was meandering from my former life to my new life in Christ. God placed Leo to correct the path in my life for good. This mere dog showed me so much, and was God’s way of communicating His will directly to me. Without this correction, I don’t know where I’d be at this point, but it would probably not be serving my Lord the way He wanted.

I was an unforgiving, grudgeful, and a highly impatient person in my former life. I had recently started a book called “Forgiving Others as God forgives” when I adopted Leo. He sat through my editing session, my re-writing, and finally the finish. Leo taught me patience by this. He had lots of energy as a puppy, but knew what I was doing was very important so he waited patiently. I could only admire this trait, and slowly I became more patient as well.

Yes, Jesus Christ saved me from the eternal wrath of God on my sins of which I am eternally grateful. But He also sent Leo to me to save my life from the world, from my former life of sin as well. So the words of the card which was sent had a greater meaning than I think the person knew. God placed those words into her writing. And again, I thank Him for this!

To those going through a crisis of your own, a time of sadness, look for these things God is doing. They are there! He is there! Sometimes we will see it in the present, and sometimes it takes looking back to see what God has done. There is not one tear or moment of darkness that He does not see. He isn’t on a break, He isn’t on vacation, He is never too busy. Take comfort that God is with you! If you really think you could survive this on your own, think again. Somethings without God’s direct involvement we could NEVER recover from.

Dealing with Loss

I have wrote on this subject before, the dealing with loss. It hit close to home this past week as I lost my beloved dog Leo to cancer. All those things I mentioned in the past I needed to utilize, the main one being was to put my trust in God alone.

An hour before Leo’s death, my mind was a blur in grief. We both knew the seconds were ticking and soon Leo would be gone. As Leo laid by my side, I put my head into my hands of tears and said “I trust in you God alone”. I repeated this. And then began to speak to Leo. I told him how much I loved him, how much he meant to me. I then recited some of the names he knew which would bring joy to his heart. I told him stories of our adventures of he could remember to bring him some peace through his pain.

It was when I blocked everything out and just concentrated on God, that the world stopped spinning. Leo needed me to be strong and God placed it in my heart to do so.

Loss is part of life, and it NEVER comes easy. There is no easy remedy or words one can hear that will remove the grief and sorrow, but the words of sympathy do help ease one through the loss.

Everyone is different as well in their processing of grief and sorrow. Some might remain silent not knowing what to do or say, and there are some who may express their emotions. There is no wrong way to grieve.

But there is ONE thing I do know as I am still going through this sorrow, that if not for my faith in God, I don’t believe I could get out of bed, I don’t believe I could function. How God has helped me is He has kept me busy since Leo’s death. Some work I didn’t expect to happen, all of a sudden was scheduled. And it just so happened as I look back, that I complained that I was not seeing enough of work the week before. But God knew what was about to happen, and that I should spend these last days with Leo. Work could wait until the time came, and I greatly thank God for this timing.

Faith comes into the light through a loss. Some may profess their faith openly, but when a loss comes that faith is either confirmed or it is shown as fraudulent. It is a reality test of our faith. Are we trusting in Jesus Christ or aren’t we. As my words were sputtering out through my tears to Leo, I told him that somehow I believe we would see each other again. God has promised to wipe every tear away, and I know He knows how very much Leo meant to me.

Some practical things I found which has helped.
1. Tell others how you are truly feeling. Men have a problem in this area more than women, but it is a good release.
2. Don’t be afraid to cry, to show your grief. It is natural in the mourning.
3. Keep God present in your thoughts, talk to Him about what you are going through. His love is ENORMOUS, His care is open 24/7 for you. Jesus knows exactly how you feel, just read the account of Lazarus. So don’t get all fake religious on Him, talk to Him as a friend would.
4. Try to keep busy. If you don’t have anyone to talk to, write down what you are feeling. Read what you wrote. Keep writing memories and things which come to you, share your thoughts.
5. Look around, God will send you the unexpected. There might be a person who suddenly supports you or an event God will send you to, or help in some area where you did not ever think about. God has all this lined up to help you.
6. It is OK to look at pictures and things of your lost loved one. There is no timing to anything either. Avoid those who say “this is what you should do” because everyone’s grief and sadness is different.

God Makes Impacts

I am sorry if it seems like I am lamenting about my recent loss of my beloved Leo, but I would like to relate somethings while the thoughts are coming. And it is sort of a therapeutic remedy for me as well in this time of extreme grief and mourning.

I said this about Leo in a couple of my books and earlier posts, but God will use anything of His disposal to impact our lives, to change the direction we are going into a new one. Don’t always expect it to be another human being, or someone you might be expecting as the impact. It can come in ANY form God so chooses.

In my case it was Leo. He was the impact God chose for me. At the time Leo came along, I was about a year into my rebirth. My former life was still entangling me and the impact God used was Leo to release me fully from those entanglements.

In April of 2012, I was in the midst of a financial crisis from my former life, job problems, relationship problems, and also problems with the church I had joined. This church coldly and cruelly cut ties with me based on the slander of their “music minister” who basically scammed money from me for years. They sided with her maligned and false version of the story and I was left without a church. Being a young Christian, this was a distressing time. I was meandering in wrong directions, trusting the wrong people, and was becoming more angry each day.

Then on one cloudy, rainy Sunday, it was put in my heart and in my mind that I should find a dog. I decided to call a breeder of Gordon Setters, and it just so happened I called at the right time. The breeder said “I can’t believe you just called, I have a litter I didn’t expect to be born this Wednesday, so if you send me a $100 I will hold one for you”. Now to see God’s hand in this? First of all I didn’t expect anything to be available. Usually there is a 1-2 year waiting list for this breed. My finances were shaky as well, but I did have the $100 to send so I did.

At that point looking back, God impacted my life, He changed my direction and released the entanglement of my former life. What God showed me through Leo is that although I never experienced the true love and devotion and care from another human being, He would show me that this actually is a true reality. Because Leo was the opposite of about every human relationship I ever had.

Now at the time, I was a very impatient person. God knows this. So what He did was send me Leo who would teach me that there need be no anxiety or worry, so there was no need to be impatient with him. He simply was naturally obedient from his 8 week mark when I picked him up. It was as if this dog knew me inside and out, again this was God’s doing. As I look back, it was a tremendous impact!

The other impact God showed me through Leo was what I never knew I was capable of. Leo had health issues here and there which required my ultra attention. But then in the Fall of 2019, the news came and Leo was given a death sentence. The care and extra attention God was preparing me for with his previous health issues were all going to be amp’d up. I never cared this way before! Leo required syringe feeding, and extra attention to keep him alive. I also abandoned my life through the holidays and carted him out of state where he could receive life saving measures quickly. This is something in my former life I would NEVER had done! Again, God’s impact.

On Leo’s last day, I cried incessantly just realizing this tremendous impact God blessed me with. God used Leo to turn me into a better person for Him.

So don’t always expect the impacts always to come from other human beings, God will use anything He will to make a needed change.