“Thus the LORD gave to Israel all the land that he swore to give to their fathers. And they took possession of it, and they settled there. And the LORD gave them rest on every side just as he had sworn to their fathers. Not one of all their enemies had withstood them, for the LORD had given all their enemies into their hands. Not one word of all the good promises that the LORD had made to the house of Israel had failed; all came to pass.” Joshua 21:43-45
I don’t know if you’ve ever received a promise from the LORD, but I have and I can tell you that God’s promises aren’t small. He’s not a small God with small dreams for us. He’s not a God that thinks small things towards us, He has BIG dreams, BIG thoughts and BIG hopes for us… which makes them all the harder for us to believe Him for them because to us they’re impossible. They are totally and completely unattainable on our own, which is exactly why God dreams them for us, because He wants us to accomplish them WITH Him.
I have always loved dogs. When I was in elementary school my best friend had a little chestnut Dachshund. She was the spunkiest, cutest little thing I had ever seen and I wanted one desperately. I grew up, got married and immediately started hounding my husband to get a dog… we got a cat. Fast forward another 11 years and two cats later (the first one died) and I was still begging my husband for a dog. One day we were in Tractor Supply Company looking for something for my dear hubby and it just happened to be one of their pet days, where they host animals from a local shelter and you can adopt them. There was this beautiful pit bull named Rumpke. They named him that because he was found next to a Rumpke dumpster. He and his foster person were just walking through the store and he walked right up to us. The look in his eyes absolutely broke my heart, he wanted a home, and I wanted to give it to him. As Rumpke and his person left, the kids and I immediately turned on my husband with our own puppy dog eyes and pleaded to take Rumpke home with us. He was a rock, “No”. I gotta give him credit, he never budged and that had to be really really hard for him because he’s a great dad and husband and loves to spoil us. I will be completely honest and tell you that I went home and prayed and sobbed over that dog for weeks. Literally, for weeks! I prayed and prayed and prayed for Rumpke. I even went so far as to pray that he would run away from the foster home and come find us… if it be God’s will for us to have him of course. But day after day, there was no Rumpke on my front porch. The other thing I prayed during that time was for my Isaac dog. Sarah’s son Isaac was the child of promise, I wanted my dog of promise; the PERFECT dog for our family. And I thought I knew what that was, except I’m not God. So as I prayed and prayed for Rumpke, each time I would end with, “but LORD, if he’s not my Isaac dog, then I don’t want him.” And I really did mean it.
About a year later I caught the dog fever again, but it was different this time. I can’t explain how it was different; all I can say is that it was just different. I started surfing PetFinder.com, but not for just any dog I was looking for my Dachshund. I spent hours over months looking for just the right dog, at just the right price from just the right place. Maybe that’s how it was different this time, I could just feel God’s Spirit leading me. If you’re not used to that feeling, then there’s no way that you can understand what I mean when I say that, but there’s just this feeling in your gut when you just know something is right. Some say it is women’s intuition, but I’ve learned it’s the Holy Spirit moving within me, leading me in the way that I should go. Anyway, the day came when I searched PetFinder and saw this precious miniature Dachshund named Luigi. It was his name that caught my attention first because at the time my son was playing Mario Kart ALL the time! The second thing that caught my attention with Luigi was his picture, he was licking his nose! It was such a silly pose that it made me laugh out loud the first time I saw it and I loved him instantly. Although he was a little farther away than I wanted to drive, it was only an hour. I made some phone calls and a LOT of prayer and we ended up bringing him home. He was so malnourished that all the fur had fallen off his ears and he was beginning to even lose the fur on his tail! L He needed love and food, fast! I’ll never forget the day I brought him home. He had just had his surgery when I picked him up from the vet, he was still shaky and sleepy so I had to hold him in my lap all the way home (oh darn). I brought him into our house and he tried to stand up and walk, but still couldn’t. His legs were so wobbly he almost fell down several times! The kids were due to get off the bus in about thirty minutes, the dog and I had both had a huge day, so I scooped him up, lay down on the couch and he curled up on my chest. His poor little skinny naked body shivered from cold and probably a little anxiety from all the drastic changes he had just undergone, but I think part of him knew that I loved him because he snuggled his little black and brown head up under mine. For half an hour I just lay there petting him trying to get him to stop shivering.
Before we brought him home we discussed his name. We all liked Luigi, quite a bit in fact, except we were giving him a new home and a new life so didn’t that warrant a new name as well? We thought so. Oh the names that we came up with, but the one we liked the best, the one that fit the best, was the name that my husband chose; Skippy. You see we have a story in our family that my great grandma Tyra had a dog named Skippy… a very spoiled dog. We’ll just say he was quite “plump”. And one day my great grandpa came into the kitchen and started giving grandma a hard time about always spoiling the dog and giving him food he shouldn’t have. The next thing you know grandpa turns around and says “Here Skippy, have some bacon”. Yeah, GRANDMA is the one spoiling the dog… sure grandpa! To this day whenever someone in our family is making bacon the Skippy story usually gets told.
So here we are adopting this dog that is literally skin and bones and barely anything else and what he needs more than anything is love and some bacon. What better name than Skippy? A name that means “spoiled”. He came from a home where they couldn’t feed and provide for him the way that he needed, he was so socially inept that it has taken many hours of training to get him able to function in a town full of other dogs. And yet I doubt that he remembers much of those five years in his life because all day every day he is reminded, by his name and full food bowl, that he is no longer in that place anymore.
In our reading today I was overwhelmed by how many times the word pastureland was used. I couldn’t help but think of the twenty-third Psalm while I was reading it.
“The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still waters. He restores my soul. He leads me in paths of righteousness for His name’s sake. Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff they comfort me. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; you anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the LORD forever.”
This week’s reading has been so wonderful in that it is all about entering into a new place. Entering into a new land, the land that God had promised them generations earlier. The reading this week has been about promises being fulfilled and God showing His people, not just His provision and protection but also His amazing grace and faithfulness. These Israelites that were fighting these battles throughout the promised land had never tasted the food of Egypt, they had never felt the taskmaster’s whip flicking their skin and tearing through it, they had only ever known the provision of God in the wilderness. They had only ever heard of what a life of slavery was like, never having experienced it themselves. Neither had they experienced the amazing abundance and goodness of the Promised Land and everything that it held within its bosom. Then one fateful day, they up and move out of the wilderness and across the Jordan. When they get to the other side, like Skippy, they undergo a bit of surgery; they shed some blood in preparation of entering their new forever home. And then the battles start, and one by one by one each and EVERY enemy is defeated; they all go home and REST from the war. It has been won. And as they each settle into their lounge chairs at the end of the day they sigh at the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living because not ONE word of all the good promises that the LORD had made to the house of Israel failed. Not… one.
This reading has been an excerpt from Tamar’s book Waiting…, if you would like to read more it is available HERE in multiple formats.