In The Presence Of Jack’s Enemies

Our puppy, Jack, has now been with us for three weeks.  The first week I discovered that he was afraid of loud noises.  I cranked up the riding lawn mower; he took off, tail tucked, giving me a look over his shoulder that said, “have you lost your mind!”  My mother quickly called to him and soothed him.  He visibly calmed in her presence but still kept an unbelieving watch on me and the monster mower.

The second week he ran for cover when a tractor came to plow the field next to our house.  Then there is the weed-eater and the leaf blower.  The most horrible scare came last week when a helicopter flew low over our house.  We have a friend who is a helicopter instructor.  Every now and again, when he’s taking a student out, he flies our way, comes low and hovers over the yard until we come out and wave.  Mom and I have fun waving; Jack just trembled in terror at the alien in the sky.

There is something else I’ve observed about Jack.  The first two weeks, when we fed him, he would gobble it up in seconds, as if he feared this might be the last meal for a long time.  However, this week he has slowed, enjoying each bite, even glancing up with dancing eyes as if to say, “thank you for this.”

Jack has come to a point by week three that he knows his food bowl will be filled daily and he’ll have plenty of fresh water.  Throughout each day, Mom and I take time to play with him, tossing frisbees and balls, giving him much loved tummy rubs, and playing tug of war with a rope.  It’s been delightful for us to watch Jack simply calm down.

I sometimes wonder what it was like for him the weeks he spent alone in the woods. He was hungry, and no doubt, afraid.  In our area we often hear coyotes howling and yapping at night.  There are wild boar and bobcats, raccoons and deer.  Of course, there are snakes!  How terrified Jack must have been — but not now.

Now, Jack seems to realize he is safe.  He still doesn’t like the riding lawn mower, but last week, he merely eyed it with suspicion instead of running for his life.  The other day when we were playing frisbee, he stopped short, a look of panic on his face when a tractor chugged by, but when I called to him, he forgot the tractor and continued our game of fetch.  It occurred to me at that moment — Jack feels safe in my presence. What a wonderful feeling of happiness came over me, too, to know Jack trusts me with what makes him afraid, allowing my presence and care to melt away all that would otherwise paralyze him with fear.

As I observe Jack, I smile in thanksgiving that we also have someone who is with us in the presence of things that make us afraid, too.  Our Heavenly Father never leaves us, watches over us, loves us and soothes our fears in the presence of everything troubling in our lives.  He never leaves us and always offers His own courage and peace.

When tractors of turmoil plow the fields of calm in our lives, uprooting our inner peace, our Father is there.  When helicopters of fear hover in our world, whirling wild thoughts of what the unknown may hold for us, our Father is there.  In the midst of any danger, perceived or real, our Father is there, “letting us rest in green meadows; leading us beside peaceful streams.”  Psalm 23:2

Psalm 23:5 tells us that our Father prepares a feast for us in the presence of our enemies.  What kind of feast?  A feast of courage and peace, joy and calm, hope in exchange for despair.  Everything we need is provided, even in the presence of everything fearful and shattering in our lives.  No matter what makes us afraid, our Father is there.

I Will Fear No Thunder For Thou Art With Me

It’s  been awhile since I’ve shared a story about Kitty, our partially blind cat, who lives on our enclosed front porch.  She is happy in her little world.  She is safe there; well, until it thunders.  Then, Kitty isn’t so certain of her protection.

Late yesterday afternoon I noticed blackened clouds getting closer.  The wind picked up.  Very soon rain would be upon us.  Sure enough, in just a matter of a few minutes, here came the rain and the wind.  I went to have a sit in one of the front porch rocking chairs to watch the rain.  It was pleasant.  Kitty paid no attention to it — until a clap of thunder sounded overhead.  Then Kitty’s body shrank down, her head dipped, ears pinned back, pupils large.

“Kitty?”  I called her name softly.  She looked in my direction.  I put my hand down so she could feel my touch.  Immediately her stiffened body relaxed beneath my fingers.  Then, another crack of thunder shot across the sky.  Fear claimed her nerves once more.  I kept talking to her, giving my assurance that all was well.  As long as she focused on me, she was relaxed.  Thunder continued but her panic eased away.

After several minutes Kitty decided to go over to her perch.  She jumped onto the rocking chair, made her way along the windowsill, and settled onto her window perch.  From this point Kitty observes the outside world going by.  Her eyes stared at the pouring rain.  Another sound of thunder boomed but how did Kitty react?  She contentedly began to groom herself!  I smiled in her trust that she was safe in my presence.

Every now and again in the midst of her grooming she would glance toward me.  Seeing I was there she ignored the sounds of pelting rain and cracking thunder.  Nothing could hurt her in the presence of her enemy because I was there, like a shepherd looking over a flock of sheep,  and I would take care of her.

It’s no different for you and me is it?  Don’t we have a Shepherd who is with us in every one of life’s storms, protecting, guiding, whispering words of hope and comfort?

“Even when I walk through the darkest valley, I will not be afraid, for you are close beside me.”  Psalm 23:4

In The Presence Of Enemies

To me, one of the worst sounds is a cat fight. The high pitched screams can make my skin crawl. To see the fight, a wild tumble of fur and claw, adds to the terror of the moment! Such a terrible sound came to my ears just two days ago. I ran to the window in time to see an intruder cat jumping on Blackie, our sweet-natured, black and white cat, who had been calmly eating his dinner. Everything went into a blur as the two became one in an entanglement of anger and fear.

I ran outside but the enemy cat was already sprinting away in a quick flash of white and gray. Blackie was no where to be seen until I peeked under the car. There he was, wide eyed, crouching, ready to fight or take flight. I called him. He didn’t move. I talked softly; still, he hunched unmoved in his fear.

I stood and went over to his food bowl. I straightened the towel under his bowl. I poured more food. I stood waiting for several minutes, calling for Blackie. Finally, there was my boy. I petted him, stroking his back. He kept looking around nervously; then he began to eat. Every now and again Blackie would look up, glancing around him. I kept stroking him, speaking tender words. He ate until he was full; stretched, and began his grooming routine. Then I started to walk away, but his eyes turned wild once more. I returned, again petting him, speaking calm words until finally, he was settled even when I turned to go.

When I got back inside, I went to the kitchen window to look out. There was Blackie staring at the window. When he saw me, he began to eat some more of his food. Blackie was obviously taking comfort and courage in my presence. In my presence he had confidence that the enemy would stay away, if only for a time.

Psalm 23 came immediately to my mind. Verse 5 says this, “You prepare a feast for me in the presence of my enemies. You honor me by anointing my head with oil. My cup overflows with blessings.”

Oh, the fears of life that can paralyze us, rendering our minds unable to think clearly, or our wills to move us forward. We gaze about nervously. Perhaps it’s the enemy of worry: about family needs, friend’s in trouble, financial concerns, poor health. Worry is a joy robber. Like Blackie, when it attacks, we freeze, perhaps we hide ourselves away, until we remember, our Heavenly Father is always at home in our hearts. He will give us His own peace in the midst of the things that worry us. He speaks encouraging and soothing words. He gives us what we need today, and promises not to leave us tomorrow. In His presence there is always hope. In His presence we are safe, even in the presence of the enemies that plague our minds.

When the enemy strikes, let’s remember to turn our focus from the enemy of worry, and gaze into the peace and hope of our Father. He will anoint our heads with the oil of gladness, and our cup of need will overflow with blessings of hope and courage.