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by Debra L. McKeen Sparks
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The bed shook - was there an earthquake?

Now, I have to admit, I am a big fan of the oversized recliners offered by most spa establishments. You know, those places where you can go and indulge for hours in pampering, massage, facials, sugar-rubs, aromatherapy, manicures and pedicures. Big, comfy recliners which massage a patron into a sense of blissful placation while a pedicurist soaks, massages and slathers wonderful lotions with aromatic qualities into your feet and legs and then manicures and paints your toenails with some bright color, designing tiny bunches of daisies on your big toenails. A wonderful, peaceful and luxurious experience all-in-all.

In contrast, this existing “slumber-place-shuddering” was the result of my sixty-five pound 15-year old Australian Shepherd Lab dog as she shot from below the bed, where she was peacefully sleeping to the top of the bed where I was just beginning to nod off for the night. The culprit; the loudest clap of thunder I had experienced in some time and sheet-lightening that seemed to come down right on top of our little cottage, lighting up every room as if we had collided with the sun itself.

Panting in anxiety nearly to the point of hyperventilating, she threw herself against me for protection and comfort, shuddering in fear. She had tramped over the top of the slumbering overly-stuffed Siamese who was now readjusting himself, taking no issue with the storm, and drifting back into a dreamlike state that only a cat can comprehend. My reflexes took over as I came off my pillow and in one swoop, wrapped her up in my arms and held her, cooing my words of comfort as her body trembled in trepidation and fright. The storm continued on in its own fury, raging its anger as the warm air and the cool air collided in the heavens above us and as electricity continued to light up the night sky.

“It’s okay my love,” I whispered. “I won’t let the thunder-boomers get you”. Merry Noel continued to shudder, and pant uncontrollably. By this time, the 18-year old matriarch of our happy home, Sara Ann, the Snowshoe Siamese, rose from her designated sleeping place on her soft pillow situated at the head of the bed, screamed out her accusations against the irritating coward of the dog and stormed off the bed and into the other room.

I remembered the words to the song by Tony Wood and Kevin Stokes, “Sometimes He calms storm, and other times He calms His child.”

Softly stroking my frightened pet, I prayed, “Oh Father, calm her, cause her to know peace and help her to calm down and go back to sleep”. She calmed just a bit, and then the next clap of thunder came as the lightening cracked the night sky open once again, and she nearly climbed right up on top of me. In response, I wrapped her up in the comforter, covering her head and drew her as close to me as I could, hovering over her, trying my best to assure her that I stood between her and the storm.

Not knowing what else to do, I began to sing the words; “Sometimes He calms the storm with a whispered peace be still, He can settle any sea but it doesn’t mean He will. Sometimes He holds us close and lets the wind and waves go wild, sometimes He calms the storm, and sometimes, He calms the child….” Now, I am not so vain as to think that my singing EVER calmed any human down, but I thought I could get by with it since I was, afterall, singing to my dog. She didn’t buy it. The night wore on, the shuddering and panting continued and the storm raged. Merry would calm for a moment and rest in the cocoon I had made for her, and then she would suddenly stand up on the bed, look into my face with a desperate look, and begin all over again to worry and fret and pant and huff and puff and tremble anew.

I could not help but consider how I relate to the storms in my own life. My first response is to run to my Master, to fly into His arms and to hide myself in Him, as He tucks me securely under His “wings”. And then, for no good reason, I crawl frantically out from the protection of His pinions and as soon as I do, begin to shudder, shake, and tremble all over again, asking Him all the time to protect me. I am so often like a person who is drowning, and when my Savior comes to rescue me, I fight and flail and flounder. It’s really hard to save a person in the water who is fighting.

I thought of how the enemy of our souls screams out his accusations at us in our moments of most severe weakness, compounding and intensifying our already distressed state of heart, as we continue to call out for the Lord’s help while at the same time, refusing to rest in it. In Him alone is our true refuge.

“Oh, Lord,” I thought to myself, “how often I do not act like a child of God, how often I don’t listen to You, how often I break Your heart by not doing as you have asked me to do. I trust in my own strength, in my own understanding over Yours or I trust in the acceptance, strength, counsel and comfort of others besides You. Break my heart Lord with the truth that reliance on anyone or anything other than you not only breaks Your heart, but it ultimately breaks mine and oftentimes, the hearts of those whom I love, for to flee from your saving is rebellion and to flee from Your strength is to flee from victory.”

My dog shuddered against me once again, as I held her closer and whispered peace into her ear.

“Oh Lord,” my heart cried out, “help me to remember how desperately You long to be gracious to me, how You rise to show your compassion. Oh, Lord, help me to not humanize you by imagining You as the best of humanity rather than an all-together God! Lord, sometimes, I feel as if I am the clay, daring to tell you, the Potter, what to make of me, what to do with me, and how to use me. In my arrogance I stand before you insisting on acting like the Potter, rather than the clay, never realizing that my rebellion and refusal to yield to your counsel - to Your touch, to trust You alone will inevitably break me into pieces.”

Smiling, I thought of the lesson of the potter and the clay. I remembered the pottery class I took so long ago, thinking of the process of centering the clay before one can work on it and create out of it a balanced pot. “Hallelujah” I thought, as I remembered how easily I have allowed myself to get off-center again and again in my life, “God still uses cracked pots! But Oh, my Father, don’t let me wait until I’m in pieces to return over and over again and to trust! To not only ‘believe in’ You, but to ‘believe You!’”

The lightening CRACKED the sky opened once again before the downpour began. The rain seemed to bring my frightened companion out of her shuddering terror for a moment as she slipped her nose from her sheltering blanket and listened with me to the sound of the rain on the roof. I gathered her more closely to me, stroking her ears, continuing to whisper soft words of comfort to her, as her shuddering quieted and the noise of her incessant panting died down. She quieted more and soon, eased into sleep.

I thought more about the words to the song; “All who sail the sea of faith, find out before too long, how quickly blue skies can grow dark, and gentle winds grow strong. Suddenly, fear is like white water pounding on the soul. Still we sail on knowing, that our Lord is in control.”

I gently lifted my heavy bundle from where she snuggled against me and laid her, blanket-cocoon and all, in her soft fleece bed before returning to my own bed and with the sound of the rain on the roof, drifted into my own slumber with the prayer on my heart, “Oh my Father, thank you, for you are truly in control – help me to be dependent upon you and to willingly submit myself to your protection, and to not fuss and fret and fall back to trusting in myself or others to do what only you can do – to provide only what you can provide – to make my dreams come true, when only You can make my dreams come true. Make me all that You wish to make me, My Lord, and do with me all that You wish to do.”

“And He arose, and rebuked the wind, and said unto the sea, Peace, be still. And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm.” Mark 4:39

“Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you; not as the world gives, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid. John 14:27

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Member Comments
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Ginnylynn Rodriguez 22 Mar 2006
I can relate to this having had dogs in the past going through the same experience. Now it seems that I'm going through the experience with my own storms. Thanks for the reminder. Awesome job.
Dian Moore 17 Apr 2004
Debra: This touched me so. Your writing brings me into that storm and I felt the dog's fear and your attempts to soothe her. These are precious words and will be used to heal someone, I am sure. Great job!


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