Cleavers, Christ, and Cutting Out Life’s Misadventures

It really was not what we had planned for a quiet Sunday afternoon on Father’s Day . . . but so it goes. Shortly before summer, my youngest son, Jon, got to pick out his very own dog . . . sort of.

(Photo Courtesy of IFLM)

With all of his siblings now out of the house, Jon wanted companionship, and after all, dogs are “man’s best friend,” so we went for it.

He saved his allowance, we studied the breeds together, and finally the day came.

Jon chose a Coton de Tulear and named her Abby. Abby is an itty-bitty black and white fluff ball of cotton-like hair, bundled with an enormously uninhibited amount of spontaneous energy . . . a fabulous fit for our fun-loving family.

Around the corner from our home is an area with a huge pond, loads of bushes, and big, burly trees. My son Austin has always loved taking the dogs out for adventures, and since he was visiting for Father’s Day, it was adventure time for the dogs.

(Let’s remember, we have one huge German Shepherd and Abby, who is smaller than Sherman’s ear, but though she lacks size, she’s stuffed with attitude and in charge.)

Austin took off with the dogs, and the rest of us settled in for a little nap. Not long after they left, we heard rustling in the backyard, the gate slammed, the hose turned on; by the sound of things, the adventure had fallen apart.

Evidently, Abby believed she could do anything Sherman could do, and she tried to hurdle a clustered mass of bushes layered with cleavers and burrs. Sherman cleared the spiky cleavers without looking back; Abby wasn’t so lucky and soared straight into the center of the bushes.

Abby’s breed is known for their cotton-like hair, which bonded to the spiky, tiny stickers like Gorilla Glue.

Literally, hundreds of them covered her little body. So for our Father’s Day evening, we spent four hours gently, sympathetically, sadly cutting the stickers out of her hair.

Cutting Out Misadventures

In so many ways, I am like Abby—and I believe many Christians are too.

  • We often leap into places we are not spiritually developed to handle. To make matters worse, we aren’t mindful of our frailties, our weaknesses, those blind spots that take years to refine.
  • Additionally, we are saturated with society’s messages and mind-set; almost all are in direct opposition to the Christian life.

Reframing our mind-set is a daily, purposeful, intentional process we must take one step at a time.


(Photo Courtesy of Unsplash)

Jon, who is mentally disabled, often shows me what a personal relationship with Christ is like. Just the other day while we drove to school, Jon was singing a hymn by following the words on his little iPad. He openly lifted his hands and just started talking to the Lord.

I almost pulled over for communion.

It was a sacred moment; not an intellectual “I have to pray ‘right’” prayer, but a time when Jon freely and personally talked with his Savior. I know a lot about God, I know a lot about Scripture, but a relationship isn’t based on knowledge acquisition and cold, hard facts alone.

When Jesus was asked about the most important commandment, He replied,

You must love the LORD your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind (Matthew 22:37).

Good relationships are deeply personal and quite integrated, connecting both the brain and the heart. Jesus didn’t say, “You must know the LORD your God.” He said, “You must love the LORD your God.” That’s relational.

The first five words of the most popular passage in Psalm 23 are,

The Lord is my Shepherd.

For a moment, just say those five words . . . slowly . . . quietly . . . softly.


Maybe you need to say them a few times . . . meditate on them.

  • What feelings come up as you read those words?
  • Who is Christ to you?
  • Is He your shepherd?
  • Do you know His voice?
  • How close do you allow the Lord to get to your heart?

If the Lord isn’t your shepherd first and foremost, perhaps it’s because you have tried to reduce Him to a systematic set of rules to follow or a lucky charm you call on when life’s tough. Or maybe Christ is no more than a reason to gather with family at Christmas and Easter.

We have developed a loving relationship with our little dog, Abby. We want only what is best for her, which sometimes makes her quite mad.

Knowing Abby doesn’t mean we talk about her breed or the anatomy of dogs or expect her to do certain things to be loved. We love her and lead her as she grows, and we keep her far from the trail filled with cleaver bushes.

Even more so, Christ longs to love and lead us. Jesus wants to steer us away from harm and out of sticky circumstances and lead us down a path of rest, protection, and growth—even when that means allowing trials we may not like.

Let Me Hear from You

Since we’re together in this thing called life, will you let me know if Christ is your Shepherd? Are you listening to His voice? What part of a personal relationship with Him is hardest for you? Let’s connect on this throughout this next week.

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6 thoughts on “Cleavers, Christ, and Cutting Out Life’s Misadventures

  1. Good morning Colleen! It seems the hours/days fly by and I’ve just now had a few quiet moments to read your recent post. The last few months have been a struggle. Your post has me thinking of my relationship with the Father and what it’s like at the moment. Although He is my shepherd, I find myself making excuses for not spending time with Him, for not hearing His voice. I wonder many times if I truly know Him closely, or simply rely on Him to be “my Savior!” May I ask; how, during such times have you fought for the time needed to be with Him?

    Autism has been part such a part of our world for so long now, that slowing down seems nearly impossible at times? Then, choosing what is more beneficial to my soul many times gets left unattended. That overwhelming feeling of “being overwhelmed” taking center stage!! I wonder at times if I am avoiding being closer with Him out of fear… fear of what He will require of me? Am I simply rambling or do I make any sense at all?

    Thanks for listening. Thanks for praying. Just THANK YOU.
    Julie Winkle

    • Julie,
      What a comment…you are one great thinker! I also love your honesty; such reflective questions are vital to our lives. I found it amazing that you said “I wonder at times if I truly know Him closely”; that has been a theme of my life for the last few months. I have wrestled with this exactly like you are. If we are wrestling with it, we probably already know the answer…we may know Him cognitively, but no, we may not know Him intimately. I’ve also found one of the enemy’s easiest ways to get us off track is distraction. And, in this world of global information at our fingertips, personal and family challenges (like a child with autism or any disability), we are thrown off track without even recognizing it. In addition, I wondered how your relationship with your earthly father, mother, significant people when you were growing up…that plays into how close we allow others and God to get. If we suffered trauma, that adds to our fear of getting close and the enemy jumps on our buried pain almost all the time. Reason is, the Satan is a distraction, he has only the control we give him. In fact, when it comes to knowing Christ, almost anything can be used as a distraction. Intimacy isn’t a “time” issue, it’s a “longing, soul” issue. Amazing how fast we find time for God when life is hard, isn’t it. So, you’re on the right track by pondering these things. What I am currently learning is my cognitive, Bible, study of theology is not an intimate “knowing” of my heavenly Father. It’s information-good, vital, must seek kind of information…intimacy is much different. Think of the times you have “loved” something or someone. There may not be a word spoken but there is a comfort, like a warm hug you have when in their presence.
      I totally know what feeling overwhelmed is like. I struggle to find a balance often. As I have chosen to “know” my Lord, that overwhelming feeling is far less present. See, when I BELIEVE, when I really KNOW God has me, he loves me so very much, he longs for me to trust and worship him, then I’m at peace knowing He will help me take care of what he has allowed to be in my life. Your son takes probably so, so much time….somedays when Jon was young I thought I will never sleep more than two hours at a time again. It was constant. So the daily part of life is a reality. But when we know God’s got us, there is a release of anxiety that says “I’m not alone in this”.
      This may not be coming out real clear…I hope it is. But it’s an abstract, so easy to miss part of our most needed relationship on earth.
      In all, I have begun to use time to just be with God…on my treadmill, I speak out loud as if He were there…in the car, getting ready for the day. Speaking out loud is powerful-especially if you include worship and scripture. I’m also learning intimacy with my Lord includes trust and belief. If I can’t trust Him with my all, knowing about Him is a comfortable substitute. If I don’t believe He knows my needs and cares about my struggles, I won’t trust him fully. Just like we give ourselves in marriage to our partner, there is an intimacy that says I trust you, I love you, I know you have me and are faithful. Your soul is speaking to you about what you need, I believe. I think you may be at a tough spot or spiritually kind of “blah” and the need is to have the Lord be your Father. It can feel like a free fall if you are afraid-and to get past that, simply say the words “Lord, I BELIEVE you love me”, “I BELIEVE you care for my right now”, “Thank you Lord for knowing me and I BELIEVE you are in control”. Feelings follow. But as you begin to dive deeper, it may feel uncomfortable….say it anyways…over and over and over. I PROMISE, feelings will surface and you will be hungry for reading scripture-his words to YOU, it will be a longing rather than a question.
      OBVIOUSLY, I’ve really wrestled with this-girl you are speaking my language!!! And I so love your tender spirit! Please, please let me know if you need any more support, write anytime…you and I aren’t the only one’s struggling with this kind of thing. Press through the fear and let me know how things unfold. So good to hear from you! Colleen

      • Dear Colleen,

        I’ve spent the last few minutes rereading your note to me. Your words are clear, in fact, I feel like for the first time in a while someone gets it: “get’s me!” I was touched by your encouragement and wanted to follow up on a few things. You had asked about my childhood and family. Sadly, it was rough time. Although I believe my parents loved me, they had such troubles of their own that I don’t know that their parenting skills were the best. My father struggled with alcoholism for most of his life and sadly died at age 60. My mother, whom is still with us has struggles of her own in the gambling area. I am an only child and moved away from Maine (where I was born) after graduating high school and came to California to attend a Fashion Design College where I earned my AA degree.
        I believe you are correct in your assumption of my fear of how close I will allow others to get to me; especially emotionally. I want so badly to know my Father’s love, and yet so many times I feel so unworthy. I let the emotions of the day and the overwhelming thoughts get the best of me.

        Thank you for taking time in your day to respond and give me some things to ponder; like on the treadmill. I have always enjoyed exercise as a way to relieve stress and keep myself in shape as I grow older. I have allowed that time to be stolen away by the enemy and the weight added back on and really want to take steps to get back on track.

        What’s the verse: 1 Timothy 4:8.
        For bodily exercise
        profiteth little: but godliness is profitable unto all things, having
        promise of the life that now is, and of that which is to come.
        Your comment about talking to Him while on the treadmill reminded me of times talking out loud to Him in the car and laughing a bit when I would realize someone at a light was looking at me wondering who I was talking too… a needed laugh! Thank you for reminding me of those times. Good times!!

        I will be continuing to seek Him and find my way home. I would appreciate your prayers as the Lord leads you. I believe your words of knowing Him cognitively versus intimately have made an impression on my head and heart. I’ll be keeping you and your family in my prayers as well. Blessings on your day!

        In Him,

        • Julie,
          WOW! What a response. I would love to keep the conversation going.
          I do “get it” …. the fear of intimacy, the longing and yet terrified parts of us that know in our heads that the answer is deeply buried below layers of pain. How the enemy loves to jump on that trauma train; those areas we hurt and can’t fix yet are afraid to let others know. That’s why I’m thrilled you opened up. It’s instinctual to protect places where pain is still real and alive. What keeps us sane and safe as children often becomes our hardest challenge to let go of as adults. It all feels so uncomfortable, wrong, a crazy mess. However, you have the internal fortitude (from your honest ponderings and comment) to walk with Jesus through this.
          Though I’ve not read it yet, I just picked up the book by Donald Miller titled “Scary Close, Dropping the Act and Finding True Intimacy”. I’ve loved his authenticity in the past, I’ve not read this but it caught my attention for all of us who long for intimacy but are also scared to death of it. A book I have read and HIGHLY recommend is written by my friend and author John Townsend. It’s called “Hiding From Love”…an older work but none-the-less foundational to intimacy and “close to me” confusion. In all, you have to risk…what does that look like? Like a few very, very safe, wise, authentic believers who are okay with our human condition, understand and embrace their humanness, can embrace messes because they see the bigger picture. Usually those who have been wounded deeply and have pursued healing, don’t push for the front row seat or big name functions; they show up because they know what it’s like to hurt. It also means going through life with someone. A book is good information, being close is much deeper. Slow to come by but necessary. I will pray that the Lord will provide such dive-in-deep people to connect with you.
          And yes, the treadmill and I have many shared secrets…thankfully it can’t talk. I laughed out loud as well when you wrote about talking in the car…that was ME this MORNING. I literally thought “if people see me talking to NO ONE visible…” then I thought, who in this world care, I’m gonna talk. So our Lord is with you, my friend. He knows exactly where you are, what you need, and is longing to meet you where you are. No performance, no ‘smarts’, just YOU. He created you, knows your every thought, and has his arms open wide for you to fall into. Please, please do keep talking and let’s encourage one another along in this thing called life. You are an incredible woman.
          (BTW’s, I just thought to add, let the growth ‘happen’…don’t rush to put it in a 3-4 step formula or think there’s an outline. God’s got you and will bring you along as you are willing. Again, it’s not what we feel comfortable with but as He leads, your gut will know to follow…stay the path, let me know how you are doing). Colleen

  2. Oh my, my, my Colleen! I’ve begun the days chores, but as I sit in the parking lot of Walmart after reading your reply, I needed/wanted to send a brief thank you. I look forward to being home at being able to respond more. God bless you my friend…

    • Julie,
      I so relate…how many things I have read from behind my steering wheel in my parked car! There was a lot to take in; hope it made sense.
      I also hope the shopping went well-that typically an “who knows” kind of errand for us.
      Have a great afternoon! Colleen