The Depth Makes a Difference

Sometimes, God shows you something you never expected to see. He teaches you something you never expected to learn. This past week, the Holy Spirit led me on a journey of discovery, both about myself and my relationship with God. In His lesson, I learned how the depth makes a difference.

It’s been a difficult winter here at our Cross-Dubya ranch and our community, not just in terms of winter storms, increased costs, and challenges, but also in loss. In this past year, I’ve mourned the death of our donkey friend “Magic”, my ranch hand’s horse “Chip”, and the continuing activity decline of my pal “Bubba the Chocolate Lab”. I’ve also mourned with friends who have lost loved ones, faced serious illness, and my own loved one who is still facing more surgeries.

Thinking about the cost of friendships this past week—true friendship always costs you—the Holy Spirit prompted me to consider how the depth of my friendship impacts its cost.

The depth of our friendships has a direct correlation to its cost. The deeper our love, the greater the cost. #CostOfFriendship #DepthOfOurLove Click To Tweet

In looking at this, God helped me understand how the depth of my relationship with others makes a difference in how I love them. I came to understand there are depths of friendship and with each one there is a level of emotional attachment. My friend, Mr. L.D., surrendered his dear wife Ms. Dian to heaven this past October. Pillars of our small community, I knew them as peripheral Christian friends who always smiled and shared a kind word, but they weren’t weekly dinner guests. I loved them as Christian brother and sister, but our friendship was a cordial relationship rather than a deeply personal one. When Ms. Dian graduated to heaven, I mourned for the family and still pray for L.D. as he grieves his loss/her gain.

When my ranch hand’s horse died, a wonderfully cowy horse, I grieved and prayed with his owner. As he perhaps got some dust in his eye as we prayed, I remained a stoic and supportive friend. The depth of his loss was felt much more by my friend, because “Chip” was his trusted companion for a good many years.

When “Magic the donkey” passed away last month, the impact of his loss remains far reaching. I first witnessed it when Mr. John called, as he choked back tears, saying, “I found Magic in the barn, he’s gone. He died sometime after I fed him this morning.” Later, dragging his body from the stall to bury him, his companion “Elpis” came to mourn once again. Her sorrowful cries as she continued to try to nudge him awake broke my heart.

Carrying him out to “Burial Hill” to his final resting place, I thought about the many conversations I’d had with my long-eared friend. While he didn’t talk with me in a conventional sense, he would react with sound or movement to let me know that he was listening. One of the traits I loved best about my pal “Magic” was that he was such a good listener.

Even on my worst day, I could stand beside him, scratch his ears, and unburden myself as he seemed to listen intently. I didn’t realize how much pollen was around in late December as I silently buried him.

Thinking about the difference in my mourning, I recognized something else. I called “Magic” my pal. A pal marks another level of friendship, doesn’t it? According to (, “a pal is a good friend.” Another is “a close friend who accompanies his buddies in their activities.” As you would expect nothing less from a writer, I explored the roots of this word to learn that pal is a Romani word meaning “brother”, derived from the Sanskrit word bhrata. Yes, as I recall how “Magic” would escort me around the pastures and follow me down the fence lines, he was my pal.

Moving from pal to companion brings another depth of love. The deeper our love, the greater our grief. #Companionship #DepthsOfLove #Grief Click To Tweet

Another pal, one with whom I think moves beyond pal to companion, is “Bubba the Chocolate Lab”. That big, floppy-eared hound dog has become a central part of my life. He still rides beside me on the UTV or in the truck (I must help him up these days), on occasion. He loves going for his rides. It used to be he would run beside me if not riding, but I could never work anywhere around the ranch without him.

These days, we walk slowly down the drive with his pal “Archie the screeching dog” and he naps, laying his head across my lap on the sofa. I scratch his ears and speak to him softly. With my boon companion, I can share my fears, failures, defeats, triumphs, and trials. He listens quietly and then leans in and presses his head to my chest, letting me know it’s going to be okay. I recognize his days are coming to an end and I will suffer yet another terrible loss on that day. As I think about the love I have for my friend “Bubba”, the words of Proverbs 17:17 come to mind.

A friend loves at all times,
And a brother is born for adversity.

(Proverbs 17:17 NKJV)

Your true friends and brothers/sisters are those who love you, despite yourself, and who stand ready to help in trying times. I pray daily that God help me be that kind of friend to others.

I have several friends, a few pals, but only a handful of true companions. My wife is at the top of this earthly list. My friends Bubber, although most folks know him as Del, and Mr. John also come to mind. And on a different level—only because he puts up with more and doesn’t talk back as much—“Bubba the Chocolate Lab”.

I wondered, Why do I grieve for some losses more than others? That’s when the Holy Spirit began His lesson. His question in my spirit was, “Why do you grieve at all?” Pondering this question, I reasoned, It’s because of the love that I have/had for them. The greater our love for someone, the greater the depth of our grief.

I finished my writing pal’s book this past weekend and God used her wonderful writing to help validate His lesson. In Hope for Widows: Reflections on Mourning, Living, and Change by Ms. Marilyn Nutter, a devotion near the book’s end explained how tears of grief and pain had healing properties. Only our Creator God could make our bodies heal themselves by making different compositions for different kinds of tears. Here’s a link to order her new book. Hope for Widows book

The next day, I thought about how the depths of my friendships and relationships with others vary. Soon, I realized that the depth of my relationship with Jesus Christ is what is most important in my life. My love for Him, and all that He has done and will do for me, is a direct correlation to the closeness of our relationship. Since God is the author of love, the love I have for my friends and family all stems from His love in me. The closer I am to Him, the more I can show His love in my life! Perhaps wise King Solomon summed it up best. In Proverbs 18:24, he ends with “But there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.”

I’ve learned in this life that friendships and relationships can come and go. Divorce, death, heated arguments, and personal growth can all lead to things going astray. With that said, I’ve also learned that Christ has never left me, even when I had my back turned to Him. Now that’s a friend that sticks closer than a brother. Without question, the depth of our relationship with Christ makes all the difference in our relationships in this life.

God’s blessings,

44 thoughts on “The Depth Makes a Difference”

  1. I am so sorry for your losses and the challenges this winter. it has seemed to me that over the past months all i am hearing about are sickness and losses. my heart breaks for one of my friends who lost her son, mother a d brother in the span of 8 months. You are so right, our focus is to be on our relationship with our Lord as it colors and informs every other one.

    1. Thank you Ms. Ann. Losses are difficult, but this is the life I’ve chosen. When we choose to love another, be that animal or person, that love has a cost. That cost is the grief we feel when we lose them. God’s blessings sweet friend, and cherish every moment you have with those you love.

  2. Hard to get through this without sharing the tears, J.D. As I read your tender words and saw the pictures they painted, the emotions they elicited were as automatic as the grief I felt in those times in my own life when God taught me lesson after lesson about what love costs. It’s fascinating how I felt the loss of a donkey I never knew and hurt for an old friend in the declining stages of his life, and I cannot even let my mind go to what it would be like if my Diane–the best friend I ever had–was going through what your’s is.

    The other fascinating thing on my end is how strongly the friendship can feel for someone whose hand I’ve never shaken. I’m sure you have dozens, probably hundreds, of friends like me, and I am so blessed to imagine how powerful the accumulated love directed toward you and everyone in the Cross-Dubya circle must be. With all the nefarious and downright evil stuff perpetrated though digital connections, I praise God that the One we serve can send hearts through fiber-optic cables.

    Your touching and inspiring piece reminds me, too, that the love of Jesus Christ can reach us anywhere. Regardless of how bound we feel by circumstances we can’t control, He can manifest His power to lift us from the mire that creeps in and tries to replace our hope with despair. Declaring that He can dispel our worst darkness with the Light of His Word and His presence isn’t just poetic language designed to produce a self-induced delusion to get us through a tough spot. It’s as real as the bodies we live in and the world we handle every day. There’s an endless “shalom” that is coming and every follower of Jesus will live free of grief and pain and will never have to say goodbye to another Mavric, or Bubba, or our life’s best friend.

    Whether we ever get to share that meal or not, you are more than just a name in our inbox or a video on one of our screens, and God bless you for being a better long distance friend than most of the ones I’ve had closer by.

    1. Brother, I’m right there with you. While we’ve never met in person, I’ve felt a kinship with you from the first time I heard you and read your wonderfully encouraging blog posts. Your Saturday morning posts set the tone for a weekend of reflection, worship, and praise my friend.

      Like you, I can’t even bring myself to imagine what my life might be like without my Ms. Diane, in the same way you can’ with your darling wife. My guess is that while neither of us would be worth a tiddly poo without them, we both know that with God’s help, we’d find a way to honor them in our living.

      My preference, desire, and prayer is that Christ take us up together in the rapture. Another fervent prayer is that I’ll get to one day meet you in person before we receive that upward call my friend. I can’t wait to hear that laugh, feel the warmth of your smile, and the love emitted in your handshake. Heck, who am I kidding. I’m going in for the hug brother!

  3. J.D., a friend who lost her 16 year-old son in a car accident wrote that grief reminds you of their value. They are worth the tears. I’m sorry for your loss. Our animal pals touch a special place in our hearts. I also hate that so many are suffering so many losses at once.

  4. J.D., your post reminds me of how Jesus wept with Mary and Martha when Lazarus died. He knew Lazarus would live again, yet the pain touched his heart. I long for the time when we won’t need to say good-bye to loved ones. Blessings to you!

  5. I certainly felt the presence and closeness of Jesus during this most recent trial with Danny’s heart issues, J. D. He is the closest friend I will ever have, and He will do anything and everything to be right by my side in all things I go through.
    Fortunately, because of Danny’s sons transporting us, we are once again back home where we belong. Doctors will be seen in the coming days for checks, but my knowledge of God’s love will go forward with us, and we will give thanks.

    1. Oh my! I certainly didn’t know Ms. Martha, or I would’ve been in intercession. Please let me know how we can pray moving forward ma’am. To the point of your comment though, yes, knowing He is always with us helps us navigate the storms and trials of this life. Know that I’m lifting you and Mr. Danny up in prayers.

  6. Evelyn Mason Wells

    J.D., pollen must be floating around here in my home! I’m so sorry about your loss of Magic and your ranch hand’s horse. And having patted Bubba’s head when I met him, and knowing of his declining health creates grief within my heart. Praying for Ms. Diane’s health challenges and praying for strength for you and asking God to hold y’all close. May God’s richest blessings overtake both of you.

    1. Thank you Ms. Evelyn. Having met some of the characters around here, I am certain you understand ma’am. Had the weather cooperated, I just know you and your friends would have loved to have met “Magic”. And had you any treats with you, he would’ve loved to have met y’all. 🙂 Thank you for the kind words and the prayers ma’am. God’s blessings.

  7. Kari L Greenaway

    Hey J.D, my heart goes out to you and the many involved in knowing you. Animal and human alike. Grief is certainly peculiar and individualized. But who we turn to makes all the difference. There’s part of a poem that I’ve written for my nephew in the voice of his father. And part of that goes like this,

    “I hope my actions spoke,
    Louder than my words.
    That you felt and you knew,
    More than you heard.

    Here we have suffering,
    Mourning and loss.
    But there is joy in each day,
    If we dig below frost.

    Music is balm and power,
    (“Do, Re, Mi, Fa, So, La, Ti.”) Sing!
    Life’s a blink. Hold steady.
    Dance, faith Grows! (It’s quite the thing.)“

    When you mentioned depth, I thought of the above portion of this poem, especially, “If we dig below frost,” and how loss can be so emotionally varied. So many have “nothing” boxes or facades. In contrast many wear their hearts on their shoulders. In either case, prayer is so key to supporting those who have faced loss. Not only prayer but coming alongside in any way we can. Especially just listening. Many in my family won’t talk about those who have passed. It hurts too much. Different levels of faith and understanding act as a chasm that I find difficult to fight even with prayer. I have some, “in loving memory” pages on my site for family and some of my family has yet to read. It’s kind of traumatic for me. And it hurts that they have less hope than I of seeing our loved ones again. Due to different belief systems. I can only continue in prayer. Thanks for the lovely read. And insight. Sending love and hugs! ~Kari

    1. You bring up a great point Ms. Kari. Sometimes our deepest grief is hidden below the surface and is never seen by those around us. God, however, looks at us from the inside. He sees, knows, and understands it all. Thank you for sharing your poetic words of wisdom with us ma’am. God’s continued blessings.

  8. J.D., the tears rolled as you shared your losses. It is amazing how deep we can love both people and animals. In a conversation yesterday, I realized how great is the hope we have in Christ. Hope for today when facing the losses and hope for eternity, when we will no longer be separated. May we love deeply, in spite of the losses, and cling to the One who always stays closer than a brother. May God be with you and Ms. Dian and Mr. John!

    1. Thank you Ms. Joanne. And yes, real, lasting hope can only be found in Christ my friend. I can’t say with certainty that I’ll see my old donkey pal “Magic” or my beloved companion “Bubba” in heaven. I know without a doubt I’ll be reunited with many of my loved ones, and more importantly, with my Lord. What I am certain about though with my animal friends is that my life is enriched by having shared it with them.

  9. Dear friend, I’m so sorry for the losses you have suffered recently. Our animals become part of our family, and when they leave us, we feel the loss intensely. I agree completely with your analysis of the depth of our sorrow when our loved ones go to be with Jesus. The greater our love–the greater our sorrow. While we can rejoice that our loved one is free from the trials of this earthly home and are experiencing the joy of heaven, we feel the pain of loss that never goes away. Praying for you, your sweet bride, and your Cross-Dubya family.

    1. Absolutely Ms. Katherine. The deeper we love another, the greater the loss we feel. Thus, the deeper our grief. God promises that we’ll see those who were in Christ again, and while there is some comfort in that, it does not lessen the grief we feel in the present. There are times when I still grieve loved ones I’ve lost, some that I will never see on heaven’s shore perhaps, and some that I know I’ll see again but will never fully recover from their loss. We go on, but some that we loved greatly remain with us throughout our earthly lives. We learn to live without their physical presence, but their memories remain with us, silent companions who remind us that we are who we are because of the love shared with them. They make us better.

    1. Thank you Ms. Diana. One of my longer posts, but my heart doesn’t speak well in short sentences. The story of God’s love written upon it is too vast. 🙂 God’s blessings ma’am.

  10. A beautiful meditation on how and whom we love, the ones our Father brings into our lives to mold us more and more into the image of His Son. As you said, our Savior is a friend beyond all others, our beloved.
    Thank you, J.D.!

    1. How kind Ms. Gena. Thank you so much ma’am. You and Bill are such wonderful examples of how we are to allow God’s love to flow through us and pour into the lives of those around us. God’s blessings my friends.

  11. Beautiful essay here, J.D., on love, loss, and sorrow. It caused me to reflect on my losses through the years.

    I’m sad to hear about Bubba. He was featured in the very first post I read of yours about 5 years ago. You wrote about him so eloquently I felt I knew him.

    1. Thank you Ms. Candyce. He’s laying here on his bed in my den as I’m typing this response. I get up to get another cup of coffee and he raises his head. His sorrowful, expressive eyes seem to ask, “you’re coming back aren’t you papa?” I stop to pat his head and tell him to stay there, as I’ll be right back. Before I’m down the hall on the return trip, I hear him hobbling his way around the corner. I was gone too long.
      How I wish I was as devoted to God as much as my dog is devoted to me. If I’m awake, and I sense God’s presence is gone from me too long (in my case, because my heart and mind is distracted elsewhere), I have to go find Him. Thank you for your kindness ma’am. I’m not sure how much longer God will keep “Bubba” here with me, but I know I’ll treasure every moment of it and do my best to make his last days his best days.

  12. A really beautiful message. So sorry for your losses, I know how painful that must be. Thank you for sharing this with us, it brought back so many memories of love and loss. Peace will come in time.
    Blessings and prayers for you and Ms Diane.

    1. Thank you Ms. Joyce. I thought of your and Ms. Jan’s mama, Ms. Dot, as I read your comments ma’am. I remember how she would light up a room with her smile, the way she fussed over me, making sure to make me extra loaves of sugar-free zucchini bread, and how she always put others first. I see those same traits in you two sisters and the way you two are best friends. I’ve often thought, our lives are enriched by those who we have allowed in it. I’m sure glad you three ladies have been a part of mine.

  13. I cried while reading your message. Friendships come in all varieties. I’m thankful for those friendships. When a time of loss comes, my heart breaks for my loss, yet I know God has a plan and His plan is always best. Thank you for continuing to inspire me and many other folks. 🙂

    1. Yes. Romans 8:28 must be a constant in our lives my friend. I’m sorry my words caused you tears, but as our friend Ms. Marilyn shared with us recently, some tears heal. I want to think that’s what tears of pain and grief are for.

  14. Kathy Collard Miller

    I think there’s some dust in my eyes. Thank you for sharing your heart. I was there with you as I reflected on my losses over the years. God bless you, pal.

    1. Awww… now my eyes are leaking my friend. Darned pollen. 🙂 It’s important that we each recognize and reflect upon how the loves and losses in our lives impact us. I believe that we each carry those with us throughout our days. They have a far-reaching impact on our lives, and our lives upon others. God truly did create us for relationship.

  15. Dear friend, you have such a gift of drawing us into your personal life and making us feel like family. May I shed tears with you? I can empathize with your losses of late, as well as the ones in sight down life’s road. Animals may be hard to lose because they are so loyal, loving, and trusting. I can see why there are animals in heaven too. God also gave us that same love that He has, and it’s one that comforts our souls. And yes, there is no one like our Savior, Jesus, who walks beside us on life’s path, guiding us through joys and sorrows. Like you, I’m looking forward to heaven where we will eternally praise and worship Him.

    I’m also in the waiting room of death. My mother has been sliding down the hill lately and is preparing for her graduation day into heaven. Although I’m not a cryer, I’ve been shedding tears and treasuring memories. She’s been my lifelong best friend and companion, loving and faithful in every circumstance. It’s hard to imagine such a perfect friend, but she truly is golden. The Lord is preparing me now for that day. Jesus is so wonderful, and He will comfort me to my own end. Praying for you too, dear brother, in these bittersweet days.

    1. Perhaps, my friend, it’s because I consider each you to be “family.” Some extended more than others, but all part of my “Family of Faith.” I know it’s improper, but I wish I could extend my arms across north Texas and give you the biggest hug right now. I know the journey of caregiving you’re on, and I know where that road ends, having traveled it myself.
      I want to encourage you to focus on the past and present as the future will be determined by those moments. I pray you and your dear mama have the best last days possible, however long or short those might be numbered. Remember though, and I think we both believe the day is not far off, that we’ll be together with our loved ones who are in Christ, for eternity with our triune God. Oh, the joys we’ll share as we worship His majesty and glory for eternity. God’s blessings ladies. Know that your entire family is in my prayers.

  16. I so enjoyed this message, J.D. I like how you researched “pal” and some of the meanings you shared. I teared up about all your animal loses at the ranch, especially Magic. I still miss our precious pug, Big T, more than ever. Since he was the star of our YouTube channel, we never grieved alone. Many of our viewers continue to comment how much they miss him. I hope and pray for another puppy one day. Big T was definitely my companion and pal. That said, I also want my relationship with the Lord to be my top priority because when the Holy Spirit pours into me, it naturally overflows onto my other relationships. God bless.

    1. Amen Ms. Karen. The greatest part about God’s love is that He ensures we never grieve alone. Isn’t it amazing how He brings folks into our lives at just the right time to remind us that He is there with us. I can only imagine how much your “Big T” is missed. How God fills the holes in our hearts left by the loss of those we love and care for is often a TBD, but I am certain He will. I look so forward to the day when we shall never experience loss or grief again. We will truly count it all gain. I’m with you my friend, as our relationship with God is the basis for any relationships with others. We can’t fill them if we are not filled by Him first. Amen! Thank you for sharing your wisdom my friend.

  17. J.D., I admit that I got lots of dust in my eyes while reading your post.
    Witnessing first hand, your love and care for you animal pals and companion, Bubba, my heart was touched by the descriptions of your love and your feelings.
    I’m reminded of Lord Alfred Tennyson’s words, “Tis better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all.” Though he may have been referring to romantic love, love is still love and it reaches into the depths of our beings. One who has loved on any level experiences the true essence of living and is better able to comprehend God’s love. But amazingly, the wonder of our Creator is the ability of His love to penetrate even hardened hearts who haven’t experienced love.
    Who can explain love? Through the centuries people have tried through song and verse. I believe you’ve done a pretty darn good job of it here with wonderful insight from your personal experiences. Thank you for that.
    BTW, I’ve ordered a copy of Marilyn’s book to give my neighbor, who’s husband died last year. I believe it will be a blessing for her.
    God bless you, my friend–my pal. Knowing you and sweet Diane has greatly enriched the lives and hearts of Guy and me. Sending hugs for you two.

  18. This post hits home J.D. I sometimes feel badly and a little guilty that I don’t grieve deeply for some people. I feel like a ‘cold fish’. But your analysis brings comfort. There are only a handful of people on earth that are pals and true companions. In addition, in my line of work (end-of-life and grief), I balance having a strong professional presence with pollen induced tears :-). Thanks for speaking the honest truth, as always. I’m sad to hear about the Bubba the Chocolate Lab. He’s been by your side since I met you.

  19. Friends and pals do come and go. My pal, Molly the Artsy Corgi is, like your Bubba, aging. I have to take her on short slow walks around our little neighborhood now, because she can’t do more. I miss her and she cries when I leave for my longer walks. But it’s so wonderful that Jesus never goes, He is always and will always be with us as our most precious Friend.

  20. I love your extended nicknames for your animals. It’s so true that the closer we are to someone, the harder it is when they’re gone. Even knowing we’ll see them again, we still grieve the loss of their companionship. I’m so thankful we’ll never lose Christ!

  21. OK, I was crying by the third paragraph. Magic was bad enough but then Bubba came into the picture. It hit close to home knowing it won’t be long before our beloved O’Malley will be gone. Probably a matter of weeks. I hate when I hear people say they won’t get a dog because they can’t stand the pain of losing them. But my question is: are willing to sacrifice the joy of having them?
    Yes, our grief is usually proportional to the depth of our relationship. I am wondering, however, if there is not an invisible line we cross in the aged years when we find contentment in knowing that their passing is merciful, that their life has been long and full, and that we have participated in giving them love that they have known well. It just seems like God is preparing us. That calms my grief (even before it happens!) I used to get really upset with my mom when she would cry. She told me her tears were cleansing. I have learned to accept this better. But my greatest comfort comes from knowing God enters my pain of grief and knows my heart.
    I dread the day your sweet Bubba says goodbye. Thank you for sharing your heart. I am wrapping it up here at midnight and will retire on the bed in the second bedroom because . . . well, O’Malley is too comfortable in my place on the master bed. I wouldn’t think of making him move!

  22. Oh my, I can’t help but get teary-eyed as I read this. Our animal companions do become more than our friends, they are part of our family. It is hard when they leave us. Another great lesson here, J.D. in that we can see how important our relationships with each other are. We grieve when they leave us because we are attached to each other. God made us a family and we are part of the body of Christ here to lift each other up and encourage one another. I grieve with you at the loss of your critters but I also rejoice in the friendships that have helped you. Even though it is through electronics you are an encouragement to me and others in the Christian world through your words. Thanks and blessings friend!

  23. The more I love, the more I feel the loss of the one I love. I experienced this with the death of my dear mother-in-law. Sometimes you don’t know what a hole a person will leave in your life until they’re gone. Of the losses I’ve experienced in my life, the loss of her and my dog, Gabby, left the biggest gap. I have to say, thinking of this makes me all the more glad that nothing will ever separate me from Jesus.

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