Wednesday, October 30, 2019

The Watchman

Have you ever had a word or phrase that suddenly seems to be everywhere?  Ever since I hiked "The Watchman" trail in Zion National Park, I hear that moniker at least once a week and twice on Sundays.

I was intrigued by the idea of The Watchman, one of the first trails in the park, and its foreboding rock formation guarding the park.  Of course, there's the more practical, and decidedly unpoetic side, that thinks, "It's not watching anything - it's STONE."  

Spock has nothing on me.

Then there's my dog situation.  Ellis barks at a fly on the wall or someone walking outside with equal alarm.  Tilly joins in - bark first, ask questions later.

Hogan doesn't join in.  He knows there is no threat.  If Hogan does bark, I know something or someone is about.  Hogan is a trustworthy watchman.

It's made me think of the false Watchmen in our lives, the ones who cause us to panic, to become outraged, to fear.  Why do we listen to so many wrong voices, both in and out of our heads?  Some deceive us by assuring us we're never in the wrong while others mislead by accusing us of always being at fault.

One definition of a watchman includes that the watchmen is hired.  It is their job to watch, to guard, something that is not theirs, while the true owner is away.  Other than financial reward, some watchmen may not feel much investment in their job, seeing no real value in what they are protecting.  If the owner is away for a long time, the watchmen may get lax, or even make false reports.

How do we keep from being fooled?  Who can we trust?  If the Watchman is unreliable, is it up to only us?

When Tilly and Ellis run around barking, they look ridiculous, not to mention the annoyance factor on my part.  Then I look at Hogan, who is calmly watching the mayhem, unbothered by the false alarms.
I believe in Truth.  I believe a Watchman can be a trustworthy beacon, and that we can discern the difference between that and unreliable sources.

Truth can withstand a health dose of skepticism.  It can even take a double and triple dose of it.  In fact, we should be much more skeptical than we are.  Ask questions, reexamine your assumptions.

We can become unhinged in our world, tossed back and forth by lies.  Or we can awake with trust and faith, knowing that there's a firm, unshakeable foundation.

Tuesday, July 30, 2019

How to Move a 100 Pound Dog

Jaxx didn't stand up when I opened the door of  his kennel run.  He just stared at me. Make that GLARED at me.  Fortunately, his owners told me that at a different kennel, he refused to move the first day. Fair enough.

The next day, Jaxx still didn't seem interested in budging.  By now I could tell he drank much of the water I'd given him.  I'd managed to slip in a bowl of food and he'd eaten that.  Though a big dog, that bladder would only hold so long.  I looked at him and tried to coax him out.  Nope.

After all the other dogs were outside in their kennel runs, I opened the back door and walked to the other end of the kennel so he'd have a clear path.  He took a couple steps and looked at me.

See that look?  That's not a look of menace.  That's a look of fear.  And that means I'm going to be very careful.  I decided to go to the front door, which definitely got his interest.  I walked out the door.  After a few minutes, I walked back in, and he was gone - out the back door - happily relieving himself.

Who am I kidding?  I was relieved too.  Have you ever cleaned up after a one hundred pound dog?

Jaxx came back in, went right back into his kennel run, and laid back down.  The next few days were without incident (mostly).  

Have you ever felt like Jaxx?  Happy in your comfort zone, not interested in leaving your safe space for the great unknown.  

Many people fear change.  While not a big fan of it myself, I also fear staying the same.  It's important to find and pursue challenges.  

One thing I noticed about Jaxx is after he left his run and came back, it was easier every time.  He was more confident.  His fear was gone.

Sometimes I think God is gracious in letting us move out of our comfort zones when we are ready.  I think He often gives us the space to go at our own pace.  But not all the time.  Sometimes there's an urgency in His timing, and we are thrust into a situation we feel ill prepared for and balk at the intrusion into our lives.

Either way, God understands why we need to trust Him and His timing.  We can doubt, we can glare, we can drag our heels. But we can trust while begrudgingly dragging ourselves into new circumstances.

So get out of your cage.


Wednesday, April 24, 2019

A Name That Suits You, Perfectly

Quick - what is the perfect name for this dog?  (no peeking)
Actually, imagine seeing her side a bit more - she's very trim, and a bit longer than this picture captures.

Got that name in mind yet?

Okay, this little chihuahua's name is...Twinkie.  And, she looks pretty much exactly like a walking Twinkie.  Years ago, a friend gave me a toy "Twinkie holder" and I'm pretty sure it would fit right around her.  In addition to her apt name, she is a very nice little dog.

Maybe you were like me and were somewhat fascinated by names and their meaning.  For instance, when I learned that the definition of "Lynne" was "dweller at or near a pool," I felt this was magically accurate, loving the beach as I do, and perfectly happy near (or in) a pool.  Bring on the dwelling!

Not every name is accurate.  Not every word we use to describe others is kind.  One of the first things we have to tell young children is "don't call each other names."  The words we call ourselves can be just as unkind.  "Loser."  "Failure."  "Not enough."

What if you knew, for a fact, that you are actually Loved, Valued, Enough?  Don't believe me?  Would you believe the One who left a Perfect Place to spend time walking around in a limiting human body, living among deeply flawed humans, for the sole purpose of telling them, and us, that they are in fact, all of those names?

Jesus showed up here, and put the world on its head.  He came to set the captives free. And if you think you are not a captive, you may want to look at those things that keep you from living the way you know you can.  There is freedom, and there it is, for you to accept.  Knowing you are free, you embrace the place Jesus made for you, and then you know you are Cherished, Forgiven, a Son or Daughter, and a Friend with the truest God who lowers Himself to whisper the words of life to you.

It's hard for me to wrap my mind around an infinite, unseen Being.  But I've tested my doubt many times, and He doesn't disappoint.  My suspicions of His Nature do not lessen His love for me.  The big one I wrestle with, and maybe you do too, is how can God care about the whole world, and still care about the minor (and major) issues in my life?   Often I am reminded that if I could harness God and His ways, then He wouldn't be much of a God to worship.  Some things, many in fact, I can understand.  But in other, sometimes more troubling, issues, I can't quite figure it out.  And I'm grateful that I have to wonder.  I'm glad this life is not full of Solved Mysteries.  Yet I cling to His Love, even when I am confounded by His Ways.

Twinkie shows amazing loyalty for her owners.  She tolerates me, but she knows real love and provision is with her people.  I tend to get it backwards.  My loyalty is put to the test by the many temptations around me, forgetting the One who provides a deeper sense of satisfaction.  It may not be the green eyed stranger across the room with the lusty look.  It may more likely be that chocolate peanut butter dip with the come hither chocolate sauce on top I saw so many of you posting about.  Appetites can be indulged on occasion, but they may leave us empty (or with diabetes).

"God Loves each one of us as if there was only one of us to love."

St. Augustine said that.  I like it.  It helps when I'm feeling annoyed that life is difficult.  And it seems I call Life many names, even if I refrain from calling the people around me some of those same names (but it's oh so tempting).  If I remember that each of us is made in God's own image, then I remember that each of us flawed humans are equally loved and valuable, even when I suspect it is untrue.  

My name may reflect part of my nature, but not all of it.  And let's face it, like a pool, it's on the shallow side.  I'm not sure how Twinkie would feel about her name if she understood the definition of it.   Maybe you love your name or hate it.  Either way, being called Beloved is something more valuable than any name or status.

Monday, January 21, 2019

The Little Nipper aka How Your Posts Affect Others

Look how cute Ellis is, sitting there, mind his own business.
Then, I will walk by and he jumps up and nips my fingers.

It was unexpected.  It was unpleasant.  It was painful.

Which is exactly the same way I feel when I'm scrolling through social media.  "BAM" I'm hit by a puffed out chest of someone who is very happy with how things are going politically.  "WHAP" a pointed finger jabs at anyone who is very happy with how things are going politically.

It's tiresome.  It's unhelpful.  It's damaging.

First off, let me state you are free to use your social media any way you wish.  In fact, up until two years ago, I shared my political views in limited fashion.  Then I noticed that it was the least productive thing I could be doing with my time.  I'd be upset, my heart would race, I'd be accused of outlandish things.  So my current policy is not to discuss politics on social media, even if I agree with you.

Of course you should have your deeply held and well researched opinions.  But how and where we share them should be examined.

So far, I've never seen anyone comment on a political post, "Wow, now that I've read that, I've really changed my mind about things."

What happens instead?

You, the poster of political things.  What is the fixation and constant posting doing to you?  Are you, in fact, addicted to the likes and comments that make you alternate between smiling and anger?  Outrage addiction is real.  If you are suffering from it, you are sharing your suffering.  Political posts are either to have those who agree with you reinforce your opinions or to poke in the chest those with whom you disagree (and apparently hate).

For those who read your posts (whether they comment or not), I promise you one of two things happen.  A spark of agreement and "you go Girl/Dude" jolt or a "How dare you" jolt hits.  Are either of these contributing to a better world?  The other thing that may happen is someone who is just trying to get through their day sees yet another example of strife and schism in our world, which adds to sadness and despair.

If you'd like to look at a still larger scale, there are many who wish to see this country fall apart.  You are adding to it.  Yes, you are.  In your corner of the world, you drive the wedge deeper.

If you claim to follow Jesus, let's consider a few of his words.  We are not to "cause others to stumble".  In other words, if something is okay for you, but will contribute to the downfall of another, don't do it.  We've seen the ugliest of political fighting on social media.  I'm pretty sure feeding an ugly monster by giving the forum for people to behave badly is a stumbling block.  Even if no one is engaging, just scrolling by, just seeing that ugliness adds to depression and darkness.

Jesus also said that what happens on the outside doesn't make us dirty, but what happens from the inside that makes its way out IS.  "For from within, out of men's hearts, come evil thoughts...." (Mark 7:21).

It took me awhile to realize that I needed to change my focus.  I could use the limited powers of social media for contributing to good, instead of adding to the black hole.

While I don't expect it will happen, I truly hope we all will reexamine why we post what we do.  Think about the effect it has on you, your "friends", and your world.  In my own little way, I have a tiny hope that this blog post may be more helpful than a political one.

Perhaps we can quit nipping each other.  If you've made it this far, thanks for reading.  Maybe you're not so bad after all.

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

What Have I Done?

Sure, you could easily assume this blogger has been very busy the last 7 weeks, probably doing very important things.  But that's not true.  I can't really account for the time very well.  Yes, I've been anticipating my next book coming out very soon.  However, that's not taken up my time.  It's safe to say I've frittered away my days on whatever comes along my path (even if that is the couch or outdoor lounger for a nap).

Then, a couple weeks ago, I lost my mind and brought these two home.

Your eyes have not deceived you.  Those are puppies.  Two puppies.

When my so-called friend brought the one to my attention on the dreaded Facebook, I didn't give the usual "yeah right" response I normally give her.  He looked too much like my former awesome dog, Foster, as a puppy.  

I decided to sleep on it. When I woke up, my first thought was, "I am NOT getting a puppy."  Then, within about the same 60 seconds of this thought, I continued with, "If you get that puppy, you can't leave the other one behind."  And the next thing I know, I adopted two littermates.

If you've heard me say anything about how I have implemented a "zero replacement" pet policy around here, you're correct.  Many have said "I can't believe you got a puppy, let alone two." No one is more surprised than me.  I'm still surprised. Every day.  Every night (often a couple times in the middle of the night).  Yet there they are, two adorable puppies that are a lot of work but full of affection.

While they are frequently confined to the kitchen, they've made it their full time job to find ways around my very lame and ineffective fencing abilities.  At this time, they are too small to be restrained by the baby gate, just walking through the grates as if I was toying with them.

But what I've realized is changing  your mind can be a good thing, even when you had a perfectly good (and reasonably sane) policy in place.  Sometimes you have to make some allowances for grace.  God does it all the time.  And for that, and two cute (and stinky) puppies, I am thankful.

Monday, September 11, 2017

When Waters Rise

The last few weeks, our country's attention has focused on hurricanes and the incredible damage they do.  In both Texas and Florida, residents will be literally picking up the pieces of their lives for weeks and months to come.

A good friend of mine has been extremely fortunate, considering the flooding her home experienced.  Unlike many of her neighbors, she has a second floor on her home.  Not only was she and her dogs able to get to safety, she took in a few neighbors and their accompanying beasties.

While she rebuilds, her dogs have been transported up here to the kennel.  They are in for a nice long visit.  Tilly is thrilled.  They don't seem too upset.
Hurricanes are funny things.  You can see them coming, but no forecasting can predict exactly the path it will take.  Millions of people have been glued to the news, waiting to see if disaster would unfold, and if so, how bad would it be?  Even with improved technology, it's hard to say for sure what will happen, leaving residents and visitors wondering whether they should evacuate and if so, where would they go that is safe?

To me, life is like a hurricane.  You have a calendar in front of you, and most likely you'll live those days.  But you don't really know what's going to happen.  You can plan, and maybe your plan will unfold just as you hope.  Other times you can map out and organize every detail of your life, only to have it blown out of the water.  

I don't know about you, but I kind of like predictability.  However, I'm learning to embrace the waves more.  After all, it's lovely to look at the water and maybe even see what's below the surface.  But it can get dull, and waves can be spectacular.

There was this one time when Jesus took a nap in a boat with a bunch of his friends.  A huge storm kicked up and the waves were crashing over them.  Death loomed. Jesus' friends were freaking out and they woke him up.  I imagine Jesus wiping the crusties out of his eyes and wondering what all the fuss was about, staggering up the steps to see the storm and saying, "Enough of this - stop it!" (that would be my paraphrase) and it stopped.  

Jesus doesn't stop every natural and man made weather event, but His power is irrefutable.  When we face our personal disasters, He is nearby, wading through the deep waters with us.  Life can be messy, and picking up the debris isn't any fun.  But when we trust God, we can trade our ashes in for beauty and mourning in for blessing (Isaiah 61:3).  I don't know how He does it, but I know why.  He loves us and wants us to turn to Him.

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Grading on a Curve

Some kennels give owners doggie report cards to inform the owner how well (or poorly) the dog did at the kennel.  There is much I can say about this, but I will try hard to stay on point.  In the interest of full disclosure, this isn't something I've ever done at my kennel and there is no plan to adopt it.

Here's the report card Emmit and Matilda got after their stay at a local kennel when I was gone in the Spring.
Now I'm definitely not saying that the fine folks caring for my dogs were lying.  But I will say that I know my dogs.  I know kennels.  I know how my dogs act in kennels.

They are not A students.

Some owners ask me how their dog behaved while they were away, and I give them an accurate picture of the dog's behavior, especially if something is out of the ordinary.  Owners sometimes miss small changes in their dogs when it is minor and they see it day to day.  If I am familiar with the dog, the change stands out to me.  

What I generally skip in the conversation is "normal" dog behavior like jumping on me, resisting going back into their kennel run, or sticking their heads into another dog's food bag and sneaking a few bites.  When away from home, dogs aren't perfect.

I hope you are sitting down for this - I'm not perfect either.  I'm just as disappointed as you are.  It seems like I should be a spiritual giant but I see how often I fail.  I jump into conversations I shouldn't have, I resist changing my less desirable behaviors.  I eat what I shouldn't given the opportunity.  

We are far away from home too.  This world isn't the end.

None of the dogs I've owned were perfect.  But they were mine.  And if you belong to God, He isn't concerned with your behavior, He's concerned with your heart.

Forget about your perfectionism, your defeatism, and any other ism that crushes your spiritual soul.  All you need is Jesus, who is just waiting for your heart to return to the safest, most pure love  we can have, that frees us for abundant life here, and eternal life after.