There was an error in this gadget

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Food and Love

Recently, a family moved to the area and brought their dog, Henry, to stay at the kennel. It was explained to me that Henry is retired. Henry did not earn his retirement through IRA's and careful investing, just by order of being a fantastic dogs for well over a decade.

The instructions for Henry were simple, "food and love."
The love part was easy. Look at that face!
The food part was easy too. Henry's owner packed adequate snacks. (For him, not me).

It's wonderful to require so little. Isn't "food and love" what we all need? Sometimes we confuse the two, but mostly these are the basics to sustain us.

Jesus said he is the bread of life. He also was the embodiment of love. It is good to feed our physical bodies. It is even better to remember to feed our spiritual selves as well.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Dangerous Love

It will soon become obvious why there is no picture with this post.

Yesterday, something terrible happened. Driving to the grocery store, I noticed a woman across the road from her house retrieving her mail. Then, I noticed a cute orange cat at her feet, bumping up affectionately to its owner. I hit the brakes. Too late.

I turned the car around and apologized to the owner, who was not nearly as upset as me. She told me that the cat had been unusually clingy to her all day. But the cat had never crossed the road, so she had not given it a thought til she noticed the cat at her feet.

Sometimes all of our dedication and adoring blinds us to good decisions and boundaries. Our infatuations may draw us into hazardous situations, because we've lost good sense.

How do we know the difference? Perhaps the object of our love and adoration holds the answer? Do they have our best interest in mind? Are they looking out for those followers?

In yesterday's situation, the owner didn't wait to cross the road, not thinking of the effect of the devoted cat. With a blind dog, I've had a close call in a similar situation. It was a wake-up call that I have a huge responsibility to those animals (and people) with whom I have relationships. As winter will bring a partially frozen pond, I'll need to be more mindful of my own curious kitten.

God, who adores us, and whom we often adore, has our best interest in mind always. He doesn't forget about us on the other side of the road. If we find ourselves in harm's way, we're never forgotten, even if we are not spared pain. God, who did not spare his own son, will never lead us where he himself has been without a reason that is for our good and his glory, as mysterious and confounding as that can be.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Get Your Crazy On

Perhaps it was the warming temperatures and sunshine after days of rain and cold that made the herb more fragrant and attractive. On Monday, the cats found the catnip patch that was planted last Spring.
This resulted in much rolling around in it, then chasing each other, attacking the dogs, and even a fallen branch. Suddenly, everything was the enemy.

Have you ever noticed how there are people who go through life with their guard up, as if everyone is their enemy? Or have you dealt with someone who is mentally ill and can not process good counsel from a personal attack.

It's heartbreaking, and little can be done. It reminds me that even in my calm, sane moments, I need to be open to what I hear from others, who is giving good counsel, and who is not.

The plum line of scripture is always a good test of counsel from others. Does what someone suggests draw me closer or further from God? Is the course they lie out one that is consistent with the teachings of God, that ultimately are for my good purpose and safety?

Taking the time to think through what we hear and see daily makes a difference in how we process information and ultimately how we live our lives. It is time well spent.

Slow down during this busy time, and think about what is good and right in a world that often is evil and conniving. Somewhere, in the midst of the rush, is a quiet peace that is beyond understanding.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Waiting....

Advent.

The dictionary definition is "the coming or arrival, especially of something extremely important."

For Riley, he eagerly awaits the arrival of someone important, his owner!
At Christmas, we await the Advent of Savior Jesus Christ.

Is our longing of the same intensity of Riley's?

In the muckity muck of our daily lives, we get distracted. When Riley is at the kennel (or in my house), he never stops waiting for his owner.

I'd like to have the Life of Riley.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Gee, My Dogs Smell Terrific

Yesterday, I took my dogs to a local groomer. Foster only has been to one once in his life and Tilly - never. However, Foster's coat needed a very intense brushing while Tilly smelled like she rolled in something dead (probably because she did).

It was a big day and they were both exhausted after the experience.
Foster not only looks better, but he also feels better without those awkward clumps of fur all over. You know how you feel with bedhead? Same thing.

Tilly is happy that I invite her to me with more hugs and pats on the head because she is no longer hideous. (I have no comparison for this).

Have you ever felt guilty about something you did? Or maybe you didn't do something you knew you should have done and that feeling nags at you. It's not a great feeling. Have you ever been around someone with whom you've had some awkward conversation or circumstance and the air between you is still not cleared?

When we do wrong things, a barrier is between us and God. A sin that may leave us feeling bad or smelly or filthy is an offense against the Lord. However, we can't get past our sin problem on our own. We all have this problem but there is a solution and that is Jesus, who was sent from Heaven as a tiny, helpless child, born to a disgraced couple, and admired by outcast shepherds. Jesus can look beyond our filth, sin, and social standing, all because of who He is. When we trust Jesus for taking the punishment for our voluntary and involuntary bad behavior, we are made clean again.

When we talk out the awkwardness of a situation with a friend or co-worker, the air is clear and it feels so much better. In the same way, our conversation with God, admitting what we did wrong, that we can do no better, but call on the grace of Jesus, then our faith makes us well, restoring our relationship with God the Father.

Even though we will continue to sin and make mistakes, our forgiveness is secure through Jesus. That's a great gift and one we can embrace with love - sort of like the Christ-child at Christmas and always.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Are Your Friends Making You Better or Bitter?

Have you ever left a group of friends or co-workers and thought, "I feel yucky." Perhaps the time together was spent tearing others down, gossiping, and complaining to the point that the only result is a feeling of superiority, smugness and....ewwww...self-righteousness.

Perhaps it is time to think twice about how much time you spend in the company of others.
I'm extremely fortunate to have a stellar cast of characters I call my friends. When we get together, we simply enjoy each other's company.

Sometimes we lapse into gossip. It's so easy to fall into that snare. Every now and then, we catch ourselves and change topics. Regardless, it doesn't feel good to bad mouth others. My group of friends generally pushes me to become a better person inside and out. I think more, move more and have a lot of fun.

Proverbs tells us that this has been the case for ages - do not lie down with the pigs or you will get up smelling like them. God wants us to think wisely about who we spend our time with and how we spend it. He knows what is best for us - more than we ourselves do.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Time to Bring the Shell Inside

Last week, the first significant snowfall landed. To some this is wondrous while to others it is a dreaded sign of Things to Come.

With the days of seventy degree weather well behind us, it was time for me to bring a gift from a friend(hi Jean!) in for the winter.
Shells are made for the beach, not snow. Even the sight of the dead leaves by it is wrong!

Are we really made for this world?

We long for perfection but there is only one place for it. We hunger and thirst for righteousness but it eludes us in this "climate."

That gives me hope that all the brokenness of this world is temporary. I can put up with that, and even live above despair. Hope is a precious commodity and it comes only from God.

P.S. the frog is coming in too.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Trusting Your Leader

You've met her before, but here she is again - Darcy, the Jack Russell Terrier. She visited the kennel recently and was the only dog for a couple of days. When this happens, I try to give them extra attention. Since there was plenty of post-Thanksgiving cleaning to do, I brought my dogs out to hang out with her while I did that.

After days of high winds and unplesant rain, finally the sun came out. I hitched Darcy up to a leash and took her for a long walk along with my two. She seemed very concerned at first - her tail was down and her ears were back.
"Where am I?" "Where is this crazy lady taking me?"

She kept htis up until we turned around and started back. Her tail was up and wagging. "Ah, now I know the path home."

Have you ever been down an unfamiliar path? Were you filled with concern, even fear? Sometimes we get a glimpse of that path "home" but sometimes we do not.

It's time to trust the leader.

No matter where a path leads us, the Lord guides us with his presence, even when our peace is shattered. We may seem far from home, but with the Lord, we are never that far at all.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Why I Don't Care What the Cashier Says

Warning: rant alert

If you want to read something nice and sweet, skip on down to that cute picture of Frankie with the Captain. I'm in a mood.

Or maybe it's a snit. I can never tell.
What set me off was a commercial on the radio advertising their personal hygiene products, encouraging us consumers to buy them for ourselves because "that's what the season is all about."

In other words, "Christmas is about making yourself happy through such things as scented body wash."

Lots of Christians get all in a froth because some stores don't use the word "Christmas" in their advertising and the cashier doesn't say, "Merry Christmas." Some even cite how Christians spend millions and that alone should merit the saying.

Wait, isn't THAT the problem? I'm not against gifts, but what percentage of that millions is to give goods to charity? Is it even ten percent?

Being a person who appreciates efficiency, "Happy Holidays" saves words and ink in my book. Is it cause to be offended? Not to me. It's not like they even mean "Thank you" so why do we care what kind of farewell we get?

What offends me deeply is celebrating Christmas with a "I-deserve-body-wash" mentality. THAT is not the reason for the season. Wouldn't showing Jesus to others mean fighting this mentality and not how a cashier hands you your receipt?

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

A Friend to the Friendless

Below is Frank, happily resting next to his friend, Captain.
Even though the Captain is young and often torments Frank, Frank still abides with him. None of the other cats like Captain, but Frank is longsuffering.
(sorry the pictures are dark - it's been days of rain here)
Here Frank lays next to a sleeping Foster. Foster, being blind, sometimes nips Frank when Frank gently bumps his head on Foster's chin affectionately. Yet Frank is forgiving.

Recently I was discussing friendships with someone. We both read articles about women who organized "adult play groups" in which the groups of women do something like make pottery or wine-making, etc. This is all fine and good.

However, it made me think about recent get togethers with friends. What do we do? We talk, have a glass of wine, some good food, and tell story after story and we laugh. We laugh a lot. There's nothing burdensome about the time together. There's no agenda. We don't need any distractions except to enjoy the company of the others.

Friendship is at a premium these days. While this is not a "back in the old days" rant, play groups for grown-ups and the internet community lacks something that we all need - intimacy with other humans, face to face.

Is it easy? No. Are we all perfect? Do we sometimes get on each other's nerves with our personalities? Of course. That's where Frank's model of long-suffering and forgiveness comes in to play. After all, these virtues are what Christ modeled for us. In every case, Jesus strove to restore people to community and ultimately to himself.

Choose to do something difficult today.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Blind to What is in Front of Us

Foster is now completely blind. He doesn't stumble but he sure trips over things and runs smack dab into obstacles he previously cleared.

Then there's Tilly who likes to adjust the stuffed toys to look like Foster.
Blindness in the Bible is often a metaphor for sin. We can't see that what we are doing is wrong. (This should not be confused with the people who are/were blind did something wrong-no such thing!) And isn't it true that we are very blind to our faults? They are crystal clear in others but we can't see our own.

To those people who don't believe in the power of prayer, just pray that God reveals your faults to you and He'll answer you. But graciously, He will not tell you everything at once. Phew!

Do we really WANT to know what we are doing wrong? It's a lot to face - it's embarrasing. And, it may mean we need to....change....No one wants that!

Even if we don't realize it, obstacles are causing us to trip or stumble. We need help! First, ask for the desire to change, then ask what it is that God wants you to change right now. It is a blessing to have "eyes that see."

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

My Pets Gross Me Out

Perhaps it's because I have so many that the odds of dogs and cats behaving repulsively is just higher. Perhaps it's because my animals are weird. Most likely, it's because dogs and cats are animals and do weird animal stuff that people find "difficult."

Kittens are cute and cuddly, right?

Unless they are playing with a dead mouse.
Yep, the Captain is growing up. It took forever to get this picture just because he kept tossing it in the air and then running off with it, growling in a kitten-fierce way.

Later, I walked outside with the dogs and Franklin and Captain were staring at it. That is until Tilly dashed over to inspect their object of interest. Then immediately gulped it down.

Yiiiick....

This after four days of Tilly being "grounded" because of the undesirable after effects of her finding "cat goodies" in the garden and about the yard.

What's a girl to do?

It's entirely possible and likely that I do things that are repulsive to other people. I mean, it's hard to believe but I bet it's true. More than that, there are plenty of thoughts and deeds that are the type of thing that God probably thinks are really a bad idea. In his perfect holiness, they are heinous.

Yet, He calls me his own. It's hard to believe. It's humbling, yet I am grateful for His Amazing Grace in Jesus.

Perhaps that's what I need to remember the next time I hear a hairball in progress while trying to eat my healthy salad.

Next time you're offended, remember your own offenses, plea for grace, and extend it again.

What's the grossest thing your pet has done? Wait, maybe I don't want the answer to that.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Big Bag of Mysteries

My friend Liz and I have a competition every Fall to see how many bags of leaves we can pilfer from people who actually rake their lawns and put the leaves in bags. We don't rake our own lawns. Sometimes we mow over the leaves. Yet leaves make for great mulch for our gardens. At the last count, I got 12 bags of leaves and Liz had, well, more.

Every now and then when I'm driving I'll see a big black puffy garbage bag and wonder if it contains leaves. I don't stop to look though.
Seems I'm not the only one who is curious about bags of leaves.

Hey Dooley, what do you think?

One of the fascinating things about living on earth is that there is always something new to learn and something wondrous to appreciate. While I'm not a big fan of winter, I am intrigued how the leaves fall, break down under the cover of winter snow, and supply nutrients for my spring garden vegetables. In the bleakest, coldest winter days, there seems to be no hope that it will ever be warm again or that I'll ever taste the perfect summer tomato. Then, a green strand of crocus will peak from the soil.

Sometimes it seems God is never going to show His power and saving grace. Times can be extremely bleak. Sometimes we only get a glimpse of hope, but that is enough.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Dog in Da Hood

Look - it's Tilly. In a hoodie.
I adopted Tilly from a local humane society four years ago. Oh how time flies. Her unusual markings and friendly nature are what made her stand out when I saw her on Petfinder. Plus, her name was "Pumpkin" there. Foster didn't hate her so that seemed like a plus. Giving it a few days to think it over, I went back and adopted her.

She's as sweet of a dog as I could want. She's also a lot more stubborn and willfull than I could want. She drives me crazy yet she still loves me. Foster would rather not have her around but she daily interacts with him with as much enthusiasm as I have for a double scoop of chocolate peanut butter ice cream.

Now that's love.

How eagerly God longs to adopt each of us as His own. We only need to turn to Him and he can't wait to take us home. Even if we're idiots, He puts up with us, even embracing those parts of us that are most strange.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Life of Riley

This is Riley (hi Riley!). Riley belongs to a friend of mine and has special "house privileges." Still, he misses home.
Isn't that pathetic? Or is it?
What a difference a belly rub makes? Suddenly, Riley is my slave... Honestly, I'm not much different. I've spent plenty of time "looking out the window" wishing things were different than how they have been. Easily I can make myself miserable with such musings. Sometimes a change of attitude is as simple as looking at who is next to me, sometimes right there on the couch, to see that life as it is can be quite enjoyable as well. Perhaps it's not my ideal, but is far from a misery. Today don't turn your anger on God, wishing He'd change your circumstances. Instead, think of the many good things God has allowed into your life, even as you pine for home.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Is That Pasture Over There Really Greener?

(Please excuse the lack of paragraphs - I'm not sure what is wrong with this blog account-boo!) Tilly makes me crazy more often than not. She forages for hidden cat "treasures" in every nook and cranny of the yard, she occassionally visits the neighbor cows to see what they are doing and spy on her dog boyfriend "Tucker," she will NOT stop jumping on people and most recently she peed on a visitor's shoe. Charming.
One thing I know is that she wouldn't be better off somewhere else. No one would put up with her. Yet sometimes we think there's that perfect home just waiting for a pet that maybe we can't quite accommodate. What I've learned from kenneling and dog resuce work is that pets are very forgiving. If you can't walk your dog as much as you'd like, the dog will still love you. If the dog sprints merrily away when accidentally off leash and you think maybe she needs a home in the country, it really means the dog is enjoying a sprint. As an owner of "dogs in the country" I can tell you that dogs that randomly roam and sprint is a rarity. Most dogs will stay on the porch waiting for their devoted owner to come out. In other words, they can thrive on our neglect. Granted, that's not always the case and by neglect, I do not mean depravation of food, water and shelter. I mean the dog is not getting the "perks" we think they want. Sure, they want them. But they want you more. It's so easy to be distracted by our daily lives and demands. Passing interest often means a passing by of our daily time with God. Yet God is forgiving. As much as He longs for a relationship with us, He abides, even in the face of our neglecting time with Him. Amazingly, He puts up with our bad attitudes as well. It is not what He desires for us, but His persevering love calls out to us daily. That's why I'm putting on my shoes to take Tilly for a walk (and Foster too).

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Adapting to Change

It's coming. You know it. I know it. We don't want to talk about it.

Cold weather.
That's right, Carbon. My feelings exactly.

Having a touch of arthritis in my back and hands, the last couple days have been full of aches and pains as the temperatures have taken some serious dips and a band of thunderstorms passed through. When the storms woke me up, I realized the pain in my back was gone.

Storms come in our lives as well. They are not welcome. We want things to stay the way they are. That's not necessarily a bad thing. No one wants pain.

Yet after the storm passes, our pain can change and even be redeemed - used for a greater purpose than just our own comfort. If you've ever seen another person in pain and wondered how to help, you'll only know how after you've been through some of your own.

And that's a good thing.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Hospitality

It's always fun to have friends visit. It's about the only thing that motivates me to clean up the place.

Guests to my home experience a running of the gauntlet. I might have to start having people complete a waiver before setting foot on the property.

Yesterday's visitors experienced the following: ambush by kitten while walking up front porch steps, one ridiculous dog trying to scratch their arms while the blind one bumped into their legs, trying not to trip over cat toys, not bumping their heads on the lamp that is hung too low, and lastly, having to clean a shoe after "someone" peed on it.

I won't name names.
(I'll just show her picture)

Fortunately, these were good and decent friends visiting and they were good sports about the whole thing. Hopefully they'll come back someday...

"Getting it right" can be a stress when we are welcoming others to our homes or even just into our lives. We want to make a good impression. While this is certainly a nice goal, what people tend to want more is genuineness. Being real and open is both easier and gives others the chance to do the same.

Jesus said, "Let the children come to me." It wasn't a suggestion. And he didn't care if the kids had crumbs on their faces or dirt on their knees. He just wanted them for who they are.

And it's the same today. He wants you for who you are. No matter what "dirt" you've got. He's real and His love for you is greater than any fancy welcome mat.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

He's Still Able

Ever since Foster was young, he's run to the end of the driveway to retrieve the newspaper. He brings it to me, jabs it in my hands, and then runs up the front porch, waiting for his breakfast.
Now that he's completely lost his vision, he's still getting the paper. The last few days there have been no dogs in the kennel and I get to have "robe and slipper" mornings. Foster has gotten the paper for me, more times than not (it would help if it was delivered to the same general spot).

I'm so thankful he can do something that he still enjoys. I like it because it's a benefit to me on cold, rainy mornings. While he needs more supervision in general, his routine hasn't changed much.

It's important for us all to feel important and needed, no matter what our age. When we lose our ability to do certain things, it can be soul crushing.

"Thank you, Lord, for waking me up in my right mind today."

Sometimes, even that is lost.

What is to be done with the frustration of aging and ill bodies?

I hope you didn't think I had the answer to that age-old question.

I only know where to go for comfort in the confusion and frustration. No amount of positive thinking, attitude adjustment, or rubbing Budha's belly compares to the Real Presence of God's love. It's hard to understand, it takes time and patience as well as giving up our own ideas about things sometimes. But it's true and it's real.

Monday, October 17, 2011

A Ray of Sunshine

Ever notice when the weather is dreary you have little energy. When the sun pours in the window, it's much easier to get up and at 'em.
This does not hold true with the Captain. He has energy no matter what. Since he can't jump up on the back porch like the bigger cats, he has learned to jump on the tree and then onto the porch. Sort of like a superhero.

Wouldn't it be nice to have that kind of energy? Sometimes when I'm lacking vim and vigor, what really works for me is slowing down.

How does that make sense?

Sometimes I need a little more time to pray, because my brain just doesn't want to. If I take more time to talk to God (often in a complaining - yet respectful - tone), the rest of my day often goes a little better and with a bit more kick in my step.

We may not have the physical energy of a child, or even a kitten or puppy. Yet, God's strength is like no other. It's a matter of sitting down to get energized.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

A Terrier is a Terrier, No Matter How Small

This is Jenny (hi Jenny!). Actually, she has a longer name, but she's Jenny to her friends - keeping it casual.
Jenny is a Silky Terrier and weighs maybe 3-5 pounds. This weekend, her first visit to the kennel, she was around large dogs weighing in close to 100 pounds.

Jenny was unfazed.

She may be small on the outside, but on the inside, she's got the heart of a terrier. From Rat Terriers to Staffordshire Terriers, all dogs of this class tend to be fearless. They were bred to fight vermin on the farm and bulls invading pastures. Tenacious is another word to describe them.

God made us fearless too. We forget this, when we see the vermin invading our lives, either personally or communally. Maybe we turn into a heap, cowering in the corner, when faced with a challenge.

God strengthens us, doesn't he? HIS strength - not ours. With the power God alone can impart to us, we can become tenacious on the inside, even if we look "dainty" on the outside. "Perfect love casts out fear." Again, only God's love can impart to us perfect security so we know no fear.

You know what that means? You don't have to put up with any "bull" in your life. Take it from Jenny.

Monday, October 10, 2011

A Wolf in Sheep's Clothing

Actually, it's Sparky the dog in a nice denim/tartan plaid coat.
Sparky was a first-time visitor to the kennel recently. It was cold the day the owner dropped him off and certainly he was the best dressed dog, looking all "Dapper Dan" and dignified.

Looks can be deceiving.

When another dog entered the kennel a couple days later, Sparky took serious issue with it. His (wire)hair stood on end, he postured and acted like a true terrier. It wasn't dignified behavior, but very normal for a dog.

Have you noticed how good-looking, well-dressed people often get away with awful behavior? If Snooki was unattractive, heavy and dressed in sweats and behaved the same way as she does on Jersey Shore, she'd be labeled very differently. Or maybe she'd just be on Teen Mom.

Regardless, it's a relief to me that God sees the heart of a person. We make assumptions all the time based on externals. Sometimes we're right, sometimes we are not. Other people make assumptions about me, and those may be wrong as well. Remembering God knows what's truly important allows me to extend grace the way God has extended grace to me. While God knows all things, I am unable to do the same. I can only do the best I can.

God is long-suffering of our bad behavior. Maybe I can be a tiny bit more patient. Love endures all things.

What was the worst assumption you ever made about someone? Who's testing you now? If you can't forgive now, how will you treat that person until you can? Run to God.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Coming Back from the Brink

This is my cat, Franklin. (Okay, he's ONE of my cats but we won't discuss cat population in my home now.) Frank is eight years old and six years ago had some surgery due to repeated UTI's. He's been on borrowed time.
This week, I noticed he was throwing up. In my house, this is frightfully not uncommon. Then I noticed that there wasn't much food being eaten. Frankie doesn't miss a meal - he's eighteen pounds (hey, he's down from twenty).

Yesterday morning, he was lethargic so I got him to the vet as soon as I could. I worried I wouldn't be bringing him back. Fortunately, it looks like he's going to be fine.

Cats can go down hill quickly. They hide their pain well. One day they seem fine, then they are at the edge of complete collapse. Frankie didn't tell me how ill he was - in fact, he hid (not easy for a cat of great girth). If I'd not sought Frankie out, I'd never have been able to save him.

Some people are the same. They are in great pain, dying inside from heartbreak. Yet they function fine on the outside. Maybe they even hide.

Do you know anyone like this? Don't let them hide forever. Seek them out before it's too late. You may not cuddle them in your arms and scratch behind their ears (unless that's your thing) like I did Frankie. However, you can find a way to show you care, maybe even take them to the feet of the Lord and Healer.

And if this describes you, hiding pain forever takes you closer and closer to the brink. Please turn around. Run to Jesus. It's not too late.

Who will you reach out to today? How are you handling your own pain?

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Diligence in All Things

This is Jim (hi Jim!). Jim is a Great Dane mix pup (yes, PUP!). Remember the story about the dog who licked the toad (not a children's novel, but what a great title that would be)? Well, this is the toad-licker.
As Jim has matured, he's taken an interest in the world outside his home. It's not uncommon for a dog to become more protective of his home and people as they grow as well. Clearly, Jim is showing these qualities (even if he is NOT supposed to be sitting there!).

When I was in my twenties, I regarded my faith in God with an attitude of "done deal." I didn't understand that faith is alive and needs to be nurtured and a relationship that will grow when fostered. The reality of this was brought to the forefront when my husband was diagnosed with a terminal illness. Suddenly, I wondered what faith was for. Turns out, I was not diligent in guarding the importance of my faith. Why bother? Things were fine!

But since I wasn't "keeping watch," I was blindsided and my faith was weak when I needed it. My relationship was one that needed rebuilt and I had to lear A LOT when I could have been receiving comfort without all the battles I was fighting.

It's when we are not ready, have not been diligent, that we often find we're lacking the security we need when trials come. And they will come.

Today, consider where you need to shore up your security system. It's never too late to foster the most important relationship of your life.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Gotta Love the Drake

Do you remember the Seinfeld episodes that featured the character The Drake? Can you believe Seinfeld has been off the air for ten years? I still watch the reruns.

That has nothing to do with this gorgeous yellow lab, Drake (hi Drake!).
Drake is now a little over a year old. During his visit to the kennel this past weekend, I noticed how much he's matured. While not mellow, he seems to be taking life a little more seriously these days.

Drake's owners told me he had a couple of surgeries and dropped 20 pounds, refusing food. That must have been a bit of a wake-up call for him.

Life's difficulties has a way of doing that, doesn't it?

While no one wants to welcome disaster of a personal or communal nature, the lessons we can learn are good opportunities for growth. It'd be nice if we could make some of these changes BEFORE tragedy strikes. Yet it seems like things don't always work that way. We're too busy enjoying the good times, taking credit for all our smooth sailing.

One doesn't need to go through life with a frown of concern all the time. The good times should be enjoyed. And when tough times come, make the most of them as well.

Friday, September 30, 2011

Marking Progress

If I were a scrapbooker (and I am not), this would have been a big week in the life of Captain, the tiny kitten abandoned near my home on June 1.
He was cuter when he was smaller. Now he's a bit of a terrorist to the entire households. If you don't trust the scars on my hands, ask Frankie.
Every now and then, he'll do something charming and cute.
Mostly now he runs around knocking things off the counter.
This week, he killed his first mouse. The next day, he had his first surgery - neutering.

Aren't you glad I have no photos of those?

Have you noticed that getting older and maturing seem to be too very different things? We're told to stay young. Sure, that's a nice thought, but that doesn't mean acting like we're still thirteen year olds at the first school dance. Young at heart, appreciating the simple aspects and wonders of life through the lens of maturity can be a beautiful way to live. Making peace for where you are in life, who you are and who you are becoming makes for personal harmony.

Even the Lord says we are not to be nourished on milk forever, but to get to the "meat" of our lives. My translation - use your head now and then - think things through.

It's to your benefit as well as all of us in community.

Go out there and think a thought today! It's so much better than knocking everything off my coffee table.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

"That's Not Food"

This phrase is one that I have had to repeat to Foster over the years. Often. As he's now totally blind, he still hears it. Tilly also seems to be a bit of an omnivore.
An example of what is NOT food:
Toads. Toads are not food.

Recently, Jimmy, a Great Dane Mix puppy (yes, he's a BIG puppy!) mistook a toad for food. His owners, unaware of his alternative culinary interest, witnessed Jimmy foaming at the mouth, flipping around, and all around nuttiness. Being Googling fools, they Googled the symptoms and figured out what may have happened. Soon, Jimmy came down from whatever weird toad trip he took.

What happened next? Jimmy went out, and went right back to the toad. This time, the owners were able to prevent a repeat incident. Still the next day, Jimmy went back, looking for the now absent toad.

Proverbs 26:11 "As a dog returns to its vomit, so a fool repeats his folly."

Will WE ever learn? Honestly, are we that different from Jimmy?

How often do we go back to our bad habits, even though we suffered difficult consequences? Are you strong enough to break the pattern?

I'm not. There have been plenty of times when I've had to pray like a crazed toad-licking dog to ask the Lord to give me HIS strength, since my own is so completely inadequate. It's humbling, to recognize my own weakness.

Yet in other ways, realizing I can't do it can be a relief. The battle is not mine to fight if I can lean on God to do it for me. Now, if I could only stay away from that bag of Oreos...

What about you? What's eating you? Or what are you consuming that is getting you further away from God and not drawing you close? He's never far away from you, just turn back.

Fighting an un-winable battle can leave you dry. As dry as this frog. You don't want that now do you?

Monday, September 26, 2011

Guard Dogs

Some people get a dog for protection. Most people get a dog because they want companionship, with protection being a side benefit. No matter the breed, most dogs have some degree of protectiveness for their home and people.

Which brings me to Taylor (hi Taylor!).
Taylor is a Boston Terrier, and while she may be small, a terrier is a terrier is a terrier! That means they've got plenty of spunk!

Taylor's owners told me she is a great guard dog. She knows which vehicles belong in the driveway and which do not. She also knows which people belong on her porch and which do not.

Then the owners told me one of the funniest stories I've heard for a while. Like me, occassionally a well-meaning but misguided group of individuals dress up and pile into a van, touring the countryside, knocking on doors and passing out literature, just so THEY can get in Heaven. Like I said, the Bible they have has some translation errors that are extremely important!

Back to the story, a woman from this group knocked on Taylor's door, which set Taylor into full-protection mode. The woman insisted that she needed to come in and talk. Taylor barked and carried on to the point where the owner had to tell the woman to get off the porch or the dog would come out!

The woman, frustrated, said, "Well, then you can just go to H-E-Double Hockey sticks!" Except she didn't say hockey sticks. She swore! Not too great of a "witness" after all, huh?

But it still makes me laugh.

And Taylor was on guard, with good reason. Psalm 3, verse 3 says "You are a sheild around me, O Lord." I think often God protects us in unexpected ways, and dogs are one of them.

We need to be on guard from external forces that may want to harm us physically. Yet there are more subtle, sometimes internal, forces that try to harm us mentally and spiritually. Bad theology can lead to despair in religion instead of hope and joy of true faith.

In other words, protecting truth is something worth barking about!

Go get 'em, Taylor!

Friday, September 23, 2011

The First Dog

Who is this adorable Golden Retriever pup? It's Bolt! (hi Bolt!)
Bolt is owned by a local university president and his wife. He lives in the President's home, and is a bit of an ambassador to visitors and students. Bolt is fortunate to have wonderful people taking care of him.

Bolt is easy-going, even as a puppy. He will be an excellent addition on campus. Yet Bolt is unaware of his position of being First Dog. Sometimes we think of the devoted mutt who faithfully follows the bum on the street. This dog is unaware of its position anymore than Bolt is.

Wouldn't that be a great way to go through life? Unconcerned of position? Last year I had the priviledge of spending a little time with a movie director and his family. Not only was his dog unaware of who "owned" him, but even the director's fourteen-year old daughter gave him the proverbial smack down as only a teenage girl can give her father (and still respectful, I must say).

The Bible says that the Lord is no respecter of persons. It does not matter to him what our title may be, who are parents are/were, what are tax bracket might be or what we drive. "Man sees with his eyes but God sees with his heart."

Isn't that...liberating? God doesn't care - he's given us a position through Christ that is equal to others who believe the same. Jesus says himself that we can be his "friend." Unbelievable, right?

With such love, we may desire to serve God as faithfully and humbly as the dog owned by the bum on the street. Yet God esteems us and gives us our mansion, our own First Place in his heart.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

An Imagined Offense

Sunday morning, I walked downstairs to discover this at the bottom:
Just what did that poor roll of paper towels say to the kitten to receive such treatment?

Have you ever had someone take offense to something you said, and you had no idea you offended them? Or have you been offended by another's comments, when in reality no such offense was intended?

Perhaps I'm not the only one to notice that people today are just a bit "touchy" and oversensitive. Frankly, it's exhausting to be so careful all the time.

Language can be used as a weapon. If a person says they are offended, then the other person is on the defense immediately. A simple word can become a sword and a shield at the same time, giving them lots of control.

And we like control, don't we?

By today's standards, Jesus went around offending everyone. He told people "go and sin no more" and turned over the tables at the Temple. It's safe to say he hurt some people's feelings. Shouldn't Jesus always be loving? Can God be a meany?

What do you say to your dog or cat when they are headed for the road or ready to eat some vile thing? "NO!"

We say no as a protection, to insure safety. And Jesus does the same thing. All those "rules" people get mad about in the Bible? Could they be for our benefit?

Does our pet understand why we say no? Do they still want to play in the road? Of course they do. We can only hope they understand that we love them more and we know what's best.

Shouldn't we look at God's "rules" the same? We can't always understand, but He loves more deeply and fully than we can ever comprehend. "No" can be a radical act of love.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Getting a Taste of Kennel Life

This is Darcy, a seven month old Jack Russell Terrier (hi Darcy!). Darcy and I have something in common - neither of us seem to be very photogenic. In Darcy's case, it's because she is in constant motion (certainly not my problem).
Darcy spent five days here last week, her first time in a kennel. As it is with most dogs, she was shy at first, confused by her new living situation. However, after about a day, she was eating treats, eager to go outside, and very curious about the other dogs. She even learned to bark to keep up with the others.

Being the "new kid" anywhere is difficult, especially if you're no longer a kid. Yet that youthful awkwardness returns with a vegeance when we're put in uncomfortable and unfamiliar situations. Once we understand the new routine, the new people, and get a sense of what's happening, we can relax and possibly even enjoy ourselves.

Being an introvert myself, I dread social obligations. However, I don't if I know a friend will be there. And if I will not know anyone, I try to remember that Jesus is always with me and a presence is by my side even when I want to hide in the back of the room.

Sometimes it's hard to remember that you are loved, even though everything is new and different and awkward. That doesn't change the truth of it though.

What do you do in social situations that are unfamiliar? Are you an extrovert who embraces such occassions or are you shy and need time to get your bearings?

Friday, September 16, 2011

Heading in the Same Direction

Below is Tilly, Cody and Kobe. Foster is with us, just off to the left, a bit camera shy apparently.
Or maybe he's just embarrassed. You see, when I brought the two "other" dogs out for our walk, Foster immediately started fighting with Kobe. However, once all four dogs were leashed up and walking, there was no more conflict.

Have you ever worked against another person, or felt like they were working against you, when in reality the goal for all is the same? It's frustrating when a misunderstanding holds up forward motion.

Next time you're having a conflict, try walking along side the other person. Chances are good that conversation will settle into a pleasant pace that shows both of you are heading in the same direction.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

"They Grow Up So Fast!"

Not having children, I've never experienced that moment when a child disregards their parent to follow a pier instead.

This morning, I called to the Captain ("ahoy, Matie") as he was playing. He turned, looked at me, and walked the other way!
For a moment, I was sad he'd walked away from me. At the same time, he's growing up, maturing into a young adult cat, as he was meant to be.

We are not meant to stay young forever (counter to the thinking of adults I've seen on Spring Break). While having a "youthful outlook" is a good thing, acting immature is not. Each child is designed to grow up and mature into a responsible adult.

Why do we resist? The culture values youth and doing what feels good, giving in to the easiest way that makes us happy.

But does it really lead to happiness?

Being a true adult leads to freedom, not the constant pressure to be cool and hip. Accepting and following through with responsibilities gives a person confidence and pride.

God designed each of His children to grow up spiritually as well. While we "feed" on His word and digest the teachings that the Lord in all His goodness gives, we grow in grace and love as only God can grow us. Resisting this is to our own detriment. While it's not easy to make changes, allowing God to grow us up is a life of peace and deep abiding joy.

I'll remember that the next time I see the Captain sashying out the door.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Are You Praying or Preying?

No, this wasn't a recent boarder at the kennel. There's been a couple generations of preying mantis' growing up in the hedges near my house. They are very interesting to watch grow. I find them both creepy and fascinating.
When I was a kid and I heard the name "Preying Mantis", I made the errror of thinking it was "Praying Mantis." In my mind, I started to think of them as something holy, like they had some secondary purpose. Have you ever seen one up close? Their little triangular faces actually turn and look directing at you. It's weird.

As I got older, I learned the difference and that they were actually "preying" on bugs. OH!! Big difference!

As I've gotten (even) older, I realize that many people, and sometimes myself included, pray like we're trying to capture as many people for God by any means necessary. Bad idea. Having an agenda while praying can lead to the idea that we can manipulate God. While we can spill out our hearts to the Lord, in all of our pain and doubts, and admit what we'd like to have happen for a person or a situation, God still knows best.

It's not easy to take a "hands off" approach when seeing others heading down a hopeless path. However, God understands what exactly that person needs, whether it involves our participation or not. Either way, other people are not our "prey" to capture.

While this feels like losing control, it's actually liberating to let the Lord use the means He knows are going to be effective versus us spinning in circles wondering if we'll do the right thing.

No one likes to be manipulated. It would be like looking at a weird, triangular face staring at us.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Unquenchable Thirst

Recently, a dog was here at the kennel that, if given the opportunity, would drink so much water she'd get sick. The owners had to only give her so much at a time. They said when it rains, she goes outside lapping whatever drops she can from grass, bushes, etc.

This is not her. This is an anonymous dog, her identity hidden to protect her privacy (heehee).
Each time this dog came in from outside, she'd head to water - any water - for a drink. I had to direct her to her own water bowl, where she'd lap the bowl dry. Then, she'd look at me for more.

When we are desperate for our thirst to be quenched, we'll look anywhere. In our desire to fulfill our lives, we often look to food, sex, power and position, etc. We'll drink and drink of it, often making ourselves sick.

We look anywhere but to the Lord. Christ, the Living Water, is the only source of true satisfaction. He is the only one who can quench our thirst with cooling, healing, life-giving water.

Why waste time for that which will make us more miserable? Go to the well of Christ.

Friday, September 2, 2011

Serving the King. Or Captain

Sure, it's only been a week, but you're wondering how the kitten is, aren't you? What? You're sick of kitten stories? Couldn't be.


He's a bit spoiled.

He also has developed the somewhat peculiar habit of jumping on top of the bushes and just hanging out there. Perhaps it is a cat hammock of some sort. Cattock?
Some of you may recall that I really didn't want another cat, and having this vulnerable little guy dumped off here was hardly welcome.

Now I like to milk a metaphor for all it's worth, but even I may think I'm going a bit too far in saying that maybe, just maybe, the kitten has something in common with Jesus.

You didn't click away yet did you?

Jesus came to earth as a tiny, vulnerable baby. I'm pretty sure if I was the Innkeeper's wife, I'd walk past the stable and think, "Poor kid - gonna be a rough life for him." And not, "Maybe I should worship the King, my Messiah."

A tiny life, which on the outside looks like it has little to recommend it's future. I tend to like to know when something really fantastic is in front of me. I don't like having to think too hard about it.

And that's when I need to stop and realize that there is a lot of fantastic goodness all around me, and I often miss it. I would have missed Jesus' deity and profound presence for what it was and would have dismissed it as "common" or worse.

Certainly The Captain is hardly the King of Kings (though he seems to think so). But he's a gift, he's wondrous and he's mine.

Just like Jesus.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

For the Howl of It

This is Sadie (hi Sadie!). Sadie visits the kennel a few times a year.
Sometimes she gets to go with her owner on trips and sometimes she doesn't. When she doesn't, she gets to hang out with me. Even though Sadie likes me and will even take walks with my dogs, she still lets me know she'd rather not be in the kennel.

She likes to howl.

It's not bad, it's not often, and it's not loud. Actually, I think she finds it entertaining. Sometimes she has plenty of company. There's been a few times when dogs who don't howl will do so when other dogs start up with it. There's a group of schnauzers who love to get everyone singing the Kennel Time Blues.

And I get it. I mean, I can be in a perfectly fine situation, but I decide to whine/howl to God about my list of complaints. Life is perfectly good, but I decide I want to complain about the "extras" I think I should have.

It's easy to find plenty of company to complain. It's easy for it to become a habit. And it can be plenty entertaining.

However, it ultimately only makes me more miserable since I'm focusing on what I don't have, and not the vast assortment of what I do enjoy.

What about you? Do you find yourself howling at the moon when you don't have what you want? Is it easy to skip over the many blessings and think it's just never enough?

Friday, August 26, 2011

Being Responsible

Of course you want to know how the kitten is growing. I know you do.
Yes, that's the Captain, playing in a plastic grocery bag. I heard the ruckus, turned around, and there he was - IN THE BAG. OOPS.

He's getting bigger. And faster. Possibly even more curious.
Responsible cat owners do not let their pets play with plastic bags, or climb trees (because they are not supposed to be outside). It's true, I'm letting the cat have more freedom than some owners would. Or some may say that I'm just irresponsible.

However, my cats do not have neighbors to bother and their quality of life is enhanced by exploring the great outdoors. There's a risk of them crossing the road, but if they were indoors, the risk would be they would be obese and bored, fighting with each other.

How do we determine who is responsible? What does it look like? Is it always the same?

Opinions abound. Imagine this conversation applied to child rearing. Ugh! Then politics! Oh no!

Different perspectives can cause tension, heartache, and discord that causes major chasms in relationships.

Perhaps that is what is truly irresponsible.

It's important to respect where another person is coming from and the particulars that go into their decisions and opinions. Granted, there are extremes and there are deal breakers. Mostly, though, there should be respect.

God, who is the Author of all Truth, has a perspective that is beyond our comprehension. I, for one, am glad that Someone is in charge of this mess. There is a plan, a design, and we are part of it. We can look at our world as a whole and shrug our shoulders, thinking that it is chaos, not unlike the underside of needlework picture. Flip it over and there's something beautiful and orderly.

Not only does the Omnipotent God of the Universe knit together the intricate workings of the world, He is able to come alongside each one of us, longing to be a part of our individual lives. He knows when we are under the plastic bag and up a tree. He's right there, waiting for us to reach out. He is mighty to save and His arms are not too short.


Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Getting Good Gifts

Look! Cupcakes!
Look again - dog treats! Notice how Sampson and Wimpy devour them just like I do "people" cupcakes. Yum!
The owner loves to give her dogs good treats. They come with some really gorgeous goodies and fancy treats like microwaveable "pup"corn. (who knew?). She also generously gave me a couple of them to try for my dogs.

There is a Bible scripture that talks about how God likes to give us good gifts. It asks if a father would give his son a snake. Of course not, a good father gives good gifts.

When I went through some very dark days, angry at God, this notion didn't ring true because of the pain I was experiencing. How could God be good when I hurt so much? A bible teacher I really like often says "God is not a child abuser." I knew this was true. That's what I would remind myself - that God still loved me and all this pain was something I didn't necessarily understand. In the midst of it, there was still "good gifts." If nothing else, God's very presence was there to comfort me. And what could be better than that?

When Wimpy and Sampson are in the kennel, it's not their favorite place to be. But even there, their owner gives them good gifts, even if it's me who is delivering them.

Today, look at how God is loving you, even if it is hard to see. Tell me what you found.