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Monday, May 30, 2011

Why We Need to Remember

On Memorial Day, we take to time to remember and appreciate the veterans who fought in wars to protect the rights we enjoy in our country. Why is this important? Our freedom came at a price, one that most of us didn't have to pay but get to enjoy.

I don't know about you, but when I have a cold, I forget what it's like to be healthy. When I'm going through a difficult time, I forget what it was like during the "easy" days. When I'm mad at God, I forget that everything that happens is for His glory and not my own personal happiness and that God is, indeed, good.

The Israelites complained to Moses when they were in the desert. There, God provided manna for them every day. But, they couldn't collect it and save it for later. They wanted to go back to Egypt, where they enjoyed different kinds of food. They seemed to forget that they were enslaved in Egypt, and had to depend on the generosity of their masters for food. Often, they only received scraps. But oh, that one steak they got - that seemed to trump the gruel. They didn't appreciate the daily provision that came miraculously from God every morning.
In other words, our memories are not very good. To my detriment, I want to eat chocolate every day, like I forgot what it tasted like yesterday. Like they may stop making it or something.

Trust is a hard thing. Remembering with accuracy helps build our trust, which builds our faith. It's not an easy thing. Stopping to remember is an important component of enjoying the freedom God gives us, and the meaningful sacrifice that provided us with that freedom.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Hide and Seek

Some people play a game with their dog(s). They put the dog in a "stay", hide, then call the dog to find them. This is a mentally stimulating as well as physical activity for the dog.
"It is the glory of the Lord to conceal a matter." I don't know about you, but I get a little annoyed that God hides things from me - like explanations. It seems like if God really loved us, He'd explain why things happen, particularly bad things (we don't seem to be as interested in explanations for good things do we?).

And just what does it mean that God hiding things is to "His glory?" That's pretty mysterious, isn't it? Perhaps the Lord wants us to get emotional and spiritual exercise by pondering His ways. Sometimes we get insight. Sometimes we remain baffled. It's an exercise of faith - accepting that we will not understand everything about God. Not yet. There is still mystery. But will we trust God, when we don't understand? Would life be interesting if we did know everything there is to know?

Sometimes it is not fun to seek a God who seems to be hiding things from us. When we persevere through the mystery, though, we can find, eventually, a great treasure.

When are you tempted to give up and reject God? What makes you want to keep holding on?

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

The Secret Ingredient of Courage is Fear

Think about it. One can't choose to react with courage if they first do not realize the gravity of the situation they are facing.

If you're Spanky (below), you don't "fear" carrying a dead squirrel in your mouth. He doesn't understand the germ concerns us humans do. In fact, a person choosing to pick up a dead squirrel with their bare hands is probably not brave or courageous. They may be...unwise.
Fears can be rational or irrational. However, when I see the damage done by the recent tornadoes rocking our country and then hear the sirens go off, I'm scared! It's a rational fear, based on the gravity of the situation. The wise thing to do is take cover. The foolish thing to do is run out with your video camera (unless you have one of those cool army tank-type weather channel vehicles).

After the storm has passed and someone is struggling in the debris, only a courageous person dives in to rescue them. As much as I'd like to think I'd be that person, most likely I'd flail my arms, spin in circles and (hopefully) eventually call an ambulance. It's not that I'd be afraid to get blood on me or step on a nail. It's that I'd be afraid to find someone suffering and I'd feel helpless.

A courageous person knows what they might find, but goes forward anyway.

Today you might be facing a situation that causes you fear. Whether it's something at your job or something within yourself, what you might discover and have to deal with may frighten you. Chances are, you can avoid it. Or, you can act with courage by pushing through the legitimate obstacles that may cause pain and distress.

When my husband was diagnosed with a terminal illness, we both cried. We knew he was going to die and death is, well, scary. However, he still got up every morning and acted like a normal person (normal for him anyway) living his life. A month before he died, he went to the dentist to have his teeth cleaned, even though he knew the end was near. Maybe that's not courage as much as it is faith (or maybe something else, like an addiction to oral hygiene - that man loved to floss). But he did have options, giving into his fear, reacting with panic and acting with the utmost despair.

When people said "he was so brave" I didn't really understand it. Understanding that fear is necessary for courage to take place, I think I do.

In today's world, there's plenty to fear. How will you choose to react?

Monday, May 23, 2011

Biting the Hand That Feeds You

Here's an example of an animal that is NOT welcome in the kennel.
However, some dogs can be rather gator-like in their behavior here. This weekend, friends helped me out by taking care of the dogs when I had to be gone all day. Only one dog gave them a problem. Since he growled and cowered in the back of his kennel run, he didn't get to go out. This is a rather scared dog and while he's fine with me, I wasn't surprised to hear he snarled at the strangers.

We tend to fear strangers. We rarely give people the benefit of the doubt that they are not going to harm us. Sometimes this is wise. Others, though, we miss out on the benefits of trusting someone else.

Taking risks is difficult. Jesus risked his life coming to earth and hanging out with us feeble, mean-spirited, broken people. And it seems like it didn't work out so well for him - the crowd that cheered him one week completely turned on him within days and had him crucified.

That wasn't the end of the story. Thankfully for us, that dead man got up and walked around again. And he did it for us - for our benefit - to be made acceptable to God despite our brokenness and mean-spirited selves. Following Jesus is also risky - there are no promises that our lives will be perfect if we do so. In fact, they may be very painful indeed. However, it's not the end of the story.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Enduring the Pain

Three weeks ago, Foster had his eye surgery. Happily, he's made a great recovery and back to being energetic.
Even Blue Bunny (his favorite toy) has made a reappearance, dragging it out when people come visit.
I can't even imagine what pain he must have been in before he went through this. While it's not easy to look at where his eye used to be, it's fantastic to have "the old Dingo" back!

Life tosses us pain. Sometimes it lasts a long time, other times it passes through. In other words, we endure it forever or for a short time.

A friend of mine says, "You can go through life without God, but it's not pretty." It's hard enough to go through pain WITH God. However, it's unimaginable to not have the long view of pain - that eventually there's a redemptive purpose. Faith is worth fighting for just for that understanding alone! Without God, where does one go with all the pain?

What about you? Maybe I still like to go for ice cream when I'm challenged, but ultimately going to God is soothing. How do you cope?

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

The Definition of Insanity

Here's one:
"That dog ain't right."

Here's another: "Doing the same thing over and over with the same unwanted results."

The weather, as some of you may know, has been horrible of late. Rain, grey, rain, grey...cold, rain...clouds. The sun is an unknown object.

Despite the abysmal weather, the cats don't seem to understand. They go outside, discover it is raining, then want back in.
They walk to the other door, I let them out, they discover it's raining there too (gasp), then want back in. Multiply this by three cats (cat number four just sleeps) many times a day and everyone is frustrated.

Of course, it's me who lets them out and in, so really who's at fault?

And don't I often try the same thing, over and over, and get nowhere? Still, I try again, only to be surprised that my way is not working. When will I learn? Could it be that my way is...wrong?

Should I perhaps try instead to see what God might have in store? Does it require the "w" word - wait? Waiting for the storm to pass instead of running out into the midst of it. That seems wise. Why is it so difficult?

Monday, May 16, 2011

Expect the Unexpected

Late last week, I received three challenging situations that made me sad. Two of them were completely unexpected.

Sort of like St. Bernards and motorcycles. (Hi Brandy and Sandy!)
Do you dislike having your routine disrupted? I sure do. It's particularly challenging to hear bad news and then "go about your business" like everything is okay.

One situation is that our friend Brandy has been ill, and her prognosis is potentially life-threatening.
While this made me immensely sad, it's only a fraction of what their owners are going through, as they love their girls so much.

What's your knee-jerk reaction to bad news? I wish I could tell you that mine is not "ice cream therapy" but often it is. It's like if one of my senses goes off, I must immediately soothe another sense, usually taste.

So many areas of life are beyond our control. Most of us just hate being out of control. Giving in to what's convenient (the ice cream place's drive-thru!) generally contributes to us feeling less in control.

Only the Lord knows the beginning, middle and end of all the commotion and challenge of our lives. Only He controls not just the Big Picture, but also all those Little Pictures that look like our own self-portraits.

Would that I respond to crisis with a little talk with God before heading off for a double-dip of cappuccino chip ice cream. Part of this is that getting ice cream is a tangible response that produces an immediate result. Prayer is an act of faith with no visible action and with few quick answers. However, the long-term result of ice cream is extra weight, which I don't want. The long-term result of prayer is trusting the Lord and building a relationship with Him, no matter what the "answer" might be. That is more satisfying in the long-run, with implications for the eternal.

(And with fewer sit-ups)

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Being a Champion

This week, Truffle celebrated his birthday (Hi Truffle! Happy Birthday!). The owners of one of Truffle's litter mates sent an email along with a picture of their dog winning a ribbon at a dog show.

That's not this picture, that's Truffle on the right. Isn't he handsome?
Truffle's owner wisely observed that maybe Truffle had those championship lines, but if he were a true show dog, most of his time would be spent with the handler, and not her. Instead, Truffle keeps the owner company, walks with her, and is a great companion at the beach (hi beach!).

Even though Truffle doesn't have the medals and ribbons to prove his ultra-fantastic blood line, he's still a champion.

Maybe we are not model thin, a member of Mensa or the Mayor of Kettlesville. That doesn't mean we are not important in God's economy. We can be a champion to the people in our lives, and even to those who are not in our lives. Invisible God uses us to show his love to others. Through Jesus, we are part of God's bloodline, even though we don't have ribbons and trophies to show for it. We are His and He is ours.

Monday, May 9, 2011

The Feeding Ceremony

Going out to eat is fun, isn't it? And while I've often gone to restaurants by myself, it's more fun with others.

While I was away some this winter, my friend who was feeding the cats asked me why they didn't tear into the bags of food that were near their bowls. It's for the same reason that the cats run to the food bowls at 4:30 everyday even when there is still food left in them.

The Feeding Ceremony.
Dog owners tell me how their dog won't eat their food until the family is at the table eating their dinner. Why?

The Feeding Ceremony.

There's something about the routine of preparing, feeding, and eating that is strangely comforting to both dogs and cats. And isn't it true for people as well?

Jesus said that he was the bread. He also said he was the water. What's that supposed to mean? All people can relate to eating. It's for sustaining life and growing. Bread is sustenance. Water is essential for life. Jesus sustains us with substance as well as refreshment.

Eating is community. Jesus wants us to be in community with each other. Hmmmm...is that where we get the word "Communion?" Togetherness isn't always easy. However, it's essential for a healthy life.

Find someone to share a meal with today!

Friday, May 6, 2011

Making the Most of Your Education

There are some things we just have to learn for ourselves. Maybe you were told by a parent or authority figure what to do but you ignored them. (Maybe? I did that all the time.)

If you're a little older, you probably find yourself telling, or thinking of telling, someone that they are about to make a mistake. It's the "brick wall" scenario. You know they are heading for a brick wall, and you're standing there yelling "you're heading for a brick wall." They keep on driving.

Sometimes we have to let people go their way. Other times, a well-intentioned, kindly worded warning is in order. Either way, many people just don't learn.
Take Olive for example. Obviously she is a very literate cat. She's the smallest and oldest cat in the house (and crankiest). Her favorite hobby is sleeping. She doesn't seem to use her knowledge well. Or, maybe she is, who knows.

Knowledge and wisdom are two different things. Proverbs is a book in the Bible that has plenty of wisdom on a variety of subjects. Is it a rulebook we must follow in order to please God? In fact, it is a gift from God to us. If we do our best to follow His wisdom and ways, our daily living will be much better.

God loves us enough to warn us of the brick walls. We must be wise enough to listen. Fortunately, God lovingly embraces us when we do mess up and run back to Him. Grace.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

If Dogs Could Laugh

If dogs had thumbs, they'd open the refrigerator and stare at the contents longer than I do. If dogs could laugh, Tilly would spend most of her waking moments in a fit of giggles.

Just look at her.
Silly Tilly.

The other morning as I was waking up, I heard her roll over on her dog bed and it made a funny noise. I opened my eyes and she was looking at it with ears back. I started to laugh. She wagged her tail at me. It made me think that if she could, she would giggle.

In fact, she would laugh at just about everything. When she finds her favorite ball outside, she pounces on it with great enthusiasm (it is called a Jolly Ball after all). When I come home, she grabs the nearest toy or bone and runs around the house in happy celebration. She constantly coaxes Foster into playing by jabbing him in the ear. While she may not always be so endearing by these behaviors, there's no doubt she's a happy dog.

Here she is with her Kooky Chicken (from the Kooky Chicken Swim Party Collection).
Can't you hear the giggles?

Wouldn't it be nice to always be so carefree? Why aren't we? Yes, there are always complications in our lives. Picking up the morning paper or listening to the news is enough to make one, well, kooky. But there must be a bigger picture.

This morning I heard that in order for us to give we must first feel loved and free. God loves us, and certainly he has rid us of the bondage of sin, the guilt of messing up, and our less-than-perfect selves. We are free! We can give and love without fear.

When do people laugh? In response to something that is funny, right? Yes, but before one can laugh, they must feel safe. Laughter abounds when one is free.

Monday, May 2, 2011

What a One-Eyed Dog Taught Me about My Own Personal Weakness

Over the last six months, Foster has lost his vision. After learning last year that surgery would not prevent this, it was only a matter of time. Unfortunately, one of the eyes had an "issue" and had to be removed/

The surgery was this past Thursday and after I picked him up, I thought I might cry all the way home. However, by Sunday, he was back to his familiar routine, even retrieving the Sunday paper for me (which he found by bumping into it).

One of my friends works at the veterinarian's office and has known Foster since I got him at six months of age. He's always been a happy and energetic dog who loves to entertain guests. She was as concerned about this surgery as I was and asked the vet, "What if he loses the other eye?" The vet's response was, "He's got Lynne."


That sounds simple enough, doesn't it?

That night, I had a dream that Foster's surgery completely failed and while I carried him (as a much smaller, weaker and near-death dog), I entered an old house where there were dying cats, dogs and an old man. It was horrible.

When I woke up, in a sweat, I realized what this dream was about. I was the caretaker for my husband before he died eight years ago of ALS, one month shy of his fortieth birthday. My husband was extremely outgoing and loved to entertain every guest to our home. He and Foster were always the happiest creatures in our home.

However, realizing Foster was now even more dependent on me triggered the memory of care taking a very dependent husband. It only felt like a burden sometimes, but the end was inevitable. It seems to be the same for my dog. It obviously weighed on me enough to induce the dream that was about failure and death.

All of us have burdens we've had to overcome. Even years later, those issues can pop up somewhat unexpectedly. It would be easy to give up or give in to the hardships that come our way.

My husband was a wrestler in college and used to bump up a weight class just to improve his skills. His strategy worked as he was a national champion his senior year.

This same idea has helped me get through the years since he's been gone. With my blind dog, and with my other areas of my life, I'm reminding myself to "wrestle up" to more challenges. For me, the only way I can be successful is to walk with God and rely on His greater provision every day. Confidence and strength are the result of accomplishing difficult circumstances.

Rolling over and lying flat on the mat is not an option.

Think about what's trying to get you to quit today. Instead of feeling derailed and defeated, take that energy and turn it into motivation. Then keep doing it. No matter what. Then you'll be a champion!