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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.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Respecting Our Elders

This is Abby (hi Abby!). Abby was a new guest at the kennel recently.
Fortunately, Abby had spent time in other kennels during the course of her life,so being here wasn't too traumatic. Dogs who've never been in a kennel until their older years often have trouble adjusting.

Not Abby. She got the routine down well. The only "problem" she had was waiting til meal time to eat. Abby, I can so relate.

In a culture that values productivity and staying busy, we tend to become impatient with older people. They aren't concerned about productivity and busy-ness. They are in a position to enjoy life as it comes to them, looking back at all they've survived with a certain amount of confidence at surviving circumstances.

Of course not every person can look back at their life and think "ah, a job well done." It's never too late to change. It's never too late to turn away from our bad habits, nasty personality traits, and begin to embrace a life with God, who turns our tears and pain into something that can actually be used for God's glory.

Next time you see that senior citizen shuffling through the parking lot, taking their own sweet time in the pedestrian crossing, appreciate what they know and have experienced. It's likely more than you can understand.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Making the Best of Things

This morning, the kitten was playing with a pinecone. Is it because he doesn't have enough toys of his own? Hardly. The house is littered with them. However, his favorites were (most likely) under a cabinet, oven, and/or island. It would have required bending on my part and beinding is hard.

That didn't stop him from having fun. He went out to the front yard, found a perfectly good pine cone, and brought it inside.
Things don't often go our way. What we want may be elusive. We can pout and not enjoy life, or we can adapt.

Adapting is good. Sometimes what we want isn't good for us, even if we think it is. God protects us by not giving us everything we need. But, He does give us good things, not anything that is intended for our harm.

"When life gives you lemons, make lemonade." "When there's no toy around, make do with a pinecone."

That slogan will be on a bumper sticker near you soon.

Friday, August 12, 2011

What Will You Do With Freedom?

Prior to this week, trusting Tilly off of her leash in public areas was risky. Her first opportunity ended with her chasing deer on a freezing cold December day. After looking for her, and enlisting friends on the search, I didn't often give her an opportunity to see what choices she would make.
This week, some road work was being done along our usual route, closing it to all traffic. I let her off leash. Her initial response was shock. She honestly didn't know what to do. I'm happy to report she followed along close to my side for over a half mile. The only reason I put her back on is we ran out of road.

Jesus tells us to give Him our burdens, to enjoy the freedom from the burden of sin and revel in forgiveness.

Does this make me want to run out and sin more? To run away and chase what will only bring danger and sorrow?

Sometimes.

But then I remember God has a better plan for me. What I receive from the Lord is so much better than anything I can bring back to Him. It is love that constrains me from pursuing what I know is false and heartbreaking. Instead, I stay by the side of the One who loves me beyond my comprehension.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Rollin' on the River

"He makes me lie down in green pastures."

Here's Shiloh resting in a cool spot on a hot summer day. It must have felt like a great relief.

The very familiar Psalm 23 implies that there will be many times in life when we toil through relentless desert experiences. God, in his mercy, gives us times of rest.


If you are in the midst of the desert, it doesn't last forever. If you are in a time of rest and relief, be thankful to the Lord.

Monday, August 8, 2011

If You Lead Me, I Will Follow

Here are Dooley and Cricket on a recent walk (Hi Dooley! Hi Cricket!). Cricket, being a Border Collie, naturally wants to take the lead. Herding dogs crave control (I can relate). Dooley, affable and with no reason to object, happily follows along.
Who is stronger, the follower or the leader? We tend to think that the follower is weak while the leader is strong. While one hopes that the leader is indeed strong and has good judgement, it doesn't mean a follower is weak.

A study on meakness reveals it is far from weakness. Meakness means one has assessed the situation, and made a conscious effort to allow another to either lead or perhaps experience their own consequences without intervention. In other words, it's often harder to "let go" of controlling a situation than it is to rush in and take care of business.

The Lord, the Good Shepherd, is a trustworthy leader. Studying God's ways and character, assessing fully who He is and how He works, allows us to become humble and meak. God is perfectly willing to lead us. We just need the strength to follow.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Tilly's New Normal

Tilly ripped up her new stuffed animal the other day.

Do you think it's so it looks more like Foster?
Nothing spiritual today about that. I just thought it was funny.

"Doesn't everything have one eye?'

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Getting the Bugs Out

This is Bugs (hi Bugs). Bugs is one of the few dogs that is allowed off-leash priviledges while at the kennel. He loves to run around the pond, take a quick dip, then roll in the grass.
The problem is that Bugs has come to expect this treatment each time the dogs go out. Since that's four times a day, he often has to go out with the rest of the dogs to the outside fenced in area. Yet Bugs goes to the door that leads to the Great Outdoors and looks at me expectently.

Sometimes, Bugs wins.

Every now and then, a prayer gets answered in the way I'd hoped. Then I think I had something to do with it. Like I had some secret power and it was all me.

Wrong.

Can prayer sway the hand of God when He's already working with His perfect will? Certainly there are instances in the Bible when this seems to have been the case. "God changes His mind." Theology aside, it's much more certain that prayer changes US. Because of this, it is a valuable and worthwhile endeavor.

How many times have I prayed for God to change some Meany only to have my own heart changed toward that person. God's sneaky that way.

The potential problem for me is to somehow expect that the Lord is always going to listen to me and I get my way. There is just simply more to the universe and how God's plan works than what I can understand.

And I don't like that. I'm like Bugs looking at the door to have access to the Great Outdoors, only to have to be shuffled off to the boring other area.

Eventually I will understand how this whole crazy world works, and how I'm important to God, yet only a finite human in a huge world of generations and cultures. It's wondrous.

The day I'll understand will also be the day when I am set loose forever in the Great Outdoors that only a creative God orchestrated. A dip in the pond of Living Waters will be the ultimate peace through a confusing world.

Now, if only I can remember that while I stand at the door expectently.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Blindsided

Ever have those times in your life when you're just hanging out, relaxing, and something terrible happens?
There you are, minding your own business, and your peace is completely destroyed. Not only that, you have to fight off the attack.

Blindsided. Caught by surprise.

If you are one of those people who've never had that happened, then good for you. But don't let your guard down. Maybe you think that since you're "big and strong" (like Frankie, the black and white cat) that you're invincible. Yet, some little thing may attack and get the best of you (like Captain, the ornery orange kitten).

If there's one thing we know, God warns us that hard times will come. We are not to expect smooth sailing in this life. While we can enjoy and relish peaceful periods, they don't last. Satan paces around like a roaring lion, waiting to attack.

Walking with the Lord allows us to develop habits and practices that prepare us for these attacks. We may be on our backs, rolled by the onslaught, but we have access to "weapons" to fight back. Prayer, patience, etc. When we are caught off guard and are out of practice, hard times hit even harder.

Get your armor on today!