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.