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Monday, December 17, 2012

Leading the Blind

When I walked my two dogs, Foster and Guinness, Foster would pull ahead while Guinness lagged behind.  Guinness was about 4 years older than Foster, plus, Foster was bossy.

Now Foster lags behind while Tilly pulls ahead.  Foster is about 7 years older than Tilly, and he's completely blind.
When we are young (both in age and new to faith), our tendency is to race ahead, ready to conquer the world, forgetting that maybe we should have read the instruction manual first.  If it weren't for the leash, our connection to God, darting into traffic, chasing rabid wild life, and getting lost would be our day's dangers. 

As we mature, the leash is no longer a hindrance to fun.  It is a necessity, a kindness, to be led safely along our journey.

Trusting is difficult.  Yet once we understand that the One who wishes to direct our path is loving, we no longer have to worry about the unknown or be subject to our own impulsive actions.

God is kind indeed.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Don't be Grumpy

It's no secret that cat videos and the internet go together like bread and butter, peas and carrots, Donny and Marie....okay, I'll stop.

Have you heard of Grumpy Cat?
That pretty much says it all.  In case  you need video proof,  here you go:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=72DJZ7yT-HQ

It's easy to fall into grumpiness.  Waaaaay tooooo eeeassssy.....

Every day, we make a choice if we want to be grumpy, or focus on what is good and positive in our lives and in our world.  Being thankful is infinitely better for us than spinning into the muck of bitterness.
Sometimes we can find happiness or even just peace in simple things.  When we our down, the best thing to do is look up and ask the Lord for his intervention in our moods. 

If the grumpy cat video didn't make you smile, I'm not sure what will.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Sent Away to a New Home

Saturday, I drove Twist to Toledo to go to his new home.  He'd been in the house for about a week and was getting too comfortable here.  We were bonding.  He loved to touch my face with his soft paws.
For the long drive, I put Twist in a small carrier.  He stood at the door and stared at me.  He seemed in disbelief that I would put a barrier between us.  After I filled my car with gas, I took him out and held him in one arm.  He snuggled up against my shoulder and looked out the window, noting the overhead passes and cars passing.  He shifted into my other arm (thankfully for my blood flow) and rolled over and took a nap. 

My heart in my throat, I told him, "Even though I'm taking you to a new home, I still love you."  Then I thought how this was sort of like Christmas.  God sent his son Jesus away from their happy safe home to a different world, even though they loved each other.

Twist, now Ollie, was welcomed into his new home.  There, he will be loved and in return love, because he can't help but love.


Jesus' reception into our world was anything but a warm welcome.  It began in a manger, was quickly sent into exhile, and it never really got better.  Hostility chased Jesus his entire life.  Along the way, he managed to love amazingly, because it is his nature to love.  Every day we decide how to respond to the offer of love Jesus holds out to us.  It is a life of peace that passes all understanding.  It is a story of trust and redemption.  But most of all Jesus loves you.  How long will you resist?



Friday, December 7, 2012

Caring for Orphans Part Two

After the Wednesday post, I thought I should confess something.  I find it difficult to care for orphans.  Sometimes caring wears me out emotionally.  It takes manual overdrive to persist in having compassion rather than putting up a wall of emotions.

Unfortunately, that's not the worst part of my confession.  That would be that I'm terribly, horribly shallow.  I don't wish to be, but it's something I noticed and I am not proud of it.  There's a child I sponsor through an organization.  They send me pictures and updates as to how the child is faring.


The first child I sponsored didn't look like a little girl with unmatching clothes.  She looked like a very serious child with a bad haircut and really unfortunate unmatching clothes.  I remember feeling disappointed that my child wasn't cute.  And I felt terrible that I had that feeling.

I've added another child to sponsor and at the time that I got her, the woman on the phone who was setting it up said, "I think this is the cutest little girl I've ever seen."  My heart soared.  Again, I was ashamed.  Then, last week, I got an update.  She's a year older and not as attractive. 

That's what I thought!  I couldn't believe that I have these shallow feelings that involuntarily spring up in me.  How dare I be so vain.  Do you hate me for thinking that?  I sort of hate me for thinking that.  Ugh.

It humbles me.  It reminds me that these are not the important things to the heart of God.  It forces me to pray, to confess, to ask for compassion, less vanity, and to see these children as God sees them.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Taking Care of Orphans

Orphaned kittens, abandoned puppies, and children with no parent.  In my mind, they are not equal.  The plight of a child in need supersedes animals, yet they all break our heart.
When this kitten was dumped off at my property, I was listening to a radio drama of Oliver Twist.  What an orphaned child went through in the mid-1800 England was shockingly cruel.  Few had any concern for children who ended up running wild in the street.  The only people who kept an eye out for a child in need was often a criminal, looking to exploit the child.

Fortunately, a wave of compassion changed society, one of whom was William Wilberforce, who not only worked tirelessly for twenty years for abolition of slavery, but also to promote care of the poor.  He also was a founder of the British ASPCA.

Some prayers I believe God always answers.  One is "show me where I need to do better."  God seems eager to reveal this.  It is very annoying and always accurate, darn it.  The other is "Lord, give me the heart to care about what you care about."  Be prepared for your heart to be broken, over and over.

We can choose to harden our hearts to pain.  Look how most people run from pain.  I understand that, but buying a new bauble at Wal-Mart or Macy's is hardly going to change the world. 

If we choose to care, to open ourselves up to hurt, we can make a difference.  One life, one donation, one kind comment, can make the difference in a person's life.

Some of us fancy ourselves risk takers in life, yet we won't do anything that shakes up our comfort.

Go out and be afflicted today.  Dare to care about what others overlook.  Get your heartbroken.  You'll feel alive and in tune with what the God of the universe deems vital.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Helen Keller-ing Your Way Through Life

Foster, who is completely blind and progressively growing more deaf, manages to get from the house to the kennel and back with few problems.  However, maneuvering around a few objects causes him some trouble.  Fortunately, Foster has a good vocabulary and even in his current health state learns new words. 

When he approaches the house and nears the hedge, I tell him to "wait" or "stop" and he seems to know he's about to crash into something.  He backs up and tries another way.  If that path is clear, I tell him over and over "okay" and "good" and when he gets near the porch stairs, I shout, "Step!" and he walks up the steps.

It reminds me of how I get through my days, trying to make decisions, both big and small.  So many times, I bash right into an obstacle.  Sometimes, though not as often as I'd like, I sense God giving me a little correction, a small adjustment in direction, to get me on a safer path.

God leads us, but he also lets us find our way.  He doesn't divinely micromanage our life.  As long as we strive to abide with him, our decisions flow from the desire to serve and be more like Jesus.  We aren't out there on our own, abandoned.  We have a loving God leading us, even if we wind around a bit along our journey.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

It Hurts, but Maybe It's Good For You

A couple of weeks ago, I took the kitten to be checked by the vet.  Twist (after Oliver Twist, the orphan) was being so good during his exam.  He purred loudly and was extremely cooperative.
One thing that needed to be done was having his blood drawn to make sure he didn't have feline leukemia (he doesn't), a common ailment among cats.  Suddenly, Twist was not so happy anymore.

"What a set of lungs!" The vet said.  Yes, Twist let everyone know he did not like being forced down to take his blood.  This week he gets his vaccinations.  I bet that's going to be a lot of fun for all of us.

By the way - he's still available for adoption!!!!  Tell everyone!

It is impossible for me to explain to Twist why vacccinations are good for him.  From his point of view, he is restrained, is injected with some stingy stuff, then let go.  Why should he put up with that?  It's for his protection - for the rest of his life!

I don't know about you, but I'm the same way.  I do not like to feel trapped in my circumstances.  I like to do things my way, and generally avoid anything that's going to cause too much discomfort.  If I change my perspective and regard every circumstance - good and bad - that I experience as something from God's hand, for my own spiritual growth, then maybe I could sit still.

It's not easy.  Maybe that difficult thing is for my benefit.  Maybe I should stop complaining so loudly.

What about you?  How hard do you avoid discomfort, when it could be for your own good?  Perhaps it is even for your protection - for the rest of your life.

Monday, November 26, 2012

What Do You Miss Most when You're Sick?

In case you wondered where the postings have been, I've had a bad flu.  Today is the first day I've felt civilized in two weeks.  I am sorry and I know I've missed you!  I've never been as ill as I was feeling and it makes me think "I'll never be well again."  I miss feeling healthy and energetic.  I miss eating normal food.  When I was really sick, I couldn't focus on reading or having a conversation.  It was too difficult. 

Yet I'm about done with the isolation!  Soon I hope I can be out and having fun with friends soon.  Just like good buddies Bo and Luigi. 
There's something about laughter and fun that lift your spirits mentally and it seems to help physically.  Sometimes you just have to get out and "mix things up."

Bo and Luigi are very good friends.  They get to play together a lot and they are so entertaining when they are together.  To me, they look a little like Sumo wrestlers here:
"Bring it on!"

Even though I missed posting around Thanksgiving, it's still November.  We should still be thankful, no matter what day it is.  I'm thankful I feel better today, and hope that it continues.  I'm thankful I had so many offers of help I had to turn people away.  I'm thankful for the kinds thoughts, words and prayers I received.  I'm thankful for my friends.  I'm thankful for cute dogs that like to play together and have fun.

What are you thankful for?  When you're sick, what do you miss most?

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Still Needs a Home

Guess who has been down with the flu? (me)

Guess who still needs a home?  (kitten!)

Local animal welfare agencies are full so there' no place for the little guy.  Please ask around to see if someone would like to give him a wonderful home.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Unity in spite of Diversity

Someone dropped a kitten off Sunday morning.  Guess who does NOT like him?
Results of elections aside, the most important thing we've learned is we are a country that is deeply divided, and right down the middle.  Most of us hold convictions of which we are convinced and can not easily understand those who see it differently.

Yet we do.  What are we going to do about it?

We want to yell and scream.  That won't allow us to get along.  Some how we must find a language to speak to each other so we can better understand.  To me, there is no human answer.  We must pray and seek God's mercy to be patient and loving in the way that He does and we can not.

"There are two ways of meeting difficulties.  You alter the difficulties or you alter yourself to meet them."  Phyllis Bottome

Now, go play nice.

Monday, November 5, 2012

"Love Endures All Things"

Last night Captain snuggled next to me.  He was a bundle of purring, tucked under my armpit.  Awww.....
Then, he sat up and began hacking, as if a hairball may soon be on its way.

Ewww....

I didn't throw him across the room.  I gently moved him to the end of the bed and waited until he stopped (and thankfully, there was no hairball).  LOVE comes with hairballs.

Also last night, I watched an episode of Jersey Shore.  I'm an unapologetic reality show enthusiast.  Every now and then, when you least expect it, God shows up.  And not just the "OMG" God but the real God.

Last night God showed up in a reflection of his radical love for us, unconditional and sincere.

Snooki was sitting on her handsome fiancee's lap. She laughed about something and then got up quickly and yelled, "Oh no!  I peed!"  Her fiancee', while not looking happy, he still looked at her with love.  Being pregnant, Snooki can't have the best bladder control.  But her fiancee loves her and his baby she's carrying because LOVE endures inconvenient and even occassionally gross truths.

In real time, Snooki is changing diapers on their infant, who they love.  It may be smelly, but LOVE endures unpleasantness.

When my husband was dying, he could not shower without help.  It was my honor to help him, even though it was difficult to wash his body that was ravaged by ALS.  But LOVE involves heartbreak.

The love we experience in our lives is wonderful, yet it is only a glimpse of what eternal LOVE is - perfect and fulfilled.

"LOVE is patient.  LOVE is kind.  It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud...it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs....(LOVE) always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres."  I Corinthians 13

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Cries of Delight

This is Molly.  She's a wonderful little dog and very smart.  In fact, she may be smarter than me. 

Actually, I was going to write about another little dog that was in the kennel recently, but I thought I had a picture of her and I don't.  But let's just say that dog is on the vocal side.  She is part beagle and that breed really "express" themselves with loud and intense whines.

If it was time to go out, she whined.  When it was time to come back in, she whined.  When it was time for a treat, she whined.  When other dogs went home, she whined louder.

You get the pictures.

But the excitement level changed when it was time for her to see her owner.  Suddenly, she used a whole new caliber and intensity.

Isn't it great to be happy to see someone?  But isn't it great when you see someone different and it brings out a whole new level of delight within you?

It seems likely to me that Jesus delights in us at that whole new intense and happy level with each of us.  He knows us so well that he's absolutely thrilled when we show up to meet him in prayer.    The better part is we walk away even better and more fortified. 

It's enough to make your tail wag - the kind of might-knock-things-off-the-coffee-table wag.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

The Stench of Sin

This past week I was supposed to go away for a couple days and nights of relaxation.

That didn't happen.

Why?  Guess who tangled with a skunk.
Instead of putting my feet up for some much needed rest, I spent the next several days doing many loads of laundry, throwing out throw rugs and dog beds, washing the dogs and opening every window in the house to air it out.

At least the weather was nice.

It is truly amazing how a little skunk can not only change a human's plans but also cause enough odor to create a lot of work as the odor seeped into every level of my home.  Additionally, when I met up with friends of mine for dinner five days later, they let me know l'eau de skunk still wafted on me.

Sin is the same way.  It may seem small and unobtrusive.  It may even look cute and innocent.  However, once you tangle with it, you can't get the smell off of you.  You can walk back in your home, thinking you are unaffected, but then notice that every room has been penetrated by the stench of sin.  It's not only you, but everyone with whom you come into contact.  It may even change the plans others had, based on your actions and consequences.  It's ridiculously hard to get rid of it's odor and taint.

When in need of a remedy for the skunk odor on the dogs, I looked it up on the internet (yes, hydrogen peroxide, dish soap and baking soda is definitely the way to go).

What is the remedy for sin and its consequences?  C'mon. You know - you just don't want to admit you need help.  Run to Jesus.  Seek his cleansing power of sin, now and forever.  While you will never be perfect in this life, you can have access to power to resist more than before.  More importantly, you no longer carry the offensive odor of sin about you if you are made right with Jesus. 

Get cleansed today!

Friday, October 19, 2012

Creepy Crawly

It's that time of year when spiders and mice find warmer homes for winter.  

NO, that is NOT a spider.  It's a praying mantis.  I much prefer them to spiders, though when I had the view above, I found it unsettling.

Just this week, I was cleaning the kennel.  As I ran a bucket of sudsy water, I put on my rubber gloves.  One of the fingers seemed to have a block, like maybe a band-aid was in there, which would have been really gross.  However, what was in there was even more gross.  GIANT WOLF SPIDER!!!!

Ack!

I loathe spiders!  Even though I've lived in the country long enough to make peace with them, having my finger encounter one unexpectedly was extremely distressing.

This is why I don't clean.

Well, it's my excuse for that day anyway.

Sometimes it's easy to put off what needs to be done because it's extremely unpleasant.

Next week, I have a small break in dog activity at the kennel.  I need to rest, even though I hate to say "no" to anyone.  But I must do so in order to recover.  So, you may not see posts next week.  If not, be glad because it means I'm not on my computer and am busy doing other things.

"Come to me all of you who are heavy laden and I will give you rest."  Jesus knows our human tendency to over do things.  He knew that we often burden ourselves even mentally with wondering if we are "good enough."  He takes that burden away.  With faith in Him, we can live freely.  And rest.

Happy Weekend Everyone!

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Accidental Thief

Lately, I've been stealing things.  It hasn't been on purpose.  Last weekend, I noticed that there were about 4-5 leashes there that weren't mine.  That means some dog owners don't have their leashes.  And dog bowls.  I like it when people bring their own bowls because then I don't have to wash them.  When they are staineless steel bowls, identical to the ones I use in the kennel, sometimes I forget to return them.
It's embarrassing to have an abundance of things that belong to other people/dogs in the kennel.  When I see them, I hope they understand it was not my intention to keep them.  More than that, I wish they'd contact me to let me know they are missing them.  Because, um, I don't know who they belong to!

Isn't it awful to be misunderstood?  We try so hard to understand each other, but often mistakes are made, conclusions are reached that are incorrect, and hard feelings may ensue.

It's better to believe the best of people, that their intentions were not bad.  After all, people in general are so busy that they aren't thinking of much besides themselves and what they have to do next.

Today, take some time to be patient with others.  Listen to their words and hear their hearts.  It's easier to believe the worst, so do the extra work of thinking a matter through and trusting the best.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Slave to Potato Chips

Dooley loves people food.  Oatmeal, pasta, bread are favorites but he really loves bbq potato chips.
Believe it or not, potato chips are not my favorite junk food indulgence.  But every now and then, I like the crunch and pungent flavor from bbq chips.  And if they are on sale for bargain prices at the local scratch and dent grocery store, I'm highly likely to bring home a bag.

For cats, bbq potato chips are not a naturally occuring food option.  (It may be debated that it is not for people either)  Dooley depends on me for his chip addiction.

Moderation isn't exactly my strength.  Yet, moderation - living a balanced life in all things - is exactly what we are called to do.  It is so easy to get "out of whack" in just about every area of our lives.

Why just this morning, I was reading how Paul wrote the people in Corinth about such matters.  Some new believers thought that the body was beyond the impact of the spirit, so they could do anything with their bodies - everything was permissable.  Then there were those who believed their spirit must conquer every urge of the physical body and were, well, probably not very fun to hang out with.

Paul called for moderation.  Discipline is not easy.  We can do all things through Christ who strengthens us.  But...we need to ask. 

One small bag of potato chips now and then is okay.  But if Dooley had his way, he'd have me bring them to him all the time.  In his life, I dole them out carefully and moderately.  I can only ask the Lord to do the same thing for me!

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Moving Up from the Dumpster Life

There was a large grey cat hanging outside the pizza place in town.  I came home with a pizza and a cat.
This was over ten years ago and let's just say my husband wasn't too pleased with the "extra topping."  However, Baker was an awesome cat.  He was enormous, having dined on dumpster food, but his coat was lackluster due to poor nutrition.  Once established on regular balanced cat food diet, Baker transformed into a healthy cat with a beautiful coat.

Sometimes our lives get off track and we start living a "dumpster" lifestyle.  Well, maybe YOU haven't, but it's not hard to look far to see messy lives.  Many don't even realize that there's a better way to live.  If they do, they may despair that there's no way out.

But there is.  There's hope and strength in faith in Jesus.  He rescues us, even when we fail.  He redeems our pain and takes on our burdens.

It's what I need.  Jesus transformed pain in my life to hope.  It's possible to leave the spiritual dumpster to be renewed with forgiveness and grace for a diet of hope that makes us glow inside and out.  It begins with reaching out for the hand of the Lord, that is always extended to us.

If you're interested in reading an allegory about this very idea, be sure to check out "Miranda's Bottom."
http://www.amazon.com/Mirandas-Bottom-ebook/dp/B0092FW8UE/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1349871180&sr=1-1&keywords=Miranda%27s+Bottom

Monday, October 8, 2012

TGIM

It's Monday.

Personally, I think Monday has a bad rap.  It's the beginning of a new week and it has a kind of "new car" feel to it - like a blank slate waiting words to describe it.  We won't know how much we'll enjoy Friday until we begin on Monday.

Every day is one created by God.  This is the time of year that in the mid-west has amazing colors on the trees and fields.  The farmers are just beginning to harvest and soon those auburn soy beans and yellow corn will be in silos and the fields will be bare.

But still, some of us dread the drudgery and relentlessness of a Monday.  Instead of focusing on the stress that inevitably comes, we can adjust our perspective and think of the opportunities we'll have to find beauty and thanking God for redemption for all the pain we do experience.

So TGIM.  Then TGIT, TGIW, TGITH....etc.

Friday, October 5, 2012

Directional Destruction

When visitors come to my home, Matilda does something witih her toys that she doesn't do when it's just the "usual" suspects at home.
She rips her toys to shreds. Actually, Foster does the same thing.

What triggers the "I'm-so-excited-to-see-you-I-must-destroy-something" response is unknown to me.  However, I'm very thankful that she does anything that doesn't involve her licking and jumping on the guests, so if it involves sacrificing a cheap toy, it's okay with me.

Fortunately, most of the dogs I've owned have directed their chewing on those toys and bones that they were allowed to have.  Many dogs don't discern and take their chewing anxiety out on the furniture, doors, and just about anything they can find, much to their owners' chagrin.

It made me think about what I do when I have either a happy, sad, or frustrating event.  Rarely do I run to God first.  I mean, I may get there eventually, but usually I pick up the phone and vent.  Depending on what the matter is and who I'm talking to, this can be a very bad idea. 

It's very hard to discern when we keep matters between God and ourselves and when we are to look for good counsel from the friends who are gifts in our lives.  Either way, racing to God and expressing whatever emotions to Him first is never a mistake. 

Hmm...I think I just called God a divine chew toy.  Heehee...well, what I'd like to say is that God is our best direction for every joy and sadness.  From there, we can share (or not) with others.  After all, we're in this life together!

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Dogs in a Car

It's not quite "Snakes on a Plane" but it might be just as scary.  I mean, look at them.  that's about 200 pounds of dog.
You probably can't tell, but there's four of them in the "way-back" of my car.  OH, and the aerator motor was back there too.

Yesterday I heard something that caught my interest.  It was a Bible teacher reminding us that "God loves you all the time no matter what."  He went on to explain that God loves the "whole world" but doesn't love a planet.  He loves people, not a country.  He loves YOU, as if you are the ONLY one in His life.  And yet He loves each one of us that way.

Not unlike a car full of dogs.  I don't love a car full of dogs, but I love each of the dogs in my car (no, really).

It is up to us to respond to God's love.  God is rooting for us, hoping we will race back to Him, worrying over his lost son or daughter (or dog, or sheep).  Following God is far from burdensome - it is liberating and joyful.

God takes us to good places with our lives.  They are not always easy, but they are good.

Sort of like a car full of dogs.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Where Do You Find Rest?

If you have dogs, they usually are sleeping at your feet.

If you have cats, they usually are sleeping just about anywhere.
When I found Dooley napping in this plantar, he was unhappy to be woken for a picture.  If the flowers had still been alive, they would have been even more unhappy.

When we go through our days, we find plenty of things that unsettle our peace.  It could be while you are at home and a news item on the radio upsets you.  Maybe a co-worker eats your lunch or argues you down at a meeting.

Disruptions happy anywhere. Fortunately, we can seek refuge in God no matter where we are.  Just a few years ago, I was visiting a cave and as we were descending hundreds of feet under the earth, I started to panic.  I closed my eyes, took deep, deep breaths, and prayed.  Really hard.  Soon, I remembered that even in the deep places of the earth, God is there.  And He gave me peace.  I was able to finish the tour and even enjoy it.

Yet that was a revealing experience for me.  It brought to life the words "How deep, how wide, how strong is the love of Jesus."  He is Omnipresent.  And I am glad!

Today, no matter where you are or what you are experiencing, there is peace and comfort with the mighty King.  Seek Him first.

Friday, September 28, 2012

Standing at the Door and Knocking..and Knocking...

We've had a lot of rain here the last two days.  As in, almost three inches on Wednesday.  As a result, the dehumidifier in the kennel has been working pretty hard to keep the air clean and comfortable for the dogs.

However, it could not keep the back door of the kennel from swelling to the point where I can no longer open it.  This is a big problem when you have many dogs needing to go out.  And they don't want to wait:
Waiting is so difficult.  None of us wants to put off what we believe we want, need, is inevitably ours.  Unlike the dogs, who really NEED to go out, most of what we perceive we need we could do without.

Is it so difficult to believe that we can't have everything?

Yes.  Yes it is.

What are you waiting for, possibly that you don't really "need?"  What have you not received that  you thought you needed, only to realize you would have been worse off if you'd obtained it?

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Facing (or Ignoring) Your Fears

Recently a popular author asked "what are you afraid of?"

Despite the dangling participle, it's a fair enough question.  Many people harbor fears, from spiders and clowns to intimacy and abandonment.  Some fears are momentary, like the millipede racing across the carpet, and some persist for years (like abandonment).

Recognizing what are fears are and how they effect our lives is important.  Becoming fixated on them could paralyze us further.

Here's Dooley.  Dooley is pretty terrified of thunder storms.  This is not an uncommon fear, and after some severe storms this past Spring, lots of local dogs developed them (and people too!).

Dog behaviorists recommend putting a dog with this problem in a room where they can not hear thunder or see lightning.  They also recommend that a dog's fear is not reinforced by constantly petting the dog and giving it lots of soothing talk. 

What works then?  There's a little something called a "thundershirt" that is effective in calming a dog's anxiety.  It's a snug fitting shirt that basically lets the dog feel a light embrace.  In short, it gives them security.

Turning to God when we are anxious allows us to remember He is our protector.  He keeps us in the palm of His hand forever.  We may not be able to escape our fears, but He is with us through fearful circumstances.  He's sort of a spiritual thunder shirt.  Yet, isn't it good to remember we are held by the Mighty Creator?  Cast all your cares on him today.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Room to Stretch

Meet Tony the (tiger) cat.
Isn't he adorable?  And despite declaring that previous feline kennel guest B.C. stood for "best cat", I'd say that Tony is a contender in the same category.  What a sweetie he was.


Tony is rather a big cat, so I let him out frequently to stretch.  While the dogs were outside, he got to explore everywhere, including the dog food bags.  He seems fond of this one.

Everyone needs a good stretch now and then.  The dogs need to get out, the cats do too.  Even people have a need to get their blood flowing with a good stretch and walk about.

It's a little too easy to get focused on one area of our lives, even our spiritual beliefs, and forget about the rest.  I know I often forget the "big picture" when I'm stuck in one area.

Today, stretch all your muscles - mind, body, and spirit!

Friday, September 21, 2012

Never Too Old to Play

Yesterday Foster got a toy out of the "toy box" and brought it to me.
This was huge.

He hasn't wanted to play like that for many months.  With the cooler weather, he's been more lively in general.  But to bring me a toy....signs of life I thought he'd lost in his old, blind and mostly-deaf age.

It made me so happy.  Even Tilly thought it was great.  She ran upstairs and got her favorite squeeky toy and brought it down to get in on the action.

Have you ever met a follower of Christ who is constantly wringing their hands over their own sinfulness?  While it's good to recognize, regret, and repent of our sin, we should never forget our restoration through Christ.  That is a cause to rejoice and live free, knowing there is no condemnation through Jesus.

We can live above our circumstances, and indulge in playing and enjoying life instead of carrying the heavy burden of sin.  That is a sign of life - renewed spiritual life.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Damaged Goods

 
This is Kody.  This post is not about him.  The dog it is about wasn't up for his picture being taken.
Actually, he wasn't up for much of anything.

Said Dog came with a rap sheet that was too long for the short amount of time the dog was with the owner - 6 weeks.  In that time, the dog had bitten the owner multiple times (fortunately, it was a small dog).  The owner suspected the dog had been abused by a woman, as it was fine with men.

It has been years since I've been bitten by any dogs in the kennel.  I accepted the challenge of this dog, realizing that I'm either due to get bit (see above about small dog) or that my skills have improved so much that I won't.  We also discussed that it would be better if we kept the dog on a leash while at the kennel.

The first day and a half with Said Dog were just fine.  He went out and came back in with no problems.  He ate food, he took treats. 

After a dog had a small accident, I got the sponge mop.  The Sponge Monster!

Said Dog came UNGLUED.  He ran to the edge of his kennel run and barked and growled.  He wasn't the same after that.  Each time I approached him, in exactly the same manner as before, he growled and once even lunged at me.

It made me sad because obviously someone had really done a number on this little dog.

The sad truth is that not every dog can be rehabilitated.  While this dog isn't hopeless, the owner has her work cut out for her.  It will be a long road, and it may not end happily.

There are sick people in our society. We all know it.  It is sad.  From our point of view, we can not rehabilitate them all.  In so many cases, we can only shrug in confusion and hopelessness.

Where do we turn for help?  We can't understand everything and the why's and how's of this world can ovewhelm.  While I do believe we were given curious minds and should ask questions, sometime we don't have answers.  I'm thankful I can go to God, shrug, ask "why?" and even if I don't receive an answer, I can trust.  It is that time when I must step out in faith and trust God to redeem all pain and know where the hope is for every hopeless case.

Run to God with your pain and hopelessness.  It is the place to be honest.  In return, you may not get answers, but you'll get God's presence.  There's nothing better than that.

Monday, September 17, 2012

They'll Be Right Back

Bella and Cosmo came back for a visit.
The first couple of times they were here, Bella thought the whole deal was a bit sketch.  But she even wagged her tail at me this time.  We've made some progress!

Being in unknown and difficult circumstances makes us uneasy.  Knowing an end will result in reuniting with the ones we love makes it all tolerable.  Maybe even enjoyable.

Believing that Jesus redeems pain, and makes all things new, I bear the separation from those I've lost much better.  If the Joy of the Lord is our Strength, we can even enjoy it.  When every challenge comes along, I can remember it is only for a season and all our tears will be washed away.  That makes every day not just bearable, but fantastic.


Friday, September 14, 2012

Contain Yourself

Some owners seem distressed about leaving their dogs at a kennel because they are in a cage.  After caring for dogs for nearly fifteen years, the negative connotation the word "cage" has is purely from a human perspective. 
 
 
Not all, but most dogs feel safe in a cage.  We may perceive a dog on the end of a rope by a dog house as being in a better situation, but from the dog's point of view, they are more vulnerable.  In other words, a cage is a safer environment.
 
Some people feel that religion is all about the rules, that faith in God is a burden.  However, the 'rules' are a gift - following them is the equivalent of not playing in traffic.  It is a better way to live. 

While it's impossible to keep all the rules perfectly, striving for them and appreciating that they can save our physical and spiritual life is important.  When we do fail, and we all fail, there is forgiveness in Jesus.  Now that's true freedom.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Get Off Your Horse

There's a story about Teddy Rosevelt encountering a family down on their luck.  He went to a street merchant, wanting to buy provisions for them.  The merchant refused.  Rosevelt, bewildered that his money was rejected, asked why.
 
"Because, Sir, you must come down from your horse if you wish to help."

Ouch.

It's easier to write a check than get our hands dirty with the messy lives of people who are in tough circumstances.

Jesus not only "came down off his horse," but left the comfort and power of Heaven to come down to poverty, pain and powerlessness of being a human.  Though he still had the divine power, he chose to live humbly, reaching anyone from his low position. 

No one wants to appear weak.  I know I don't.  Yet if we wish to show what God's love is all about, that every person is worthy of His love, then getting off our high horse may be the way to do it.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Tilly Goes to the Beach

The local park sponsored a dog beach day last Saturday.  Knowing it would be awful for Foster, I gave him a rawhide and snuck out the door with Tilly.
When we got there, she ran aournd and sniffed everything.  Fortunately, the other dogs were polite and none of them did any "aggressive sniffing" because she really hates that (can you blame her?).  She played with a tennis ball but did NOT like the sand.  She tried playing a little with the other dogs, but just couldn't seem to figure it out.  She found the people very interesting.

Here I thought this was going to be special outing for her and she pretty much was "meh, beach, water, dogs - just like home."  After an hour of waiting for her to embrace her beach experience, I gave up and went home, where Foster was done with his rawhide.

Sometimes we take the "special" for granted.  If we see something every day, we take it for granted.

This is true for relationships too.  It's especially true with God. We forget the every day kindnesses, gifts, peace, and safety He gives us.  We walk around thinking we deserve it, and that if our fragile world cracks, it's a crisis and God hates us. 

Today, stop and appreciate something you've often overlooked.  Value it as a gift. 

What will you thank God for today?

Friday, September 7, 2012

Up All Night

Guess who was out all night?
Captain, along with his feline pals Carbon and Frank, and his nemesis, Dooley, would not come in and were out past curfew last night.  To no one's surprise, they are sleeping the day away now.

At one point, I heard a yowling and fight, which got Tilly all revved up too.  Since I'm not sleeping great anyway, it was a long night.

Have you noticed how most evil is done at night?  There's something about the light of day that keeps us in check.

Walking in God's light is a good place to be.  When it gets dark, our thoughts can become muddled.  Have you ever felt overwhelmed or worried for hours in the middle of the night?  Then, when you are up in the morning, those worries are not nearly as great?

Cling to the Truth and Wisdom of God.  It's not always easy or glamorous, but it's a more sane way to live.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Unleashed

Unfortunately, I don't always get a good picture of every dog that comes to the kennel.  When that happens, I sub the picture with another dog - usually Tilly.
This was taken when she decided to "sit" on my lap.  That didn't work out so well.

Recently a little dog stayed at the kennel, and he was scared of me.  He'd get close but then dart away from me, barking the entire time.  He was small, so it was hard to maneuver him back into the kennel.  Getting a slip leash over him was a challenge. However, as soon as it was on him and snug around his neck, the dog instantly calmed.

There's something to be said for security, to know someone is leading you.  The important thing to examine is if what  you are "tied to" leads you to good and righteous places that are for your well being.  Or, are you restrained and tethered to what may ultimately sink you.

Today, follow God.  The Lord's ways are good.  All the time. 

Monday, September 3, 2012

We All Need Rescued

That's Franklin, my cat-who-thinks-he's-a-dog. 

Frank was the inspiration for a character in my debut fiction novel, Miranda's Bottom. 

http://www.amazon.com/Mirandas-Bottom-ebook/dp/B0092FW8UE/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1346677418&sr=1-1&keywords=Miranda%27s+bottom

In the book, the cat's name is Nathan Alan Willoughby who used to live in a dumpster but was rescued.  Although a minor character, the cat reminds us how Miranda needs rescued too.  And so do you.  And so do I.

This Labor Day, I hope you'll check out the book.  You can even read the first three chapters for free!

Thank you for letting me do a little shameless self promotion!

Friday, August 31, 2012

Camera Shy

There's a fantastic ice cream place that is a little too close to my home.  A friendly dog patrols the grounds, greeting customers with a friendly tail wag.  He's completely well-behaved and keeps his distance unless invited for a pat on the head or maybe a tiny bit of cone.
The owner said that every time she pulls out her camera, her dog shies away and hides.  And as soon as I snapped this picture with my phone, he eyed me with great suspicion and walked away when I tried to take a second photo.

Dogs hate paparazzi.

While I like attention, I also like my privacy.  It's hard to know where this line is with other people.  When do we share more about ourselves with people we've just met?  When do we respect their privacy?

This is something I try to discern carefully with kennel clients.  There's a fine line between showing friendliness and being nosy.  I try the "are you going somewhere fun?" question and hope the answer is not that they are heading to a funeral. 

Inevitably, I make mistakes.  And you make mistakes.  We must be patient with each other, and suppose that a person doesn't intend to be offensive if they step on our toes a bit.

When I mess up and fear I've offended someone, I ask God to take care of it.  Often there is not much I can do to repair a foolish remark.  God's wisdom and forgiveness, along with his supernatural restoration, are something I value daily!

What about you?  Have you ever sputtered out some comment that you wish you could take back?  Does your dog like its picture taken?

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

We've Got Company!

Tilly loves company.  She loves company so much she completely destroys a toy in their honor.  Quickly.
Basically, Tilly is a candidate for that Dog Shaming website (and if you haven't seen that - go, right now - or after you finish reading this).

Generally, I'm happy to have company as well.  However, I don't feel the need to rip the newspaper up into little pieces or knock all the furniture over to celebrate their arrival.

Receiving visitors graciously and joyfully is valued in the Bible.  Do you ever wonder why God stresses this, from Old to New Testatment?  Is He trying to let us know that keeping the doors of our homes open to others should also translate to keeping the "doors" of our hearts open to them as well?

I don't know why.  What do you think?

Monday, August 27, 2012

Did You Say Something?

For two and a half weeks, I had the pleasure of caring for B.C. (hi B.C.!).
Oh look - he's saying "hi" back.

I asked if "B.C." stood for "Best Cat."  It stands for "Black Cat."  However, he IS the best cat!

He handled the strangeness of being away from home and surrounded by dogs perfectly - it seemed not to bother him one bit.  When I picked him up, he'd lean into me for a cuddle.  So....darn....sweet!

Studies have shown that black dogs and black cats in shelters are the most often overlooked because they do not stand out in their cages as potential adopters pass by.  Obviously, taking the time to "get to know" these animals would lead to pleasant surprises and wonderfully natured pets.

Who have you overlooked today?  Perhaps you pass someone by because there is nothing noteworthy about them.  Perhaps you yourself feel like you are faded into the background, and no one sees the wonderful qualities you posess.

God sees each as he created them - fearfully and WONDERFULLY made.  Our potential, our actual selves, speak loudly to our Creator God.  It is painful to realize we have not treated someone with the respect they deserve just as it is painful to be overlooked.

Treating others as we ourselves want to be treated is acknowledging the God-bestowed gift others posess, even if their physical presence is something less than spectacular.

Take time today to appreciate the people around you, as well as the wonderful aspects God has given you, including His great Love.

Friday, August 24, 2012

Stubborn is as Stubborn Does. Or Doesn't

Meet Roxie.  Don't be offended that she's not getting up to greet you.  C'mon Roxie.  C'mon!
Roxie's owner told me that if I want her to do anything, I'd need to kick her.  Hmmm...that seemed extreme.  Then I realized he wasn't kidding.  And that really was the only way to get her to move.  I found this out after putting a leash on her and she didn't move, not even with coaxing.  Or dragging.  The only thing that worked was to nudge her firmly with my shoe to her back end.

Now the owner is a kindly person who cares well for his animals.  He just knew this was the only way to motivate Roxie to action.

And it turns out I have something in common with Roxie.  I can be stubborn. Sometimes the only way God has broken through to me was a kick in the pants, so to speak.

What about you?  Can you keep your mind open to more kindness and more love?  To see more people like Jesus does?  Or do you stubbornly maintain the comfort of status quo?

Avoid a kick in the pants.  Follow the One who promises to lead you gently in the direction that is best for you.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Many Years

Lucy is old.  Like maybe 13 or 17.  She's so old no one even knows any more.  It's like she's always existed.

Lucy stayed with me for about 5 months a few years ago.  Lucy has lived in Ohio, Florida, Grand Cayman, back to Ohio, and now in Pennsylvania.  World traveller.

Everywhere Lucy has been, she approaches it with stoicism, with occasional trips to hide under the bed and not come back out.

Lucy is still loved, even as she begins to lose her teeth and experience deterioration of her liver. 

It's good to know that the Lord loves us even when we are old, smelly and have slowed.  There's a woman in my local Bible study who said last week, "I'm almost 99 years old and every day there is something new to learn."  This inspired me.  How many of us feel that way at our current age.

Recently I read that younger people have lost their sense of wonder at the world.  As I walked my dogs yesterday and looked at the amazing cloud formations, I couldn't imagine not approaching every day with a sense of wonder and being enlivened enough to learn something new.

Old age, or even any age, is no excuse to rest on our laurels and cruise through life.  There is always something new to learn, whether it is about ourselves, others, or our great and loving God.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Can You See Me Now?

See that tiny little dog?  That's Coco (hi Coco!)

When I put Coco's bedding and bowls into her kennel run, she followed me to see what I was doing.  Then, I closed the gate.  And...she walked right between the wall and gate.

She seemed so proud of herself.

I moved her to a different run that had a smaller gap.

Same thing.

Again, Coco was impressed with her ability to escape.

Finally, I put her in a large wire cage and that is where she stayed.  She was easily one of the smallest dogs who has stayed here.  Yet, she sure seemed oblivious to this.  Fearless among the bigger dogs, Coco acted just like any other dog.  However, it was important to keep tabs on her at all times, because she found that she could slip out of the large outside runs as well.  She couldn't get out-out, but she could get out of her run, and slip into the run of another dog.  Fortunately, she was among friendly dogs, but she needed constant supervision!

Don't we sometimes miss our vulnerabilities, thinking we can run with the big dogs, not realizing that we could be in great danger.

God sees us.  He knows where we are at all times. 

A couple years ago, I visited Mammoth Cave in Kentucky.  As we descended more than a mile under the earth, I had my very first experience with clauterphobia.  Bad timing.  Turning around really wasn't an option.  Neither was freaking out.  Instead, I prayed - earnestly.  Slowly, I calmed down.  The realization hit me that even in the "deep places of the earth," God sees us, cares about us, and wants us to turn to Him.

Perhaps you don't want to be seen.  That doesn't change the fact that God is aware of you.  If you are feeling vulnerable, like no one cares, God is there.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Taking Cover

One cool morning, I came into the kennel to find this:
Bo, all snuggled in for a long summer's nap.

For small dogs, particularly dachshunds and small terriers, this is not uncommon.  Yet it always makes me smile.  It's also nice to know that not all dogs are "morning people."

In unfamiliar territory, a blanket from home offers comfort like nothing else can.  Just like coming back from vacation, there's nothing like sleeping in your own bed.

Sometimes we find comfort in a conversation with a friend or even (ahem) a pint of Ben and Jerry's (may I recommend "Chocolate Therapy?").  When we end our talk and empty the ice cream and the problem persists, then what?  The God of All Comforts is only a prayer away.  During both the horribly difficult times of my life and now when there is a time of "smooth sailing," I'm thankful that God's comfort and peace persists.  Situations change, friends can become unreliable and chocolate has some serious disadvantages.  While these are wonderful things, they can't always penetrate the deep places of our heart - the ones only God can pierce and heal. 

Today, no matter what, seek the comfort of the Lord.  It will feel like a wonderful warm blanket.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

You Get to Choose

Many times, I've been in circumstances that I absolutely found awful. There was no way out, just passing all the way through. (Okay, I'm not sure why this photo came out so tiny - they are not chihuahuas but big mastiff-mixes) Bella and Cosmo were recently here at the kennel (hi Bella! hi Cosmo!). Cosmo breezed through the experience, looking with wonder at the other dogs' antics, enjoying every treat and pat on the head. Bella...not so much. It took her a few days to come around. She showed no interest in me whatsoever (though she did eat the treats) and spent some time sulking. Eventually, she realized I wasn't so bad after all. Since she was here, she might as well make the most of it, even if it wasn't her idea of a good time. Sometimes we can't change our circumstances, no matter how painful they may be. The only thing we can change is our attitude and approach toward it. During the most trying of times, the only way that happens without faking it is to draw on the Lord for his supernatural strength. This morning, I read how Paul the Apostle, the man who used to go around killing anyone who followed Jesus, found himself in prison, facing death. Yet, he ran to the Lord, and was able to say that he could do all things through God's strength, even prison and a death sentence. Today consider what you find trying in your life and your attitude about it. Run to God for a dose of encouragement and a double dose of strength.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Cricket, You Can Drive My Car

(only Beatles fans might understand the title) Cricket was here, maintaining order and taking her aggression out on her tennis ball. If Cricket had thumbs, she would have driven home, and managed to stay in the lines the whole way. As a Border Collie, Cricket craves order. And according to her owner, has a deep aversion to shiny things. She is also immaculately obedient. Generally, I like order and can be focused. Lately, however, I've been living just shy of chaos in a messy house and shiny things are always distracting me. Have you noticed how once that pile of papers is finally resolved and the floor is cleaned how much better you feel? I remember that feeling, and I need to get it back! It's easy, way too easy, to put our relationship with God on the back burner. Our spiritual life quickly becomes chaotic, and the tyranny of the immediate is the shiny thing that takes us away from quiet, focused time with God. Let's all be more like Cricket. The way to do that is to run to the Lord.

Friday, August 10, 2012

Objects in Mirror Are Weirder than They Appear

There's just no telling what the truth is in some situations. Those situations include politics, any news media, and even what your next-door neighbor says. How can we know what's true? God is truth. Yet that doesn't mean we're going to understand every great mystery, let alone what news we can trust. However, if we cling to the Lord, study His ways, read about what God determines is true and the best way for us to live, we can pray and receive a better understanding of what IS in our every day world. Otherwise, it would just be weird.