Monday, January 30, 2012

Setting a Good Example

Here's Bugs (hi Bugs!). He was a guest at the kennel this weekend. Before adoption by his new owner, Bugs lived in a trailer with a couple of littermates where they never went outside or saw other dogs or people.
The first few times Bugs was at the kennel, he had a lot of accidents. Now, he never has any and is a total good kennel citizen.

Also at the kennel this weekend were two pups who haven't been well socialized (and also have many accidents). After watching their temperaments closely, I let them go outside with Bugs. Immediately, they looked at Bugs like he was God - so big and powerful (they are a small breed). Bugs showed neither contempt or admiration for the pups, just went about business as usual.

Sometimes, we think our broken pasts are marks against us and limit our ability to be good role models to others. The opposite is the case. Through the fingers of the Lord, our pain can be sifted and redeemed, using it for good and not evil. When we learn lessons, often through painful circumstances or personal failings, we can offer others understanding, patience, and acceptance.

Who is watching you?

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Peace Within the Home

AH, a year ago, we were walking in sunshine.
This foggy morning, there was a huge fight between Foster and Tilly. It was of a longer duration and intensity than any before.

When it was (finally) over, everyone was pretty shaken up. I was, Foster was, Tilly was, and Olive, who wasn't outside at the time seemed particularly perplexed.

Foster can't see, so he's much more unsure of himself now. He fights harder because he doesn't even know anymore what he's protecting.
Isn't that the same with us? We don't always know what we're protecting, but we're pretty sure it's threatened. Maybe it's our job, our social status, or a bag of Oreos that we fear may be taken from us.

We doubt the stability of our daily provisions. That's not too far outside the realm of normal. How we react, though, can be extreme. It can be a serious disruption to our peace.

Today I read in Luke 9 how Jesus sent out the disciples and told them not to take any food or even an extra coat along as they were set loose in the world to help the sick and demon possessed. Frankly, I wouldn't want to leave without my itinerary firmly in place and a bag of Oreos on the passenger seat of my car. And then I likely would head back to Florida and skip all those sad sick and scary people.

Yet Jesus asks us to seek HIM first - and his righteousness. To trust HIM over everything else, including my planning skills and entrepreneurial spirit (ha). That is NOT easy. Yet if I choose Jesus over security, my peace is deep within me, and I don't have to protect what I fear may be taken from me. It's all belongs to him anyway. Shouldn't I trust him more?

Monday, January 23, 2012

What Do You Cling To?

This is Olive.
Maybe if she could really read, I might find her more endearing.

When Olive showed up at my home, she was stuck in one of the trees near the road. My guess is she was dumped there and she sought refuge in the closest, highest vertical surface she could scale.

I heard her squawking from across the yard. Since she was too scared to come down on her own, I had to find a ladder, put on a very thick flannel coat, and climb up to get her. Since it was the first time we met, she didn't know if she could trust me and was hesitant to let me grab her. Eventually, I took her by the nape of the neck and pulled her off the tree and onto my thick coat. It seems all ten claws needed to be yanked out and then reinstalled on my coat.

Since her return to earth, Olive has enjoyed a good life. She was skinny (hence her name - Olive Oil)then and had a bad infection. Now she's healthy and does nothing but sleep. And squawk. Squawking is her main form of communication.

When I'm afraid, I tend to cling to what appears to be firm and safe (like a bag of Oreos). However, it is a false and temporary safety (and high in fat and calories). There is really only one harbor of safety.

"Lord to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life," Peter told Jesus.

And where can we go for real truth and real love?

Today if you find yourself up a tree, turn to Him and cling to Him.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Let Your Heart Melt

It's Tilly. She's trying to be cute.
Yet, she is still very trying to me. While I (obviously) love animals, I'm not all that soft hearted. I really love rules and structure. That's not a bad thing, but it is hard to keep that in balance with the need to show mercy and grace.

Grace is the only thing that really changes our behavior. If we know that love is conditional on how good or bad we are, then we lose interest in making changes. We know we'll fail, why even try?

After feeling awful for wanting to ring Tilly's neck on more than a daily basis, I finally prayed for the strength to not kill her. Fortunately, that prayer was answered. In my own power, I could not change my thoughts, frustrations, and irritability with Tilly's lack of obedience.

Every day I take time to focus on her, play ball, and give her some lovins. More and more now, when I see her running toward something off limits and I call to her, she stops.

She's changing. And so am I.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Protecting the Weak

The weather in Ohio is on its usual rollercoaster ride of twenty to fourty degree rises and plunges. The result has been a half frozen pond in my back yard.
Sure, it's pretty. It's also dangerous.

My cats have no notion of ice thickness and safety issues. Even if they have ended up soaking wet before, they still do not learn. Frank just came in with his back end wet. He's eight years old.

Yet, they still plead to go outside. They go from door to door begging. They annoy me with their meowing, then beating up on each other.
It's easier to just let them go out, risking their poor decision making abilities.

Easier isn't always the best choice. A long time president of a local university often included a quote in all of his talks about "taking the harder right and not the easier left." At the time, I found it somewhat repetitive. The result is that I still remember, further learning the truth of it.

What is the right answer? Let the cats live within a reasonable 95% success rate of outdoor fun and exercise? Or keep them inside where they are 100% safe (and 95% bored)?

What do you do if you see a friend making poor choices? Do you let them go or do you tell them they are heading for a brick wall?

God lets us make our own decisions, rarely orchestrating circumstances to pluck us away from danger. We can't turn around and ask why when we've been allowed to act freely.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Martin Luther King Junior Day - Do You Have a Dream?

Sometimes I'm afraid to dream. Having high expectations inevitably leads to disappointment. I've been preferring "safe" dreams, or dreams that will ultimately be fulfilled in eternity.
Then I watch shows like House Hunters International and couples say they are now going "to live our dream."

It makes me want to find a new dream. One that I can pursue for the betterment of others, and a little something for me too.

I don't think Martin Luther King Junior dreamed safely. He dreamed big and lofty dreams and did the hard work to get there. Ultimately, his dream cost him his life.

Forgiveness and Love
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

He who is devoid of the power to forgive is devoid of the power to love. It is impossible even to begin the act of loving one's enemies without the prior acceptance of the necessity, over and over again, of forgiving those who inflict evil and injury upon us.
Forgiveness does not mean ignoring what has been done or putting a false label on an evil act. It means, rather, that the evil act no longer remains as a barrier to the relationship.
Source: Strength to Love

Friday, January 13, 2012

Baby It's Cold Outside

We knew it would arrive eventually.
Despite the mild temperatures and lack of snow of the beginning of the week, of course the weather would turn. Winter insists on showing up today with below zero wind chills and blowing snow.

It's not a day I want to trudge out to the kennel. Fortunately, it's not a day the kennel dogs (nor my own) wish to dawdle outside for very long either. I'm glad we can agree on this.

Why are we so surprised that winter is acting like winter?

It's easy to ignore the calendar until the weather forces us out of our fantasy. It's mid-January - of course it's cold!

So often we deceive ourselves. I'd like to think that I've got myself together pretty well. Then not two days ago, I blurted out something in a rude and ill-timed manner.

It's a reminder that I can pretend all I want that I'm Christ-like, only to realize that the only way I can truly be is to cling more and more to Jesus.

Maybe you needed reminding too.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Always Looking For More

Have you ever finished a giant bowl of delicious pasta with homemade pesto and thought, "what else can I eat?"

Maybe I'm the only one who does that. Maybe.

Doesn't it seem like we're almost programmed to seek more? What are you craving? Attention? Food? Love? Money? Stuff?

Maybe we are programmed to crave. But what are we to crave? Maybe it is not what but who. Could it be that God programmed within each of us a longing for Himself? Did Jesus not say He is the Living Water? The Bread of Life? Perhaps in today's terms, it would be "I'm the all-you-can-eat smorgasboard, minus the artery-clogging cholesterol" and "I am more satisfying than the new, roomy SUV with multiple cup holders."

When we pursue a relationship with God, made possible through his son, Jesus, we get something more fulfilling, more healthy, and more satisfying. And unlike the plate that eventually will be empty, Jesus fills us up with what is eternally complete.

Take some time to evaluate where you seek satisfaction and comfort. Is it really working?

Monday, January 9, 2012

You Can't Take It With You

This week, Wimpy and Sampson were back at the kennel.
Wimpy LOVES toys. Not unusual for a spaniel, he likes to have something in his mouth all the time. When it's time to go outside, he takes a toy with him. Often, he drops it at the door.
That's good, since it would get pretty icky out in the "exercise area."

And we can't take our toys with us either. When this life is over, we go out as we came in - empty handed with only the love and mercy of God. It's important to use our toys wisely while we are on this earth. How will you use them?

Monday, January 2, 2012

This Year, Who Will You Follow?

Recently, I told a dog owner how her dog (Maya) was like "mentor dog" to dogs new to the kennel routine. This dog had a wonderful disposition, always took care of business in the proper places, went straight to her kennel run after coming inside, and ate promptly.

Often new dogs are confused. If they are also of a good temperament, I let them go out with Maya to see how she "does things."

Who you follow matters.
Often we pick up on the habits of others as well as their expectations for us. It's important to think about the kind of person we want to be, then compare it with whom we spend most of our time.

Have you taken time, in these early days of a new year, to consider who you want to be? What characteristics do you wish to possess? Have you thought about what God desires for you? What is the best life He wants for you? Consider these matters well, then decide who you want to follow into this new year.