Monday, February 27, 2012

A Taste for Toys

Recently, Wimpy and Sampson (aka Fat Boy) were guests at the kennel (hi Wimpy! hi Sampson!)
Spaniels, a breed designed to retrieve ducks to hunters, love to have something in their mouths at all times, much like other retrievers and hunting breeds. It just feels right.

Knowing this, the owner provides them with plenty of toys:
When it's time for the dogs to go outside, Wimpy chooses a toy to take along for the trip.

Yet, not everything in the world is a toy.

It reminds me of the Tree of Life and the Tree of Knowledge in Eden. God's instructions were simple - there are all these other trees to provide you with ample enjoyment and nutrition - just stay away from the Tree of Knowledge.

It was an irresistable toy.

Aren't our natures the very same? We want what we don't have, despite the many good things we do have in our lives.

Marketers spend millions creating a desire in us to want more, more and more.

Today, as you agonize over what you don't have in your life, slow down and appreciate the many good gifts you already have in your toy box.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Where are the Lions in Your Life?

This morning I was listening to Haven Today. Mark Buchanan, author of "The Rest of God", told a story about an African safaari he experienced. At one point, the Jeep in which they were travelling stopped for a photo op with a pride of lions. They were on a cliff above the Jeep, looking down on the group with a combination of boredom and annoyance.

Just as the large cats began to stand and stretch, a deluge of rain descended, blinding the group in the Jeep. It was all they could do to raise the roof to protect them. They had no idea where the lions moved.

When the rain cleared, there was a lion about fifty feet ahead of the Jeep, sitting and facing away from the Jeep, as were other lions, similarly posed, all around it.

His point was to look for the comfort and protection of God in ordinary circumstances. (if a safari is ordinary)
When Captain sleeps at my feet, he is playful and attacks my feet, or my hands if I reach down to pet him. However, if he lays next to my head, he purrs and is a delight.
Where is God in your life? Does His presence seem like a threat as he towers above you or is He all around, offering you protection? Will he attack you or comfort you?

Jesus calls us into a relationship with him. "No one comes to the Father but by me." Today, decide where you want to be with God.

Same animal, different poses.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Response to Grace: What Does it Look Like?

Here's Jimmy, watching for law breakers, thieves, or anyone who might give him a treat.
When I leave the house, I tell Foster, "Guard the house."

Some dogs have jobs, dedicating themselves to protecting their homes and owners against any harm. Others seem to create more work for their owners.
Oh, hi Tilly. Fancy meeting you here.

This morning, I was working on my Bible study lesson, and it asked WHY do you serve God. Is it a sense of obligation "You gave me life, I'll write a check to a charity and let's call it even"? Is it because we are grateful for what He has? Or is it because of WHO God is - His amazing sense of presence, His love, His sacrifice? Those things only come when we understand and study who He is.

Yet today, I read a note on the passage in Luke that was about "to whom much is given, much is expected." The note said, "Grace does not erase accountability." Ouch.

In other words, God is great to forgive us, so incredibly patient with us. Yet, he expects that if we rely on that forgiveness, accept that Jesus paid the price and made us right with God, then a response must be more than "phew, got that out of the way." It is a response of action - that faith is being worked out or shown by our behavior of love for others.

What does that look like in your life?

Friday, February 17, 2012

Birdseed Does Not Grow Birds

Captain is not the first cat of mine who discovered the direct correlation between a filled birdfeeder and the arrival of birds.
Captain, however, seems to think that the seeds grow actual birds.

Have you ever operated under a false assumption? You are so convinced of it that you can't imagine that it would be wrong?

This is a problem that I have. Finally, I've learned to reconsider my beliefs. Today I was convinced that I had a vet appointment (not FOR me, but for one of the dogs) at 1:40. It was at 1:20. I was SURE because I wrote down 1:40. Guess what? Still wrong!

Truth is truth no matter what we think or assume or experience. It is up to examine the positions we hold against the plum line of Truth to see how they compare.

It's difficult, but in order to have a proper understanding, we must be willing to consider that maybe, just maybe, we are wrong.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Feeling Crabby?

Here's Olive the cat glaring at Tilly (hi Olive! hi Tilly!). To me, it is a picture of active hate.
Olive is the senior member of all the pets. She's pretty much the Grump, squawking at me and any cat or dog who passes by her.

Perhaps some were depressed yesterday, Valentine's Day. It didn't bother me for two reasons - I remembered God's great love for me, and I bought this totally amazing Genuine Faux-Wood hermit crab.
Isn't it amazing? Check out that bling!

A friend of mine, upon seeing the picture, said that when she is in a crabby mood, she likes to dress up and bling out. Now that's a good strategy.

Today, no matter what your mood, don't forget God's love for you, and the "bling" He adds to your life. And if need be, put on something sparkly!

Monday, February 13, 2012

Reactions to a Cold Heart

After enjoying winter weather that hit in the low 50's one weekend, the past few days have been in the single digits with wind chill.
That's right, Carbon. It's cold!

Have you ever stood up for something or someone unpopular only to have it blow up on you? More and more, people react with emotions rather than thinking things through. In other words, people believe what they are feeling.

That can be a huge mistake.

While feelings are real, they are not often rational. Not that we all have to be Mr. Spock logical, but we need that balance.

But how do we love someone who shuts down when faced with truth? What do we do if our own hearts turn cold?

Yesterday I heard a quote that has made me think all day, "Fear is easy. Love is hard."

Not too many people want to do anything that is difficult, that requires personal discomfort. Yet that is daily life. Every day we are asked to lay down our own lives and take up the Cross. To balance that, Jesus said that HIS burden is easy and his yoke is light. If we are doing what God wants us to do, it may take giving up something, but it ultimately is better and easier.

What do you need to lay down today? How will you warm a cold heart - either of someone else's or your own?

Friday, February 10, 2012

Happy Birthday Dingo!

This week, Foster turned 12.

The first time I saw him as a 6-week old puppy, he belonged to a kennel client and went by the name "Bear." While I'm not someone who coos over puppies, I cooed over him. He was adorable, happy, energetic, confident to a fault, and was in constant motion.

When his owner told me they were moving and weren't taking their new dog, I was pretty happy to add him to our home.

The last couple of years, Foster's sight has gone. Having a blind dog has been a challenge. Having a blind Foster is an even greater challenge. He is still extremely active and wakes up ready to take on the day. This often results in him running into end tables, other animals, the back of my leg, and even a running woodburner.

In some ways, it's reassuring to know that our bodies may betray us miserably, yet our inner light can still shine.

And this morning, Foster fulfilled his daily job of getting the morning paper. I'll celebrate every day I have this fine, loyal dog by my side.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Seeing the Vet IS Important

Last Friday, Tilly went to the vet for her annual exam and vaccinations. She managed to curl herself into a tiny ball (as tiny as a 30 pound dog can manage) and tuck herself under my chair.

Like we wouldn't know she was there.

Then she heard the vet's footsteps. Thump, thump, thump. Her tail was wagging. When the door opened, she got out from under the chair and wagged her entire back end. When he put her on the table, she kept licking him and the vet tech.

She did pretty well for her vaccinations, but was really unhappy with having her temperature taken (and who could blame her?).

Going to the vet is no picnic, yet it is necessary. It's uncomfortable and sometimes painful, but for our own healthy living, we need to be checked internally to make sure no parasites are compromising our insides. Vaccinations keep diseases at bay.

Sometimes I prefer to avoid prayer because I'm afraid that the Lord is going to point out some sin that is festering on the inside. Having our spiritual temperatures taken can be seriously uncomfortable. I don't always want to go to church, but I know by being with other people who struggle with their imperfections, it helps "vaccinate" me from giving into the constant temptations I face every day.

When I remember who the Lord really is, that discomfort is for my better life, I can run to him with enthusiasm.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Love Comes with a Squeeky Toy

There she is again. Tilly, my muse.
She's more like an aggravation, reminding me of all my shortcomings.

Yesterday, a few friends were over to play cards before the Superbowl game. Tilly pretty much freaks out with delight at the sight of visitors. And of course she didn't disappoint.

As we played our competitive card game (we wisely clipped our nails so no one got hurt), Tilly took a few turns under the table pestering people. If she got any response, she pestered them more, her tail wagging side to side. While many (normal) dogs will give up when they are being ignored, Tilly persists in the face of rejection.

God longs to have us as His very own - He calls to us time and time again, not content for us to reject him. His ways and attributes are much greater than a pesky dog. His love knows no bounds and his tenacious persistence in wooing us back are even greater than Tilly's.

Yet we still resist a love that is so profound we can't wrap our minds around it. It is almost too much to accept. However, making that leap of faith into accepting his great love is a decision I've never regretted.

I think you'll be glad you did too.

Friday, February 3, 2012

Perfect Enough

There she is.

The dog that reminds me every day that I am not a perfect pet owner. While I'm at it, I'm also not a perfect writer, dieter, house cleaner, driver, Christian, daughter, sister, friend, Zumba instructor, make-up applyer, fashion follower or basic hair care maintenance worker.

I could go on.

Striving for perfection can drive a person crazy. While I do strive, I try to be easy on myself when I fail. And isn't it the failures of another that make you want to be around them? It's a gentle reminder that we can relax, be forgiven, and move forward.

Do you know someone who is perfect? Or are they just busy trying to appear perfect?

If anyone ever compliments me on something about my character, I politely say thank you, but also that generally it is not something I was able to change on my own. Over and over, I need to ask God to repair my imperfections. And while I'm not every going to get it right (due to my own insistence and resistance to what God is able to do), I can relax in the forgiveness and love of the Lord which persists.

Someday, God will make us whole and perfect. That will be a permanent change, dependent fully on Him. What a relief that will be.

Until then, live your life. Live it well. When you fall short of the goals and ideals, go easy on yourself, and ask the Lord to do the hard work of changing us. Jesus said he would take our burdens. I'm happy to give them to Him.

What burden do you take back from God over and over? What one do you need to permanently commit to Him?

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Staying Out of Trouble

Whether it's the middle of the night or the middle of the day, if there's a crash, hiss, slam, or woof, the cause of the disturbance is almost always the same.
Nine months old and a terror in the house, Captain knows trouble. Yet despite the commotion he causes, after a cuddle and purr, it's quickly forgiven.

When you belong to God, forgiveness comes quicker than we expect. It occurs before the plea and cuddle. The consequences may come in its wake, but the state of forgiveness, restoration and love is reinstated faster than a speeding kitten.