Monday, April 30, 2012

Take It Easy

It's the end of April. I don't know about you, but this month has been the fastest one ever.
A long time ago, my Type A personality thrived on productivity. Now, it doesn't seem as important. I like to not be busy. Interesting things happen. Valuable relationships develop. Spring brings many demands on property owners - mow the yard, weeds, gardening, not to mention all the repairs and cleaning. And it seems like it all needs to be done yesterday. "Many hands make light work." This year, I'm determined to not be overwhelmed. When those emotions threaten, I let them happen but sort of ignore the tyranny of the immediate. It will get done, in its time. If you find yourself in over your head, perhaps you can find one person to help with one task. You can run to the Lord and ask for a calm spirit, mulitiplication of your time, and a realization of priorities. First things first. Everything else falls into its place. Get on that chaise lounge with some lemonade and give yourself some perspective!

Friday, April 27, 2012

Getting with a Routine

This is Dooley (hi Dooley). For reasons his owner and I can't understand, he runs to the door of the kennel upon arrival.
It isn't because he can't wait to see the other dogs and play with them. It isn't because he will get an extra special treat. Dooley loves routine. Or at least that's my theory. He runs right into the space with his bed and settles. He doesn't protest being away from his owner or being off his big comfy couch. He just wants to get on with the predictable schedule. Dooley, I can relate. I love my routine. When I go on vacation, my tiny brain begins to etch out a schedule for the day. It's really annoying because when I'm on vacation, I'd rather not have a schedule. While routine is good and comfortable, it certainly can be restricting. It can even be our idol, freaking out when it's disrupted (that's me). Breaking our routine can bring very good and creative results. At the same time, a lack of any routine often results in complete inactivity (which is great for vacations). So what's the answer? Routine or not to routine? Perhaps it comes back to the question of balance in our lives. Structure and flexibility are both important. Are you a more structured or more routine-free person? How do you keep balanced?

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Taking Your Faith for a Roadtrip

Here's Jimmy at the local hardware story (hi Jimmy!).
As part of his socialization and training, Jimmy goes to a variety of settings. Obedience trainers tell owners to practice commands not just in the back yard, but in areas that are new and provide many distractions. That can be said for our faith as well. It's easy to say you believe something, but quite another to adhere to it when faced with many distractions and unexpectedly strong temptations. When we succeed in sticking to our faith, we become stronger. However, the opposite is not true. It is NOT true that when we fail, giving into temptation or abandoning our beliefs, it can be nothing more than a temporary set-back. When we realize our failure, it does no good to hide it. Instead, we need to run to Jesus. That's where we experience forgiveness and grace. That is a more valuable lesson.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Alone in a Cage

(Editor's Note: Blogger has changed its formatting, which apparently means they've omitted the paragraph breaks that are in the original post below) Over the weekend, a new dog stayed for one day in the kennel. As soon as his owner left, he looked at me and immediately put his front paws on me. It was evident he was insecure. After getting him situated, I could tell he was still a bit nervous. When I led him into the kennel, I stayed, closing the door. This seemed to calm him since I was in the same situation as he found himself. Afterall, how bad could it be if I was next to him? To me, this is a picture of what Jesus did for us. He came down and experienced how you and I live daily - with all its difficulties, joys and foibles. He showed us how to navigate life and triumph over death. Perhaps you're having a bad day, week, or year. There is One who understands where you are, has experienced it, and is happy to be right by your side as you walk that path.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Getting Comfortable with Grace

Here's Molly (hi Molly). She's going to be here for a couple of weeks. She's the only one and gets along well with my dogs and cats.
Last night, I decided to let her stay in the house since she's the only dog in the kennel right now (she'll get company today). However, she was completely restless. She paced, panted, and didn't know what to do with herself.

People are like this with God's grace. They simply can not comprehend that following the rules isn't what pleases God. Being good doesn't do it either. Going to church and taking communion doesn't, even those are good things to do.

What pleases God? Giving up.

Yep. That's it. We all do wrong, whether big or small, we can never fully be perfect. When we admit to this, admit that Jesus paid the price for our sins, when we give up walking perfectly with our Lord, that's when God's grace floods us. No more burden of sin, or burden to follow the rules perfectly. We admit our flaws, and the Lord rebuilds us, if we let him.

It's liberating and we can relax in the home our great God offers us. Of course we don't deserve it, but it's offered to us nonetheless. It's up to us to accept it humbly an gratefully.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Is the Leash Good or Bad?

Some people believe a dog must always be on a leash. Others believe that they should never be on a leash.
Perhaps it is not the leash itself that is good or bad but the situation. Dog walking in the city on a leash, good. Dog in a fenced in dog park without a leash, good. Dog protecting its property from varmints, good. Dog attacking passersby, bad. Dog walking along a road loose, bad. Foster walking with a leash on my property so he doesn't crash into something due to blindness - good!

Sometimes we need to use our brains, step back, and look at the big picture. God extends grace for our lack of good judgement, encouraging us to move forward in forgivenss and balance.

That's something for which we can ALWAYS be thankful!

Monday, April 16, 2012

Hiding From Monday

I'm one of those weird people who look forward to Mondays. I love the fresh start feel of the day. Usually, it's my most productive day.

Today was a real Monday experience though. I bought a coffee while out doing errands. While I was loading my car with my purchases, my phone rang. Since I was distracted while unpacking the cart and answering this person's question, I completely forgot my coffee. I drove off with it on the roof of my car.
Now I know why people hide from Mondays.

Despite this set-back, I'm committed to liking the fresh-start of a new week.

Jesus brought us new life, along with forgiveness for our mistakes. I like the fresh-start feel of that too.

In fact, I love it.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Put This On To-Do List for THIS Weekend

How is this dog related? Well, the director has a dog. How's that?

A year and a half ago, I had the unique opportunity to be a small (very small) part of movie-making history. This film was financed mainly by a grass-roots effort of every day people. That's the short story. I was able to spend a day on the set of this movie when it was filming in Nashville, October of 2010.

For those of you who know me, I'm not one to gush. However, the people I met were all pretty fantastic. The Director and his wife were some of the best people I've met. They are compassionate and have a huge view of how to live life.

This will translate on film. Regardless of what you believe, this film will make you think and I'm sure it will be a feast for the eyes as well from what I've seen of the previews.

A film's success is determined by its success on its opening weekend. That's THIS weekend, Folks! Go see it! Make it a road trip if it's not opening near you (like it isn't around here).

You will be glad you did!

Monday, April 9, 2012

Can't Touch This

Captain loves to play with those little plastic bracelets that glow in the dark. Recently, he batted one around but had to stop when it was too close to Foster.
He wasn't willing to risk getting snapped at by Foster just to bat around his toy.

Yet I find myself too often risking danger in order to do what I want. It is sad and embarassing that I can't figure out that some things are simply not worth the risk.

Today, consider where you need to use some discretion in your life. What toys might you need to give up because they are not worth the danger?

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Is It Really All About the Rules?

Maybe you've heard the saying, "it's not about rules it's about relationship." First, what is "it?" To me, "it" is faith in Jesus. Following Jesus' rules may lead to healthier happier living, but it's not what IT is about.

If you were to only be polite and follow all the etiquette rules while encountering other people, would you have an actual friendship?

Do we throw rules out the window?
For some reason, rules have a bad reputation. We think of them as restrictive and insulting. We often do not associate them with love. However, without structure, children would play in traffic unrestricted. Dogs could never be walked in an orderly fashion on a leash. Houses would be trashed.

What is needed is a balanced approach to look at the reason and intent behind rules. Perhaps we think that coveting is an old idea that has no bearing today. Yet what has "keeping up with the Jones'" done for your life? Do you appreciate what you've got or do you constantly crave more and "the latest."

God knows our nature is to seek more and believe that having the latest whatever will make us popular and enhance our lives. Most times, it leads us to try to fill a void that can only be filled with the contentment of a God-focused world.

That's where the course changes - a relationship with God is fulfilling, learning about the Father through Jesus the Son reveals love, sacrifice, forgiveness. Following Jesus allows us to change from the inside out in a way only the Lord can transform. Rules and adherence to them can not bring heart change to our lives.

What rules serve you well? Which ones do you follow blindly? What rule is hardest for your dog to keep? For you?

Monday, April 2, 2012

Off to a Promising Start

Yesterday was April 1st, also known as April Fool's day. It was also Palm Sunday, the first day of Holy Week.

During our pastor's children's message, he asked the children what the crowd did when Jesus rode by on the donkey. Most responded with the predictable answers of "yelled Hosanna" and "waved palm leaves." Then one boy yelled, "took off their clothes."

File this under "Awkward Pastoral Moments."

Fortunately, the congregation composed itself quickly as did the pastor, and even clarified that the crowd took off their coats or outter robes to lay before Jesus. Phew!

Palm Sunday used to be my favorite holiday because it was the big party before things went terribly wrong for Jesus. It seemed like things were off to a really great Jerusalem Debut.
Have you ever begun a new relationship, project, or joined a new group full of anticipation and excitement at the possibilites? Did it ever go south quickly?

Unfortunately, it's been a frequent experience for me. However, given the alternative between still trying, still having hope, and anticipating the best versus staying away in safety, I'll choose risking heartbreak.

The end of our pastor's sermon was poignant. He confessed how a lot of his own personal dreams had not materialized, that he'd been forced to be the "supporting role" for others to pursue their dreams, while his own went unfulfilled. And really, who can say that they can relate? Uh-huh. All of us.

A few days after this, the pastor was praying and still mulling over the disappointment. Then he felt God press upon him an interesting question (and this is from what I remember, so the exact quote is not correct). "Will you continue to let your own dreams die if it means fulfilling hope for others? After all, that's why I sent my Son."

Ouch. That's what life is about - laying down our own lives for others. Jesus laid his life down, paying a huge price, in order that we could seek God's forgiveness and be "made acceptable" through Jesus' perfect sacrifice.

Our society tells us over and over to "seek our bliss" and "do what makes you happy." Yet most of the people who pursue these dreams find they are empty and lack meaning. Loving oneself and pleasure seeking never end well. Loving others provides depth.

"The strongest evidence of love is sacrifice."

Today start your week off well, especially if you find the opportunity to give up your easier way for what is difficult and to the benefit of others.