Monday, December 22, 2014

Dog Jewelry

Every year around Christmas, Matilda gets a new piece of jewelry.  It's sort of like a Pandora bracelet but not really at all similar in terms of beauty or cost.
Besides that, it's sort of required by law.  The 2015 license for Hardin county is a delightful purple.

Even though Tilly hears me say "Get lost" a little too often, I don't really want her to get lost.  If she did, I would want her to be found.  Since she can't communicate her name and address, the license fills the gap.  Licensing fees also pay for the care of those dogs who do get lost. 

Since Matilda was a stray herself at one time, a license marks her as my own.  In other words, she has a new identity (and name) when I adopted her.

All through the Bible, there are examples of God choosing the least likely of people to do join Him in His plans.  These people were often from humble families and they seemed to make an awful lot of mistakes either before or after their really important God Jobs.  I mean, when you and I picked the people for our kick ball teams, we pretty much went for the fleet of foot.  Not so with God.  He has his reasons, and they baffle us.

Until we think about how God sends His own Son to be born of a really innocent young girl, thus potentially messing up her entire future as a Normal Married Woman.  And her fiancĂ©e?  Also baffled, yet honorable.  God sent an angel to both of them to try to explain.  And apparently it worked because they both got with the program.  And through our Savior, Jesus, Immanuel, God was with US.  US, the imperfect people who get lost like sheep and fall for hucksters, manipulate others, and don't really do all we can where we can.

Somehow, He picks us out, adopts us into his own through Jesus, and gives us a new identity.  Some people wear jewelry to reflect their identity.  But it's not required.  In God's mysterious way, He knows His own, and loves us. 

This Christmas, listen for your heart to be wooed by the All-Loving, Almighty.  Jesus, humble Savior, still calls out for His People.

Monday, December 8, 2014

What To Do With Beauty

Feast your eyes on these gorgeous kittens:
I had the pleasure of taking care of these lovelies recently and they were a joy. Not only were they a dream to look at, but they frolicked and played the same way every young and healthy kitten does.

To be honest, I like to think of myself as a mutt-girl.  Normally, I like to think I'm not one to fawn over the beauty of certain purebred dogs and cats.  But to be honest, there's something about beauty.  Maybe we can't define it, but we know a pleasing look when we see it.  And when I held these little fur balls, I sure knew it.

Our culture puts a high value on beauty.  Double that for youth.  If you have neither, some industries cruelly cull their workers of the old and homely.  "Old" and "homely" being highly subjective and mean phrases.

But being born beautiful isn't always the gift we may think desire.  Being treated differently for the sole reason that you were born with physical traits some find pleasing does not mean that the person inside is superior.  Yet, those monsters are made every day.  You know it.  You've seen it on social media.

As I get older, I find myself becoming MORE vain, not more at peace, particularly if I look at the ads in magazine.  My goodness am I inferior, they assure me.  A wonderful friend told me that she determined that while she could no longer control her outer beauty, she could control her inner beauty. 

That inspired me.  Because it is truth.  And it is the only thing that matters.

"Man looks upon the outward appearance but God looks upon the heart." 

I'm grateful God sees only what is important in our hearts.  And cultivating the beauty within, shaped by God's love itself, endures forever.

Monday, December 1, 2014

Happy Together

Here are two really good dog friends, Bugs and Ginger (hi Bugs!  hi Ginger!).  Bugs is the yellow lab and Ginger is the German Shorthair Pointer.  This picture was taken at their home where they happily enjoying the great outdoors.  Both are happy hunters.
Bugs recently underwent some serious surgery that resulted in him having to be isolated from his friend Ginger.  Here at the kennel, they saw each other from their separate kennel runs, but they had to go outside separately. 

They HATED it.

Months later, they can finally be together and oh what a difference it makes.  They are both much happier with this set-up.

Our society allows people to isolate from others in ways never before possible.  It's easy.  It's safe.  Being with people and their problems is a challenge.  We don't understand them and they don't understand us.  But staying safe with our emotions and choosing the easy way through life is hardly courageous.  When we do something brave like show up some place where we aren't comfortable, we've taken an important step in building our confidence, even if the outcome isn't perfect.

God created people to live in community with each other, despite our mess and imperfections.  Yes, overcoming our irritations by enduring them is a much better way to go than avoiding them all together.

Maybe by enduring each others difficulties, as they endure ours, we may come to a place of understanding and patience.  In time, perhaps that will turn to understanding and compassion.  Eventually, there may even be enjoyment in each others' company.  Sure, not always, but sometimes.

And isn't sometimes worth it?

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

It's a Thin Line

Captured!  Carbon and Captain tolerating each other's presence.
Normally they hiss and spit at each other.  Captain seems to genuinely want to play with Carbon, and secretly, I suspect she likes his attention.  But mostly, they behave with deep hatred toward the other. Yet, it is clear they both enjoy the lounge chair.

Every now and then, I meet someone who is more difficult to like than others.  I want to avoid them and look anywhere but at their eyes.  Most likely, the truth is we have more in common than what opposes us.  It's entirely possible that I annoy others as well (what?!).

Often we need to intentionally put aside our hard feelings toward others.  If we wish they were more of something and less of something else, that isn't as important as who they are right now.  After all, Jesus loves us where we are - and who we are - at this moment.  It is not our perfection or obedience that makes us love us.  In fact, there is nothing we can say, do, or be that makes Him love us.  He just loves us.  It is not dependent on anything other than our being.

If we applied that outlook of unconditional love and acceptance toward others more often, we may even be able to share the same seating arrangement, relax and even enjoy each other a bit.  But the only way we can do that is through the flow of love that Jesus first gives us.  It is supernatural, and our humble submission and admittance of imperfection to the King allows our powerful God to fill us up in ways we can't control or even comprehend.

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Caspar the Friendly Westie

This is Caspar (hi Caspar!).  Why can't you see his front legs, you ask?  Because they waved furiously at me in greeting, enthusiasm, or possibly, desperation, each time I reached for his kennel run door to let him out.

It was adorable.  Caspar was a happy dog, and even though he'd never been here before, he seemed relatively at ease and was the ideal canine good citizen while he was here.  When he wanted to play with Tilly's toy ball, he backed off when she growled her protection over it.  He didn't argue about it, just went away peacefully.

"True love does not envy."

But I found that I was terrible envious of having a dog that was well-behaved, good natured, and was generally civilized.  Because this is what I've got:
She's sweet and she's happy, but she has no interest in behaving like a decent pet dog.

But if I'm envying another dog's behavior, it probably means I'm not loving my dog's very much.  But Tilly is what I have.  I picked her out and adopted her.  She's made me pretty nuts since I brought her home.  She thinks her name is "No-Tilly-No!"

Perfect satisfied with what is there.  And Who.  And Right Now.

This month I am considering what it means to "not envy" and what it means for how I love and how God loves me.  After all, I'm pretty imperfect myself.  I don't do life the "right" way all the time and I step on people's toes too much.  But God loves me anyway.  It's good to know He's not busy comparing me to His Son Jesus who was, you know, perfect.  But through that Son's sacrifice, my sins are no longer counted against me. 

Perhaps I need to look at the perfect dogs and admire their finer traits.  At the same time, I can look at Tilly and remember that her annoyance is not unlike my own.  And be grateful that all the land at the foot of the cross is even ground.

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Do Not Provoke

This is Cooper.
Cooper doesn't enjoy his time at the kennel.  He hides under his blanket and often pretends not to hear me call him to go outside.

"This is NOT happening to me" I imagine him saying to himself. 

What I've learned with Cooper is it's best to take time with him.  Unlike most dogs, he won't rush out the door to take care of business.  If I rush him, he gets cranky.  He does not like to be provoked out of his hiding place.

"Love does not provoke."  What does that mean?  I've thought a lot about it.  Sometimes in conversations with other, I'm tempted to say something that may provoke a certain response from others.  However, it's not always to provoke laughter.  Sometimes I proudly want to say something that I know others may not like.  And that's bad.

Why would I want to upset anyone?  When I really thought about that, it was my pride.  I wanted to be right.  I wanted the other person to know I was right.

And that's just wrong.

Love does not provoke. 

The battle to control my tongue is never ending.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Dealing with Grey Areas

This is Carbon.  It's almost like she's camouflaged in this tree. 
As Fall descends upon the area, we lose the vibrant colors that enriched our world.  And with the fewer sunny days and increased cloudy days, it is a sure test of our mind and soul.

Our lives feel that way too sometimes.  We can't sustain the mountain-top highs of happiness, and we slog through the dreary valleys of blackness that accompanies personal and national tragedies.  We tend to teeter along in the middle of every day tedious routine.

Some of the decisions we make - either the Big Ticket items such as jobs, moving, etc. or the daily responsibilities - are very clear to us.  No, we don't want to live in North Dakota in January and yes, I do want to try that new restaurant.  But what do we do when things are unclear?

While we have God's word to guide us in making choices that are healthy for us (emotionally and physically), we tend to want more!  Some people seem to sense Holy Spirit leading for those every day confusions that are not specific in scripture.  Then there is me, who I often feel God gives the Divine Shrug and what I hear is, "meh".  Could it be that he wants me to think things through, look at the big picture, and exam long term implications?!  What?  I have to THINK?!

When I use the phrase "grey areas", it tends to imply what is morally ambiguous.  In Christianese, that's "disputable matters."  In other words, when God doesn't give us the plum line to follow in His Word the Bible, then we muscle through these decisions.  God created us uniquely.  He sends some of us to places others aren't comfortable going.  I recently had an example of that.  Where I felt a distinct caution, another had no problems and experienced fruit in the relationship made there. 

That is beautiful.  God keeps us on our toes - he wants us to think, to examine what His word is, but also keeping us uncomfortable in our lives to a healthy extent.

Life isn't supposed to be too easy.  But in all circumstances, we can experience God's peace, if we only run to Him.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Sticking Your Neck Out

This is Skipper.  Or at least, this is Skipper's head, poking out of the gap in his kennel run.  Don't worry, Skipper did not get stuck!
Skipper is a happy little dog who, in typical dachshund fashion, dashes faster than you'd think short legs would carry him.  While he is quite good about going back into his run (especially if it is meal time), he still likes to see what else is going on around him.

There's that fine line between being kind and concerned with people and just being nosey.  There are those "Brick Wall" moments when we see others heading toward bad choices.  We want to stop them and yell, "Hey, you are driving toward a brick wall!  Stop!" but we don't.  Sometimes there is nothing we can do but watch the decline, even if we've tried some "hints."

When is the proper time to have that awkward conversation?  Do we stop because we fear the other person will fight back?  Does it just depend on the bad decision?  What are your thoughts?

God wants us to care about each other - to be our brother's keeper.  And it would seem that Jesus believes our neighbors are not determined by their address.  It's hard to be discerning, and it's hard to speak truth into someone's life when our culture says that a person can do pretty much whatever they want if it makes them happy.

Perhaps you've had times of running toward those brick walls.  Maybe the brick walls have won.  Would it have made a difference if someone had talked to you prior?  What approach do you think reflects kindness and love?

Maybe we can't stick our heads out to help someone every time, but we are to love at all times.  Sometimes love means doing hard things.  And in all things, there is prayer.

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Things We Need

The first thing you may notice is that the picture on this blog is dog-free.
But shortly after the sun rose on the first day of vacation, barking and dogs were everywhere on the beach.  Okay, not really EVERYwhere, but in enough places that my dog-weary soul reacted as if it was a bad rash.  It was a long summer of dogs and dog problems (and maybe a few dog owner problmes but not you, no, never you, Kind Reader who I am sure is perfect).  Vacation is meant to be dog-free in my mind (though I often take dog or dogs with me).

You know I love dogs.  But sometimes, I don't NEED dogs.  I don't need to see them peeing and pooping on the beach I long to meander along and think dog-free thoughts.  And two mornings, later as i contemplated braving the beach, a cat was using the sand as its litterbox.

Sometimes the things we hope to take refuge in turn out to be imperfect and have repulsive elements.

I love my house but it is currently swarmed with workers doing an impressive amount of home repairs.  Hardly peaceful.  All Summer, I run to see my friends at the Dairy Barn and their cones full of deliciousness, but noting my rather tight Fall clothing reminds me even chocolate peanut butter has its sneaky dark side (and it's not chocolate).  Ditto fruity beach drinks.  They lie, I tell you!  The moment I take pride in my identity as a fitness instructor, my ankle throbs, reminding me of a body that won't endure forever.

"His LOVE endures forever."

The last two weeks Haven Ministries has broadcast programs featuring Corrie Ten Boom's story.  If you have not read her book or seen the movie based on it, the Hiding Place, then DO THAT.  She survivied my personal worst nightmare (and likely yours) and came out of it like a boss.  I mean, her faith, refined by the fire of the Nazis, was fierce and grew brighter.  "There is no pit, that God's love is not deeper still."  See?  And that's just one of her amazing lessons.

She told the story of while in solitary confinement at a concentration camp, she called out to God and told him that her faith was not strong enough.  Through the lesson of a simple ant walking into a crevice in a wall, the Lord spoke to her, "Corrie, your faith ISN'T strong enough, but I AM.  See the ant?  It walks into its hiding place, and that is what you must do."

Mind.  Blown.

This morning I woke up with entirely too much energy and a ready-to-go attitude.  That's not so hard to do on vacation.  But the Real World lurks, and even here it is hard to avoid headlines that remind us that Evil still desires to wipe out good.

In light of that, I don't really care about the dogs and cats doing their business on the beach.  Most of the time, dogs and cats are really fabulous gifts that enrich my life.  And if I could just enjoy ice cream less often, it would only grow my appreciation for its better qualities.  Getting a buzz out of leading a bunch of fabulous women toward their fitness goals isn't bad when I remember that it is only the Lord who is my strength and my sustainer.

There are a lot of things I don't need.  And even though I want them and get sucked into their comfort too much, what I really NEED all the time is Jesus.  Even if I get irritated that life is not just how I think it should be and mean people suck, He knows and controls this world with a plan far beyond my understanding (despite my suggestions and questions).

While I don't need dolphins either, seeing them just over the rim of my laptop while listening to a song about God's grace enriches my life with a gift that proves the message of the song.  Let the People Rejoice.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Knowing Your Boundaries

This past Saturday, Tilly and I represented the kennel at Pet Appreciation Week at our local Tractor Supply.  I know what you're thinking - what a glamorous life I lead.  Yes, it's true.
Even more amazing, Tilly was extremely well behaved at this event, where there was a lot of commotion with all the other vendors, and her very favorite - people!  Lots and lots of people!

A couple of different booths were promoting their specialty dog foods.  When the unassuming public approached, they were bombarded with questions about what kind of dog food they fed their dogs.  If it wasn't the vendor's food, they told the dog owner why they should feed them their product.

Now, having a kennel means I know from very personal experience the DIRECT effect of dog food on how much a dog sheds and....well, how much waste the food produces.  So of course I have opinions on dog foods.  However, it is rare that I tell a dog owner what they should feed their dog.  Every now and then I have, with mixed reactions - blank stares, open hostility, and rarely, a bit of appreciation of my vast knowledge of such things.

Part of respect for others is letting them make decisions with their lives, whether it is what they feed their dog or where they go, and what they do with their time.  I assume, as another human being, they possess a certain amount of intelligence (I know, this is a dicey assumption at times), have the same access to the same types of information I do, and can make an informed decision.  So while I may have an opinion on another person's decision, telling a person what they SHOULD do from a position of superiority is terribly insulting.

We let friends into our lives and expect feedback from them and generally their opinions are welcome. But unless that is the kind of give and take relationship we have with others, TELLING people or QUESTIONING (yes, I am enjoying the all caps in a yelling kind of way) what they do can be very disrespectful in the least and border-ling bullying at the most.

In other words, be careful out there, Everyone.  Respect others, even if you disagree with them.  Unless we are talking about dangerous situations, a polite conversation can quickly turn ugly quickly when we step over our boundaries with others.

I know.  I have seen it happen.  I've had it happen to me. I've probably done it to others.  You probably have had it happen to you.  Maybe you've done it to others.  So let's all just step back and give each other some space, shall we?

Seeing the facial expressions of the customers at TSC being subject to twenty questions about their dog food didn't make for a warm and fuzzy interaction.  It was a good reminder that my interactions need to include respect for the other person first.

When we trust the Holy Spirit to guide our words and actions, it can be life changing.  Only God knows what is truly best for us.  He will not mislead us nor will he badger us.  And best of all, He isn't selling us something.

That's pretty good.  Remember to keep that trust alive.

Friday, September 19, 2014

What are You Pursuing?

How can it be three  weeks since the last blog post?  Is it because one week I was mowing the yard in a tank top and took a dip in the pond because it was so hot and the next I was mowing bundled up in a coat and had to make a fire to warm up?  Yes, that could be it - and the lingering cold symptoms.

This is Lucy and her very favorite toy at the kennel.  She is a rare dog in that she is allowed to run outside with Tilly.  She has since she was a very young dog living with a very old dog.  It was when Tilly was a very young dog and Foster was our very old dog.  Tilly and Lucy love to play with these balls.

Lucy loves to swim, so I threw the ball in the pond for her several times.  Now Lucy is not in the best of shape, so I knew she would wear out soon.  However, she is DRIVEN and does not stop obsessing with the ball ever.  So when the ball went under the raft in the pond and she couldn't reach it, and wouldn't stop trying, I feared for her life.  No matter how many times I called her, she wouldn't stop sticking her head under the raft trying to get the ball.

Fortunately, she finally paid attention to me.  When she got to land, very tired, I grabbed onto her so that she wouldn't change her mind, as she kept looking back at the raft.  What she loved most to pursue in her life could have ended it.

Isn't it true that there are things that obsess us to distraction, despair, and our detriment?  Sure, these are not always bad things, but they are not often worthy of our tireless pursuit.

Emilie Barnes said, "God has put into each of our lives a void that cannot be filled by the world.  We may leave God or put Him on hold, but He is always there, patiently waiting for turn back to Him."

Today stop and consider what is exhausting you.  Is it worth it really?  What is worth more is connecting with God and living a life dedicated to what is important to Him.  When we want what He wants and love what He loves, the rest of our life can fall into a peaceful harmony.

Sunday, August 31, 2014

His Eye is on the Sparrow

Yesterday morning, Frank caught and killed a bird.  Tilly wanted the bird.  There was a fight.  This happened:
Poor Frank.  Poor Sparrow.  Poor me who had a phone call and three kennel appointments at the same time a bloodied cat was running through the kitchen.

Fortunately, the bite didn't hit his eye (though it was close) and he stopped bleeding quickly.  In fact, things returned to normal pretty quickly.  Except for the sparrow.  It was dead.

"Are not two sparrows sold for a penny?  Yet not one of them will fall to the ground outside your Father's care."  (Matthew 10:29 NIV)

This verse inspired a popular gospel song, "His Eye is on the Sparrow" with the line "And I know He watches me."

When I am distressed, I remember this verse.  So much of life is confusing and beyond my understanding.  God understands.

"His eye is on the sparrow."

No wonder the song was popular among African Americans struggling in post-Civil War America.  Struggling with feeling hated and insignificant, the words were a comfort in the big picture of life.

"And I know He watches me."

As our world gets smaller and we hear of every atrocity happening, we get overwhelmed and experience compassion fatigue from the non stop tragedies and injustice.

"His eye is on the sparrow."

Today, you may feel lost in the universe.  That no one cares about your problem.

"His eye is on the sparrow."

Need more proof?  Further on in the book of Matthew, chapter ten, Jesus adds "Surely you are worth more than a sparrow."

And we are.  Despite our mess, the Lord looks at His people as the crown of creation.

Pick up your crown (or tiara) and wear it, knowing that God has His eye on you. 

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Going Home

Vacation is wonderful.  The fun, the relaxation, and often a lot of delicious food makes us all look forward to time away from The Grind of our "ordinary" life.  Most everyone is happy when they are on vacation.

When owners come back from their trips to pick up their dog(s), EVERY dog is ecstatic to see their owner and go HOME.  Case in point:  Brutus
Isn't that a great picture?

Probably just over half of the dogs that stay at the kennel treat it like puppy camp.  They play, they get special treats, they play, they get special treats.  But more than anything, they want to be home and be with their people.

And as fabulous and distracting as vacation is, life is meant to be lived in the ordinary.  When we return to home, to laundry, to bills, we truly reveal our character. 

The Lord loves our vacation selves, but He also loves our ordinary selves.  He cares about the details that drive us crazy.  He can provide the power and wisdom we so often need to push through what can be drudgery, or simply "not fun."

Now that most people are on "back to school" schedules, we return to our ordinary life and our ordinary selves.  Make it a good one.  If you find that difficult, call on the One who makes the ordinary extraordinary, and often supernatural.

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Not Getting This One Back

This is Tyson (hi Tyson!).  During Tyson's recent stay at the kennel, he found one of Tilly's toys while we were out for a walk around the yard.
Once he picked it up, he didn't want to let it go.

Tilly saw him.  I don't know if she realized this was her ball, since she'd been "waiting" in the kennel with the other dogs who were out stretching their legs.  However, Tyson would not drop the ball.  Eventually, I distracted him with a particularly tempting treat.  Tilly had her ball back but Tyson was without.  He had a toy from home, but you know how that is....

We don't want what we have because we are busy wanting what someone else has.  The whole "grass is greener" syndrome.  Covet, covet, covet!

Is the reason that God tells us not to covet because He wants to control us or because He knows that spending time and energy wanting something else can destroy us?  I'm betting on the latter.  When I am busy focusing on the "perfect" thing/relationship/job/etc. someone else has gratefulness flies out the window.  What about what God's current provision?  Can I be thankful for it?  And is it really much better?  Who's with me.....anyone else have this lack of reflection and gratefulness?

Like Tyson, we often can't pick up the blessing that is ours because we are busy holding onto the idea of what SHOULD be ours.  Let it go.  Wait, I think there's a song in there somewhere.

"Drop it!" 

Then pick up something better.  Pick up what God has given you.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Water Everywhere, but not a Drop to Drink

Fresh potable water is vital to human, animal, and plant life.
Summer is a busy time in the kennel, and occasionally the water in my own pets' water bowls is low as I'm focused on the paying customers' bowls.  If this is the case, a certain bossy cat named Olive (who is also a little senile) brings it to my attention with very low, insistent yowls.
Perhaps I should be grateful that I have a "helper" to remind me of my duties.  Mostly, it's just annoying.

Yet we all need water.  If  you live or were passing through Toledo the first weekend in August, it was a little scary as people were without safe water.  Suddenly, we all appreciate the necessity of it.  It was so easy to get before, open the tap, water fills the glass, you're set.  Suddenly, this wasn't the case.  Speaking of "case", cases of water were gone within hours of the notice.  Restaurants closed for the day, even the Zoo was unable to open.

We take water for granted.  I don't know about you, but I do the same thing to Jesus.  Yes, Jesus.  I was fortunate enough to grow up with the knowledge of him always in the background of my childhood.  When I went through religiously affiliated junior high, high school, and college, I still thought about him - I mean, it wasn't like he was going anywhere.

But then I had a crisis.  I realized I needed the Living Water that Jesus called himself.  I needed refreshment from pain, and I needed the life-sustaining flow of the rescue only Jesus could provide.  I took Jesus for granted.  Fortunately, realizing my mistake and repenting, I found Jesus was right there, waiting as I ran to him.

Since then, I don't take Jesus for granted.  Every day I remind myself of the thirst only Jesus can quench.

As I write this, the rain falls, refreshing the plants and crops that need it for growth.  The farmers don't take rain for granted.  The people in Toledo don't take drinking water for granted.  And we should all remember (or find out for the first time), how only Jesus offers us the flow of cooling, life giving water for eternity.

And, you may want to throw a case or two of drinking water in the basement.  Just in case.

Friday, August 1, 2014

Don't Put Your Head in the Sand

Recently, Tilly has developed a fixation with drain pipes and sewer grates.  I mean, VERY fixated:
Do you get up in the morning, turn on your media of choice, and have the same general reaction?  "Make it go away!"  "Stop with the conflict!"  It's much easier to bury our head in the sand than try to make sense of the world when it has careened into chaos.

The good news is, we don't have to make sense of it.  No, this isn't an argument to adopt an attitude of "Fiddle-dee-dee, God's in control."  While that IS true, sometimes we have to listen to what is happening and recognize that there are many broken people breaking things and making it worse.  Sometimes we have to let our hearts break too.  How else can we relate and build relationships to people who need to find peace and rest?  If we know the God of Good News, we can share it.

It may not change the world, but it may change theirs a little bit.  And yours too.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Little Dog Power

Sometimes the big dogs out number the little dogs at the kennel.  But not recently.  This was the nicest and happiest little group I've had for a while.
It's easy to feel intimidated when you're among the big dogs.  They loom large and bark loudly.  One might feel lost in the shuffle.

However, I know where these little guys are, even if they feel lost.  When they are among friends, they have more confidence and feel more assured of their place in the world.

When we look at the news in the world, we may be tempted to feel despair, wondering how our little lives matter in this great big world.  If we are fortunate, we find some friends that are willing to huddle with us, bearing the storm together. 

Most importantly, we remember that God knows where we are, even if we're running among the big dogs.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Growing Into Your Life

It's fun to watch puppies, especially the large breeds.  Their paws are huge and the pups often trip right over them.  Often when they are at the kennel for more than a few days, I will go out in the morning and notice they are bigger.  When the owner returns, they notice immediately that their little darling is growing up.
When we view our lives as gifts from God, with the burdens and blessings that includes, we can walk calmly at the pace God wants.  But do we?  I mean, don't WE want to dash forward, tripping over ourselves with our own plans?  Don't we want to use our OWN gifts the way WE want to?

Is it possible that life is not .....gasp....about US?

Is it possible that the tough circumstances and burdens we face may be for the benefit of others, not ourselves?  Is God glorified according to HIS purposes even when we suffer greatly?  Can we honestly say "yes" to that?

If you are out walking your dog and a car comes hurling at you, I bet you would rather take the hit over your dog.  And if you have children, you would rather suffer FOR your child rather than your child experiencing pain.  This is what Jesus did for us.  How can we not be grateful?  How can we able to say you'd do the same for someone else?  Someone maybe you haven't met.  Maybe even someone you don't like - even an enemy.

But how can we do it?  Even if we wanted to, wouldn't we be seen as crazy to others?  Experience suffering for no reason or endure our personal hardship for the sake of someone else's walk with God?  Only through God's grace and strength can we do this.  Only God can infuse our souls with His love to care enough to endure.  Only through God's strength can we finish the walk he's given us.  And we don't get answer to "why" each time either.

That's God's radical plan right there.  Those are some big paws to grow into.  But you can do it, one step at a time.

Monday, July 7, 2014

Step on It

We tend to rush through our days, particularly those tasks that are mundane and we know how to do with little thought.

The last couple of weeks at the kennel has been insanely busy.  I was reminded to slow down.

By a giant paw on my foot:
This is Maggie (hi Maggie).  She's been here before and is a pretty easy dog, requiring little care.  It would be easy to breeze by her with a quick freshening of the water and a treat.

What Maggie really wants is love.  She is the Velcro type of dog that always has to have some part of her touching you, either by leaning on your legs so you can't move or stepping on your foot.

It is a reminder I needed.  Part of the fun of this job is petting the dogs and seeing the wag of their tails.  In fact, sometimes that is the ONLY fun there is!

It's made me wonder how much other important moments I miss by not slowing down and enjoying the quiet easy moments.  And how can I hear God's still voice if I'm making a racket?

What about you?  What lessons have you learned by keeping a slower pace?

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Get Waggy

Today I told a friend I was going to a "certain box store" and asked if she needed anything.  She responded, "Well, I did happen to leave something there the last time I shopped.  Would you mind picking up Waggy for me?'


Meet Waggy:
It's not the sense of helpfulness that drove me to say yes but the instant realization that I could tell a store clerk, "Hi, I'm  here to pick up Waggy."

And I did.

And they gave me Waggy.

Sure, I could try to wind this around to some great spiritual truth about how helping a friend is good and maybe you'll actually enjoy it and blah, blah, blah, but really, I just wanted to show you Waggy.

Have a great weekend.

Friday, June 20, 2014

Party Crasher

On one of our Fun Fridays, a certain neighbor cat showed up to see what we were up to.  He obviously made himself pretty comfy in the process of being curious.
However, we didn't kick him out (though he was told to keep his nose away from the strawberry cookies).  We welcomed his antics, despite his bullying of another neighbor cat.

Sometimes people show up in our lives at inopportune moments.  We didn't expect them and therefore feel a bit testy at their appearance.  Then, they may not behave the way we think they should.  We question their motives as well as their manners.

Today is International Refugee Day.  With world problems from Iraq to Ukraine to US/Mexico, we can feel overwhelmed, not knowing what to think.  But we know what to DO.  We can pray.  Regardless of policies, a person displaced and out of their natural element still needs kindness, if not our immediate help in practical ways.

If a stranger shows up, whether two legs or four, adjust your own agenda and think of them.  Offer patience and compassion.  Show them God's love, the way God has loved you.

Monday, June 16, 2014

Hand Fed

It was his first long distance car trip.  It was his first time away from his family, which meant his first visit to the kennel.  It was no wonder he was reluctant to eat.
One thing I've learned when this happens is to take the dog outside, spend some time with him/her, and offer some food, one piece at a time.  And it worked.  He ate, one piece of kibble at a time.  When I tried to push the bowl to him, he refused, not ready to make such a big commitment to normal eating just yet.

Change is not easy.  It's not easy for us, and it's not easy for others.  It seems overwhelming and scary.  But, if we break down our fears one by one, and make simple adjustments one step at a time, acclimation and transformation is possible.

It's not always easy to accept how much God loves us, how willing he is to give us forgiveness, and most of all to wrap our mind around the grace that saves us.  By definition, Omnipotent, Omniscient God is overwhelming and intimidating.  But maybe today, you can look at one good gift in your life, or just out the window.  Recall the one time that an amazing provision was made, seemingly just for you, and allow that God was calling to you.  Take a step forward.  Don't be afraid.  The Lord wants to give you good things.  These gifts will feed your soul, sustain your life, and give you hope.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

The Law of Diminishing Returns

Tilly loves to play with her blue ball outside.  Every morning after working in the kennel (that would be ME doing the work, not her), she races to the ball, pounces on it with great exuberance and brings it to me to throw or kick. 

When she gets tired of retrieving it, she sits and rips it into tiny pieces.  There's no point in explaining to her that little by little, she is expending the life of her favorite toy.

Our Wednesday night Bible study is going through Ecclesiastes this summer.  Salomon had all the riches in the world, plenty of "toys" if you will.  But they didn't satisfy him.  The more he got, the more  he needed, exhausting them until there was nothing left.  Ultimately, his mass consumption of enjoyments led to their ineffectiveness.  He needed more, but he got less.  The law of diminishing returns.

When we put our priorities in order, we can enjoy the gifts in our lives without exhausting them.  The Lord's provisions to us are to be balanced, not the central focus of our pursuits.  Whether food, wine, partying, power, romance, or amassing possessions, these pursuits can lead us empty after we've worn them out. 

Don't tear your life to pieces.  Seek God first, then all these other things are cast in their appropriate light. 

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Surely Goodness will follow me...

A new kennel client brought their ten year old St. Bernard recently for a stay. 

(this is not THE St. Bernard, but one of my favorites (Sandy) who passed away several years ago.  I still miss this wonderful dog.)
The new client told me that she got the dog for her mother, who had cancer.  Her mother always wanted a St. Bernard, so her daughter got her one.

What an example of "goodness."  All of June, my focus is on this "fruit of the Spirit."  I've struggled with the definition of just what "goodness" is.  Kindness seems like an action, while goodness seems like a state of being, like it is what is inside a person and it can't help but flow out.

Buying your dying mother a giant dog is indeed a kind act, but it was an overflow from a good heart.

If I look at myself, I don't believe what overflows from my heart is goodness.  If it looks like it, it is only because I've done a lot of self-editing. 

Being "good" is hard.  God is "good", but what does that mean, exactly?  Whatever it is, I'd like more of it.  I pray for the Lord to grant me His goodness so that my heart will change from bitter to love, so that my actions overflow with the goodness within.

What do you think "goodness" means?

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Necessary Pain

This is my cat, Dooley.
While you don't need to know just how many cats I've owned, suffice it to say it's"many."

Dooley hates going to the vet more than all of them combined.  HATES it.  He's traumatized for not just days, but weeks, after a visit.  When one vet said he needed dental work, the results were disastrous for all involved.  Upon my return to retrieve Dooley, not only did I learn that the dental work wasn't done, but the vet was overheard yelling to the tech, "get the net!" and Dooley managed to stick to the paneled wall.

Lesson learned.

Since Dooley is older and somewhat feral, I decided not to be the semi-irresponsible pet owner and not take him back.  However, last week, he began limping and by Monday, it could no longer be ignored.  A heart to heart with Dooley, explaining he would need to see the vet, resulted in nothing.  But it made me feel better as I stuffed him into the carrier after tricking him into it.  This was a new vet and the tech had the perfect touch with Dooley, and he was perfect.  Or, maybe he was paralyzed with fear.  Either way, the vet was able to remove the offending material from Dooley's paw, clean it up, and give him two shots without anyone losing blood.

That night, Dooley felt so much better that he wouldn't leave me alone, constantly meowing his approval.

No one wants pain or difficult circumstances.  We avoid it, not understanding that a terrible infection is at work the more we avoid the necessary pain.  Trials and troubles often result in the real presence of God when we seek His comfort.  Our losses may be significant and awful, but if we avail ourselves to the healing that Jesus gives, the result of experiencing God Himself drives out the hard edges of our willfulness, selfishness, and lack of love.

Perhaps we don't wish to be refined.  Maybe we even have had enough refining, thank you very much.  But, in the end, the resistance is not worth the relief.  Let the rejoicing begin.

Saturday, May 10, 2014

Say Yes to Monkeys!

Recently, I had a birthday. 

After a large showering of gifts at Christmas from my favorite Zumba people, I asked that if anyone inquired about my birthday, to just have it be "no big deal."
Previously, I've been blessed with a WIDE variety of sock monkey themed gifts.  Somehow people thought I was in love with sock monkeys.
Last Christmas, I asked for a moratorium on sock monkeys.
Not because I am missing sock monkeys in my life.  Not because I want more gifts.  But because if people want to give you a gift, you say yes and enjoy it, whether modest, extravagant, monkey or non-monkey.
Who do I think that I am to limit what others want to do for me?  When I want to give a friend a gift, I don't want them to tell me no. 

Would I tell God "No, I don't want your blessing?"  But I bet I have done that.  The wonderful things the Lord sends into our lives aren't necessarily obvious.  He gives us beautiful flowers and we walk by them, because we have a list.
He gives us opportunities, but if they don't fit into our own plan, we pass them too.
Today, and every day, look for the gifts in your life.  Most importantly, look to the Giver of every good and perfect gift.
And is someone wants to give you a monkey, say yes!


Friday, May 2, 2014

I Don't Miss You

Recently, I took a five day vacation, seeking to rest body and mind.  On the third day, I thought, "I do not miss Tilly."  A few hours later, someone asked, "Do you miss Tilly?"  "I do not miss Tilly," is what I wanted to say, and did.  This seemed to surprise them.

It's okay to not miss your pet when they annoy you with their exuberance.  It's okay to miss  your child when they go away for camp or you go out for the evening.  We all need space now and then.

But when I'm away from God, I realize I do miss Him.  Once I can empty my mind of the clutter, I seek God.  Then I feel full in ways I don't with other relationships, whether animal, vegetable, mineral, or human. 

Recently I heard someone say the longer they stayed away from God, the more awkward it was to return.  They said it was like not calling a friend and after awhile, you didn't want to call them because the need to explain and catch up was worse than the initial delay, and on goes the cycle.

God misses us.  We do not get on His nerves.  We are no bother.  It's impossible to wake him up in the middle of the night for a request or chat.  Even when we avoid Him, he welcomes us back with arms wide open, no matter how long we've been away or how pouty we feel.

When you need a break, God's presence heals and fulfills.  Run in that direction today.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

A Favorite Toy

Yesterday I bought Tilly two new toys, both with loud, obnoxious squeakers in them.  She was thrilled.  The most annoying one she squeaked several times.  Then she went on a mad dash upstairs. 

And came down with this instead, her old toy:
It's her current favorite, a little stuffed animal I call "Justin Beaver."  As you can tell, she is delighted with this gnarly beast.

Why did she take the new toy upstairs to dump it for this?  Was she thinking, "I am squeaking new toy.  Toy is fun.  Thoughts of other toy fun.  Go get other toy fun."

But we all have our favorites, don't we?  A favorite movie, vacation spot, candy bar or friend evokes fond memories.  It's why we return to it time and again.

Today, find a place to thank God for the very simple joys that bring you happiness and comfort. 

What's your pet's favorite toy?

Sunday, April 13, 2014

What's Your Battle?

What do you see in this picture?
A dog attacking a helpless cat?  A cat ripping the dog's face off?  An extremely dirty kitchen floor?

All three are correct, except Tilly and Captain play like this All. The. Time.

Perhaps you identify with an oppressive force keeping you flat on your back.  Maybe you identify with being the Top Dog, going after your problems with ferocity.

No matter where you are in the fight, we all do battle, either with a person or a situation, through our own poor choices or just innocently living our lives.  Problems are impossible to avoid - it's part of living. 

How do you handle your battle?  We need to be honest with our feelings, as slapping a false front can be insincere.  At the same time, we need to work toward living above the tough circumstances.  Sure, that may sound good and noble, but is it possible?  For me, I can only do so by acknowledging that without God's help and power, I can't do it.  Left to my own devices, I wallow in self-pity, becoming angered easily, an impatient mess.

Today submit to God your struggle.  Admit that it's too much - that it's awful.  Ask for the strength of God's mighty hand.  Ask for redemption.  The important thing is that you ask.

 but also, getting to a place where we can live above our

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

That's Not Love

Usually this blog focuses on some personal experiences relating to dogs in the kennel.

Today's post is unusual.

It is serious.  It is sad.  If you've had a bad day, you may not want to read it.  If you've had a good day, you may not want to read it.  So why am I writing it?  Because sometimes we get a little too comfortable.  Sometimes we see someone and make assumptions. 

Like many dogs, Tilly is hard on toys.  After several weeks of piecing this one back together, she did in her teddy bear once and for all by ripping out its guts.
The sad "I love you" pillow got to me.

You see, a friend of mine told me over dinner about a woman we both know.  From the desperate sounds of it, this woman is losing her battle with alcohol addiction.

My friend has known her for years, and after the last relapse, there was no helping her.  This woman is yellow from jaundice, bruised from falling, living in squalor and how she continues to get alcohol is unspeakable.

Yet when I saw this woman, it was when she was sober, dressed up, and sitting next to me in Bible study.  I knew she was struggling.  I knew she'd been abused horribly by the people who should have protected her more than anyone.  The trust of a child was destroyed, her innocence gone forever.  Somehow the lesson she learned was what love wasn't, but a child doesn't process things the same.  I saw this woman's heart, and it was good.

But her pain was deep.  She knew of Jesus' love for her.  But that didn't stop her from taking an easier comfort in something that would dull her pain, mistaking again what love wasn't.

Now she is the worst of stereotypes.  "Trailer Trash" and other names people say.  But I look at that teddy bear and remember the abused child is now an abused adult, forgetting all about love.

Recently a ceremony was held to recognize the number of child abuse cases handled in a nearby county.  Many of those children won't overcome their scars as they mature into adulthood. 

When you see someone you want to deride by a label, don't add to their abuse.  Think of them as someone who may be losing a battle - one that began a long time ago that was no fault of their own.  Maybe you're the only kind face they will see.  Maybe you can offer some hope.  Remind them.  Remind them Jesus still loves them.  And Jesus wants them back, even with failures and even with pain.  Jesus calls us back.  Jesus is love, the kind of love that understands abuse, and the kind that endures forever.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Caring for the Lost

Last Thursday, just before I had to go somewhere, I saw this little dog making a shelter in the bushes before the rains resumed:
With a collar and leash attached, the little female beagle must have an owner, and she was extremely thin.  She'd been on her own for a while was my guess.  I got her into warmth and fed her a hearty meal, which she ravenously devoured.

Just a month before, a strange dog was standing in my driveway early in the morning.  In the country, it's not too uncommon to have "travelers" who roam from their homes but often wander right back.  I said something to this dog, but it cowered away from me.  It was just before our last big snow, and I saw the dog again when the snow was fierce.  Again, the dog shied away.  Two days later, I saw that same dog, heading for the woods. 

It broke my heart.  I should have pursued that dog and helped when I had the chance.  My worry is it appeared on many doorsteps before giving up to try to make it on its own in the wild.

I prayed that I got another chance.  I did, but with another dog.

This beagle stayed with me while I tried to find its home, made calls to area dog wardens and vet offices.  The one lead I had wasn't successful.  Finally, I gave the dog to someone who got her into a rescue. 

How many times have I watched wounded, lost and hopeless pass through my life, without me speaking one word of hope to them? 

Rescue organizations pull dogs from shelters to find them permanent homes.  They drive strays across state lines to get them to places where they have a better chance to be adopted.

Missionaries give up their entire lives to go into hostile countries with crushing poverty to give fresh water and hope to lost people.  Caring people in our own country sacrifice time and comfort to help people.

Yet there are those "stray" people with whom we cross paths with every day, often in our own yard.  What am I doing for them?  What are you doing?  We don't have to look very far to see someone who needs to remember that Jesus loves them, right now.

Build each other up and do no tear them down.  Give the thirsty fresh water.  Be a voice of hope and not harm.  Even if you don't feel like it.  You may be the only encourages and life raft they meet for a long time.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

The Greatest of These

This is Dooley (hi Dooley)!
Dooley is my very favorite cat (I won't tell you out of how many).  I'd say don't tell the other cats that he's my favorite, but they probably know (or, since they are cats, they don't care).

Dooley was a stray kitten afraid of everyone.  Now he's an adult and afraid of everyone except me and an extremely short list of other people.  He nags me at dinner time.  He nags me when it's time to go to bed (somehow he grasped the time change).

But when I first brought Dooley home from rescuing him from his homelessness, he hissed at me.  He spat.  He did not love me.  After two days of this, I lectured him that no one would like a hateful cat, and if he expected to have house privileges, he better change his attitude.  Strangely it worked.

Dooley stopped hating me.  When I saw him next, he laid down and flipped over on his back and showed me his belly, doing that weird cute thing with his head that cats do to let you know they are actually charming beings.

I was wary, but it turned out that he meant it.  Ever since then, he sleeps on my bed every night.  Now at the age of ten, he sleeps on it every day too, which is worrisome for the comforter's hair threshold.  I love Dooley.  I am just crazy about him.

Jesus said that to love God with our whole HEART, MIND, SOUL, and STRENGTH.  Those are four different things!  Then he said, to love our neighbors as ourselves.  Neither of these are easy.  But if these two can be kept, then keeping the Big Ten are easy.  LOVING GOD isn't easy, and throwing in our feelings, our logic, our illogic, and our personality into it full stop is even more radical. 

How can it be done?

By realizing how much God LOVES US.  He takes us in as strays, who spit and fight him.  He cares for us unconditionally.  If we decide to trust Him, believe He is who He says He is, to understand that He sacrificed his one and only Son, for US, we get eternal house privileges.  As lousy as I can be, God loves me more.  Even when I change my attitude and love God, I still mess up.  And only through His own power can I love other annoying neighbors....the man who talks too much, the woman who is standing in my way....the child who will not stop shrieking....

We can't hate and love at the same time.  We can be annoyed, we can disagree, we can be confused, but we can't hate if we are saying that we love.  If I help the poor, I can not hate the rich.  If I have compassion for the refugee, I can not hate the policy enforcers.  If I disagree vehemently with world leaders, I still can't hate them if I say that I follow Jesus, who loves the unlovable.  In my humanness, I hate. But I have to give it up - it must be sacrificed.  And in my spitting imperfection, God pulls me close, whispers Jesus' name, and reminds me I'm forgiven, to go and sin no more.  To love my neighbor as myself. 

Considering how much I like me, this is a challenge.  But it's a life changing, world flipping mandate to love radically which can be done through God's own power.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

There's Always Hope

Meet Hope (hi Hope!).
Isn't she adorable?  And what a great name.  She's very sweet too.  Her name could be Sweet.  Her name could also be Hop.

Hope doesn't exactly know how to walk on a leash.  She also does not like to walk in water, slush, mud, or soft snow, all of which was in abundance while she was under my care.  The result was her resting her front paws on my lower back and hopping behind me.

No, I didn't get pictures.  It was equal parts cute and embarrassing.  People drove by at really inopportune times.

Sometimes my more annoying habits come out, just in time to annoy other people and embarrass them.  I don't want to do it, and often I don't mean to.  It's like I don't want to get my own hands dirty as I wade through the mud of my life. I'd rather grab onto someone else and see if they might help me out instead.

But I was made to walk on my own, and to do so in a healthy way.  God's power can and does heal old hurts and strengthen my weaknesses.

He allows me to love others who are also a bit grungy and annoying.  And He loves you too.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

"I Don't Like People"

This has been the mantra uttered by many.  It's bandied about like it's a cool thing.  People laugh.  "I like dogs but I don't like people."  Sure, I like dogs.  And, to be honest, I have often felt the same way about people.

But I don't feel that way anymore.  I realized when I said that, the implication was I'm better than others, and those poor saps better stay out of my cool self's way.

It's easy to like dogs.
Well....SOME dogs....
Running a kennel, I meet a lot of people of all educational and economical levels.  After sixteen years, I've learned to like people more than their dogs.  In fact, I'd say this change is nothing short of a miracle....a work of God in my life.

What started it?

One of my kennel clients was widely unliked by others.  But I saw this person with their dog.  When this dog died, my friend at the vet clinic told me how this person broke down and sobbed.  People are different with their dogs.  They are a lot more real and tender and vulnerable.

And so are you.  And so am I.  God knows the difference of who we may be at work or in the community.  He knows us our real self.  He loves us anyway.

Monday, March 3, 2014

His Eye is on the Sparrow

This morning, I kept thinking of the verse, "What is man that God art mindful of him?"  There's a lot of things that demand the attention of the Driver of the Universe, yet He pays attention to us meager humans.  We are a problematic species.  We either tromp all over, kicking others' sandcastles or we sit on the curb doing nothing.

Yet we matter.

Then I went downstairs to read and pray.  I saw a sparrow, puffed up from the cold, nipping at the snow.  God made a provision for the sparrow as it thirsts.  At my birdfeeder, the sparrows congregate, along with cardinals, nut hatches, and even the very nasty blue jays.
The sparrows, those that are considered a dime a dozen, practically worthless, and of the "no one will miss one" variety, are mentioned in God's word as having value. 

As sparrows congregate on the eaves, one of my cats watches from inside.  If she could, she'd snag one of them.  And God would know it.  He would care. 

It gives me a sense of peace to know that no matter what happens through the course of my day, God is mindful of me.  I am not insignificant.  And neither are you.

Saturday, March 1, 2014

This is Your Captain Speaking

This is Captain, my little yellow cat who is almost two years old. 
He looks adorable and peaceful, doesn't he?  LIES!  ALL LIES!

His assault on the birdfeeder is not uncommon.

His assaults on other peace-loving cats, also common:
Certainly mice are not safe (but I'm okay with that).

As you can see, Captain is a pest and a killer.  Inside, he often does naughty things beyond knocking things off the counters (and being on them to begin with).  Sometimes when I pet him, he takes aggressive swipes at me.  He is truly terrible.

Yet, I find that I love him.  I still feed him.  We play outside and in.  He chases Tilly and likes to help at the wood pile (though not as useful as one might hope).  He can be adorable when he cuddles up (those rare moments) with possibly the best purr ever. 

He was dumped off here as a tiny kitten who needed help.  It would be easy to look at his behavior and consider him completely ungrateful.

Then I think about how I'm not that different from this ornery cat.  God found me, helpless and in need of saving.  Often I am defiant, nasty, and even have taken a few swipes at God.  Yet he continues to love me eternally, even giving me good things.  Why am I not more grateful?

If for no other reason, I should remember that "God loves me anyway."  Even if my behavior is imperfect and my attitude leaves something to be desired, God's love endures forever.  That's something wonderful.

Monday, February 17, 2014

Not Much of a Sacrifice

Sometimes a dog owner will ask if their dog can stay in the house instead of the kennel.  Of course, this is understandable since 95% of the dogs boarded are house dogs.  Yet the house is already full of many animals as it is!

With the recent propane shortage and subsequent sky rocketing costs, the kennel closed for a few weeks.  However, here and there I've been able to watch a small dog in the house for a couple days.
Some owners think it's a really nice and generous thing for me to do.  But really, it's a money saver.

Yesterday a Bible teacher was talking about the definition of sacrilege.  Most of this think this means taking something that is deemed holy and using it for non-holy purposes.  He cited another Biblical writer who said what true sacrilege is - giving something to God as if it is a sacrifice, when really it isn't at all. 

In other words, it's not like you're going to miss the so-called sacrificial gift.  What this means for me is if I decide to give up sugar for Lent and I'm already going on a diet, then it's not really something I am giving up for God.  Or maybe I decide to give up going elk hunting for Lent.  Frankly, I've never been nor do I plan to go elk hunting.  Again, not a sacrifice.  What if I decided to give up saying negative things about people.  Oh, now we're talking serious sacrifice!  I may not even be able to carry on a conversation with others! 

Yet shifting my focus to the good inside people instead of running them down would be something that would honor God.  And it is one in which I'd have to rely on God's power to keep.  Any inevitable failure would require running to Him for forgiveness.

But who knows, maybe I'd learn something from a true sacrifice - one that actually cost me something.  Because Lent is the time we remember God's own sacrifice of his innocent son Jesus, for us, those who run others down and don't really like to give up anything at all.

Friday, February 14, 2014

Share the Love

Valentine's Day doesn't put a smile on everyone's face.  It's easy to focus on what we don't have, instead of what we do.  Focusing on love that is unconditional, the kind that gives us a glimpse of God's enormous and unending love for us, is worth celebrating.

Sunday, February 9, 2014

The Most Difficult Goodbye

Sadie had fourteen fabulous years with her owner.  Years of playing Frisbee, car rides, boat trips and other adventures, not to mention being and giving love.

But still, we want more time from our pets, don't we?  It's never a long enough time.  It is hard to sit back and think it was plenty.  It's not a bad thing to be greedy for a sound love in our lives. 

Yet when we lose our pets, we seem to lose a part of our lives and we say good bye to all of that.  Our pets document our time and define many events we experience during those years. 

Pets are a gift to us.  Their unconditional love reminds us that it is possible to experience love that doesn't become angry and doesn't put conditions and expectations we can never meet.  It is the kind of love that only God maintains perfectly and eternally.  It isn't something we see in our lives often.  It is why when we experience it tangibly, we grieve its passing.

But striving for the love of God, striving toward God, allows us to experience the flow of God's love in a way that never ends.  And that is a solid comfort.

Thursday, February 6, 2014


While most dogs do well at the kennel, there is a small number who look at me as if I am the Worst Person in the World who Hates Dogs.  No matter what I pull out of my bag of tricks, the dog will not warm up to me.

When their owner returns, they are so ridiculously gleeful that I feel embarrassed, and think maybe I really am the Worst Person in the World.
Last night I heard a teaching on how Jesus' death and resurrection frees us from the punishment of all of our wrongdoings and shortcomings.  It made me think of all that Jesus has freed me from, not just the Big One.

Jesus has freed me from crippling grief.  He's saved me from despair over circumstances that become tedious and overwhelming.  The great love of Christ has freed me from concern of what others think or expect of me.  In other words, not only is my salvation after death secure, but every day I can walk in freedom, and well over my trying circumstances.

And so can you.  From what do you need to be freed?  What are you most thankful for on a daily basis?

Saturday, February 1, 2014

A Lot of Love

Last week, Tug was here.  In this picture, he was still maturing (and it wasn't snowing).  Now, he weighs in around 170 pounds.
This year, I decided to choose a different positive trait to pray about.  January was "Love."  So I prayed to be more loving.  As one might imagine, it really didn't seem like it was working.  Feelings of irritation still flitted through my mind when bumping into people throughout my little world.  Then yesterday, a few situations were brought to mind and I realized I definitely was more caring/loving about the people involved.  YAY!

Then this morning, I heard a message about John, "the disciple Jesus loved."  Sometimes it sounded like maybe John was bragging, but this Bible teacher suggested that John merely identified himself as being loved by Jesus, just the way Jesus loves EACH of us.

What if I'd been praying that I become more aware that I am the one Jesus loves?  What if I sought more to feel loved by God, to see the daily evidence in my life?  Fortunately, all is not lost.  This can be my prayer from here on out.  After all, how can I love others if I don't fully appreciate God's love for me?

And in case you're wondering, February's focus is Joy.  With this winter, Joy is needed!

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Warning: Dogs at Play

Matilda has found a new friend in Ireland.

Since we are all suffering from cabin fever, it's been a good thing for both of them - and me.

We get bored in our culture.  We are so used to being busy with work, meetings, running errands, surfing the internet, that most of us forget how to endure when we aren't constantly occupied.

Yet "being still" is valued.  As much as we need to exercise our body and minds, we are also asked to seek contemplation.  How do you absorb the presence of God when a constant din keeps your attention?

Yesterday's frozen weather cancelled school and work for many.  The roads were quiet.  And, in a rare moment, even the winds were still.  It was so lovely and quiet outside...if you could get past the idea that it was 15 below zero.

Seek balance in life.  When weather interrupts your schedule, allow it to do so, and let a better moment fill your soul.