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Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Not Two of a Kind

Meet Oliver and Meow.
This is one of my favorite pictures.  Perhaps it should be explained that yes, they are owned by the same family and yes, they said they could be together.  You can't quite see that Meow is basically as big as Oliver.

Despite being Dog and Cat, they get along great, to the point they can even occupy the same small space.

Have you noticed how uncivil we've become?  What is said on social media wouldn't be said face to face.  If you were sitting in a room with someone, it is unlikely your tone would match what you post.  And then it is unlikely that others commenting and ganging up on another would do so in person.

Unless it becomes a habit.  When you think that way, you are training yourself to act that way.

And two caged domesticated animals act better.  We can do better too. 

But how do we do that?  How can we make changes?  How do we not fall back on our knee jerk reactions?  It is rooted in wisdom.

The "wisdom of the world" is not the same as God's wisdom.  The "world" doesn't value meekness in any form.  It is instead viewed as "weakness" and is usually exploited.  True wisdom is eternal, unchanging.  If we listen to a voice that is not rooted in the Lord, we follow that which may become "bitter envy and selfish ambition."  That "habit" quickly can become a lifestyle.  Often, I look at my own social media imprint and notice a striking resemblance to selfish ambition (easily done when social media is where you try to "grow your audience).

God came down at Christmas in Jesus.  When Jesus went back home, He left believers the Holy Spirit.  Wisdom is not so far away.  Christmas reminds us that Jesus came for us all, but few follow.  Not only does Jesus come as Messiah, He is the Giver of Life, both NOW and forever.

If you don't worry about your eternal home much, maybe you could worry a bit more about your temporary one.  What are the tools that get you through?  Are they reliable?  Are they True?  Are they unchanging?  There is much to cloud our vision and dedication to God, but the sacrifice is so small compared to what God wants to give in return.

It is the best Christmas gift a person could ever receive.  And it's free.  And it's for you.


Sunday, November 29, 2015

It's Never Too Late to be Grateful

Meet Emmit (hi Emmit).  There he is with Tilly, who is still adjusting to his presence.
Emmit spent the first ten years of his life chained to a dog house outside.  Then he spent over one hundred days in a shelter.  Then, he had the good fortune to be taken in by a foster couple, who took great care of him for three months.

It seems likely that Emmit is thankful to be in a new home.  It's important to be thankful - it shows our appreciation for what we have.  Being grateful is a nuanced difference.  It implies direction.  To whom do we show our thankfulness?  When we involve another, it is gratitude.

Like so many things, we are meant to be in community with others.  Being thankful all by yourself may be pleasant.  But when we are grateful, we recognize the role of others.

Emmit's sweetness reflects his gratitude toward those who rescued him from the shelter, the couple who housed him for months, and hopefully soon for being in his forever home.  He is thankful the ordeal is over, and grateful to those who helped along the way.

When we look at all the good in our lives, we can be thankful.  But so much of what we have, especially in our culture, has little to do with our own achievements.  We may be thankful we don't suffer as others do, but that is an accident of birth.  It needs direction, and there is only God to reflect our true gratitude.  The Lord receives our thanks with a grateful heart.  Hmmm, there's a song in there somewhere.

I'm grateful for those who helped Emmit get him out of his situation and into his new home.  He's such a good and sweet dog.  Yesterday, I got to see him run at a great, loping pace across the yard.  His expression was pure joy.  Emmit has been freed from so much.

And so have I.  For that, I am overwhelmingly grateful.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Looking for What's Hidden

Look closely.  There - do you see it?
That little cat, hanging out at the garage.  He's got it pretty good, this cat.  He and a sibling were rescued strays, who now enjoy a safe and interesting environment, along with good food and care.

But if you just glance at the picture, you miss it.

And that's how we are with what is good.  We miss it.  Maybe you don't, but I do.  Sometimes I pay attention to headlines about the Depravity of Man and despair.  I hear about terrorism and I fear.  I read (and write) not so kind comments on social media and am filled with regret and wounded pride and feelings.

But - happily - there is more.  There is goodness.  Certainly there are good, courageous people who are selfless and kind.  Certainly there are headlines that are redemptive.  Of course, there are always cat videos.

Is that enough?

Not for me. 

Hanging your hopes on the basic goodness of mankind will only lead to disappointment.  Sure, it exist.  In small amounts.  And only in small doses.

Likely, you need more too.

The Lord's love endures forever.  Far from being hard for us to know, He draws near to those who draw near to Him.  He is not distant.  He makes His perfect love known in loving ways.  Despite our imperfections and feeble efforts to win the love of God, He redeems our shortcomings through Christ.  Trusting in Jesus never fails.  It is proof.  It is rest.  It is freedom.

You just have to look for it.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

"It Takes a Big Dog..."

....to weigh a ton."

My husband used to say this somewhat obvious, yet meaningless phrase.  It was something he said as filler in a conversation.  It generally drew looks of confusion, nervous laughter, and a change of subject.

Which is exactly what Darren hoped for.

Tug sometimes generates the same reaction.
He's a big dog.  Other dogs look at him with confusion, a cautionary tail wag, or turning their focus toward that toy they misplaced somewhere in the back of their run.

Yet when he's here at the kennel, he's gentle, obedient and only politely curious about the other dogs.  But he's HUGE compared to the other dogs.  Here's his paw compared to my size 7 foot.

How often do I jump to conclusions from the outward appearance of another person (or a dog)?  We all do it.  We understand why often (huge dog=scary), but that doesn't mean it's okay.  In other words, "Understandable doesn't mean it's acceptable."  I need to remind myself that perception is not reality. 

Sometimes truth is the same way - it looks one way, but it is actually another.  It requires work, research, and reflection to consider what is true as opposed to we "feel."

"For the LORD sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the LORD looks on the heart.” (I Samuel 16:7).  In a world and culture that does all in its power to deceive, obfuscate, and corrupt, each of us need to remember that only God's word is timeless and unchanging.  There, we can find truth that is not a restriction and kill-joy, but one that is the prescription of the best way to live.  God doesn't demand we follow His rules.  Instead, He's given us something we can choose to follow - as a gift from a loving Father.

It's a time to be diligent for the truth and kind in all things.  Fill yourself up with Jesus, and love will come right back out - but only His pure, perfect love, not our stinky conditional kind.

If you're driving down the road, and see this face looking back at you, don't be afraid.  Things aren't always what they seem, either in the side mirror or straight ahead.  Check the plum line of God's word for unchanging truth.




Tuesday, November 3, 2015

A Bounty of Gifts

Every Thursday morning, Tilly often accompanies me to the local community center (she stays in the car during Zumba, though I'm sure she'd like to join in).  Since they are not allowed to sell stuffed animals, Tilly is the happy recipient of some of the larger stuffed animals.
The lady who keeps them back for her enjoys giving them to Tilly, due to the excessive and enthusiastic response by Tilly.  She can't say thank you enough.

Last week, I heard a teaching on how complaining demonstrates a lack of gratitude in what God has given us.  It was a week long series and let's just say it hit home.  For November, I'm trying to reform my complaining ways.  It's tough to give up something I'm so very good at it.  But if it takes 6 weeks to form new habits, I'm starting right now.  Focusing on gratitude shouldn't be so hard, when we live somewhere that has so many amazing privileges.  Seriously, the question should be, "Where do I begin when considering how I'm blessed?"

Often, we destroy the good things we're given by.....enjoying them too much....sort of like ripping the stuffing out of them.  It destroys the gift in the way in which it was originally intended.

Do you see where I'm going here?  I thought so. 

'Nuff said.


Sunday, October 11, 2015

Help for the Blind

This is Flip and Bentley (hi Flip! hi Bentley!).
It's hard to get a good shot on two dogs on the move!  Flip, the dachshund, is blind.  But Bentley, the shih-Tzu, lets Flip know when and where to go.  Below, Bentley intervenes before Flip walks into a fence.

Blind dogs are not uncommon and I've owned one myself.  They can be a lot of work so they do not harm themselves.  Flip, to his credit, is still a happy dog who seems mostly unaware that he could be heading for disaster if Bentley wasn't there, looking out for him.

I'm thankful for the Bentley's in my life.  Those brave souls who've told me I was heading for a dead end, a brick wall - use whatever metaphor you want.  Perhaps you've had a friend like that as well.

One metaphor that has stuck with me is how God's Word is the "plum line" of faith.  When we don't know if we are off course, His ways will let us know.  Do we doubt His love?  His Faithfulness?  His love endures forever.  He wants what is best for us, even if we are oblivious to the danger.  How often are we attracted to something/someone/some concept that is in fact, a deceit that brings us harm?  It is a kindness to be corrected, even if it is not fun and even embarrassing. 

Bentley and Flip will hopefully be good friends for a long time to come.  But sometimes our friends do fail us.  But God is unchangeable and eternal.  We can always run to Him.

Friday, October 2, 2015

Entertain Me

Tilly got bored quickly this morning.
Not only did she not get to go on my quick car errand, I didn't fill her favorite cube toy with food when she wanted me to.  She's bossy that way.  Look at that shameless plea for attention.

Parents often hear "I'm bored" from their children.  But aren't we the same?  Don't we flit from thing to thing so we don't get bored?  Sometimes our sense of duty and purpose demands we stay busy.  Too many of us buy the lie that if we are busy, we must be important. 

The Bible gets misused a lot, but no one misquotes "Be Still" or claims an attribute of God as the "Holy Multitasker."

Each morning, my mind fills with things I need to do today.  It can be overwhelming and the tyranny of the immediate threatens to crush the joy of living right out of me.  If I'm fortunate, I'll remember to be still.  I'll remember that each task I do is tied to a blessing - my clothes needing to be washed (aren't I fortunate to own that many socks) - the kennel dog bowls (what a blessing my business has been) and even the cat and dog bowls in the house (the cats and dog entertain and comfort me - usually).

Constantly being on the run doesn't mean you are more virtuous than others.  If you work from dawn to dusk, it will not earn you God's favor.  Some of us don't have a choice but to address needs and demands that fill our days.  One of my favorite stories is how John Wesley's mother handled her very full house of ten children when she needed to seek God.  She simply flipped her apron over her face and prayed.  The family knew to leave her alone.  And it worked - she produced some pretty amazing kids that influenced the culture.

Lives get out of balance quickly.  Our day gets away from us despite our best intentions.  But we don't have to let our to-do lists take us away from what is most important.

Today find your quiet place to seek God. 

Friday, September 18, 2015

Abiding The Differences

This is Tony the cat (hi Tony!)
Of the many cats that I've boarded over the years, he is the most loving.  When the dogs are outside and I let him out to stretch and explore, he immediately rolls onto his side for some affection.

Tony also has a thing for water.  Basically, he likes to drink from any bowl (or bucket) that is not HIS water bowl.  He also is fascinated by the hose that fills the water pitcher.  Fascinated.

Some may call Tony weird.  After all, he has a water bowl.  Isn't that good enough for him?  Does Tony have boundary issues?  Tony is NOT following the normal order of things.

Maybe you know people like Tony. Maybe you are Tony.  One doesn't have to look far to notice others have their own way of doing things, and some of them are pretty weird.  There's a lot of uniqueness in the world, and it may make someone uneasy to experience differences.

It reminded me of our pastor's sermon from this past week.  He challenged us to seek people who think, look, and act differently from our norm.  Wait, what?  Leave my comfort zone?  Where did THAT come from?

Oh, you know.  Galatians.  Galatians 2:11 to be more specific.  If you don't know it, there's this guy named Paul going to see his friend Peter.  They have been busy telling people all about Jesus and giving them good news for freedom and forgiveness.  But Peter started to feel some peer pressure and went back to his old ways.  Somehow bearing another's differences suddenly felt unsafe.  Let's just say Paul set him straight.

It's easily done.  We talk a big game about being accepting and tolerating.  Then we encounter someone and love flies out the window.  Dealing with others can be messy.  And difficult.  And really uncomfortable.  

Which is great, because God really likes to work in those situations when we are not in control and all-knowing.  We can still stand on truth and all that good stuff.  But learning from others, and them learning from our own brokenness and imperfections, is the humble attitude where we can be naturally supernatural.

So don't be afraid.  Get out there and be challenged and may God go before you.

Saturday, September 5, 2015

Keep Your Cool

To think one of the reasons the boarding kennel was closed this summer was over concerns the air conditioning unit wouldn't make it through the season.  Considering the only dates the a/c in the house has been run was mid-may and now September 4, it's fair to say that fear was unnecessary (as most fears are).

But right now, we've had over a week of high 80s and high humidity.  Finally, summer has arrived, right when the schools are back - just as we all knew it would.
 
 
Tilly has been hiking the state parks this summer (with me), and our criteria lately has been access to water so she can cool off.  (Note to self:  bring retractable leash so I am not left on shore doing awkward balance poses.)

 
Keeping cool is important, physically, mentally and spiritually.  In case  you didn't notice, our little old country is becoming more and more shrill.  We look at each other, shake our heads, and think "the other guy" most be at best ignorant, and at worst, a monster.
 
When we post snarky things and comments that run down "the others", we may have a few people slap our backs and congratulate us.  And I know.  I've done that.  I like being snarky and sometimes I am even good at it.  But when we read someone who we don't agree with doing the same, some how it hurts.  A witty response that cuts someone off at the knees feels good.  For a moment.  Then you realize you've left the person without their lower legs.  And that's bad.
 
I've really paid attention lately to how I physically react when I read something alarming, disappointing, or hurtful.  Sometimes it's like someone just wanted to stick their tongue out at me or stick their finger in my eye.  It is unpleasant, to say the least.  Do I want to do that to someone else?  What's the point of winning the argument and losing their heart?
 
I don't want to do that anymore.  Even if it's not fun.  Even if I will not appear clever.  Even if it feels like sometimes I am just one big divine kill joy.  Hurting others I care about (and even those I don't care about) is not worth the cost of a "go girl" attaboy (um, can those words go together?).
 
Let's keep our cool out there.  There is much to divide us, and little to unite us.  But, let's remember when we start to view each other as the enemy (which, make no mistake, many people of all stripes wish us to do), all of us lose.
 
We have to scratch the surface, and go deeper.  Fact check the sound byte.  Check the state of your heart.  Most importantly, don't buy the lie that the other person is your enemy.  We're not all going to agree and we don't have to.  That's the beauty of it, isn't?
 
"Love one another" isn't a squishy statement Jesus said while patting the heads of his disciples.  He knew it was going to get ugly out there.  With His power, we can disagree without being disagreeable.  Because that's what it looks like when real love wins.

Saturday, August 22, 2015

We Are Not Enemies

From this picture, you may assume that Carbon (grey) and Captain (orange) are two cats who get along so well that they can nap within a few feet of each other. 
But, in fact, this is rare. 

Usually, they will not even pass through a doorway at the same time.  There is hissing, spitting, and fighting.  And, it's ridiculous.

But aren't we the same way?  It's not hard to find good examples of people who hiss, spit and fight with each other.  Maybe you even do it.  I know have (and do).  It's tempting to believe these people, who are different, believe differently, and act differently are Bad.  Evil.  Worthless.

It's a lie.

"When it is within your power to do so, be at peace with everyone."  Those are God's words to us.  Philosophically, we wonder why we can't get along with each other.  Then we just look at our own behavior (or our unspoken, yet uncharitable, thoughts) and it's abundantly clear we are great contributors to strife.

Like Carbon and Captain, we wander the same planet, eat the same food and breathe the same air.  Maybe we do think, believe and act differently.  Isn't that (for the most part)....okay?  Apart from the occasional sociopath, getting along is not really that hard, even if it may mean staying away from someone. 

Pray for the peace God gives to fill your own soul.  Pray for the transformation the Holy Spirit does within us, in His power, to extend it to others.  An honest assessment of ourselves may mean we do okay in our own efforts, but mostly they are failures.  Only God's power can create the change from contempt to love.

Then, the lion will lay down with the lamb.

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Making an Undecision

In April, I decided that I needed to close the kennel for the summer, and possibly forever.

In the second week of June, with no dogs, I started thinking about reopening. 


And I thought about it more.  And more.  I thought about it pretty much all the time.  Why did I want to reopen when I was convinced that closing was the right thing to do?  What was the difference?

Feelings are fickle things.  They spring up on us involuntarily but sometimes they are terrible liars.  So I committed the matter to prayer.  And my conviction didn't change.

So I've undecided about never reopening.

Come Labor Day weekend (beginning September 3), the kennel will be reopened through the holidays.  I'd say that after New Year's, that's probably going to be it, because I don't want to be open in the seriously cold months.  And while I think that will be "it", I've changed my mind too many times.

It's a hard decision to make, and it's unfair to my kennel clients to keep opening/closing.  So I'm relying on word of mouth to spread the news (this means you), but also with the full knowledge that many clients have already found other arrangements, and that is fine!  I'm also not taking any new kennel clients, just those who wish to return.

So there you have it.  I wish I could explain it.  I'm glad God pressed upon me the overwhelming desire to close for the summer.  And while I'm mystified about reopening, I'm just going to go with it because following God's leading has taken a LOT of practice and what I've learned is....His ways are not our ways, but they are sooo much better!

Sunday, August 2, 2015

When It's Not Your Fight

Maybe it was the full moon, or maybe it was some random reason, but Frank decided he needed to stay out all night with Carbon and Captain.  Frank is twelve years old, so this was a real stretch for the old man.

When he came in the next morning, he was dragging with exhaustion, along with a limp in his front foot.  During the night, yowling cats woke the rest of the household, so I suspect Frank was at least half that fight.
Doesn't he look comfy?  He slept alllll day.

Who knows what he was fighting about, but it likely wasn't worth the price he paid.

And isn't that true for us too?  How many arguments do we have that are truly worthwhile?  What dust-ups have caused distance and hard feelings, the origin of which are long forgotten?  What part have I played in making a situation much worse than it warrants?  Too many times I'm not as innocent a party as I'd like to think - much like Frank the cat.

When we are wronged, and I mean severely, big ticket item, wronged, we can't always protect ourselves or defend the truth.  While certainly there are times when a stand must be made, it can be done so with calm reason sans name calling and rock throwing.  "Vengeance is mine, says the Lord" (not 'insert your name here').  The Lord is one of justice, and when we can't stand, He stands for us and vindicates us. 

Examine yourself.  Sometimes it's no fun, but what the Holy Spirit may reveal is a gift because He can transform that ugly into beautiful.  And He makes beautiful things out of us.

Sunday, July 19, 2015

The Totally Disappointing Summer

If you live in the Midwest, specifically, northwest Ohio, your summer has been filled with rain.  And it hasn't been a little bit, it's been three inches in an hour rain.  When it's not raining, it's intolerable to be outside due to mosquito.  But just when it seemed like our attitudes couldn't sour more, we got the heat of summer.  To the tune of one hundred degree heat index.  With thunderstorms.

When  you live in a part of the country known for its brutal winters, you need every bit of beautiful summer you can get!  Honestly, who else has cabin fever in July!  Since the kennel has closed for the summer so that it could be enjoyed, I'm fighting abject misery, and yes, bitterness.

But at least someone is enjoying the summer:
Perhaps I need to take a lesson from Matilda, whose enthusiasm is never affected by the weather.  Freezing cold wind chills?  No problem - we can still play ball!  Rain?  What rain?  Let's play!
However, I've never been able to cheer myself up by spouting cheery slogans a la Hallmark card.  Cold, hard reality is my default mode.  But that doesn't mean I have to stay there.  Because there is a truth that is greater than my attitude.  "The joy of the Lord is my strength."  In other words, being joyful can not be manufactured by a simple "turn that frown upside down."  If it does for you, well, you are a fortunate (though I doubt  your sanity)!

About two weeks ago, the weather truly busted my spirit and I pretty much had a full on meltdown.  Since then, I've adjusted as we do in winter.  Perhaps it takes some additional creativity and changing of expectations.  That can be done. 

We can't control the weather, but we can control our reaction to it.  We can control our expectations.  We can look beyond what is trying our patience and remember that nothing surprises the Lord of Creation.  We may not be pleased with what we've got, but life is more than a season.  Today perhaps you are like me and need to express to God some serious disappointments.  Life may not be going the way you want it.  There is still forgiveness and most of all amazing restoration.  Run to Him.  There is solace there, no matter if the sun shines or the heavens open.


Friday, July 10, 2015

The Power of Pining

Last Friday I went out of town for many hours and Tilly stayed at a friend's house.  A few hours after I'd left her, I got a text with this picture:
The text read:  She only looks out the window, waiting for you, 65% of the time.  As you can see (maybe) is she chose to be away from the group, where she would have been warmly welcomed.  Instead, she chose to spend her time pining.

Wishing for things to be different than they are is a useless place to be. Sure, we can look backwards fondly, or even sadly.  We can look forward, hoping for changes and making plans for them.  But pining in itself has no reward except a feeling of emptiness.

When people say that God is always with them, that doesn't always mean a lot, especially when you don't know Jesus.  Jesus spent time with people who nursed deep wounds.  While he performed many miracles, people still experienced heartbreak.  But the solace He alone gives is not just for a hope of eternal peace and understanding.  Knowing Jesus now lets us experience the actual comfort of God.  Asking for His power gives us the ability to overcome and live above our personal tragedies. 

In ways I still can't understand, our pain itself can be redeemed for the glory of God.  I don't know if you've experienced that radical grace, but I have.  I look back at the disappointments and trials and can see how God was with me when others were not.  Through the changes God has made in me, I can relate to the pain others have, even if it is not the same pain. That crushing blow of tragic news feels like a punch in the gut of everyone.  And there's hope that is deep and reliable.  The best part is that God can be with us always, no matter where we are.

While I can't always be with Tilly - even though she wishes I would be - I'm glad that the presence of Lord is always with me.  I'd be lost without Him.

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

That's Not My Name

This is Mookie Lucy.  For some reason when I met this cute, recently rescued dog, I misunderstood his her name.  So for many days, I said how HE was a nice dog and, "Come on, Mookie."  Mookie Lucy was a good sport and went along with the program and didn't spill the beans even though I believed something about him her that wasn't true.
Sometimes we believe things about others that aren't true.  In fact, we probably do it all the time.  But often we believe things about ourselves that aren't true.  We call ourselves Disappointment.  Failure.  Worthless.  Or perhaps we go in the other direction: Perfect.  Superior.  Sinless.

But Jesus calls us His Own.  We have value and we can't disappoint Him when we trust.  When we look at the standard God sets, an honest assessment of ourselves reveals that we aren't perfect and are in need of a savior.

No matter how we see ourselves, God's opinion is the one that matters. When we seek Him and find Jesus, we are given Honesty, Love and Peace.  The identity we have in Christ is true and invaluable. 

Mookie Lucy was rescued and given a new life and a new name in her new home that she'll have forever.

You can have the same.

Saturday, June 6, 2015

Confused and Helpless

Captain is four years old - I found him on June 1, 2011.  I was just getting ready to take a bike ride when I stopped because an ear bud popped out.  I was at the very edge of my property and then I heard it.

The dreaded, "mew."

I went to the other side of the road and there he was.
 
He was confused.  And he was helpless.  That's pretty much how I felt about seeing him too.  The last thing this animal circus needed was another cat.  But there was no place else for him to go.  Despite my attempts to bribe kennel clients to take him - even offering to reduce their bill - no takers.  He was completely unwanted.
 
Have you ever felt that way?  Feeling unwanted, confused, and helpless are unpleasant emotions, but I bet if we're honest more people feel them than are willing to admit.
 
When Jesus talked to the crowds, he had compassion on them.  Because they were confused and helpless.  He took them in, feeding them not with just physical food but the Truth.  And that truth would set them free if they only believed.
 
The Good News is the same today as it was then.  You are wanted by Jesus.  He provides light to dispel the darkness of our confusion.  When we feel helpless, Jesus is still on your side.  Run to Him.  You have a home with Him you can enjoy not just now, but through eternity.
 
Captain is still going strong at his age, very active and engaged.  He enjoys terrorizing the other cats and doing some seriously bad cat behavior.  Yet somehow I manage to forgive him anyway and let him back in the house.
 
That's good news for us too - God's grace covers a multitude of sins.
 


Monday, May 25, 2015

It's Bittersweet

This is Bugs (hi Bugs!)
Bugs was adopted after he was rescued from neglect.  When he was first boarded at the kennel, he had a learning curve as he got used to the new routine but he quickly figured it out.  He's come to the kennel for well over a decade and he's now a senior canine citizen.

As I go through the last few days of watching dogs (for the summer, maybe forever), I'm saying goodbye to wonderful dogs and owners, many of whom I will not see again.  But I'm immensely thankful to have understanding people who have even affirmed this decision.  It is indeed bittersweet to put something behind me that has been so meaningful.

And yet, it is the right decision, and the "sweet" part has offered glimmers of what is to come.

Trusting God with the unknown is hard in every area of our lives.  Yet that is what we are called to - setting out on the adventure He has for us, great and small.

It's Memorial Day, and one can't say enough about the brave men and women who set out on an unknown adventure for a cause greater than themselves.  Your sacrifice has my greatest admiration.

Monday, May 18, 2015

It's All Relative - But No, It Isn't

Look - it's Tilly.  In my car.  With deadly poinsettias.
Amazingly, she lived to tell about it.  She's lived to tell about many car adventures because - when the weather is right - she loves to go places with me and hang out in the car.

Yet this rather simple activity has recently been the subject of hot debate on local social media.  To spare you, kind reader, the details, suffice it to say that when you see a picture of a dog in a vehicle when it's hot outside, you assume the dog is suffering and may expire at any moment.  If you see the post on a cold day, you may think it's perfectly fine.

This post was taken on a day that started with frost on the yard and the highest the temperature got was in the low 60s.  However, this was enough to put the poster on the war path, as she posted the picture and wrote rather nasty things about the person who'd imprisoned the poor dog in the boiling hot car that - this poster believed - would easily sail to an internal temperature of 100 degrees.  Perhaps if the temperature had been a low of 60 and on its way up to 80, the person would have cause for concern.

I made the terrible mistake of saying that was not the case in this situation.  What happened?  Two people wanted to imprison me in a hot vehicle.  I so wanted to explain that I absolutely love the sensation of the interior of a car on a sunny cool day.  Despite the original poster advocating violence to free said pup, my rebuttal of facts seemed to confuse many.  Someone even accused me of being incompetent to care for animals when I mentioned my professional experience not only with a local humane organization, but with my kennel business of 17 years.  At one point, I wanted to list further credentials, but it seemed this wasn't good enough.  No, no.  It's better to believe the random person in the super store parking lot who took the picture, who commented that if she didn't have a felony record, she would have put a brick through the window of the vehicle.

On a sixty degree day.

There's just nothing like the anonymity of social media to make people brave and live out their adrenalin.  When I finally tried to refer to SCIENCE as the reason the dog was safe, I got no more arguments.

We can have opinions, but having them influenced with science over emotion is how a person has an INFORMED OPINION.

But what is the spiritual parallel?  I know  you're wondering.  There are a myriad of social issues that are influenced by emotion.  And while that is a factor, God's word tells us the Truth.  We can disagree all day, but that's not going to change what God says about a matter.  And because God is wonderful and full of grace, He allows us to disagree. He still loves us.  He knows what's best for us, but we can make our choices because He is no tyrant.

I appreciate a thoughtful discussion on a variety of matters.  I don't think God minds one bit when we ask questions and wrestle with complicated issues.  The important thing is to seek Truth.  And if a disagreement erupts, it's always best to keep the emotion out of it and part friends.  Sure, that isn't the easiest thing to do, particularly on social media.  Just remember who you belong to and make Him proud with words and demeanor.  That's how He treats us, but only so much better.


Monday, May 4, 2015

My House, My Rules

This weekend, Riley came for a visit.

At home, Riley is allowed on the couch.  When Riley comes to stay, he doesn't understand that the rules may be different.  Since my furniture isn't known for its high quality (or cleanliness), I let Riley on the couch. 

Tilly, is NOT allowed on the furniture.  However, when Riley comes to visit, I let her on the couch too, because the moment Riley leapt onto the couch, she did the same thing.  It irks her enough that the cats are allowed and she is not, but definitely if another dog gets up there and she can't.  With Riley back to his owner, it's back on the floor (littered with dog bed options) for Tilly.

Left to her own devices, Tilly's decisions on what is allowed for house living would be very different from mine.  The same goes for the cats, though their sneaky ways means they break the rules when I'm not looking.

Have you ever looked at life and wondered, "how am I supposed to do this?"  "Is there a better way?"  There are times when I veer off course, and I can sense it.  But how do I know what is "on" course?  God's word was valued as a gift when it was first given to the Israelites because they thought, "FINALLY, we know how to live!"  Maybe we think the Bible is a list of rules, but it is far from it.  It's an Owners Manual for life.  God has our safety in mind, and wants us to live happily and freely.  And those "rules" keep us safe.  If we choose not to keep them, it doesn't mean God hates us as much as it means, He allows us to make choices that may cause us harm (and others). 

The Good News is there is forgiveness that lasts eternally.  To get it, we have to run to God.  His arms are open to us, assuring us that his Son took the punishment, and when we trust this truth, a whole new world is available to us.  That world means our present life is better, but our everlasting one is even better.





Friday, April 24, 2015

Dooley Does Wrong

This is Dooley, the best cat in my house.
I can't say he's the best cat in the world because he isn't.  But he never makes mistakes.

Until he left a huge scratch mark on my brand new screen.

To be fair, the cats have enjoyed a ripped screen that allows them to come and go through it like their own doggie door for many years.  But I finally got a new un-ripped screen.  The cats and dog have run into it numerous times (well, not too numerous since the weather hasn't been conducive to the screen being open).  When I found Dooley HANGING FROM THE SCREEN WITH HIS NAILS CLINGING TO IT I basically went nuts.

Dooley didn't budge.  Perhaps it was my ranting and arm flailing that caused the immobility.  Or maybe it was his determination that surely this screen must open somewhere.

That tear just bothers me so much.  How could Dooley betray me like that?  Then I remembered forgiveness.  I remembered Grace.

I do things wrong - sometimes I know it, sometimes I don't.  But Jesus forgives me when I hold up my hands with a heartfelt and embarrassed "oops."

Surely I can extend the same to my cat.  And to others.  For he who sins much, forgives much, and loves even more.

Friday, April 10, 2015

Why Sharing is Hard

Tilly has a new favorite toy.  The Piggie.
She carries it with her everywhere.  She jabs it at me, just to remind me of how fantastic Piggie is.

Tilly also has a friend visiting.  Ireland. (picture taken when Tilly had her outside toy and it was snowy).
Now, there seems to be a problem.
Perhaps Tilly believes that in Ireland's hands/paws, Piggie will not fare well.  Perhaps Tilly wants Piggie because it is HER Piggie after all.  Either way, Tilly has some fears.

I admire those people who without a second thought hand over their coat to someone who is in need of a coat (even when they are not spring cleaning).  I wonder.  Sometimes my heart to share is very conditional.  It is too often couched in fear and judgment.

I forget that "things" are easily replaced, but kindness lacks abundance in a land of plenty.

Maybe Tilly can't figure this out, but certainly I should be able to - share your toys - share your goodness - even share out of your weakness - the important this is to show God's love by the means He has gifted you.

For Tilly, another toy is just around the corner. And a blessing is there as well.

Monday, April 6, 2015

Out for a Little Adventure

Okay, it was a VERY little adventure.
But for dogs like Brutus and Tony (hi guys!), it was a good day.
Tilly (not pictured) was also along for this particular walk, and at one point, she got to race along her favorite stretch off leash.  This alone was very exciting for Brutus and Tony, "Look at her go!"  Not just a few steps later, a large paper bag was blowing across the field.  Can you believe it?

Then there was the time Tilly drug us all to a stop as she sniffed out a mouse.  Brutus and Tony watched in fascination as she ingested it.  (I, however, had a very different reaction)

But nothing compares to the numerous searches for the elusive Sewer Monster.  Every drainage pipe received a thorough inspection.  Alas, there was no Sewer Monster sighting, though whatever smells were unearthed, they were intriguing.

Dog World is a very small world for most dogs.  They take pleasure in the simple things of life.  Certainly that alone is a compelling case for us to slow down and look at the every day occurrences that seem dull and appreciate them.  For instance, I have been compelled to watch an errant cardboard box dance across the road and into the field beyond in serious wind.

Our ordinary lives may not be the stuff of retweets and viral videos.  And frankly - they shouldn't!  It raises our expectation that life is full of all high moments, instead of the ups and downs of what 99% of the world counts as "normal."  But normal is far from dull.  Look at the gifts God has given us every day.  Appreciate the beauty of a child's laugh.  Take on the challenge of trying to get the check out lady to crack a smile.  Brake in areas known for frequent squirrel crossing (and enjoy their fuzzy tails).

It seems odd to say that to have an adventure you need to slow down.  But, if you try it, you'll see that it's true.

Go take on your day!

Friday, March 27, 2015

Ch-Ch-Changes

If you're in the Heartland, you know it's Spring by the calendar, but not by the weather.
The beginning of the month, there was the most snow we've had, followed a few days later by a major thaw.  Then it got cold.  Then it warmed up nicely.  Then it got cold and it has stayed that way.  Most of us are freaking out, feeling robbed of nicer weather.  This is the time when winter may just break us.

We are  hearty Midwesterners.  We can handle this.

The grass WILL green.  The sun WILL shine.  Once the flowers pop open and we run for our antihistamines, a sense of well-being will follow.  And hope.  There's just something so wonderful about green shoots coming from the brown, lifeless earth.  What was dead becomes alive again.  Just like Jesus.  It never fails to amaze me.

A change of weather and a change of attitude create an immense sense of thanksgiving, as well as relief.

After a great deal of prayer, I've made a decision for my own changes.  For seventeen years, I've operated a boarding kennel that has allowed me to meet some great dogs and even better owners.  But it's time for a break.  After Memorial Day, I'm closing the kennel for the summer.  I am unsure whether I will reopen in the Fall.  We're just going step by step here, People.

Like Spring, I feel hopeful and excited about what is to come, as well as a sense of relief and well-being.

There's not many times I can point to and say I asked God to bless something, but the kennel was one of them.  When Darren and I began it in 1998, it was with the intention and peace that God led the way.  When the schedule looked like it wasn't very full, God took care of things.  I never worried.  And as faithful as God is, He was gracious enough to show me that it's Break Time.  So I will trust this next step too.

And you should too.

"Thank you" doesn't even begin to cover my feelings of gratitude for the wonderful supporters I've had.  Come to think of it, neither do "merci" or "gracias" so I'll try something else.  May the Lord bless you and keep you.  May His Face shine upon you and be gracious unto you.  May He look upon you with favor and give you peace.

Amen.

Monday, March 16, 2015

Friend to the Friendless

This is Olive.  Like me, she enjoys a good book, especially if there are illustrations.
Olive was dumped off on our property about 17 years ago as a thin, vocal young cat with one hazy eye.  She was in a tree and wouldn't come down until I got a ladder and plucked her off the bark and onto my lined flannel coat.

Since then, Olive treasures staying in the house and napping.  It's all she's ever done.  Unlike the other cats, she never has been attracted to outside living, which doesn't stop her from expressing her opinion about it as well as other subjects in her rather annoying meow.

When people say they don't like cats, it's usually because they've only encountered cats like Olive.  There have been a lot of cats come and go in the seventeen years Olive has lived here on the Gold Coast (you don't want to know how many) and most of them didn't/don't like Olive either.

Except Dooley.
Dooley.  My perfect cat.  He is nice to Olive.  He would be nice to the other cats too, but they want to beat him up.  I suspect it is because he is nice to Olive.  Or maybe because I think Dooley can do no wrong.

We talk a lot about bullying these days.  Bullying is more easily identified among the tween to college set.  With social media, kids shame each other for any random and involuntary trait/comment/outfit/thought/friend/etc.  But adults have their own way of pressuring conformity and group think.  While some people do "hate", often the ones who call out "haters" are their own kind of hater and bully. 

Tough times.  It's hard to look at truth and then stand by it and be its friend.  It likely will be called lots of names that are ugly and within a growing consensus of agreement.  It doesn't make truth less truth-y. 

Truth is also love.  And Jesus told us to love - to be friends to the friendless.  Giving up love for truth is wrong just as giving up truth for a different definition of love is also wrong.  The best way to know the difference is to cling to God. Pick up Jesus' words and look at them.  Study them, practice them.

Then, step out and live what Jesus lived.  Go find the Olive in your office, in your family, or even just in the back pew of the church, and be their friend, even if they squawk and have unusual habits.  That doesn't make them less valuable, particularly to our Father.

Monday, March 2, 2015

Dooley's Big Adventure

This is Dooley (hi Dooley!)
Dooley is a former boarder who is now on the road with his people.  In a motorhome, that is!  With a penchant for routine and familiarity, it is an understatement to say that he is outside his comfort zone.  His owners tell me his ears flatten and his body shakes with certain pings the RV makes.  Every now and then, he chews out of anxiety.

It's not easy to do new things.  It IS easy to do the same thing over and over - go nowhere new, do nothing challenging.  When a dog comes to the kennel the first time, it may not be their favorite thing to do, but generally by their second time, they have a sense of confidence because they were able to successfully endure being away from home.  It is the same for us.

At this beginning of March, think of some new things you can do that will challenge you socially, mentally, physically, and spiritually.  Maybe they are four different things.  Maybe they are all one thing at the same time. 

Our human weakness is to always seek comfort the easy way.  There's something to be said for routine, but sometimes a person needs a kick in the pants.  Examine what that may be for you, and go do it.

God has allowed us enormous privilege to live in a country that allows us to do a variety of activities.  He does want us to enjoy and challenge ourselves.  It is His gift.  And He will be with us in all things.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

We're Going To Make It After All

Any time I can quote the theme song to the Mary Tyler Moore show, I'll do it.  Now, if only I had a nice beret to toss in the air with winsome enthusiasm.
But seriously, this is about dogs and boredom, cats and boredom, and people and boredom.

The theme may be boredom.  Or cabin fever.  If 42 brave souls show up for a Zumba glow party when it's below zero wind chill, you KNOW they are bored.  When three cats who normally can not tolerate each other decide maybe they can play together, they are bored.  And when Tilly lays in a weird heap staring at me, I know she wants me to entertain her.  And when I do, then I know I'm bored.

But right now Tilly's friend Ireland is here.  They are both of the same idiotically joyous disposition so a lot of winsome enthusiasm is going on.  Whenever I start layering up, it's like we're going to a birthday party/mardi gras/new year's eve gala wrapped into one.  But really, we're just going out for my firewood.  They don't seem to notice the thirty mile an hour wind and apparently their snot doesn't freeze.  They gallop about with dopey smiles.

Somehow, we're going to endure this winter.  The best way to do it is not with a bottle of wine and binge watching television (even if it's Downton Abbey).  The best way to do it is to make someone go out to DO something, preferably that doesn't involve more sitting.  Play a game.  Build a snowman. 

God created us to be with others, no matter how difficult that can be, and no matter how easy it is to go it alone. Sure, it's more comfortable and safer to stay in your comfort zone. But where's the glory in that?

So get out there and do something ridiculously joyous, and bring a friend along for the fun.

What is my contribution toward stupid fun?  These snow mounds are getting glow necklaces and bracelets to light up some faces.  Heh.

Monday, February 16, 2015

Empty

In just ten days, the kennel reopens.
It's been nice to have a break.  It's especially nice not to worry about having a driveway cleared of ice out of concern for kennel clients.  At the same time, it's been strange to have it empty and quiet.

Have you ever felt empty?  It's not an uncommon feeling.  Demanding jobs/spouse/children/(pets) can drain a person by the end of the day.  The important question is how do you fill yourself back up and what do you use?

When we are emotionally, physically, and spiritually drained, our weak, human selves gravitate toward what is easy and convenient - like food.  Or maybe it is mindless television/computer games/(Facebook).  None of those things are bad, but often the more we "consume" them, the more empty we may feel when our true need is something more substantial and real.  That something that can fill us and satisfy our thirst for righteousness and hunger for companionship and love is Jesus. 

Maybe you are the type who has high expectations for yourself.  Again, nothing wrong with that, in fact, it is good to have direction and standards.  But personal ambition alone can become hollow when we fail.  And so often we do.  The same goes of expectations of others.  People fail us. 

The good news is that Jesus never fails us.  When we are His Own, taking our pain and our joys to Him brings greater meaning.  Jesus tells us we are enough - that only His standards matter.  And when we fail with Him, we are forgiven.  And when we are forgiven, we are free.

When we are free, we are not empty.

Monday, February 9, 2015

Enriching Your Environment

Three Bored Cats.  Three Bored Cats.  See how they stare. See how they stare.
Despite the number of toys and interesting boxes around for the cats to explore, long and cold winter days take a toll on the cats.  They are so bored that the ones who don't get along occasionally make an attempt to play together.  When the temperature "soared" to forty degrees this weekend, they were sort of like the people - thinking it was a party and they had to stay out all night.  That's fine as the mice likely were doing the same thing.

Winter can get a person down too.  We get tired and lack energy.  Looking out the window often results in a less than hopeful picture with no or dull colors.

But there's more to life than looking out the window and inside of ourselves.  There's a whole world out there and it's not hard to find others who share an interest or two of ours.  Maybe we have the opportunity to do something brand new - like paint a picture.  When we isolate ourselves, our emotions lie to us.  We tell ourselves we are the only ones in this boat of discouragement and despair.  The quickest way out is to get out of the boat and splash around in the sea of humanity.  We may even find some people we normally wouldn't get along with who turn out to be decent humans after all.

God has given us challenges, but He mixes in a way to deal with them through His power and His gifts.  Life can be managed and even enjoyed when we put it squarely in His hands.  Today enrich your environment through the One who gives us riches that matter more now and for eternity.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Put On Ice

Carbon is not a fan of ice.  Note her look of concern.
Neither am I.  Schools cancel.  Cars slow.  Cats stay inside.

We all have to slow down when ice falls from the sky and coats every outdoor surface.

Yet ice is what we pack on our inflamed muscles when we have an injury, taking the sting out of the pain.  A hotflash sends me outdoors into the cold to bring me relief.

Being forced to slow down our overheated schedules isn't all bad.  Calmer paces allow space for reflection and quiet.  And quiet is where God speaks. 

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Quitting

If you've read many blog posts here, you know that Matilda (aka Tilly aka Hillbilly Tilly aka Tilly No) tries my patience.
Last week, I read a blog post that encouraged people to quit something.  Basically, it was to give people the freedom that not every commitment we make is a good or reasonable one, despite our intentions at the time it was made.  The writer went on to say that he knew someone that quit something every Thursday, whether it was a bad habit or a committee board.  Sometimes we have to make a tough decision that is for our better mental health.

Inspired, I decided last Thursday, New Year's Day, that I would give up hating Tilly.  I know, I know.  How could someone who cares for others' dogs hate their own dog?  Perhaps I'm risking some professional integrity, but I'm being honest.  And if you met Tilly, you'd understand and also pat me on the back and assure me it was amazing I'd made it six years with her.  To make matters worse, she committed a very awful atrocity that will go unnamed this Fall.  I won't tell you about it, but if I did, you'd wonder why I've kept her.

After realizing that I no longer needed caffeine in the morning to start my day because generally Tilly did something that made me so upset the adrenaline flowed, I decided that it had to stop.  I had to change my attitude.

Has Tilly changed?  Nope.  She's still herself.  But my attitude toward her has.  I've determined to do it.  But I'm not so amazing to think I can do this in my own power.  I've had to commit to some serious prayer - and often - in order to stay calm and remember.

Remember what?

I'm glad you asked.  Remember that Love bears all things.  But that kind of love is generally the love of God towards us.  And it's supernatural.  If I have any illusions I can love the way God does, I can only ask Him for His power to flow through me. 

It's true with people too.  We can quit our frustration toward others, our impatience, our disappointments when people fail us.  It's our choice.  And we can avail ourselves to enlisting the help of the Divine.

So, I share the blog writer's admonition - go quit something.