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..." 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.