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Thursday, December 22, 2016

Evidence of Cat Dancing

For years when Dooley was young and the pond was frozen, I'd catch him chasing leaves (or imaginary fragments of fascination) over the ice.  He seemed to take great joy in sliding, pouncing, and creeping up on his prey on this unusual surface.  But like so many cats, if he suspected anyone witnessing him frolicking with such abandon, he stopped and acted like he would never participate in such undignified behavior.  Sort of like Fonzie.

But Dooley is older now and he doesn't go outside much.  Yet Tuesday I noticed these:

A definite pattern led up these random paw prints on the ice.

Perhaps Dooley is out there dancing when no one is looking.

It's easy to feel jaded about Christmas.  Maybe we think if we believe such an unlikely story of a virgin giving birth to the Messiah of the world, we'll be seen as undignified, incapable of doing something so very ordinary and silly.

But who would make up such an outlandish tail?

Doesn't our heart yearn to have wonder and mystery?  To think maybe there is in fact a God so very powerful that He does miracles?  A God so loving that he would sacrifice his own son for a bunch of ungrateful people?

Love can make us dance, just as wonder tickles our toes with chilling sensations.

So go ahead.  Dance.  No one is watching.

And wonders of His Love..

And wonders of His Love...

And wonders, wonders, of His Love.


Thursday, December 15, 2016

Racing Out on Uneven Ground

Before I could stop her, Tilly raced out to chase the birds resting in the field.
Recently, the farmers tilled up the soil, and it was extremely lumpy.  However, Tilly, being a dog who doesn't exactly evaluate conditions, assumed the ground was as even as it's always been and set out at high speeds to pursue the birds.

While Tilly is generally terrible at listening to me, the one command she obeys well is the "Come" command.  I yelled and she stopped and returned, but not before knocking her doggie elbows and came back with a limp.  Fortunately, there was no lasting damage.  I knew this immediately because Tilly is a wimp and very vocal about any pain she has.  And since she wasn't wimpering and being dramatic, I knew she'd live to annoy me another day.

How many times do we pursue something at a dead run, not considering the terrain and consequences?  I don't know about you, but occasionally I toss my normal level headed thinking in order to pursue some "flights of fancy" (as a friend put it).  Inevitably, this results in a figurative twisted ankle and pain.  And yet I don't seem to recall this the next time opportunity arises.  I set out on uneven ground.

Unlike me, an almighty Savior knows about our temptations and trials.  He knows what it is like to be weak.  While Jesus withstood the most unfair situations and the most alluring temptations, He remembered what His Father was about, kept His mission in mind, and thought of Others (that's us, y'all) before Himself.

We may be weak, but we are understood by our Creator.  He evens out the tough trials, even when we've raced out in front of Him.

There is Thanksgiving.  There is Christmas, the Joy of New Life. 

May it be yours, as much as it is mine.

Sunday, December 4, 2016

She Drives Me Crazy

(Cue the Fine Young Cannibals Tune)

Of course, this refers to the "I'm-eight-years-old-but-still-act-like-I'm-six-months-old" Matilda.
Happily, I do not know which boy-band character that toy is supposed to resemble.  And of course Tilly doesn't care whose face she chews.  This applies to humans as well as stuffed animals.

Despite a basic obedience class and eight years of consistent rule reinforcement, Tilly knows when she can ignore very specific instructions.  She's smart enough to know the expectation, and savvy enough to know that if I'm not hovering over her and following her around, she can get away with devouring that which is not food.  So what if it may result in parasites, not to mention toxic fumes, she wants what she wants.

I no longer need coffee because every day begins with my calm tone quickly turning to shrill and barely contained shrieks and hisses at Tilly provide enough adrenalin to wake me up.  It's exhausting and it doesn't exactly do much for creating and maintaining a warm bond.

"Why do you insist on doing what you know you should not do?" I ask, only to hear the same question echo back to me.  Hasn't God asked me the same thing?  Why DO I choose to follow my own way, specifically ignoring that which may harm me, because it's not what I want? 

Unlike me, God, having that whole long-suffering thing, doesn't lose his temper, yell shrill comments and come unglued (ahem).  He knows we are weak.  Hopefully, we realize he is forgiving.  Hopefully, we realize that real change only comes from relying on Him to create the internal work we can't really do ourselves.

While I, at times (many), can't understand why Tilly willfully disobeys me, it doesn't take much for me to realize I am guilty of the same tendencies.  It's not one of the things I'd like to have in common with my dog.  I'd rather it be charm and enthusiasm, though she has very little of the first and too much of the second.

The good news is there is hope for Tilly, like a shorter leash and supervision.  There's hope for me too, like keeping myself more closely tethered to God.  There's hope for you too.

Thursday, October 6, 2016

What Dazzles Us

Foster was an awesome dog.  If there ever was a dog who could dazzle you with attitude and fun, he was The Dog.

What dazzles you? 

When I look at social media, nearly every post is a result of someone being dazzled, whether it be by an amazingly decadent food recipe, a household hint, the stunning beauty of perfect children, and even the politicians who promise and lie.

We are dazzled.

What happens when we are so taken with a person, a place, a food, a new phone, that we are blinded to everything else?  Generally, it results in a myopic view of our family/church/restaurant/music group/cat/dog/love interest/book/exercise class/political figure/political party/civic organization...

You get the idea.

Temporary blindness to reality is not always terrible.  Reality is sometimes terrible, and a small break and diversion may help.  And not everything that dazzles us is bad. However, our reaction, our "bedazzledness", endangers our good sense and level reaction.

Yet what is worthy of our awe and admiration is the Glory of God.  Often the things that grab our attention hold some element that is a tiny reflection of God's glory, whether it be power, beauty, peace, etc.  But as a Perfect God, His creation is flawless.  His Truth is pure.  His Sovereign Goodness shines so bright that all else is in shadow.  Our reaction rarely will get us in trouble because it often comes from the purest part of ourselves as we experience Perfection.

Being dazzled, to me, smacks a bit of being fooled.  That doesn't happen when God's Glory infiltrates our being, our friends, and even the view out the front door.  There is no falsehood there.  Truth is Truth and Truth is beauty, and more than anything, it is worthy of our bent knees.

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Why The Shadow?

Is it Batman?
No, it's Carbon.  Lurking.  It's what Carbon does best.

When we are children, our shadows are our friends.  We may walk, run, or try to trick our shadow. It is a source of wonder and joy. But as we get older, we fear shadows.  We suspect evil and ill intent, sometimes even of our own.

A shadow is the dark area that comes between a body and rays of light and a surface.

C.S. Lewis had much to say about shadows.  Here is a quote from "The Great Divorce."

"Will you come with me to the mountains?  It will hurt at first, until your feet are hardened.  Reality is harsh to the feet of shadows.  But will you come?"

While I'm no Lewis scholar, what I know from reading the book, and my own inclination toward safe living is this is a call to step into the light, even though it is not safe and it often is unknown and unfamiliar.  Even if you've followed God your entire life, sometimes He'll surprise you in ways that aren't entirely pleasant.  Sometimes we retreat to the shadows.

Keep your head down.  Maybe He won't see you.  Then you won't get hurt.

That is not living, that is just surviving to limp through the next day.

We choose safety, or a vice, or something that doesn't look like a vice, but serves as one, to hide from living a life with Christ.  I mean, how exactly do we do that anyway?  It's not following the Golden Rule or doing church-y thing.

We want to DO more than we want to BE.  We want to quantify life, show results on a chart.  But wild God isn't one for the bottom line.  God's economy is different from ours.  And it's really annoying not to know it, only occasionally getting a glimpse of what it might be.

"Abide with me," Jesus tells us.  Other than the Dude abiding, I don't know of too many people who abide a whole lot, do you?

The Message version of the Bible in John 15:5 goes on in later verses to say, "...If you make yourselves home with me and my words are at home with you, you can be sure that whatever you ask will be listened to and acted upon."

What?  Abiding gets us an audience with the King.  The Creator of the Universe. 

There is no glory in the shadows and certainly none from living there.

Come into the Light.  The mystery is good, the company perfect.




Thursday, September 8, 2016

When Things Go Sour

Emmit has been dealing with a sour stomach since Saturday.  I'll spare you the details.  You're welcome.
He resisted eating anything, which is impressive considering this guy's an omnivore (hint: how he got to this point to begin with).  Of course it was a three day weekend but he managed to stay hydrated and was in the vet Tuesday.  When further attempts at eating and getting him to take his medication down his gullet failed, back to the vet's office yesterday, which resulted in failure as well.

Finally, after continued resistance this morning, he rallied just before noon and gulped down some chicken.  And I snuck some medicine in some cheese that he previously refused.  With the help of the muzzle, at least some of the liquid medicine got in (most was spit out, but some had to go in, didn't it?).

As the tech said, "If we could only tell them that the medicine would make them feel better."

And isn't that true for us too?  Maybe not you.  You probably have it all together.  But me, it's true for me.  I often turn up my nose at what's good for me.  I suspect there's a magic capsule in that tasty cheese cube and refuse it.  Trying to jam some truth serum down my throat?  I'll spit it right back at you.

Often people (again, not you, but me, and maybe some others) wonder why God lets horrible tragedies happen.  That's more than I can address in one blog post (or ten), but some of those tragedies are what we've brought down on our own heads.  Many times we've been warned ahead of time that we are heading for a brick wall.  We are sick and we refuse our meds.  We just keep going on, certain we know better.

Then we hit that wall.  Our disease grows.

What is the answer? 

God's word has centuries of sound advice on how to live.  We can choose to flaunt it.  We can do our own thing.  Free will means the freedom to make bad choices.

But a good choice is to turn back to the Lord when we are sick and broken (you can go when you're well too).  It's not rules that make us better but God's mercy and love that heals.  Forgiveness is a special kind of freedom.  We can bypass the legalism/license tight rope by remembering whose we are, why we are here, and living freely in that love.

Life can be sour.  It can also be bittersweet.  A land of milk and honey awaits.  Live eternally now.

Thursday, September 1, 2016

The Terrible Inconvenience of Reality

When he was only three months old, Foster stood on the edge of the back deck, surveying his domain.  He looked right, looked left, then jumped off the edge.  Straight down.  About six feet.  Fortunately, he was unharmed, though a bit surprised to learn that he was not invincible.


I looked at him, shook my head, and said, “I know.  I get it.  Me too.”

Foster swaggered when he walked with a confidence he could back up with strength and attitude.  Only when he overplayed his dominance with another dog who was tired of his nonsense did he experience his comeuppance.  That dog kicked his little dingo butt.  Though he got a scrape or two, his pride was undone.  He simply couldn’t believe he was beatable.

I know.  I get it.  Me too.

Most dogs play on an equal plane, many assessing those around them before engaging.  The less confident may crawl, expose their bellies, and submit first, showing their willingness to get along at all costs.

Then, there’s Foster.

Then, there’s me.

It’s possible to have an overblown sense of ego as much as there is undervaluing ourselves.  Too much self-esteem?  Yes!  Too little?  Same. 

Sometimes our sense of who we are, what we can do, how others see us, and our skills leap off the edge of the deck and land in harsh truth.  In a culture that treats truth like a commodity to be amended, revamped, and resold, we tend to think that how we feel is truth. 

But only Truth is Truth.

Jesus calls us.  He tells us our condition.  We are created in the very image of God.  We are valued more than anything else on the planet.  We are worth dying for, despite that other component of terrible reality – we kind of suck.  We constantly make choices that land us in peril, even when it may take us years to realize it.  Whether it is outright theft or coveting another person’s anything or hating someone with the heat of a thousand suns, we mess up.  Even if we value ourselves as God sees us, we often value others much less. 

“Consider others more highly than yourselves.”  Jesus said that.  My response tends to be, “But Jesus, have you MET the others?  They are really annoying.  Why would I consider them BETTER than me?  Look at me – I’ve got it together and I am kind and practically sin-free, really.”

Ahem.

The Terrible Inconvenience of Reality is that….it’s an equal playing field.  The whole “the ground at the foot of the cross is level” thing is for real. 

Walking in our identity in Christ means a proper assessment of ourselves – we mustn’t undervalue the awesome creation of whose we are and we mustn’t base our confidence on anything other than His Love for us. 

It’s not so easy as repeating over and over, “Yes, Jesus loves me.”  I mean, that’s good and I’m all for it and if it works for you, please do it.  But for most of us, we can’t simply read a truth and instantly change our behavior or thought processes.  Sometimes it takes a bending of the knee, a humble, helpless prayer, and more than a few tears.

The good news is God works really well with helplessness.  Yes, that state we all resist with dug in fingernails is exactly where God makes some of his amazing changes in us that we can’t do ourselves.

Remember not to cower through life.  There is plenty of scary stuff in our world, but it’s not what controls the world.  Remember not to boast through life.  Sure, you’re great and I’m great (probably even greater haha) but there are the fragile among us on whom we ought not trample, and it's entirely possible that we aren't as fantastic as we think we are (?!).

Sauntering with the confidence of love is allowed. Remember whose you are.  That Reality may be inconvenient when compared with our own attitudes, but walking in truth is the way to true freedom.  And that is worth having.

Thursday, August 11, 2016

That Dry Spell

Sometimes life is dull.

And that is okay.  We just tend to think it isn't.  Our culture encourages us to follow our feelings (despite the horrible liars they are), so when we are just coasting along (you know, like most normal people), we may think something is wrong.

"Wait, I'm not feeling happy or sad or some other extreme emotion.  Help!" 

Now don't get me wrong, I am all for existential angst and enjoy lolling about in it on occasion.  But most of the time, life isn't on the extremes of drama.  We are usually not in the throws of tragedy and sorrow (though there have been years, yes years of it).  We are not often dancing on the top of the roller coaster with glee.  Usually life is very every day.  It is even a bit of a flat line.

And really.  That is fine.  It is okay.  It is life.

Sometimes even our spiritual life dips into the pattern of every-dayness.  We aren't begging for God's comfort in the storm and we aren't weeping tears of joyful thankfulness.  If we're not careful, we may believe that God doesn't care or worse, is not even there.

Currently I find myself in a place where I am not feeling that "dry" spell of God's absence.  I'm not in the valley and I'm not on the mountaintop.  I check in with God during prayer, "We're okay, right?  This is just daily living, right?"  Yes.  It is. 

Where I live has been in dire need of some rain fall.  The last couple of days we've had some showers that have provided relief.  Honestly, when I go out when the rain stops, it's almost like nature is sighing.

That's how it can be with our spiritual connection with God.  When we draw near to Him, He draws near to us.  And it is refreshing.  It is Living Water.  It is Life.

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Lifting Our Eyes Unto the Hills

 
Olive's life is winding down after about eighteen years of serious naps.  She's been doing well until this morning.  She wasn't in the basement waiting for her breakfast as usual.  Considering past vet trips, I'm trying very hard to let her go on her own.  It's not easy. 

When people describe why they don't like cats, usually all those attributes apply to Olive.  She's always been unfriendly and skittish.  But Olive is the last of a special connection in my life, and for that she deserves some kind words.  (and I don't mean the words in her "Teach Your Cat To Read" book)
Olive is the last pet in the household that was here when Darren was alive.  All the dogs and cats I currently have (don't ask how many), have no memories connected with my life with Darren.
 
 
Despite all of Olive's crankiness, I still remember Darren helping me get a ladder from the barn and putting against the big maple by the road, where Olive seemingly arrived.  I remember scaling the ladder, plucking her off a high tree limb with some effort and sticking her like Velcro onto Darren's flannel jacket.  I distinctly remember the look of disgust on Darren's face that yet another cat had been dumped at our property.  And the look on my face that said, "But we're keeping her anyway."
 
I remember many friends and family visiting our home and Darren trying to convince them to take  Olive as a door prize (no takers).  Over the last thirteen years without Darren, I look at Olive and I remember that part of my life.  So while it is Olive's life that is ending, a strong reminder of a life I cherished will become more difficult to recall without her rather cantankerous mewing.
 
But I don't believe that's the end of the story.
 
 
"I will lift up mine eyes unto the hills, from where does my help come?  My help comes from the Lord." Psalm 121
 
I read that when this psalm was written, pagans looked to the hills for their idols to rescue them from their troubles.  God's people knew their rescue didn't come from the hills but from the Lord.
 
Geographically, the landscape where I live is nearly hill-free.  To be fair, my home rests on the cusp of where some hills begin to roll.  If my hope rested in the excitement of the hills, I'd be in trouble.
 
For Olive, for Darren, for me, and maybe even for you, our hope isn't in the hills, the excitement, the bank account, the political power, the talent, the fancy car, or connections to elite clubs or people.
 
Our help is in the Lord.
 
And as I say goodbye to Olive, and remember the too few years I had with my husband, I remember that there's more.  I remember that it's better.  That is faith, and hope, and love.  Love, as elusive and fleeting as it may be, endures forever.

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

When You Don't Get Your Way

Say hello to Layla (hi Layla!). 
Clearly this is a picture her owner sent in as Layla generally doesn't show up at the kennel ready to entertain at the party.  And somehow I surmise it wasn't her idea to wear this.

We don't always get our way.  I could make a list of Things I Deal With That Were Not My Choice.  And you'd be impressed.  In fact, I could make that list based on today alone.

You probably have one too.  Maybe you have one for today too.  And yesterday.  And tomorrow.

I don't know about you but I pretty much hate it when I don't get my way.  After all, I had a plan.  And it was a good plan. It would have worked brilliantly and now I don't have my plan and probably have something ten times worse instead.

When I don't get my way and I'm mad about it, I don't put on a cute little costume like Layla's and go to the party.  My party is what one may call A Pity Party.  And I go all out.  I pity in style.

Sometimes I have to get all the pity and pouting out of me - like a kegger of misery - before I turn the corner on my attitude.

The whole time I imagine God watching my spiritual temper tantrum with a smile.  He knows what I don't - that His plan is so much better, but I likely will not understand.  Ever.  Not this side of eternity anyway. 

It turns out I have to trust, but I do it begrudgingly.  And I suspect God is okay with that too.  After all, Jesus was God incarnate and knows the misery and trials of being human.  Even though he seems to have successfully avoided pity parties, he had to deal with some real creeps.  He got mad at some, but he did it in a really righteous way.  And then he went and loved the people who are likely not on our party list at all.

Fortunately my existential angst and ensuing pity and pouting doesn't happen as often as it used to.  Maybe I am learning something.  But I take great comfort in knowing that God regards me with the eyes of love and forgiveness.  Like a father watching his pouty child.  Like an owner watching his cute dog in a party costume.




Wednesday, July 6, 2016

The Roofers are Coming! The Roofers are Coming!

Dooley, seen here in a serene moment under the lilac bush.
Little did he know then that within 24 hours, his life would turn upside down with chaos.

At least fifteen young men descended upon the property, swarming the roof with tools, making noise and making a mess.  To Dooley and the other cats, something unimaginably terrible was happening (to the dogs, it was a party with the best dog tv ever).

If only I could explain to them that the threatening noise and people were doing something good to their home - making it safer and stronger - for their protection.

It struck me that I am often like my cats.  I look around me and see a lot of troubling circumstances.  It seems like the end of the world (or at least MY world).  But God is at work, building and reinforcing my framework in ways I often don't understand.

While it is impossible for me to become a cat or learn a cat language to explain what was happening amidst the whirl of activity, Jesus was God incarnate, and explained a lot to his followers.  While God's word doesn't have a specific explanation for our situations, Jesus tells us what we need to know - He is with us - He will never leave us - His plan is good and His love endures forever.

If you feel like the hammering of your trials is too much, perhaps some greater work is being done, unseen and unknown.  It is a walk of faith.

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

That Which We Embrace

Matilda got a new toy. 
No matter the stuffed animal, she cuddles next to it.

She also rips out its eyeballs.

Like Matilda and her stuffed toys, we are attracted to that which is cute, fuzzy and makes us feel good.  We may even embrace it. 

But not everything that draws us is good for us.  Don't believe me?  Ask me about that "cake for one" thing Chief's supermarket has now.  Yeah, it's a problem. 

I Corinthians 10:23 (that would be "First Corinthians" not "One Corinthians") says - in a variety of translations:

Phillips:  As I have said before, the Christian position is this: I may do anything, but everything is not useful. Yes, I may do anything but everything is not constructive. Let no man, then, set his own advantage as his objective, but rather the good of his neighbor.

English Standard:  “All things are lawful,” but not all things are helpful. “All things are lawful,” but not all things build up.

The Message:  Looking at it one way, you could say, “Anything goes. Because of God’s immense generosity and grace, we don’t have to dissect and scrutinize every action to see if it will pass muster.” But the point is not to just get by. We want to live well, but our foremost efforts should be to help others live well.

What the Message says - "the point is NOT TO GET BY" is key.  We are to be deliberate in our choices, thinking them through, how a choice I make effects others, not just how I FEEL about said activity.

Perhaps you, like me, were raised in a culture that gives the impression that what is EVIL is dressed in red and has a pointy tail and ears, like that which is bad for us would be extremely obvious so of course we would avoid it like the black plague.

But oh no, it is not.  It is topped with chocolate icing, a dollop of whipped cream and stuffed provocatively in one of those plastic clam shell containers.  Did I forget to mention the cherry on top?

Yeah, that's certainly legal.  It is within my freedom to consume it.  But it certainly doesn't help me live well IN THE LONG RUN.  And in a consumeristic "please me now" "feed my emotions" culture, we forget all about the long run.

Before you nuzzle up to that which draws you in, be sure to set aside the "feels" and do the hard work of the "thinks".  "Let us reason together" to see if our choices stand for more than "getting by."

Friday, May 27, 2016

Redeeming the Pain

Seeing the best in people isn't always easy.  Since the kennel allows me to see people with their dogs, I often see a side others do not.  It's that soft, squishy side - the one that baby talks to our pets.
This week I learned a former kennel client died.  And though she died months ago, I was still sad because she was quite young and seemed to die alone.

She showed up on a blustery, icy winter day wearing clothes that were certainly not appropriate for the weather.  One might say they wouldn't be appropriate for humans to wear period. It wasn't hard to see why she was the subject of scandal.

At that time, I didn't know the scandal, I just saw a mismatched couple in every sense of the word.  And their dog.  They sure loved that dog.

Over the years, I got to know her better.  And her dogs.  She seemed to have many.  Then her husband got sick.  Then he died.

Her husband plucked her out of a seriously bad situation.  Like the dogs she rescued from the pounds, she was redeemed by love, even if it looked odd and maybe questionable.

After he died, I saw her make some terrible choices.  She just couldn't pull herself together.  We had some interesting conversations.

But sometimes I think I should have done more.

It can be a tricky, trying to decide just how much to get to know a person, and what you may say to them.  If I could have one more conversation with her, I would have reminded her that the love her husband had for her didn't die.  Love never dies.  God is love.  God's Son, Jesus, showed up in the flesh, suffered horribly and loved abundantly.  He redeemed our pain.  His love never dies.  His love redeems.

I hope she knew that somewhere deep in her heart.  Because it's true for her and it's true for me and it's true for you.

In case you didn't know that, or maybe you just forgot, it's true.  He's there, waiting for you to bring that pain, loss, doubt and stumbling blocks.  Just don't wait too long.

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Closer

It happened.  Tilly and Emmit actually leaned on each other.  Though they still aren't playing, they do seem to comfort each other by being physically close such as here and on the couch.
We often have to overcome obstacles to get close to someone else.  Perhaps they've hurt you in the past, or it's just hard to get to know them.  Trust can take a longer time for some than others. 

The same is true of our relationship with God.  Even though He is always there, calling us, we often hesitate.  We've been hurt before, often by those claiming to be His People (and, often really are).  We don't trust what we can't see easily, yet we may be compelled. 

"Draw near to God and He will draw near to you."

Comforting words.  The tough part is we take the first step.  However, His presence never fails.

I hope Tilly and Emmit continue to grow closer to each other, just as I hope to deepen my relationship with God.  It's certainly worth it.  And sometimes it's even cute.

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

The Changing Nature of Friendship

Okay, it's not the best picture, but these two little dogs became fast friends while they were boarded recently.
Little Rosie arrived with a dog friend, but the dog friend went home first.  Other dogs have come and gone, and still Rosie is here. 

Then, Oliver came and they were best little buddies.  Their little tails wagged and there was a lot of interested sniffing going on as well. 

Sometimes we are unsettled by friends who come and go in our lives.  The first time I heard the saying, "Friends are in your life for a reason, a season or for life" I was extremely annoyed.  However, it seems to prove out.  Some friendships change due to a geographic move, season of life, or changing interests.  While some transition smoothly, others end with a great deal of pain.

When this type of thing happens, it's important to remember that God never changes.  If we read about the God of Abraham and all the way through the God of Revelation, He is the same, yesterday, today and tomorrow.  He also said, "I will never leave you or forsake you."

We understand the "leave you" part, but the forsaking?  What does that mean?  "To give up or leave entirely."  Oh, that is heart-wrenching, isn't it?  It's just too final.  Yet, it's likely that like me, you've experienced that heart break.  It feels like God has left the building.

Our loves and lives on earth are a shadow of what will last forever.  We know that our broken world is not how things are meant to be. Redemption of pain, vindication of evil are things that our spirits scream for, the lack of which causes despair.  But, the good news is the Good News.  God of the Universe is the powerful vindicator. He is our Healer of broken hearts.

And He won't leave.  Maybe our finite minds can't understand the "why", just as Rosie can not.  But we can understand, to a limited extent, the Who. 

Rosie's owner is coming back.  I tell her, but she doesn't understand.  But when her eyes see, she will believe.

Blessed is he who does not see and yet believes.  No matter how difficult that may be.

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Finding Comfort

Franklin loves to groom Emmit.
 
Before Foster (Foster, the most awesome dog of all time) died, Franklin often licked his head and softly head-bumped him.  When Foster was gone, Tilly didn't tolerate his attention.  In the interest of full disclosure, when I considered adopting another dog, my hope was that Frank would have a new friend too.  And, from the above, you can see that he has.

(I'd also like to point out that cord is from the vacuum cleaner.  You don't see it often, but there it is - proof that every now and then I clean. Don't count on seeing it again anytime soon.)

Emmit has been on the Gold Coast now for five months now.  I rejoiced every day that the weather was miserable, because it was the first winter Emmit spent inside, reclining by the wood burner, with friends all around him.

There are those times when we are left out in the cold too.  We wonder why we've been neglected, stuck to the end of a chain with scarcely a friendly face in sight.  It's easy to look at the evidence and conclude we have been abandoned, forgotten, and the world is without a god.

But that whole time, Frank was in want of someone to comfort.  He experienced multiple rejections (and snaps) from Tilly.  Where was a friendly face who would appreciate him?

Sometimes we are the Frank. Sometimes we are the Emmit. 

Regardless of where and who we've been, it's good to remember that God is there, though invisible, longing to hold us, if we just will run to Him. 

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Hairball

Fireball.
No, hairball.

Nothing assures one of their fabulous life like a 2:30 a.m. wake up call of the senior cat puking. The melodious sounds that lead up to the actual puking are something I wish I could record and use as a smoke alarm because I am instantly awake, the adrenalin pumping.
There she is.  Olive.  The Little Darling. 

At approximately eighteen years of age, Olive is bound to have some health issues that are least of all annoying and most of all somewhat destructive (we will not discuss my basement).  Olive has never been the cat that charmed anyone.  If anything, she is the epitome of why people don't like cats.  But she's been here since she was dumped off over seventeen years ago.

As life bumps along for each of us, it's inevitable that our personal journey and challenges are going to be least of all an inconvenience and most of all a major upset for those around us.  Some people seem to enjoy disrupting the lives of those around them, but most do not wish to share their burdens, not wishing to bother those around us with our cares.

Yet that is what we are supposed to do.

Jesus would never have told us to give him our burdens if he didn't want to lighten our load.  Sometimes he sends other people to do that.  And how can those around us who wish to help do so if we are unaware of the need? 

What about the reverse situation?  What if it is someone else's issue that is getting under our skin?  Something that we can do nothing to alleviate, and the condition may require getting our hands dirty?  Life, with others, gets messy.  Bearing each other's burdens.  Hmm....not really glamorous.  Not very convenient.  It may take up some time and mental space.  It may even be a hairball on the floor, one that you will step in later.

Like Olive, there are those around us who need kindness, even if their only redeeming value is they persist in living.  Too many people function with little to no support.  We want to brush them off, hoping some agency will serve them. 

If we are going to follow Jesus, it isn't the job we do or the places we go or the people we know that mean anything.  If we are transformed by Him, He said we can do anything.  And loving people is a big one, even if they are not fitting nicely into our schedule and ideas of how we want to spend our time.

Maybe you didn't need that reminder, but I did.


Tuesday, February 16, 2016

What a Difference Five Years Makes

Below is the post from five years ago.  Then, I was spending a couple months in Florida as I worked on my first novel.  Now, several books later, I'm looking at different scenery, and missing one of my best dogs ever.

http://tailsfromthekennel.blogspot.com/2011/02/tilly-sprints-beach.html

Tilly Sprints the Beach
For those of you tiring of cold weather, here's some refreshing scenery for you.
video

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

The Gift of a Broken Dream

Guess who joined us on a recent walk?
 
As you can see, Tilly didn't approve of Captain venturing out on the road, and Emmit tried to stop his progress.  But, oh, would Captain love to walk with his dogs. (For those concerned, this was taken very close to the house and he ran back quickly.)

If only he were a dog. If only he was brave enough to walk a mile by their side.  If only he was leash trained....

Captain can't fulfill this particular dream.

Perhaps you've had a dream (or two, or three, or more) that hasn't been fulfilled.

We live in a culture that promises us fairy tale lives with fairy tale endings.  When we believe this is reality, we are often bitterly disappointed.  Strangely, we don't blame the fair tale.  We blame God.

Sometimes our dreams are very good.  In fact, they are the kind of dreams that seem to come true for nearly everyone else.  Or so it seems.  We think that if we had those dreams it would mean both that God loved us AND we deserved it, that we would serve God greatly and He'd be honored if we had that.

And there are times we have a fulfilled dream, but it disappears.  That is when we figure that God not only is cruel, He does not love us, bless us, or want what is good for us.  Maybe we did everything right, and we didn't make an idol out of our good dream, but it was taken anyway.  Surely God is against us, if He's even there at all.

It's so easy to believe those lies.  The absence of our fairy tale is proof.  Somehow we believe that.

I've been there.  Have you?

If we are God's children and God is love, do we believe that God is a child abuser?  Perhaps we may feel that way on occasion, and even point to impressive evidence as proof.  But, I have to say I just can't buy it completely.

Because in my case and in many others, that shattered dream was swept up, thrown away, and rebuilt by a loving and perfect God.  While in no way has He made me perfect, all the pain was turned inside out and given to me as strength, and every now and then, courage.  In ways I could never have done on my own, I see the results of how God can rebuild, and every now and then, it looks pretty good.  In fact, it is supernatural, and not at all my own doing.  Others will tell you the same.  And it's what God promises, that He makes beauty from ashes. 

Turns out He doesn't promise us a fairy tale life and a fairy tale ending.  He promised to be there through all the tough stuff, to receive our brokenness and gives us His dreams, which are much better than the little hopes and small expectations we have.

Do we get an answer for our pain?  Sometimes a glimmer, maybe, but possibly never.  But we are given Presence - perfect and everlasting.

While we often can "only imagine" what is to come, we can get a taste of the Eternal and the Heavenly, when we humbly realize that as drivers in the driver's seat, we stink. 

Why can't Captain walk on the road?  Because he can't walk on a leash.  If he could, then he'd be safe, and he could fulfill that particular dream.  Sometimes we think that a leash is a means of restricting our freedom.  But in the hands of someone who understands safety, and what is ultimately good for us, then it becomes the means of walking down a road to adventure.




Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Strange Benchfellows

It's Dooley.  It's Captain.  Within inches of each other and not fighting.

It's a Ground Hog Day Miracle.
Okay, it's not a great picture, mainly because it was cloudy, which is why the Punxsutawney Phil didn't see his shadow and we'll have an Early Spring.

Captain loves to beat up on peace-loving Dooley.  When I caught them napping on the same bench together, it was a true surprise.  I guess when you want to enjoy the warmth of the woodburner and avoid the clumping paws of the dogs, cooperation and tolerance are necessary.

Our world can be cold and people regularly beat us up with their words and attitudes.  And to be fair, we may dish out some of the beating too. 

Jesus came to call an unlikely group to Himself for forgiveness, grace and new life and freedom.  While there are no obstacles other than our own pride to prevent us to get to Him, there are plenty of other Christ followers who cause us a lot of grief and discouragement.

AND YET....Jesus said getting along is important.  Forgiving, as Christ forgives us (ouch).  And like porcupines in the storm (as Steve Brown says), when we're beat up, we need each other for kindness and mercy.  We may not want to get along, but often we can focus on what is truly important and let the other stuff fall aside (no matter how right you are and wrong they are!). 

A warm heart is not easy to foster, but with Jesus' amazing grace, he can create a new one in us.  When we are with other Christ-followers, that warmth can grow and extend to others.  And that's really what Jesus was about.  Sit on the bench with your enemy.  After all, he is sitting next to you.

Sunday, January 24, 2016

Seeing Double

About two months ago, you met Oliver and Meow.
 
(still an all time favorite picture)
 
Do these two look familiar?
This is Captain (cat) and Coco (dog). (and my hand)
 
Despite the striking resemblances, it's not the same dog and it's not the same cat.  Yet the confusion is understandable.
 
If I gave Coco to Oliver's owners, they would notice they didn't have their one true dog.  If Meow was left here and Captain was in a stranger's car, it wouldn't take long before it became clear the wrong cat was in the wrong place.
 
In the book of James, we are warned not to be double minded.  Double mindedness connotes a person who compromises, unstable, and "serving two masters."  In other words, not only is it hard to make up one's mind, it also means a decision made may quickly be undone.  "Don't be so wishy-washy Charlie Brown."
 
While I personally acknowledge I sometimes have trouble making a simple decision, seeing where I may compromise principles is much more subtle. Often, I have to pray for discernment to see what is the Truth - God's Truth - and not what the world says is "good, right and edifying." 
 
We live in a culture that does not honor being humble, thinking better of others than ourselves, and not indulging our every whim and desire.  In a world that says, "You deserve it", God says "You deserve better than what you want.  Have you considered what I want for YOU?"  God's ways are better, yet we see what is immediate and easy.
 
Rising above that default mode isn't easy, but it can be done, but usually only with God's help and strength.  And what does that mean?  More unpopular words - submission and humility.
 
Today, seek Truth and God's single minded focus for His great love for you.  "Draw near to God and He will draw near to you." (James 4:8)
 

 
 

 
                                                                                                                                                                                                    

Friday, January 8, 2016

Changing More than the Calendar

It wasn't my New Year's Resolution for 2016 to "do difficult things" (because that's my life motto) but this morning I put this little number together, without supervision or help.
It's even weight bearing as it didn't collapse when 20 pound Franklin hopped up and explored it.
And, because this venture went so well, I've decided to make chicken noodle soup.  From scratch.  In the crockpot.  Let's hope it's equally as successful.

It's nearly standard human default to "hate change."  And I'm one that is change-resistant.  Yet I have a friend who LOVES change.  When I whine about a disruption, she says, "Things change all the time." 

Simple words, but so true.  They DO. 

God wants us to change.  He didn't deliver us from sin for us to just stand there, still wallowing in it, or just skirting the edges of it, giving it dirty looks.  God's power is transformative.  He changes us when we are willing to be changed.  We can only conform to His Likeness with Holy Spirit power.

Sound zany?  What's this Holy Spirit talk?  Have you tried to change on your own? Or worse, resisted change, insisting you are just fine the way you are, thank you very much?

It's been my rather challenging experience that if you ask the Lord to show you one thing you need to change, He happily will answer that prayer.  That's the bad, embarrassing news.  Suddenly, you see the ugliness of an attitude or behavior.  But the good news is God can change it.  Often, it is a tough habit to break, but God's strength and resolve sees us through.  Sometimes the changes are seemless, as God heals a past hurt - the pain that was there is just gone.

As 2016 just begins, be open to change.  Run right into it.  Choose to do difficult things.  Just be sure you are hand in hand with Jesus.