Wednesday, November 1, 2017

What Have I Done?

Sure, you could easily assume this blogger has been very busy the last 7 weeks, probably doing very important things.  But that's not true.  I can't really account for the time very well.  Yes, I've been anticipating my next book coming out very soon.  However, that's not taken up my time.  It's safe to say I've frittered away my days on whatever comes along my path (even if that is the couch or outdoor lounger for a nap).

Then, a couple weeks ago, I lost my mind and brought these two home.

Your eyes have not deceived you.  Those are puppies.  Two puppies.

When my so-called friend brought the one to my attention on the dreaded Facebook, I didn't give the usual "yeah right" response I normally give her.  He looked too much like my former awesome dog, Foster, as a puppy.  

I decided to sleep on it. When I woke up, my first thought was, "I am NOT getting a puppy."  Then, within about the same 60 seconds of this thought, I continued with, "If you get that puppy, you can't leave the other one behind."  And the next thing I know, I adopted two littermates.

If you've heard me say anything about how I have implemented a "zero replacement" pet policy around here, you're correct.  Many have said "I can't believe you got a puppy, let alone two." No one is more surprised than me.  I'm still surprised. Every day.  Every night (often a couple times in the middle of the night).  Yet there they are, two adorable puppies that are a lot of work but full of affection.

While they are frequently confined to the kitchen, they've made it their full time job to find ways around my very lame and ineffective fencing abilities.  At this time, they are too small to be restrained by the baby gate, just walking through the grates as if I was toying with them.

But what I've realized is changing  your mind can be a good thing, even when you had a perfectly good (and reasonably sane) policy in place.  Sometimes you have to make some allowances for grace.  God does it all the time.  And for that, and two cute (and stinky) puppies, I am thankful.

Monday, September 11, 2017

When Waters Rise

The last few weeks, our country's attention has focused on hurricanes and the incredible damage they do.  In both Texas and Florida, residents will be literally picking up the pieces of their lives for weeks and months to come.

A good friend of mine has been extremely fortunate, considering the flooding her home experienced.  Unlike many of her neighbors, she has a second floor on her home.  Not only was she and her dogs able to get to safety, she took in a few neighbors and their accompanying beasties.

While she rebuilds, her dogs have been transported up here to the kennel.  They are in for a nice long visit.  Tilly is thrilled.  They don't seem too upset.
Hurricanes are funny things.  You can see them coming, but no forecasting can predict exactly the path it will take.  Millions of people have been glued to the news, waiting to see if disaster would unfold, and if so, how bad would it be?  Even with improved technology, it's hard to say for sure what will happen, leaving residents and visitors wondering whether they should evacuate and if so, where would they go that is safe?

To me, life is like a hurricane.  You have a calendar in front of you, and most likely you'll live those days.  But you don't really know what's going to happen.  You can plan, and maybe your plan will unfold just as you hope.  Other times you can map out and organize every detail of your life, only to have it blown out of the water.  

I don't know about you, but I kind of like predictability.  However, I'm learning to embrace the waves more.  After all, it's lovely to look at the water and maybe even see what's below the surface.  But it can get dull, and waves can be spectacular.

There was this one time when Jesus took a nap in a boat with a bunch of his friends.  A huge storm kicked up and the waves were crashing over them.  Death loomed. Jesus' friends were freaking out and they woke him up.  I imagine Jesus wiping the crusties out of his eyes and wondering what all the fuss was about, staggering up the steps to see the storm and saying, "Enough of this - stop it!" (that would be my paraphrase) and it stopped.  

Jesus doesn't stop every natural and man made weather event, but His power is irrefutable.  When we face our personal disasters, He is nearby, wading through the deep waters with us.  Life can be messy, and picking up the debris isn't any fun.  But when we trust God, we can trade our ashes in for beauty and mourning in for blessing (Isaiah 61:3).  I don't know how He does it, but I know why.  He loves us and wants us to turn to Him.

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Grading on a Curve

Some kennels give owners doggie report cards to inform the owner how well (or poorly) the dog did at the kennel.  There is much I can say about this, but I will try hard to stay on point.  In the interest of full disclosure, this isn't something I've ever done at my kennel and there is no plan to adopt it.

Here's the report card Emmit and Matilda got after their stay at a local kennel when I was gone in the Spring.
Now I'm definitely not saying that the fine folks caring for my dogs were lying.  But I will say that I know my dogs.  I know kennels.  I know how my dogs act in kennels.

They are not A students.

Some owners ask me how their dog behaved while they were away, and I give them an accurate picture of the dog's behavior, especially if something is out of the ordinary.  Owners sometimes miss small changes in their dogs when it is minor and they see it day to day.  If I am familiar with the dog, the change stands out to me.  

What I generally skip in the conversation is "normal" dog behavior like jumping on me, resisting going back into their kennel run, or sticking their heads into another dog's food bag and sneaking a few bites.  When away from home, dogs aren't perfect.

I hope you are sitting down for this - I'm not perfect either.  I'm just as disappointed as you are.  It seems like I should be a spiritual giant but I see how often I fail.  I jump into conversations I shouldn't have, I resist changing my less desirable behaviors.  I eat what I shouldn't given the opportunity.  

We are far away from home too.  This world isn't the end.

None of the dogs I've owned were perfect.  But they were mine.  And if you belong to God, He isn't concerned with your behavior, He's concerned with your heart.

Forget about your perfectionism, your defeatism, and any other ism that crushes your spiritual soul.  All you need is Jesus, who is just waiting for your heart to return to the safest, most pure love  we can have, that frees us for abundant life here, and eternal life after.

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

I Will Go With You

This past weekend, a new dog came to the kennel for her first stay here.  She did very well, but she was very hesitant to go back in her kennel run.  This, of course, is not unusual.

Over the years, I've learned that taking a dog by the collar and forcing it doesn't work for many reasons.  Not only does it scare the dog, it's physically difficult.  What does work is to take the dog by the collar and walk into the kennel run with the dog.

Facing uncertainty alone can be scary.  If someone is by our side, it's not nearly as bad.  

Maybe today you need someone by your side.  Or maybe you need to be by the side of someone else.  Either way, we are showing the love of God, who promises to be with us, when we show up in person to face the fears. Sometimes we can't share our fears with another person.  Even then, we know our great God knows and walks by our side.

"Never will I leave you, never will I forsake you."
Hebrews 13:5 (NIV)

Saturday, August 5, 2017

Losing the Good Ones

Mid-May, I said goodbye to Emmit.
This past Wednesday, I said goodbye to Franklin.
Emmit was around 13 years old, though he was in my home for only 18 months.  Frank was dumped here as a kitten, and was closing in on 14 years.  Emmit had a tough start in life, but he ended well.  Frank pretty much had a good life since he landed here.

Even though it seemed they lived a full life, their presence has been missed.  Another element that makes their loss a little more poignant is that they were, well, normal.

You see, the dogs and cats I've had since living in the country strongly resemble the Island of Misfit Toys.  If you don't know what I'm talking about, do a search and see.  I've had an abused dog that was so scared of everything it was an embarrassment.  At the same time, I had a three legged cat and not one but two other cats that had one eye.  And let's not forget Tilly, who, I can not stress enough, is the worst greeter of any dog ever.  

But Emmit was calm and good natured.  Frankie was mostly a dog-cat, greeting everyone, not intrusive.  Basically, my normal, likable pets are gone.

And while I feel their loss and illusion that my life is normal, if I'm honest, loving the difficult pets is not so different from loving the difficult people of our lives.  In fact, likely I am one of those difficult people.  And maybe you are too.  We don't really have a 100% likability rating (Sorry).  Maybe some of us can hide this better than others.  Maybe some of us really are more likable, but we all fall short.
In God's economy, there are no misfits, no land of unwanted toys.  We may view some people (never ourselves) as the lowest, trash, hopeless. 

But God's specialty are the ones others scorn (and even ourselves).  He even asks us to take care of them.  Who wants that job?  We are called to love the unlovable, because we're not always so lovable ourselves.  God hasn't banished us. When we run to Him, His arms are open, just waiting for us to finally figure out He's been there all along.

Having "just one dog and three cats" is ALMOST like an average pet owner number.  I haven't had this few pets in......I'm not sure how many years.  But I will pull in my flawed, four legged friends, brush aside their less charming traits, and continue to love them for however many years I may have with them.

I'll remember that God does the same with me.  

Thursday, July 27, 2017

Generosity - Is It Contagious?

See those cute little bandanas around the necks of Spike and Bert (those are the dogs)?  That's where it began.  With patriotic bandanas.
Spike and Bert belong to some neighbors, who were away from home while picking up their daughter, who had just completed Marine Boot Camp.  Impressive.  A different neighbor decorated for their return home, including giving me the bandanas for their dogs so they were decorated as well.  As you can imagine, it was a festive time.

Actually, it didn't really begin with bandanas.  The neighbors I have out here on the Gold Coast of Hardin County are wonderful at looking after each other.  When I broke my shoulder in mid-May, I was the recipient of much kindness and help.

But this story began with those bandanas.  The generosity just flowed, and the next thing I knew, my lawn was being mowed (not by me), and then limbs were removed and brush was pulled.  Work I couldn't physically do even with two good shoulders.  As I watched this work, I had that rare heart-warming feeling, the one you get when someone is being amazing.  It shouldn't be rare, but it is.

I became aware of a few other instances of generous spirits pouring out, their actions done quietly.  And those are just the ones I knew about.  Even little things, like when I was cleaning my windows and one popped out and I could not move.  Fortunately a neighbor responded quickly and helped me get it back on track.

Maybe it is the "little things" that seem of no consequence, but these little things translate into a big attitude shift.  When we experience another's generosity, we very well may pass it along to the next person.

Dogs know no limit when it comes to pouring out their love and affection.  Perhaps we can start doing the same.

Tuesday, June 27, 2017


Accidentally, I typed, "Emptymess" and thought...yeah, that's about right too.

The kennel has been unusually quiet for June the last two days.  Time to do some extra cleaning (and yard work because yes, that is a weed wacker back there, charging)
Life can be empty too.  It is unsettling.  It can easily be a step on a downward spiral.   We were created wanting to fill our lives, and often we choose quick fixes, empty promises, band aids over gaping get the idea. 

We make terrible choices.  Maybe we'll feel better if we pursue that job, that person, that bag of Oreo cookies.  We may feel full for five minutes or even a few years, but ultimately, our attempts to fill our lives with happiness, or just momentary easing of pain, fail.

Before grocery stores and vending machines, people had to spend a large portion of their day growing and making their own bread.  When Jesus showed up and told them "I AM the bread of life", people were eager to know what kind of sustenance he was offering.

Now if our vending machine runs empty, we can go to the next one, or go to the store, or have something delivered.  It's really easy.  Except we often treat our spiritual lives the same way. If we don't immediately feel satisfied or have answers in religion, we shrug our shoulders and move onto what must really work.  We thirst for more. Then Jesus said, "I AM Living Water."  What?  A well that doesn't run dry?  Is not distant?  Why yes.

Often we think that if we choose to follow Christ, we'll have to give up all the "good stuff." And we don't.  We may want to at some time, but that's not the point.  We don't ditch our vices because they make us bad people, it is because those vices enslave us in the way that Jesus wants to set us free.

And freedom is what He gives.  Free indeed.

In a few short days, the kennel will be overflowing with dogs for the holiday weekend.

The Good News is that we can choose a life that overflows with goodness, mercy, forgiveness, and deep peace.  We may still be a mess, but not an empty one.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Scratching that Itch

This is what happens when you jump on the kitchen counter.  "I told you 'no!'"
Poor Franklin.  After a stray cat's bite became infected, Frank wouldn't stop scratching the wound, resulting in the Cone of Shame.  It caused quite a stir when he first had it on.  Captain wouldn't stop staring at him.  Tilly growled.

I might have laughed.

Frank seems embarrassed, but without this drastic, visible barrier, his wound will never heal, resulting in a much worse infection.

There are those times when we can't seem to stop going back to a bad habit.  Whether it's tackling a bag of Oreos (there may be some personal experience involved here) or dwelling on difficult circumstances, sometimes we can't break the cycle.  As a result, the initial problem becomes worse.  Our minds and bodies can become infected with a poison that grows.

Sometimes it takes an intervention of friends, a barrier put up around us, a whispered word of hope, before we can stop making a bad situation worse.

Perhaps we dismiss God's word as being outdated, a fairy tale, or just impractical for our circumstances.  Yet God's people from the beginning regarded it as a kindness for how to live successfully.  As far back as Proverbs, we are told, "As a dog returns to its vomit, so a fool repeats his folly." (Proverbs 26:11).  I don't like to admit my own level of foolishness, but unfortunately plenty of my own notions and actions have proved out this warning.

Don't get me wrong, not all our pain is a result of our foolishness.  We may find ourselves in the pit of despair through no (or little) fault of our own.  Recently I saw a group that expressed concern for those in emotional distress.  This was great, I thought as I read it. Then I saw the gist of the rest of their message was, "We don't have an answer but we do have a distraction."  Having been in the pit plenty of times myself, I found it difficult enough with the knowledge that God was with me.  It seems that despair would be twice as deep after the temporary distraction if that is all there was to offer.  When we go back to scratching our bad itch, we need someone to pull our hand away from it forever, not for a moment.

As I write, Frank is laying on my lap, purring and dozing, even with the cone uncomfortably around him, seemingly at peace with this scratch deterring measure.

A reproof to turn us from folly doesn't always come in the form of a plastic cone around our neck.  But sometimes it's visible and embarrassing.  Maybe some will laugh, stare, or become hostile, rejecting us.  But there are those who will run toward us and our pain, sitting by as we endure the difficult steps of healing.  That's the kind of person I've needed, and it's the kind of person I want to be, because that's the kind of God we have, great in compassion and mercy.

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Stumbling Upon the Sacred

A couple weeks ago, some friends and I went hiking.  We enjoyed some striking views.

Slowing down, we found some fascinating fungi (or whatever it is - don't judge me).
As the border collie of hikers, nipping at my friends' heels to hurry them up of their enjoyment of nature (my usual not slowing down to appreciate the little things...blah blah blah), I was in the lead of the trail.  While my friends marveled, I paused to figure out just where the next trail marker could be.  Then I saw it, just before I was three steps on top of it.
I started doing that thing you do when you want to yell to everyone to shut up and dash immediately to where you are except you can't because that completely would defeat the purpose.  Instead, I did some strange pantomime that somehow my friends understood. While I pointed and gasped (somewhat quietly), we gathered as close as we could and beheld this one or two day old fawn.

The only word any of us could come up with (later, because we were rendered speechless not out of necessity, but out of awe) was "holy."  There was something about this unexpected find that was a treasure beyond the others.  To me, it was the visible breathing of this sleeping creature, vulnerable, and amazingly beautiful.

In the nearly two weeks since this event, I've pondered our collective reaction to this tiny life.  It makes me wonder what it was like to live in ancient Israel, going to the market or the well for bread or water.  It was difficult, every day work to secure food and water.  Then one day some of these people stumble upon this guy (who was described as physically NOT attractive) in the market, or at the well, saying these wondrous things.  Most people kept going, eager to go about their business.  But some paused, hearing a message that was unexpected, life-giving and beautiful.  "I am the bread of life."  "I am Living Water."

In the twenty-first century, those of us in the United States give little thought to our bread and water.  We get upset if we can't find the exact kind of marbled rye we like, and may drive to more than one store to get it.  Our choice of water is ridiculous.  Yet culturally we suffer from discontent beyond reason.  It's not enough to be physically satisfied. We want to be happy and by happy we mean our extremely specific definition of happy.

I'm fortunate enough to have some contacts on social media who live in Uganda.  They message me, ask how I am, pray for me and my needs.  They tell me what they need - and their requests humble mine.  They understand God's provision in a way that I honestly can not.  They are satisfied and even thankful in a way that defies my understanding.  Sometimes I think they live most days in that emotion of wonder and appreciation that my friends and I experienced with that day old fawn, an experience that was unique and rare for us.  Our "western culture" falsely leads us to believe we are the comfortable ones, but in reality, we are blinded by a poverty of spirit.  We don't know what we don't know.

If there is anything I am good at, it is to manufacture discontent and ingratitude.  Frankly, it's embarrassing.  Fortunately, I feel that God is getting through to me on this matter.  The conversation goes something like this, "What is your problem?"  Sure, Jesus is gentle, but He knows I need a clubbing to the head to get through to me, so the blunt question pierces my soul.  "Yeah, I know.  It's not easy to be this hard headed, and mostly hard hearted.  But help me, okay?"

And He does.  And He can help you too.

Not every hike is going to reveal a wonder as powerful as this most recent.  But that doesn't mean I can't be satisfied with every day provision that is beyond reason, and so much more than what I deserve.  It's not just bread, water, and wonder, but forgiveness, redemption and grace.  That's what stirs my soul to overflowing, to a deeper satisfaction than I can find on any shelf in any market place and at any well.

The Living Water awaits to provide refreshment, I just need to jump into it.

Saturday, June 3, 2017

When Your Dog is NOT Lassie

There she is.  The little darling.

About two and a half weeks ago, I fractured my shoulder while trying to get my Tilly and Emmit in for the night.  It was dark, there was a tree and I landed on the trunk shoulder first.  Several people asked me what the dogs did while I was writhing in pain and trying not to pass out.

Answer:  they went back to doing the annoying behavior of ignoring me, which is what brought on my impatience in the first place.  They didn't swarm me with their paws on my arm, remorseful and sad for my pain.  In other words, they really didn't care.

Then four days later, Emmit lived his last day.
More questions, "How did Tilly react?"  My response, "I'm not sure if she's noticed."

The truth is we want our dogs to be in tune with us, to react to our pain, our grief, and our joys.  And there are those (very few) dogs who, like Lassie, show sympathy and enthusiasm in appropriate measure.  But the reason Lassie was the iconic dog of bravery and valor, saving Timmy from the well, guarding people and property in unusual fashion, is because it is so rare.  Reality, lest we forget, is a lot less than the stories we like to tell.

To be fair, I'm not exactly the owner that inspires Tilly to act more like a candidate for MENSA. Very generous friends describe her as "full of joy."  She's full of something alright. 
After walking around in a sling for more than two weeks, I've spent plenty of time being impatient with not just Tilly, but with God too.  The merry month of May brought more than its share of challenges and I was pretty irritated about it and I let my feelings on the matter be known.  I found myself wishing God was like Lassie.  I wanted a visible champion, protecting me from pain, and staying close by my side while I went through the frustrations.

After exhausting myself with my mental prayer complaints, I remembered.  While the Lord of All may not be One I can see with my eyes, His presence is there, even if it seems elusive.  I just let the pain chase away that little fact. Anger blinded me from remembering God is FOR ME, not against me.  He allows the challenges for reasons I rarely understand.  But what I do understand is His economy is very different from ours, and the means He uses to bring me back to Him (even when I'm resentful) are not bad. 

I may be an imperfect dog owner (and I am), but God is the Perfect Keeper of my soul, and my Protector.  The challenges of May are nothing compared to past difficulties, and certainly not unusual to living on earth.   "We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed." (II Corinthians 4:8-9).  Or, the Chumbawamba paraphrase I fall back on, "I get knocked down, but I get up again.  Ain't nothing going to keep me down."

Tilly has never been Lassie and will not turn into Lassie.  And I'm not worthy of being Lassie's owner, so there's that.  While I may be disappointed in my little dog, and more disappointed in myself, I can't be disappointed in God.  Well, I can, and I have been, but there's no truth to it. 

After all, He is for me.  And He's for you too.  Don't forget.

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Coming Out Of Your Cage

This is Tiger the cat.  Tiger has made it pretty clear that being in the kennel is not his idea of fun and most certainly I am EVIL.
We're approaching three weeks' stay and only today did Tiger venture out of his crate in my presence.  He allowed me to pet him. But he kept his hair raised, just to remind me that I am EVIL.

While most dogs and cats in my care eventually come around to seeing that I am for them, not against them, there are those, like Tiger, who are reluctant to trust.

And who can blame them?  When we are scared, nursing a broken heart, and/or resistant to trusting, we often choose our cage. 

"To suffering must be added mourning, understanding, patience, love, openness and the willingness to remain vulnerable."  Anne Morrow Lindbergh

I'm sorry...the "willingness to remain vulnerable"?  Maybe you're that brave but I often forget that remaining open to all the benefits of love far outweigh the tragedies.  Life will break your heart.  Being broken isn't bad, especially when you can heal stronger than before (having a broken shoulder at this moment has me hopeful of a better healing).  But pain often causes us to retreat to our cage, where we perceive we are safe.

God is for us, not against us.  But we don't trust him.  We may act like we do, but keep our dander up, just to show we aren't pleased with how things are going.

Like Tiger, I think that tiny crate is where my safety is.  Maybe it is safe, but it isn't freedom.  God calls us to live free.  Taking that step out of our cage is scary, but love awaits, with all its scary risks.  And with all its magnificence.

Sunday, May 7, 2017

The Kindness of Ireland

That adorable dog on the left is Ireland.  That lunatic on the right, that's my Tilly.
Ireland the Dog is partially responsible for why I recently visited Ireland the Country. 

For reasons I won't go into, I didn't have a lot of time to make the decision to go.  I'd been dithering about committing and was running out of time.  Then Ireland's owner called, on the last day I had to choose, and made an appointment for her dog.  Decision made.  I committed.

Then, nearly instantly, I had buyer's remorse.  As much as I chide others to challenge their comfort zones, putting myself in the situation of the Unknown and Uncontrolled is extremely difficult for this introverted control freak.  And making small talk with strangers?  Not really my thing.  But I sensed I was desperate for an adventure.  I reluctantly listened to my own advice, in conjunction with the serendipity of Ireland the Dog's kennel appointment.

Each winter, I focus on a subject and read and watch as much as I can relevant to that topic.  Past subjects included WWII and the History of Abolition.  Bleak subject matter for the darkest months, right?  But I enjoyed reading about the heroics of people like Corrie Ten Boom, Bonhoeffer, and Wilberforce, et al.  However, I just knew educating myself on Ireland (of which I was woefully ignorant) would be refreshing.  Well, not really.  Turns out their history is also one long story of persevering in the face of tragedy.  Frankly, I can relate.  Maybe you can too.

I also read message boards about travelling to Ireland, the sites, the tips, etc.  Over and over, visitors to the country raved about the friendliness of the people.  "Great," I'm thinking, "Maybe they will be more understanding if I really fail the whole driving on the other side of the road thing."

But it was so much more than that.  Three examples.

1.  The lady from whom we rented our little cottage offered to light our peat fire stove if we were out all day sightseeing.  And two nights, she did just that, allowing us to enjoy a long day and still come home to cozy warmth.  The one time I'd rinsed out a few pairs of wool socks and hung them by the stove to dry.  When we came back, not only was the fire stoked, but my socks had been moved to the fancy drying rack.  I don't know about you, but hanging up someone's stinky socks so they'd dry better isn't the sort of thoughtful thing that crosses my mind.  Ever.

2.  After asking the lady at the front desk for directions somewhere, I asked if it was "the road behind  the hotel, then turning right at the third intersection."  After hesitating for scarcely a moment, the lady responded, "You could go that way, or you could use this road in front of the hotel and get straight there."  See what she did there?  She didn't say, "No, you're wrong" which would have been fine because I'm obtuse enough that I need very clear communication.  But she didn't dismiss my misguided notion and just told me the better way.

3.  On the non-stop bus from Galway to Dublin, a woman approached the bus driver for a quick conversation.  Fifteen minutes later, the bus pulled over, the driver got up, went to the restroom, ascertaining that the door was, in fact, NOT stuck, and returned to his seat and got us all back on the road.  But as he was buckling in, the woman who'd approached him spoke (in her Irish accent), "Now everyone will know it was me that stopped the bus and the door wasn't even stuck."  Another woman, not with the first, said (in her Irish accent), "We all needed a little break."

That's it. No public lynching or berating took place like you know would have happened in the U.S.  At that moment, I wanted to stand up and yell, "Do you know how awesome you people are?!"  But I didn't because 1. it would be weird and 2. tears were stinging my eyes.

Some people may describe me as nice.  And I know how to be polite.  But I can't honestly say that my reflex nature is kindness.  I'm so concerned juggling all the balls in Lynne World that considering the needs and comforts of others rarely makes my peripheral vision, let alone my priority.

Sure, it was only six days in Ireland, with limited exposure to people who didn't work in the service industry.  But it was clear that the nature of kindness runs deep. And while I often wanted to ask, "What do you do with existential angst?" that wasn't exactly appropriate to ask Tony the car rental guy (told ya I was bad at small talk).

It won't be photos or video I treasure most from my visit to Ireland.  It will be the overwhelming desire to "be ye kind, one unto another, tenderhearted...." (Ephesians 4:32).  I left wanting to be the type of person who lifts up others, putting their needs before my own.  As much as I love to bask on a Florida beach, I can't say I've left wanting to be a better person.

When Ireland the Dog comes for her next visit to the kennel, I will remember the role she played in visiting a country of kindness.  But I won't give the owner a big hug because 1. it would be weird and 2. tears will be stinging my eyes.

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Restraint and Why We Dislike It

What is the feeling you have when you see this little guy?  Pity?  Sadness?

You're probably not feeling relief or contentment.

Here, little Luigi is being "restrained" from running free.  That seems bad, right?  But if we think of him as being restrained from the dangers of running loose, it is a good thing.

Luigi is in the kennel so he's cared for, not so he can run the streets while his owner is gone.

The dictionary defines restraint as "a way of limiting, controlling, or stopping something."  Boo!  Who wants to be limited, controlled or stopped?  Not us!  We want to do what we wish, listen to our feelings, follow our bliss.

The dictionary also defines restraint as "the act of holding something back."  Hmmm.....

If we believe in an All-Poweful God, that means God can intervene in areas that are dangerous.  Yet tragedies happen.  But what if God is restraining His own behavior in order that we experience something deeper.  Maybe our physical and mental well being will be threatened, harmed or damaged, but our spiritual health will be enhanced.  Maybe that cage we think we're in is for our own safety.

Maybe things aren't always as they appear. 

When dogs come to the kennel, I give them the benefit of the doubt that they are a Good Dog until proven otherwise.  While that's not always as easy with people, it's a good rule of thumb.  While I've had my share of unwelcome events in my life, I can say that ultimately they led to an uncomfortable and even painful stretching of my faith.  What we have on earth isn't forever, but what we can't see is. 

If we believe in an All-Loving God, we can imagine that Jesus longs to swoop in and spare us pain.  He shows restraint when something bigger is at work.  If God holds something back from us now, it is only because it is for Our Good and His Glory.  It isn't always fun and it isn't always easy.  But, it's always good.

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Misplaced Devotion

Last Saturday, a friend of mine noticed a dog at the end of her rather long driveway, hanging out by the road.  The dog won't let her get near him.  She's given him food and water, contacted the local animal control, and still the dog stays at the end of the driveway.  It is classic dumped-dog behavior.  The dog is foregoing the minimal amount of food in favor of waiting for his owner to return. 

Five days he's waiting.  Five days he's ignoring someone who wants very much to care for the dog and get him to safety.  But he can't stop focusing on what is no more despite a much rosier future.

Aren't we often like this?  Personally, I'm sort of a master at staring at the door slammed shut in my face rather than the window open right by me, from where fragrant winds blow (or today, hurricane force gales). 

Too often we approach God with a clenched fist, unable to open our empty palm and let the God of love fill it with the good gifts He longs to share.

The dog doesn't know what's coming, which is a chilling cold front.  My friend does, and is eager to get him to safety.  But the dog refuses, longing for the love of the owner that undoubtedly has rejected him forever.

It's painful to imagine this dog's misplaced devotion.  It's sad what the dog is missing from what my wonderful friend has in store for him, which is Hope and a Future.  Instead, the dog paces, runs away, and looks at the empty, dirty road.  He has settled for a poor definition of love.

Sometimes we think our idea of what God is like is better than who God really is.  We have an idea of what our good gifts should be, and how our future should look.  But we don't know the Cold Front is coming and our God does.  We don't know that we're looking at a lonely and dirty road, when a street of gold could be our destiny.

Today I hope the dog chooses safety.  Today I hope I remember to unclench my fist.  Today I hope you choose to turn to the One who longs to hold you in the palm of His hand.

May none of us settle for a poor definition of love.

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Being Left Behind, and Why That's Just FIne

Jay was the lone wolf in the kennel for more than two weeks.

As the other dogs went home over the holidays, Jay was left behind.  Yet, the sudden disappearance of all the other dogs didn't seem to bother him.  He ate fine, went for his walks, played, no distress.

Perhaps it is because Jay knows full well he is loved.

A friend once told me, "You just need to find your tribe."  At first I wasn't sure what that meant.  It seemed odd, and maybe included rejection.  Then I realized that it was a great kindness.  The most caring thing you can do for someone is point them in the right direction when they are headed in the wrong one.

I had to tell Jay's owner he was heading in the wrong direction.  It wasn't an easy conversation.  But both and Jay may benefit from a correction.

I certainly benefitted from a careful word (or a hit over the head as I'm often too dense to "get it.") that put me on a better path.  I didn't like it at first.  I even resented it and suspected the Corrector had got it all wrong.  The Corrector's idea was terrible while mine was really good.

Except mine wasn't really good after all.  It was fruitless and frustrating (and other "fru" sounds).  While I was feeling left behind, I found a new place filled with new people and new activities, directed there by the kindness of The Corrector.

I'm not really sure what's going to happen with Jay and his owner.  I know I did what I could and wish it had gone better.  But you can't make a person see a clear picture when they are so busy looking at that murky one that has clouded their vision for decades.

I pray I can have my vision unclouded, and stay on a clear path.  To do so, I need to remember that I am greatly loved.  And so are you.