Tuesday, May 31, 2011

My Life with Dogs, Part I

Who hasn’t shared at least part of their life with a dog? If you believe the movies and books, it is sure to be a life-altering, positive experience. Somehow, that’s not the way it has worked for me.

My first dog was a little lady terrier with the unfortunate name of Butchie. She was a formidable bundle of untamed energy. That served her well in our household of untamed little boys who showed little affection toward her. She, in turn, showed little for them. Butchie survived their wild antics because she was wild herself. Her favorite activities were licking faces, and jumping up on people that wanted nothing to do with her. That was deceptive, though, because she wasn’t interested in bonding or pleasing humans. I don’t believe she saw people as anything more than a source of food and water. She once stole and ate half of a three layer cake in less than two minutes. When she ran off and got herself in the family way, she acted like it was our fault.

Fluffy was an adorable black miniature poodle that refused to be trained in any way. Maybe that wasn’t entirely his fault, for he came into a busy household that had little time for him. Hungry for attention, he resorted to tearing things up when left alone. My black leather recliner fell victim to one of his piques, ending Fluffy’s tenure in our family.

Lizzie and Laddie were litter mates with an obvious spaniel background. Lizzie was all black with a frizzy coat that may have indicated a vitamin deficiency. The disgusting habit she refused to forsake, which, in the name of common decency, I will not reveal, reinforced that assumption. But she was smart. Well, except for her self taught means of communicating that she had to potty. Standing by the back door in the laundry room, far removed from the rest of the household, didn’t always accomplish what she meant it to.

Her brother, Laddie, was beautiful, with his classic Springer Spaniel markings. Unfortunately, all he had to offer was a pretty face. He wouldn’t be house-trained, nor would he learn to walk on a leash. He never even learned his own name. He did offer us a bit of a chuckle, though when he lay on the floor with his head resting in his food bowl as he ate. Can you say “Lazy”?

Do you see a trend here? The dogs in my life have done little to earn a spot in my heart. I know, they have their good points, but I think I will pass on bringing anymore into my home.

Although I don’t have any animals right now, I do live with some that are part of my son and daughter-in-law’s family. Next time, I’ll tell you about their little Max.


Monday, May 23, 2011

A Sad Day

One man believed a lie. Because he was in a position to do so, that lie was broadcast to the world. People paid attention. They laughed and they joked and they partied, because it wasn’t possible to just ignore the promise that Christ would return that day. This past weekend, the lie was exposed, and people laughed and joked and partied some more, because Christ didn’t return that day.

Exposure of this lie was inevitable. Matthew 24:36 is only one of the references that explains why: “But of that day and hour, no man knoweth, no not the angels of heaven, but my Father only.”

Christians have a vital mission. We are to share the truth of the gospel with the world, but it is a lost and dying world that doesn’t recognize its desperate need. Our message is rejected before it is offered, and one of the reasons is because of events such as what took place over the weekend.

The Bible is God’s Holy Word. For a Christian to promote something which clearly opposes that Word is preposterous. Why would sinners respond to the truth, when Christians don’t abide by that truth? How can sinners respond to the truth when Christians serve up their own version of the truth? Without a doubt, the cause of Christ has suffered a severe blow.

The rapture did not occur last weekend, but it will happen someday. Matthew 24:42 says: “Watch therefore; for ye know not what hour your Lord doth come.”

That means to be prepared because it could happen at any time. That is truth. I fear, though that many who might have believed, will now only scoff at such an idea. And for that reason, my heart mourns.


Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Pop Quiz!

This is a test. Put your books and notes away. No talking.

Oh, no, that was in high school.

There was a test, though, but it is already over. Remember that miserable, horrible, no good, very bad day you had last week--the one you never wanted to think about again? Yes, that one. How’d you do?

Life can hit us hard sometimes. Dealing with routine demands doesn’t take too much thought, but on occasion, our day presents us with some surprises we would have chosen to avoid. Maybe the boss cancelled your vacation at the last minute; or your 15 year-old was spotted at the mall when he should have been in Algebra class; or, even worse, maybe the three year-old flushed your car keys.

How did you respond? Or did you? The reason I ask is that it is possible that you didn’t respond. Maybe you reacted, instead. There is a difference between the two. The words are often used interchangeably, but when I hear them used incorrectly, the brakes squeal as my mind comes to an abrupt halt.

The words themselves tell the difference. To react means that you act immediately because of something that has happened. To respond means that, after pondering, or thinking rationally and logically about the subject, you act according to the wisdom you have gained.

Into everyone’s life some chaos must fall. Amongst the daily responsibilities that clamor for attention, we can pretty much count on a few irritating, frustrating surprises to pop up out of nowhere. Of course, we shouldn’t stifle every emotion, but we should always maintain perspective.

The thing is, it is all too easy to react to situations that really could use a response. We see it all the time: the kids misbehave; someone fails us; something gets broken. Without thinking, we react by yelling, or retaliating, or becoming offended, and usually, regretting it later. It is possible to compensate for a wrong reaction to a little thing. However, if it has become a habit to react to every situation, we may have a problem when we are confronted with a major issue. Inappropriate reactions may create chasms that prevent any positive resolution to the next problem.

Reacting out of anger and responding in love are two common phrases we are all familiar with. If you were on the receiving end, wouldn’t you prefer the latter, rather than the former? The people in our lives would surely prefer the same treatment.

Any positive influence we may have in the lives of others may depend on how we deal with them when irritating mishaps come up each day. If we routinely respond in love, we will surely pass this test with flying colors. That’s not an easy standard to meet, but well worth striving for. Personally, I hope that when others think of their relationship with me, responds in love will come to mind.


Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Engine, Engine, Number Nine

You know, I handle irritations pretty well, if I do say so myself. That makes me feel pretty good, too, especially when I witness someone else reacting badly to some minor offense or problem. I mean, can’t you just grow up?

The thing is, some days, everything I try to do gets complicated, and when that happens, you really don’t want to be around me. My attitude goes right down the tubes. Maybe that’s hard for you to believe, but just let me tell you…

My new job requires a particular color of shirt, shoes and pants, so I’ve been looking around for them. I had some time today, and decided I would hunt them down, whatever it took. Since I was in the neighborhood, I also stopped by the local Christian bookstore to check on a book that was backordered. Both clerks agreed that it wasn’t in yet. So how come I found three copies on the shelf as I was leaving?

After purchasing the book, I continued my quest for the elusive outfit I needed. Two local department stores had nothing, so I headed a little farther from home. Halfway there, the turning lane that I needed to use was closed, so I had to go the wrong direction. But that was the only route I knew, so I had to wind around and backtrack before I could proceed on my way.

My whole day went this way. My GPS had no idea where this major new shopping center was. The attendant at the gas station I stopped at for directions barely spoke English, and she had no idea where this major new shopping center was. Directory Assistance had no phone number for this major new shopping center.

Who would have thought a major new shopping center would be so hard to find? If I had a shopping center, I think I’d want it to be hard to miss rather than hard to find. Eventually, I did stumble upon the store, but the clothing section didn’t have the clothes I needed, nor did the catalog department have the catalog I needed. Instead, I was told to go home and look on their internet site.

By now, my irritation level was at about 12 on a scale of one to ten. I’m really glad there was no-one riding with me. I wouldn’t have been good company at all. But, wait, there’s more to come. The trip home didn’t go the way I had planned, either. That meandering, mile-long road I took as I entered the shopping center took me to an unfamiliar exit when I left. By the time I found the right road, I was stuck in the wrong lane and couldn’t make the turn. That should be a simple fix, right? Just go through the intersection, find a place to turn around, and then start over. Surprise--there was no place to turn around.Instead, I found myself on the approach road to some huge stadium.

I’m really glad to be home.

I took a photo a while ago of a railroad track. The track heads straight--away, and there is nothing that can cause that track to move over or choose a different route. Today I realized that’s the way I try to be. I set my feet towards my goal, and expect that nothing should impede my progress. I move forward and pick up speed. I tend to want to eliminate anything that gets in my way, just as a train barreling down that track would do to anything that got in its way.

If I take another look at my photo, I see a pile of railroad ties lying along-side the rails. Apparently, there is some maintenance scheduled for that track. Looking back on my day, I believe God just did some maintenance work on me. Watching myself allow little things to have such a big influence on my attitude has been humbling, and has emphasized how much I need God in my life. I did not vent on anybody today, but I have a feeling, were it not for His grace, there may have been a major, unscheduled event by the time I arrived at that stadium.

Thank you, God, for never forsaking me, even when my attitude gets bad. Thank you for enabling me to continue to grow and learn.


Saturday, May 7, 2011

Can You See Them?

I often run errands. I go from the house to the car, then into the store or the office, and I never see them. When I’m ready to go back home, I do it all again, and still, I don’t see them. I go to work and back daily, without seeing them. I pass right by the blessings that God has provided that would give some balance to the struggles of life.

My mind is focused solely on the immediate tasks, and every day holds plenty of those. The pressures of life leave me stressed out, and I don’t even realize it until some minor irritation invokes an extreme reaction that I immediately regret. Chaotic sights and clamorous sounds leave my nerves frazzled. Pressure builds up and becomes so intense, I feel like an over-inflated tire that is about to explode.

That’s a shame, because it doesn’t have to happen that way. As inundated as I often feel, I need to remember that I am also surrounded by stress relievers--delightful sights and sounds that offer relief from the unrelenting tension I live with every day. Sounds like the babbling of a contented baby, or the early morning serenade of a songbird. Sights like a smile from a passing stranger, chubby puppies tumbling over each other, or a vision of God’s wonders in nature.

A trip to the park is a great opportunity to enjoy these pleasures. Even if time doesn't allow for such an indulgence, these things can be found with little effort. They are out there, just waiting to bless us with some welcome stress relief. If you think about it just a bit, you will be able to see them.


Monday, May 2, 2011

The Same Old Story -- Praise God!

Jaded souls too easily find themselves in jeopardy; their jumbled thoughts justify their bitter judgment.

Ugly words and actions create upheaval; ulterior motives create unpleasant undercurrents.

Boundaries are breached; extreme behavior results in brutal bondage.

Indignation and insidious acts impose emotional and social isolation.

Lingering at length in such a loathsome state launches a longing for liberation.

Elusive hope emerges with the unmerited offer of everlasting life; forgiveness embraced evokes expansive exultation.

Elation engulfs the renewed soul; the righteous heart extols the mercy and grace of God.


Loss of possessions and personal freedom are sometimes unavoidable. Our desperate search for solutions often brings no results.

Hard times have always been a fact of life. The Israelites faced these same challenges. Their compassionate God provided the answers they needed by establishing the year of jubilee. Every seventh year, possessions reverted to the original owners, and servants were released from bondage.

That amazes me. Nobody had to earn it or deserve it. Nobody had to come from an influential family, or be charming or talented. No political regime or religious establishment could have instituted a policy like this. It could only have come about through God’s grace.

The demands of life we face each day can have dire consequences for us, physically and emotionally. Life happens to all of us, and doesn’t always allow for positive options. Sometimes, in our foolishness, we deliberately make choices that can’t end up well. No matter what kind of mess we find ourselves in, God has already provided for our relief. It will be an eternal jubilee in heaven for all who accept Him here on earth. That can only be through God’s amazing grace.