Why I Keep Dog Food in my Car

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A few summers ago I was driving back to work after having lunch with a friend, and I saw this scrawny yellow dog hoofing it across a busy intersection. It was a hot afternoon, and the dog caught my attention because it was tagging about 100 feet behind a couple of people who’d crossed a minute or two earlier, panting and looking thirsty. What really sucky pet owners, I thought, letting the dog cross by itself.  The light was red, so fortunately the poor dog didn’t have to dodge oncoming traffic, but I was still cringing inside. I kept an eye on it – and the people – watching to see if they’d stop and wait for the animal to catch up. But they didn’t. And the dog still padded after them (or at least in their direction) on the hot pavement.

My animal-loving instincts kicked in and I quickly realized that the dog was just following them, looking for company, maybe hoping to be rescued, taken home, fed, and loved. So I made a quick detour around the block and turned down the street to follow the dog. It went up on a few neighborhood lawns, sniffing things, but obviously had no real place to go. I drove farther down the street and pulled over. I got out of my car and knelt in the grass by the sidewalk, waiting for the dog to come my way. Sure enough, she came over and sniffed me, wagging her little tail. No collar or tags. She was scrawny, I could feel her ribs when I pet her, and she looked a little desperate (to my emotional mind), lost and hungry.

And I was at a complete loss of what to do. I couldn’t take her home with me and the city animal shelter was located at the opposite side of the city. I had some bottled water, so I poured some out for her, but that was it.  I hated the idea of calling Animal Control on her; they’d pick her up and if no one claimed or adopted her, she’d end up being euthanized. But in the end, that’s what I did. Better to be taken care of, kept in a cool place with water and food, with a little hope, than to continue wandering through busy streets on hot pavement.  I explained the situation, gave them my location, and they said they’d send someone over immediately.

I decided then and there to carry a container of dry dog food and a bottle of water in my car at all times.

This morning I took my dogs to the local park for our regular weekend stroll. Actually, I only took one of them since the other was being particularly rebellious this morning and didn’t want to have his collar put on.  “Ok, fine. I’ll take Ziva, and you can stay home.” When I got to the park, my heart sank. I try to go early, when no one else is around, so I can let the dogs run free, unleashed, but today there was a guy sitting on the near-by bench with a big Rottweiler on a short leash. Great! That thing could eat my little Chihuahua in one bite. And Ziva is still learning complete obedience. Sometimes she’s a bit slow to respond when I call her to me. So … not a good situation.

I walked in the other direction, hoping the guy would move on, but instead he kinda walked the big monster around in small circles around the bench. Then I noticed his stuff. Looked like he had some bags with him. Homeless. Or maybe just “on the road.” Ziva and I walked in the other direction to avoid a potentially violent doggy situation, but I kept looking over my shoulder. He walked near my car, then back again. Something tugged at me. He wants to say something to me; he needs something.  And sure enough, on my way back, putting Ziva into the backseat of my car, he called across the short distance between us, asking if I had a cigarette I could spare. I yelled back, “sorry, I don’t smoke,” got in my car and drove home.

But I know that tugging in my gut when I feel it. That nagging feeling that I should do something. Not a guilt-inducing, “help the under-privileged” kind of feeling, but a sense of compassion. I want to do something for this guy. But what? I didn’t have any cigarettes, but I know smokers. A cigarette is often a substitute for food, so maybe the guy is hungry. I pulled out my wallet. Empty. I don’t use cash.  Great.

Then it occurred to me. The dog food and water.

I dropped Ziva off at home, and made a few quick changes. That dog food is a year old, so I dump it, refill the container with fresh dry food, and pull a new gallon of drinking water out of the cupboard. After a quick stop at a nearby ATM to get a couple of bucks, I drove back to the park. Yeah, he’s still here.

rottweiler_5830118982_94997b6000_bAs I walked in his direction, he starts talking to me. Guess he recognized me from a half hour before. And he begins to tell me his story, how he’s just waiting for his girlfriend to pick him up, doesn’t know when she’ll get there, she’s helping her grandmother and taking some cats to the animal rescue. I listen, not quite believing what he’s saying, and make small talk a bit (you know how hard that is for an introvert?). Meanwhile, the Rottweiler is quietly growling at me, and images of having those vice-like jaws clamp onto my arm, and blood pouring down my hand flash through my mind. But I know dogs. I hold my hand out to the dog, palm down, a foot away, waiting for her to sniff me and see I’m no threat. The guy, Jeff, he tells me, chides her reassuringly, telling her it’s okay, that I’m a friend. She allows me to pat her.  They both look hot. It’s not yet noon, but the sun is shining, and sitting there on the bench with no cover, I could tell they were uncomfortable. So I offer to help him move his stuff under the shade of a tree close by, and he seems inappropriately grateful. Why? They’re just a few plastic packing containers (now that I see them close up), a blanket, food and water bowls for the dog. But they’re heavy. This guy, maybe 20 years old, obvious isn’t “on the road”; he’s been kicked out.  He pulls out a photo album from one of the boxes and shows me pictures of the dog, while explaining how his phone is dead so he can’t call his girlfriend to see how much longer she’ll be.  When I offer him my phone, he explains that she’s with her grandmother, and the woman doesn’t really approve of him, so it’s best not to disturb them. Umm. Okay.

Despite his story of his girlfriend’s imminent pickup, I talk to the dog a bit. (Yeah, I know. Weird.) “You hungry, girl? Thirsty? I know it’s hot out here.”  “Oh, I fed her this morning,” he says.  “Hey, I’ve got some dog food and water I keep in the car for when I’m out with my dogs, if you want.” I offer it casually. “Okay, that’d be great. I’ve got some dog food here, but I want to save it for later.” “Cool, no problem.”

I walk back to the car, smiling. I fetch the dog food, and pour it in the dog’s bowl. I hand the fresh gallon of water to the guy so he can peel off the seal and know that it’s safe. He’ll be needing this as much as the dog, I’m thinking. The dog wolfed down the food, almost finishing it before he can fill her water bowl. I honestly hope she did get her breakfast this morning, but somehow I doubt it. After throwing a ball around a bit for the dog to chase, and making a bit more small talk with the guy, I make my excuses. “I’ve gotta get going. Hey, I don’t have any cigarettes, but maybe you can buy yourself some while you wait,” as I pull the cash out of my wallet.  The gratitude on his face was confirmation enough that he needed just a little bit of human kindness in his life at that moment.

And I headed home. I’ll check back tomorrow with a fresh batch of dog food and water to see if he’s still “waiting”.  Reminds me of that scene in the bible where Peter and John run across the lame beggar on the streets: “Silver and gold have I none. But what I have, I give you.” I can’t save the world. I don’t even know how to rescue a stray dog on the street.  But I’ve got some water and some dog food in my car. And a prayer that God keeps them both safe and gets them to where they need to be.

photo credit: “Homeless Youth,” Elvert Barnes on Flickr, cc
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STEVE SCHMIDT is the Teaching Pastor at Expressions Today in Oklahoma City. He is a graduate of the seminary at Oral Roberts University in Tulsa, OK, and holds two masters degrees in Biblical Literature and Divinity. He did his doctoral research at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and at the Jewish Theological Seminary of America in New York.

He is editor of IMPACT Magazine, and blogs here on the Cafe Inspirado column. Plus you can find him making random comments about life on Facebook.

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Dogs that Hang Around Get the Snack

dog_nose3rightI just finished eating a late breakfast while watching episodes of West Wing on DVD, and as I started clearing up my plates, I looked down at my feet to see which dog was hanging around.

Usually, whenever they hear any kind of activity in the kitchen, they come running.  Some snack or little bits of left-overs, even just some pre-dishwasher plate-licking is always sure to be found. And if not found, then coerced with that longing look they’ve mastered so well that pulls on my heart-strings.  There are times when, after they’ve watched me eat for a while, they come to the realization that nothing is coming their way, and they wander off, going about their own doggie-business. But sometimes one of them will linger anyway, laying quietly, staring hopefully, expectantly, perhaps honing in with their doggie-intuition that “something good is going to happen”.

Today, oddly, not one of them was around.  They’d already abandoned hope and were busy watching birds or chasing squirrels in the backyard.  Too bad.  I was actually in the mood to sneak one of them a treat.  Ah well, “Good things come to those who wait …”

And that struck me.  How true, in a spiritual sense.  And images from various scattered bible passages flooded into mind. The unjust judge giving in to the widow’s requests for justice because of her simple nagging.  The neighbor who dragged himself out of bed in the middle of the night because of the persistent pounding on his door by his friend.  That whole, “ask, seek, knock” thing, teaching us to be persistent in our prayers to God.  If even these rascally fellows give in due to persistence, wouldn’t God who delights giving good things to his children give us our requests more gladly?

But too often we act like my dogs today.  They were there while I was eating, but they disappeared just when the “giving” was ready to be dished out. And I was actually disappointed that I was deprived of the opportunity to sneak a treat to one of them.  Their lack of patience today robbed them of their earlier expectations.

How many times do we so earnestly desire a thing — a new job, a raise, a spouse, some urgently needed answer — but we don’t hang around long enough to get it? If we’d just spent a little more time hanging around God, a little more time simply waiting, or like my dogs, laying quietly at my feet, paws crossed, but with eyes following my every movement in anticipation….  Who knows how many answers, how many treats, we’ve missed because we got bored or distracted, and went about our business, chasing our squirrels or watching our elusive birds. And all the while, God was on the verge of providing us the very thing we’re seeking — even WANTING to give us that tasty morsel.

Zack, Clarice and Rascal* all came wandering back in a little later, curious to see what they might have missed. But by then, the plates were already rinsed and in the dishwasher, the stove and counters were wiped down, and the kitchen lights were out.  “Sorry, babies, not this time.”

They were so eager a few minutes ago.  But because of their impatience, their lack of persistence, we all left the kitchen disappointed this time.

——-

* Dog names have been changed to protect the innocent.

Shut Up and Roll Over

dog_bellyrub_croppedMy dog, Zack*, and I are a lot alike.

I was going about my regular routine this morning, getting ready for work, and Zack jumps up on the bed to get cozy while he watches me. Somewhere in the middle of what I was doing, I stop and look at him, so devotedly following me with his eyes. I sit down next to him to pet him, and he rolls over onto his back so I can rub his belly.

Some dogs will just plop down, roll over onto their backs, and wiggle around enthusiastically, reveling in the pleasure. My colleague Jerry tells me about his dogs, golden retrievers, who roll over so excitedly just when he approaches them, that sometimes they’ll lose control and even wet themselves. And he can’t even get them to sit up; they just go limp like rag dolls. They’ve completely given in to the joy of it. But not Zack. He has his head cocked so he can watch me. And I can see in his eyes that he is being cautious, a bit reluctant, not totally comfortable, as if he doesn’t entirely trust me. We’ve had Zack since he was a puppy, and he’s never been abused, never had his trust violated. I don’t even rough-house with him too much since he’s such a sensitive soul (with me, anyway). Of course with two other dogs in the house, he always has to be a little wary. Clarice will bulldoze him around; she’s a klutz and often temperamental. Rascal is always wanting to play, and is not above just pouncing on him for sport. And when they’re tired or hungry, they can get on each others’ nerves and snip at each other. So perhaps Zack’s wariness is justified. But with him being a little uptight, I could tell he wasn’t enjoying the experience as much as he could be.

As I pet his stomach, I was struck by the inconsistency in his behavior: partly open, partly vulnerable, partly submissive, wanting affection — but only partly. Never fully surrendering to it totally. And as I look in his eyes, I can almost catch a glimmer of his thoughts: he’s worried over appearing undignified.

“Isn’t this exactly how I behave with God?” The question popped into my mind. We’re supposed to come boldly before his throne, we’re supposed to bare our hearts to him, to come spiritually naked, open and vulnerable, expecting only a warm welcome, trusting in his loving embrace. But instead, we — I — often come to him still wearing armor, surrendering to his powerful presence only partially, still holding back, perhaps anticipating some hostility or unexpected roughness. And is there a hint of pride, too? Somewhere in the back of my head, do I feel that joyfully bounding into his throne room like a beloved child is a bit undignified? Will I look or feel foolish?

Worse, though, how is my guardedness preventing me from just enjoying God’s presence? How is it hindering me walking away feeling refreshed or receiving the answers I need for the day? I know many times I end my quiet time with God feeling just as frustrated or cranky as when I began it.

Zack loves me. He derives a great deal of security from being around me, and I really enjoy having him around. And despite any minor misgivings he might have, he’s safe with me, and I’ll always be receptive to his wants and needs. Is God any less devoted to me than I am to my dog? Has he ever rebuffed me or rebuked me harshly to warrant my cautious approach? Or am I still carrying defensive shields from the friction of coarse treatment inflicted by other people who intersect my life?

I need to change my behavior, my attitude. I need to deliberately lower my guard when I greet God in the morning and invite him into my day. And not just because that’s what trusting children (and dogs) do. But because I NEED the benefit of his presence. I NEED to have my mind and heart restored by his peace, re-energized by his joy. I NEED to walk away from my time in prayer with the strength and confidence to face the chaos that awaits me today. And, if I ever expect to grow, I need to uncover every corner of my heart before him, so he’ll have free access to change the things he wants changed. I just can’t afford to have my connection with God hindered in any way.

So when I approach God tomorrow to spend some uninterrupted, quality time with him, I gonna try to deliberately throw down my guard, and recklessly throw myself into his presence, stripped of any caution, reluctance, or concern for dignity. I want to let go of my uptightness, silence those ungrounded fears and worries in my head, and expose my vulnerability to God’s loving hands. I think only then will I be in a position to receive his affection unimpeded and to fully derive a sense of security from his love. Only then will I fully enjoy the experience.  I just need to shut up and roll over.  And who knows how that will affect the rest of my day?

————-
* Dogs’ names have been changed to protect the innocent.

What’s in a name?

Rascal, learning his name
Rascal, learning his name

An amazing thing happened today. I was headed out of the kitchen this morning, coffee in hand, when Michael was bringing the dogs in from their morning constitutional in the backyard. The older dogs bolt in, pawing at my legs, happy to see me for the first time this morning. And little Rascal, the puppy not more than 3 months old, runs in, clumsily trying to keep up. Michael calls him to follow, “Rascal, come on, this way.” The pup, wandering around the living room, still dealing with his youthful attention deficit, looks up from the latest object of curiosity, and tears after Michael as fast as his little legs will carry him.

It was that look, that lifting of the head when he heard his name, that struck me as so amazing. You could almost see the mental processes in action. Those two syllables, that unique combination of sounds, slowly absorb into his brain: “That’s me, this is who I am”. And little by little – over a surprisingly short period of time – he completely identifies with that word. “I am Rascal.” Now, whenever Michael or I call out that name, his ears perk up, he turns his head, and most of the time he comes to us; he runs to the sound of his name. The whole process of forming his identity is founded on this one basic recognition of his name, that that is who he is. And from this point on, for the rest of his life, his actions, his future behavior and the expectations he’ll conform to, will be influenced and directed by that label.

Are we any different? From the time we are children, we hear words, names, describing us. And like Rascal, over a period of time (not so long), we begin to identify with them: that is who we are. Depending on what those words were and who spoke them, our lives begin to be directed, our paths become set.

What would our lives be like if we were called what God calls us, if our identities were wrapped around his view of us? What could our lives be like if we started calling ourselves by those names?  — Son or Daughter of the Most High God.  Royal Priest.  Holy One.  Apple of God’s Eye.  Beloved of the Master of the Universe.  Joint-Heir with Christ Jesus.  Blessed One.  Successful.  Excellent of Spirit.  Good Worker.  Trustworthy.  Compassionate One.  Walking Love.  Peace Under Any Circumstance.  Grace Under Fire.  Stress-Free.  Channel of God’s Power.  Righteous.  Blood-Bought.  Future Promise.  Light of the World.  Salt in the Workplace.  Acceptable in God’s Sight.  Good Neighbor.  Healer.  Speaker of Kind Words.  Faithful Steward.  Encourager.  Delight of the Poor.  Relationship Builder.  Loyal Friend.  Joyful.  Confident in the Lord.  Forgiver.  Reconciler.  …  You fill in the rest.

If we’re to change our world and live an extraordinary life, we need to dump the old names, the old descriptions, and to stop answering to them. Like a puppy absorbing his identity, we need to retrain ourselves to conform to a new image, new names. And no matter what situation we are in at any given moment, we need to see ourselves as God sees us. We need to perk up our ears, lift our heads, and run to that new name. “Hey, that’s me.”

Just something to consider …

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Now the LORD God had formed out of the ground all the beasts of the field and all the birds of the air. He brought them to the man to see what he would name them; and whatever the man called each living creature, that was its name. (Gen 2:19)

Sometimes Dogs get Distracted

I got irritated with my dog Zack this morning.  The morning was cool and breezy, and I was enjoying the quiet with my coffee outside on the patio.  Zack, being the loyal companion that he is, was out there with me, sometimes prowling the yard, chasing the squirrels off our fence, sometimes sitting next to me, ears up, muscles preening, so proud and regal.  The rest of the household was still asleep.  It was such a tranquil setting, just me and my dog, and my random thoughts and half-prayers.

You have to enjoy those moments when they come because situations never remain the same, and Michael and the other dogs began their morning routine.  Zack’s been guarding a tree, trying to scare a squirrel out of it, and I call him over to lavish a few more moments of affection on him before the day gets into full swing.  But hearing the stirring inside the house, knowing that the other dogs were about to get their morning doggie biscuits, Zack ignores me, dives through the doggie door and runs to the kitchen to make sure he doesn’t miss out on anything.  Normally so obedient, he didn’t listen to my command this time.  He was too distracted by his primal competitiveness over food, too driven by instinctive urges to satisfy his appetites.

It’s not like he was starving or anything. I’d already given him two biscuits not even an hour earlier — one more than he normally gets.  And didn’t he know by now (especially after I’d already been so indulgent with him), that I’d probably give him another snack anyway when we went back in?  But the thought of the other two dogs getting something he wasn’t, and that natural drive to have more, overrode his normal willingness to obey and his desire to be with me.

So I am left alone with my coffee.  Maybe it’s unrealistic to expect such restraint from Zack.  He is, afterall, a dog.  A few minutes later, after he’d sufficiently satisfied his impulsive urge, he comes back out and climbs hesitantly into my lap.  Not quite as confident, not as boldly, but still fairly sure of my receptivity.  And I hold him, petting him reassuringly.  I’m not annoyed any more; I understand.  I still love him as much as before he ran off.

Of course, this is exactly how we behave with God.  Sometimes we are so eager to spend time with him, so hungry for his presence.  And we tell him so.  But then some shiney object, some appetitite, some envy or sense of competition diverts our attention.  And suddenly we’re off, running to pursue it, completely forgetting (at least for that moment) that he was sitting there with us, enjoying our company.  And in our distraction, thoughtless of all the good things he’s already lavished on us.  Had we stayed focused a bit longer, we might have realized there was no need to chase after that latest impulse: he is planning to give us all the good things we need shortly.  Sometimes our attention span can be just as limited as a dog’s.

But God always welcomes us back, always desires for us to crawl back into his lap.  And even though our tails may be between our legs, and we hang our heads a bit, realizing we’d abandoned him so abruptly, he speaks reassuring words to us without any rebuke.   “I’m just glad you’re back.”  And there’s bound to be a treat waiting for us shortly anyway.

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The Lord said to her, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and distracted about so many things, but only one thing is necessary … ” (Luke 10:41-42)
Read Luke 10:38-42: Martha’s distraction

And Forceful Dogs Lay Hold of it …

It’s 8:00 Saturday morning, and I’m sitting here in the quiet drinking my coffee, trying to catch up on my mail.  Zack, one of my dogs, has been sitting at my bedroom doorway, grunting a bit to get my attention.  He’s already been out, had his morning snack, and it’s too early for his morning feeding.  His immediate needs are taken care of, so what’s this grunting all about?  Can’t be anything important, I think, so I turn back to my computer screen and resume my reading. Suddenly he jumps up in my lap, nearly making me spill my coffee, forcing himself between my arms as he makes himself comfortable. But he’s content now, cuddled here in my lap even as I type.   His need for attention and affection apparently would not wait.  

But his assertiveness compells me to stop what I’m doing and think.  There’s a powerful message here, something stirring in my memory, a moment of spiritual recognition of truth.  And it suddenly dawns on me: this is how we should be with God and with our lives. “From the days of John the Baptist until now, the kingdom of heaven has been forcefully advancing, and forceful men lay hold of it” (Mt 11:12).  

Zack knows I love him.  He knows I’m willing to hold him, to pet him, and that I’ll interrupt what I’m doing to attend to whatever he needs if he’s persistent enough.  And sometimes, like just now, he won’t wait for me to initiate the affection. 

This is what we are supposed to be like.  We all know that God loves us, that he cares for us, that he wants the best for us.  Jesus describes him as the loving Father, yearning for our presence, to gather us in his arms, and eager to help us.  And like a Father, expecting us to grow, become mature and functional in life and in our relationship with him.  He expects us sometimes to take the initiative.

The advancing Kingdom of Heaven that Jesus speaks about is not a place, it is simply the reign of God in our daily lives. It is the divine presence at work in us and through us, touching the world around us.  The Kingdom of God is an active force in this world now, energized by God’s power, governed by his principles, enacted by his people as we put his teachings into practice.

What is striking to me as I consider this, is that this leaves no room for passivity — either in life or in our relationship with God. 

How often do we complain (even if just secretly to ourselves) that we wish God would show us his love more, or in a more personal way?  How often have we quietly expressed our frustration at the lack of “real” signs of God’s power in our lives?  Where are the miracles, the signs and wonders?  And why don’t things work out better, a little easier for us, or the way we expect?  Sure, sometimes we’re not ready to have our prayers answered, and God withholds things from us for our own safety, but what about when we ARE ready?  Maybe we’re too busy — too busy waiting.  Perhaps we’ve settled comfortably on that verse that says “those who wait upon the Lord will renew their strength.”  But what is that renewed strength for?  More waiting, or inactivity?  

The power of God never falls upon those who sit passively with their hands folded, eyes perpetually turned to heaven.  Jesus walked the earth, healed the sick, cast out demons, taught and mentored those seeking the truth.  He went off by himself to rest and to reconnect with the Father. He spent time with friends, built loving relationships, went to weddings and dinner parties, fully enjoying being with people.  So much so, in fact, that the religious people of his day called him a drunk and a glutton.  He went about all the routines of daily life, just as we do — but he allowed the love and power of God to be expressed through him in everything he did.  And when he did, it was “by the Finger of God, the Kingdom has come upon you” (Mt 12:28).

So when my relationship with God feels dry and stale, God’s love is waiting for me.  When my life seems uneventful, pointless, and stuck in the mud, he’s made his strength, his power, and his wisdom available to me to help those around me.  Maybe I just need to shake myself out of my passivity, to stop waiting with folded hands for a personal invitation, and get up and do something.  God’s love and power only flow through action. 

Zack could have stayed at the doorway making those little grunts, or he could have given in to the sense of futility and walked away.  But then his need, his desire, would have gone unfulfilled.  Instead, in confidence (dare I say, “in faith”?), he forced his way onto my lap and was rewarded to his satisfaction.  Sometimes in order to experience the love and power of God we’re looking for, a little assertive activity may be required on our part.  Like Zack, sometimes you just have to jump into it instead of waiting for it to come to you.

Just something to consider …

Better a little inconvenience …

Michael brought home a puppy the other day.  Great.  Now we have three dogs.  Oh, don’t get me wrong, he’s cute enough and loveable enough. But he’s a handful.  He chases Zack and Clarice† around, so full of energy.  And you always gotta keep an eye on him until he’s trained, making sure he’s not underfoot in the kitchen, or when you’re walking (anywhere).  Making sure he’s not chewing on power cords or pooping in the corner.  Not that he does those things (much); Michael is very watchful of him.

The past two days, though, Michael has had to be out all day making out of town trips, and I’ve had the pleasure of bearing some brunt of the watching responsibilities.  But my work schedule is less flexible, and I’ve had to put the pup in his crate while I’m at work.  I feel so guilty, so worried, about it, and I rush home for lunch, stay a little longer, and come home a bit earlier at the end of the day just so the little tyke won’t be boxed in too long.  Once at work, I’m fine; I become absorbed in my tasks and don’t fret much until it’s nearing time for me to make my stops home.  And on the way home, my mind races with images of him locked up, wimpering, wanting to play or having to go potty, and whether he’s been holding it too long or whether he’s gone in the crate.  How horrible for the little guy. What if I were to just leave him out, close the bedroom door? Then he’d be free to stretch his legs, chase Zack for company, grab some water or munch on some dry food for those 3-4 hour stretches.  He’s learned to use the doggy-door in the bedroom, so he could go outside if he wanted.

But that’s the problem.  He’s still too young to be left unattended. Zack and Clarice are fine by themselves; they can be trusted.  They’ve learned the rules and know how to be safe and well-behaved.  But little Rascal could chew on those cords, get dangerously caught in something, or if he goes out, might be mistaken by a hawk for a juicey rabbit.  And today I realized that simple truth.  Better to inconvenience him a little, better that he be a little uncomfortable, than to allow him to be at risk or endangered. 

And with that thought came that same nagging sense that there was a spiritual principle to be gleaned there.  How many times have I been “inconvenienced”, or things did not work out the way I’d been praying?  When I felt like I’d been left in a box unattended or fogotten?  How many times had God not given me what I’d requested, when I wanted it, and how I described it?  Why were some things slow in coming, seemingly put on hold for a time, even indefinitely?  What’s wrong with God?  Why isn’t he making things easier for me?

The connection seems obvious, doesn’t it?  And sure, there may be other reasons things don’t work out the way I pray. “You have not … because you ask amiss ….”  Maybe I’m simply not supposed to have or do certain things, and I’m just too obtuse to recognize it yet.  Or maybe there are other things on my plate that I haven’t attended to yet, and my request would be just one more thing to become neglected.

I do not believe God is stingy or begruding of good things.  “Fear not, little flock; for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom” (Luke 12:32).  I’m sure his heart, like mine toward Rascal and the other dogs, is to lavish his love and affection, and not to withhold any good thing from me.  I’m confident he is not trying to make my life difficult just to build character or something.  I have to believe that when he withholds things from me, either for a short time or permanently, it is for my own good. 

If my request is not some frivolous or selfish desire, then perhaps I’m simply not mature enough to handle it yet. Maybe if granted, it would do me more harm than good.  Maybe I’m not ready.  In that case, withholding the thing is an act of love on God’s part.  So perhaps instead of whining about the delay, I ought to be looking for the reason, the area of my life that needs development, growth, or improvement.  Maybe I should take a good, hard look at my life and make sure the groundwork is laid, that I’ve made space for the thing I’m requesting, that I’m at a place where I can handle it, take care of it, be responsible with it. 

I believe God wants to free me from my constraints, wants to let me out to play.  So when I’m feeling stuck in a crate, the variable must be with me.  Am I ready to come out yet?  What must I do to become ready?

My puppy Rascal is energetic, eager to explore new things, and wants to play all the time.  But he isn’t mature enough to handle the liberties and privileges of the other dogs.  And until that time, better a little inconvenience than to place him within harm’s reach.

Just something to consider …

Dogs’ names have been changed to protect the innocent.