Wednesday June 26, 2019 – The pain and tears of saying ‘Goodbye’ to Snuggles

If you know us, you’ve heard about or met Snuggles, a sweet, snuggley Pekinese who was a gift from God that enriched our lives for 14 of her 15 years.  Before Snuggles, we were always big dog people, Airedale people in fact, so a small dog was never even on our radar.   She was 1 year old when she miraculously entered our lives in Colorado Springs.  Donna had a temp job with a new home builder in the middle of nowhere near a very busy road when this little Pekinese came through the door with no tags.  Donna rescued her from becoming a grease spot on the highway where she worked.

I wasn’t thrilled when Donna brought this small dog home.  It took this Pekinese 1 morning of snuggling me to cause me to recognize that I wanted a small dog – this small dog.  When I told Donna what she’d done, Donna simply said, “We’ll name her Snuggles.”

This incredible little dog loved to be with us, travel with us, sleep with us, play with us – she simply loved us and brought tremendous joy to our lives.  She would even join me on the floor in front of the fireplace when I had my early morning devotional times with the Lord.  She just wanted to be near me.  I never dreamed that we would ever have a pet that I would love like I loved Snuggles.

As she got older, she just got sweeter.  In the last year she started to encounter some physical difficulties.  She started having difficulty walking. Her hips and back legs seemed to be disconnected from her brain.  Unfortunately it progressively  got worse.  In recent months I had to use a loop made from the belt of Donna’s bathrobe to help her stay upright as she walked outside in our yard.  It was a blessing to be able to help her.

This past week her condition reached the point where she was in pain continually and medication didn’t help.  Monday morning we came to grips with the fact that her condition had reached a point that required the action to set her free.  Tuesday was a precious day of holding her, being near her, shedding tears and just thanking God for the priceless treasure she’s been.   Late afternoon, we took her to our vet and said goodbye.

Those last minutes together were so painful, yet in the midst of the tears we were so aware of the overwhelming gratitude we have for the Lord’s kindness in giving her to us.  We cried all the way home holding her body wrapped in her blanket.  She is now buried in a precious spot at our home.  We will never forget her.

 

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Tuesday June 25, 2019 – What is our “normal”?

I Thessalonians 5:16-18   Be cheerful no matter what; pray all the time; thank God no matter what happens.  This is the way God wants you who belong to Christ Jesus to live. (The Message)

It’s been a bit frustrating as I’ve grown older to lose some of my sense of smell.  I particularly notice it when it comes to sweeter more subtle fragrances – like perfume on Donna or food cooking.  Likewise my hearing isn’t what it used to be (what an understatement) and I miss things – though in the middle of the night, it’s not so bad.  Praise God for hearing aids.  They do wonders.  When people speak softly, I can push a button and the volume increases.

I think these physical phenomena are similar to how we live each day and how we respond to what goes on around us.  We have deficiencies and God wants to fix them.  These verses talk about being cheerful; praying all the time and being thankful.  This is how God intends us to live.  This is being normal.  God’s plan is for these attributes to become
second nature to us; they are to become who we are.  Unfortunately, they can be diminished just like my sense of smell and hearing are.

The verses go further – we are to be cheerful no matter what!  We are to be thankful no matter what happens!  We are to pray through it all – meaning that our focus is upon the Lord.  There is to be constancy in our lives that is reflective of the wonder of our God and His goodness that overrides everything – no matter what!  But it’s easier to be cheerful and thankful when things are going well than when they aren’t.

How often do we hear of a close friend who has died; or that someone very dear to us is unexpectedly having surgery for cancer; or that a contentious situation unexpectedly arises that has to be dealt with by those close to us; – and this is all on top of the stuff we are already dealing with.  This is part of life.

Fortunately, God has made gratefulness and focusing upon Him to be like an artesian spring within Donna and me – they are always there, flowing.  They’ve become normal.  The wonder and blessing of their genuineness never ceases to amaze us.  We experience the joy that comes from the utter confidence that we and those we love are not helpless or alone; that we have a God who adores us!  Through tears and pain, the joy and gratitude are there.  All of these difficult situations just cause us to embrace Him all the more – they push us into Him.  We don’t have to understand – we have Him.

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Monday June 24, 2019 – It was $1 more than I had!

Philippians 4:19  And my God will meet all your needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus.

Donna and I were married in the fall of 1970 right after I graduated from Michigan State.  That next January we were involved in a coffee-house street ministry called The Master’s House in downtown Lansing, MI.  We were open evenings and late into the night.  While we had no salary, we were provided with a little 2 bedroom home across from the Oldsmobile forge plant on the west side of town.  We got to pray everything else in and were so blessed by God’s provision.

We went an extended period where we had no money – not a dime.  Groceries, gas, everything was provided – just no money.  One evening Judy Potter, a college friend who was helping with the ministry, came up to me and said with a little embarrassment that the Lord had told her to give us $1 – not $5 or $10 – just $1.  I grinned and took the dollar and placed it in my shirt pocket and told her it was $1 more than I had.

Later that evening another helper came and asked if we could give him a ride home when we closed.  He lived on the south end of Lansing.  I was a bit concerned because we were low on gas but I agreed to take him home.  Our old Ford had about 8 gallons below empty and we had been on the empty mark for a couple of days.

After dropping him off after midnight, we were near home when we had to stop at a railroad crossing for a train.  I no sooner stopped when I ran out of gas.  But much to my relief, next to us was a police car!  I got out and went over and asked them to call AAA.  Fortunately, at Christmas we had been given a AAA membership.

The officers pulled behind us with their lights on and we waited.  When the AAA guy arrived, he didn’t say a word but he took a 5 gallon gas can, poured it in my car and then walked up to me and his first words were, “That will be $1.”  (Gas cost 19.9 cents/gallon.)  I took the $1 out of my shirt pocket – the only dollar that I had – and handed it to him.  We rejoiced all the way home!

Our friend didn’t give us $5 or $10 but she sensed the Lord said to give just $1 – the exact amount we would need.  Here 48 years later I continue to be thrilled by the amazing power of this experience with God.

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Sunday June 23, 2019 – A “more excellent way”

Proverbs 3:3-4  Let love and faithfulness never leave you; bind them around your neck, write them on the tablet of your heart. 4 Then you will win favor and a good name in the sight of God and man.

Love and faithfulness – what marvelous attributes these are!  Wouldn’t it be wonderful if every Christian was primarily characterized by these?

Consider the contrast by viewing verse 4 in two different ways.  On the one hand, verse 4 becomes the question, “What can I do to win favor and a good name in the sight of God and man?”  This is an entirely appropriate question and desire.  The Lord provides a wonderful answer in verse 3 to accomplish that goal.

But there’s another question that can be asked that reflects a subtle yet significant difference in motivation.  “Lord, what things are important to You that should characterize my life?”  Love and faithfulness (verse 3) is an answer to that question and verse 4 becomes the result of living such a life.

In both scenarios, the obedient Christian will live a life expressing love and faithfulness.  This results in favor and a good name.  But I think the motivation of the second question expresses a “more excellent way”.  The distinction is that the goal is not winning favor and having a good name, but living a life that expresses love for God – that will glorify Him.

This all speaks to the issue of “why”.  Why do we do what we do?  What is our motivation?  Do we do things to get blessed?  Or, do we do things to express our love for Him and one another – and blessings are the fruit?

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Saturday June 22, 2019 – A helpful illustration

Over the years I have been greatly helped by focusing on the importance of biblical love.  Love always takes priority.  While we are free in Christ, our freedom is always constrained by love.  It is to be a guiding principle in our lives.

While scripture gives us many ‘dos and don’ts’, love should not be primarily viewed that way.  A helpful illustration comes from raising children.   Donna and I had the good
fortune to receive wonderful teaching on raising children right after our marriage.  One of the most essential things we learned was to focus on the principle of obedience and disobedience.

Our sons were taught to obey what we told them to do – that disobedience brought discipline.  For instance, if one boy hit the other, he was not disciplined for ‘hitting’ his brother.  He was disciplined for disobedience.  We would take him aside, and say to him, “You have been told not to hit your brother.  Did you obey us?”  He would say no and acknowledge he had disobeyed.   The discipline was never focused on the specific action the child had done.  It was always focused upon the principle of disobedience.

If they broke a window by throwing a ball in the house, they weren’t disciplined for breaking a window.  They were disciplined for disobedience because they knew they had been told not to throw balls in the house.  Lying is disobedience.  Cheating is disobedience.  This idea is huge.  Children learn the principle rather than a big list of dos and don’ts.

Likewise, we must learn the principle of love as defined by scripture (not by our culture).  The more we understand what constitutes love, the greater is our ability to apply it in every circumstance we find ourselves in.  God’s word is so essential to this process.  The more we grow in love, behaving in an ‘unloving’ manner becomes as recognizable and inappropriate for us as disobedience is for children.

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Friday June 21, 2019 – Friends

John 15:14  You are my friends if you do what I command.

Friends.  Have you ever considered what a broad spectrum that word covers?  People we see and speak to at church, at school or at work.  People we hang around with.  Our neighbors or the people in a small group we’re a part of.  From people we enjoy seeing and being with – to those who are important in our lives – to those we absolutely treasure.

Hopefully, we all have some friendships that are in the ‘treasured’ category.  Typically, we don’t have many and to have even one is beyond a blessing.  Some friendships move into this treasured category because of shared hardship.  One of you, or a couple, was going through a very hard time and you were there with them – or they were there with you.  Praying together, crying together, hurting together – friend letting friend know they are important and loved!  It is a refining process that brings forth a quality and depth of friendship that wouldn’t be there without it.

I never cease to be blessed by the treasured friends Donna and I have who enjoy us as much as we enjoy them.  They love to bless us as much as we love blessing them.  They enjoy being with us as much as we enjoy being with them.  The joy and pleasure we experience when we see that a call or text or email is from them.  They brighten our lives.

This is the nature of the friendship that Jesus offers us.  It’s not just being one of the group.  It is an opportunity – an open door to a relationship that He wants to have with us.  It is not just a theological truth.  It is real – something that He wants to manifest in our lives.  It is the stuff that dreams are made of – dreams that can come true!

Treasured friendships are priceless and Jesus offers each of us the best one we can ever have – a friendship beyond imagining.  All we have to do is love Him.  Thankfully He has given us His commands so that we can know that we do love Him.

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Thursday June 20, 2019 – His steadfast love

Lamentations 3:25  The LORD is good to those whose hope is in him, to the one who seeks him;

This morning as I was considering what I would write, my mind was filled with lots of  stuff.  We have a lot going on and my mind was just cluttered with details and concerns.  As I was trying to focus upon the Lord, the following song began playing in my mind.  Mentally, I stopped and just listened – allowing the words and music to minister to me.

The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases  – His mercies never come to an end –          They are new every morning – New every morning – Great is thy faithfulness O Lord – Great is thy faithfulness

It’s a lovely song and its impact upon me was significant.  I experienced a settling calm that was like the Lord saying, “Peace – be still.” to the storm in my thoughts.  I thought of how the first rays of dawn dispel the darkness – and the beauty of a sunrise.  The  turbulence in my mind just faded away.  But it was more than just having a sense of
peace in my mind so I could better do the task at hand.

It was Him.  It was experiencing Him and His goodness to me.  The peace was and is a blessing – but far greater is the blessing of being captivated by who He is.  Think of the ten lepers who all were healed.  One – a Samaritan – came back to Jesus praising God and he threw himself at Jesus’ feet.  The healing was wonderful but foremost, he had to express his praise to God and his thankfulness to Jesus.

May we all more deeply recognize that our hope is in the Lord.  Today, may we more deliberately look to Him and seek Him in the midst of our daily life.  If we do, we will experience a heightened awareness of His goodness and His presence with us.  The fact that the Lord is good to those whose hope is in Him is not just a theological truth – it is an experiential reality for us to enjoy each day.

Here is a link to this song: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yJbXDoK_AAs

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