Monday, February 29, 2016

The Proper Way to Walk



“Once the commitment is clear, you do what you can, not what you can’t.” –2 Corinthians 8:12 (The Message)
 
Opinions vary about the “proper” way to walk a dog. Some people firmly believe that a dog should always walk in heel position (right at the human’s side). Some even argue that the human should walk slightly in front of the dog to demonstrate that s/he is the leader. Allowing a dog some freedom is called loose-leashing walking. (This isn’t the same as letting your dog drag you down the street.) Loose-leashing walking is most common among the dog-walkers I see. Dog trainers here advocate loose-leash walking, but our trainer said to us, “Teaching your dog loose-leash walking is extremely frustrating. If you’ve found something that works for you, just stick with that.” By the time we’d progressed to loose-leash training, we had already found some strategies for walking Lexi, like playing the game “Find It” (see my blog post on September 14, 2015). We incorporated some strategies the trainer suggested, too, such as simply standing still when Lexi tried to pull. Lexi will never be filmed for a loose-leash walking demonstration video, but we’ve found a way to walk together. As with dog walking, opinions vary about the “proper” way to walk in faith. People have made all sorts of rules about it. But most of us are just trying to do the best we can on a difficult journey. We find the things that work for us. Very few of us are saints, but we’ve found a way to walk with God.

Dear God, Thank you for helping me find ways to walk with you. Amen

Saturday, February 27, 2016

Learning to Walk



“He will teach us his ways, so that we may walk in his paths.” –from Isaiah 2:3 and Micah 4:2

Dogs aren’t born knowing how to walk (on a leash). They have to be taught. Because I saw people walking their dogs every day, I assumed dogs took to it naturally. Some do. Lexi didn’t. In fact, most dogs need some training to be able to walk calmly at the end of a leash. Teaching leash-walking isn’t easy. It’s a Level 3 skill in the series of dog-training classes we took. Even now—two years since our last Level 3 class—Lexi hasn’t quite mastered leash-walking. She still pulls and lunges sometimes. But at least we can walk together now in the general direction I want to go. We humans aren’t born knowing how to walk with God. We have to be taught. It isn’t easy. We don’t want to have restrictions put on our behavior. At the same time, we know that God’s commandments (Don’t kill; don’t covet—See Exodus 20 for the top ten) are for our own good. I’d bet that in however many days and months and years you’ve been learning to walk with God, you haven’t mastered it yet. I haven’t. But at least we and He are walking together in the same general direction.

Dear God, Teach me how to walk with you. Amen

Thursday, February 25, 2016

Little Faith



“Jesus replied, ‘Truly I tell you, if you have faith and do not doubt…you can say to this mountain, “Go, throw yourself into the sea,” and it will be done.’” –Matthew 21:21

Lexi was my birthday present. I’d been begging for a dog since we bought our house. My husband finally agreed I could have one for my birthday. So on the Saturday after my birthday, my family took me to the Humane Society to meet some canines. During the previous week, I’d been reviewing all the dogs for adoption pictured on the local Humane Society’s website, trying to guess just from the photos which dog was the right one for me. I prayed every day that week that my dog would be there. We met two dogs, but neither of them seemed suitable (too rambunctious, too shy). On a whim I said, “What about that black and brown one?” and the volunteer led her out to us. She was playful and engaging right away. The kids liked her. I said to my husband, “This is the one for us.” And we took her home. And almost immediately I began to think we should take her back. Her behavior was terrible. I wondered, how could this dog be the right one for us? She was making us—me especially—so unhappy. I was stressed out all the time. The story sounded like fate, but I lost faith. I didn’t have any faith that we could make things better. Ironically, as Jesus teaches us, it takes faith to get things done. Sometimes we have to act in faith even when our faith is flickering out. So we took dog training classes, we practiced the exercises at home every day, we put Lexi in timeout when she broke the rules…no miracles occurred. But things did slowly begin to get better, and—destiny or not—she ended up staying. If you have faith and no doubts, you can move mountains. If you have a little faith and lots of doubt, God can still get things done.

Dear God, Please be at work in my life even when my faith is small and my doubts are great. Amen

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Choosing The Way



“Whoever serves me must follow me….” –John 12:26a

Occasionally my daughter comes with me when I walk the dog. My daughter likes to ride her scooter because she can’t walk as fast as Lexi. On her scooter she’s faster, so she takes the lead. She decides which route we’ll take. Lexi—who usually wants to choose her own way—follows my daughter with no problem. Like Lexi, we usually want to choose our own way. We pray, “Lead me, Lord” (Psalm 5:8), but we don’t follow. It isn’t easy to submit to someone else’s direction. I don’t know why my willful Rottweiler mix is willing to yield to an eight-year-old. But I do know why we yield to Jesus: “Whoever follows [him] will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life” (John 8:12). Walking with God is following Christ.

Dear God, Where you lead me, I will follow. Amen

Monday, February 22, 2016

Skipping



“They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.” –Acts 2:42

I walk Lexi twice a day—before breakfast and before lunch—and play fetch with her in the yard before dinner. My husband takes her out again before bedtime. This lucky dog gets plenty of exercise. I’m pretty devoted to our daily routine, but there are occasions when Lexi misses a walk. The day I had oral surgery I felt too sick to walk her. I was barely able to clip on her leash and stumble out to the yard to let her go potty. When our kids’ grandparents were visiting, we took a daytrip and weren’t back until dinnertime, so Lexi missed her midday walk. Missing a walk occasionally doesn’t seem to do her any harm. However, Lexi can’t skip too many walks without serious consequences. She’d become bored and destructive, she’d gain weight, and she’d likely develop arthritis in her hip.* How many walks can she skip before she (and we) begin to suffer? We wonder the same thing when we walk with God. We all occasionally miss a step,  whether we skip church, skip our devotional time, or skip our turn at the soup kitchen. But we can’t skip too many of these commitments without serious consequences. Our suffering won’t be in Hell; God won’t punish us eternally for missing church. But we’ll miss out on the blessings of worship, fellowship, service, and contemplation. It was to these things that the early Christians—the followers of The Way—devoted themselves. If we’re devoted to them, too, then we know we’re walking enough with God.

Dear God, Teach me to be devoted to walking with you. Amen

*Lexi was diagnosed with hip dysplasia. Regular exercise keeps her hip joint healthy.