Making a Statement

Kev ShebaWhoever acknowledges me before men, I will also acknowledge him before my Father in heaven.  Matthew 10:32

Kevin had a t-shirt with a picture of a pug on the front.  On the back, lots of paw prints and the words, “My dog walks all over me.”  It was a statement of his love for her, that he was proud of her and wanted to show her off; and also a joking admission that she had a lot of influence over him.

May my life be as that t-shirt, portraying a proud witness of my love for God.  May the marks on the back be God’s fingerprints; and may the words be, “God holds me in the palms of his hands.”  May I never be ashamed or afraid to identify myself with Him.

Body Language

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

Sheba has a cute, curly little pug tail. When she’s happy that funny little tail wriggles back and forth with joy—and anyone watching invariably laughs right along with her.  But when she’s sick, or tired, or frightened, or in a hurry to find just the right spot on the grass; that cute, curly little tail will just go straight—hanging down between her legs—no joyful anticipation, no contentment—just a sure sign of stress.

Sounds a lot like life.  When we’re happy or excited, we exude enthusiasm.  Instead of a curly tail we may have a smile on our face, a twinkle in our eyes, or a confident spring in our step.  But just let the trials of life come—sickness or fatigue, financial problems, misunderstandings, sorrow or loss, failures, fear—and all of a sudden the smile/twinkle/spring is gone.

When Sheba’s tail is straight, we’re alerted to either help her meet her immediate needs or to comfort her through her pain.  God does pretty much the same for us; for every problem, He has a solution; He’s always there. Jesus promised that He would not leave us alone—that He would ask the Father to send his Holy Spirit of Truth to be our Comforter. (see John 14:15-28)

Ready to Get Wet

page33bIn this you greatly rejoice though now for a little while you may have to suffer grief in all kinds of trials.  These have come so that your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may be proved genuine and may result in praise and honor when Jesus is revealed.  Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, for you are receiving the goal of your faith, the salvation of your souls.  1 Peter 1:6-9

Sheba is afraid of the water.  Not long after she joined our family, we were at the beach.  We wanted to play with her in the waves, but she would have none of it!  We would walk into the shallow, receding tide, and she would pull away as far as she could—up to about thirty feet if we allowed her to pull the retractable leash all of the way out.  A few days later, walking alongside a lake she did the same thing.  We’ve also noticed that just walking around our neighborhood she strenuously avoids sprinklers or puddles of water.  And if you want to make her keep her distance in the yard, just pick up the hose—it doesn’t even have to be on!

But Sheba has come to love her baths because she knows that bath time means some serious pleasure in terms of rubbing and cuddling.  After all, how can you not rock and cuddle a cute, towel-wrapped bundle of pug with those huge brown eyes staring up at you with absolute love?.  Her inborn fear of the water is overcome by faith that she’s going to experience incredible joy.

Faith in my master’s love also gets me through frightening situations.  It replaces my fear with joy beyond measure, and I can agree with Paul, “that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us” (Romans 8:18).

A Stubborn Streak

Sheba circleStubbornly they turned their backs on you, became stiff-necked and refused to listen.  For many years you were patient with them.  By your Spirit you admonished them through your prophets.  Yet they paid no attention, so you handed them over to the neighboring peoples.  But in your great mercy you did not put an end to them or abandon them, for you are a gracious and merciful God.  Nehemiah 9:30-31

Pugs are notorious for being stubborn.  So, how is that any different from most of us?  Not much.

If we’re out for a walk and Sheba decides she’s gone far enough, she sits down, digs in with her hind legs, and refuses to go even one more step; but turn around toward home and all of a sudden she’s ready to go.  Just don’t try to trick her and go on past the front gate because there will once again be a pug planted on the sidewalk!  She doesn’t realize her stubbornness often causes her to miss out on a lot of loving because we invariably run into neighbors who want to pamper her with attention as soon as they see her.

How often do I choose to go my own way instead of following God’s plan?  As long as He cooperates everything is fine, but if it’s uncomfortable, or if I just don’t want to do it, or if I think I have a better way; I may dig in and refuse to move.  And, like Sheba, I may miss the treat that’s just around the next corner.

So, I ask myself, how many blessings have I missed by being stubborn and wanting things to either happen my way or no way at all?  How often have I settled for less than the best?

On Alert

coverpagecolorTherefore keep watch, because you do not know on what day your Lord will come…So you must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him. Matthew 24:42,44

When Sheba is left at home alone, I arrive back to find her doing one of two things. She’ll either be curled up on a pillow somewhere in the house, sound asleep; or she’ll be sitting by the door watching for my return, and as soon as she sees me she goes absolutely wild with joy.  When she’s sleeping she doesn’t even know I’m passing through, and she misses out on the happy reunion—the fun, the treats, the love.

I also have two options as I wait upon the Lord.  I can turn my back and essentially shut my eyes to God’s mercy and his desire to spend time with me; or I can remain on alert, expectantly waiting and watching for the next encounter with Him.  If I’m sleeping I’ll never even know what I missed—I will have sacrificed all that was planned for me just so I could remain in my own comfort spot.

Royalty

Sheba on grass

Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should not only look to your own interests, but also to the interests of others.  Philippians 2:3-4

Kevin has a poster—perhaps you’ve seen one like it—a cute little pug wearing a crown, quite obviously a queen.  In fact, we often refer to our pug as the ‘Queen of Sheba’ because it sure seems as if she’d like to rule our home!  She even gets away with it occasionally because she’s so cute that it’s sometimes hard to say no.  But in reality, though she may think she’s in charge, it’s an inflated perception of who she is.  While her apparent desire is to do whatever she wants, regardless of time or place, as if she were royalty; the truth is that when she misbehaves or does something unwise, we stop her.

How often do I act this way?  Wanting to be the queen of my life, insisting on what I think is best, trying to rule over others, perhaps even expecting them to treat me special.  How often do I try to manipulate things in order to get my way, attempting to manage my own life without anyone else’s assistance?

The more I focus on myself and on what I may get out of a given situation, the more likely I am to make a big mess of things.  Oh, there may be some successes, but they’re likely to be outweighed by the failures: the poor decisions, the hurt feelings (my own or others), the feelings of rejection when I don’t receive the attention or respect I think I’m due, the disappointments when something I’ve planned doesn’t turn out to be as perfect or meaningful as I’d thought it would be.

What a difference when I climb down off of my throne and recognize God as the true ruler of my life; when I abdicate to him; when I surrender all.  Then I receive all of the things I’ve tried so hard to make happen: joy and peace, acceptance, answered prayers, results far better than anything I could design. Just as Sheba receives more from us when she is being sweet and submissive, so I receive more when I submit to God: more love, more power, more of Him in my life.  And the neat thing is, I really am royalty, for I’m a child of the King of Kings!

Phony Fear

Kev & Sheba

Fear of man will prove to be a snare, but whoever trusts in the Lord is kept safe.  Proverbs 29:25

Funny thing about Sheba; she’s always been afraid of other pugs.  Either that, or else she just doesn’t want anything to do with them.  But put her up against a Doberman or a Rottweiler and she’ll most likely wag her tail and want to play.

The first time we noticed this we had taken her to a large gathering of pugs in a local park—a pug convention.  It was funny to watch as she pulled on her leash, desperately trying to get away from every other pug that we encountered.

Later we noticed that she would even shy away from her own reflection in a mirror, apparently thinking it was another pug.

On another occasion, we were camping and a couple came by with a pug puppy, only 6 weeks old and cuter than cute!  Sheba was not a happy camper; all she wanted to do was get away from that puppy who, held securely in its master’s arms, didn’t even resemble a threat.  She barked and whined and pulled on her leash, trying to get us to walk away.  But maybe she wasn’t afraid; maybe she was just jealous; maybe she thought we’d like some other pug better than her; maybe she wasn’t secure in the love we had for her.  Perhaps she didn’t know that she is priceless and that no other pug could ever replace her in our hearts—that we could never trade her for another.

Am I ever like that?  So insecure in my relationship with God that I’m threatened by others who are similar to me?  Am I afraid a co-worker is going to do a better job, or jealous of another Christian who has a bigger ministry?  Am I threatened because I think another person is better looking, or smarter, or more talented?  Do I try to escape the presence of those who make me uncomfortable?  Am I plagued by phony fears?

Perhaps what I really need to do is learn to accept who I am, the person God made me to be.  Perhaps I need to accept his love and the assurances in his word that I am special and unique.  Perhaps…just perhaps.