Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Rejoicing with Jada and Bailey

7:36 a.m. Today's project, the very first one, was to let the dogs out for the day.

Normally, this would be Steve's job at 6:30 or 7:00, but I've been sleeping on the living room couch the last two nights to avoid the stairs first thing in the morning. After I get some medicinal relief from my sciatica and finish my devotions, I head upstairs to get ready for my day. Since I'm not far from the garage door, I'm the first to hear Bailey's short, sharp bark at 6:30. I grab my cane and toddle out to open the crates and the back door.

The way our yellow labs yelp excitedly and practically leap out of their crates and tear out to the backyard is a funny sight to hear and behold. Much as they love affection, I can't get a pat in edgewise. It occurred to me yesterday that we humans (school age and above, anyway) only leap out of bed with vigor if there is something very important planned for the day, whether serious or entertaining. But these two girls run to the very same flat green lawn and plain patio they've called home for almost five years with unflagging zeal, racing to see who gets there first.

Granted, Jada and Bailey need a morning pit stop. But they also bark with just as much vigor to come in at exactly 9 p.m. to get locked into their crates. Their competition to see who can get into her crate and onto her bed first makes for some comic relief for the end of the day. They do expect some head rubs and soothing good night wishes after they get in, turn around on their mats and settle in face forward. Then the doors are closed until the next day's cycle begins at 6:30. Their pure acceptance, joy in living, and enjoyment of each moment must be why we keep, feed, house, care for and pick up after our dogs.

The Lord gave me a convicting spiritual lesson from the girls' daily routines that really struck me. Our dogs aren't looking for a better yard one day, nicer crates, or a new walking route with Steve. They enjoy what is, as it is, and find the fun in their daily, (I'd call humdrum) routine. Jada and Bailey love meeting new friends to throw their beat-up ball to them, and an occasional doggie treat, but in 5 years, I've never seen them mope if there's nothing novel in their day. They are happy to follow their "pop" Steve around in the backyard as he tends to his chores; they wait patiently to retrieve the ball he throws to them so they can race one another for the nasty, chewed-up old thing. They are relaxed while staying alert to protect our property, but never anxious. As smart as they are, they can sense changes in Steve, but they greet him with even more loyalty and devotion, and play with him at his new, slower pace. "It's all right, Pop," they seem to communicate to him with their calming companionship.

They trust. That's why they can rejoice in the life that God has given them, as He has given to every living creature. I know that I find myself slipping in and out of trusting mode, although my Jesus has never let me down! I confess that I do not make time to be "in the moment" very often, and become consumed with planning and structuring as many aspects of my life as humanly possible. As people, of course we have goals and dreams that animals don't. But God has given all of His creatures today to live in and enjoy.

The apostle Paul wrote to the church he founded at Philippi from prison in Rome, where he had been sentenced for telling the world about Jesus Christ. He knew severe hardship and trials, and knew what his readers needed to realize: That believers can "live above the present circumstances, rising above adversity not just by surviving, but by thriving in the way of the Lord" (Chuck Smith).

From this epistle of joy, I will take Chapter 3 verse 1 and Chapter 4 verse 4 to heart and mind, thanking the Lord for every detail He is working out in my life!

Finally, my brethren, rejoice in the Lord.

Rejoice in the Lord always. Again I will say, rejoice!

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