a dog-walker’s devotional

“If there are no dogs in Heaven, then when I die I want to go where they went.” – Will Rogers

Thoughts for the Week of 19 December:  Awe

the Universe, from the chirp of a hummingbird to an asteroid from interstellar space passing through our system, does it cause you “awe”?

Pre-game warm-up

For the following questions, reflect, give an answer, and respond to why that choice:

Q:  An ant hill. do you stop to watch the busy ants. or do immediately go looking for bug spray?

Q: It’s night.  A friend is with you on a camping trip to the Grand Canyon. He marvels at the sheer number of stars in the darkness.   In the daylight, the immensity of the canyon stretches from horizon to horizon and far across from you is the North Rim.  Are you still awestruck by God’s work?

Q:  A friend you knew in college was a heavy drug user.  You saw him recently. He’s married, in good health and shares how he was changed by his conversion to follow Jesus.  Do you credit his faith, God, or think it must have been something else?

Awesome

In my twenty years as a disciple of Jesus,  I have been inconsistent at times in maintaining my awe of God.  When I reflect on the several times I might have been injured or killed, in stupid stunts I did as a kid, or in car accidents, on the job or in the military, I should thank my God for his Grace.   When I recall a roommate who was in a car accident and then hospitalized, the doctors didn’t believe he was going to recover.  Twenty-five fellow disciples of Jesus prayed together in the waiting room with a fervor that might indeed have paused the sun had that been our intent.  Our Brother opened his eyes, responded to doctors and was restored to us with no ill effects.

I witnessed several marriages that were plagued by petty bickering,  loss of affection, disrespectful or unhappy children, and other problems.  Most of these have grown healthier and more loving through consistent prayer, fasting, strong spiritually-based relationships with others  and above all, faith in God.   None were “overnight” success stories, but in each of those who remained committed to God, they have been remarkable change over twenty years.

The whole earth is filled with awe at your wonders; where morning dawns, where evening fades, you call forth songs of joy.  – Psalm 65: 8 (NIV)

When I was searching for meaning in my life twenty years ago,  I was unknowingly set on a course (by God) where several doors were opened that brought me to the city I now call home.   I was invited and accepted,  an invitation to a church.  I became an active member.  I got married, raised a family,  saw a career grow and prosper. Along the way, I had struggles with parenting teens, “single-mom” self-reliance, and my stubbornness.   I suffered chronic illness.   I experienced the lingering illness, and eventual passing of a parent.  The complexity of managing a decedent’s affairs through the court.  And children who, thus far, have not chosen to embrace their mother’s spiritual commitment.   But I love them no less.  And they embrace and respect me in return.

What captures and holds your “awe”?

I lead a small group study each week in my church fellowship.  I share this as I think any person of faith, skeptics, or are drifting want to find purpose and encouragement, and “community”.


Thoughts for the Week of 5 December

We all have biases that color our perception of the world around us.

Pre-game warm-up

For the following questions, reflect, give an answer, and respond to why that choice:

Q:  Ice cream or fresh fruit?

Q: You are conducting a job interview (“professional position”).  Your candidate arrives bearing an item that indicates he supports a rival professional football team to yours.  You are a “diehard fan” to those who know you.   When he sits for the interview, what opinions or questions might you already have formed about his character?

Q:  Whom do you prefer to be around long-term,  a “health-conscious” person who expresses no interest in religion,  OR  a  strongly-opinionated, unhealthy (smoker, drinker or obese) person who has attended bible study groups for several months?

Q: dogs, cats, or neither?

I started to think how well I reflect my faith ( life and doctrine should match) in my engagement with co-workers and neighbors who are not members of my faith community.    I am friendly toward most people, but I do not necessarily bring up faith in conversation about child-rearing, marriage, or world events.  And often I look for “certain” people to share my faith.  As a dog lover and walker,  I generally prefer to engage like-minded folks.  

God calls his servants to reach out to the lost, and continue to love those who don’t respond to our invitation.  It was mentioned in a sermon, that as Disciples of Jesus, we might have some BIASES that hinder us to share our faith with strangers or co-workers or neighbors; since we look for the “right” people, we do not share the “good news” and let God pick the person who wants to grow in faith.  Bias therefore does not let us not grow more vulnerable in our relationship with Jesus and with others in our faith.  We hesitate when we look for people like us, or perhaps are “worse off” than us; however,  we make reasonable excuses such as feeling overwhelmed, or fear being “rejected”.    

Further, God calls us to live out our faith by serving others and doing good for our neighbors without seeking a return in kind.   Sometimes an act of kindness or service is received with a lack of gratitude, or abuse or we feel ‘taken advantage of”.   And this can be from a member of our own family.   But we are taught to honor our God, receive His praise for doing His will, and not to seek it from our actions or from those whom we serve.:

 32 “If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners love those who love them. 33 And if you do good to those who are good to you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners do that. 34 And if you lend to those from whom you expect repayment, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, expecting to be repaid in full.  35 But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked. 36 Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.  Luke 6 (NIV)

In a world that neither understands the true nature of the Christian faith and is increasingly embittered by people professing any particular faith, yet causing harm and mayhem, it is vital for our lives and doctrines to match.   The presence of bias in our decisions, attitudes, and our expression of (Christian) faith is not what Jesus taught or lived.  We need to learn from Jesus about how to grow His reputation working through us among men.   

 1 Samuel 2:26 and Luke 2:52 , Samuel and in the latter, Jesus grew in stature  (reputation) before God and before men.

I lead a small group study each week in my church fellowship.  I share this as I think any person of faith, skeptics, or are drifting want to find purpose and encouragement, and “community”.

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