Ultimate Joy

Posts Tagged ‘Rascal

Pizzazz.  That’s what I was looking for.  An attention getter.  Most importantly, I wanted the photograph to capture the special bond between me and my dog, Rascal – a picture illustrating the tight connection between us.  And in the process bring me comfort and healing since Rascal had recently been diagnosed with terminal cancer.

It was a tall order, I admit, so I went searching for backdrops. Something to make us stand out, yet was in keeping with our personalities. When I found something that might work, I’d pester my husband to take a few pictures. Summoning every creative molecule in his body, he’d snap away, but the results would be less than spectacular.  Oh, I don’t blame him.  I was asking him to use a lens to capture a feeling, an insight into my soul all the while I was yelling at him, “Don’t get my butt in the picture.”

It seemed I’d never find the perfect backdrop to make Rascal’s black and white fur stand out and my blue eyes sparkle. Looking back it was an exercise in futility because although Richard managed to snap some great pictures, there was never one that truly stirred my soul. That’s because no picture could ever give me what the deep recesses of my heart longed for – more time with my canine companion.

When my life’s hurts become overwhelming, I don’t have to go searching for backdrops. Soothing comfort can be found in the backdrops God provides.  Luke wrote, “He will be a joy and delight to you and many will rejoice because of His birth.” (Luke 1:14)  In a lowly manger, God came to this world and other than the angels singing that night to the shepherds, his birth went widely unnoticed by the inhabitants of Israel.

Yet it was the beginning of many more backdrops – a merciless cross – an empty tomb and with that, eternity itself. His backdrops change everything about life. There are times when what He has asked me to do simply doesn’t make sense to me. But against that backdrop I found that faith is a matter of blind obedience, not human logic.

Life doesn’t lack the rough spots. But it takes storms to teach us that God is faithful and will provide the strength to stand firm.

Only when we sit at the feet of Jesus, surrendering our plans and dreams, do we discover that Christ came not to eliminate the storms of life. No, he came to fill those storms with His presence. We can always count on His joy in us when we face the storms of life – a truth that makes our hearts sing and our souls dance.

And with each storm comes the victory waiting to be claimed – the awesome privilege of clinging tightly to the hand of God.

I’ve never seen a dog cry.  I’ve never seen one laugh for that matter.  Yet, I have experienced their intense joy as they whirl and twirl chasing a ball. And I’ve seen sadness and bewilderment in their eyes when I leave.  Their intense, indescribable canine loyalty makes me wonder what deep, passionate emotions beat in their hearts.

One touching display of loyalty is currently making the rounds on the Internet.  It shows Hawkeye, a Labrador Retriever, lying at the coffin of his master, Petty Officer Jon Tumilson.  A Navy Seal, Tumilson died on August 6 when his Chinook helicopter was shot down by insurgents in Afghanistan.

When the Petty Officer’s friend took the podium to eulogize his lost pal, Hawkeye followed and went straight to the casket at the front of the gymnasium where the service was held, lying down with a heavy sigh and refusing to leave the side of his owner.  If that isn’t sadness, what is?

In a solemn display of grief and love, the dog remained dutiful to his owner, even though his owner had passed.

For those who knew him, the loss of Tumilson has been described as “immeasurable.” The heart-wrenching actions of his loyal Lab Hawkeye only show that the loss of life, similar to the loyalty shown by our pets, is not at all quantifiable or measurable.

God’s loyalty to us is limitless, also.  When we feel dry, worn out or empty God never leaves our side. When we struggle with finding our purpose and our worth, as our faithful Companion, He whispers kind words to us.  He tells us how much He loves us.  He renews us and He inspires us.

When my dog Rascal was dying of cancer, she suddenly decided she didn’t want to make the trek to our upstairs bedroom. So, I moved downstairs – making a bedroom out of our living room by putting a mattress on the floor.  One night, I had several nightmares so terrifying I began to cry out in my sleep.  Rascal tenderly, gently put her paw on my bed to soothe and quiet me.  It was as if she was saying, “You’ve always got me, you know. We’ll go through the world together, and always stand by each other.”

I don’t know about you, but I want to be known for that kind of loyalty.  I want to live a life recognized for reflecting God’s loyalty so completely that my life is reshaped and my relationships are refurbished.  I want to leave behind my negative attitudes of comparing, contrasting, evaluating, doubting, and allowing myself to feel like a disappointment even though the Lord tells me over and over that He loves me.  He blesses each and every day with His grace and loyalty.

That’s why today you can begin with a new confidence and with a heart aligned with the One who knew your name before time began. He provides tranquility with His love. If you quiet yourself before Him, you will hear the sound of your own name echoing back from the great I AM.

My dog Lily is asleep at my feet as I finish this entry.  She’s had a busy day protecting me from other dogs and various visitors to the house. Her loyalty is touching, but it will never outshine the loyalty of God.  You see, I’ve had to earn Lily’s respect, love and loyalty.  Over the months of feeding her, taking care of her, loving her, she’s bonded to me.

But God’s love and loyalty are there for the taking.  We don’t have to earn it.  He reaches out to us and consistently showers us with His bold love and profound loyalty to us.

So, join me on the journey of reflecting the loyalty of God, won’t you? I’m pretty certain that every step of the way will be well worth it.

It started as a quick walk across a crowded parking lot and ended in deep theological thought.

I glanced at a metallic sticker on a white van.  Like so many touting breast cancer awareness or support for our troops, at first it didn’t seem out of place and I didn’t pay it much attention.  But the shape made it stand out.  It was a paw print and getting closer I could see a simple question etched on it.  “Who rescued who?”

“How funny,” I thought.  Then a split second later, my thought was, “How true!”

Rascal, my faithful canine companion, was a rescued dog.  At first, I wasn’t sure I even wanted her in our home.  She was big, a little skittish around new owners and at 80 pounds, certainly not the lap dogs I was used to during my childhood.

But she was gentle, kind, loving and very loyal.  And she grew on me.  When my beloved Diamond cat passed away, Rascal sensed my unhappiness.  Soon her attention and devotion to me made all the misgivings about owning her melt away and we became inseparable.  After her arthritis prevented her from climbing the stairs to my bedroom, she and I fashioned our own little ‘girl cave’ in the living room.

 When I ask, “Who rescued who?” it isn’t as simple as saying that I saved Rascal from the needle.  She gave me endless joy and beautiful companionship for many years; in many ways, saving me from loneliness and sadness.

But once this heartfelt memory of my beloved dog ended, the question begged to be asked about my relationship to God.  He rescued me from my sins by His death on the cross.  But, how often, do I treat my relationship with Him like He somehow needs my help?  In this era of instant gratification, I’m like so many others who want God to give them the answer to their prayers now.  And when I don’t receive the answer that I want, I shake my fist at God and wonder why He is so mean. 

How many times do I pray to Him asking His guidance on a decision…to quit my job, to volunteer for a new ministry, who to ask to church on Sunday?  How many times do I treat Him with the respect and honor that He deserves?  How many times is it evident, like it was with Rascal and me, that Rascal loved me very deeply and understood that I was her master?  How many times do I want to do life His way instead of my way?

Sadly, I’d have to answer “Not very many.”  That’s because  I make up a god in my head that is a cross between a kindly grandfather and Santa Claus…someone not to be feared and who grants wishes on a consistent basis.  I belittle His power and sovereignty. Insisting on doing things my way.  I cheapen our relationship in the process. 

There is only one answer to the question of who rescued who when it pertains to my relationship with God.  And that’s…He rescued me.  He loved me enough to hang on a cross and die for my sins.  My response should be utter devotion to glorifying Him with every minute of my life.

So, I ask you – in reference to your relationship God – who rescued who?