Battling Ill Will

Sometimes there are moments in life when someone wrongs you or takes advantage of you.  And then at the next turn God clearly requests you not only forgive them but move forward by afflicting them with abundant kindness.  I am in the middle of one of those moments today.

I was in the middle of fuming about a scenario when I was wronged as a professional when I broke away from my computer to do my lunch time routine of food and devos.  When I grabbed my Bible I was longing for the comfort I knew it would provide and how it would set my heart straight.  I got that and more.  Here’s what I read…

“Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice.  Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you” (Ephesians 4:31-32).

And now I am thanking God for setting my heart straight, giving me the answer to the thoughts running through my mind, and praying that He will give me the strength to battle my own ill will and unleash kindness, mercy, and love when I am face to face with the object of my bitterness later today.  Then my reading from last night pops into my head…

“Remember – the Lord doesn’t give you strength, Hezekiah.  He is your strength” (Song of Redemption, 33).

I’ve prayed for strength a lot.  But I suppose I should be praying I simply drop my pride and lean on His strength that’s already there waiting for me to claim it.

Happy Wednesday!  Thanks for reading my words.

Puppy Love

I don’t get out much.  I am a self-employed photographer in the middle of the slow season with a husband on the road.  This means I rarely leave the house.  In here, it’s just me and the dogs.

I adore my dogs.  They are everything this hermit girl needs:  they get me outside, they make me laugh, they snuggle me while I sleep (and simultaneously keep me warm), they love on me, and they give me someone to love on.

A lot of people say getting a dog is like practicing to have children.  I don’t know if it’s that adage or my desire to learn as much as I can out of everything but I’ve learned a lot from these two kiddos.

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Nothing else on Earth loves as unconditionally as a dog.

My dogs’ life goal is to love me.  Oh, and to eat, sleep, and pee on the whole world.  But the loving part really is their primary goal when they aren’t hungry or crossing their legs.  I don’t know how else to explain it… I am their whole world.  As I work at my desk all day long, I get visits from each of them, just to say hi and snuggle for a minute. Every time I leave the house without them they act as if I’m never coming back.  Every time I come home it’s the best day of their life.  To be loved like this brings warmth and life to my bones.

Even if they SOOOOO deserve to be yelled at it doesn’t do either of us any good.

When we first got Haley, and for about a year after that, she developed a terrible habit of pooping in the same corner of our living room several times a week.  A couple of times I was beside myself with fury.  One time in particular I really boiled over.  She’d pooped in that corner one too many times and was busy looking pathetic about it when I got home.  I started shouting things like… “If you’re so ashamed maybe you shouldn’t do it!” “Do you even love me at all!” “Haley you’re so dumb!” Then I got an idea.  It was raining outside.  Haley hates the rain.  I put Haley on her leash.  I put my shoes on.  I dragged Haley through the rain.  I made it just past the end of the driveway when I paused and looked at her.  She wore the most pitiful expression I’ve ever seen on a dog and my heart warmed with compassion.  I brought her straight inside after that.  In fact, we ran in.  To repair her sadness, I shot loving words her way and soon she was joyfully skipping beside me.

I love that Haley is so sensitive.  Josh and I had far from mastered arguing well when we got her and she became the reason we learned sooner rather than later.  If he and I so much as raise our voices Haley runs out of the room and shivers in a corner until we stop the anger and snuggle her.  She has also taught me to be gentle and kind to her and others, no matter how wronged I feel.

Sam angers me like that rainy day with Haley on a weekly basis.  He’s a charming little bugger, but I now figure that the more charming you are the more evil you are as well.  He’s simply obstinate.  With Sam I tried everything.  I tried kindly dealing with him like I do Haley, I tried shaking him by the scruff, I’ve pinned him to the floor and glared in his eyes until he went limp and looked away, and I’ve gone completely bonkers on the fur ball.  I’ve learned that if Sam does something wrong I have to tell him to sit.  If I make to grab him before that or tell him to come he runs and hides.  And I’ve learned that if I want Sam to come, just in general, I have to crouch down and open my arms to him… then I can call him over – I have to do this about half the time, sometimes he actually does listen with a simple “come” command.  I’ve learned these two things, for the naughty and the coming, almost daily.

I love that Sam is such a goofball, even if it means obstinate behavior on occasion.  Sam makes me laugh more than anything else in my life.  He even makes me laugh when I’m trying to discipline him.  I’ve learned a lot about patience with Sam and because of that I’ve learned how to be more patient with people and life in general.  With Sam I’ve learned that no matter how angry he makes me I can’t possibly teach him a lesson until I’ve calmed down enough to get him to stay put – this means I’ve learned how to cool my anger quickly and discipline with my brain instead of my emotions.  Because of this I’ve learned how to be a better punching bag for Josh in times when he’s outraged and to not take it personally.  After all, everyone needs to vent sometimes and it certainly doesn’t help if it becomes an argument because the ventee gets defensive and vocal.

Laughter is good for the soul.

Haley makes me laugh.  Sam makes me laugh more.  Sam even makes me laugh at Haley more.  It’s hard to stay mad at Haley because she gets so pathetic looking about it.  It’s hard to stay mad at Sam because the way he reacts to my anger makes me laugh.  It’s hard to stay mad at the world with Haley’s pretty and knowing face sympathizing with me and Sam’s fluffy and blank face provoking me to laugh.  Fact is, if you laugh you can’t be mad.  Laughter chases the anger out of the heart.

The best parenting happens when both parents are on the same page.

When Josh and I adopted Haley she was a mess of issues stemming from abandonment.  We had her home for a couple of weeks when I noticed Josh was whistling for Haley different from me.  I thought that would be too much newness for our emotionally disheveled dog so we agreed on one whistle to use to call her.  That was our first parenting lesson on “mommy and daddy are a team.”  Since then we’ve agreed on discipline styles for every circumstance so that we both treat her the same way.  This way, no one is the bad guy.

Every kid is so unique in the way they need to receive love.

If you can’t tell already, my dogs have a lot of personality! I understood Haley right from the beginning.  I suppose that means she’s more like me than Sam is.  And on the other hand, Sam is still a daily learning experience but I’ve actually come to welcome it.  Since the main lesson he teaches me is patience and kindness I suppose those are the areas I’m severely lacking.  So thank God for Sam.

Thanks for reading my puppy love life lessons!  Maybe I’ll have more to offer on another rainy day 😉

40 Days in the Desert | Day 8

Day 6 | Keeping God’s Word on Your Heart (part 3 of 3)

The last exchange that Satan and Jesus have in the desert goes as follows…

“‘If you are the Son of God,’ he [Satan] said, “throw yourself down from here.  For it is written:  He will command his angels concerning you to guard you carefully; they will lift you up in their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.’  Jesus answered, ‘It says:  ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test”” (Luke 4:9-12).

Jesus defends himself with the truth of the Word from Deuteronomy 6:16 against Satan’s last attempt to cause Jesus to stumble in his faith and mission.  Here Satan foolishly misinterprets scripture and is poking at Jesus to call upon the powers of the almighty to save him from a foolish act.  In Deuteronomy 6:16 God is indeed promising His people His protection but not at any human whim of foolishness.  Jesus recognizes Satan’s misinterpretations and not only defends himself against the lie with scripture but accurately picks a scripture that will set Satan straight.

Challenge 4 | Memorize a Scripture Verse

It is good to read the Word daily but the best way to fight lies with the truth is to not only have the ideas from the Bible swimming around in your head but to have the exact words inscribed on your heart.  To do so takes memorization.  It seems daunting but any of these verses Jesus fired back at Satan would be fairly easy to add to your armory of truth.

40 Days in the Desert | Day 7

Day 7 | Keeping God’s Word on Your Heart (part 2 of 3)

The second exchange between Satan and Jesus goes like this…

“And he [Satan] said to him, ‘I will give you all their authority and splendor, for it has been given to me, and I can give it to anyone I want to.  So if you worship me, it will all be yours.’  Jesus answered, ‘It is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God and serve him only”” (Luke 4:6-8).

Here the devil had arrogantly attempted to succeed in his fight against God by diverting Jesus from his mission.  It is a simple fact that Satan owns the world but Jesus knew all to well that to gain the world by submitting himself to Satan would be failure.  By submitting himself instead to a death on the cross and rising from the tomb he not only conquered death and the fires of hell but he revealed a glimpse of God’s glory and won lost souls over to the kingdom in the process.  There are so many times in life when the obvious route, although in itself is not wrong or harmful, takes us off the path God intended to bring about his kingdom in an even greater way.  By knowing this verse Jesus recites from Deuteronomy 6:13 we too can avoid failure by taking a short cut.

40 Days in the Desert | Day 6

Day 6 | Keeping God’s Word on Your Heart (part 1 of 3)

Knowing and obeying God’s word is an effective weapon.  In Luke 4, Jesus shows us three examples of how he used the Word against temptation.

Luke 4:4, “Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Man does not live on bread alone.'”

In this instance he is using the truth from Deuteronomy 8:3 to rebuttal what Satan said, “If you are the Son of God, tell this stone to become bread.”  Satan is fully aware that Jesus is in the middle of a 40 day fast and that one of his weaknesses ought to be food.  He is also, however, poking at man’s pride by claiming that Jesus could not be the Son of God if he is unable to transform a rock into bread.  Jesus sees through the deeper meaning, the temptation to doubt his identity, and fires back with the truth that ultimately it is the Father he lives and works for.

There are so many times in life when it is easy to succumb to the lies and fall to children of the world rather than where our true identity lies as children of God.  In this exchange we are encouraged to be strong in our faith and identity in Christ.