I Don’t Want To Go To Work

OK, I don’t want to go to work today.  I really, really don’t want to.

I’ll bet you want to know why.  Well, I’m going to tell you even if you don’t.  That’s how it is for writers, we get to say it even if no one wants to listen.

See, work did some restructuring.  No one lost their jobs but a LOT of people aren’t sure of what their job is any more.  Most of them don’t like where they will be doing it.

As far as I know, I’m going to just be plugging along doing the same stuff I’ve always done…too much.

So, the ones affected are terrified as to how the change is going to impact their job and, in some cases, their whole lives.  The ones least affected are worried that something else is coming down the pike and they will be cast into the midst of seeming chaos.

I guess I could worry about that, too.  But I’m not.

I’ve been in far worse situations.  I’ve sat across the table looking at a man as he explained they could hire two guys to do what I do for the same salary.  So, I was being let go.

Me.  The guy that held down a job no matter how ridiculously I live my life, how irresponsibly, no matter what.  I kept a job and suddenly, I was unemployed.

When I found out, the wind came out of my sails.  I had, in a few short sentences, a handshake and an envelope with severance pay in it, become somehow less of who I was.  I felt like crying, screaming, running, crawling, curling up in a ball and jumping off the roof all at the same time.

Honestly, I went from being depressed to hurtling into the darkest depression of my life that lasted many years.

Even when God intervened, I had still lost part of myself.  I couldn’t be quite as grateful as I ought to be because I felt un-restored, lost and quite afraid of what was going to punch me in the gut next.  I was afraid.

Even though God provided, I was afraid.

For some reason, I thought that at any minute, the rug would fly from under me and I’d fall and God wouldn’t be there this time, next time.

When God brought me to this opportunity, this job, I was still that same man.  I came into this building afraid.  Some people saw it as moody, arrogant and obnoxious, but I was afraid.  I didn’t think I could do that whole losing a job thing again.

But, I will sit in my office today and not be afraid.  I will see fear all around me.  But, I am not going to be fearful no matter how strong the tide of fear gets.  After all, a little fear can swirl into a great big storm of fear, dragging all who feel it in.

Isaiah 35:4 Say to those with fearful hearts,
“Be strong, and do not fear,
for your God is coming to destroy your enemies.
He is coming to save you.”

The enemy is fear, depression, anxiety, addiction, grief and the whole rest of the list of things that take over humankind’s lives.

Make God your god!  Do it now, right now while you are still getting ready for a day of uncertainty.  These things are coming for you but God is going to destroy them and save you.

Just make God you god.

Put the job behind him.  Put those people behind him.  Put that uncertainty behind him.  Put anything that has caused you not to see him behind him, so that HE is the prominent figure in your thoughts and actions, hopes and dreams and your reasons to get up in the morning.

No, work isn’t where I want to be this morning.  But I’m not going to be there alone, even if I am the only one that shows up.  God is coming with me and my enemies are cruisin’ for a bruisin’ today.

Advertisements

Monsters in the Closet

When I was a kid, there were monsters in my closet.  To this day, I won’t sleep with the closet door open.  I don’t even like to watch TV with the coat closet open.

I can remember waking up during the night for one reason or another and, of course, it couldn’t have been the dog waking up or my dad snoring or someone walking to the fridge to get a glass of milk.  It had to be a monster.

So, I’d scan the darkness for monsters.  Nothing under the bed, nothing around the room.  Suddenly, there in the closet would be the scariest shape looming among the hangers and toys.

My heart would race and my imagination would go wild.  I’d pull the covers over my head hoping that I would somehow be invisible to the monster that was about to exit the closet and carry me off to scary land somewhere out in wherever the monsters in my closet came from.

I’d slowly peek out of the covers and look into the closet.  Yep, the monster was still there.  He didn’t seem to be going anywhere until he pounced on me and did whatever monsters do to little boys that aren’t asleep when they should be.

Finally, I would muster all my courage, step out of the bed and sneak toward the light switch.  I was certain I wouldn’t make it, that the monster would get me just before the light washed away the darkness in the bedroom.

Then, CLICK!  Just before the monster could take a bite out of me the room was bright.  I turned to get a good look at the monster.

There he was.  The outline of a hoodie, a coat and a shirt that just happened to resemble a monster when the lights were off.

I’d close the closet door and sleep like a kid that had just slain a dragon.  Hunting monsters was tough work and seemed to wear me out.

I used to keep my past in the dark.  I kept it stashed away where no one could see it but me in the still hours of darkness, darkness I crept to when all the rest of the world was asleep.

I trembled in secret fear at the monsters that seemed to grow in number daily.

Ephesians 5:8 For once you were full of darkness, but now you have light from the Lord. So live as people of light! 9 For this light within you produces only what is good and right and true.

I once looked at my past as a monstrous, waiting to devour me at my next misstep.

But then I learned that being a Christian yet keeping my past in darkness is like accepting freedom but choosing to remain in chains.

I’ve learned to drag those monsters out of the closet full of skeletons and let the light shine on them.  I’ve found they are a lifeless assortment of what once was but is no more.  They are consumed by the light and their power over me is disintegrated.

The past does not define who I now am, Christ defines that through his grace and mercy.  The past nearly shows where I once was.  I am no longer there and the only power it has is the darkness I can choose to let it reside in.  Once the light touches it, it goes up in flames like vampires in a cheap horror flick.

Today, I still close closet doors.  But I no longer see monsters in the darkness because I have been brought into the light, past and all.  I no longer need to keep secrets lurking in the shadows.

Here a Fear, There a Fear, Everywhere a Fear Fear

Everywhere I look I see fear. I see the fear of parents that manifests in worry for their children. I see the fear of people as they worry or lash out at what the government is or isn’t doing. I see fear when people speak of their jobs and wonder if they will have them tomorrow. I see fear every single time I watch the dreaded news on TV. Sometimes it seems that the only thing that is moving this world today is fear.

People are trying to protect themselves from enemies, real and imagined. People are protecting themselves from relationships and getting hurt. People are protecting themselves from suspicious activity. People are protecting themselves and failing miserably. People are still getting hurt.

Nations are still at war. Our nation’s government is stymied by greed and corruption. Evil people are doing despicable things. Our hearts are still being broken. Fear continues to take hold, fester and grow.

Psalm 3:5 I lay down and slept, yet I woke up in safety, for the Lord was watching over me. 6 I am not afraid of ten thousand enemies who surround me on every side. 7 Arise, O Lord! Rescue me, my God!
Slap all my enemies in the face! Shatter the teeth of the wicked! 8 Victory comes from you, O Lord. May you bless your people.

David had his own fears. He saw a lot of evil in his lifetime. He lived through wars, personal failure and plots to kill him.

But all through the Psalms I can see him lay these fears at the feet of God. He learned how to live above his fears. He found courage in the Lord.

When I am afraid, God wants me to know that I don’t have to worry that I am not strong enough to stand in all the chaos around me. I don’t have to be strong enough. In fact, understanding that I am not strong enough is one of the most important things to learn in life. Victory doesn’t come from me. It comes from God!

Does this mean that I just hide myself away and do nothing until he comes back to earth and does some face slapping and teeth shattering? Um, no. It means that I can boldly do what he tells me to do and know that even when my strength fails, my obedience continues to make a difference even if I do not see what that difference is.

I’ve never actually been surrounded by ten thousand enemies but if I ever am, I need to know and understand God and his relationship with me to be able to stand on top of my fear and use it to see what is beyond them. They cannot stand between me and where I am going. If I am obedient and trusting in God’s strength, I can continue on without fear. You can follow the trail of teeth to find me. God’s not a wimp and he will clear a path for me. I won’t remain surrounded.

Proverbs 3:5 Trust in the Lord with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding. 6 Seek his will in all you do, and he will show you which path to take.

Psalm 118:8 It is better to take refuge in the Lord than to trust in people. 9 It is better to take refuge in the Lord than to trust in princes.

People, that’s me. Princes, that’s worldly heroes. When I place my faith in those who try and fail, it breeds fear in my heart. Mere humans will fail. That’s practically what the word “human” means. We expect some to soar above the rest and lead us to some sort of wonderful utopia. But they always fail, somehow, some way. If they fail, how can I not? By trusting in God and not in me, that’s how. It is time to take a look at what I am trying to do in futility and exchanging it for victory in the Lord God Most High!

God’s blessings and victory today for us all.

Gateway to Fear

I hate to admit this but I am older than the Gateway Arch. I can remember when it was being built. It was originally two separate structures that began to rise from the ground. As they ascended they began to curve toward each other. I wish I had paid more attention to the whole process but I was only a little kid and I wasn’t really that into what was going on. I was busy sticking fishing poles in light sockets, seeing if a turtle’s shell could protect it from falls on the brick sidewalk and perfecting my Tarzan yell. I don’t know if mom and dad remember a lot about it because they were busy trying to stop me from doing things like that.

I can remember the day the last piece was lowered by the crane and the two structures became one. The shape became complete and it no longer looked like two wilted flower stems drooping in the sun.

The first time I went up in the Arch I was kind of amazed by the little elevator compartments we had to get in to reach the top. They tilt to stay level as they rise up into the curve of the structure. The windows at the top are rectangular and I had to stretch and lean to be able to see out. It was the first time I had been so high up and everything looked so small from there. It was cool and all but watching little people and little cars move around is only interesting for so long and I was soon ready to go back down.

As I waited around for everyone to feel the same way I did and descend the giant stainless steel symbol of something, I noticed something. This was something very disturbing. The Arch was moving. I could feel it moving. I was way up in the air and this thing was moving. I wanted down. I wanted to go down right now. I moved to the middle of the floor, as far from the windows as I could get, and carefully made my way to where we were to board the cars to get back down to the ground. Panic began to set in and I all I could think of was that I want to be on the ground again…now!

About the time I was sure I was going to freak out, the rest of the family and I were making our way into the little elevator compartments. The ride wasn’t fun anymore. It was too slow, the compartment was too small and every creak and groan was an announcement of eminent demise. I sat in silence because I knew if I tried to talk I would burst into tears and no little boy wants to do that in public if it can be avoided. We finally reached the ground and I stepped out onto the hard concrete floor. Solid ground never felt so good.

There was never anything to fear. When the Arch was designed, they knew it would sway and built it to do just that. That’s why it hasn’t crumbled and fell during the wicked storms that hit St. Louis every year. It is built to weather them. I don’t know what will happen if a giant tornado hits it head-on but I do know it will take a whopper of a wind to bring it down. So, I had no reason to be afraid on the nice, somewhat breezy day that I made my first visit to the top.

Fear is caused many times by just not knowing the facts. My mind draws its own conclusions based on the limited knowledge I already have and soon I am afraid of something that has no power over me and no way to harm me. People like me that suffer from depression are even bigger victims of fear because our condition causes us to make up facts that support our fears and let them grow from little gremlins in the closet or under the bed into giant monsters destroying Tokyo.

To fight fear in my life I have to fill my brain with facts and truth. That doesn’t come from the news or talk radio. I can’t get it from guys that put “Dr.” in front of their names like Oz and Phil. Nope, can’t even get it from Oprah. I have to go to the author and finisher of my faith.

John 8:31 Jesus said to the people who believed in him, “You are truly my disciples if you remain faithful to my teachings. 32 And you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”

I have often heard the last half of the second verse above quoted. “The truth shall set you free!” That’s all well and good but it leaves the impression that if I tell the truth and don’t lie that I am set free. That isn’t what this is saying. Jesus is speaking to following his teachings and learning the facts, I am to dedicate myself to knowing them and following them. That is what sets me free. Freedom from fear, deceit, sin and death can only come from the only one that can show me the whole untarnished truth.

John 8:34 Jesus replied, “I tell you the truth, everyone who sins is a slave of sin. 35 A slave is not a permanent member of the family, but a son is part of the family forever. 36 So if the Son sets you free, you are truly free.

He is the truth, the way and the life. He frees me from my fear, my anger, my sorrow and my slavery to sin. The more I know about him, the more I know him, the less I am subject to the fears and misgivings that paralyze me and make me run like a scared rabbit.

God, let me know you. Let me know your truth. Let me be assured that I have been set free and help me to live like a son and not a slave. Amen.

Opening the Door

I’ve gotten up out of bed this morning, that is a good thing, and gotten ready for work, also a good thing in that I wish to remain employed until I decide to retire, and am now sitting looking out the window at a world hovering between light and darkness.

I’m brought back to days in the past when this was one of my toughest moments of the day, the moments when I choose to go out into the world and face it or retreat into myself.  Most days I did both.

I can’t tell you what I was like then.  I only know what I thought I was like and that is so far from reality that I’m at a loss at to what reality was then.

I do know I was scared.  I was so scared that I did things that made no sense like a rabbit that see headlights at night and runs right into the oncoming car.

I kept being run down by each new day that I got to the point that I didn’t care if there was a new day.

Psalm 3:3 But you, O Lord, are a shield around me;
you are my glory, the one who holds my head high.
4 I cried out to the Lord,
and he answered me from his holy mountain.

During those times, I cried out to lots of things.  I cried out to anger, I cried out to my addictions, I cried out to my lust, I cried out to my hate and they all just engulfed me and dragged me out deeper into my depression and into insanity.

Finally, after all hope was shredded and washed away on my sea of pain, I cried out to God.

I have no more strength today than I did on those days that I trembled in fear before walking out that door.  But I am empowered by God.

Now, I know that whatever I need will be given to me.  Even if what I am given looks to me to be different than what I had in mind, I know I will have plenty of it when the time comes.

The sun is beginning to cast some reflections of color on the houses across the lake now.  I’ll be facing the day and all that comes with a new dawn.  It may not be easy and there may still be pain and trouble but I have his shield around me and his hand to hold my head high.  He hears me and answers my cries and I’m no longer afraid to open that door and greet this day.

A Ghost Story

When I was a small child, my family made many trips to “the country”. That’s what everyone called it when we made the trek from St. Louis to the little town of Puxico in southeast Missouri. Most of them just seemed like really long car rides that seemed like they would never end. There wasn’t much to see on the trip and many times it was in a car with no air conditioning so about all a kid could do was take a sweaty nap in the back seat.

I remember one trip in particular though. It was just mom and dad in the front seat and Grandma Dickerson and Grandma Ridenour with me sandwiched between them in the back seat. It is about the only time that I can really remember both of my grandmothers being together for any length of time. They lived very near each other so I am sure they spent time together but I probably didn’t really care at such a young age and Grandma Ridenour died when I was just a little guy.

But this trip I was stuck in between two old ladies (who were probably, at that time, younger than I am now) that proceeded to yak about various things I didn’t give a hoot about non-stop. I was bored to death until they started talking about ghosts and witches.

They told ghost stories that scared the dickens out of me. Grandma Ridenour told us about a witch that used to live in Puxico. They told these stories as if they were true and they had witnessed many of the accounts. I was hanging on every word. It was exciting and I couldn’t get enough of these things that they had seen or heard of.

Finally we arrived in Puxico at Aunt Mary’s house.

I wondered, “Is this one of the places the ghosts were in Grandma’s story?”

I stuck close to mom and dad as we entered the house. It was brooding and creepy, well, in reality it was a little house like all the other little houses in town and was light and cheery, but my mind was convincing me it was filled with ghostly peril. After Aunt Mary did the cheek pinching and commenting on my growth rate I was left completely out of the conversations and I sat there with the grown-ups wanting to go play but deathly afraid of the ghosts that lurked around every corner.

Then I had to go to the bathroom. This meant I had to walk through the ghost’s lair to the bathroom in the other end of the house. It was a long and dangerous walk as I wandered through the house. When I was done I explored the rest of the house. I didn’t find a single ghost and the house lost its dark and brooding nature and became just plain Aunt Mary’s house again.

We hear a lot of ghost stories every day. The news tells us things designed to keep us listening and scare us into actions that just don’t make any sense. I have allowed myself to become so fearful that I cease to do the things I should and sit and watch the television waiting for the next detail of the ghost story to unfold. If I allow myself to, I can act out of fear in everything I do in my daily life. I can say this for sure, God does not do his best work through a man cowering in fear. God tells me that fear is something I have to drive out of my life.

Matthew 10:26 “But don’t be afraid of those who threaten you. For the time is coming when everything that is covered will be revealed, and all that is secret will be made known to all.”

A lot of the fear that people face today is because of what they hear. We feel threatened by people that may or may not have an agenda against us. I am not to fear them even if they actually want to harm me. Jesus was preparing the disciples in this verse to go out and spread the gospel. There was a very real possibility of harm that could come to these men. In fact, eventually most of them were physically attacked and killed. But they got the job done. If they had succumbed to fear what would our Bible look like today?

Matthew 10:28 “Don’t be afraid of those who want to kill your body; they cannot touch your soul. Fear only God, who can destroy both soul and body in hell.”

Jesus tell us to fear God. Does He mean to sit in the house praying God doesn’t kill us? Does He mean for us to run to our cars dodging lightning bolts? No, He means that God alone has power over us. He is the only thing that can harm us and He never will. I am his child and I walk in his power. My fear does not come from Him!

Romans 8:15 So you have not received a spirit that makes you fearful slaves. Instead, you received God’s Spirit when he adopted you as his own children. Now we call him, “Abba, Father.”

Psalm 56:3 But when I am afraid, I will put my trust in you. 4 I praise God for what he has promised. I trust in God, so why should I be afraid? What can mere mortals do to me?

God, take away my fear and fill me with courage. Remind me constantly that You walk with me and hold my hand. Your promises are secure throughout whatever the world throws at me. I need to fear no man because You are with me. Amen.

Some Thoughts on Love

Depression has always pushed me to isolate myself.  But it doesn’t always push a man or woman into an isolation that others see well.

When I recently heard of the suicide of Chris Cornell that happened not so long after he had performed before thousands, he probably didn’t seem isolated and alone.  But having stood painfully close to the place he was standing before he left this world, his problems, whatever they were, had become too much for him to bear.

The truth is, all of us bear more than we can stand to bear alone.  It is the self-imposed isolation, the urge to carry what we cannot carry and the refusal to share the load that often kills us.

I can’t sit here and say, “If only this or that had happened he would still be alive.”  I can’t speak into the ultimate outcome of someone taking one step in the right direction in their time of crisis.  But a step in the right direction is a good start.

I only know what happened for me, the step out of my own self into a world filled with other people.  I always knew they were there but I didn’t know I was a part of them.

Although I want to walk as far as I can down the path to recovery, I don’t ever want to forget that I stood on the edge of life and what it was like to live without sanity or a place in a world full of people that care about me.

I have a reason to get out of bed in the morning and a goal for each day.

Romans 13:9 For the commandments say, “You must not commit adultery. You must not murder. You must not steal. You must not covet.” These—and other such commandments—are summed up in this one commandment: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” 10 Love does no wrong to others, so love fulfills the requirements of God’s law.

Love fulfills God’s requirements.  Love requires me to reach out of my isolation.  Love is the one thing I can never do alone.  Love needs more than one participant.  Love will guide me along the path to recovery and show me sanity.

I’m called to love more than myself, more than my things, more than what I can imagine.  I’m to love others, others that are happy, others that are sad, others that deserve and others that seem not to, others like me and others far different.

Love takes away my self-imposed limits, how much I can take and how much I can give, and lets me experience a way to become more than my flaws as I become a part of something bigger than what I am or what I can become.

I don’t know what all Chris Cornell or anyone else that has taken their own life needed in order for them to still be here today.  But I do know that a little more love would have helped in some way.

As I sit here this morning, I can’t help but feel the need to seek someone out that is approaching that place, that point of no return and showing them some love.  I know that having just plain old me to show that love isn’t like winning the lottery or anything, but I have more than what I am to give.

 

But I’m Not Just Any Fool

What If???

For about a year I worked for General Mills up in Hannibal, MO. It was a fifty mile drive each way, almost every day of the week. When I worked there, the people in charge didn’t believe in giving the maintenance guys much time off. If the production lines didn’t run on the weekends we repaired them. The good news is that as much as I didn’t like this job, it was a ton better than the job I had before that. I was at work all the time. I had no life other than driving an hour to and from work and work. Outside of that was a little time for sleeping and that was about it.

So one afternoon I was heading north on Highway 61, heading to the big factory that smelled like soup, taco shells and tomatoes cooking. The drive was usually uneventful, except for those times the weather was bad, but on this day the weather was perfect. I was my usual zombie-like self as I cruised up the highway. I passed one small town on my journey I approached a semi. He was going slower than my nice and easy pace of between seventy and seventy-five mph, so I got over in the left lane and started around him. I was next to the trailer when his blinker came on and he immediately started into my lane. There was no way I could accelerate around him and no time to slow down and get behind him. He had no idea I was there. There was no shoulder on my side of the road, only a median between me and the oncoming lanes. I honked my horn but the puny little tooter on my car couldn’t be heard by the driver of the massive truck. I had one choice. I had to leave the road and I turned into the grass.

I don’t know if you have ever watched a NASCAR race and seen a car drive into the grass. It seems to speed up, the steering wheel doesn’t appear to do much and the brakes don’t have much effect. It looks like a scary thing. I can honestly say it is a scary thing. When I got that car on the grass I was basically out of control. I made modest movements with the wheel and the results were unpredictable. I was terrified that I was going to go out of control and go speeding into the traffic coming towards me, but I managed to get the car going in a straight line down the middle of the median.

Just as I thought I would be able to ride this thing out I realized that I was heading for a crossing. I was going too fast to hit the sign posts and concrete in front of me. I started working the brakes, searching for a place where they provided resistance to the ground beneath me without losing complete traction.

The truck driver had realized what he had done and pulled over. The traffic behind me had all slowed down, probably to be able to watch and see what my outcome would be. I am glad they did because that opened the highway up for me. As I neared the crossing between the northbound and southbound lanes I took the chance that I had slowed the car down enough to turn it and maintain control. I eased it within inches of a metal signpost and came back onto the pavement.

For a few seconds there was a lot of noise as dirt and grass came out of the treads on my tires and flew into the body of my car, but shortly the sound of rubber on the road was the same old familiar tune I was accustomed to.

I had survived. I still wanted to fight the truck driver but I survived. What seemed like a sure tragedy faded into just another close call.

Those few seconds looked like the end or the beginning of a long recovery from something really bad. It turns out that I handled it well. I handled the part afterward the worst, I think I screamed and yelled at that truck driver for the next ten miles down the road. When I got to work I had pretty much lost my voice.

The out of control parts of my life can last for seconds or days or weeks. Sometimes I only have time to react. I think those times are the easiest. Sometimes I have lots of time to think. That is dangerous stuff. I think about all the “what if’s” and the “what if’s” that go along with all of those “what if’s” and pretty soon I am “what iffing” the end of life as we know it. I can “what if” myself from bad fishing to “what if the government has poisoned all the fish?” This exercise never fixes any problem. It just keeps me looking for all the possibilities of a myriad of new problems that will probably never occur. Why is it so much easier to focus on the problem than on the solution?

1 Peter 4:7 The end of the world is coming soon. Therefore, be earnest and disciplined in your prayers. 8 Most important of all, continue to show deep love for each other, for love covers a multitude of sins. 9 Cheerfully share your home with those who need a meal or a place to stay. 10 God has given each of you a gift from his great variety of spiritual gifts. Use them well to serve one another. 11 Do you have the gift of speaking? Then speak as though God himself were speaking through you. Do you have the gift of helping others? Do it with all the strength and energy that God supplies. Then everything you do will bring glory to God through Jesus Christ. All glory and power to him forever and ever! Amen.

Isn’t it interesting that Peter says the end of the world is coming soon and then tells the church to pray, show deep love, share what we have and use the gifts He has given us? I don’t know exactly why Peter uses the phrase that “the end of the world is coming” but I do know that none of my upcoming problems are on that kind of scale. If Peter’s instructions would suffice for the end of the world then they surely must be good enough for the trials I am going through. He certainly doesn’t tell anyone to “what if” the end of the world to death. He pushes them (and me) into Godly action. He gives us the solution to the problem.

Satan lives in our “what if’s”. God doesn’t work in that world. He works in the solution.

God, help me focus on the things you have called me to do today. Help me let go of my need to look at all the possibilities of how this trial can grow worse and to get a firm grasp on the things You have told me to do. Amen.

Waiting for a Good Smack

We’ve got a dog, well, actually it is my son’s dog, that hangs around our house. That’s not quite right either, he is an inside dog so he hangs around inside the house. He is a beautiful Siberian Husky that my wife somehow managed to find in the shelter among all the lab-mixes and little shrill-barking ankle-biters. He stood out like a king surrounded by the dogs with no pedigree.

The first time I saw him on the leash, with his head held high and the lightness of his step, I knew he was a special dog. If he just didn’t have so much hair, he would be the perfect mutt.

We know nothing of his life before he came to our home, not a lot anyway. I know one thing, though. He knows that a hand can hit him. Many times I raise my hand to pet him and he winces and lowers his head expecting to get whacked. I can’t imagine what he would have gotten whacked for. He doesn’t hardly ever bark, so he never needs to be told to shut-up much less get a rap on the noggin. He doesn’t chew things up. He doesn’t bite (even though his favorite game is to chew on my hand gently while he growls and makes other weird dog noises).

He is a good dog that doesn’t need to be smacked…ever. Sometimes, he gets too rambunctious on the leash but a good tug stops that. Sometimes, he doesn’t listen so well the first few times he is told to do something but that seems to be an inherited trait that is somehow shared by the entire breed. Usually making some eye contact or changing the tone of voice overcomes this.

I wonder about his life before us every time he ducks his head and tenses up awaiting the impact of my hand before I touch him. It stirs something in my heart to see this. I simply want to pet him before I leave for work but his instinct is to brace for the worst.

I guess he is much better off than before now. He was running loose and got captured and we got him out of one of those shelter cages and made him a member of the family.

I think that many times I see some of this stuff in me. I am so much better off than I was before. But I just don’t see it all the time. Rather than run to the arms of God, I duck my head and wait for him to whack me up side my melon. When I really sit down and think about it, getting whacked, in my past experience did not come from God. He has never seen the need to inflict physical or emotional damage on me to make his point. That damage comes from me. I really need to stop acting like drawing close to God is going to get me smacked around.

Maybe life would be easier if every time I got too close to the fence, I got zapped by some electricity or took the sting of a BB on my backside. But God doesn’t work that way. If I want to go explore greener pastures or chase the neighbor’s horses, he will patiently call me back home. It isn’t God that causes the horse to kick me in the head, it is caused by me aggravating the horse.

Luke 15:13 “A few days later this younger son packed all his belongings and moved to a distant land, and there he wasted all his money in wild living.”

We’ve all heard about the prodigal son (It seems like I wrote this line yesterday, too, and promised to tell the whole story, but yet again, today I only touch on part of the parable). He ran away to spend his money and live a life free from rules and things he thought were holding him down. It turns out that in reality he was just being held. He found out before long what being held down was really like.

Luke 15:14 “About the time his money ran out, a great famine swept over the land, and he began to starve. 15 He persuaded a local farmer to hire him, and the man sent him into his fields to feed the pigs. 16 The young man became so hungry that even the pods he was feeding the pigs looked good to him. But no one gave him anything.”

The bible doesn’t speak much to what the prodigal felt when he arrived home. I’m sure he winced and waited for the smack up side the head. He was willing to live as a slave rather than face the world he had known again. He must have felt he deserved to get knocked around a little, maybe even a lot.

Luke 15:22 “But his father said to the servants, ‘Quick! Bring the finest robe in the house and put it on him. Get a ring for his finger and sandals for his feet. 23 And kill the calf we have been fattening. We must celebrate with a feast, 24 for this son of mine was dead and has now returned to life. He was lost, but now he is found.’ So the party began.”

I have to remind myself that the beating I expect at the hands of God for my past and my mistakes, my choices and selfishness, is just not going to happen. It is not God that sets off the inner motion detector that puts me into panic mode when God moves toward me. This is a lie of Satan. He wants me to fear drawing close to God. He will yank and pull trying to keep me from being pulled into the safety of God’s arms. He will kick me, punch me, sabotage me, and do anything he can think of. When I turn to look at who is doing this he will be standing there with an innocent look on his face, pointing his crooked finger at God.

I must come to my senses and turn back to God and realize that I am welcome where I belong.

Psalm 5:11 But let all who take refuge in you rejoice; let them sing joyful praises forever. Spread your protection over them, that all who love your name may be filled with joy. 12 For you bless the godly, O Lord; you surround them with your shield of love.