God Wants Your Attention
When I was a little boy, I had some serious allergies. At first, I didn’t understand why crazy things were happening to me like swellings or wild itching or even rashes that covered my entire body when I ate a particular food or got near a certain fabric or even when one year my father brought home a live Christmas tree. That’s when my parents purchased what was probably the first aluminum, do it yourself, allergy-free Christmas tree. You know, I really liked that one! Later I was told that I should probably stay away from bees and wasps, which, by the way, always seemed to gravitate toward me. I was never afraid of the dark -or spiders -or even snakes, but I did develop a serious respect for those winged fiends especially after one afternoon when one stung me close to my neck and they had to pack me in ice. They tell me that I was laughing throughout the ordeal but it wasn’t funny, notably after my parents told me that I almost died. Among the other allergens they discovered was dog hair which obviously meant that I couldn’t have a canine pet like so many of my friends. I tried fish but, well, that’s another story for another time. Again, for some reason, dogs used to follow me around in the neighborhood and loved to jump in my lap and there I went, sneezing and wheezing all over again. “Oh, well,” I thought, “maybe I should ask for a ‘Pet Rock’?” Remember those? Trust me, not the same.
After high school and the somewhat turbulent and restless teenage seasons, I went off to college and graduate school. It was then, years later, studying in a different country, in a different world with all kinds of exciting cultural experiences, including foods, I realized something wonderful had happened. No more allergies! I must have outgrown them, or something like that. Well, I finally got a dog. It was great. And throughout the years, like many of you, I have had several. But of all the companions that God blessed me in His goodness to me, were two beautiful, hilarious, mischievous and loving Labradors. To say that they were spoiled would be a feat of remarkable restraint. I took them everywhere I could, going on daily long walks, fashioning special sleeping blankets, foods, and of course my family and friends loved them, too.
One very hot summer afternoon, it was that time of the year to take them in to the Vet’s. Although they never liked that place, I always made it worth their while, knowing full-well that one day, it would be a sad visit. But nevertheless, we made an adventure out of it. On the way back, I had to stop for gas and pulled up to a station near my home. This was back in the day when you had to go inside to pay before the attendants would even release the pumps. Right away, I noticed what I surmised was a homeless man with a dog. I remember that it was a brown and white, medium-sized spaniel. Of course I stopped. And even to this day, I am glad I did. That man asked me if I could get him some food from inside the little station market. After explaining that although I did not have any cash on me, I would be glad to place any items on my credit card with which I was paying for the gas. “I’ll be right back,” I said. But he sunk his head, looked at his little companion and continued, “Do you think you can get something for my buddy, here? He hasn’t had anything for a couple of days.” My heart melted. “Sure! Let me see what they’ve got in there.” I remember buying the man a couple of hot dogs that would at least be some hot food, and some other things that could last a few days. When I went looking for any dog food, which many places like that actually carry, they were all out. But they did have cat food, which to me seemed to be at least as nutritious for the dog, so I picked up a few packages or cans of that. After paying for everything and writing down the address of where I knew there was a food kitchen downtown, I went outside. That man ate his food so fast that I thought he might choke. As he washed it down with some cold milk, I can picture in my mind how some of it just spilled over onto his neck and chest as if he just couldn’t put it down fast enough. His dog practically did the same thing. There was nothing left of the cat food as his little creature just cleaned out every atom and particle that was there. The man said thank you, his little buddy extended his paw and we said our good-byes.
I returned to my vehicle with my ‘king and queen,’ and watched the man and his buddy walk off, worrying for the safety of the animal with no leash and fearing the inevitable. And I just waited until I could see them no more. For some reason, I just started to tear up, both of my companions becoming unusually quiet. I called out to God: “Lord, it’s not fair. These two labs have everything including a home, lots of friends and a great life. Who knows what will happen to that man and his dog. It’s just not fair…” And then, something wonderful happened. I believed I could hear the Lord speak to me. It was a calm but strong voice that made perfect sense: “Your dogs are blessed because they have you … just like you are blessed because you have Me.” I don’t have any dogs today and maybe and hopefully that will change sometime in the future. But I never forgot my Labs or the way God used them to bring a remarkable amount of joy to my heart. In fact, I’m smiling right now as I’m writing this. I’ll never forget that hot, balmy afternoon in front of the gas station when the Lord got my attention and let me know how much I mean to Him. I pray I never forget.
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Nails and Consequences
One day, a young father wanted his son to understand the true impact of making right choices, of obeying and doing what’s right. His idea was unique: every time his son made a bad choice or a wrong decision, he gave him a hammer and one gray nail to go out to their backyard and pound it into the wooden fence. At first, it seemed like a game for the youngster, as he was excited in a playful way to have to go out and nail these objects into the fence. It was fun, of course, until he had to go out when it was raining or cold or in the darkness of the night. But still, it continued. Every time the little boy got in trouble, talked back to either of his parents, or caused a disappointing note to accompany him from his teachers, there he went out to the back. However, every time he made a solid, great decision, making his parents and himself proud of his accomplishments, he was instructed to go out to the fence and carefully remove any one of those nails.
This family ritual continued until the boy was now a strapping, handsome young man all of 21 ready for the world and a bright future ahead. By this time, it had been months even years since he ever went outside to either pound or extract any more nails in the back fence. The night before he was to leave for a new life in another city far away, his father called him outside late one afternoon as the sun began to set. His young man of a son knew what was coming as he saw a few tears begin to drop from his dad’s face. There were no more nails in the fence. They both idly stared at the fence from left to right with powerful memories flooding both of their souls as the light of the sun began to escape.
“Son,” the father continued, “You’ve done well. I am ready to let you go forward. But just look at all the holes in our fence. It will never be the same. When you choose a wrong path, speak a hateful word, give in to a selfish act that hurts another, or violate trust that has been faithfully placed in you, they leave a scar just like these holes. You will find forgiveness, but please think before you act knowing that there will always be consequences.” “If you can remember this moment and this fence, I can rest assured that I’ve done all I could to raise you as good a man as possible.” Now the sun had set and only the light of the back porch and a pale soft glow from a full moon gently bathed the two men and an old fence. Time seemed to stand still. No words were needed.
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