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God Wants Your Attention

man walking with dog into sunset

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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