M. R. Wells, page 16
I love the classic Disney movie One Hundred and One Dalmatians. One of my favorite parts is the twilight bark. When the Dalmatian puppies go missing, their frantic doggie parents use a barking relay to search for them. News of their disappearance is woofed from one dog to another until finally, the puppies are found and eventually rescued from the villains who stole them.
Well, that particular brand of social networking was a figment of storytelling imagination. So when my dear friend Charlotte’s toy Sheltie, Tess, went missing recently, she tried a Facebook bark instead.
Charlotte lives on a farm in South Carolina. She teaches horseback riding and raises toy Shelties. She adores every puppy born in her home and has a standing policy that any dog can be returned at any time for any reason if its family can no longer keep it.
Beautiful Tess was a dog that came back. Her family adored her, but factors came into play that made them conclude, after much agonizing, that it might be best to give her up. Charlotte was not only delighted to take her back, but decided to keep her permanently.
Charlotte welcomed Tess back on a Thursday. Two days later, she had a little horse show at her farm. Tess and the other dogs were let out to play in a fully fenced yard. At some point, Charlotte discovered to her horror that Tess was gone. A telltale hole suggested she’d dug her way under the fence and taken off.
No one knows for certain why Tess escaped. A likely guess is that she still wasn’t quite sure where home was. It was a terrible time to be loose. A storm hit. Snow fell. It was freezing cold. To make matters worse, Tess had no collar or tags. Her return had been so recent that this little matter hadn’t been attended to yet.
Charlotte networks on Facebook constantly and has hundreds of friends. Many live right in her area. Charlotte posted a plea for help. She got it! Tess’s former family put up current photos of the dog. People cross-posted Tess’s plight to spread the word. Countless Facebook pages trumpeted the missing dog alert. Posts also triggered massive prayers for Tess to be safe from the storm and be found. Charlotte and friends who lived nearby put up posters and launched a physical search—but the Facebook relay got the news out much more widely.
Across the country in California, I prayed too. Monday morning came. Still no Tess. Charlotte was hoping and praying she was somewhere safe and warm with humans who had taken her in with no way to know where she belonged. I prayed again and begged God she’d be located.
Then, I saw the post that made my day—someone thought they had her!
It was true! She’d been found and spent the weekend with a local family. They’d had no idea who her owners were. Monday they’d seen a Facebook alert about Tess and realized this was probably the dog they’d been falling in love with. A grateful Charlotte profusely thanked her new human friends and welcomed the little truant back into her embrace, praising God for answered prayer.
So, what’s the moral of this story? Keep tags on your dog at all times? It’s great to have friends? Prayer makes a difference? Those are valid lessons, yes. But this tale has deeper significance for me. It makes me think of my loving Lord who weeps over those who are spiritually lost. And it makes me realize the crucial importance of spreading the gospel’s good news so they might hear and come home to Him.
In what’s famously referred to as the Great Commission, Jesus said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you” (Matthew 28:18-20).
Long before Facebook and animated movies, Jesus was urging a communications relay to get out the word about Him. In the absence of modern media, God spread the gospel by spreading people. The early church in Jerusalem was scattered because of persecution, and the good news scattered right along with it. But each generation must get out the word anew.
Tess is home because people cared enough to spread the word about her plight. Are there people in your life who might come home to God if you helped to show them the way?
Consequently, faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word about Christ (Romans 10:17).
Who in your life might need to find their way home to God? How might you relay the gospel to them? How could you participate in posting it more widely to other areas of the world?
Paper Dog Delight
Joy Is Contagious
Happiness held is the seed;
happiness shared is the flower.
When he was a chubby, out-of-shape 14-year-old, Dean loathed being a paper boy. The last thing he wanted to do was go outside and exercise. Why ride a bike and fling papers day in and day out for slave wages when he could be sprawled on a couch watching TV or taking a nap?
Rags, Dean’s Beagle/terrier mix, felt quite differently. His master’s paper route was the highlight of this dog’s existence. As Dean huffed and puffed along, laboriously tossing papers, Rags would romp joyfully alongside. Rags memorized the route and would dash ahead of Dean to identify the next house with all the exuberance of a bird dog pointing out the prey. For Rags, delivering papers wasn’t an exhausting, low-paying job—it was fun! He delighted in it. What was drudgery for Dean was a blast for his dog. And now, many years later, when Dean recalls his paper route he no longer sees the experience through the eyes of his teenage self, but through his joyful memories of his beloved dog. Now a trim and fit adult, Dean admits that Rags and the paper route is probably the happiest memory of his fourteenth year. Such is the power of joy.
When you live in Southern California, one of the required rites of passage is introducing your child to Disneyland—“the Happiest Place on Earth.” We first took our boy, Skye, when he was three. At his age and height—he was less than 36 inches tall—he wasn’t allowed on the adult rides I considered more fun. So we stayed mostly in Fantasy Land, going on kiddie rides I faintly recalled experiencing with my parents when I’d been Skye’s age. These were older, slower, gentler rides—less high-tech and with fewer thrills—rides I enjoyed for nostalgia’s sake but not ones I’d have chosen if my wife, Celine, and I had been on our own. But it’s not the attractions that make Disneyland so memorable—it’s the joy on your toddler’s face as he or she delights in flying over London with Peter Pan for the first time or holding on to a unicorn on a maiden spin around the merry-go-round.
When Skye was seven—old enough and tall enough to go on the adult rides—we took him to Disneyland again. While I still enjoyed riding the Matterhorn, my real kick was Skye asking if the Abominable Snowmen on the ride would be real—or the delight on his face when we got soaking wet on Splash Mountain and he wanted to go right back and do it all over again.
Rags and Skye both give examples of how the innocent joy of a dog or a child can transform the familiar, the mundane, even the dismal into a pleasant and positive memory. So, if a Beagle/terrier mix and a little boy have such power, how might we as children of God be able to transform the world around us?
Many people perceive the world they live in as familiar, mundane, and even dismal. If we who know the Lord were truly a delight and joy to be around, how might this affect their experience? If, in the face of negativity, we lived out the fruits of the Spirit, how might it turn their worldview upside down? If we delighted and rejoiced in the Lord, how might it transform their lives?
I once had a student tell me how much I’d impacted his life—based on a brief meeting we’d had on campus that I could barely remember. I was surprised when he said that. He saw our half hour together as a key moment, but I saw it as just hanging out with him. Perhaps I tossed out a nugget of wisdom or said an encouraging word or two. I can’t recall. But like Rags and Skye weren’t consciously trying to pump joy and positive vibes into their world, neither was I. Like Dean’s dog and my son, I was just being.
It is the highest blessing in the universe to be children of God. As His
Shout for joy to the LORD, all the earth. Worship the LORD with gladness; come before him with joyful songs. Know that the LORD is God. It is he who made us, and we are his; we are his people, the sheep of his pasture (Psalm 100:1-3).
What are some of the most joyful moments of your life? What are some times you’ve delighted in the Lord? How did your joy affect those around you? How can you spread joy to those around you right now?
Marley and Goliath
The Small Can Be Mighty
It’s not the size of the dog in the fight,
it’s the size of the fight in the dog.
Have you ever heard it said of people that they don’t know their own strength? Well, my little puppy Marley doesn’t know his own size. He was less than three pounds when he stood his ground with a full-grown pit bull and showed no signs of shrinking back.
Okay, so the pit bull was a pussycat…but how was Marley to know that? He had never met Sasha before. She was one of four dogs that belonged to his then-trainer, Sue. When Sue took Marley to her place for some extra homeschooling, she plopped him down with her brood and Marley never flinched.
Nor was Marley afraid to flex his pint-sized muscles with his new pit bull pal. When Sasha woke him up from a nap, he fussed at his oversized playmate. He started growling and biting at her mouth…and she took it!
That was all before Marley came to live with me. I don’t have pit bulls—but I have a very large cat. Bo weighs three or four times what Marley did when he first arrived. Bo is also the bully of the household. If he wants me to himself, he’ll whap any other four-foot aside to achieve his objective. Bo slapped Marley in this way. But tiny Marley also put the fear of dog into Bo. Not always, but sometimes, I would see my giant cat flee when Marley barked or ran at him. They like each other now, but I think my pint-sized puppy knocked Bo at least partway off his bully pulpit.
Marley is half papillon, a quarter toy Sheltie, and a quarter Pomeranian. Papillons have been dubbed big dogs in small dog bodies. Whatever the case, Marley’s heart and courage are definitely huge for his size. I do believe he had some fear of my other four-foots, including Bo, when he first got here, but he didn’t shrink back. He went full tilt to mark out his place in the family.
Marley’s huge heart in a tiny body makes me think of a certain famous shepherd boy named David who faced off against a giant named Goliath. But there’s a difference. David wasn’t fighting to assert himself. He was fighting to uphold the name and honor of God. Even though humanly he was outmatched, he trusted God for the victory—and felled the giant with a slingshot and a stone.
Like so many Old Testament stories, David’s battle with Goliath illustrates a deeper spiritual truth. God’s children constantly battle spiritual Goliaths. They often pounce during tough times in life. And perhaps no life experience is more wrenching than the premature loss of a child—which is what my dear friend Lilly faced when her grandson was stricken with cancer.
Little Diego was only two when an extremely stubborn and aggressive form of cancer first reared its ugly head in his arm. His doctors tried chemo to save the limb. When that failed, they amputated his arm below the elbow to stop the cancer’s spread. No go! The cancer attacked his brain and lungs. A huge community of believers fought for this child’s life in prayer, and Diego valiantly soldiered on, playing pirate to symbolize his fight. But as his fifth birthday approached, things were looking grim. Grandma Lilly’s heart was breaking.
A Goliath far worse than the ancient Philistine giant or even the cancer was stalking Lilly. This Goliath was the enemy of our souls. Satan wanted to use Diego’s illness to attack Lilly’s faith. But despite her agony, Lilly kept crying out to God—and He gave her the slingshot and stones she needed.
You might say that Lilly’s slingshot was God’s Spirit, God’s Word, and the prayers of her friends. And yes, these were also stones to fling at Satan. But God chose some other special stones just for her. The first came in the form of a vision or dream. Lilly sensed God speaking to her and saying, “Give Me the child.” She didn’t want to. She struggled against it. But ultimately, she released her beloved Diego to the Lord. Then, in the vision, she saw her precious grandson running in a field. He had a full head of hair and both his arms—and he was laughing. Just weeks later, on Christmas Eve, five-year-old Diego went to be with Jesus.
The second special stone God gave Lilly to fight her Goliath didn’t come till many months later. In the interim, Lilly battled depression. She struggled to believe God was good. Emotionally, she was riding a seemingly endless roller coaster of hurt and pain. But she refused to yield to Satan and jump off into unbelief. She clung to God instead.
Perhaps the toughest day of the year was Christmas Eve. Lilly wondered whether this treasured holiday would forever be darkened by the memory of Diego’s death. Then, on the second anniversary of his passing, God gave Lilly a marvelous gift. Lilly’s youngest daughter, Diego’s aunt, phoned with the news that she was pregnant with her first child. She had purposely waited until Christmas Eve to share the news so her mom’s painful memories would always be tempered by the joyous announcement of new life.
Marley has huge courage and spunk, and it serves him well on a doggie level. But some foes, like Lilly’s, can’t be defeated this way. Paul the apostle was thinking of just such Goliaths when he wrote, “Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms” (Ephesians 6:10-12).
When David fought Goliath of old, he did it without physical armor. King Saul had offered his, but it didn’t fit. God’s spiritual armor, however, is one-size-fits-all. Lilly is wearing it and winning her battle. How about you?
Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand (Ephesians 6:13).
Have you ever had to face a physical, emotional, or spiritual Goliath? How did you feel? What did you do? Who or what did you depend on? Do you put on God’s armor on a daily basis? What difference has it made?
Short, But Not Shortchanged
God Sized Us for a Purpose
Even the smallest person can change
the course of the future.
Our dog Squitchey weighs just seven pounds. She looks like a Yorkie, but she acts like a Dalmatian. We found out she has both breeds in her lineage when my husband’s sister had Squitchey’s DNA analyzed as a birthday gift. She may be small, but she does her size proud. She holds her own with our Welsh corgi, Stuart, who is four times her weight. He is the alpha dog between them, but if he doesn’t share quickly enough, she fights for her rights in playful, vigorous ways.
Thanks to her compact size, Squitchey can easily dig her way out from under the fence in our backyard. She doesn’t go far; she seems to want to guard our home. She tries to walk quickly around it and then crawl back under the fence before we see her. When we do catch her, my husband, Steve, immediately fills up her latest hole with rocks and dirt. It doesn’t seem to bother her. She just waits for the next opportunity and digs her way out at another place.
Squitchey’s favorite thing to do after a long day of protecting is to jump up on Steve’s lap as he sprawls in his easy chair. Much as she loves acting like a big dog, she seems to enjoy and appreciate the comfort of being small. Stuart tries to jump on laps too, but when he lands, he feels more like a bulldozer than a dog.
As canines go, Squitchey is short stuff. As humans g
I’ve also wished I were tall enough to reach items on a high shelf by myself. I’ve had to ask for help to get a glass out of Susie’s cupboard. Since I’m also arthritic, moving is even a challenge for me. Squitchey can jump four times her height and run in circles forever, but if I turned around too fast, I’d fall down.
But even though I’m vertically challenged and can’t move as fast as Squitchey does, I can still get quite a bit done in a day. Then, at night, my favorite place to be is snuggled next to Steve for a peaceful sleep.
Being short and loving Steve’s company is pretty much the extent of the likeness between Squitchey and me. But God made each of us the way we are for His purposes. Squitchey will remain close to seven pounds for the rest of her life. If she were a Dalmatian, she might not be the sweet little lap dog that she is. I could complain about my height, but doing so wouldn’t change a thing. And who knows? God might have something special for me to do that I couldn’t if I were tall.
That was certainly the case for a man named Zacchaeus. What he’s best known for is being a “wee little man.” He was also rich and an unscrupulous tax collector. God made him a little guy so He could emphasize this man’s huge desire to see Jesus. In Luke 19, we read that Zacchaeus was so anxious to see the Lord that he climbed up into a sycamore tree so he could look over the crowd’s heads. Jesus saw Zacchaeus’s great longing and told him, “Zacchaeus, come down immediately. I must stay at your house today” (Luke 19:5). Zacchaeus repented of his cheating ways and followed Jesus. This short man’s story has a big place in the Bible to this day.