Devotional 4/23/2020- Dog Tales

Continuing our "Dog Tales" series, today I want to lift up two dogs that I have learned valuable life lessons from. 

Dolphin was a terrier mutt that we got when I was somewhere around 6.  My dad was a diesel mechanic in Youngstown and one day this stray dog wandered into their garage.  Dad figured that if she braved the loud noises of the garage and the potential threat of the unknown, that she must really need a home.  So he brought her home.  I will never forget when he came home and told us all to come into the garage and there was this happy dog.  As an adult, I have to wonder if he mentioned to my mom he was bringing home a dog which I think is a no but as a child this seemed amazing.  Dolphin got her name because she liked to jump alot and they let me name her and I was 6 and in love with dolphins.  Dolphin was an outside dog and at first we tried to keep her tied to her house.  Now this was not necessarily a bad gig- she had a dog house, lots of food and water and the near constant adoration of me.  She had plenty of hay that first winter for warmth and in the summer my dad built her a dog pavilion so she could have shade and the breeze.   When we were out with her, she ran free but at nights and when we were gone she was tied. 

Or I should say she was supposed to be tied.  Dolphin could get out of anything.  A normal collar was off in a moment.  A chain collar took not alot longer.  A full body harness took her all about 2 hours to figure out.  And after a year or so of this battle, my family gave up and let Dolphin run free.  We lived on 5 acres and all of our neighbors had about the same.  We knew all of our neighbors and so my dad just told them to let us know if she was a bother.  Dolphin would disappear into the woods for hours or hunt in our hay field but you would always find her home when she was supposed to be.  Instead of a dog house, she slept in our garage with the door left up a foot for her convenience.  During thunderstorms and in the dead of winter, she came in the house but other than that Dolphin did her own thing.  We had her for 14 years and through it all she mostly did her own thing.  She was very sweet and liked to be petted but she also liked to be on her own.  After her death, one of our neighbors came to offer his condolences.  Unknown to us, Dolphin had been attending family parties there for years and the whole family was sad at her passing.  She was ours but she was also everyone's and no one's all at once. 

Then there is Kai.  Kai is another terrier mutt..  Kai came into my life through my now husband.  Kai was his before we met and so when we joined our families, Kai became mine.  Kai is very loving and has been amazingly patient with our children.  However, if Kai had his choice he would at all times be touching a human.  It is hard to sit down in our house without him trying to sit on you.  He sleeps pressed against my legs.  He even once tried to ride on Amanda in the car.  Kai's greatest joy is being with people and people touching him as often as possible.  ALL THE TIME! Which is endlessly frustrating to me as I step on his paw again because he is trying to touch me while I am walking.  

However, to get to my point- Dolphin and Kai both loved me and I loved them.  Yet to love them well meant completely different things.  Dolphin would hate to be cuddled like Kai wants and making her sleep with you might have been some form of torture.  Kai on the other hand would hate to be left in the garage and would think you were mad at him if you just had him wander for hours outside.  Loving them well meant that I needed to love them as they needed to be loved. 

There is alot of research and writings on the need to love people as they best receive love.  The "5 Love Languages" is a whole series on discovering how we and our loved ones best receive love and then how to meet those needs.  We cannot just love someone as we would want to be loved because they may best experience love in different ways.  And this might mean we need to show them love in ways that are not our own.  Dolphin for instance found my showing love through endless petting to be tedious while Kai rejoices in any time I can pet him or we can just cram into the same chair.  When interacting with our community in our lives, we need to make sure that we are loving people as they best receive love. So today I encourage you to consider at least one person you love and try to reach out in love to them in the way that is best for them, not you.  Some like cards while other prefer a call.  Some might really appreciate a picture that made you think of them or a small gift mailed to them or left on their porch.  Some might prefer that you leave them alone for an hour to just be in the quiet (that's what my husband is giving me today- once I tell him that).   But loving some one well means loving them as they need love, not as we desire to get it. 

And I believe that God loves us in this way.  God does not show love to us in all the very same way.   Rather God shows us love as we best experience it.  We see this in the New Testament with Jesus.  He loves everyone but he shows it differently to different people and in different times.  For some he gives healing, for some he gives challenges.  For some he gives food, for others he gives one on one time.  And so on.  We see this not just with Jesus but throughout scripture and our lives.  People encounter God's love differently than we do and we must remember that just because its not our way, its not bad.  All love from God is a blessing, even when we fail to understand it.  However, we all need to become better at acknowledging and accepting God's love.  Read 1 Corinthians 13.  For a fun activity, replace the word love every time you see it with God. Because we know that God is love and that God is offering us love.  By reminding ourselves that God is all the things in this scripture and also that God's love is these things for us in whatever ways we most need it, then we are better ready this day to fully receive and accept God's love.  God may not show you love just like your neighbor but God is loving you in the ways you need.  But it is up to you if you want to accept it. 

With love, 

Beth