Saturday, February 28, 2009

Are we there yet?

Proverbs 3:5-6
"Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your paths. "

Today we went on a road trip. “We” included me and my 3 girls Joy, Groovy, and Hope. My dogs seem to have a sixth sense for knowing when I am packing up for a road trip. The whining starts, the circling starts, the pacing starts….nobody wants to be left behind! Well, except maybe for 8 year old Joy, who is old enough to know all that a road trip entails, but she still chooses to come along anyway. Typically, when I finish loading the van and it is time to get the dogs, the basement door is opened and out comes the herd. They race to the van with tails a wagging. Everyone is excited to go somewhere, anywhere, with Mom.
“YEAH! Where are we going, Mom?! This is going to be fun! Thanks for taking us with!”

Not 5 minutes down the road, my one and a half year old Hope girl begins to “quiver” and her memory is jogged as to the last road trip. “Oh, I feel nauseous. This road is bumpy. What have I done? Are we there yet, Mom?” Two year old Groovy lasts a little longer and then smashes her pitiful little face against the crate door and stares at me. “Mom, can I come out of this crate and sit on your lap? I’d really feel much safer in your arms. Please? Oh, and are we there yet?” Joy…well, she’s been on enough of these “rides”. She fixes her bed just so and hunkers down for the long haul. She has learned time goes faster when you sleep and let Mom drive. With a little extra consoling, the 3 girls settle in and rest....for a while.

Every couple hours, the “Are we there yet?” routine repeats. Hope sits up, quivers and shakes, whines, and then wonders why in the world she wanted to go on this road trip to begin with. Groovy gives her pitiful pout and then begs and pleads for release from her “prison” so she can see where we are going. Joy…well, she just sighs and returns to her sleeping…she has long surrendered to the fact that it is best to just let Mom drive.

Have you ever been in a similar situation with God? Has He invited you on a “road trip” and you jumped on board all exited for your new adventure? It all sounded so exciting and how could it not be? After all, *God* was going with you! How long was it before you felt the bumps and turns in the road and you started to get “nauseous”? How long was it before you thought, “My God, what have I done…..can we please turn back, God?” How long was it before you pleaded, “God, can I please get off this bus?”. How long was it before you started your pitiful prayers of petition…..“God, are we there yet?”

Sometimes when God invites us on a journey, it isn’t just the destination He is concerned with, but also the journey to the destination. Can we trust the Master? Do we let Him “drive”, or do we critique and complain and play the part of the annoying back seat driver? Do we whine the whole ride because the journey is taking too long or is too bumpy and is making us nauseous? If we can’t “see out the window”, can we still trust that our Master knows where He’s going and will get us there safely and “on time”?

My old girl, Joy, she knows me well. She trusts me. She knows how to rest and let me drive. The ride might be bumpy, it might be long, but she chooses to join me on the journey anyway…wherever it leads. Sometimes it is to the vet’s office….not always “pleasant”, but still necessary for her well being. Sometimes though, like this time, it is for a week long “camping trip” with Mom at a hotel. What could be more great than kicking back with Mom, eating bon bons, playing with toys, chewing on bones, and sleeping on the bed for an entire week?! Lord, let me learn a lesson from Joy. You know where you want to take me, when you want me to get there, and what you want me to see or learn along the way. You are the driver, you are my driver. I will trust you on this journey, no matter the twists, turns, and bumps. I choose to have joy in the journey because you are with me…and there’s no other place I’d rather be than with you.

In Christ and covered in dog hair,

Debbie Owczarzak

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Heel Position Peace

Matthew 13:16
"But blessed are your eyes, because they see; and your ears, because they hear."

My old girl, Glory, will be 15 in another couple months. That's 105 in doggy years. She is pretty much blind and deaf now. Her hips are stiff, her body is frail, and her breath couldn't be helped by a gallon of Listerine. Still, I love every stinky, wobbly, deaf and blind ounce of her. She lay here sleeping beside me right now, snoring away, peaceful as ever. Bedtime is the highlight of our day together. I crawl in to bed, assume the "spoon" position, and "Tiny Tot" (as I call her) wriggles her way into that nook of my belly and rests her dear head right where I can get a good whiff of that sweet breath of hers. I don't mind….it's Tot's breath, and nothing else in the world smells quite like it. Her days are pretty much spent sleeping now. But, when she awakes, she looks around (as best she can with no vision) and she immediately knows whether she is resting at my feet or whether she needs to seek them out again. Maybe my feet smell something like her breath does to me? Either way, she is content as long as she knows she is near me. I am her light and her peace in her dark and silent world…and I am more than happy to be everything she needs me to be.

I think sometimes we can feel like we are alone, walking out life in darkness and silence. Where is God we ask? Why am I going through everything I am going through? Does He hear me? Does He see me? Does He know I am in pain? Does He care at all? I think most of us have been there at one time or another…that cold, dark place where we feel God has abandoned us. Are the feelings real? Are the struggles real? Yes. But, there is a Truth that transcends even our "reality"…God's Word and promise.

Jesus promised us in John 8:12, "I am the light of the world, he who follows me will not walk in darkness, but he will have the light of life". Jesus promised us again in John 10:27, "My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me". Jesus is our light. Jesus is the voice calling out to us. The light is there for us to follow. The voice is there for us to follow. But, are we ready to follow? Perhaps if we were, we would see the light…and hear the voice….because they are there for us…He is there for us. Jesus is our light and our peace in this often dark and silent world…and He is more than happy to be everything we need him to be.

Glory may be blind and deaf now, but she still follows me wherever I go. She seeks me out…my smell, my touch, my warmth. I am her peace….I always have been….even when she could see me with her eyes and hear my voice with her ears. Nothing has changed really. We're both just a little older….and perhaps just a little more stinky.

In Christ and covered in dog hair,

Debbie Owczarzak

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Rescue my Heart

James 1:27
“Pure and undefiled religion before God and the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their trouble, and to keep oneself unspotted from the world.”

Whiskey and Fritz

I was recruited recently to help with a couple English Cocker rescue dogs. Now, I needed one more dog activity like I needed a hole in my head. Somehow, though, I made the time to help out. First, there was “Fritz”, the 9 year old dog who just needed a special someone to not be turned off by his age, but rather to see the gentle old soul with a lot of love to give. Then there was “Whiskey”, the red dog found lost, wandering the streets of Chicago. I wrote about Whiskey in my last article, “In Need of Rescue”. It took a lot of time and effort by a lot of people, but both Fritz the senior and Whiskey the lost have happy endings….we eventually found them forever loving homes.

I, like many of my peers in our national breed club, The English Cocker Spaniel Club of America, regularly donate money to support rescue efforts. And, money IS needed. However, this time…this time I went beyond donating my pocketbook. For two months I helped get Whiskey cleaned up, trimmed down, and back to health. I grew quite fond of this big love bug! During the same two months, I helped screen homes for Fritz, trying to remain hopeful that someone was going to come through for him. After arranging a quite complicated transfer of Fritz to what we thought was a good fitting home, it was only a week later that the new owner called to return him because he was “too big”. The day I got this news was the same day I delivered Whiskey to his new home. My heart sank, and I had an emotional “meltdown”. I really loved this Whiskey dog, but what if this new person didn’t? What if Whiskey is returned next week too? So much time and energy and emotion had been poured into these dogs and now my heart broke for them. My heart broke for THEM….such sweet boys who just needed someone to love them, for someone they could love in return. Rescue was so much easier when I could just write a check.

When I first volunteered to help with Fritz and Whiskey, I was reminded of James 1:27. I thought, “Yes, as a responsible English Cocker breeder, I should help take responsibility for the widows (senior dogs) and the orphans (lost dogs) of my breed.” So, I showed myself responsible, and I donated not just my money but my time to help with Fritz and Whiskey. But, it wasn’t until that one day, the one day I was getting Fritz back all while sending Whiskey off, that I experienced the true meaning of James 1:27. In my tears, the Lord spoke to my heart, “I want more than your time and your money and your responsibility…I want your heart”. I asked, “Why? It hurts to give my heart!”. He answered, “Because if I have your heart, I have you not just for Fritz and Whiskey, but I have you forever…for all I wish to save”. He made His point…He had my heart.

James understood this heart of God when he wrote Pure and undefiled religion before God and the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their trouble…” To visit…in their trouble. Sometimes it takes us that trip to the trenches experience in order for God’s heart to become our heart. Sometimes it takes us saving one life before our heart aches to save many. Sometimes it takes risking hurt and loss before we can save the hurt and lost. Sometimes it takes us going beyond responsibility, beyond time, beyond money to see that all our “religious charity” is not what God needs most. He needs our heart. A senior Fritz and an orphan Whiskey taught me that….two rescues…who rescued my heart.

In Christ and covered in dog hair,

Debbie Owczarzak

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

In Need of Rescue

"Whiskey" - Before and After

Luke 15:20-24
"So he returned home to his father. And while he was still a long way off, his father saw him coming. Filled with love and compassion, he ran to his son, embraced him, and kissed him. His son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against both heaven and you, and I am no longer worthy of being called your son.’ 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. And kill the calf we have been fattening. We must celebrate with a feast, 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 a rescue English Cocker here right now named “Whiskey”. Whiskey was found wandering the streets of a Chicago suburb. He was so fat he looked like a whiskey barrel with legs, hence his name. Whiskey was pretty scruffy when he was found…dirty, matted, in need of serious grooming. I groomed him up with the help of a friend and underneath all that curly, matted fur was a beautiful boy! With the support of the English Cocker Spaniel Club of America (ECSCA), the national breed club of which I am a member, Whiskey was treated by a vet for a severe bronchial infection and he is now recovering here at “Golden Gait”, surrounded by all his new friends. Whiskey is happy to be clean, fed, cared for, and loved….but you know what? I think I am just as blessed to have had the opportunity to give, to love, and to help a soul that was lost….and now is found. What joy it brings me to think I was able to play even a small part in helping to “save” his life.

We don’t know the circumstances surrounding how Whiskey got lost. Perhaps he had irresponsible owners. Or, maybe he finally figured out a way to escape his yard so he could chase that cat! (Whiskey is a big time cat chaser). No matter the reason, the fact still remains he was lost…and in need of rescue.

Sometimes I think we too get “lost”…sometimes on purpose, sometimes through circumstances which seem out of our control. We wander about, looking for “home”…empty, hurting, hungry…hungry not for food, but for love. We often try to fill this void with all the world seems to offer, only to discover we are left unsatisfied still…empty, wounded, and searching again.

There is one who sees our wanderings, who sees our emptiness, who sees our pain…he is our heavenly Father who yearns deeply to “rescue us”. The parable of the prodigal son told by Jesus shows us a Father who saw his son while he was “still a long way off” and he delighted at his son’s return home. He didn’t care where the son had been or what he had done, but only that his son was home. The Father’s desire was to shower his son with blessings and affection and love, for his son was lost and now was found! How great was the Father’s love!

Do you need rescue? Do you feel lost? God doesn’t care how you got where you are….whether it was of your own doing or through circumstances out of your control. No matter the reason, God desires to rescue you and to welcome you home. God is not the evil “dog catcher” in the sky who wants to put a noose around your neck and lead you away to “jail”. No, God is as Jesus described Him…the Father who sees you from still a long way off, who feels love and compassion for you, who wishes to run to you, to embrace you, to kiss you and to care for you. If you can see God like this, you are probably more likely to “come when you are called”….and to be rescued yourself….like Mr. Whiskey Barrel.

In Christ and covered in dog hair,

Debbie Owczarzak

Friday, October 19, 2007

Cocker See, Cocker Do

I Corinthians 15:33
“Do not be deceived: Bad company corrupts good morals.”

Well, that didn’t take long…my little “Hope” has learned new things from her big sister, “Groovy”. In my last article, Time for an Obedience Class, I shared how Groovy has been “testing me” and not coming in from outside when I call her. No sooner did I finish writing the article did my 7 month old “Hope” begin to travel down the same road. If there is one thing I have learned in 16 plus years breeding and raising dogs is that not all behavior is genetic, but much of it is learned….not just from humans, but often from other dogs who share the home (multi-dog homes). Younger, more impressionable dogs often look to the older dogs for guidance as to appropriate and/or acceptable behavior. Bad behavior, such as peeing on the floor, barking excessively, digging, destroying things, and yes, not coming when the master calls, can often quite easily “rub off” on the yet untrained dog. The younger dog can further learn other, more serious, behaviors from doggy peers such as wariness of strangers, object guarding, crate possessiveness, fence fighting, or even general “irritability” issues. Even for dogs, the scripture holds true, “Bad company corrupts good morals”! On the positive side, if a young dog grows up around other dogs that are happy, outgoing, accepting of strangers, obedient, responsive, and relatively quiet, they have a much better chance of becoming “good dogs”, like their more positive role models. This is what makes a “dam” worth her weight in gold in a breeding program if she herself possesses a sound mind and a gentle heart to pass on and to teach her “children.”

The great Book of Psalms starts right off in Chapter 1 verse 1, “Blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked or stand in the way of sinners or sit in the seat of mockers.” Sounds pretty and poetic, doesn’t it? But do we heed its practical advice? When we search for direction, for what to do, or for what to think on a matter, who do we ask? When we know something is wrong and we do it anyway because “everyone else is doing it”, what path are we traveling down and with what company? Do we sit by while injustice occurs and even join in on the contempt of the “weak”? Sarcasm and ridicule can often be quite contagious.

If we watch carefully who we walk, stand, and sit around, we are told we can be blessed. Blessed….defined in the Greek as “happy, prosperous, fortunate, and enviable”. What a promise! But, we’ll never see that promise until we choose to follow God, to keep company with Him, and to seek to surround ourselves with those who will lift us up, not bring us down.

I am not losing “Hope”…she and “Groovy” have taken a momentary “detour” down a dead end path. But, they still have the grand matriarch “Joy” to help keep them in line and to give them something positive to imitate. “Joy” is as blessed as any dog can be blessed...and I am blessed to keep her company.

In Christ and covered in dog hair,

Debbie Owczarzak

Friday, October 5, 2007

Time for an Obedience Class

Psalm 40:8
“I take joy in doing your will, my God, for your instructions are written on my heart.”

I have a one year old English Cocker Spaniel named “Groovy”. She is a very playful and silly girl. I love her temperament and personality, well, except for maybe one thing. Groovy loves life so much that often times when she is called to come in from outside, she will not want to come in because she would rather stay outside and play. It was sort of cute when she was 6 months old to see her little wheels turning like “Ummmm….do I have to? I REALLY want to stay out here and play!” She’d dance around with her ears perked and eyes alert and wide. Then, I would have to walk out and get her…sometimes even chase her. Now, at a year old, she still stands outside when it is time to come in, but she stands real still with a pitiful look of “Awww….I was having so much fun and now it’s over!!” I still have to walk out to get her, only this time I do not have to chase her. She knows she will not win this “stand off”. I scoop her up, I cradle her in my arms, I give her smooches, and I assure her there will be more fun again later. She kisses back.

Obedience to the Lord is often a rough road to walk….at first. Early on, in our immaturity (or perhaps ignorance), we disobey God by backing away from Him and holding tight to that which we think we so badly want or need in life. We cling to our “moment”, we try to justify why we should be free to enjoy our “moment”, and we fight to keep our “moment”. When we mature a bit more, we begin to obey because we know God is the Authority…but, we still don’t like it and we still don’t understand why God has put a “restriction” on our personal freedoms. While it is good we obeyed, we have not yet moved into obeying from the heart…which is what God is really after. Why? Because when we get to the point where we obey from the heart, we are at a point where there is no “fighting”, but rather peace and joy. There is peace in not always having to understand the complete wisdom in what God asks of us through simply trusting that God is good, that His love is great, and that He has our best interest at heart. And, there is joy…joy because we know our obedience is pleasing to Him.

Where are we on our road to complete surrender to God and His will and His ways? My girl “Groovy” has traveled the rocky road to now the gravel road, but I am sure she’ll be cruising down that smooth, paved road very soon….especially when she realizes there is a free flowing stream of doggy biscuits awaiting her around that next bend. Perhaps God has our fondest delights and dreams awaiting us around the next bend on our journey? I suspect He does….if we will obey from our heart….and go there.

“You will show me the path of life; In Your presence is fullness of joy; At Your right hand are pleasures forevermore.” Psalm 16:11

In Christ and covered in dog hair,

Debbie Owczarzak

Saturday, August 4, 2007

Hair to be Different

Matthew 10: 29-31
“What is the price of two sparrows—one copper coin? But not a single sparrow can fall to the ground without your Father knowing it. And the very hairs on your head are all numbered. So don’t be afraid; you are more valuable to God than a whole flock of sparrows.”

The most frequently asked question when non-doggy people come to our house and see all my English Cocker Spaniel dogs and/or puppies is, “HOW do you tell them all apart??!!!”. I find this such an odd question because they all look different to me! I can tell you which one is a bit more “stocky”, which one is a slightly different shade of color than the next, which one has rounder eyes than the next, which one has a certain spot of white on the chest, which one has a swirl in the hair on the shoulder…I could go on and on. Beyond appearances, I can also tell you which one is shy, which one is bold, which one is silly, and which one “thinks too much”. Though they were made in the image of their sire and dam, they are each uniquely beautiful and special to me.

God tells us “the very hairs on your head are all numbered”. Wow. I have never gotten to the point of numbering the fur on my dogs! All of mankind and all the wondrous diversity, yet God knows each of us down to the very hairs on our head. Sometimes we can feel so insignificant and irrelevant in life, like if we disappeared perhaps nobody would notice. My friend, God would notice. He knows not just our outward appearance, but the very thoughts and secrets of our heart (Hebrews 4:12). He knows our fears, our insecurities, and our weaknesses. But, He also knows our gifts, our talents, and our strengths. We are not insignificant to God. We are valuable to Him - more than a “flock of sparrows” and more than even a herd of happy, wiggly tailed English Cockers! We are uniquely beautiful, made in His image, and individually crafted….so that collectively, God can masterfully paint Himself a magnificent canvas of the glorious “body of Christ”.

Recognize your beauty to God, value your purpose for His purpose. Let God use you to “color His world".

In Christ and covered in dog hair,

Debbie Owczarzak

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Covered in Kisses

John 4:23 (New King James Version)
"But the hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for the Father is seeking such to worship Him."

Over the years I have had many people watch my dogs interact with me and then comment, “Look how much they adore you!”, to which I'd reply, jokingly, “Oh yes, they worship me!”. Little did I realize how much this casual comment would later teach me.

My husband recently shared with me the definition of the Bible’s Greek word for “worship”. The first definition listed in Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance for the word “worship” is this: to kiss, as a dog licking his master’s hand. Oh my!! I immediately thought of my dogs and all their licking. They really DO worship me!! And, they are not content with just a lick of the hand, but they must get to my face too! As I thought more about this newly discovered definition of worship, I began to ask myself the question: Why DO my dogs insist on licking me?

I believe my dogs lick me, first and foremost, as an act of reverence. My dogs think I am GREAT! Not great as in “she’s really cool”, but great as in all powerful, all wonderful, all mighty, all magnificent. There is no one and no thing bigger in their eyes than me. I also believe my dogs lick me out of a heart of thanksgiving for who I am to them – their provider, their protector, their good master. I suppose some would say all this “worship” could make one into an egomaniac. I have to be honest, it does feel good to know the love I have given has been accepted…and reciprocated, even through their simple expression of “worship”, the licking of my hand.

John 4:23 says GOD is seeking true worshipers to worship Him. Are we “worshipers”? What kind of “worship” do we give our Good Master? Do we “drive through” once a week, wave hello from a distance, sing a quick song, recite a few memorized prayers, eat a cracker, and tell him on our rush out, “See ya next week!”? Or, if we do actually make time to approach Him, do we stay only long enough to dump our problems so we can hurry off to make more? Do we really believe He is bigger than our problems anyway? What if we really did start to see Him and experience Him for who He truly is and who He wants to be in our life? What if we made the time to sit at His feet and simply awe at the GREATNESS of His power, His wonder, His might, and His magnificence? Can our heart purpose to be thankful for all He is to us - our provider, our protector, our good and loving Master? Do we approach His hand with boldness and confidence and trust, or do we approach His hand as a dog approaches the hand of a stranger, cautious and distrusting?

Lord, let us purpose to know you as our GOOD Master today. Let us purpose to magnify you in all Your majesty and splendor, for you truly are GREAT. Let us let you love us more deeply, to the point we reciprocate that love back to you, and on to others.

Lord, we desire to become the true worshipers you seek, sitting adoringly at your feet…..and taking every opportunity to kiss our master’s hand.

In Christ and covered in dog hair,

Debbie Owczarzak