Saturday, June 30, 2007

Joy in the Morning

Psalm 30:4-5
"Sing to the Lord, all you godly ones! Praise His holy name. For His anger lasts only a moment, but His favor lasts a lifetime! Weeping may last through the night, but joy comes with the morning."

It's morning....time to let the dogs out. I'm still groggy and my body is still moving slow. Oh, but those dogs, from the young ones to the old ones....morning is an exciting time for them! Its a new day! They aren't thinking about yesterday when they got in trouble for digging holes or for tearing apart their bed. They aren't wondering if I am still mad at them. They aren't thinking about that scuffle they had with one of their siblings over the much coveted hedge hog stuffie. They aren't wondering if their brother is still mad at them or whether they should still be mad at their brother. And, they sure aren't wasting any energy thinking about whether or not it's going to rain today and mess up their "plans"! No, its morning and its a NEW day!! I know dogs don't "think" like we do...but sometimes I think we as humans can think too much!! We spend so much of our time today thinking about what happened yesterday. We think about how we disappointed someone close to us, or how they disappointed us. We think about that argument we had with our parent, our spouse, our friend, or our boss. Are they still mad at me? Am I, or should I, still be mad at them? I WAS right, you know. Is God still mad at me for when I blew it yesterday and acted "ugly", or for that fill-in-the-blank thing I did 10 years ago?

The Psalm here says God's anger lasts for a moment. Wow. He's GOD and even HE only lets his anger last a moment with us. If God can "forgive and forget" in a moment, why do we carry for days or weeks or years that "grudge" and that unforgiving heart toward that person who "wronged" us? Or, worse, toward God because things didn't go the way we thought they should and HE didn't seem to care (or so we thought).

God does not dwell on the past, and He doesn't live in the past. He lives today, with the forward looking attitude toward us of "His favor lasts a lifetime". He gives us a NEW day, each day, to live in His favor. We may weep for the night, but as my little cockers know full well, "joy comes with the morning".....if we choose to let it, and live in it.

In Christ and covered in dog hair,

Debbie Owczarzak

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Me and My Shadow

Psalm 63:6-8 (New King James Version)
"Because You have been my help, Therefore in the shadow of Your wings I will rejoice. My soul follows close behind You; Your right hand upholds me. "

I tell anyone looking to get an English Cocker Spaniel that they should only get one if they like a dog to be their shadow. English Cockers (at least my kennel lines) follow you EVERYWHERE. If you get up from the couch, they’ll get up and follow you. If you head to the bathroom, they’ll follow you. In fact, if you close the bathroom door on them, they’ll crouch down and sniff under the door until you open it! You will never find your “Engi” much further than an arms length away at any given time. Your presence is their joy. Your presence is where they find rest, peace, pleasure, and comfort. My old “Champ” dog was like this. He could be in the deepest of sleep at my feet and if I stood up and left the room, somehow he knew my presence had left him and he awoke and sought me out. He was not “insecure”; he just delighted to be with me! He was my shadow for 15 years. My current old girl, Glory, is 14 years old and is essentially blind and mostly deaf now. Yet, even in her present condition, she knows when I am near….or not, and will seek for me if she stretches out her nose and cannot find my leg. I delight in knowing she “needs” me, and it is never a burden to care for her and help guide her and keep her safe throughout the day. She sleeps by my side each night, right where Champ slept before he passed on last year.

This world and this life can often throw so much at us, so many burdens and cares and problems. Psalm 63:7 gives us hope, “Because you have been my help, therefore in the shadow of Your wings I will rejoice”. God IS our helper and rest, peace, pleasure, and comfort is available to us in the safety of the shadow of His wings. But, it is our choice to go there, to remain there. How do we do this? The next verse gives us the way, “My soul follows close behind You, Your right hand upholds me.” God doesn’t have a choke collar on us, dragging us behind Him forcing us to follow Him, any more than I had a choke collar on my Champ or Glory forcing them to follow me. My dogs purpose to follow me. Why…because my right hand upholds them. That is, my hand holds good things for them – a pet, hug, care, provision, safety, love. If we truly believed we would find these things in God’s loving presence, in the shadow of His wings, would we purpose to seek Him more earnestly? Would we purpose to follow behind Him more closely? I think we would.

I want to be like an “Engi” to God….receiving His love, resting at His feet, sleeping by His side…and never farther than an arm’s length away.

In Christ and covered in dog hair,

Debbie Owczarzak

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

My Daily Bread, Their Daily Kibble

Matthew 6:11
"Give us this day our daily bread"

I have a mulberry tree which hangs over my back fence. The berries are now ripe and the dogs love to snack on the fallen berries. They eat for a while and then go play. They stop back later, they eat some more, and then go play. I suppose if dogs had opposable thumbs it might cross their minds to gather up a big pile and bring some in for a late night snack or store some away for another day in case I forgot to feed them their morning kibble. But alas, they seemed content to just eat what they wanted from the tree and then go off to play….without worry there might not be any more berries later.

Last week I had snacked on mulberries off that tree, right there in the yard while I thought about God’s goodness and reflected on the simple joys of life. Today though, while watching the dogs eat the fallen berries, I had the grand thought of gathering and filling a BIG tasty bowl of them for myself for later. Mmmm, berries and ice cream for dinner…it’ll be so yummy! Later, when I went to wash the bowl of berries, there appeared a small spider, then another, then a little beetle looking thing, and another. I reluctantly continued washing and then tried to eat some (after all, I had worked so hard to fill that big bowl!). Nope…couldn’t do it…couldn’t get the visions of spiders and beetles out of my head.

There’s something to that “daily bread” concept God so often teaches us in His Word. As master of my dogs, it is my responsibility (without burden) to give my dogs their daily kibble meals. In fact, they wake me each morning to remind me of this task! Jesus told us in Matthew 6:11 to pray to our Father, our Good Master, this prayer: “and give us this day, our daily bread”. There is nothing wrong with asking God to this day, provide my daily bread, and then trust Him to do just that! Often though, we go far beyond this with the “more is better” mentality (like I did with the mulberries!). Or, we worry there won’t be enough for tomorrow and so we hoard. Neither is faith.

Today my dogs taught me about God. They taught me it’s ok to pray for provision and to believe for God’s blessing. They taught me to give thanks for what is given…instead of coveting what is not. They taught me to not worry for tomorrow, but to enjoy the fruit of today, for as long as it is called today. Oh, and they taught me that some things are better eaten right off the tree, right then and there, before you notice the bugs. ;-)

In Christ and covered in dog hair,

Debbie Owczarzak

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

The Journey Home

Psalm 36:5-7
" Your unfailing love, O Lord, is as vast as the heavens; your faithfulness reaches beyond the clouds. Your righteousness is like the mighty mountains, your justice like the ocean depths. You care for people and animals alike, O Lord. How precious is your unfailing love, O God! All humanity finds shelter in the shadow of your wings. "

I lost my very special “Champ” last August. He was my best buddy and my faithful friend, a beautiful dog inside and out. Champ lived a long, healthy, and happy life until that one day, a week shy of his 15th birthday, when he had that first stroke. My vet and I did all we could for Champ. I wanted so badly for him to rebound and recover. Three days later, Champ had another stroke. I had always hoped, when the time came, that Champ would just “go peacefully in his sleep”…but it didn’t end that way. As Champ’s master, I alone held that final decision to relieve his suffering. I alone had to be strong enough to help him now, and I was, and I did. It was the right thing to do, the loving thing to do, the merciful and compassionate thing to do.

I lost my Father to lung cancer several years back. I had hoped to have my Father to share life with for many more years. We all prayed for his rebound after chemo and radiation, and he did well…for a while. I don’t think anyone can claim to have all the answers in life, and I’m sure we all have a thousand questions to ask God when we see Him. Nevertheless, one thing I know is this: just as I loved Champ, I loved my Dad, and my Dad was loved by his Dad, his heavenly Father. As Dad started to fail, we watched his suffering…and prayed. God is no stranger to the sufferings of His children. As Dad’s Good Master, God alone held that final decision to relieve Dad’s suffering. God alone had to be strong enough to help him now, and He was, and He did. It was the right thing to do, the loving thing to do, the merciful and compassionate thing to do.

With God, the end as we see it is never really the end as He sees it. Our hope does not end here. Our journey does not end with this temporal life. No, God has a better place for us, a place we can call our eternal home…and perhaps Champ is there right now, begging my Dad to take him with for a car Dad's favorite coffee shop I am sure.

In Christ and covered in dog hair,

Debbie Owczarzak

Monday, June 11, 2007

Like a Child...or Puppy

Matthew 19:14
"But Jesus said, “Let the little children come to Me, and do not forbid them; for of such is the kingdom of heaven.”

I watched my young puppies play in the yard today. They bounced around joyfully while exploring their "world". They chewed on sticks, played "tag", dug holes, and yes, chased a few newly hatched 17 year cicadas (ICK!!). They had no cares or worries, they had no agenda or anywhere they had to be, they were just simply enjoying life. Watching the puppies play brought a smile to my face and joy to my heart. I looked on with pride and delighted over them with thoughts of, "Those are my kids, look how happy they are...aren't they cute??!!"

We're adults now. We're all grown up. Life isn't always just fun and games in the backyard. We have responsibilities. We have places to be, people to see, and things to get done. Life is busy. Nevertheless, sometimes I think we pack life so full of "things to do" that we miss out on just simply enjoying life. Yes, God is pleased when we show ourselves responsible and hard working. But, I think sometimes He reflects back to when we were children, when we had few cares or worries, when we had no agenda or anywhere we had to be, when we marveled and played in His creation. He watched us then and we brought a smile to His face and joy to His heart. He looked on with pride and delighted over us with thoughts of "Those are my kids, look how happy they are...aren't they cute??!!"

No matter how old we get, God doesn't want us to lose that childhood zeal and love of life. He doesn't want us so busy with life that we have no life. Jesus said "I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly" (John 10:10). MAKE time to enjoy the simple pleasures of life, the wonders of His glorious creation. Today I did just that. I stood on a bench and spent 20 minutes picking and eating unwashed mulberries off an old tree in the yard....just as I would have done as a child (only I would have climbed the tree instead!). I thought about my Good Master...and I have a feeling He thought about me too....and smiled, with joy in His heart.

In Christ and covered in dog hair,

Debbie Owczarzak

Wednesday, June 6, 2007

Will you hold my paw?

Matthew 28:20
"And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”

I recently had a litter of puppies whelped here – 3 girls. I named them Faith, Hope, and Charity. This was Journey’s first litter. At first, she was a bit confused and a little worried, but Journey and I have a special bond. I stuck by her and comforted her with soft words and reassuring pets on her head and belly. She watched my eyes closely and listened to my words intently…certain I would not leave her and that I would be with her to help her along the way. I was there the whole time, I did comfort her…and everything went well. Momma Journey continued on to be a wonderful mother and she cared for her precious girls so tenderly.

Sometimes I think we too enter into “uncharted waters” of life, where we look around with confusion, worry, and often fear…fear of the unknown. God, our Good Master, is not too busy to notice, or to care. He’s been there already, with others and with his Son, Jesus, in the garden of Gethsemane. He doesn’t want us to experience these dark places alone. God himself promised “I will never leave you nor forsake you” (Hebrews 13:5, Deut. 31:6). In these dark places, we can look up, catch a glimpse of His glory, feel the comfort of His loving arms, and listen to the small still voice speaking softly in our ear, “I am with you always”. Somehow, someway, we make it through with His tender care and guidance….and we are able to look back and say “We did it!”.

God cares, God is there…just as I cared and I was there for my Journey girl. Thank you, God, for loving us so, and for the blessing of Your wonderful presence at ALL times.

In Christ and covered in dog hair,

Debbie Owczarzak

Monday, June 4, 2007

About this Blog

I am a Christian. I love God. I breed, raise, and show English Cocker Spaniels. I love dogs.

I read a book recently titled "Lessons from a Sheep Dog" by Phillip Keller. Awesome book. It's a story of a man and a sheep dog who learn together what it means to be loved and the joy that comes from becoming all and fulfilling all that God made you and designed you to be.

Keller's book made me reflect on my own relationship with God. It made me reflect on God's goodness toward me, His love toward me, and His wisdom in guiding my life. I started to think about how blessed I was to have a GOOD Master.

I then started thinking about my 16 years raising English Cocker Spaniels and about all the dogs who have shared my home. It may seem obvious, but no two dogs are exactly alike in personality and/or intelligence. To all the dogs, though, I am Master. I am not a perfect Master, but I try to learn from my mistakes along the way.

Thinking again about my Good Master (God), I asked myself what specifically motivated me to want to be "good"? I then thought about my dogs and as their Master, what was it that motivated them to want to be "good"? Looking upward, how do I view God and how do my dogs view me? Looking downward, how does God view me and how do I view my dogs? The word I got in my heart was this: Good Master, Good Dog.

I will be sharing here real life stories of my life with my dogs and the truths about God they have taught me along our journey together. I love my dogs and want nothing but the best for them. They are entrusted to my care by God Himself. I am their Master. Should not my Heavenly Father feel the same toward me as my Good Master...and then some? I am certain He does.

I pray you are blessed by the God-analogies shared here...and that you will grow in the love of God to the point that you cling to His every Word, revel in His goodness, overflow with joy to be in His very presence, and desire to please Him in all you do.

In Christ and covered in dog hair,

Debbie Owczarzak