Monday, April 11, 2011

A Dog's Life Part III...

If you aren't keeping up with my hard-hitting interviews with my dog, Bailey, then I am afraid that your life is most likely kinda sucky.  I could be wrong about that, but I'm probably not.

Today, Bailey and I are going to talk about her little issue with barking.  Let's begin:

Me: Bailey, you're becoming something of a regular here at The Dailies.  I know that there are a lot of people that really enjoy hearing your thoughts on life, so I really appreciate your candor and willingness to go deep.

Bailey:  Thank you so  much, Katie.  If I could blush, that is exactly what I would be doing right now; instead, I will be panting for a few minutes.  People have no idea how hard it is to be a dog, so I really appreciate your giving us a voice.

Me:  You agreed to talk with me today about something that has been a struggle for you all your life.  I know it's not easy to talk about.  Today, we are going to talk about your issue with barking.

Bailey: It's time that I talk about it.  It's the secret struggle of it all that keeps it coming back no matter how many time you spray me with a squirt gun or send me to the garage.  At first those things were a deterrent, but my need to bark is just so strong that I would rather be soaked with the water hose or spend the night in the garage than stop.  It's just engrained in me from puppyhood.  I saw other dogs doing it, and the rest is history.

Me:  But why barking?  What is the appeal?

Bailey:  It took many years of analysis to get to a place where I could understand it all, but now I know that my barking is just a symptom of my fear and need for control.  I bark because I fear.

Me:  That's really insightful, Bailey.  How exactly does the barking help you feel more in control and less fearful?

Bailey:  Well, I'm very aware of the fact that I am just a little dog.  I don't have power over much.  I can't feed myself.  I can't let myself out to pee.  I can't clean myself in the bathtub.  Honestly, I pretty much depend on you all for everything.  That....makes me nervous.  I figure the one thing I can do, when I sense danger, is to bark as loud as I can, look mean, and raise the hair up on my back.  Sometimes I even throw in some preemptive barks just in case there is danger there that I can't see or hear.

Me:  Is that why you run out of the house barking?

Bailey:  Yep.  Pretty much.  I figure if there was anyone or anything out there thinking about doing me harm, the best way to scare them off is to come out with all guns firing, if you know what I mean.

Me:  Okay, I can see your reasoning, but it makes me think that you bark because you don't trust that we are protecting you.  It makes me think that you feel like it's your job to protect us?  Would that be an accurate assessment?

Bailey:  Yeppers.  That is an affirmative. So, here's the deal.  I don't want to hurt your feelings or anything, but you all don't always seem to have to together.  You will literally open the back door and walk into the back yard without barking or freaking out AT ALL!!!??  You just walk right out there.  You also just let people walk by our house without frantically barking or trying your best to scare them away!!!!  Honestly, what the heck is wrong with you people?  Do I have to protect EVERYONE!??

Bailey, at her post as the self appointed back yard guard dog.  Look out squirrels!

Me: Well, the reason that we don't freak out when people walk by our house is because they aren't posing any real threat to us.  I think you might be "overbarking" because you feel insecure.  Maybe you should not only trust that we are protecting you, but also trust that the outside world isn't out to hurt you.  And for all things good and Holy, please stop barking like you are going to eat the mailman.  Haven't you realized after all these years that he isn't here to hurt you?

Bailey:  That guy is most DEFINITELY not be trusted!!!  I hate his mailman outfit.  I hate his mailman bag.  I hate his mailman car with the steering wheel on the wrong side.  Do you want to know what I dream about?  I dream about one day, you all leave the front door wide open right as that coy dude comes cruisin' up the sidewalk.  I wait until he is almost to the door and then I launch all 75 pounds of doggy anger at him teeth first and grab on to whatever meets my mouth first.  That dream is what keeps me going.

Me: ( sitting slack jawed with a look of shock on my face) Um.  Wow.  I just. I don't.  I really just don't even know what to say.  I had no idea you had so much anger towards the mailman.  Do you think you may be projecting your anger about something else onto the mailman!?

Bailey:  Yeah, some dude in ill-fitting navy khaki's takes me back to a time in my puppyhood that I was once erroneously spanked with a newspaper by a man wearing similar clothes whilst carrying a pile of mail.  NOT!!!  Come on, Katie! Pah-leez!!!  Save the psycho babble for someone who thinks that crap actually works.  I just freakin' hate mailmen.  Plain and simple.  All of them.  Everywhere.  No matter what.  I was born with this hatred and their slick smugness they display while approaching my home only stokes the flames.

Me:  Well, I hope that one day you will be able to work past this innate hate that you carry and work towards some kind of middle ground where you see that God created mailmen and puppies both, and He loves you both the same.  

Bailey:  If God can somehow show me how in the world He could ever love a mailman, then I promise I will give it a shot.  Until then, I am going to stick to my modus operandi.  

Bailey likes to watch out of the front window for the mailman and/or anyone else that dare walk down the sidewalk.

Me:  I appreciate your willingness to keep an open mind.  Let's get back to your fears for a minute.  Aren't you worried that you might be missing out on some great relationships with other dogs and people because of your barking issue?  People stay away from you because they are afraid you will bite them and therefore you don't get to meet them.  How does that make you feel?

Bailey:  Man, you are super touchy-feely today.  I'll tell you how it makes me "feel".  It makes me feel safe and in control.  If they don't get close enough then I won't have to worry about them hurting me or my family.  It's easier for me to be lonely than it is to let people get close and have them do something to me I can't control.

Me:  Now who's the touchy-feely one!?  That's pretty deep stuff, Bailes.  It sounds to me like you keep people away out of a fear that they will hurt you or us and that you won't be able to control it because you realize how small and out-of-control you are.

Bailey:  Well, that makes me sound like a mega-wuss, but yes, that would be a fairly accurate assessment.

Me:  Well, I don't want to call you names or anything, but if you don't allow people to get close to you out of fear, then you kinda are acting like a mega-wuss.


Me: Okay, okay....just calm down.  Here, have a treat....

Bailey:  Okay.  I'm calm now.  I suppose I see what you are saying.  I need to trust that I am protected by you all and not feel like I have to carry all of this by myself.  It is a pretty big job for such a small dog.  I can't make any promises today, but I am going to try and not bark to scare people away and try to be more friendly and trusting of the outside world.  If God loves freakin' mailmen, then He must be able to take care of me and my family as well.  Thank you for talking to me about all of this today.

Me:  That's great, Bailey! This is a huge step in the right direction.  God doesn't just loves doggies and mailmen, He loves all of creation.  He is going to protect us so that you don't have to, okay!?  Since you're willing to try, I guess I will also try and not push people away because of fear.  It's not just little doggies that feel out of control.  Sometimes I feel out of control too.  I think you and I are going to be just fine as long as we keep trusting in God and believing in His love for us.

Bailey:  That's a lovely sentiment.  Now let me back in the house so I can hide in the closet.  There's a storm coming.

Me:  I think I know which topic we'll tackle next time....

Thank you all for joining Bailey and I again and taking another look into A Dog's Life!

Our Bark is Bigger Than Our Bite,

Katie and Bailey

Thursday, April 7, 2011

The Good Soil Part II...

Yesterday, I talked about the importance of making sure that we form relationships with people in order to follow Jesus' command to love our neighbor.  If we are going to follow in Christ's footsteps then we need to be willing to connect with people even if they don't believe what we believe or agree with us.  However, another important part of following in Christ's footsteps is to realize that He didn't allow anyone keep Him from His purpose. 

If you are reading this right now, then I am guessing you are alive.  If you are alive, then you can assume that you have a purpose.  I'll go ahead and make it easy on you and tell you what your purpose is.  Your purpose, and my purpose, is to know and love Jesus, and love His people.  It's not your career, or your kids, or your talents.  God uses those things to fulfill His purpose.  But those things are not your purpose.  Jesus knew He had a purpose, and He didn't let temptation or distraction keep Him from fulfilling it.

Even when  His own mother and brother's showed up at a house Jesus was hanging at and asked Him to come outside, He refused.  Instead He looked at the people that were sitting around Him and said, "Here are my mother and my brothers!  Whoever does God's will is my brother and sister and mother." Mark 3:31-35

That's pretty intense.  Especially because those folks sitting around  his feet were...dun dun duuuuun.....sinners! *gasp*  We can't be sure what Jesus was saying to the people gathered around Him, but we can be certain that whatever He was saying it was the truth.  People love the truth, even when it hurts to hear it.  People were attracted to Jesus wherever He went because the message He shared struck something deep in their soul.  Many people rejected Jesus and His message, but that didn't stop Him from sharing it.  He didn't stay with someone for months trying to convince them to believe in Him.  Wherever He went He shared the truth, and for those that got ahold of it, it changed their lives forever.

If we are to be the good soil that surrounds the seeds of truth sown by God, then we will need to constantly be replenished, just like the soil is replenished with nutrients, if we are going to be effective.  As fellow believers, we are to pour into each others lives and support each other so that we can stay filled with the Spirit and Word of God.  As individuals we are to seek God on our own and stay in a prayerful mindset at all times.  Just like any relationship, we need to nurture and grow our relationship with God.  We need to spend time with Him.  We need to talk to Him.  We need to trust, love, believe in, and pursue Him.   If we are going to follow Jesus and go out into this hurting world, then we better be filled with His Spirit so that we don't get overwhelmed or find ourselves running on empty.  When we run on empty we give our enemy a foothold.  We give a foot, he takes a mile.  Before we know it, we are depleted, run down, and hiding ourselves from God.

We can look at Jesus' command to love one another and use that as an excuse to stay in relationships with people that are unhealthy.  I've done it many times myself.  We stay because we convince ourselves that we are able to save someone if only we try hard enough.  We stay because we think we are being humble and selfless by sacrificing ourselves for someone else.  The truth is that there is only one Savior.  His name is Jesus Christ.  God is in control of the saving.  We are in control of the planting and caretaking of His truth.  If someone or something is drawing you away from Jesus as opposed to building you up in your faith, then it's time to bring that situation to God and let Him show you what to do.  He will most likely tell you to kick the dust off your feet on the way out.  Just a guess.  Part of loving your neighbor is knowing when to walk away and knowing when to run (thank you Kenny Rogers).

This may be a little harsh, but to quote the timeless classic, The Real World: "It's time for people to stop being polite, and start getting real."

When it comes to your relationship with God, nothing and no one should come before it.  If it does, then it's an idol.  And I am pretty sure there are couple of verses floating around the Bible somewhere about how idols are bad.  I've done this so many times that I should get the Golden Calf award.  No relationship, no matter how amazing or how horrible, can be made more important than your relationship with your Creator.  No one will be able to fill that place in your life where God belongs and you won't be able to fill that place for anyone else.  You can't fill Jesus' place.  Don't make me bust out the "God-shaped hole" cliche.  I don't want to do it. 

It's all about balance.  We need to form relationships with people, but at the same time not allow those relationships keep us from our purpose.  We don't leave people just because it gets hard, but also we don't stay just because we have put ourselves on the thrown thinking we're saviors.  We want to love, trust, and grow close people, but not idolize them and try and put them in the place where God belongs.  This isn't easy.  Relationships are complicated.  But the great news is that God is enough.  He is more than enough for us.  He is always willing to replenish, renew, and restore us.  He pours in, and we pour out.  He wants you.  He is calling you.  He LOVES YOU!!

Walk with Him and He will show you how to find the balance.

I love you man,


Wednesday, April 6, 2011

The Good Soil...

When I started to feel like perhaps I should maybe start thinking about possibly leaving DC, I didn't go up to some random person on the street and try to get their advice.  When considering such a life changing decision, I only spoke to people that either knew me better than I know myself, or people that I know have been down the same road. 

It would be a little crazy of me to ask the sales lady at The Gap what she thinks about my desire to leave my job and move back to WV. She doesn't know me.  She doesn't know my situation.  She is wearing a pair of skinny jeans that make me feel that perhaps good decision making isn't a part of her repertoire.

So instead, I talked to my pastor, my best friends, my parents, and other folks that I trust with my life.  It is because of my relationship with them that I am able to let them speak into my life. 

"When anyone hears the message about the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what was sown into his heart." Matthew 13:19
God wants to be known.  He is constantly sending His message to us.  He is always planting seeds of truth in our lives.  If even one small seed would take root and grow in our lives it would change us forever.

That sounds simple enough.

The problem is that we have an enemy.  This enemy is constantly going around and trying to pluck up the seeds that God plants in our lives so that they never take root and grow. 

Basically...our enemy, the devil (you may have heard of him...believe me...he's heard of you) hates us.  He invented hate.  He invented desception.  He is the father of lies.  He wants us to wither and die.  He wants nothing more than for us to not know who we are and Whose we are.  All he does is hate and bring death.  He wants to kill the seeds of truth and knowledge in us.


In Mary Katherine Gallagher style, I feel that my feelings would be expressed via a movie line from the American movie classic, The Terminator starring Linda Hamilton and Michael Beihn:

Kyle Reese: Listen, and understand. That terminator is out there. It can't be bargained with. It can't be reasoned with. It doesn't feel pity, or remorse, or fear. And it absolutely will not stop, ever, until you are dead.


Kyle Reese: You still don't get it, do you? He'll find her! That's what he does! That's ALL he does! You can't stop him!


I think I've made my point.

In order to grow the seeds of knowledge of the Kingdom that are planted, we need to be the soil that surrounds that truth.  When you think of a seed in soil, you can visualize just how close that soil is to the seed. It surrounds it on every side, protecting and holding it.   We need to be willing to get that close to people in order to form relationships that will protect the truth of God in people's lives and allow it to grow.  It's also important that we keep the soil watered.  Dry soil cracks and falls away.  The word of God is like that fresh, life giving water that keeps the soil together and brings life to the seed.

"The LORD will guide you always; he will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land and will strengthen your frame. You will be like a well-watered garden, like a spring whose waters never fail." Isaiah 58:11
We need to connect with people whether they are Christian or not.  I'm not talking about missionary friendships or missionary dating.  I'm talking about for real loving people no matter what they believe.  You can't love someone that you don't know.  It is the love we form in relationships with each other that become that fertile soil.  It is through relationships with others that we can speak the word of God into their lives and it be like a refreshing flow of living water and not a water balloon assault.  The church needs to be the eyes and ears of God to a hurting world.  We need to be close to people in order for them to see us walk out our lives as we follow the footsteps of Christ.  If we live wonderful lives away from people, then are we really following Christ?  He was surrounded by multitudes of people every where He went.  He may have taken time alone in prayer, but He always came back to the people.  If someone doesn't know Him, then they will be blind to His hand in their lives.  We need to be able to reflect back to them what God is doing in their lives.  We can't reflect God to them if we aren't there.  The world is full of hardened hearts because the church isn't forming relationships with people because of fear.  We fear what we don't know. 
"Where there is no revelation, the people cast off restraint; but blessed is he who keeps the law" Proverbs 29:18
If people don't get a powerful, life-changing revelation of God, then they aren't going to be willing to give their life to Him.  If people hear the word, but don't understand it, then it won't change their lives.
I spent so many years mocking Christians and thinking they were so ignorant and uneducated simply because I had never had a true revelation of who God really is.  After I met the real Jesus, not the one I thought I knew, I was willing to give my whole life to Him.  People aren't going to be willing to give up their lives for a man that had some pretty cool teachings and healed a couple of folks.  The only thing that people die for is truth.  Truth is something that penetrates into your soul, past all the fear and junk.  Jesus commanded us to love our neighbor as we love ourselves.  Not 'like' our neighbor.  Not tell our neighbor what they want to hear.  Not leave our neighbor when they don't love us back.  No.  He commanded us to love them.  But we can't love people if we don't know them.  Love is something that can't be faked.  You can't truly love someone without some kind of knowledge of them.  We can't love God if we don't know Him, and we can't love each other without knowing each other. 

The world isn't going to meet the Way, the Truth, and the Life if the people that carry the revelation of Him aren't out there loving people and sharing the truth with them via real-life, honest to goodness, you-make-me-die-laughing, you-are-always-there-for-me-when-I-need-you  relationships.  This is not about pretending to like someone and being nice to them so that they can get the golden ticket to Heaven.  This isn't a contest.  It's not about the number of people that you get to come to church.  This is about real relationships.  I believe that if we change our mindset from expanding our numbers in church and start refocusing on the seeds that God has entrusted with us, then we will see the Kingdom advance more than we have ever seen.

I want to be good soil.  I want people to leave my presence feeling renewed and refreshed.  I want people to feel loved by me, even if we don't agree.  And I want others to do the same for me.  I need good soil and love just as much or more than everyone else.

I got nuthin' but love for ya baby,

Katie Mae