Oh, Netflix…

This screen accelerates my heartbeat these days when I see it:

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It’s embarrassing, really, how closely the relationship between me and this screen mimics an unhealthy one. It’s startling how strong the pull is. It’s an addiction.

Currently I’m plowing through seasons one and two of the Blacklist without much self-control. The process may or may not involve potato chips and too much caffeine. I know better than this. My body, which has a relentless inner clock, and wakes with the chickens no matter what time I go to bed, is paying the price, and I don’t seem to care. The series is wonderful and awful at the same time. I’m just trying to get it watched as fast as possible so I can get my life back on the other side.

I used to be quite judgmental of my sister who struggled with addictions. Why? I’m certainly not superior in any way, and I don’t hesitate for one for second to state that fact here, on the record. She forgave me before she died, like the cool sister that she was. I loved her and I miss her.

This morning, the strangest thing happened. As I stumbled around, bleary-eyed, at 5:30 a.m. trying to find my clothing quickly so I could get downstairs and brew some legal stimulant drug to overcome my sleep deficit, these words from the apostle Paul came vividly to my mind:

Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.10 For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

(2 Corinthians 12: 8-10, ESV)

What beautiful thoughts for me this morning. And when I went downstairs to start my usual routine of time with God, He gently cut me loose so fast it made my head swim, so I could get about my business which has suffered in the wake of the red letters on the black screen.

What grace, and there’s the beauty of it all.

There’s not one thing I can do to earn this unspeakable gift of being set free by the sacrifice of a loving God, who paid the price himself, with his blood. It’s not about who I am, or even who I am not. It’s about Who He Is, and what He did.

A breakthrough for me today was the lack of guilt I felt, after kneeling in submission to let Him have this, too. I accepted His grace today with joy and peace. And I stood up and went about my day.

And I think that might be a first.

 

 

 

 

 

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Myrtle the Miracle Dog (Part 4: The Marks of Abuse)

Possibly because of our dog Myrtle’s early abuse, she often acts indifferent to people. In spite of all our love, and in spite of Myrtle’s good life, she responds the same way to us. And it pains me to realize that before my Miracle, there were parallels in my own life.

I will not say I was abused as a child, but tragic things happened. And although it was nobody’s fault, the rocky path had the same effect. It left scars.

At times in my life, I was as unresponsive to God as Myrtle is to us. But not anymore. And I don’t ever want to go back there, either.

Myrtle’s scars are completely healed over now, and covered with the gray hairs that are her crown. Symbolically, the same is true for me. Although I will not know perfection until I reach heaven, Jesus, the Truth, healed me here on earth. He’s the Lover of my soul, my Valentine. The fact that I am alive and well, and not buried beside my sister, is proof to me that wonders happen. In some ways, I am a walking miracle.

My current screen saver says “loved” and is a reminder of this truth:

but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. (Romans 5:8 ESV)

While I was bad (and still am when my flesh wins out), Jesus Christ, driven by and embodying the only fulfilling kind of love there is, died as the solution for my inherent problem. I don’t ever, ever want to forget that beautiful truth.

To think that my Miracle dog is a maddening animal that points out my flaws is strange. And to think that my new life was born in a cemetery is ironic. But I’m thankful for both things. It feels rather full-circle, and that’s a good place to stop.

So, I’ll end with a photo of where it began, and will end again for me some day–at Myrtle Cemetery, where I found Myrtle, the Miracle Dog.

Thank You, Jesus.

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Myrtle the Miracle Dog (Part 3: Prone to Wander)

This is the hardest part of the story of Myrtle the Miracle Dog to tell, because I’m not sure I can find the words to explain my Miracle.

Remember my walks at this place? Doesn’t it look the isle in a cathedral?  Honestly, during those walks here, there were times I felt like a bride.

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Myrtle Cemetery, on the road where my family is buried.

I’ve been pondering how those walks were possibly a form of living prayer. I just showed up the first day, and said, “Okay, God, I’m here. Teach me?”

What I wanted to learn was how to walk with Him just for the pleasure of it, because I’d walked with Him for just about every other reason but that one. And somehow, I knew that reason was the key.

Quite simply, I just kept showing up. I came every chance I got, and I walked with Him, in the person of Jesus, and talked to Him like a friend, about everything.

And that’s when the Miracle began.

I learned to worship in that cemetery. My relationship with Him became intimate. And via a Bible study I was doing in conjunction with my walks, I learned not to run or turn away when He shined light in my dark places, but to remain and let Him have everything. I learned about repentance. It was a key to freedom.

John 8:32 became my life verse:

32 and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free. (ESV)

The truth was about me, and addressing that changed everything.

So, how does Myrtle the Miracle Dog connect? Often, after Myrtle was our adopted pet, I would take her on my walks. But Myrtle was a hassle–a distraction. She dragged me along, always wanting to go beyond the limits of her expandable leash. If I turned her loose, she would not come back when I got ready to go. And even at home, although she had over a half acre of fenced back yard, interesting in shape, with huge trees to wander through, it was never enough. Myrtle dug out at every opportunity.

At age 15, Myrtle still digs.

Myrtle Death Hole

One of Myrtle’s “death holes”, as my husband calls them.  This one is about 2 feet in diameter, and 1 foot deep.

It’s as though Myrtle serves as a mirror, because I am prone to wander, too. And I don’t like my fences, either.

“Prone to wander, Lord I feel it! Prone to leave the God I love. Here’s my heart, Lord, take and seal it. Seal it for thy courts above.” 

(Come Thy Fount of Every Blessing)

I often think of how we want to bless Myrtle with more outings to more wonderful doggy places than she can currently imagine, such as my husband’s fishing excursions, which would be heaven to her. But we can’t take Myrtle, because she will not obey. In frustration, I think of how our rules are for her good, and for her protection. If she could only know that!

With God and me, the same is true. Why can’t I see that?

At this point in my life, I’ve decided to practice seeing that, and to practice obeying despite my urges to the contrary. It’s hard, and I often fail. But I’m not giving up. I can say with the apostle Paul:

12-14 I’m not saying that I have this all together, that I have it made. But I am well on my way, reaching out for Christ, who has so wondrously reached out for me. Friends, don’t get me wrong: By no means do I count myself an expert in all of this, but I’ve got my eye on the goal, where God is beckoning us onward—to Jesus. I’m off and running, and I’m not turning back.  

Philippians 3:13-14 The Message (MSG)

Already, with my feeble attempts, blessings surprise me. But I often wonder why I’m surprised, especially when I’ve been given a reflector that lopes along beside me, and especially when I understand the beauty that is the Gospel message, as well.

Next post:  The Marks of Abuse

 

 

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Myrtle the Miracle Dog (Part 2: A Pretty Good Life)

Myrtle, my Miracle dog, has a pretty good life. Here she is recently on her thick, orthopedic bed in our warm house. Her food and a loving ear scratch are never far away.

Myrtle (3)

Myrtle stays outside whenever she wants, as long as it is relatively dry and mild. She particularly enjoys napping in the sun. She goes with us on jogs or walks for a romp. She eats expensive food that is almost human grade. She usually has a spa day at the vet’s every six weeks.

But honestly, Myrtle would have an even better life if she would just obey.

You see, Myrtle will not come. And Myrtle runs away at every opportunity. Well, to be fair, she follows us, but keeps just enough distance that we can’t get to her to secure her. Fortunately,  her hearing is getting bad these days, so we can sometimes sneak up on her and get the leash snapped on before she knows what’s coming.

If you’re wondering why I call such a creature my Miracle dog, it is for several reasons:

  • Myrtle was born in my Miracle year (2000).
  • I found her where my Miracle started (Myrtle Cemetery).
  • She shows me things about my relationship with God.

The most important point is the last one, but I’ll focus on timing and location first.

October is my birthday month. In 2000, on my 40th birthday, we buried my little sister in Myrtle Cemetery, beside my mother, who died at age 47, and beside my grandparents, who raised me. In 2015, during my birthday week, Myrtle ran away and ended up in doggie jail, which made us both rather Facebook famous. And during that same week, while pondering the aggravating Myrtle, I realized how old she was, and why that was significant, among other things.

There are other connections that make this story meaningful to me, but the timing/location points above are all I can cram in to this post without confusing you, so I’ll stop now.

In my next post, I’ll explore the lessons Myrtle won’t let me forget.  I’m most thankful for that part of the story.

Next post: Prone to Wander

 

 

 

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Myrtle the Miracle Dog (Part 1: Facebook Famous)

Something hit me hard one morning last October, and it has to do with my dog, Myrtle.

Myrtle is the most exasperating canine trotting the earth, for a variety of reasons, but mostly because she wants to run away. In October 2015, within a week of my birthday, Myrtle did just that.  Again.

Here is the photo of Myrtle and me on the day I picked her up at the Ellis County SPCA, where the City of Ennis so graciously took her.  I am thankful.

Myrtle

The shelter workers were angels.  Myrtle’s vet, whose rabies tag allowed Myrtle to be identified so she could come home, is an angel, too.  And so is the vet technician, who called me to let me know where Myrtle was.  The above photo made Myrtle rather Facebook famous, as it generated hundreds of likes.  It is a happy ending.

But the story has ugly roots, illustrating something about me, and about the rest of humanity, if I’m honest. And I’m not talking about animal rights. I’m talking about deeper things.

Myrtle’s age is something I’ve tried to pinpoint for a long time.  And what hit me that morning last October was a series of connections that showed me exactly how old she is (15), and that she is my Miracle Dog.  I don’t know why I didn’t see it before.

Here is the story:

In the year 2000, something happened to me that I call my Miracle.  That miracle happened on walks I began to take at Myrtle Cemetery, which was near to my home at that time.  It’s beautiful there.

Myrtle Cemetery

Myrtle Cemetery (2)

 

Myrtle Chapel

Myrtle Cemetery chapel

One crisp day in that year, on one of those walks, I saw a puppy huddling near the door of the cemetery chapel.  She was a wee, yellow fur-ball, cold and hungry.  But she would not let me come near, and she growled at me.

Her nose bore the marks of blows of some type.  For years, you could still see the scars, if you looked.

It took me two weeks of first tossing, then wagging treats in front of her to get her to allow me any proximity.  Finally, I could lightly pet her.  Then, I could actually touch her. I spoke with the cemetery manager about her, who told me that people drop dogs there, that he already adopted three cemetery dogs, and that his wife threatened to leave if he brought home another one.

“She’s going to be a good dog, Stephanie,” he prodded.  “She will be a hunting dog for your guys.  Please take her.”

So, I called my husband to see if I could bring her home, and he said yes.

Now, that was the beginning, but I must stop there, because I don’t like long blogs, and this one is at my limit. Also, time-sensitive work calls to me.  But I will continue this story, soon. So, if you will, check back later?

Next Post:  A Pretty Good Life

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When Things Heat Up (and Expose the Monsters)

My husband doesn’t even know this happened yet, so why not share it on the World Wide Web?

I caught my gas cook stove on fire last night. Here’s how it went down:

It was too late to cook, but I did it anyway, and not with the best attitude. I had a quick pork curry recipe that I knocked out in record time. It was bubbling and delicious on the back burner, waiting for the hubbs, who was on his way home from an out-of-state business trip. The teenager was in the next room playing Xbox.

While stirring, I slopped some pork curry gravy out onto the stove. Wanting to catch it before it dribbled down into the depths of a vintage stove that is almost impossible to clean, I grabbed some cleaner to spritz it quickly. But the cleaner was flammable.

Poof!  Rather large flames.

Not worried yet, I tossed some baking soda onto the fire, which did not extinguish the spreading flames, but did ruin the curry.

That’s when I said to the teenager, “Um…there’s a fire.”

“WHAT?” he screeched, jumping up and dropping his controller.

Quick as the Lone Ranger, he dashed into the kitchen, grabbed the fire extinguisher from under the kitchen sink, and doused the flames in billowing clouds of white smoke. He was back in the next room playing before his Destiny team knew what hit them.

Although thankful, I was left coughing, wheezing, and surveying a large mess. I had only begun to put it to rights when I heard the husband’s tires in the driveway. And that’s when I realized I was angry at myself for being so thoughtless.

Almost as quick as the Lone Ranger, I furiously opened windows, swept, wiped, washed, mopped, rearranged and got madder and madder at my husband and son. I made as much noise as I could during my temper tantrum. And after I stomped up the stairs to bed, they were left wondering what they’d done.

All I have left to show you this morning is this bit of residue from the fire extinguisher that I missed in my cleaning frenzy last night.

Fire

Did you know that the white smoke from a fire extinguisher settles into a yellow dust?

And did you know that it’s much easier to direct your anger at someone else that to admit it’s yours?

I’m busy owning that this morning.

 

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Kneeling Anywhere (to Face the Monsters)

My knees have been busy.

Knees

Our church is doing a 40 Day Prayer Challenge using this book:

40 Days Book

In his book, Mark tells how their church did a corporate prayer challenge that resulted in hitting their knees every morning at 7:14 a.m. Eventually, they learned to kneel anywhere.

Pride has been a battle for me all of my life. I decided to apply the “kneel anywhere” concept to that monster. Anytime I feel a prideful or self-elevating thought enter my mind, I kneel right then, right there and give it to God. I take that thought captive to the obedience of Jesus. I own it, make no excuses, and ask forgiveness.

Thankfully, I am home based, so this kneeling happens most often at home.:)

Jesus died to free me from my monsters. He defeated them on the cross. But as long as I live in this body of sin and death, I will have a battle–a civil war* between my flesh and my spirit. It is not until I see Him in Heaven that I will be totally free.

After years of trying, I’ve accepted the fact that I can’t control my pride monster. But I’ve also learned how important it is to withhold its food. If I feed that thing one morsel, it’s a slobber-slinging dragon in seconds, ugly and damaging. So, I do my best to keep it lean, hungry and weak. That’s why I kneel.

And in submitting to the King of All Power, I am covered and protected. He fights for me, and the outcome is already decided.

It’s a win. 

 

Notes:

*Dr. Tony Evans, Life in the Spirit audio series

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