A Story About Dogs – Kind of.

It’s the day after Thanksgiving, the kind of breezy fall day that makes me forgive East Texas for August.

I’m sitting by my favorite pond on the ranch with three of my four dogs. They always go with me to this little green jewel, tucked in a small clearing in the woods. We are hidden here. It is where we sniff the air and listen for God.

Photo Credit: Richard Freeman

Photo Credit: Richard Freeman

It’s been a rough week though, and I am totally spaced out. I’m watching the dying oak leaves twirl like hundreds of tiny, yellow dervishes on their way to the water, when this thought presents:

“You need to be confident in my love for you.”


“Yes, confident.”

I don’t totally get that, so I hold still and wait. Just then, Gracie my ten year-old baby dog walks up from the edge of the water.

When she was an actual baby.

When Gracie was an actual baby.

She sits down, practically on top of me, stares at me plaintively and starts to whimper. I’ve got my arm around her and I’m rubbing her head as the sun warms both of our backs. It’s pretty good, but she keeps crying. She stares at me harder and holds her paw on my leg, like she’s begging me to love her more. And that is impossible.

How can such a good dog be such a neurotic, striving little striver? She’s always earning and proving herself, and I can never convince her to stop. Frankly, it’s kind of tiring. She should know I love her by now. She’s not a baby anymore.

Then I get it. I hear the baseline in the song.

How much time do I waste begging God to love me when I already know he does? How powerful could I be if I quit bargaining and finagling over my value? What if I succumbed to who he says I am – the beloved – and behaved accordingly?

What if you did too? What could we create if we lived consumed by the perfect love that casts out fear?

Self-rejection is the greatest enemy of the spiritual life because it contradicts the sacred voice that calls us the “Beloved.” Being the Beloved constitutes the core truth of our existence.”
Henri J.M. Nouwen


Looking For The High Life? Me Too.

Wouldn’t it be amazing to possess perfect knowledge of divine will at all times?

“Don’t say that. Say this instead.”

“Don’t seek that promotion, I’ve got something better.”

“You’re brilliant. I love your work. Try cerulean instead of navy.”

What trouble it would save me to have an ever-present, eternally correct life coach whispering suggestions in my ear. This morning I read something the Apostle Paul prayed for the Colossians, and I wonder if those people realized how lucky they were.

We (I think this means Paul and Timothy) continually ask God to fill you with the knowledge of his will through all the wisdom and understanding that the Spirit gives, so that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and please him in every way: Bearing fruit in every good work, growing the knowledge of God, being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience. Colossians 1:9-11

aspenI want somebody to pray that for me.

I want to bear big, ripe fruit and grow into the lavish fullness of my creator’s vision, but I have to do constant battle with my mind for it. After three decades of following my own wisdom and understanding, I’m habituated to earthly behavior. I’m reflexively judgmental and occasionally stingy, I excel at crafting articulate and blistering arguments, and I will throw plates, if necessary.

But that’s all low-life; it’s common, broad path and vulgar, and none of it’s from God. Sadly, without attentive surrender, it’s also the behavior I am likely to choose. So maybe, if Paul were praying for me, I’d set down the plate and hear God say:

“Sure that guy is being a jerk, but you have no idea how scared he is, the alcohol is just an expression of it. Be kinder than necessary, suffer his nonsense, so he can see Me through you.”

According to the gospels, that’s how God thinks and aligning with it leads us into high, spacious places. Lord…In your presence is the fullness of joy. Psalm 16:11

So, I’ve decided to say Paul’s prayer over people in my life. Fearing I wouldn’t remember the words, I posted them on an image I took in the Colorado High Country. You’re welcome to print it up, if you like, so you can pray it over the people in your lives (and maybe me) too. Change the pronouns as needed.

High Life. High Country. That’s where I’m going.