I have heard the phrase dog days of summer all of my life. But I never to stopped to research the exact calendar slotting of those days. According to factmonster.com, dog days is the name for the most sultry period of summer, from about July 3 to Aug. 11. Named in early times by observers in countries bordering the Mediterranean, the period was reckoned as extending from 20 days before to 20 days after the conjunction of Sirius (the dog star) and the sun.
So dog days are officially over. However, since it is still over 100 degrees here in Texas, I am declaring at this site that dog days have been extended until further notice. I thought about dog days as I watched Miss Hannah stretch out lazily on the tile floor.
This is our lab/something else mix Hannah and this is not a posed photo. At any given time around our household Hannah will come waltzing up with the three tennis balls in her big mouth, download them one by one onto your lap, and wait patiently for playtime.
Regular readers of these ramblings know that I love dogs. One of my most popular articles took a rather fanciful look at how “man’s best friend” could teach Christians a lot about evangelism. I was heartened and bit surprised at the level of response to that article (Canine School of Evangelism). Apparently there are a lot of dog lovers embedded into the Evangelical community and that gives me hope for the church!
I have learned a lot from living and loving our family dogs. But the star canine of my two books was the late, great Charlie. Our beloved Golden Retriever died last year at the ripe old canine age of 14. Here Hannah snuggles up next to Charlie.
A couple of days ago I wrote a post about feeling really , really old. In that blog I wrote about the depressing news that Barbara Eden (I Dream of Jeannie) was 72! I remembered how Jeannie always called Major Nelson “master” in that show. And it brought to mind an earlier post of one of the most important lessons I learned from old Charlie. This excerpt from“Bring’em Back Alive” documents an experience I had with our senior dog citizen. Charlie’s reaction to me in this story gave me a little hint of how our relationship with the Good Shepherd Jesus should work.
The lesson I learned from my Golden Retriever came when Charlie suffered a health crisis. He developed a large benign tumor under his front leg that made walking difficult. We took him in for what would be a rather serious surgery at the ripe old canine age of twelve. The vet did a masterful job in removing the growth and taking care of Charlie. We were called to the animal hospital to pick up the old guy. We waited as they brought him out. He shuffled slowly out and I was taken aback by his appearance. Charlie was trembling, frightened and appeared to be in some pain. His head was down and his perpetual motion tail was strangely still. He seemed confused and disoriented. Then I walked over to Charlie and simply touched him. Almost immediately he quit trembling and he made a valiant attempt to wag his tail. We carefully got him into the car and took Charlie home to heal.
As I reflected on that scene it struck me that Charlie’s reaction to my touch and mere presence was a wonderful illustration of how Jesus comforts (or desires to comfort) His sheep. When I (his master) touched Charlie he was comforted. His pain was not gone. He was still frightened. He was still a bit disoriented and unsure. Charlie’s circumstances hadn’t really changed at all. But he knew that his master was there and that made it better. What a picture that is of how the touch of Jesus enables us to respond when we are frightened, in pain, disoriented and confused. We need to remind ourselves that Jesus never promised that all trouble would vanish when we believe in Him. Jesus did promise that He would be there and that would be enough. But the tough question arises…do we truly believe that?
My prayer for myself and for you today is that we will seek, realize, and be comforted by the touch of the Master. As I learned with Charlie, it doesn’t really matter what the circumstance might be, it is the knowledge that the Master is there that makes all the difference.
I got to use that lesson just over 30 days later when Joni was diagnosed with breast cancer. Suddenly Paul’s honest pleadings written to the church at Corinth took on new meaning when God said to him;
“My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”
When the trial comes, be still, and feel the touch of the Master. It is there. And it is real.