“Stay: Lessons My Dogs Taught Me about Life, Loss, and Grace” is a collection of spiritual truths I learned from my rescued Labrador Retrievers Hannah and Maggie.
Martin Luther wrote about his canine companions. “The dog is the most faithful of animals and would be much esteemed were it not so common. Our Lord God has made his greatest gifts the commonest.” We can learn so much from these faithful friends about life, love, and grace. Who knew that some of my most profound lessons would be taught by a couple of rescued puppies? Here is a sampler from the book.
Love Your Life
Is there a better example of this than a canine companion? If only we could live like we were just let off the leash to run in freedom and joyous abandon. I wish I enjoyed anything as much as my dog enjoys everything! Enjoy the day you have. Sure, life can be hard and often seems unfair. For some, life is really hard. But we do have a choice in how we play the cards dealt to us. If you live fully in the moment, you revel in what you have around you. Right on cue Maggie just walked in the room, saw her toy, leaped through the air, and grabbed it. Now she is having a blast tossing it around.
I know that life can be burdensome, but I suspect we pass by a lot of those spontaneous opportunities for joy each day as we worry about something that may not even happen.
Always be full of joy in the Lord. I say it again—rejoice! Let everyone see that you are considerate in all you do. Remember, the Lord is coming soon.
Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.
Love to Serve and Give
Maggie loves to have a job. She is happiest when she patrols the backyard and keeps the squirrels, birds, and bugs out of her kingdom. I really think she is convinced that she is conducting an important service for her human pack by keeping the backyard secure and safe from intruders.
The happiest people I know are those who serve and give their lives away. Giving your time to serve others is so counterintuitive to the self-centered messages that we are bombarded with every day. If I decided to live fully in the moment, I would prepare by spending a little time each day in Philippians 2, Colossians 3, and Romans 12. Here are some sample verses to get you started.
Do everything without complaining and arguing, so that no one can criticize you. Live clean, innocent lives as children of God, shining like bright lights in a world full of crooked and perverse people.
Above all, clothe yourselves with love, which binds us all together in perfect harmony. And let the peace that comes from Christ rule in your hearts. For as members of one body you are called to live in peace. And always be thankful.
Don’t just pretend to love others. Really love them. Hate what is wrong. Hold tightly to what is good. Love each other with genuine affection, and take delight in honoring each other. Never be lazy, but work hard and serve the Lord enthusiastically. Rejoice in our confident hope. Be patient in trouble, and keep on praying. When God’s people are in need, be ready to help them. Always be eager to practice hospitality.
There was no better earthly example of grace than my canine friend Hannah. If grace is defined as unmerited or undeserved favor, then I would have nominated Hannah as the poster dog.
But Hannah’s grace is just an infinitesimal fraction of the grace God extended to me when I had nothing to offer Him except sin and brokenness. He willingly gave me His best when I offered only my worst. Nothing has changed my life more than beginning to understand the radical, mind-blowing extent of God’s grace.
Grace allows me to quit trying to be righteous and actually begin to be righteous as I focus on the One who gave me the gift of grace. Grace allows me to deal with sin instead of trying to manage and rationalize it. Grace is real and powerful. It is not weak or cheap. If you think grace is cheap, go to the foot of the cross, look up, and see what grace price was paid for every person on earth. Grace should never be my cover for sin. Instead grace is my only hope to deal with it. Grace makes me tremble when I think of an almighty and powerful God who loved someone unlovable like me. Why would He give such a gift to an unworthy child? And how could I be comfortable taking advantage of that amazing grace? I cannot. I pray that I will not. Grace is compelling. I want it to be compelling in my life as well. Real grace works. Love grace with abandon.
God saved you by his grace when you believed. And you can’t take credit for this; it is a gift from God.
Hannah woke up convinced that every day was the best day ever. Maggie does the same. I think Satan’s strategy is devastatingly simple and effective. He wants us to live in regret of the past and fear of the future, effectively robbing us of the joy of today. Find something to love each day, even on your worst day. My Labrador friends always found something “wag worthy” in their day.
Trust me; it’s out there.
The LORD is my strength and shield.
I trust him with all my heart.
He helps me, and my heart is filled with joy.
That is just a sampler plate of the lessons we learn from these wonderful creatures. Dog lover or not I hope you will see how God can use all of His creation to teach us about life, love and grace.