deference training

I am really struggling, and in many ways have always struggled, with what I want to do with my life. I floundered in college, back and forth, from major to major and then landed, with an extra semester of school, on a degree that is mostly worthless. I spent a semester traveling and working, a summer working at camp and then enrolled in Seminary, where I have spent the last 3 years somewhat avoiding the decision I now face again-what do I want to do with my life. Seven years later I am still trying to "figure it out." Figuring things out is a common human agenda and a huge barrier between a life of deep faith and life run by the illusion of control. If I can figure it out, then I can control it.

A couple of weeks ago my roommate and I took our puppies to the vet. The vet who saw them just happened to be an animal behavioral specialist. She told us she was going to show us something called deference training. It is designed to teach your dog who is the master and who is not. Basically, she took each dog, one at a time, and held it down on its side. When the dog struggled against her she would make a disapproving noise and push down until the dog relaxed. When the dog stopped fighting she would praise it. She repeated this until the dog was perfectly relaxed and then she repeated the process with each dog on its back. Surprisingly, Henry fought the hardest (Really hard) and she said that he had a control issue. Though he is a sweet and good natured dog, he does not like not being in control. The vet explained that when a dog defers to its master, it is relinquishing its control and showing its full trust in the master's authority.

Every time I do this deference training with Cali it weighs on me that this is a picture of my relationship with God. I am in desperate need of deference training. I have, for a quite a while now, been "running my own life," with my own agenda, and when I look back on it, I have been running in circles. By trying to control the path of my life, the only thing I can be sure of is that I have missed opportunities to truly live. Unfortunately, God doesn't pin us down until we cry uncle. He allows us to live under the illusion of control for as long as it takes for us to realize that it is just that, an illusion; and that relinquishing control to him is actually what will set us free to truly live.

I am praying for the strength to lay my control down, to lay on my side relaxed, giving my Master my full trust.


Something I do not understand

I saw something recently that I just don't understand. I have seen this before and it baffled me then as well. I was eating at the Magnolia Pancake house, or as its German patrons call it "haus," in San Antonio, TX and I went into the restroom. When I walked into the stall the toilet had one of those sensory operated plastic toilet seat cover dispensers. This "wasn't a do it yourself if you like that sort of thing version." This was "if you don't want to sit on plastic while you go, you're out of luck version." Now I understand that some people have an aversion to touching any toilet seat anywhere, and those are the people who would appreciate this invention. I am just not one of those people. In fact, I find that plastic covering more unsanitary than the plain ole' seat. I do not know if the one currently covering the seat is used or not. Then if I press the sensor and the current cover disappears, where does it go? How does the new one pass through the same portal and not become unclean?
What I would really like to do is just walk in and not have to think about any of this. These plastic seat covers really ruin that for me. I just don't understand them. In the words of one of my coworkers, "Sick, gross and repulsive!"


Puppy Update

Most of these pictures were taken before or after a run. The puppies love running, but are exhausted afterward.

To the left Cali is so tired she can't stand up to drink.


Dreyer's Slow Churned

Tomorrow will mark the end of the first week of my Lenten journey. Giving up baked goods has been difficult (because they are everywhere), but I have found my solace in the fact that icecream, one of my favorite things on earth, is NOT a baked good. And all the people said, "Amen."

I LOVE ice cream of all kinds, from all places, at all times. This past year I discovered Dreyers Slow Churned, which is 1/2 the calories and fat, and in my opinion, ALL of the taste! I like every flavor I have tried so far and last night may have topped them all. I bought Strawberry Cheesecake. Now I love Ben and Jerry's Strawberry Cheesecake ice cream with its thick graham cracker crust layers, it is fantastic! And of course Ben and Jerry's is about as unhealthy as you can get in the ice cream world. I didn't expect much from the Slow churned version, but it was FANTASTIC!!!! It had it's own layer of that delcious graham cracker crust and I think it tastes pretty similar to good ole' Ben's version, but with only 120 calories in a 1/2 cup serving as opposed to 1 billion calories in the other.

So, if you're in the store and you want some ice cream without the damage, pick up some Dreyer's (or where I am from Edy's) Slow Churned.


An Odd Conviction

On Saturday my roommate and I went and ran a bunch of errands around the city. Fort Worth, just like any city, has no shortage of people asking for money for everything from personal use to any variety of charities nobody has ever heard of. I cannot remember the last time I have said yes to any of these legit or not so legit requests. We got back home on Saturday, pulled into the driveway and I had just stepped out of the car and turned around and there was a man with his arms in the air walking towards me in my backyard (we park in our gate behind our house). I was startled for sure and since Melanie was on the phone the man approached me to "make his pitch," assuring me he was sorry for the disturbance and he wasn't a creep. He was a young, 19 year old, black man, dressed in a shirt and tie, but somewhat looked as if life had been hard on him. He gave me his pitch, some of which I understood and some not. Basically he was trying to raise money for school through this company where he sells magazines door-to-door. He explained his deep desire to be different, to not be lazy, to try to start over and make something of himself. He told me he knew nobody wanted magazines and that I could buy some and donate them to a children's hospital. He even showed me his least expensive option. Often the nature of these situations allows you to say no and feel less akward about that decision, but this guy was in my backyard and I had no excuses and no outlet. I told him I didn't feel comfortable with the idea. He said he didn't need cash...that I could write a check to the company to feel safe about the money, but I still said no.

Normally I leave that type of situation feeling annoyed or guilty, but not in a convicted way. But hours later, I couldn't shake this one. I felt convicted and sorrowful almost that I had said no because I realized that I always say no. I can I always find an excuse why helping someone who asks for money is not a good idea. I am always the skeptic-"I don't feel comfortable," "What are they going to do with it." "Is this legit?" Or I am just annoyed that I can't pump gas without being hit up for money or that someone asking puts me in a situation where I have to be the bad guy. I realized how hard my heart had gotten to other people. I understand we should be wise and that it isn't always possible to give money to everyone who asks and that in some cases it isn't smart to give money, but I also know that there is something wrong with always saying no and even more than that, there is something wrong with the skeptical negative feelings towards the asker.

I found myself wishing I knew where that guy was, so that I could hand him my precious $20 bill and help him out, but I missed my chance. So, this is what I have decided to do. It is impossible, in those moments, to determine whether someone is legit or not or whether you should give. I do not want to be hard and uncaring, nor do I think its smart to always say yes. I want to be more open and giving and not worry so much about what someone will actually do with it. I want to leave it up to the Lord to place the needy in my path. I am going to start carrying a small amount of cash each month just for this purpose. The money is dedicated to using it for small acts of charity like the one I encountered on Saturday. Once it's gone, it's gone. But it's the Lord's money, not mine and I do not need to worry about the outcome, I just need to be prepared to give. I am hoping that this will free me up (my heart especially) to love people and take advantage of opportunities that the Lord gives me. It's not a perfect plan, but I look forward to seeing what God does with it. I have a feeling, as with most things, that the Lord will use it to do more in me than He will for those the money goes to.