Being busy, rescue dogs, and hearing from God

 

b156b88d0b2e4bb0aac33bc1a7e8629aAll I was doing was sitting at Bruegger’s, reading a blog post. And choosing my top twenty short story contest selections. And eating lunch. That’s all I was doing.

Then I heard the woman in the booth next to me. As she talked on her cell phone, her voice was obviously upset. With my mind deep in my choosing and eating and reading (not to mention the clatter-chatter of employees and customers), I couldn’t hear all her words. What I did hear sounded ominous: death, casket. But the tone was clear. This woman was distraught.

That’s when the blog post I was reading slapped me upside the head. Not literally. Not even literarily. Laura Martin is a gracious writer. But she was writing about the epidemic of busyness that plagues our lives.  Everyone claims to be busy, some legitimately so, but some have become too busy doing unproductive-but-oh-so-important “stuff.”

Call it life clutter. It’s all the things we feel we must do to have a fulfilled life that really, from an eternal perspective, are time-sucking, energy-draining vampires. You know this vampire’s sunk its teeth in your neck if you have to pencil in a night with friends . . . six months from now. It may take the form of noble tasks (volunteer work) or inane time wasters (fill in the blank). But if you don’t have some room for other people, particularly when they are in need, then it’s time to rethink how many commitments you’ve taken.

By the time I finished my first comment on her post, I felt that kick in my heart. Go talk to this woman. I thought of all the reasons I shouldn’t, which amounted to she’ll think I’m creepy and don’t I have to finish painting that piece of furniture in the garage? Cue the eyeroll.

She finished the phone call. I finished my work. Do it, do it, don’t think about it too much—

I walked over and started talking to her.

She owns two rescue dogs, both large, exuberant animals who have become too much for her to handle on her own. “They’re man-dogs,” she said. “You know, the type that guys have in their truck when they go hunting and fishing.” They can knock her over, and as a middle-aged woman, she’s afraid that she’ll break a bone one of these days.

She’s cared for them, loved them, and tried to find new homes for both. She couldn’t bear to keep them at the humane society, where the conditions are so overcrowded that the previously no-kill shelter has started to euthanize healthy dogs. They’ve had their photos on the news, when the shelter pleaded for people to adopt some of these animals. She’s tried every animal rescue group in our area.

No one wanted these two big dogs.

Finally, she decided that the most humane thing would be to have them put down. Or thought she decided. As an animal lover, her heart was broken. She needed comfort and help deciding what was the right thing to do. The vet had said that he would do it, but he didn’t want to. It was her decision, and he needed to know by a certain time that afternoon if it was to happen that day.

I’m not an animal lover. I am allergic to dogs, as is my husband, and our yard isn’t large enough for these beloved animals. I don’t know anyone who wants a dog. So this was not a problem that I could solve.

But I could listen.

I listened. I did my best to show comfort. And even though she said she wasn’t religious or spiritual, when I asked if I could pray for her, she let me.

When we parted, forty-five minutes later, she still hadn’t decided what to do. I’m going to call her and see what she’s decided.

 

The obvious takeaway lesson should be this: God used this to remind me to take time for others! That’s the obvious one, and a reminder that I needed.

But the less obvious takeaway wasn’t a lesson at all. It was God’s reassurance that I’m still hearing him. I’m going through one of those moments in life when prayer feels like talking to a wall, the Bible feels like the most familiar thing I’ve ever read, and church feels like a time waster. (When you walk out of the sanctuary and think, I could’ve had a V8, then there’s a problem.) I don’t go to Sunday school anymore and I dread the worship service. It’s all the same old issues that I’ve blogged about, plus some.

It has the effect of making me think I’m never going to hear from God again. A lie, but  . . .

Go talk to her. That kick in my heart was so obviously God’s voice (to mix the metaphor) that I walked away feeling renewed.

At one point in our conversation, the woman looked at me. “I wonder if God or the universe or whoever sent you here to stop me from putting the dogs down?”

I don’t know.  But I know that God sent her to stop me from believing a lie. I’m still hearing from him.

Now I have to make time to listen. 

 

 

 

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18 thoughts on “Being busy, rescue dogs, and hearing from God

  1. Laura,
    I have been where you are right now. I think part of my problem was counting on Sunday to CURE me of the rest of the week. That;s a huge task to place solely on the shoulders of our pastors, worship leaders etc.That being said, it is NOT too big for God. He often speaks to us through the voices of the mundane around us, your rescue dog experience for example. I’m finding Him more outside the confines of my church building these days than I ever did on the inside. As a teacher, my mission has always been my students. Believe me–He brings so many confused, hurting, and lost souls to me every week, and I just pray I do Him justice and reflect the love they need. It sounds like you did just that with this woman. After all, and I’m not comparing myself to Jesus in any way, but how much time did He spend in a church building? If we can’t people to step inside, God’s going to brings us people on the outside who needs us just as much. The healthy don’t need or want a doctor. Thanks for reminding me to keep my ears perked and my nose at the ready. 🙂

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    1. That’s a really great point, Don. I tend to put a lot of pressure on my Sunday mornings, expecting a lot from the service, etc., when there are six other days of the week, filled with dozens of other people, and I need to pay attention!

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  2. Thanks for sharing this episode and your reflections on it — especially that God is so much bigger and more personal than our church attendance or Bible reading, and He still wants to communicate with us because He loves us. You heard his voice and acted and really helped this woman, which is so great.

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    1. Jeannie, thanks for your words. I have felt obligated at certain points to attend church, which partially reflects my upbringing and partially reflects my stubbornness to keep going with whatever I’ve started, even when I’d rather quit!

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  3. I think God works on me a lot through the people he’s put in my day, especially those that I initially think are put there just because I’m in a position to help them. Those roles of helper and helpee do not restrict God from being the one who helps us all.

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    1. God doesn’t seem to be bound by our ideas of roles, does he?! It’s a good lesson for us, particularly if we’re in the “upper” position as helper/authority/privileged person.

      Thanks for sharing this on Twitter, too.

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  4. It never ceases to amaze me that God speaks to each one of us, and it is so very encouraging when we hear him and obey him like you did. I wonder is
    if God values those conversational moments more than our dutiful attendance at church. Of course, those moments can happen at church too, but they usually don’t for me. There’s too much of the church organization competing with the God that we are all there to worship. I’m glad you heard from God:)

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    1. Judy, I suspect that God values both types of moments, as long as they are focused on him. He’s bigger than my church building and bigger than any worship service. Thanks for reading!

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  5. For those of you who might be wondering about the dogs’ fate . . . I just got off the phone with the lady and the dogs are still with us. They still need a new home, though, but I’m going to contact the ladies’ group at my daughters’ school and send out photos of Puppy Love and Big. (That’s their names.) Surely one of them would know a friend, relative or neighbor with room on their property and love in their hearts for two healthy dogs!

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  6. I may not be a churchgoer, but I absolutely love the fact that you listened to this woman and that you’re doing something to help her and the dogs.

    Today I’ll be thinking of Puppy Love and Big and I hope with all my heart that the right home comes their way. You’re doing something wonderful, no matter what the outcome.

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      1. I love your reply – thank you! If you weren’t such an amazing writer I wouldn’t read churchy-related posts, so please take the fact that I am compelled to read them as high praise of your talent! 😉 (I wrote that with tongue-firmly-in cheek, but I mean it when I comes to believing in your writing gifts, and I know you get it!!!)

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  7. Thanks Laura for referencing my blog post, and I’m glad God had you reading it at just the right time. I like your phrase “life clutter”! Yea, that’s it. Just like we may need to de-clutter tangible stuff from our homes, many of us need to du-clutter activities from our lives to make room for what matters.

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  8. Listening is an art-form that many people are losing these days because we’re so “busy”…And sometimes we truly are “busy”….It was a loving act of kindness that you showed that woman and I’m glad you had the time to do it. I find even a simple complement some days makes a total stranger smile and be appreciative….You have many responsibilities in your life, Laura, as a wife, Mother, writer, etc…..God introduces us to people and lessons in his time, not ours….obviously you were supposed to be there and supposed to interact with her for “God’s message” that day. You’re a beautiful, loving young woman growing, evolving and totally perfect the way you are…”clutter and all”! ❤ This post was a good reminder for me to learn to LISTEN more and TALK less….Thanks for the reminder…….(this I say as I WRITE a book long response in your comment section!!! Oh dear….) 🙂

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    1. Hey, I tend to write book-length comments myself, so no problem. (Some of my comments might be the comment-version of a Tolstoyian masterpiece. That guy would never have handled Twitter well, IMO.) Thank you so much for the sweet words and compliment. I’ve found that even complimenting a stranger on something makes them smile: her purse or earrings, the color of her sweater, etc., especially when I can honestly say that it’s a great color on her. 🙂

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  9. Laura, this is such a timely and comforting blog. I read this today after an incident at church, and my feelings about my current church seemed to meld with your feelings and thoughts exactly. On a side note; I think your want, and need to help, speaks volumes about your loving, excitable heart!
    Went to church needing communication with some one, any one who needed me. Sitting on my own whilst my husband was been -counting, I started out to ger coffee, but, really, was pushed back in my seat by the strongest feeling, from God, I know, that the lady in front of me, on her own, needed my company.
    So I went to her, turned on my kind voice and smiley face and made contact. Well! What a great start, we ended up with 5 women, 60 +, sitting and talking, listening, laughing, drinking coffee, sharing stories, making get-together plans and having to be asked if we could go so the church could be locked!
    She was a bright, articulate, loving, gentle women with the best stories of a past I have heard in a long time. We now have a new contact group, and Sue is our inspiration to connect some more.
    The next time I get a ‘push from God’, I’m going, at a run, because He worked all of us into warmth and friendship that was ripe to happen!
    I too, will never be successful at ‘Twitter’! Words, spoken, read or composed, never too many for me, as poor Tim knows on his blog. Love your mind-set, just brilliant.

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