Raising Cats and Dogs

As I’ve been raising two very different sets of animals – dogs and cats – I realize how very different they are. My cats are very clean animals, avoiding sludge, dirt, and anything wet. But my two dogs are a different story.

I can bathe them (against their will), tie a pretty bow around their necks, and teach them to stay away from mud. But reality is that as soon as I let go of them, they’re rolling in mud and digging in the dirt. It’s like “clean” is a weird smell that must be dealt with immediately. How crazy, right? Paul said something similar about believers.

Those who are saved, who have been truly born again into a new nature, will demonstrate this by their desires. Like my cats, they will still occasionally get dirty – they will fall into sin – but it will bother them. Really bother them. They desire to get rid of it as soon as possible, and avoid it naturally. Christians who are truly saved will desire cleanliness. They will still falter, because they are human, but it will bother them when they do. Paul warned us about taking grace lightly. Just because God has forgiven us, and will continue to forgive us, it doesn’t give us license to choose sin. Nor should we take sin lightly in our lives. One mark of a believer is when he is greatly troubled by sin in his life, and he strives to take it out of his life without excuse or rationalization. Picture a cat being force-dipped in mud. One little toe gets wet and they panic. Flail. Probably scratch your arms. I challenge you, readers, to be so sensitive to sin in your life that one little toe-dip will send you running the other way.

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Regretful Giving

Sometimes God seems to time things in my life to make me question my judgment. And it usually seems to revolve around cars. I’ll pour money into fixing a car just to have it break down beyond repair within a week. I’ll sell the exact car I need just a week after I sold it. I jump on a car deal that turns out to be not such a hot deal.

Well this time I’m learning to put aside my regrets.

Several months ago I had two working cars. I had both fixed up and running like champs. Before I could get one sold, a couple at church got in an accident and needed a car immediately. I told them I’d lend them the car I wasn’t driving so they could take their time shopping and get the right car. This couple has seen me through quite a few rough spots in my life, and supported me like I was family. I was so glad to be able to return the favor in a small way.

About six months later, the couple said they’d gotten used to my car and would just buy it from me. We talked in general of the price and hadn’t arrived at any numbers when I decided just to give it to them. It needed a number of repairs, had some pretty big cosmetic flaws, and it wasn’t brand new. I could have definitely used the money I’d have gotten out of a sale, but because they were struggling financially, I’d just avoid the friendship-altering exchange of money and give them a deal. I was fine with my decision. That was Wednesday.

By that Friday, the above story took place – my current car broke down on the tollway. Suddenly, I needed to replace my 269,000 mile car with a new set of wheels. As I looked at used cars and shuddered at the prices, my mind went to the perfectly working car I had had for free, that I’d just given away. I could have kicked myself. I really needed that car now. I had no money for a new car, and that one was now working just fine. I had to get to work every day and I’d just signed up to be an Awanas leader every Wednesday. I needed a car.

But then God’s truth settled into my mind. When God says He wants a “cheerful giver,” he’s not just talking about dropping our check in the offering plate with a smile. He’s talking about giving sacrificially AND cheerfully. When we merely shave excess off the top of what we have and give that…  it’s not hard to give joyfully. But what about when we really can’t afford to give, and we do it anyway? God will honor your gift if you give it with the right attitude – a cheerful attitude. It took me only a few minutes to check out of my bad attitude and see God’s hand over the whole situation. Yes, it was a sacrifice to part with a car I needed. But it wasn’t a waste – not only did this couple with medical bills and hard times get a car they needed, but God gave me another lesson in leaning on Him. As I move forward with uncertainty about how I’ll get a car, I have to daily give it to God and lean more on Him.

Through the whole experience, I can see in hindsight just how pointless my giving had been. I’d been giving something away that I really didn’t need. But when I needed it, God showed me that NOW was when the real giving started. I totally understand now when Scripture talks about all that we do being as “filthy rags.” We rarely do things for the right reasons, even “good” things.

Now, onto car shopping…