God wants us to take care of our world. My young son Richard showed me that years ago when he found a wounded bird, a Robin, in our backyard. He named it “John”. Richard ran in and said we had to save him. His dad and I realized that this Robin was one of God’s creatures, too, and saving this creature was important to our son. We carried “John” to the local Wildlife Sanctuary. Richard would ask daily how “John” was doing. After a week or so they called and told us we could pick up “John” and release him close to where he was found. With great fanfare we carried “John” to the woods by our house and let him go. Richard has grown into a kind and caring person for not only animals but also people. I’m sure this experience with “John” contributed to his personal growth.
Good Shepherd Lutheran Church, Manchester, Missouri
Did you ever have a pet choose you? I have. His name was Radar. He was a kitten that followed me home one night. He only lived a year and a half. He went outside into the fog one morning and was killed by a coyote. My husband named him Radar because with his cute little kitten face, he looked a little like Radar from the TV show MASH. There is a saying that we do not choose our pets, but they choose us. That had never happened to me before. Whenever I thought of it, it reminded me of that verse in the Bible “You did not choose me, but I chose you” John 15:16a It seems remarkable to me that Jesus would choose me—-it seems so odd to even type those words. Sometimes our pets choose us. But even more so, I’m thankful that Jesus chose us.
Good Hope Lutheran Church, Bucyrus, Ohio
My cat Pickles had been very sick for about six weeks. He stopped eating, then he stopped drinking and finally his little body gave out. The last time my other cat, Luna, saw him I was taking him to the vet. We left through the kitchen door into the garage. Pickles was never to return home, but that didn’t stop Luna from waiting for him at the kitchen door. It was heartbreaking to watch. Eventually I knew that I needed to get her mind off waiting for Pickles. I thought the answer would be to get her a new friend. So… I went to the shelter and found Dobby. There were lots of kittens, but Dobby was clearly reaching out to me. I thought he would do the same when we got home. I thought he would reach out to Luna in the same way. I couldn’t have been righter and more wrong at the same time. My first mistake might have been that I brought Dobby home in the same carrier that I used to take Pickles away. Luna just stared at the carrier. Meanwhile Dobby was jumping around anxious to make a new friend. Luna proved legendary in her ability to ignore such an exciting presence in our home. Despite all warnings to the contrary eventually I had to let Dobby out and simply live with the consequences. Dobby did not disappoint. He attempted to play with Luna over and over again. He would run up to her, slap her on the shoulder and run away. Luna did not react. He would go up to her and touch his nose to her nose. No reaction. Dobby would jump over her, jump on her, and roll over her. Luna was having none of it. And the way Luna looked at me… “You thought this would help? This little usurper is no Pickles! What were you thinking?” Of course, I didn’t know that Luna needed a friend, but it was my best guess at the time. And Luna can rely on the fact that I will always be there to do the very best I can for her…and Dobby too. Two weeks of having Dobby around has finally “gotten to” Luna. They will now chase around the house together and lie next to each other on the sofa. And I have even seen Luna tolerate Dobbie’s arm around her. And best of all, I no longer see Luna sitting at the kitchen door waiting for Pickles. This may work after all. Luna’s reaction to Dobby reminds though me of my own reaction to what God sometimes puts in front of me. “You think this will help? What are you thinking?” But it’s trust I need. I need to trust that God is putting in front of me exactly what I need, even if I don’t recognize it. God doesn’t make mistakes.
I have learned that my relationship to God needs to be like the relationship of my dogs to me. That is not to compare myself to God in any way. It simply means that I need to have the same faith in God that my dogs have in me. They depend on me for everything – their food, water, medicines, exercise, toys, and treats. Plus, my affection, attention, protection, comfort, and of course, love. I doubt they ever think about any of that not being there for them. Maybe some worry when I must leave them, but I think they still trust that I will be back. And when I am, their joy and excitement at seeing me is so pure and infectious. I am also so happy to see them again. If I deserve all that from them, God deserves all that and more from me.
Faith Lutheran Church, Castro Valley, California
Our golden retriever Molly tried to save her dying buddy Nort. As Nort lie dying in the barn, Molly ran back and forth to the water dish and returned with a slobbery mouth with which she licked Nort’s dry mouth and lips. She never left his side until he breathed his last. Always be available to bring water or whatever is desperately needed by others. Love your neighbor.
St John Lutheran, Dickinson, North Dakota
Because of unknown but evidently traumatic events in the first two years of border collie Murry’s life, this pup was scared of the world and pretty much everything in it. Now at age 11, he has made me his world and has shown me trust and love and a sense of belonging that was impossible to imagine when he was adopted nine years ago. My faith leads me to believe that Jesus Christ is there for me, waiting patiently as I learn to trust and live my life as a Child of God. And as I never gave up on Murry, I trust that God does not give up on me.
Our Savior’s Lutheran Church, Denver, Colorado
Fear has many faces. Growing up, I feared the darkness. When coming home at night, I had to park my school car in a farm shed far from our house. On cloudy nights, it was nearly pitch dark. I imagined all kinds of nocturnal creatures scurrying around with their beady little eyes or someone hiding in the dark ready to snatch me. “Here Gypsy!” I called. I knew my faithful dog would come running for me. That old mangy junk yard dog guided my path through the darkness. I knew that I could always count on him to be there when I was afraid. Jesus was born in a lowly manger. He didn’t reside in a royal palace. My dog Gypsy had no fancy bloodlines nor a professional groomer. And yet, he led me through the darkness just as Jesus does when we face the darkest moments in our lives. He is always there when we call upon Him.
Sheridan Lutheran Church, Lincoln, Nebraska
An abandoned white kitten with a black spot on his nose reminds me of how faith grows through trust. The homeless kitten needed days of kibble before I could gently pet him. As a Wisconsin winter approached, his need for shelter became my concern. How could I help him trust me coming in my house? With lots of prayers (and an open door for escape), I coaxed him with treats into the kitchen. Soon he was comfortable with “ in-and-out” visits. Entering that door meant food, soft places to sleep, and fun cupboards for“nosy” exploring. This kitten became my pet, Nosy and I thank God for him. I think of how God has shown his faithful care for all creation and I can trust that care to continue. As Isaiah 12:2 say, “Surely God is my salvation, I will trust and will not be afraid.”
St. John’s Lutheran Church, Eau Claire, Wisconsin
I have a cat that we named “Rollover” because when she was a kitten she would rollover onto her back to have her belly rubbed. She was an outside cat where she grew up. She liked to go hunting and would be gone several hours but would be home for supper every day. One day she didn’t come home. I called her and looked for her but didn’t find her. There also was a hawk that would sit on the electric poles along the side of the road. When Rollover was gone for several days, I was so worried that maybe the hawk had gotten her. One day after she had been gone for over a week, I noticed something in the ditch along side our lawn. I went to investigate and found that it was Rollover. She was in tough shape. Her fur was all matted and one of her eyes was damaged, plus various other injuries I picked her up, and brought her to our house and cleaned her up and tried to feed her. She was shaking so bad and when I bought her back outside she just ran to hide. Eventually she came around and I decided I would bring her inside to stay. She finally decided that we were her protectors and would roll over again to let us rub her belly. We then knew that she was going to be ok. She trusted us to protect her.
Sloopy was a totally black cat sitting by a pot of pink Renucculas. The first time I heard him it was a yowling meow coming from under a shrub in my back yard. He was a ferrel cat, very frightened and in a few weeks of seeing food on the patio and no dogs to chase him he came up to us and allowed us to pet him before he would eat then run and hide. After a few months Sloopy was laying in a nest of leaves in the back yard and his tail had a bad crimp. I took him to a local veteranarian who said the cat must have been caught in a door. The tail was broken in an area that the nerves also effected his ability to urinate, and I had to put Sloopy to sleep. I felt somehow responsible for him, and we talked about this visitor who trusted us so much. I thank God that he came to us when he needed help, and I will never forget that lovely cat.
King of Kings Lutheran Church, Oceanside, California
What can we learn from watching animals? Early this fall after a very hot spell with no rain for weeks, we had a day that dawned very cool with a cold north wind. There was a slight mist in the air. Still I was out walking in a nearby park and noticed that I was not alone. Wherever I walked there were squirrels running from tree to tree. Sometimes they seemed to be chasing one another; sometimes they were carrying nuts in their mouths. They seemed much more active than they had been just a few days before. During the summer we always see squirrels in this park but they are much more solitary or only a couple of them are chasing each other seemingly in a game of play. This day they seemed to have much more purpose. It was as if someone had said to them, “O.K. it is time to get busy and finish up the work of collecting food for the winter. We must patch up the holes in our nests before the snow flies.” These furry little animals are some of God’s creatures that can teach us lessons of life. God provides ample food and shelter for hundreds of these little ones. He gives them jobs to do in transferring the seeds of a tree from one place to another and thus the squirrel becomes a planter. They might even help feed other animals and birds. We can learn much from observing a squirrel. We can also learn how perhaps the constant movement and work that they do might someday be more than they need to do. Perhaps some of their constant movement is a need for play and camaraderie with their siblings. They delight children and are an enigma to dogs and cats. They have been the source of many children’s stories. They bother birds and sometimes steal they food. They get into attics and other small places. But they are God’s creatures and have a purpose.
St. John’s Lutheran Church member, Northfield, Minnesota
Years ago, I received a bird feeder for sunflower seeds. I hung it from a shepherd’s hook. The squirrels decided that was their feeding station. I tried to keep them out: grease on the post and a chicken wire cage around the feeder—nothing worked. Down came the feeder. Last summer I tried again. I hung it from a tree branch, just high enough but low enough, and far enough away from the tree trunk, so squirrels couldn’t jump to it. Wrong! I watched numerous times from my kitchen window as a squirrel ran back and forth on the neighbor’s fence, stopped and leaped at the feeder, only to fall short. After several weeks, I found out that if it sat on MY birdhouse attached to the fence, it could leap to the feeder; several weeks later, the feeder was empty. That squirrel taught me that faith never gives up!
Grace Lutheran, Sioux Falls, South Dakota
She was part golden retriever and part yellow lab. When my 3 year old son went to pick her out of a litter of 9, he picked the one with dog poo on her back and ear, and the largest one of the litter. No matter how hard I tried picking up the runt and enticing him with her, he stuck to his first choice. She wasn’t old enough to leave her litter or mother, so we left to come back in a few weeks. We had just moved to the country and had promised our son a dog. Little did we know she would be his best friend, guardian and a huge part of our family for 16 years. Dad and son went to pick up the little puppy in the pick-up and she rode in the passenger’s floorboard. All the way home, Dad kept saying, “Watch the pup,” so our son did so. When they arrived at home, I asked her name and our son replied, “Pup.” And so it was. And she guarded and loved our son like any mother would. When Aaron would go down into the trees to play in his “fort”, she tagged along, always walking beside him. When he crossed the road to go fishing, she walked beside him on the water side, never leaving him alone. I would watch the love pour from her eyes and never doubted he was safe. As she got older, and so did he, their time together became shorter and shorter, so as all mothers, she became more of my ward and less of his. What a joy she was to walk with, and to talk to each morning and evening. Aaron left for college, and both our hearts ached for him. She would put her head in my lap and we would mourn our loss together. 1300 miles is a long way. Pup became weak in the back legs, as some labs do, but toughed it out until Aaron came home for a winter visit. Her joyous welcome for him was unbelievable, and the love between them was a joy to watch. And she knew that her life had been fulfilled, and the next day she passed with her loving eyes on my husband as she said good-bye. Her love and care for the three of us only proves that love, kindness and faith fill our lives everyday.
Grace Lutheran Osage City, Kansas
When my parents lived in a nursing home toward the end of their lives, I had a Cocker Spaniel mix named Smokie who came with me to visit them. Smokie visited not only my family, but most of the nursing home. My parents passed on, and later, Smokie. Like a lot of people, after their loved ones pass, they want to give something back, but I at first didn’t know what. My next dog Mozart was a 1 1/2 year old Maltese. Mozart and I took obedience classes, and he earned his Canine Good Citizen certificate which allowed us to visit people in nursing homes. Now I felt that I was “giving back”. Mozart had his quirks, but we visited an assisted living facility for several years. My best friend had a younger brother, Greg, who was mildly autistic. Five years ago, Greg had a brain tumor. He went through extensive surgeries, got moved from one facility to another until they put him on hospice in a nursing home near me. B.J. knew what Mozart and I had done and Greg loved animals.. I contacted the facility and made arrangements to visit Greg. I felt he would still know me. Mozart was older and slowing down. He shook all the way to the nursing home. When I put Mozart on Greg’s bed. Greg reached out and put his hand on Mozart, and just held it there. Mozart didn’t move. He just let Greg hold him. We managed to get there twice before Greg passed away, and both times, Greg liked holding onto that dog. If Greg passed away a little happier because a dog came to visit him, I feel that we did something good. The human-animal bond is a strong one. Just a little visit from one of our furry friends can make someone’s day.
Gloria Dei Lutheran Church, Cedar Rapids, Iowa
My granddog, Jameson, an 80-pound black lab, may have taught me the most about faith. About living every moment in giddy, exuberant delight, grateful for all God’s creation. From fish, sticks and rocks to swimming in the lake and snuggles on Gramma’s lap! He always shared unconditional love and absolute joy for his people. He welcomed the two noisy two-legged “dogs” his mom and dad brought home and gave all their attention to, and he soon figured out those two could also dispense many treats! He was the sweetest boy who cancer stole from us before he was even eight.
Faith Lutheran, Coon Rapids, Minnesota
We have two pups at our house, Oscar & Calli Mae. Dogs are wonderful examples of God’s love. No matter what, they will always love you even when you are not so lovable. The love they give is unconditional. Wherever you are, that is where they want to be. They seem to sense when you need their attention most and they are always so joyful when they see you. God will always love you. That love is unconditional. God is always there for us especially when we need God most and God is joyful because you are you!
West Clermont Lutheran Church, Clermont, Iowa
Critters are Gods way of sharing His love, His imagination, and His humor. Our pets such as dogs and cats show us unconditional love just as God and remind us His unconditional love through the sacrifice of His only Son, Jesus. Dog is God spelled backwards
Debra was moving and could no longer keep her cat, so I agreed to house Kirie until a shelter intake date was available. The cat was black, timid, and unsociable. She was unwanted by Debra’s other friends because of her lackluster disposition and their suspicions about her black coat. Within two days of being together I was content with her easy-going nature and her quiet and gentle personality. I called my friend, “I’ll keep her.” An anxious person myself, Kirie and I have enhanced each other’s personalities and my spiritual experience. She is less fearful, and she comforts and calms me with her peculiar meow that asks me to cuddle and gaze into her eyes. She is my companion in our quiet and peaceful home whose aesthetic is prayer and meditation. I like to speak to her about God’s gentleness and care for us. We are in “God’s love zone” together.
I think I have learned more about God from animals than from people. Unlike most people, my animals never judge me for my appearance. They simply seem to love and accept me for what I am. Of course, I must care for them and treat them right, but they respond with love. If that is not Christ-like, I do not know what is.
Jefferson Prairie Lutheran Poplar Grove, Illinois