(photo by: woodleywonderworks, creative commons)
The big, black dog barked at me from the other side of the fence. It wasn’t one of those deep, howling barks that says “Hey. Here I am. Look at me.” It was a snarling bark. That shrieking bark that says “I will rip you to shreds dude!”
I was running on a lonely stretch of road. A road where few people travel by foot. It was a narrow and hilly road that was lined with horse farms and vast private estates. I’m sure this dog wasn’t used to seeing anyone run by his place. I was an alien in his land. Un-welcomed.
It was as if he owned this plot of land and that I wasn’t allowed to run by it. He kept his head low and his hackles were up. I could clearly see his yellow teeth. His buddy, a smaller dog but just as loud, joined in when he heard the other one barking. I was outnumbered. Thankfully the fence separated me from them.
I didn’t slow down. They ran with me from the other side of the fence and when I was passed their property, they disappeared into the woods and the barking stopped. Out of the corner of my eye I could see them shuffling around were the fence turned away from the street. There was a spot where the rain had created a dog sized hole around a fence pole.
Without looking back I knew what was about to happen. And then I heard the tapping of claws on asphalt. They were tapping in rapid succession. The dogs were free. I was being chased. Release the hounds!
I knew I wouldn’t be able to outrun them. I was running up a steep hill and there was nowhere to hide. I looked around for anything I could use to defend myself. A rock. A stick. Anything. But there was nothing but leaves and rotten apples that fell from an overhanging tree. My only hope was that they were hungry for fruit.
With no weapons and no plan, I instinctually stopped and turned to face them. The big dog was running toward me and barking. His buddy trailed behind. I thought briefly about how good my round house kick would be. Would I be able to make contact? Should I go for the eyes? Maybe a judo chop to the throat.
I knew if I tried to run away that they would see me as prey – so I stood my ground. I raised my arms and made myself as big as possible. I remembered something from a television show about dogs.
No talk. No touch. No eye contact. So I stood there quietly with my gaze just over their heads.
At that moment I realized what I was really afraid of. The clock on my running app was still ticking as the dogs and I were facing off. I had a goal in mind for this run. A pace to keep. And this altercation was helping none to much. These dogs were holding me up and at that moment my fear of being mauled was trumped by my fear of being slow.
In that instant I was motivated by fear. The fear that I wouldn’t meet my goal. The fear that my average minutes per mile would grow higher. I couldn’t let that happen so I walked away from the stand off and continued up the hill, unconcerned about teeth sinking into my heels.
When I reached the top I looked back over my shoulder and the dogs were still there. The big one stared at me from afar. He stood there proud and tall – “Don’t come around here no more!” The smaller dog stood behind him with his tongue hanging out to the side – “Yeah, you better run!”
So I used that fear of not finishing strong to my advantage. It turned it into fuel. I fed off of it. The fear of chasing dogs slowed me down but the fear of being slow kept me going.
Are you motivated by fear?
It’s clear to see that this heat wave is leaving it’s mark. As I stare out the window, the trees stand motionless. The lack of any kind of breeze makes them look lazy, their leaves aren’t even flickering. They’ve developed an attitude. They’re rebelling against the triple digit temperatures. It’s as if they’ve come to a collective agreement that the less they move, the cooler they will be. Trees are smart.
The heat has stifled the birds as well. Their probably huddled away in a cooler part of the tree top, trying to find relief beneath the thickest and broadest branch they can find. Perhaps they’re fanning each other with their wings. Its too hot to fly and too hot to squawk. There will be no foraging today for these birds. Just a lazy day spent in a lazy tree.
It’s eerily quiet. The heat wave has pushed the mute button on life. In fact the only sounds I hear are the rattling of the insects in the weeds and the familiar buzz of the A/C unit that sits just below my bedroom window. It’s odd for it to be humming along at such an early hour. It usually doesn’t kick on until the sun has fully risen. It just goes to show that the heat changes things. Things are not normal.
I guess we are in the dog days of summer but don’t tell my dog that. When I open the door to let her out, she looks at me like I’m stupid. ”Are you nuts?” she’s thinking, “I’m not like you. I can hold it.” The squirrels and chipmunks can wait. She has no desire to chase them today. She is perfectly content with sleeping all day underneath the ceiling fan and dreaming of autumn when the air is crisp and the sun goes down earlier. Dogs are smart.
We can acclimate to the heat in most cases. But not this kind of heat. This kind of heat slows everything down. It zaps us of energy. It’s another simple reminder of how God has control. He is dictating the pace.
The heat wave has us. We have to slow down and take shelter. Maybe God wants us to take it easy and suffer a little. There is little comfort when it’s 103 degrees. This is our opportunity to enjoy the silence, sit in the shade, sweat a little and enjoy something cold to drink.
Stay cool my friends.
Here I am. Stuck behind this behemoth truck at a traffic light. It has to be sitting five feet off the ground. It’s wheels are the size of a VW Beetle. It has two exhaust pipes that extended vertically behind the cab. The kind of exhaust pipes you would see on a semi. Every time the truck lurches forward, they spew grayish black smoke into the air and give off a deep, menacing growl. A growl that demands it be noticed.
It’s windows are tinted all the way around. On the back window are several stickers. Stickers that are shaped like deer heads, race car numbers and one that reads something about guns. I can’t see the driver but at one point I notice an arm slide out the drivers side window and with pin point accuracy, flicks a cigarette butt across the road and onto the median on the other side.
This leads me to believe that this is no ordinary human. This is a true redneck. A real salt of the earth kind of guy. A man who loves his country and fears God. A man who spends his free time hunting and fishing and maybe driving that truck through the mud.
This man probably voted republican all the way. He shops at Walmart for everything. He probably has three or four dogs. Big dogs. He wouldn’t be caught dead with one of those dogs that you can fit in a bag.
I’m judging this book by it’s cover. And this mans cover is screaming trailer park, Beechnut and tribal tattoo’s.
But I’m jumping to conclusions. He may be a family man. He could have a wife and three kids at home. He may live in a nice neighborhood with security gates and an olympic size swimming pool. He may be an executive at a company and thats how he affords this toy that he is driving around in.
Maybe he is a deacon at his church and goes on mission trips every year to third world countries and spreads the love of God to people who have never heard it. Maybe he teaches Sunday school at his church and is actively involved in bettering his community.
I feel guilty now, convicted. It’s easy to judge with the eyes. But until you know someone, their story, you really don’t know them at all.
“Do not judge according to appearance, but judge with righteous judgement.” – John 7:24
That says it all. Guilty as charged.
Do you make snap judgements? Do you judge the book by it’s cover?
Here are five thing that I learned or was reminded of this week:
1. Social networking is like drinking from a fire hose. It can often be too much.
2. I need to vacuum my dog. She sheds. A lot.
3. Running in the heat is tough.
4. God honors humility, not pride.
5. Styles change. Substance lasts forever.
What did you learn this week?
I have an acoustic guitar that sits by my bedroom door, propped up against the wall. A plastic pick is interlaced between the high E and B strings and a capo is clamped to the end of the neck. I attempt to play it every once in awhile, feeling guilty that I just let it sit there. But for the most part it gets neglected due to other things in life that demand my time.
I keep it by the door so that I see it every time I enter and leave the room. The dog hates it. She sometimes whacks it with her tail as she enters and leaves, causing it to emit an off key chord. It startles her; she moves on.
It’s a simple, organic instrument. There are no buttons or outputs on it. It’s just a wooden guitar with no bells and whistles. I keep it in view because it reminds me that, sometimes, I need to unplug. To take off the filters and get back to basics.
The week before our church moved into a permanent building of its own, we spent one final Sunday in the local high school gymnasium. We took one last look around at what had been the church home for so many years. That last sunday was special. One of the things that made it special was that we took a moment to unplug. We went acoustic.
There were no electric guitars or synthesizers. No stage lights or fog machines. Only the rich sound of an acoustic guitar and a room full of voices. There were no videos or effects. It was all very simple. A group of people and God, with no distractions.
Life can be distracting. It comes at us from all angles. Some of those distractions are positive while others are not. Whether they are good or bad, they can all become overwhelming at times. Our need to be plugged in can become a burden.
It’s important for me to have those unplugged moments at least once a day. Free of TV. Free of the internet and free of anything that demands my attention.
I need to go acoustic with God. No filters or enhancements. Just one on one time with my maker, in soft silence. How about you?
When I’m in my back yard, my senses are alert. Besides the birds chirping and the leaves rustling, I notice that life is happening just beyond my fence.
I can hear the traffic moving a couple of miles away; that soft, muffled hum of rubber on asphalt. In the distance an ambulance siren wails, reminding me that life is short and that I should make the most of it.
The neighborhood dogs bark at each other from inside their own fences, as if they have some sort of secret language. My dog often joins in. I think they may be planning a rebellion. ”Forget the humans.” they say. ”We’ll run free and live off the land. Meet at the entrance at 0600. Bring treats.”
There are three storm sirens near my house. On stormy evenings they sing in an erie three part harmony. It’s a subtle reminder that even in the safety of my backyard, God is still in control and if He wants to drop a twister right on my fire pit, He’ll do so.
On Saturday afternoons, during the summer, I hear the familiar chorus of lawn equipment. Lawnmowers and leaf blowers growl. Weed eaters whine. The smell of freshly cut grass hangs in the air.
After all the yard work is done, my neighbors enter into barbecue mode. The aroma of meat on a grill makes my stomach gurgle. It holds my mind hostage. All I can think about is a juicy steak and an ear of corn, the menu of summer.
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More often than not, my backyard is a place to commune with my maker, surrounded by His creation. If I take the time to listen, I can hear Him clearly. He is reminding me of things.
He made the birds that jump around in the tree tops. But He cares for me more than them.
The rebellious dogs remind me that I am incapable on my own. I won’t make it without Him.
The wail of the ambulance reminds me of how fragile we are and how we should take advantage of the time He gives us.
The storm sirens tell me that He is all powerful.
The smell of the food in the air tells me that He is a provider.
God is always near by. Probably closer than you think. He’s sitting right next to you in a lawn chair, admiring your garden and pointing out that patch of dead grass.
He is not some distant being that hovers around in the universe. He’s right there with you.
Right in your own backyard.
Here are five things that I learned or was reminded of this week:
1. Know how much coffee I have left at home. Being out of coffee on Saturday morning is an unwelcome surprise.
2. Georgia weather is wicked bi polar.
3. Sometimes you just have to cut the grass in February.
4. My dog hates squirrels and cats.
5. God is faithful!
What did you learn this week?