Still Another Lesson From a Seven Pound Toy Poodle

IMG_3575One of the most challenging and hard to understand attributes of human beings is the inconsistent manner in which they relate to others. With some people, you just have no idea how they’re going to treat you from day to day. Catch them on a good day and they’re all smiles and genuinely glad to see you. See that same person a few days later or in a different context and you’re left wondering what you did (or if you smell). One day they go out of the way to talk to you, and another day they are ducking down the frozen food aisle at Wal-Mart hoping you didn’t see them. It’s hard to relate to people and build relationships with individuals who change like the shifting sands from moment to moment. It’s difficult to get along with people when you never know which version of the person you’re going to run into today.

In contrast, I’ve noticed the routines, patterns, and consistency of a certain fluffy poodle named Princess. Her day begins early in the morning by crawling slowly to the head of our bed to give me her morning greeting (for the record she’s also cleaner than a lot if people I know). She lays there, front paws and head on my chest and hind quarters standing on the bed, refusing to move until she’s satisfied I properly acknowledged her existence. She ends every evening with that same habitual puppy hug. PeePoo also warmly greets you every time you reenter her presence regardless of whether you’ve been gone five minites or five hours. This canine time amnesia makes it impossible for her to harbor a grudge or nurse bitterness. She literally treats her family the same, hour by hour and day by day.

How much better all our relationships would be if we could develop a little time and hurt amnesia like Princess. How different our lives would be if we could understand (as PeePoo seems to) that people are people and they’re going to do what they’re going to do. We can’t control how people treat us, but we have total power over our response. How much more joy and peace we would have if we just decided to treat one another consistently and systematically the same way in any context at any time. Unfortunately, most people are clock watchers and wound protectors, and these tendencies are at the root of our interpersonal confusion and inconsistency. Our relational dysfunction is clearly evidenced by our inconsistent treatment of others.

The Lord who changes not is our standard and example. God is love and He treats us the same day after day no matter what we do or how we treat Him or others. I want to encourage you to focus every day on treating people consistently the same Christ-like loving way. Nothing indicates growth and maturity in our lives like consistently and habitually displaying God’s love and mercy, even when others do not treat us this way.

Yet Another Lesson From A Six Pound (Seven Pound) Toy Poodle

IMG_0111When appreciated, loved, and properly cared for, dogs pretty much live a charmed life.  Doggie agenda for the day: wake up, stretch legs, go potty, drink a little water, run around the room, eat, sleep, chew toy, go potty, sleep some more, give kisses, cheer for the Cardinals, repeat, etc. Through the years I’ve learned a lot from the tough life of our six pound (um, more like seven pounds these days) blonde toy poodle, and I’ve shared those lessons within this blog (search “lessons from a six pound toy poodle”).

Recently my wife and I were talking about the calm and total trust our small poodle exhibits in her daily routine.  Princess (her AKC registered name, but I have bestowed a litany of other names upon her such as PeePoo, Purty Girl, Isopurty, Jelly Belly, BeeBoo, Fluffy Butt, you get the idea), for example, never has a thought about whether the food bowl will be filled, if she will have water to drink, if someone will be getting up to take her out (that would be me), or if she will get any attention (you have probably already discerned, PeePoo gets little attention around our house).  Her faith and trust level is particularly strong when it comes to scoring dog treats.  Like clockwork, sometime in the middle of the evening Princess will stake a place in the floor in front of me and wait with piercing eyes of longing for her daily fix of mini milk bones. She will wait patiently for a few moments before breaking into a pouty whine to remind me she’s there.  The whine then morphs into a series of short barks to get my attention as she longs to hear those two amazing and powerful words, “doggy treats?” It works every time (and it will work on every single person in the house before the night is over).

Imagine how charmed our lives would be if we would learn to trust the Lord the way Princess trusts and expects us to take care of her.  She simply has no worries about her future in the Heinz household.  She does not sheepishly cower in shame or nonverbally apologize for boldly expecting her needs to be met.  There is no fretting about the future and no pining over the messes (and there have a been a few) of the past.  Philippians 4:6-7 says, “Do not be anxious about ANYTHING, but in EVERYTHING by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.” If the Lord is watching the sparrow and taking care of the Poo, you can have complete confidence and peace that He will take care of you. 

Watch What You Put In Your Mouth

The Arizona Diamondbacks baseball club recently celebrated the contribution of one of its greatest ball players, Luiz Gonzales (better known as “Gonzo”), by retiring his number August 7th. Gonzo literally stole the World Series’ ring right off the Yankee’s fingers when he hit a dinky single against Mariano Rivera to drive home the winning run in game seven of the 2001 World Series (the franchise’s only championship). Gonzales, a fan favorite for his performance on the field and his community involvement off the field, is the only player to have had his number retired by the relatively young Arizona club.

The rest of the joyous evening was played out four hours away in Show Low, Arizona where my Dad was watching the jersey retirement ceremony on television while eating some chicken noodle soup and oyster crackers. Wanting to take in every moment of this historic D-Backs event, Dad was glued to the television until his hearing aid stopped working. He took the device out of his ear and placed it on the television tray and continued to eat his dinner while watching the festivities until he accidentally scooped the hearing aid up with some oyster crackers and, “crunch.” Just like that he had bitten his $1500 hearing aid into pieces.

That was arguably the most expensive cracker in the history of mankind. After my Mom stopped laughing at him she mused that maybe even God was feeling sorry for him over the whole eating your auditory device thing. I told her no – this is so funny that even the Lord was laughing about it. (It’s almost as funny as the time my Mom, under medication for some health issues, took the dog out to go potty only to realize that she took the leash without the dog, or the time she sprayed scrubbing bubbles on her hair instead of hairspray). I might have understood if the hearing aid device was your typical flesh color, but this one was blue! Now that’s baseball fan devotion!

The humorous story reminds us how important it is to watch what we put in our mouths naturally and spiritually. We are what we eat and it’s what we put before our eyes and allow into our ears that shapes the condition of our lives spiritually. If we are walking around in fear and doubt, it’s because we have been feeding on those things that produce doubt and fear. If we are walking around in faith and victory, it’s because we have been feasting on the Word and presence of God.

Make up your mind today to think about what you are watching, reading, listening to, and hanging around. Remember iron sharpens iron and bad company corrupts good character…and hearing aids have no nutritional value and cost too much to eat…


Mocha Poo (another lesson from a six pound poodle)

While enjoying our family dinner the other night I noticed that Peepoo had performed her K9 disappearing act once again. This usually means she has found something sweet, chewy, or chocolatey in the trash or conveniently left on someone’s bed or even night stand. Sure enough, Peepoo had dug through our bedroom trash and discovered an empty Starbucks cup with a few precious drops of “bottom of the cup” mocha chocolate and coffee.

I don’t think I’ve ever known a dog that had a keener sense of smell for chocolate or greater passion for scrounging up even a small taste of it. When it comes to chocolate, she really has a revelation of what it means to seek. What if we as believers sought the Lord the way the little fur ball seeks out the sweet stuff? What if our spiritual senses were so trained to pick up even the slightest indication of the Lord’s presence that beckons us to pursue Him?

The Bible declares boldly that we will find the Lord if we seek for Him with all our hearts (Jeremiah 29:12-13). Amos, speaking prophetically for the Lord, said, “Seek me and live” (Amos 5:4). This Scripture means that we are to seek and require the Lord as one requires food. Unlike the temporary buzz derived from varied pleasures, possessions, and legal stimulants like the cafe mocha (don’t say anything but I know a staff member at Hope Harbor Church that plans travel routes based on Starbucks locations), the Lord imparts eternal and ongoing life as we seek Him and connect with Him in vital living union and contact.

The key to perpetual and uninterrupted intimacy with God, spiritual growth, blessing, and well-being is seeking God fervently and consistently. To “seek” means to visit frequently, to inquire of, to quest for, search often for, learn from, resort to (what you always turn to), and hunger after (God will always fill us in direct proportion to our hunger). No one seeking God is ever turned away empty-handed. Isaiah 55:6 tells us to, “Seek the LORD while he may be found; call on him while he is near.” When King Uzziah sought the Lord he was successful, but when he turned away in self-sufficiency, self-promotion, and human pride he lost everything (2 Chronicles 26).

I want to encourage you to make the Lord your number one vital need in your life from this day on. Vital means “pertaining to life” and includes such needs as oxygen, water, or food. Because Jesus is our life and literally the source of our life, we should seek the Lord more diligently than we would for any natural vital need. Take your cue from a six pound poodle who tirelessly pursues the source of even the slightest hint of chocolate in the air and go after the fragrance of the Lord’s presence like never before.

Why Is This Kid Smiling?

photoJust yesterday, it seems, this same kid was watching Barney and Winnie the Pooh videos and picking up dirt clods while he was suppose to be paying attention in the outfield of a tee-ball game. Tim was only two when we came to Murray to pastor. I’m at a loss for words trying to describe the feeling that all parents feel when they realize that years have just disappeared in front of their eyes. One day you wake up and your kid has turned 16 and has a driver’s permit (that’s why he’s smiling).

Like all parents who truly treasure their children, I would love to have slowed down the years a little but I’m glad about one thing. I’ve tried from the beginning to find the balance between ministry responsibility and the preeminent priority of being a husband and father. I’m so thankful I took the time to do the really important things with Tim like toss the baseball, throw the football, watch the Cards live (go Cards – sweep the Cubs), chase barracudas in the sea, torment the dogs, battle it out with air soft guns, play at Chuck E Cheese’s, and gorge ourselves on junk food on “bubby night.” 

I thank God Tim is a great son and excellent student, but most of all, he loves Jesus with all of his heart and strives to please Him daily. So, in the category of yet another milestone in the life of a teenage boy, Tim is currently working on his mandatory 60 hours driving time that would allow him to acquire a restricted driver’s license. Remember those years truly do fly by so enjoy every second and remember also that I warned you about Tim being on the road :).

There’s something on you – it’s the blessing!

Even More Lessons From A Six Pound Toy Poodle

blog-peepoo-picI enjoy getting down on the floor and messing with the family pets. I’ve tormented Tim’s dog Bambi (aka Bam, Granbam, Hazobam, Bamalam, Bamster, you get the picture) for years trying to grab his feet while he tries furiously to withdraw the paw. He’s amazingly agile (even with diminished eyesight, although Kelli thinks he’s just a big faker – he seems to be aware of things he wants to be aware of – kind of like the listening skills and habits of teenagers).

I also enjoy tormenting Peepoo. She loves for me to grab an old sock (she’s a really cheap date) and let her chase after it, back and forth, back and forth until she’s so exhausted she just drops, red tongue hanging from her mouth. This past Christmas Kelli bought her and Bam a goody stocking filled with dog sized toys. One of Peepoo’s favorite toys is a blue and white rope, approximately 1. 5 inches think, knotted with tassels on the ends. I do basically the same thing with the rope that I do with the sock. She loves, however, to bite into the rope. I then begin to twirl her around and around letting the knot pivot between my thumb and index finger.

I’m amazed that she is able to hold on to the rope no matter how many times she twirls and no matter how dizzy she must be – such discipline and such dedication! I noticed that if I throw the rope down the hall after she finally lets go, she’ll chase the rope running sideways down the hall until she finds her prey and then she prances back  for more like royalty in a parade.

The other day we were doing the Peepoo rope twirl and chase when she set off to retrieve the rope. This time, however, her gait was more staggered than usual (impaired by excessive twirling) and with a thud and pathetic yelp she failed to negotiate the corner of the hallway. Dazed, she turned around as if to say, “what did you do to me?” Now, even though she still likes to play with the rope and even twirl a bit, she is extremely reluctant to follow anything I throw down the hall.

That’s just like leadership in general. It’s all about trust. If the people you lead believe that you genuinely have their best interests at heart even though their toes get stepped on occasionally and they too manage to hit the wall sometimes chasing dreams, they will follow and do their best to fulfill their part in God’s redemptive mission. As all of us accept God’s mandate to reach the unreached and tell the untold, and as we all strive to grow in our own leadership, let’s remember to look out after the Peepoos of the church when they tear down the hall running sideways with enthusiasm. Let’s prepare them properly and be available to sound the alarm when things are going sideways.

There’s something on you…it’s the blessing

More Lessons From A Six Pound Toy Poodle

img_0008We’ve been told by other dog owners that dogs will begin to ingest things like grass when they either have an upset stomach or if they are missing something vital from their diet. I can certify that PeePoo is well-fed and well-kept but she still enjoys strange and adventurous additions to her diet.

She started with grass and no matter how many times she throws up she returns to the same practice if left alone in the yard for more than a few moments (she kind of watches for us out of the corner of her eye so I know she knows better). Her suspicious eating habits then progressed to eating tinsel (her own special reason for liking Christmas). After a few dozen strands taken directly off the tree while standing on a stack of Christmas packages, she commenced with that oh so familiar sound  (a mixture of a choke and a gulp) and that familiar sight of Princess in the frog position abdomen ballooning until the tinsel ball came roaring back up.

She graduated to the big time recently when she discovered a bag of candy and chocolate on Tim’s bed and proceeded to rip open the bag to enjoy some Hershey’s Kisses (one of her favorites).  We were obviously concerned because unlike the pleasant buzz given to people after eating chocolate, the same chemical in chocolate poisons a dog. We confessed the blessing over PeePooh while I tried to ram my finger down her throat to induce vomiting. It seemed like whatever went down was going to stay down. Then in the middle of the night the chocolate bit back and I rushed to get her off the bed so she could once again pay the price for putting the wrong thing in her mouth. She threw up the chocolate (together with green foil and the little Hershey’s paper stem in the mix confirming and convicting her of the food crime).

I’ve often thought that Christians do the same thing. Despite the good food of the Word of God we insist on loading various poisons and toxins into our hearts and then wonder why we stay so sick and anemic spiritually. This year, let’s do things differently. Let’s be more careful about what we ingest spiritually. Let’s make sure that those thoughts and inputs square with the Word of God. Let’s have the discipline to walk away from the shiny and seemingly sweet philosophies of the world rather than swallowing what they think and promote. We really are what we eat and I encourage you this New Year to eat well!

I’m sure there will be more lessons from this six pound toy poodle in the future.

Birthday Girl

So Excited About My Birthday
So Excited About My Birthday

I used to tell Kelli that by the time she turned 40 she would have been a wife for 21 years, a mother for 15 years and in full time ministry for 20 years. Keep in mind that this was a “far piece” down the road then. Now, it’s just around the corner (Sunday the 16th of November).

With just a few days before Kelli’s 40th birthday, I want to share a little bit about her extraordinary journey. She married me at 18 (after all this is Kentucky) and followed me to graduate school. I worked 40 hours, carried 12 graduate hours, and Kelli worked at Burger King and other places to help make ends meet. The first night she came home from the BK job I let her know she smelled like a Whopper. Our tax return that year showed that we grossed just over $3,000 but we would have told you we were rich and having the time of our lives getting ready for future ministry.

Amazingly she was only 20 years old when we accepted our first full time assignment in ministry serving as youth and associate pastors in Savannah, Georgia. She was only 22 when we assumed our first responsibility as senior pastors in Hopkinsville, Kentucky. The ladies from that church said they wanted to lock her up in a cage because they were concerned that folks would “eat you alive.” She was just 26 when we moved to Murray to serve in our present capacity. Only the grace of God and Kelli’s phenomenal love for God and character could explain how someone so young could handle the complexities and pressures that come with modern pastoral ministry (let alone the challenges of dealing with type “rabbit” pastor husband).

After we moved to Murray, Kelli decided to return to school to pursue her degree at Murray State University. Immediately after completing her bachelors in public relations she began pursuing a masters in organizational communication. It’s never easy for a non-traditional student to return to college. It’s even more difficult to pull this off while being a wife, mother, and while serving in full time ministry. Since then she has served as a workplace trainer and college lecturer teaching courses in public speaking and group processes.

I’m very proud of her accomplishments and so very thankful for her partnership in this ministry. She has served the Church in the most profound ways but most of all by ministering to me and my son. Thank you for joining me this week in wishing her a most blessed birthday. I would like to open the comments on this posting for you to share an encouraging word for her. I know that would mean so much to her. Kelli, Tim and I love you and appreciate you more than you will ever know. Happy [blessed beyond measure] Birthday!

 

Precious Human Life

[Kelli will be contributing to my blog on a regular basis. I hope you enjoy her inspirational first article. God bless you – Pastor Art]

 WHY I BELIEVE THAT ALL HUMAN LIFE IS PRECIOUS & SACRED TO GOD  

tim-and-kel-disney-12
Tim and Mom at Disney

 

One of my favorite passages of scripture is found in the book of Jeremiah.  It says, “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart;” (Jer. 1:5 NIV).  Another favorite passage is found in the book of Psalms.  It reads, “For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb.  I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.  My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place.  When I was woven together in the depths of the earth, your eyes saw my unformed body.  All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be”  (Psalm 139:13-16, NIV).

 

As I approach my 40th birthday, I have been looking back over my life.  Have I reached my God-given potential?  Have I accomplished the things that God wants me to accomplish?  Has my life been pleasing to Him? 

 

On November 16, 1968, I was born out of wed-lock to a teen-aged, high school drop-out.  I don’t know the circumstances surrounding my birth, but I do know that it couldn’t have been easy for my mother.  She must have suffered much shame & ridicule for being pregnant, and then choosing to raise me as a single mother.  She never received any assistance from my father.  In fact, I’ve never met the man. 

 

Growing up, I struggled with low self-esteem and feelings of unworthiness.  I always wondered, “God, why did you make me?  My parents didn’t plan me.  Do you love me and have a purpose for me?”  It was when I found these scriptures that I began to realize that God did love me, and that He had a purpose for my life. 

 

You see, God loves each and every one of us.  It doesn’t matter if your parents planned you or not.  GOD DID!!!!!  God has a plan for each of us.

 

Our son’s story is very similar.  When my husband and I got married, we were unable to conceive.  After praying for a child for almost six years, God gave us our son Timothy.  Timothy was born in a similar situation, and his mother lovingly chose to give him up for adoption.  I thank God so much for this self-less young woman.  Because of her, we are able to experience the love and joy of watching our son grow into a mighty man of God.  He is our precious, special, chosen gift from God.

 

As we were following the buses and police escort out of town on our way to the state band competitions this past weekend, I started to cry.  I wasn’t crying from sadness, but from an overwhelming sense of joy and gladness.  My heart swelled with love and pride for my Timothy.

 

No, neither Timothy nor I was planned by our parents, but God had a plan for each of us.  I want to leave you with one last scripture.  It is found in the book of Jeremiah.  It says, “For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future”  (Jer. 29:11, NIV).

 

As you exercise your right to vote, remember that all human life is precious and sacred to God. 

 

tim-band-20076
Tim at MSU Festival of Champions

 

Snack Cakes and Skunks

tim-drumI have been blessed with the greatest parents in the world. They always encouraged and supported all four of their children. They knew what some parents and loved ones do not – showing up to support your kids in their activites communicates love and builds their self-confidence and security.

As we head to the Kentucky State Band Championships with Tim and the Calloway County Laker Band, I can’t help but think about the many times my parents were there to support me.  I remember my parents standing on the pool deck watching me win another race or set another record. I remember my Dad watching every pitch I threw on my way to another baseball victory.  One of my most vivid memories growing up was the daily 5:30 am commute to Carbondale, IL for swimming practice. Dad woke my brothers and me, got us in the front seat of our Chrysler, turned on the heater, handed us a Hostess Ding Dong, and then headed out in to the cold, dark morning so that his kids could participate in a quality swim program.  Fifteen minutes into the drive and the heater was still blowing cold, skunk tainted air.

As a pastor and as a band parent I am sad to say that many kids never have their parents or loved ones show up to cheer them on. Sitting in the bleachers waiting for my son’s band to perform I overhead a band member from another school say, “I wish my mom loved me enough to see me perform.”  I remember thinking, “Every kid should have someone here.” Nothing builds self-confidence and a sense of worth in your children like being there for them. Regardless of the activity, interest, or pursuit, make the support of your children one of your highest priorities in life. No parent can be there for everything, but for your kid’s sake, make that extra special effort to at least attend some of their activities.