Lessons from a Loyal Companion

Last Sunday morning, we laid to rest our beloved family guardian, our dog, Tessa.  “Tess the Mess,” as we lovingly called her,  came to us as an 8 week old puppy.  We had spent many months researching her breed, locating breeders, going to visit her parents, and then finally choosing her from the litter.  Both my husband and I are dog lovers.  As a matter of fact, I cannot remember a time in my life that I have not had a dog.  Even all of my jobs since high school have included working with “man’s best friend.”  All that to say, we take owning a dog very seriously.  To us, a dog is not just a pet, but a member of the family, so for our family, this was a major loss.  As we stood around her freshly dug grave, we laughed, we cried and we remembered her attributes.  As each person named the qualities that made Tessa so special, I paused to think…I wish more humans were that way.

I have a sign that hangs by my grooming tub that says, “The more I get to know some people, the more I like dogs.”  Being a dog groomer, I spend many hours with only canine companions.  This suits me well.  It gives me lots of time to think, and God often speaks to me as I work. As funny as it may seem, all week long, I’ve been thinking about those things that we talked about standing around our dog’s grave that day, and it has challenged me to be a better person.  So, I wanted to share with you the lessons I’ve learned from the life of a loyal dog.  If you’ve ever had a faithful, four legged companion, you might recognize some of these characteristics.  We may have taught her how to sit, down, shake and rollover, but what she taught us was so much more.

When I think about my Tessa, the first thing that comes to mind is her unconditional love.  From the moment she entered our home, she was ours and we were hers.  Nothing made her happier than spending time with her family.  She was always very repentant when she did wrong.  The look on her face always gave her away when she was guilty.  If you have a dog, you know this look-the head down, eyes looking up and then turning away in shame.  How can you not forgive that look?  On the other hand, she was always quick to forgive.  She never held a grudge.  It didn’t matter how long you had been gone, a few minutes or several days, she was always there to great you with a wagging tail and wiggling body.  She loved unconditionally.

Another thing that stood out was her fierce loyalty.  By her breed nature, she was a guard dog, but she was more than that.  She was loyal to a fault to her people.  She was a good judge of character.  If someone was a friend to us, then she knew they were a friend to her.  Even if they didn’t want to be her friend, she did her very best to win them over.  She could be quite intimidating to non-dog lovers.  When someone came to our home, it was her job to protect us and our property and she took her job seriously.  At first, she thought it was effective to run into the garage and bark from inside where no one could get her and if anyone approached her, she would squat and pee all over herself. (Sorry for being graphic, but it’s the truth.) This was really not effective in scaring people that did not belong, or anyone else for that matter. It took her a few years to figure out how to most effectively do her job, but eventually she got the hang of it.  By the end of her life, I could confidently say that she would have protected us with her life.  She would boldly put herself between us and anyone or anything that meant to cause us harm.  She loved loyally.

Finally, she was a faithful companion.  Wherever we were, she was happiest to be with us.  She loved to spend time with us and because she did, I’m pretty sure she got to know us pretty well.  Dogs have feelings too.  If you spend enough time with them, you will see.  When we were down, she would come lay her head on our lap and look at us with those sad puppy eyes.  It was like she knew we just needed a friend and she understood.  She would listen when we talked and acted like she knew exactly what we were saying.  When we were happy and enjoying life, she would wiggle all over and be happy with us.  She only had a two inch tail, therefore wiggling was much more effective than wagging.  Whether we were working, playing or lounging around, she was always by our side. And we were happiest, when she was by our side.  She loved faithfully.

She loved unconditionally. 

She loved loyally.

She loved faithfully.

And so I think…Do I love like thatCan I love like that?

John 15:13 says, “Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.”  Tessa loved like this.  I get this.  I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that I would lay down my own life for the life of my husband or the life of my children, but I think God intended a little more.  He gave His life for all who would believe, even while we were still sinners.  That one is a little harder to swallow, but challenges me non the less.

But…am I first to say, “I’m sorry?”  Am I quick to forgive?  Do I get excited to see my family and always greet them when they come home?  Do I listen well and sit with those who just need someone by their side?  Do I mourn with those who mourn and laugh with those who laugh?  Do I protect those I love with a fierce loyalty?  Sadly, my answers to these questions are often times, “No.” 

If we loved her so much for loving us like that, then why should we not love others like that as well? 

So, as I remember you Tessa, I want to say… Thank you my loyal companion for teaching me through how you loved.  I don’t know if dogs go to heaven, but if they do, I know God would say, “Well done, good and faithful companion.  You loved well and you were loved in return.”  I no longer mourn the days to come without you here, but instead celebrate the time I had with you and the life you lived.  You were so loved and I miss you dear friend.  Thanks for teaching me how to love.

Loved Well,


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“No, Because I Love You.”

NO.  It’s one of the shortest words in the English language.  It can be one of the hardest words to say and it can be one of the hardest words to hear.  As a parent of a toddler, this can be one of the most used words in your vocabulary.  It can also be one of the most frustrating words to hear as your child learns to say it back to you as a response to almost EVERYTHING!  As the parent of a teenager, the word “No” can make you one of the most disliked people on the planet.  There is just something about that small, two letter word that stirs up some strong emotions in a person.

As I’ve told you in a previous post, in parenting my own children, I’ve come to learn a lot about God and why He does some of the things that He does.  You see, as a parent there are times when it is absolutely necessary to say, “No.”  For instance, I will tell my children, “No,” when whatever they are wanting or attempting to do will cause them or someone else harm.  If I can see something they are going to do will cause imminent danger, then as a parent it is my duty to tell them, “No.”  There are other times I tell my children, “No,” because what they want is not the best choice and I know there is a better option.  Like when my child wants to sit down with a bag of chips five minutes before supper is ready, I know she will ruin her appetite with junk and not eat the healthier choice of a home cooked meal.  Other times I have to say, “No,” because they have broken a rule and I have to follow through on a consequence.  (That’s a tough one and makes me very unpopular.)  And finally, there’s other times I say, “No,” because I know something that they don’t know and by saying, “No,” I am setting them up for something way better.  One time my daughter wanted to have a friend spend the night.  I said, “No,” because I knew that the following day we were having a surprise birthday party for her.  If I would have said, “Yes,” it would have messed up the plans we had for her prior to the party, which was a special daddy/daughter date where my husband presented her with her purity ring. She was quite upset when I told her, “No,” but said, “It was so worth it,” when she found out the reason why.

On the flip side, hearing the word “No” is pretty hard to swallow sometimes too.  My husband tends to be very frugal with our money.  I, on the other hand, tend to be a free spender.  Over the last several years, I’ve become a little more respectful of his wishes on how we spend our money.  I will ask him before making larger purchases and I must say,  I still get a little miffed when he tells me, “No.”  And don’t even get me started when I tell one of my children to do something and she tells me, “No.”  Even if she doesn’t verbalize the word, but in action says it loud and clear, this momma gets mad!  Then there’s times when someone else tells me, “No,” and it just causes disappointment, like when I ask a friend to do something and they can’t.  It may be for a good reason, but it’s disappointing just the same.  “No” is just not a fun word!

So where am I going with this?  Well, when I think about God and His Word, there are many times He tells us, “No.”  And as I listed above, there are so many different reasons for saying, “No.”  The difference between me as a parent and God, besides the obvious, is that God is always good and He’s always just.  There are times I will simply say, “No,” because I’m in a bad mood.  It may have nothing to do with what I’m being asked, but in my selfishness I will say, “No.”  God is not like that.  In every situation and in every response, He is totally good and totally righteous.  His response is always for our good and His glory.  It’s never just because that’s what He feels like at that moment.  In my good moments, even when it’s hard, I will say, “No,” because I love my children and I know that it is best for them.  God’s response is always because He loves us and wants the best for us.  Many times I think we forget that.  We start to think that God just doesn’t want us to have any fun or that He’s punishing us, but that’s just not the case.

The problem is, we are human and we are sinful-each and every one of us.  There are no exceptions.  In the beginning when God placed Adam and Eve in the garden, He only had one “No.” “You must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat from it you will certainly die.” Genesis 2:17.  Now God was doing this not because He was holding out on them, but because He was looking out for them.  It was not only for their safety, but because He wanted something better for them.  He loved them.  They were His children and He wanted the best for them.  But, because they sinned and chose to disobey, we too are now sinful and often choose to disobey.  His love for them did not change in their disobedience, but with their disobedience came consequence.  Their consequence was removal from the garden and their ability to walk daily in His presence without shame and ultimately death.

God has not changed.  His love for us has not changed.  He is still the same God that walked with Adam and Eve in the garden.  The difference is the sin in us.  In the garden there was only need for one “No,” but once sin entered in, there was need for more “No’s.”  Once the untainted bond between God and man was broken, the Bible became the most effective way for God to communicate His love to all the generations that have followed.  It isn’t merely a history book or a book of rules, but a comprehensive way for us to learn how God loves us and how we should love Him. 

There are people who claim that “their God” is a god of love and acceptance, and that we must be reading the Bible wrong if we disagree with their interpretation of what is right or wrong.  They can’t comprehend that a “good and loving” God would tell them, “No.”  They can’t believe that a “good and loving” God would have consequences for behaviors that He says are not acceptable.  And don’t even mention that this same God will send people to Hell for not accepting His Son.  Its seems inconceivable to them that a God that says, “No,” could possibly be loving, so they choose to omit the “No’s” they don’t agree with and only focus on the parts of the Bible that fit with what they consider loving.  This is what I must challenge, because I am a flawed human being and I love my children.  I absolutely want the best for them in their lives and because of that, I must at times tell them, “No,” set boundaries, and give consequences.  If I chose to be completely tolerant of any and all behaviors that they chose to participate in, I would be neglectful.  It is not loving to allow my children to play with a loaded gun just because they want to.  It is not loving for me to say, “Yes,” to every request they make just because I don’t want them to get angry with me.  And it is not loving of me to not have consequences for breaking rules, therefore teaching them that they are the most important thing in the universe and they don’t have to respect authority.  So why do we believe the only way that God could be loving and good is by never telling us, “No,” and never having consequences when we disobey His rules?

So when the Bible says in 1 Corinthians 6:9-10, “Or do you not know that wrongdoers will not inherit the kingdom of God?  Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who have sex with men, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God.” God is still loving.  Just because we don’t like the message, does not make it less true.  Because God loves us, He says, “No.”  He accepts us right where we are, but loves us enough to not let us stay there.  Verse 11 goes on to say, “And that is what some of you were. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.”  Romans 5:8 also says, “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”  He loves us so much that He sent His only Son to pay the price that we deserve to pay for our disobedience.  His only requirement is that we turn from disobedience and accept His free gift of forgiveness.  It’s like He’s saying, “I love you enough to say, ‘No.’  I have something so much better for you, if you will just trust me.  Do you trust me enough to obey?”

As Christians, it’s sometimes hard to address sin in those around us, be it in other Christians or non-Christians.  We can come off as judgmental and intolerant, but I don’t think that is the case with most Christians.  Maybe we just need to change our approach.  Most of us know first hand what it’s like to disobey God’s “No’s” and then experience the freedom of living in obedience.  I used to be some of those things mentioned in 1 Corinthians 6, but thank God for verse 11. Now I know first hand that what God had to offer was so much better.  It wasn’t about Him telling me, “No.”  It was about Him telling me, “Yes.”  “Yes, I love you.  Yes, I accept you.  Yes, I forgive you and yes, now you are free.”  If you are a Christian, you should have had a similar experience.  So maybe we need to talk more about that.  I think it’s ok to say, “No, I don’t condone what you are doing, but I love you.  No, God doesn’t condone what you are doing, but He loves you.  Let me tell you what He offered me in place of those things and how it changed my life.  He is offering it to you too.”  On the flip side, if we choose not to address these things, is it possible that we will “love” people straight into hell in the name of acceptance and tolerance?

There are still times in my life when God tells me, “No.” I still don’t like it, but because I know He is faithful, He is good, and He is just, I will trust Him.  I will trust that His “No” is what’s best for me.  It will keep me safe or it will give me the opportunity to experience something even better.  Do you trust His “No’s?”  If so, share your story.  You never know who may end up saying, “Yes!” to Christ.

Because I’m Forgiven,