Could I Interest You in an Appetizer?

You smile and accept the menu, your mind on catching up with the friends you’ve joined for dinner. The server hovers. “Can I get you started with an appetizer tonight?”

Since you’re with a group, you might settle on something to share and the server hurries off. He returns just as you’ve caught up on your friend’s latest news and begin to hear the rumbling of your stomach.

By the time you’ve polished off the appetizer and your meal arrives, your appetite has diminished. You groan as the server sets a huge feast before you. What possessed you to snack on hot, buttered bread in between bites of steamed mussels or spicy grilled shrimp? How will you ever do justice to your steak and baked potato or your Italian feast?

How did “appetizers” get their name, anyway? Mom was right that eating between meals spoiled your appetite!

If you’re still with me and you haven’t run to the fridge for a snack, you probably want to know what this has to do with our spiritual life, right?

Spiritual appetizers aren’t like restaurant appetizers. 

During the early days of the pandemic, the days often dragged. Like everyone, I missed my daily routine. My house and my entire neighborhood were quiet. (Hard to believe if your entire family was suddenly at home together 24 hours a day looking for a tranquil corner, but I didn’t have that problem.) As she stared at the occasional preoccupied passer-by during our walks, I knew even Angie the dog missed people and fellow canines.

I started to create a new routine centered around time with the Lord and virtual connections centered on spiritual things. A podcast during our morning walk. Noon prayer with one or more churches. A weekly online Bible study. My own worship service on Sunday, followed by others that I might want to visit as well. This became the new normal and was a helpful way to stay connected with God and with fellow believers.

My appetite and need for spiritual sustenance were strong.

Slowly, days have become fuller and noisier. I’ve ventured out a bit. Now the virus wasn’t the only news on TV, and I “had” to stay informed. I tackled some big projects around the house. I had to rush to get up and over to the dog sitter’s so I’d arrive at an appointment on time. The “old normal” tried to reassert itself.

A vague sense of disquiet marred the tranquility I’d cultivated earlier.

I skipped the opportunity to turn on the Christian radio station and allow some music to shape my thoughts.

“I should probably settle down and pray or do my Bible study. I’d feel better,” I would tell myself.

Sometimes, an insidious voice would whisper, “That’s silly. You were really overdoing it before.”

My heart says of you, “Seek his face!”

Your face, LORD, I will seek.

Psalm 27:8 NIV

Strangely, when I managed to silence the deceptive voice and sample the appetizer, I wanted more. Spiritual appetizers helped me crave more spiritual food, not less.

And that’s a good thing!

When the Spirit’s voice tries to interest you in an appetizer, say yes!

 

The Serenaded Dog Walker

It’s been quite a while since I posted as the Singing Dog Walker! Today I’d like to share about being sung to, in other words, serenaded.

It didn’t happen while walking Angie, one of the few excuses for leaving home these days. Poor Angie doesn’t like social distancing one bit. Or maybe I’m the one who doesn’t like it. Frankly, it’s both of us! Angie strains and prances when she sees someone she wants to greet or would like to pet her. I just do it inwardly. Angie, the extrovert, and her introverted mom both miss socializing.Angie on walk

I have not decluttered, learned calligraphy, or studied New Testament Greek.

Good days have a structure revolving around virtual Bible studies and prayer interludes provided by local churches, two or three walks with Angie, a smidgen of editing, a good dinner (and probably too many desserts and news broadcasts).

Occasionally, when the balance tips toward too much news, I have to crank up the worship music instead. Or open my Bible. Soon, perspective is restored.

For the time being.

But God’s Word, whether read or sung, is one of our powerful weapons.

I believe it.

Recently, I’ve experienced it.

It’s obvious the enemy wants to sow discouragement, fear, and even despair. Anything to squelch the light. Steal our joy. Make us want to hide away, silence our voices and pens, and re-emerge when our officials give the okay.

But music and God’s Word, paired with prayer, push me out of hiding.

God has used two beautiful songs recently to quiet and encourage me:  Goodness of God and the The Blessing. I particulary love the version sung in the UK.

In this challenging time, the Lord has reminded me powerfully that He will never fail me and will never forsake me. He is good. He showers me with His good gifts. Nothing can separate me from His love. He loves me and knows what’s on my mind at any moment, whether I am focused on Him or not. He is hearing and responding to blessings prayed over me decades before my birth and continuing today.

And He is rejoicing over me with singing.

sleeping woman

Just this morning, I awakened hearing “the Lord bless you and keep you” being sung in my heart. (Normally, I just look at the clock and justify more sleep.) A few days before, I heard words singing of the goodness of God.

What an amazing heavenly Father I have. He sings to me.

How can I not say, “This is the day You have made. I will rejoice and be glad in it”?

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Dog Walker Sings for Joy

No, not “dings,” I wrote, “sing.” I started writing this post in my head, and when I hit the keyboard, auto-correct dictated my first line for me! But it couldn’t have been more appropriate…

I won’t start with the ding, though.

It’s been months since our Sunday service was snowed out and our pastor issued the #phil4challenge in his Facebook Live sermon. We had 21 days of devotions reminding us to: choose to be joyful, pray with thanksgiving, think on noble things, and repeat daily. Of course, the “repeat daily” meant the Lord would be assigning plenty of homework! “Anybody can grow in grace”–even me. Even you.

But first, we make mistakes–dings.

Last Sunday morning I had a lot on my plate and left Angie at the sitter’s house before going to church. After church, I wasn’t hungry, so I thought this might be a great time to strip the kitchen floor. Enough with the waxed-on dirt! It couldn’t take more than an hour, could it?

For inspiration, I started playing the long-time AWOL Young Messiah tape I found.  Great beat and immortal words. I opened the front, back, and deck doors and moved most of the stuff out of the kitchen and into the hall. I re-read the directions to the stripping product. Chemical-resistant shoes? Who knows? I ran upstairs and put on a pair of rubber-soled shoes I didn’t like. Mindy the cat was safely ensconced on my pillow. Goggles? I had some downstairs but didn’t want to bother. I needed my reading glasses, and they have big lenses. Good to go! Ding!

mop and bucketApply generously. I used dollar store mops suggested by the clerk at Home Depot.

Ding! Don’t allow to dry before mopping up. Or something like that. I minced over the floor and worked from windows to doorway, hoping I wasn’t leaving tracks with my Bigfoot shoes.

Whew! That smell is strong. Better turn on both ceiling fans. Upstairs, Mindy had left the pillow. Under the bed. Would the fumes be less toxic for her closer to the ground? Not sure.

Ding! Ding! Do not allow to dry before mopping up. The stuff sure was tacky. And the fumes were strong.

One of God’s growth lessons for me has been asking for help. Little 9-pound Mindy needed help even more than I did. I should get her out of the house asap. Remembering the time I’d mixed cleaning products when I cleaned the bathtub and felt mega-woozy, I realized I needed help too. I mopped a few more inches and caved in to the Lord.

I called three people and struck out. Mopped some more. Still tacky.

Call three, my RN friend with the chemistry teacher husband, finally called back. As they had done many times before, they changed the agenda for their day and came to my rescue. While I waited or their arrival, I called poison control. They could only help if something were wrong with me. Thank You, Lord, not yet.

What a relief to have someone else to help me. My nurse friend insisted that we work on opening the windows I was convinced were painted shut. Success. Much better for Mindy upstairs.

It turned out this speed reader had misread the directions! Do not allow to dry before rinsing two times with warm water. We headed out to Home Depot for advice. The flooring salesman, despite the fact we weren’t going to buy anything, listened to our tale patiently and that was about it. Nice guy, though.

My friends encouraged me to eat lunch. We stocked up on dollar store mops and rubber gloves. I sent them home. What amazing friends. Thank You, Lord! I hope I can return the favor someday.

Mopped some more.

Seeing the front door propped open and kitchen furnishings sitting in the foyer, a passing friend inquired if I was okay–or was I moving? Thank You, Lord, for surrounding me with concerned friends.

At least the stuff dries quickly, even if the yellow stains on my floor were still there! With just enough energy to put everything back in place and stumble to the car, I texted the long-suffering dog sitter again. “On my way. Finally.” Yet another friend. We’d shared about more than dogs. Thank You, Lord.

Thank You that I survived the fumes. Thank You that I have such great friends. Thank You that even I  can learn to reach out. 

I don’t think I walked Angie that afternoon, but I definitely sang in the car. Songs of thanksgiving. I’d been protected, and I’d learned to reach out for help.

Don’t wait as long as I often do to reach out for help! The results are worth singing about!

Anybody can grow–in grace!

Psalm of the First Spring Walk

forsythia-324055_1920Praise the Lord warmly

All His people!

Praise Him,  ye revelers in the sun

And seekers of the shade.

Praise Him in gentle breezes

Bearing smells of yesteryear

And swell with hope for tomorrow

Ye quickened hearts.

Praise Him with sound of lawnmower

And crack of baseball bat.

Raise unto Him the tang of mulch

Mingled with incense of box elder.

Tweet unto Him, ye songbirds

Shower Him with velvet petals

Ye flowering trees.

Feast on His presence

In froufrou of forsythia

All His creatures.

Chirp in contentment, ye crickets.

Rest in Him

All His children

In cool starriness of night.

Praise the Lord

All the earth!

Dogged Pursuit of Joy

Thanks to an unfortunate mishap last week, Angie has been on a new medication that’s been tough on both of us. Her tummy has been upset and her appetite has been poor. We will soon rate a brass plaque on our exam room at the animal hospital. What a week!

Because I had an early orthodontist appointment this morning, I had to skimp on some of my usual morning routine. Angie had slept with her crate door open overnight so she wouldn’t be trapped if she had GI “issues.” I found her on the gold chair when I came downstairs. The crate was in good shape. She rolled over a bit for a tummy rub but wasn’t overly perky. I carried her into the back yard for a quick potty break, but she came right back inside and plodded upstairs. Reluctantly, I crated her with the door shut and left for my appointment.


I’m grateful that I’d seen an email devotion while I scarfed down a banana and yogurt. Susie Larson urged me to “scoot a little closer to Jesus.” I tried to do that on the way to my appointment. The germ of a plan began to form regarding Angie.

At the orthodontist, they took multitudes of pictures and scans in arcane positions. I have about a month wearing my current aligner only at night, and now I’m celebrating that freedom. At the time, I was in a rotten mood. I think I stopped short of being rude, but I was far from cheerful. I ignored the Holy Spirit’s prompt to compliment the receptionist on her necklace, but at least we exchanged the obligatory wishes for a nice day before I left.

I’ve had to make a dogged attempt to choose joy over the last two or three days. With the exception of Angie’s situation, nothing about my life circumstances has changed. I am well aware that the enemy would be delighted if he could get me to procrastinate on my writing, start dreading my role helping with the new Freedom Group, not invite any of my favorite couples to the Love and Laughter Date Night (they’d be on their own, of course), and panic about Angie. Sometimes choosing joy is counter-intuitive and just a dogged act of obedience. Feelings (may) come later. The enemy wants me to think that depression, which troubled me as a young adult, will come back to stay–that God hasn’t freed me from it. That’s not true–he is guarding my heart and my mind in Christ Jesus.

After eating a Panera breakfast (plus my lunch baguette!) in the car on the way home and washing it down with real iced tea (not herbal), I felt better. I decided it was worth the risk to discontinue the medication. I told the doctor when she checked on Angie later today. We worked out a compromise I’m happy with.

The sun came out while Angie and I took a nice walk. It was a great opportunity to sing as much of “There is Sunshine in My Soul Today” and “A Mighty Fortress Is Our God” as I know. It really is true that praise is a powerful spiritual weapon. This time, the feelings of joy came along with the spontaneous (not dogged) praise.

The Prince of Darkness grim– We tremble not for him; His rage we can endure, For lo, his doom is sure, One little word shall fell him.

What do you think is the “one little word” that will fell the enemy?