Wednesday, August 23, 2006


Buddy, the hound, howled louder than the voice on the answering machine. Still, I have had a lot of practice distinguishing messages from Buddy’s wails, so I did manage to catch the gist of the message the caller was leaving.

“This is Joe Smith, (not his real name), co-manager, of the (local) Wal-mart. We have received your letter of complaint about our broken bag policy. I don’t understand your letter, but if you will return my call…..”

I finally reached the phone. ”Hello. Did I hear you correctly? Are you sure you have the right number? I haven’t sent a letter of complaint in a long time and I would send an email anyway. I don’t know anything about “broken bags.”

He rattled off my name and address and I began to worry. “I don’t suppose someone using my name and address would be a police matter?” I asked hopefully.

He insisted a copy of a letter of complaint was sent to the local store from Wal-mart headquarters. Before hanging up, I asked if he would please check into the letter and let me know what he learned. “I will. But I still don’t understand why anyone would write a letter about broken bags of dog food.”

Dog food? Including those two little words made a world of difference.

“Wait, a minute. I did send a letter about broken bags of dog food about a month ago, but it wasn’t a complaint. I read in a newsletter that Wal-mart has discontinued donating broken bags of food because some organizations were breaking their agreement to not sell the food. Now all the shelters that depend on donations are being penalized. Readers were asked to write to the Wal-mart CEO and request that the policy be reinstated. That is all explained in the letter. What are you doing with it?” (All Creatures Are Truly Special, Inc. August 2006 newsletter.)

“Oh, that practice was discontinued years ago. We can’t give away pet food. If the food is bad and an animal gets sick, we could be held liable.”

I emailed my contact at All Creatures Are Truly Special, Inc. and repeated what the co-manager told me. She assured me that for many years Wal-mart donated broken bags of pet food to All C.A.T.S. and other groups weekly. The practice was recently discontinued and her local Wal-mart manager suggested she get supporters to write to the company’s CEO.

I would not want to make a literal comparison of Wal-mart to God’s church! But I do see an analogy here

Wal-mart has many stores in the United States but they are all under one CEO, one policymaking board, one umbrella of rules and regulations. It has a national policy on everything from bulletin boards to purchasing supplies. .

There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called in one hope of your calling; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all. Ephesians 4: 4-6

If there is only one God and one faith, why all the confusion in Christianity today? There are more ideas of God, definitions of faith, and versions of what the Bible teaches than there are Wal-mart stores. Some of these teachings might arise from misunderstandings, but many are deliberate inventions of human greed for money, power and fame.

Perversions of the gospel are not new. Paul wrote in Galatians 1:6-8:

I marvel that you are turning away so soon from Him who called you in the grace of Christ, to a different gospel, which is not another; but there are some who trouble you and want to pervert the gospel of Christ. But even if we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel to you than what we have preached to you, let him be accursed. As we have said before, so now I say again, if anyone preaches any other gospel to you than what you have received, let him be accursed.

The co-manager and I had a laugh, although it was a bit embarrassing at first, to admit I did write the letter to Wal-mart after repeatedly denying it, but I did respond correctly, according to the facts as they were given to me – a “complaint” about broken bags. The manager did not deliberately mislead me, but there are those who deliberately omit or change words and imports in order to preach a different gospel than Paul did.

There is one true Christ Jesus, the Son of God. Is he preached in your church, or is another “Jesus” taught?

There is one true gospel. Have you heard it preached? Don’t turn away from it to something that seems more fun or appealing to the emotions, or to the bank account.

Then many false prophets will rise up and deceive many. But he who endures to the end shall be saved. Matthew 24:11, 13

Thursday, August 17, 2006


“Come on, Merci, that’s just a bird,” I told my dog when she stopped walking and started yelping with excitement at the faint cries coming from a large bush. I tried to pull Merci away from the fence but she stood her ground against the pressure of the leash.

I have been fooled too many times by a bird call that sounds like a small kitten, but this time everything about Merci’s demeanor screamed kitten. So I waited and slowly the cries grew louder. Finally, a tiny head appeared, barely visible, between the grass and the bottom of the bush.

I rushed Merci up the street to the mill entrance, popped my head in the front door and called to the receptionist behind the counter to have someone meet me at that particular area to rescue a kitten. After racing home to grab a cat carrier, we arrived back near the bush.

A man wearing heavy work gloves and a woman came from the building. He located the kitten, walked over to the nearest gate, unlocked it and handed the crying kitten to me. Merci whined, barked and jumped with excitement. I placed the tiny kitten in the carrier, thanked the folks for their help, and started home.

A woman exited the office and stopped beside her car to watch us pass – or rather to watch Merci pass. Merci’s eyes sparkled, her mouth was open wide, and everything about her announced, I’m one proud and happy dog! Her feet barely touched the ground as she lifted her feet high and pranced.

At home, I sat down, and removed the crying kitten from the carrier. He could not be more than three or four weeks old. Immediately, Merci leaped onto my lap and began to bathe his face and body. This was her rescued kitten, and she would provide him with everything – except meals.

He was named Perseverance a few days later, partly in honor of Merci’s perseverance to rescue him and partly because perseverance is a trait God wants to nurture and mature in each of us.

We also glory in tribulations, knowing that tribulation produces perseverance; and perseverance, character. Romans 5:3-4

Perseverance is a big name for a tiny kitten, so his name was shortened to Percy. Percy followed Merci around, curled up with her, purred and kneaded the way contented kittens do, and spent much of his time in her company. Today, two years later, he retains a special affection for his canine rescuer.

Why am I writing an animal story (again!) for a Christian web site? Because God is constantly using these animals to teach me spiritual lessons.

Percy would have died if Merci had allowed my tugging on her leash to divert her attention away from the kitten in need of help. It is highly unlikely anyone else would have passed by the area and recognized the tiny cries. And if anyone did, he would likely have shrugged and thought there was nothing he could do since the kitten was inside a fenced commercial property.

At various times, human beings need help too. Sometimes I suffer silently or struggle to resolve everything on my own. Other times I cry out for help, but those within earshot are too busy or preoccupied with their own problems to listen and recognize the need of a friendly gesture or a listening ear.

And I can be just as deaf, dumb and blind to the needs of others. Sometimes I am powerless to respond, just as I would have been powerless to help the kitten if the mill had been closed when Merci discovered him.

But even when I am unable to offer constructive or necessary assistance, I am not without the ability to help others. I can pray and trust God to fill their needs.

Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, being watchful to this end with all perseverance and supplication for the saints. Ephesians 6:18

There is a joy in helping others, whether through prayer, requested advice, financial assistance, physical labor, an investment of time, or encouragement.

Thursday, August 10, 2006


The first time the scanner program opened on its own, it scared me. The second time it annoyed me, but I laughed about the computer being “haunted”.

Then I discovered that my kitten Cyndi had figured out a route up the back of the computer desk, across the second shelf, onto the scanner, through the opening, over the mouse where she would step on the keyboard so she could climb on my lap and cuddle on my shoulder. She was so lightweight it didn’t occur to me at first that her step could fool the scanner into thinking it was in use. As she quickly grew and gained weight, she stopped bedeviling the scanner, but she hasn’t stopped her circuitous trip to purr for me.

Each of my pets has its own way of showing appreciation for being rescued and given a home. Cyndi is just the latest and the youngest. She purrs as the male cat Crystal roughhouses with her, as Merci the dog chews off her long hair, as Cotton spits at her, as Jenny defends her position beside my pillow or as she eats. She purrs much of the time and seems content with her adopted “family”. I hope she never outgrows PHS (Purring Heart Syndrome).

In human terms, PHS stands for ‘Preciative Heart Syndrome. How often do we let others know how much we appreciate them? Who they are, what they do for us and for others, what they stand for, what we learn from them, how glad we are to be related to them or to have their friendship? It can be hard to express those sentiments but an occasional word of appreciation can put wings on another’s feet at a time when that person’s road is dark and unstable.

Every day should be I Appreciate You Day, a day when we give gifts of loving words and deeds to those we appreciate. A remembrance card for a retired teacher that inspired us to study hard and pursue a dream. A home-cooked meal delivered to the preacher’s family. A pitcher of fresh lemonade delivered to the neighbor who mows an elderly or disabled person’s yard. A bouquet of flowers for the shut-in relative – delivered in person. A visit with an aging parent at a nursing home.

Expressing appreciation to God first and foremost should become as natural to us as purring is to Cyndi.

Sing and make music in your heart to the Lord, always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. Ephesians 5:19b, 20 (NIV)

Thursday, August 03, 2006


The convoy of emergency vehicles moved slowly through the apartment complex parking lot. Those in the lead began to turn around and pass the vehicles behind them. Vehicles represented the Police Department, county Sheriff’s Office, State Police, Narcotics Task Force, city and county Animal Control, Forest Rangers, Fire Department, Emergency Medical Services, National Guard, Emergency Management Agency, the 911 Coordinator, Red Cross and a variety of municipal and government offices.

It was the 23rd Annual National Night Out crime and drug prevention event. It began with several neighborhood watch groups convened in the police parking lot and then the caravan of emergency and government vehicles wound through city streets to visit several other watch groups.

Cheryl and I were toward the back of the line, directly ahead of two highly recognizable Red Cross trucks. When the beginning of the procession circled and began passing us, one State Trooper’s face registered his surprise as he caught his first glimpse of our “inconspicuous” transportation – a bright orange duelly with Red Cross decals on the doors and Red Cross flags flying from the windows.

Yes, last year I was inadvertently issued a Paul-Bunyan-size bright red shirt that began at my chin and ended at my knees, and this year I rode in a bright orange duelly with a step bar above knee level and the seat well above my chin. I can’t wait to see what the next NNO brings.

For anyone who has no idea of what a duelly is, it is the Clydesdale horse of pickup trucks. It is larger and stronger, which makes it a good choice for folks who pull a horse trailer. The back of the truck is wider because it has dual wheels. This is not the type of vehicle one should use as a getaway car during a holdup. It is about as inconspicuous as a bright orange thumb. I spotted it while it was two blocks away, standing out above the other traffic, and I am not nearly as observant as law enforcement officers.

This started me thinking about the times my conscience bothered me so much I felt as if I was riding around in a big, bright orange truck with my sin emblazoned on the doors and my guilt flying flags to draw everyone’s attention to what I did that I wanted to hide. I felt my sin was public knowledge, everyone knew about it, was talking about it, and was judging me for it. Many of you can undoubtedly relate.

Chances are in many cases that few, if any, were aware of what I did wrong. But God always knows. I can not hide my sins from God. Neither can I avoid the penalty: For the wages of sin is death. Romans 6:23

However, there is also good news in the same verse: but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord. Christ paid the wages for my sin – and for your sin.