A kitten in traffic

This morning, Betty started obedience school. I’ve already taught her a lot, but she becomes overly excited when she sees another dog. I’m hoping that being surrounded by dogs on a regular basis will desensitize her.

On the way home, I saw something crawling frantically away from multiple lanes of traffic. I thought it was a squirrel, but then I realized it was a gray kitten that had been struck by a car. One leg was twisted, and it was pulling the dead weight behind it.

I went to the next exit – it seemed I’d never get there – and drove back to find it. I went down the service road running parallel to the highway, but couldn’t locate the kitty in the grass divider. I made a second pass, this time using the outside lane of the highway. Nothing.

Sometimes I wish we weren’t so rushed. That we’d drive at slower speeds. Some animals would still get killed, but I’m sure many fewer. I don’t like the attitude that anything inconveniencing us should simply be plowed over.

I’m reminded of an incident many years ago. I was momentarily alone on a moderately trafficked road. Ahead of me, a mother duck was scrambling across four lanes. Behind her was her only surviving duckling.

I got closer, and she kept running. I came to a stop, since she was about to run beneath my wheel.

She was in front of my car; almost to the curb. A red pick-up came up behind me. Swerved around. As the mother leapt into the grass, its duckling disappeared beneath the truck’s tire.

The truck stopped a moment, and then drove on, leaving a glassy-eyed mother panting in the grass.

It still bothers me.

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Ronnie starts dog school

Ronnie the cardigan corgi has started obedience training at the Little Rock Dog Training Club.

I feel lucky that the class he’s enrolled in doesn’t contain one aggressive dog. I took our two previous dogs to training, and we completed several courses. But no aggressive animals is a first.

All of the dogs were wagging their tails and grinning from ear to ear.

Ronnie already knew sit, and I’d just started teaching him down. But come-to-heel was new, and he didn’t understand. “Oh well,” I’ll train it at home.

The next day, I put Ronnie in a crate and let him watch as I worked Betty. Then places were switched and it was Ronnie’s turn.

But after multiple attempts, he still didn’t get it. However, simply by watching Betty, he did learn to play dead. When I make my fingers into a gun and say Bang, Betty falls over and lies still. Now Ronnie rolls onto his back and lies still – except for his tail, which swishes back and forth.

Today, we tried again. For breakfast, both dogs received half-portions. Then later I pulled out some cooked chicken. Betty went into the crate, and was rewarded with Ronnie whenever he did something right.

I asked Ronnie to heel, and he flopped over dead.  So I asked him to sit, and he got back up.

“Heel.”

Grinning, he flopped down, paws in the air.

“Sit. Good dog.” Piece of chicken. “Heel.”

Slowly, ears back and grinning, he came to my side. He looked at me hesitantly. “Is this what you want?”

“Hurray!” He got lots of chicken and praise. He heeled a few more times, and we let Betty out of the crate.

As I left to clean up the kitchen, Ronnie trotted over to me, sat down, and looked up. “Can we do more,” he seemed to say.

But not today. Let’s end on success.

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Feed my sheep

The third time he said to him, “Simon son of John, do you love me?” Peter was hurt because Jesus asked him the third time, “Do you love me?” He said, “Lord, you know all things; you know that I love you.” Jesus said, “Feed my sheep.” – John 21:19

As a college graduate in 1994, I was impressed by the words of Bishop Felton E. May. He was a bishop in the Baltimore-Washington Annual Conference. He inspired me with many of his sermons that encourage people to move beyond “common complacencise” to live a Christ-filled life: a life that is empowered to transform the world with the glorious gospel of Jesus Christ. Those of us in the church should be encouraged to know who Jesus is and because we know we live for others.

Recently I did something that I have not done in many years – I helped with Stone Soup at Quapaw Quarter United Methodist Church. Every other month members of our congregation help to prepare a meal for men and women who may need something to eat. I saw in their faces an appreciation, but little did they know that I got more out of the experience than they did. It was there I learned that knowing Christ is one thing, but living for Christ is something else.

As I reflected on my time at Stone Soup, I remembered the many times that I would go to church programs at 3:00 p.m. on a Sunday afternoon, stay in church for two hours, and have a large fellowship meal. We spent all that time declaring and sharing how much we love and know Jesus when that time could have been spent doing what Jesus told us to do.

Knowing Jesus is one thing – doing something because you know him is something else. Jesus called us to feed his sheep. When we give to the church we are feeding the sheep. When we support [the food bank] and [the Christian care clinic], we are feeding the sheep. When we serve others we are feeding his sheep! May Christ lead us to a great knowledge and empowered application!

Shalom,

Brother Mark

Printed with the permission of Associate Pastor Mark Norman, First United Methodist Church of Benton Arkansas.