WHAT GOD HAS IMPRESSED ON ME THIS WEEK

Saturday, December 13, 2014

The Good, The Bad, and The Answer

It’s been over 10 years since I first read the book.  It was for my daughter’s 8th grade literature curriculum.  Since then I’ve had 2 more of my 4 children read the same piece of fiction.  I would help them draw out the difficult lessons.  Each time I was amazed at the impact of such sensitive topics not only for them but for me as well.  Now, all these years later, the book, “The Giver”, has been made into a movie.

With my youngest still 2 years from reaching the grade level we have typically reserved for this particular piece of literature, I debated allowing him to see the movie.  Yet, I truly desired to enjoy the film with my kids and didn’t want to leave him out, so I gave in and rented “The Giver”.  Despite the changes that always occur in the transition from book to movie form, and the fact that a motion picture has a limited amount of time allowed for story development, I have decided that it’s become one of my favorite Christmas movies even though it wasn’t meant to be a “Christmas” movie.
I don’t recall seeing the connection before.  I suppose some could argue that it’s a stretch to say that the story correlates to the birth of our Savior.  No doubt we all see different aspects in stories.  Of the many layers in this piece of fiction, I applaud those responsible for causing them to unfold in such a way as to subtly point to God’s answer to a worldwide dilemma.
You can’t have the good without the bad.  At least not in this world, you can’t.  And eventually we will all see firsthand that God’s plan was for there to be good without bad, and He plans for as many of us as possible to enjoy that very thing with Him in eternity when all is said and done.  But for now, no matter how hard you try, it can’t work.  This story presented that truth.  Because when you attempt to eliminate the bad, you also eliminate the good. 
Here we have a fictional setting of daily injections for all of mankind consisting of…well, who knows.  There are definitely hormone suppressing drugs in them resulting in no sex drive.  If there is no desire for sex, there’s no “haphazard” procreating especially if no one knows what sex even is.  Or I guess I should say there’s no “unscientifically controlled” reproduction that could result in bad genetics.  In fact, the only way for reproduction to occur in this society is for certain men and women to be chosen to have the job of artificial insemination.  And then to become a laborer after their job is done. 
And what about pain?  There must be something in those injections to suppress pain receptors because they’re almost clueless to such a thing.  I suppose it makes no sense to eliminate it completely because pain actually keeps us alive.  It prevents us from getting too close to hot things, and compels us to throw our hands out in front of us when gravity takes over and causes a fall.  Never the less, it’s portrayed that they’ve managed to bring pain down to a simple annoyance.
Climate control prevents droughts, floods, and devastating freezing temperatures.  This eliminates starvation as well as death and destruction due to natural disasters.  How on earth such a thing is accomplished I have no idea, but it is fiction. 
In addition, they’ve managed to make disease obsolete -figure that one out- as well as many other things.  There are no animals to fear…literally there are no animals.  And there’s no economy to worry about. 
To top it all off, everyone has a comfortable and “safe” bicycle to ride around on throughout their perfect weather days.  They only reproduce the number of children needed for the community to sustain itself.  They match up men and women only for the reason of raising children making them more or less roommates.  The children within a dwelling (for they do not call it a home) were not even referred to as a son or a daughter, but only as a responsibility to the adults raising them.  And when you reach the age of no longer contributing to society, you are no longer needed.  Therefore, you die.  No…let me rephrase that.  You’re “released”…translation: euthanized.
“They didn’t do away with murder.  They just gave it a different name,” as quoted from the movie.  I guess the bad isn’t really eliminated, but the good definitely is.  A world with no animals, no snow or beach days, and no music or dancing is bad enough.  In fact, something about the side effects of the injections causes everyone to be color blind.  Come to think of it, it's probably purposely that way to prevent racial prejudices.  Everything is in black, white, and grayish tones.  But an attempt to cultivate a utopia, only truly results in a boring, depressing, robotic society lacking true joy.  

Their ultimate goal was to eliminate the deeper side of pain that comes from war, hate…sin.  They had no feelings.  Oh, they thought they had feelings.  They would ask each other about feelings.  But they were actually clueless.  They had no emotions, no knowledge, and of course they had no love.  That’s the most important point made in the story.  There was no love.  No one even knew they needed it. 
Eventually, I was reminded of the many thought provoking discussions about God.  There are questions we all ask, even those of us with strong faith.  They are questions that begin to form in young minds such as, “Why does there have to be death?” and, “If God loves us, why doesn’t He stop bad things from happening?”  We especially get upset when the injustice occurs to the super innocent, the children.
People get up on their high horse as if they know better than everyone else especially God Himself.  They start listing off the things they would do differently if they were in charge.  They start shaking a fist at God, blaming Him for it all as if He’s responsible for pain and suffering. 
In actuality, God is not the one responsible for pain and suffering, but He is responsible for creating a system of choice.  It’s a necessary system in order for there to be love.  You can’t truly love, if you don’t choose to love.  Consequently, pain and suffering happen concurrently with love, joy, and even justice all because of that thing called choice. 
But if you want to jump on that bandwagon and give Him a piece of your mind for allowing such a horrible thing as choice, then take a close look at this movie especially when the chief elder states that people always choose wrong when given the chance.  They made it so that no one would even have a memory of the consequences of bad choices.  That is no one except for one person, the Giver.  He’s the only one who has all of that knowledge, and his burden feels unbearable. 
The time comes when a young person must be taught and trained to hold the knowledge so that the Giver can retire.  This young man is the Receiver.  And it doesn’t take long for him to realize that the joy that comes with choice outweighs the misery.  Imagine that!  He’s spent 18 years of life without the knowledge of suffering as well as without any love.  Then after being exposed to both and even the worst of pain and loss, he still decides that love is worth it.  I suppose anyone who wants to tell God that the pain that accompanies choice is not worth having the choice, try living in a society without it. 
Young Jonas realizes that he also holds a unique power.  If he escapes this world of deceit that he’s living in, risking his own life going beyond the boundary of their community, then all the knowledge will be released and fall into the hearts and minds of everyone.  He decides that everyone should have their eyes opened to the truth.  He decides this because he loves them. 
How dare any one of us try to tell God that we know better, and that He shouldn’t have given us a choice!  We say, “There’s got to be a better way!”  But He knows all ways, and chose the best way.  He not only created choice, but He created the very love that we have the freedom to choose.  On the other hand, we created hate…the absence of love, and we brought on death…the absence of life. 
We’ve been given free-will, and most of the time, it’s difficult to choose right.  We make a lot of mistakes and feel hopeless because of it.  That’s why God didn’t just give us freedom to choose love, He also sent us Himself in the form of love.  And it sure does help when it comes to making a choice.  Jesus is love revealed.  He demonstrated that love by taking the brunt of every wrong choice we make. 
I see the correlation in the hero, Jonas, as he is willing to sacrifice himself to rescue a baby and reveal truth and love to all who are being deceived.  At that point, he looks up and sees a home, something he never had before.  He sees a family, also a necessity in life he never experienced.  They’re all nestled inside a cozy house surrounded by beautiful snow.  And what is coming from this house other than the smoke curling out of the chimney?  It’s the song, Silent Night.  There we have it!  Christ is born!  He’s the answer to the dilemma…the question of, “Does God really love us when there’s so much pain and suffering?”  Yes, He does.  He proved it when He sent us His Son.  Eliminating choice isn’t the answer.  Choosing love is.

Amie Spruiell 12/12/14

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

God Speaks

9/25/14
  You know how some people have absolutely no tact?  They just leave you dumbfounded with the things that they say.You wonder, “Do they really know what they’re saying?  Are they really that mean?”  Could it be that God has placed them in our path because He’s using them to speak to us?
Melissa had just given birth to her third child.  Her two other children happened to be with her at this very moment in time at the doctor’s office.  Two twin girls, aged 13 months, and a brand new baby boy left her feeling rather irritable and not in the mood for rude questions.  Enough conversations in the waiting room revealed to all who were there that the twins were adopted.  It wasn’t a big deal to Melissa, though.  She had no issues with talking about it…that is until, a stranger started stepping over the boundaries of polite conversation. 
Question after question from this woman not only wiggled her way into some very personal spaces for Melissa, but was just flat out rude.  The young mother did her best to control not only her unbelief, but her temptation to tell this individual a thing or two colored with some creative expletives.   And just when she thought she couldn’t go any further with the prodding, the woman asks her, “How does your husband feel now that he has a child that’s really his?”
Really?  Did she really say that?  Before Melissa could blurt out the first response that popped into her head sounding something like, “Well, they’re not puppies,” she realized this woman was crying.  And this woman’s tears very likely could have saved her life from the ticking time bomb about to explode inside of the exhausted, post partum Melissa. 
Eventually, the reason this woman was behaving this way was revealed.  Apparently, when she was 17, she had given up her own child for adoption.  She opened up to Melissa that she thinks about her son everyday of her life.  When she sees a football coach, she wonders if he plays football.  She’s reminded of him whenever she sees a playground, and especially when she sees a boy that would be the same age as her son.
I guess we can never know exactly what is behind the reason some people come across the way that they do.  Melissa would never forget the woman who happened to be at the doctor’s office that day.  (Who, by the way, was only there accompanying a friend and didn’t even have an appointment herself…talk about happenstance...or a God moment.)  She always remembered and always will that someone out there thinks about her daughters every single day wondering how they are doing. 
Melissa wasn’t a Christian at the time, but she is now.  Looking back, she knows that God allowed this woman to cross her path not only for the sake of her own need for assurance that she made the right choice, but also for Melissa to be thankful for the one who “chose” birth and adoption and not abortion.  Interesting, the way God speaks.  Maybe we should be more careful about how we view others who annoy us.
Don't look out only for your own interests,but take an interest in others, too. 
Philippians 2:4
written by
Amie Spruiell  


courtesy of my friend, Missy

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Being Christian

I’m sure I’m not the best Christian example. I’m happy to preach the Words of Jesus, but I still continue to sin. And if a Christian is supposed to be “Christlike”, then that must make me a poor Christian. As the world would say, I must be a hypocrite. Am I really? Or rather, doesn't it make me a poor example of perfection?

We use the word Christian in such a general way, but it really means “Little Christ” or, as most of us would say, “Christlike”. I don’t see myself anywhere near Christlike, because I am so far from perfection, but I am very near to Christ. I prefer to call myself saved, or a believer. It’s everybody else who calls me Christian. And if that were the case, then I would be a hypocrite and not very likely to lead anyone to that person I claim to be like.

As I said, I am a believer, and though I don’t remember when I first believed, God has been changing me for years into the image of His son…into something perfect…perfectly forgiven that is. But change is a long process. I haven’t seen the end of the road yet. My God is a gentleman who never pushes and for that I’m thankful. While I’m sure that there are some who seem to have no problem with making changes overnight, most of us are just not willing. 

But God continues to forgive and continues to patiently work on our issues one at a time. Of course, if we had to wait until all of our issues were perfected before we ever came to God, we would never make it. We can’t do it on our own. It has to be with the help of His Spirit. He says to come as we are. With myself, I've noticed that He might work on one while delaying on another (unfortunately, with continued consequences) until a later date when I’m ready to see it from His point of view. But what breaks my heart is when someone I care about fails to come to Jesus because they think that they have to be perfect first. And what’s worse is when I feel that I’m responsible for their unbelief simply because I’m still a sinner. 

Still a sinner…I will always still be a sinner. But I don’t advocate my sins. The difference between a Christian and non-Christian is not that one is good and the other is not. It’s that a Christian admits it and turns their eyes to the only One who is good. Unfortunately, the Christian is still judged by the world because of what he says he is and who he says he believes in. Don’t expect me to fit in a mold. God expects me to walk a path…one that He too has walked…one where he can bring me back to when I wander off...one where He can help me back up onto when I stumble and fall. 

So why be judgmental of me or anyone else who wishes to share the Good News of God’s forgiveness simply because we don’t present perfection? If you look past my imperfection, you’ll see the hope that I have in spite of it. Maybe you’d like to have that hope too.

Written by Amie Spruiell

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Play Ball

Get your stance straight….


Glance to your left….
There’s a runner on first, and he’s two and a half steps toward second….  Tall with great strides, he looks intimidating, but you know he’s not as fast as the guy on third base.
Umpire calls out, “Play ball!”
You've just finished warming up your arm with several practice pitches.  The coach wants you to finish up this game.  As the batter swivels his bat in the air, you hear taunting coming from the opponent’s dugout distracting you.  Your catcher throws out signs, but you’re more interested in how far the batter’s gloves are choked up on that bat.
“You got this,” is called out from loved ones in the stands. 
Just as you’re about to come set, you notice out of the corner of your eye the first base runner powerfully clapping his hands in the air as if he’s trying to get someone in front of him to blink.  A slight turn of the head reveals him stretching out his right leg and arm, wiggling his fingers and pointing his toe in the direction he intends to run. 
You’re tempted to fire that ball to your left instead of straight ahead.  You only have a half a second to do so before the ump calls you on a balk, and then you’re penalized.  If that happens, the runners would advance putting the game at a tie and the opposing team one run away from winning this game.
Bottom of the last inning and two outs leaves you needing one more to win this.  But first, two scenarios roll through your mind:
If you throw to first, the runner, who is a few feet off the base, will make a run for it.  Your first baseman will probably throw the ball to second giving the runner on third just enough time to use the distraction to run home…that would also tie up the game.
But if when you throw to first, your catcher quickly reacts, seeing that runner shoot off his bag and head right for him, maybe he’ll scream out, “HOME!”  If the first baseman pays attention, he’ll sacrifice his runner and throw the ball home instead.  At best, the catcher will get the guy out.  At worst, the runner will retreat, the ball will fly back and forth in a pickle, and that shifty kid will manage to steal home anyway…not to mention there’s every possibility in between.
Those few moments of thinking allows you to fully come set and ready to pitch.  It’s now too late to attempt any scenario.  Friends and family seeing your anguishing facial expressions help you get refocused with encouraging words. 
“Don’t worry about the other runners,” your coach yells out.
“Come on, Son.  Just throw to the glove,” says the voice of your father.
“Let your defense back you up.  Get this guy out,” comes from a familiar friend. 
Their words repeat in your head.
You can hear the footsteps of the guy on first taking liberty to advance to the next base.  It was a leisurely trot making you feel even worse that you had to let him go.  He knows you lost your opportunity, so he takes advantage of your vulnerability and easily makes a steal.
But you don’t let it shake you as those powerful words continue to echo deep down inside.
One more deep breath gives you the confidence to pull that leg up and reach that arm back.  A solid strike is all you’re looking for. 
Your follow through is perfect.
Your release is impeccable.
And just as the ball leaves your hand, the third base runner leaves his bag as if he’s racing the ball to the plate.  His attempt is arrogant…obviously expecting a “home run” from his teammate instead of a strike.  Never the less, his attempt is futile as one teenage boy’s legs cannot catch the speed of a ball shot from the power of another teenage boy’s right arm. 
For a split second you think to yourself, “The catcher is sure to get that guy out.”  But the contest makes no difference and your moment of hope is cut short when you hear the crack, the one that makes your heart stop and everything else go silent.
You want to watch the ball, but you can’t.  You’re frozen at the mound watching as first one runner comes in, and you know the second is right behind. 
They know the rules.  Everyone runs on two outs.  No need to stay close to the bag and tag up. 
This is it.
Two runs and they win.
“It’s all over now, isn't it?  I lost the game.”  You think to yourself.
Finally the crowd roars as you expected them to, and your eyes rise to look beyond the fence at the disappointment in your own team. 


Then it sinks in…it’s not the opposing side cheering.  It’s your side! 
Turning around, your heart not only starts beating again, but racing with adrenaline.  Your center fielder is running in with his glove in the air carrying the ball he caught.  Your teammates are all running toward you.

The game IS over!  
You win!!
Intense…isn't it?  It may be a snapshot taken out of a little league game but it sure is impacting.  It just doesn't seem fair.  The pressure a pitcher is under is unbelievable, especially toward the end of a close game.  How can he truly follow through with his job of throwing strikes when he’s constantly being distracted, taunted, and taken advantage of?
That’s the way life is.  Most of us don’t realize it, but all those things are happening to us…ALL THE TIME!
I know it happens to me.  I’m the pitcher.  My opponents are the world, my flesh, and myriads of demons.  My job is to focus on Jesus, my catcher. 
A pitcher must trust his catcher, focusing only on the mitt, and following his signs.  The catcher has the vantage point.  He sees all from his position.  He communicates to everyone else telling them how many outs, and where the play is at.  He’s protecting the most coveted plate in the game, home plate.  He is to be a rock wall that the ball cannot get past.
Like the pitcher, I need to keep my eyes on the one who sees all and knows all, my rock, my home plate protector.
"Do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, 
the champion who initiates and perfects our faith."  
Hebrews 12:2
The pitcher must block out the noise from the opponent’s dugout…the voices.  They’re the ones cheering on their own players making the pitcher feel like he hasn't got a chance.
Likewise, there’s a constant stream of voices taunting me, whispering lies to me and telling me that I haven’t got a chance.  But I know better.  I block them out and replace them with the truth that comes from my heavenly Father, my friends, and my mentors.
“You got this!”
“Just stay focused!”
“Let your outfielders back you up!”
And what about those outfielders?  I seem to recall a cute little 90’s movie, a remake of a cute little 50’s movie called…"Angels in the Outfield."
Wouldn’t that be every pitcher’s fairy tale dream to have angels as their fielders backing them up?
The average teenage little league player can be awfully talented out there catching fly balls and line drives, but they can also make a lot of mistakes.  Likewise, infielders at that age can rack up quite a few errors in the average game.  Even in the big leagues there’s no guarantee of perfect fielding.  It makes the pitcher’s job all the more difficult.  He wants to trust them, but what if…?

In this life, for those who have put their trust in Christ, we have guaranteed help at our disposal. 
“Do not fear, for those who are with us are more than those who are with them.”  
2 Kings 6:16


For He will order His angels to protect you wherever you go.  
Psalm 91:11 

There are real angels fielding balls for us, but they’re using powerful weapons of warfare to do so.  And they outnumber the opposing team.  We need not worry about a few runners sneaking around bases deceiving us.  God has set up a system like no other.  He has made sure that our back is covered, while He Himself is in our line of sight.  He is our greatest asset, our greatest advocate, and our greatest source of power.

What can we say about such wonderful things as these?
 
If God is for us, who can ever be against us?  
Romans 8:31
All we have to do is focus on Him, pull up that leg, stretch back that arm, and throw out God’s Word to our enemy.  If we pay attention to the signs He’s giving us, we’ll know exactly what to say. 
It’s kind of like…listening to the Holy Spirit.
“…for the Holy Spirit will teach you at that time what needs to be said.” Luke 12:12 

Now, if our enemy tries to knock it out of the park with his silly little stick, no worries.  Our defense will work for us…and they’re not teenage little league players…they are mighty warriors, and they never ever err.
This is it…the real game of life…only it’s not a game.  It’s a battle, but it’s a winnable battle!  There’s no reason to worry or be anxious, because like I said, God has us covered if we focus on Him.  Then we can finish up fighting the good fight victoriously.
Fight the good fight for true faith. 1 Timothy 6:12

And all the glory goes to Jesus…my MVP!
Go ahead…”Play Ball!”
Amie Spruiell 
6/20/2014

Saturday, April 26, 2014

Lessons from "Bad Guys"


I’m sometimes embarrassed to admit to some of the TV shows, movies, and their characters that I enjoy watching so much.  Don’t get me wrong.  I’m not talking about racy, violent, or vulgar genre.  And most of the time, I prefer good cop shows where I can cheer in the end because the bad guys were caught.  However, I seem to also enjoy the bad guy that everybody loves…the one who’s hated by everyone else on the show, but they seem to make me smile.  I think it’s fascinating that heist movies are so popular, and so ironic that we find ourselves hoping for the criminal to get away with the job. 

Last summer I let a couple of friends borrow my “Gone with the Wind” DVD.  I found it strange that they told me they couldn’t finish the movie because they were so disgusted with Scarlett’s character.  Apparently they couldn’t stand that she had so little virtue.  I questioned myself.  Not only do I love that movie, but I love her character.  I even considered naming my first child Scarlett, and I kind of regret that I didn’t.  Though, I still love her name, Victoria. 

So I asked myself why it is that I love Scarlett O’Hara.  Why do I love the “Ocean’s” movies?  Why do I love Raymond Reddington from the TV show, “The Blacklist”…the character who is supposed to be the most notorious “Bad Guy” around?

So I think to myself, “There must be something virtuous that draws me to these things…right?”  Aside from the part that Scarlett kept her sister’s and father alive during the aftermath of the Civil War, and the “Ocean’s” team exhibits intelligence in their dastardly deeds of emptying vaults, the only virtue that comes to mind is confidence. 

Imagine putting the confidence of these so called villains into the hearts and minds of the average “virtuous” Christian.  Ahhh…now we’re on to something.  I’m not going to all lengths to try to win the only man who never got weak in the knees over me like Scarlett did.  And I’m not interested in turning to a life of emptying out the vaults of casinos.  No doubt, I could never be as quick witted, as well-read, or as shameless as Reddington, but what if I had their confidence…not in the everyday run-of-the-mill kind of stuff, but in my spiritual life?

Imagine having so much confidence in your faith that you see mountains moved.  Doubt would simply be an insignificant word.  What about salvation?  It still amazes me how many Christians are unsure of their salvation and completely fear death.  That’s one thing that completely makes us different from other religions.  We are to have confidence in our salvation.  And speaking of fear…believers just like unbelievers have plenty of those.  Whether it’s fearing our economic future, or simply turning the lights out at night, they are real and legitimate.  But we’re told over and over again by God Himself in His Word that we are to not fear.  We should have confidence in Him as our Provider, our Protector, and the One who not only can but will meet all of our needs.

Having Christ in us is our confidence, and it’s written into the name we call ourselves, Christian.  We identify ourselves with His name, and our identity is important. 

Earlier this week, I was watching my current favorite TV show, The Blacklist.  The main character, nicknamed “Red”, a former government agent gone rogue and wanted for years by the FBI, who has recently made a deal to assist them in finding their most wanted, walks into a warehouse to hire a group of Serbian “bad guys” for a personal favor.  These “bad guys” were in the process of smuggling a Chinese scientist, whom they kidnapped for her highly sensitive germ warfare information, out of the country to deliver her to their boss.  Red didn’t know these guys personally, but he knew their organization and that they definitely had the skills he needed for his job.  What I found to be interesting is that even though Red didn’t know the names of these guys, they sure knew his.  He confidently walked into the warehouse, though with hands raised in the air indicating he was unarmed, and announced his full name. 

It was an impressive scene with several scary looking thugs brandishing automatic weapons pointed and ready to fire at our loveable bad guy himself.  With his head held high and several steps in, he simply stated, “Good afternoon, gentlemen, my name is Raymond Reddington.”  And all the weapons were lowered. 

I was reminded that we ourselves are to have that much confidence in our spiritual life.  No matter where we go or what we are doing, there are demons constantly trying to use their weapons against us.  But their weapons are useless when we combat them confidently with our own weapons of warfare, the Word of God and the authority that Christ has given us over those demons.  We should know that our name alone, carrying the name of the One with all authority, should be enough to make those dark spirits not only lower their weapons, but run away with their tails tucked between their legs. 

The problem comes when we don’t realize this power, and when those enemies of our soul know that we don’t realize it as well.  Do you call yourself Christian?  Do you realize how much power comes with your identity in Christ?  Do you walk in confidence because of it? 

No, we should not model our life after the “bad guys” that are so easily loved, but realizing why we are fascinated by them and drawn to their characters has helped me to remember some important things in my walk as a Christian. 

Thank you, Lord, for the confidence I have in You and because of You.  I know I can live confidently without fear.  I can confidently move mountains in my prayer life.  I can confidently go boldly to Your throne for all of my needs.  Amen.

Amie Spruiell 4/26/14

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Great with Childs



I opened my laundry room door to let my two dogs out this morning.  One jumped up and happily trotted through the house on over to the back door, and the other slowly lifted herself to her feet.  She finally made her way out the door to the back yard to do her business, but it took some time.  Several weeks ago, it was flipped flopped.  The slower one was the more energetic one, but that was before she was great with childs. 
 
Our older dog, Storm, is 12 ½ years old…equivalent to the age of my grandmother.  She was always dragging behind the younger girl, Rebel.  It’s strange to see Storm way out ahead of Rebel now.  It’s been interesting to witness someone else in my home other than myself pregnant.  I had no idea how similar a dog’s pregnancy is to persons.

She started out moody and clingy…that never changed.  Then she didn’t want to eat.  There have been times that we’ve seen “a bile filled puddle” on the floor of the laundry room in the morning…morning sickness.  We may have never known except the cold winter nights drove us to let them sleep inside.  If she had been pregnant during the summer, we probably wouldn’t have a clue.
 
This morning after closing the door behind my wobbly girl, I watched out the window observing them both.  Storm went over to the far corner of the back yard to empty her bladder, but Rebel couldn’t make it all the way out there.  She stopped half way across to relieve herself.  Then Storm trotted around for a bit picking up some toys to chew on, but Rebel finished her trek to the “bathroom” corner in order to do number two.  I watched Storm dart here and there, and stop off to get a drink of water all while poor Rebel strained and pushed and strained and pushed.  Aha!  She’s constipated. 
 
Eventually Storm decided she had the same urge and zig-zagged back on over to their “spot” to drop a present of her own.  She easily managed and they finished up about the same time.  I expected Rebel to stop off at the water bowl next, but she instead went into her dog house to curl up in a corner.  Yes, she appears to prefer those close quarters these days…evidence of nesting.  Storm, on the other hand, realized she had done everything she came outside to do, and ended up at the back door letting out a simple little bark meaning, “I’m done.  Can I come back in now?”  I let her in, and at the sound of the door opening, Rebel appeared from her house to follow behind.

I sat down with them both for minute on their blankets reflecting once again on my dog’s pregnancy.  I’ve heard my boys say words of, “I’m sorry we did this to you,” but even though I have compassion for her, I’m not sorry.  And I’m the only one in the house who completely has empathy for the girl.  No, I’m not sorry.  We’ve always wanted to breed our lab.  I wasn’t ready when Storm was young as I had young ones of my own, and just knew I couldn’t handle the commitment.  And that’s without truly knowing how much of a commitment there would be. 

We eventually had Storm spayed, and gave up on the notion for awhile.  Then we decided a puppy was exactly what our old dog needed to keep her going, so we got Rebel.  They are both pure bred black Labrador Retrievers.  We always thought Storm was a pretty good looking dog, but then as Rebel grew we were amazed at her long sleek beautiful build and the way she strutted herself around like she just knew she was gorgeous.  Well it worked, Storm got a little bit more energetic even though she was often annoyed. 
 
Now that we’ve picked up our dream of breeding our “pure beauty” at her second heat, Storm is jealous like you wouldn’t believe.  I don’t blame her…all the attention Rebel’s getting.  I’m still trying to figure out if either one of these dogs knows what’s going to happen sometime in the next week or so. 
 
I got up to get Storm some breakfast, and I noticed that when she got up her back hip was bothering her again.  Plus, her teeth chattering told me that they were bothering her as well.  So, I gave her medicine in her kibble and put her back outside. 
 
I tried to get Rebel to eat some kibble, but of course she wouldn’t.  She’s been sooooo picky!!!  I really never expected that to happen.  For awhile during the pregnancy, I was pulverizing her kibble and mixing it with turkey broth.  It was convenient since it was just Thanksgiving.  When we ran out, the other “Mommy/Grandma” made some broth for her. 
 
I’m not sure what else to call us other than “Grandmas” to these puppies.  After all, our pets are an extension of our families, and I’m typically referred to as “Mommy” when we’re all spending time with the dogs.  Getting to know Rebel’s “baby daddy”, Clyde, and his owners has been a very sweet experience as well.  I feel like I’ll be "Grandma" to these puppies, and Clyde’s “Mommy”, Michelle, must feel the same way as she is just as excited as I am for them to come.

I got Rebel to eat regular kibble last week and so stopped with the pulverizing, but it was only a few days of normalcy.  I started mixing the dry kibble with bacon grease.  That worked for a day.  Then it was Christmas dinner, and we saved the drippings from our prime rib roast.  I got her to eat by mixing that in with her food.  That lasted a couple days.  Yesterday, I had to mix the last of the canned food in, and found success, but then she refused to eat the scrambled eggs I’d been giving her daily for weeks in order for her to get extra protein.  I was shocked.  I found myself out of ideas until I can get to the store for more canned food.  Then it hit me…cookies!  

OK, so she’s a little spoiled.  But I’m desperate to get her to eat.  You can’t reason with a dog to “do it for the babies”.  We had some dog treats that were all natural and nutritious…full of dried fruit, oatmeal, peanuts, molasses, and chicken fat.  At least it’s not as bad as Bill Cosby giving his kids cake for breakfast.  She gobbled them up, and I let Storm back inside.

After fixing myself some tea, I watched my poor girl try to maneuver herself into positions she used to be able to easily get herself into to clean herself.  I thought about the times I needed my husband’s help to unhook a bra or tie my shoes when I was in my 8th month.  That’s equivalent to 8 weeks for a dog which she’ll be tomorrow.  I got a warm wet wash cloth and wiped down her back legs and tail that was covered in mucus.  It’s a normal discharge, and she just can’t seem to get it all clean.  Then I cleaned all the goop out of her eyes.  She seems to be congested and it makes her eyes weep.  I was never one to become congested while pregnant, but I know of many women who were.  It just never occurred to me that my dog would have that same experience.

Finally, it was time to sit with my two girls for some cuddle time.  This was the first morning that I was able to see ripples constantly moving across her belly.  It was very cool to watch while Rebel lied there like a beached whale…great with childs.

I think I’ve been most surprised by her emotions.  A couple of weeks ago, we went out for my husband’s company Christmas dinner.  Our adult daughter and her boyfriend came out to our house to stay the night with our teenage boys as we didn’t know how late we would be.  First Rebel reacted strangely to Tori, and then later reacted the same way with her boyfriend, Ravi, when he arrived.  She cried and cried as if she was crying tears of joy to see them.  It was as if she hadn’t seen them in weeks, when in actuality they come over once or twice a week.  I wish I could figure out how to spell what was coming out of her vocal chords, but if I could translate, it would sound like, “Oh I’ve missed you guys so much.  (sob, sob, sob)  You have no idea what I’ve been through.  (sob, sob, sob)  I’ve just been so miserable.  Oh it’s so good to see you.  Will you just stay with me for awhile?  (sob, sob, sob)  Please, please, pleeaasse??”  Whoda’ thought a dog would have all the experiences a person has with pregnancy?

I think about all the professional breeders who will have 2 or 3 pregnant girls at a time.  How could they possibly give them all the attention that they truly need?  All pregnancies are difficult, and I know it’s because of being under the curse of sin.  If anything, I feel bad that animals have to experience this curse even though it was man who sinned and brought the curse on.  But since creation is under the dominion of man, they were cursed right along with us.  We are to rule over the animals and all of nature…not harshly, but with love. Still, we are to dominate over them, and care for them…especially when they are suffering.  

 For we know that all creation has been groaning 
as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. 
 Romans 8:22

Yesterday, my kids and I watched a DVD called, “My Life as a Turkey.”  It was very interesting, but I just couldn’t agree with the guy.  He spent a year and a half raising 16 wild turkeys from incubation till they were out on their own.  I’m sure he’s an intelligent man, but there was a level of stupidity in him that got sometimes annoying.  At one point, he said he felt these creatures were superior to him.  What?!? Superior?  Are you insane?  I turned to my boys and said, “Don’t you EVER think that an animal is superior to you!”  I mean, some animals are scary, but superior??  Never!  That’s an evolutionary mindset right there.  And I won’t have it.  

I laughed as the guy was shocked in the end when the most dominant male turned and attacked him.  I know it’s nothing to laugh at, but I guess my sick sense of humor thought he was an idiot for not expecting it as I yelled out, “Shoot it!  Eat it!”  

God commanded Adam to rule over the animals and subdue the earth…to bring them under submission.  Not to allow them to rule over us, not to lift them up as superior to us, not to harm them either, but to subdue them with wisdom.  I am superior over my dogs.  They need me to help them, especially when the curse of sin that makes all of creation groan affects them as well, making an old dog groan with arthritis and decaying teeth, and a young dog groan with emotion and exhaustion during her pregnancy.  

It’s only a few days after Christmas…the day we celebrate when our Savior who came to break that curse was born.  His mother was great with child as she entered into the place where she would give birth among the animals.  That means animals were among the first to see Him.  He cares for them.  But no one is superior to Jesus.  He deserves all honor, glory, and praise.  He overcame sin throughout His life, on the cross, and in resurrection.  We must make a conscience decision to follow Him.  But since the animals did not make a conscience decision to be under the curse, they don’t have to make the same decision we do in order to be saved.  Some have argued that animals are not eternal creatures, but I’ve read scripture that describes heaven, and guess what…animals are there.
 
It’s too complicated of an issue to say for sure one way or the other, but when I look at my girls, and see them groaning, I’m reminded that Jesus cares for them too.  They won’t always be suffering just like we won’t either.  Someday, we’ll be living in paradise where there is no more suffering, no more death, and no more tears.  But for now, I will care for my girls…the old one who is close to the end of her life, the young one who is close to the end of her pregnancy, and soon all those childs she is great with.

Amie Spruiell
12/28/13

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Treasures


It’s amazing how many shadows are cast in each room as the sun rises first thing in the morning and its rays stream into my home.  Lying in bed thinking about the fullness of all that I possess…all that I’ve collected and carefully kept over the years…I feel safe knowing they're there.

Though I enjoy visiting the homes of my friends where there’s space to walk around, places to sit and visit, and an open line of view to the other side of the house to observe what others are doing, I just can’t imagine transforming my home into such a place.  Where would I begin?  What would I do with it all?  How would I decide what to keep and what not? 

No, it’s too much to think about.  I might as well get up and get started with my daily routine.  I follow the same path I have for years weaving in and out and around my many piles, but this time I ask myself, “Why?”  Why do I go through such lengths to keep it all?  Why am I even asking why?  And why now?  I’ve done this everyday for years without question, without thinking, and now?  Suddenly I have a stirring inside of me to reevaluate my way of life…my comfortable way of life.

I’ve had twinges of guilt in the past when I’ve observed those in need, knowing that I have so much.  But I would quickly dismiss those feelings assuring myself that someone else will surely come along to help.

I just can’t imagine the work of searching through, gathering up, and carrying such weighty items to someone else.  The other option is even worse.  Inviting them inside to search through my treasures themselves would be such an invasion of my privacy.  I would be embarrassed for them to see and know how much has been piled up and why…even if there is a story behind each and every possession as well as a happy ending.  There would just be too much explaining to do, and so many questions to answer.  One would lead to another.  Would they understand the choices I’ve made?  Would they see the beauty of each keepsake?

It’s so frightening to consider.  On the other hand, I am assuming the worst.  Well, I’m just not big on taking chances, I guess.  Besides, it’s not so bad.  After all, I keep my laundry up, my dishes washed, and my toilets clean.  I function just fine.  Even as I continue with my self-talk, I go through my morning chores.  I’ll admit preparing breakfast has always been a little challenging searching for a work space.  But before I begin to eat, I always think about how thankful I am for it all.

And then I begin to feel lonely….

Who would have thought that on this particular day that has strangely been filled with thoughts of regret, and at the very moment that sadness begins to creep into my heart that there is no one to enjoy my meal with, there would be a knock at my door.

Instantly, all of my thoughts flee as fear and anger overwhelm me.  Who would have the nerve to ignore my signs?  Don’t they realize that no one is ever to knock at my door…let alone come into my home?  Do they really think I’m going to let them in?

After several seconds of silence, the knocking continues.  Well, my breakfast is already interrupted and I probably won’t be able to eat now for the rest of the day.  Maneuvering my way to the front of the house, I carefully peek out the window to catch a glimpse of the brave soul rapping on my door.

It’s that woman from the corner…the one with the cart, and she’s got her dog with her.  What does she want?  If I let her in, her dog will roam around and get into everything…maybe even pee on something, and I probably won’t even know it until my whole place reeks of ammonia.  People from the street will smell it and assume it’s me.  My thought process of excuses is interrupted by more knocking and a plea for help.

A more careful look out the window reveals a limp animal in her arms.  Eventually the annoying whine coming from my front porch pushes me to make a drastic decision.  Finally forsaking my privacy, I open my home and she falls at my feet since she was pressing so hard against my door.

In less than a moment, she frantically climbs to her feet cradling her beloved and terribly injured pet, and begging me for help.  As if I would have any means to help her.  I don’t know what she expects to find here.  I stand there not knowing what to do or say as she’s weeping before me. 

“Maybe you should find someone who can help you,” I offer as advice.  Then, through her sobs, I struggle to make out the words, “That’s why I’m here!” 

My heart begins to race as I nervously look around my home wondering what she must think of me.  After a little composure, she continues to explain.

“I know he’s only got a few breaths left in him.  He’s my best friend, and I’m losing him.  I didn't have enough strength in me to carry him to the vet.  I didn’t have a phone to use to call one.  I would not have been able to pay for any services anyway.  If only he hadn’t run out into the street like that.  What am I going to do?”

I continue to wonder why she’s telling me all of this.  Of all people, why me?  Just then the dying body whose belly was barely inflating and deflating stops moving altogether and the woman falls to the floor again screaming.  Afraid that someone might hear her and think my home is open to them as well, I quickly rush over to close the front door.  I still feel confused with my back against the door watching her wail over her loss.

Then I begin to feel as though I’m being forced to offer her something.  My rebellious will is fighting against it, but there’s a small part of me that desires to surrender.  My back slides down the door and I sink onto the floor.  My hands reach out one in front of the other crawling to her in slow motion.  Though I’m fighting against it, every movement causes the surrender inside of me to grow. 

By the time I reach her, her sobs have calmed to whimpers.  She’s sitting on her knees looking down at what was once her friend, and I feel as though something else is controlling me as my arm reaches around her shoulder and words come out of my mouth that do not sound like my own.

“Maybe we can get through this together…."

The next thing I know, we started searching through my many things and found some pieces of material, several remnants from different bolts.  She humbly asked me if she could have them to wrap her dog in.  Looking at the folded strips of cloth, fear slowly began to well up inside of me as I remembered why I had kept them.  Deep down inside, I knew I must fight this battle and allow this be the first of my treasures that I relinquish.  I nodded my head and as we carefully laid the body on one piece, covered it with another and continued with a sort of solemn ceremony.  I explained to her what the material meant to me.
 
“Shannon was my best friend.  She loved all sorts of crafts, and was very talented.  Back when we were in a Bible study together, she felt inspired by the story of Joseph and his coat of many colors.  At the time, I was trying to build a wardrobe of professional outfits since I had just finished college and was now on the hunt to begin my career.  She actually pieced together using several different coordinating colors a stunning blazer with 3 pairs of slacks each a different color that matched one of the colors in the jacket.  She said it was my coat of many colors.”

We both smiled as I talked about Shannon.

“About a year later, she was diagnosed with an aggressive form of cancer that took her so quickly, I felt like she was ripped from my life.  But I felt the presence of God more than I ever did before when she died.  I leaned on Him and He helped me through it.  I insisted that she herself was buried in the coat of many colors she had made for me.” 

I looked up and smiled, “And these are the remnants from those bolts that she used.  Don’t they look stunning on your best friend?”

After that, we searched for something to use as a little coffin, and before long found a box…a beautiful box that he fit perfectly in.  So, I told her the story of the box…how it arrived at my door one day with some groceries, some clothes and a little money.  It was at a time when I was struggling quite a bit financially.  I had only enough money to pay my rent, but nothing else.  I was so hungry.  There was no note in the box, and I had no idea where it had come from.  But I thanked God for providing. 

Then we searched some more and found some dried flower petals to sprinkle around her deceased friend, and I told her the story of the petals.

“You see,” I began, “I always dreamed of a beautiful romance, but as time went on, I realized that I probably will never have one.”  She looked sad as I told her.  “Then,” I continued, “God revealed to me how much He loves me.  It was an amazing moment for me, for just as He spoke to my heart, the doorbell rang and this beautiful arrangement of flowers was delivered to me.  The card simply said, ‘With Love.’  I decided to let the petals dry out so I could keep them.”

Next we found a place in the yard to bury the box and a shovel to use to dig up the hole.  I even had a story to tell about the shovel. 

“It belonged to my grandmother who loved her beautiful garden, and when I was a girl, I took the shovel and dug a hole in the ground, ruining a portion of her flowerbed.  When I saw what I had done, I felt so bad.  But my grandmother told me that she forgives me just as Jesus forgives her.”

We took some wildflower seeds that I had, and sprinkled them over the area of the grave.  Then we covered them up with the rest of the dirt.  I told her a story from the Bible about planting seeds.  I told her many stories that day…many that went along with my many treasures.  Some of the stories were difficult to tell…but I told them anyway.  I found myself giving my things away to this woman, and it wasn’t too painful.  In fact, I felt good afterward.

Every now and then throughout that day, she reminded me how she just knew that I would be able to help her, and she encouraged me to help others as well.  But she didn’t realize just how much she had helped me.
That night I asked God to forgive me for hoarding so many testimonies and allowing them to pile up in the secret places.  I promised that if He would send people into my life who needed to hear them, I would be willing give them away. 

His light seems to shine more freely now.  There are no more dark corners or shadows cast.  I’ve removed all of my signs, and I just love inviting people into my heart now.

Amie Spruiell 10/26/13


This fictional story was inspired by my friend who was impressed with a message from our pastor about hoarding our testimonies instead of telling others about them…for it is by the blood of the Lamb AND the word of our testimony that we will overcome…and our testimony brings other to Christ.