2 Ways Animals Can Teach Us

to Stop and Smell the Roses

Matthew 6:29-30

· Devotional Discoveries
How Animals Teach Us to Stop and Smell the Roses
Did you know that dogs are NOT colour blind? Your vet or even random Google pages will support that this is a myth. But I never believed it anyway, because we once had a dog who (most obviously) loved pink.
It was the day I toted a mountain of household paraphernalia all at once in my hands as I all of a sudden (and it was, at that) found it necessary to take them from the den to the kitchen: a teapot, a mystery book, a fireplace lighter, a teacup, a tea saucer, an empty glass, a gardening book, some pottery, some lotion, and my travel camera and wallet in my pockets. It had been a hectic day preparing for my high school students and tutoring, or I had been merely lacking in entertainment because, to be honest, I was quite amused and entertained by my balancing act. Ah, the gift of functional limbs. I should be grateful!
Then, out of the corner of my eye, I saw our dog, Satchel. He was not, like me, "working like a dog."
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DON'T "work like a dog."

As I carried my bounty up the stairs, I glanced casually through the picture window, and I caught the canine in a curious position. Our pooch was on his back, under our tulip magnolia tree. This position is not an odd one for any dog, of course – what was unusual for him was that he was not sleeping. He was staring up at the pink blossoms and flicking his paws sporadically in the air. It was as if he were waving to the birds on the feeder. Oh yes, he was probably flicking away wee insects that bother him so or very possibly responding to a reflex from lying on his back like that. Still, I maintain it looked like he was communicating with aviation in our yard. At any rate, the big guy was enjoying himself. He was staring up at one particular limb, looking up and down, and (I am not making this up) he was smiling.

Often we force ourselves to work very hard. Sometimes this simile 'work like a dog' is used to explain hard work.

However, I have always thought that this is a misusage. Dogs will surely do what humans consider work, but they will do it with apparent pleasure and even a kind of satisfaction. Don't you think? And my dog was taking a breather...

Immediately, my cargo became a burden. A whiny little girl voice spoke inside me: I want to lie down and stare up at birdies and pink pedals! That bundle of supplies I skillfully carried in my hands was a great reflection of how much we (okay, I) try to juggle in daily life. We try to do everything at once, gathering it all in our hot little fists and patting ourselves on the back for being so ambitious. Oh, nothing is wrong with ambition, no. I admire it and often try it! But for me, at that particular moment, I was so blindingly busy with work that I thought it would be easier to get one hundred things to the kitchen at one time. So I tried - and failed.

The good thing is the reason I failed. I "failed" because I put down my bits and pieces of unimportant stuff and joined my dog on the grass, under the magnolia tree. He didn't even move; he just let me get beside him.

Remember one of the things I had in my pocket? The travel camera? So glad I kept that in hand:

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Yes, this is really our tree and not a stock image. ;0)

Now if you are more of a cat-person, I thought this is a fitting way to stop and smell the roses...

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Look like the 'cat that got the cream.'

The cat's technique was awfully polite too (must be English!). I mean, it has been pointed out that a lot of cats would have pushed it over and furiously lapped it up. Truth. But ...

It's easy to get distracted by the kitty and not hear what he said, important thoughts about how the kingdom is upon you and later, how it's easy to think things are going to go on forever when we are in the middle of it. Though I admit that I'm glad he acknowledged his visitor (consider the lilies...), I'm also glad he went on with his thoughts .

Things DON'T go on forever. Life does 'go on.' Things DO happen to call us into a completely different location ... physically and spiritually.

You are quite familiar (I'm sure) with the verse about the lilies of the field. Let's take just a quick look over The Message's interpretation of the same popular reference from Matthew 6.

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Love that. And don't YOU worry about "missing out..."

“It is not enough to be busy; so are the ants.
The question is: What are we busy about?
Henry David Thoreau
“Gather ye rosebuds while ye may, old time is still a flying:
And this same flower that smiles today, tomorrow will be dying.”
Robert Herrick (To the Virgins, to Make Much of Time, 1635)

Consider the lilies of the field,
how they grow: they neither toil nor spin;
and yet I say to you that even Solomon in all his glory

was not arrayed like one of these.
Now if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is,
and tomorrow is thrown into the oven,
will He not much more clothe you, O you of little faith?”

-Jesus, the Son of God
Matthew 6:29-30, NASV

"You're gonna find your way to heaven is a rough and rocky road
if you don't stop and smell the roses along the way..."

Mac Davis

"Be wise, make wine, and in a short time,

lose any great hope. As we speak, time is cruelly slipping away.

SEIZE THE DAY, believing the least in the future."

-Horace (ancient Roman poet)

from the end of Odes I.11

Yes, above I thought to quote Mac Davis directly after Jesus (welcome to my brain). Let's wrap back around to the dog...

A few years later and a couple of month after Satchel passed, a new dog found us. We are in a different house now, but a fun surprise was seeing something we didn't realize until after we moved in -- there is another tulip magnolia in our new backyard! It wasn't in bloom while we were house-hunting and there aren't a lot of houses with them in the backyard. We didn't look for it. But somehow it found us.

I may not daily get the chance to lie beneath it because of it's location, but that one silly moment years ago was pretty significant. Therefore, it does run through my mind often and I will smile many times as I pass under the pretty pink blossoms in the spring. I don't need to teach my animals to listen without treats. I need to listen to THEM every once in a while. As you now know, it wasn't lilies or rosebuds that Satch and I saw ... but those perky pink magnolias which made it pretty clear to me that day that there are more important things to consider.

I miss that ol' dog sometimes. But one thing that sticks out in my memory of him is that one teachable moment where he unintentionally taught me about not making a burden out of time.

It is the end of summer, not spring, no. But I WILL still be "considering the lilies" today ... and every day.

Oh, and all that stuff I was working on that day? I got it all done with time to spare. Thanks to Satch, with whom I shared a much needed refreshing moment under our tulip magnolia.

Now where is my tea? (oops, I'd better look around for the cat ...)

The Scripture Scout's Devotional Discoveries