Friday, June 26, 2009

A Dog Named Jessie by Jaye Lewis

They say love can cover a multitude of sins. I have seen it; yet never have I seen it more beautifully illustrated than in the life of a dog named Jessie.

Jessie came into our lives at the age of six or seven months. By that time he had already experienced the hard knocks of life. Found abandoned on the side of the road, along with his six siblings, Jessie and his siblings were rescued by a kind stranger who picked them up and brought them to the shelter, where we adopted him. With a promise that Jessie wouldn’t grow much bigger than his already forty pounds, we took him home.

Immediately, it was obvious, that Jessie had issues. Instead of the majestic cattle dog that we had been assured he was, he was, well, rather goofy. And he was afraid. Of the car. Of the door. Of the stairs. Of peanut butter. And even scraps of paper. And Jessie grew. Oh how he grew, topping out at eighty pounds.

Jessie was a wounded, terrified part of our family just a few months, when we became the foster parents of a sweet, young beagle-dachshund mix. Jessie’s adoration for my little dachshund, Happy Dog, was evident from the first day, so we believed he was socialized. Loving Happy Dog was one thing. Accepting this new dog was another.

The very first night there was a food fight between Jessie and this foster child. I started hollering, and my husband managed to get in between the two dogs, grabbing Jessie by his collar. Jessie screamed all the way down the hall and into the bedroom. I, quickly put the foster into her crate, grabbed Happy in my arms, and hurried down the hall. The crashing I heard in the bedroom, scared me to death. But nothing prepared me for the scene I witnessed as I opened the bedroom door.

There was my husband, on top of a terrified, snarling Jessie, holding back his head. Blood dripped from my husband’s arm and onto the rug. Lots of blood. From all we could figure out, when my husband grabbed his collar, Jessie thought he was going to be killed. Whatever his past, nothing had prepared us for a dog who was this kind of loose cannon. This was a dog whom every animal expert insisted ”should be put down.”

To tell you the truth, as I was sitting beside my husband in the emergency room, I just didn’t know what to do with Jessie. I was so angry at that dog. My husband had carried him up and down the stairs, coaxed him into a love affair with peanut butter, and sweet talked him out of his corner and down the hall. He slept by his side. Yet one step towards control, and Jessie mangled the hand that fed him.

I was angry with Jessie. I couldn’t imagine what was going through his head. Would he attack others? Would he attack Happy Dog? Would he even attack me? I didn’t trust him, and I wanted him gone! But my husband insisted, No.

No??!! No.

So Jessie stayed. Against all the expert advice, my husband blamed himself. I was not having any of it. Past, or no past, Jessie had crossed the line. You do not bite the hand, and Jessie had pretty much chewed up most of my husband’s arm.

For ten days, Jessie was quarantined. Then my husband began immediate training, and he bought a training collar. I had to learn to use it, and I had to learn the commands. Since Jessie’s trial by fire began with a dog fight and shouting, my husband began to train Jessie with soft commands and hand signals.

Day after day. Week after week, my husband faithfully trained a dog that others would have given up on. As his arm healed over the next months, something rare and beautiful began to take place. Jessie, under my husband’s gentle persuasion, began to understand and obey. And Jessie adored him. I could see, that no matter the tempest that ruled Jessie’s former life, affirmation and love had calmed the storm.

The storm within me also began to be healed. I learned to forgive. I didn’t know that was happening until one night as I was writing, I felt someone watching me. I turned around, and there was Jessie, standing in the hall looking at me. I saw a pleading expression in his eyes, and I seemed to hear his voice. “Mommy, please love me.”

At that moment, my heart broke for the little pup who had been abandoned in a cardboard box, by the side of the road. Then, love burst into my heart, as he came over to me, hesitantly, expecting rejection.

“Yes, Jessie, I love you.” I whispered into his neck, as my arms slipped around him. Jessie had found another home, in me.

Nine years later, things have changed. I’m older, and so is Jessie. Our relationship has grown, as my health has declined. In the house, I’m very much the one in charge, and Jessie, still timid in many ways, knows who is boss. When we go outside, however, Jessie takes over, like the noble watch dog he was born to be. His job, as he sees it, is to protect and defend me and our passel of little dogs. His vigilance is unmistakable. He sniffs the air, and he is exactly what God and fine breeding had made him to be. He is the one who keeps me safe.

Jessie has taught me many things about life, love, and forgiveness. He never was a bad dog. He was just afraid. I’m so glad that my husband insisted that Jessie’s life was worth saving. I’ve seen the animal shows, where a dog like Jessie is tested for sociability by jabbing at the poor creature with a fake hand, attached to a long stick. Then, when the dog fails he’s put down, without giving him a chance.

I don’t know how much longer God will allow us to have Jessie, before He calls him home. All I know is, that I love him. He is healthy, happy, and just a little bit goofy. He has taught me that all things are not necessarily absolute. Some things just have to be tested and felt in the heart. I also know one very important thing: that if you allow a lesson to really change you, it often will.

With love,
Jaye Lewis

Friday, June 12, 2009

Matters of the Heart by Jaye Lewis

Hello friends,

I can’t believe that it has been over a month since I last wrote, but, then, this has been a bad flu season…a really bad one. I’ve had virus after virus, then relapse after relapse. When you’re gasping for air, I guess it doesn’t really matter what they call it. I just hope that your health has been better than mine. I hate the thought of anyone else being sick.

There are some other reasons that I haven’t written, also. I call them “matters of the heart.” I have found the world to be extremely disturbing, and I can’t help but wonder when a person makes that first decision to follow evil? Perhaps that decision is forged in an unhappy childhood, or perhaps one is simply born that way. One must have an element of shame in one’s character, in order to evaluate the right or wrong of an act, before it is committed. To do deliberate harm to another living being cannot be blamed upon a disappointing childhood. Doing evil is not a mistake, it is premeditated.

I grew up in the 1950’s south. My father was a chef, so I spent many of my days in restaurant kitchens. Most of the kitchen help were black, but I saw no difference, since my Dad also was “kitchen help.” Day after day I spent with the ladies of the kitchen, who spoiled me mercilessly. And I loved them passionately.

I could not grasp the meaning of prejudice. I could not bear to hear evil words spoken about or to those gentle, kind, and loving women, and I delivered many a bloody nose over it. I hated the “separate, but equal-ness” of the south in which I grew up. I could not comprehend why a person could not go to the bathroom, or drink from a water fountain, simply because they weren’t the right color. It hurt my heart to see the ladies that I loved, ordered to the back of the bus, or forced to give up their seat. I couldn’t understand then, as I can’t understand now. The absolute callousness of those who harbor such wickedness in their hearts is a mystery to me. I hope that I go to my grave without that understanding.

Perhaps you may wonder why I bring this up today? I usually prefer to avoid speaking about those who believe that it is all right to harbor hatred in their hearts, yet still maintain a “church face” on Sunday. I can only say, I marvel; just as Jesus “marveled” at the unbelief among his own people. Do you suppose He marvels at those of us who profess to be Christians, yet who gather together as a rabble of pretend believers, and stir up a crowd into a mob, all the while pretending “free speech?” Or worse − Christian duty?

One of my favorite scriptures is Luke 6:45. “A good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth good; and an evil man out of the evil treasure of his heart brings forth evil. For out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks.”

This scripture makes me wonder about our radio airwaves, and the
“performers” who are applauded by “good” people, who encourage a tirade of poorly veiled racism and even worse. I want to ask them “why?” And yet I cringe at the thought of exchanging any words with those “sounding brass” or “clanging cymbals,” who disturb me beyond belief.

For those who don’t know Christ or the Bible, I want to assure you that our Master did not sway His followers, then or now, with pretty words. He spoke plainly, and often He spoke things that chill the blood in ones veins. Do those mistaken Christians who follow those who speak evil, understand, or have they read the scripture?

For Jesus says:

“Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven. Many will say to Me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?’ And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!’ Matthew 7:21-23

Every time I think of this scripture, I have to look within myself, searching out the evil within my own heart. If I am truly humble, I allow God to pour out His light into my soul, chasing all the shadows and ugliness away. I dare not embrace those shadows. I must fight and resist the chains of hatred, prejudice, and anger within. I must not give into them. If I cannot forgive, I still can lay that burden at the foot of the Cross that held my Lord and Savior. I can heal, instead of hurt. I can walk away and wish no harm. I can even pray for the one who has hurt me. I can wash my hands in the blood that He shed for me. How can I not shed my petty selfishness, when Jesus sacrificed so much for me?

May I share with you, friends, a part of the interior journey I take?

All the Way to Calvary

All the way to Calvary,
He carried all my sin.
I followed Him with purpose.
The nails I pounded in.

I lashed with Herod’s soldiers,
And stripped Him to the bone.
I hung Him naked on a cross
And let Him die alone.

My sins were oh so evident…
The pride, the rage, the fears…
I watched in wonder as I saw
Jesus shed my tears.

I watched his blood come pouring out
And puddle on the ground.
And though He could have told my guilt,
He uttered not a sound.

I hurled my accusations:
“When I hurt, you weren’t there!”
“Where were you when I needed You?”
“I can see that You don’t care!!”

He looked at me so sadly,
As He hung upon that tree.
He willingly became my sin,
And set this captive free.

I had failed so many times,
So it was difficult to see,
How God could come from heaven
And choose to die for me.

Yet, I accept the mystery,
How Jesus from above,
Could take my unforgiveness,
And return to me His love.

© Jaye Lewis, 2006

So now, friends, you know the worst of me. I am human, just like anyone else. I have hated (it doesn’t matter who or why), and I have refused to forgive. I have fought the wrong fight, and I have battled the wrong wars. I have chosen so many wrong things, that I wonder how God can keep me in His care. Yet, though I have many sins still to give up, God loves me. With all my faults and imperfections, He has accepted me as His own. Why? I don’t know. I only know that without Him my life is empty, and with Him, I am full.

Father in heaven, forgive us for our sins of prejudice, bigotry, and pride. Grant us the grace to step away from the gossip, which strangles the soul. Compel us, Lord God, to desire the virtues of acceptance, forgiveness, and love. Give us hearts that are filled with generosity, and may we not shame you with our thoughts, words, or deeds.

With love,
Jaye Lewis

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