Another start of another New Year. Another time to reflect, reevaluate and regroup. Another time that can either dissuade us into a coma, for all the things we did not accomplish. Or, a retrospective realization that we, ultimately, are not in control of our lives. Whether we believe in God Almighty or not does not discount His existence. His preeminence. His power over all. Even those of us that do believe, it can be difficult to walk the path, so to speak, He lays out for us. Ne’er a step missed will prove fruitful. However, when we pick and choose what we will do and not do, we can leave ourselves almost comatose at this time of year.
…and I’m not talking about because of eating too much through the holidays.
Let us “resolve”, as Daniel (Daniel 1:8), to not be half-hearted, half-baked, or remain in that coma. Let us come out of comatose, and fully step into that to which we are called.
So what’s that have to do with dog training?!
You may be wondering why I am writing about God and comatose in a blog set aside for dog training tips. It could be because I am that strange 😉 But more likely it is due to the fact that growing in Christ is learned, refined–trained up–through so many avenues. Dog training, I have come to believe, is one of those venues.
No, I am *not* claiming that insanity that we supposedly “all come to God our own ways”, or worse, that “all paths lead to God.” Those are lies folks hold onto in a vain attempt to determine and justify their own waywardness. Jesus laid it out, black and white, that He is the *only* way (John 14:6).
What I am saying is much like Paul in Romans 8 tells us, “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those that are called according to His purpose.” (ESV) And, just like with training dogs, without the consistent repetition of digging into His Word and putting it into practice, not much is going to work out good.
Just as much as I need to daily run through at least Hanani’s basic commands, I need also to run myself through the Lord’s basic commands. We can never, like our dogs, have it all “down pat.” We will never be ever-ready to respond at the given moment of necessity if we are not daily making sure we are ready. Grounded. Sound.
A great example was an eye-opener I had last year. I am still learning as I train Hanani for cadaver work. My husband, Jamie, buried a vertebra in our yard so I could work my pup blind (me not knowing where the item is buried). This was something we had done many times, so I figured it to be simply another exercise. Boy, was I wrong.
The little I know of scent theory and its attributes, it took a while for it to dawn on me why she was alerting about 15 yards from where he actually buried it. Duh. That was downwind on a hot, breezy day. She did locate and alert at the actual site, but it took me a while to realize why she alerted far off repeatedly. Right here, you can see that it wasn’t enough that I knew bits and pieces of the basics. I learned something that I had skipped over a while back.
This gets better…. A few days later I wanted to dig up the vertebra and use it elsewhere. Well, Jamie dug where Hanani alerted–and he recalled burying it. Nothing. Folks, we dug up about a 3 foot by 8 foot area, 6 inches deep. Twice. No bone. When I shared this with my son, Felip, he gets curious and starts to dig. He found a bone. Just not the one we buried.
I sat with that bone in my house for weeks. We used it periodically, just to see what Hanani would do with it. I sought online and compared hundreds of photos. I asked people I knew in several areas, including a forensics student. It looked like a human bone! And, yes, Hanani did alert on it every time I used it in training. Can you imagine? Finding a rouge human bone chunk beside your patio on a beautiful summer eve?
Yes, I finally did take it to our local police department. A couple days later the detective called me and, his exact words after their anthropologist checked it out were, “It is most likely not human.” I asked a retired sheriff friend and he confirmed that normally means they really don’t know.
Back to the point here… During all this I turned to an experienced friend and told her the story. She informed me that there are a few other substances that cadaver dogs need “proofed” on because of how similar the odors are. Mainly, animal decomp and old piles of leaves left for several years can throw a dog off if they are not refined in their training.
Now, I was aware that dogs need proofed, but still I learned something more. The greatest thing I learned is that we can never know “enough” to “just get by.” I also learned that my dog was not ready! Am I? We must keep going over and over, and over again, every day, in all scenarios we can find opportunity for. The same is true in our growing in knowledge and experiences with God.
Still, the mystery of that bone lingers…. Truly, I wish the police would have returned it to me–as crazy as that may sound!
The moral of the tail
Putting all these seemingly disconnected pieces together, the overarching lesson learned–in both dog training and growing in Christ–is to be diligent. Let nothing drag you down, get in your way–including our own excuses–of achieving that which you know must be.
The verse referenced above from Daniel is telling: “But Daniel resolved that he would not defile himself with the king’s food, or with the wine that he drank.” (1:8 ESV) In a hugely dark world, shackled by a wicked king, Daniel “resolved” to remain set apart. As the Church–the “ecclesia”–is called out and set apart.
Latin ecclesia, from Greek ekklesia, where the word is a compound of two segments: “ek”, a preposition meaning “out of”, and a verb, “kaleo”, signifying “to call” – together, literally, “to call out” (or “set apart”).simplewikipedia.org
It has been my experience and observation that we can become “comatose” simply by not standing our ground against worldly things and our own nature. Whether we choose to claim Christ, or speak of God, while embracing sexually immoral icons and practices, or give into anger, extreme grief and become paralyzed by everything that knocks us down, we put ourselves in that coma. At the turn of this New Year, I witness many showing signs.
I suppose this is one reason I love training dogs. Even when I have knocked myself down from feeling defeated, being angry about those close to me claiming Christ and defiling His name, or simply giving up on blessings God provided to me years ago, right now I can change that. So, okay. I missed a few days of Hanani’s daily refreshing and training. But right now, I can get up and get to work.
Much like our Lord, she will always remind me. Always loves me. Always starts right where we left off, like we missed nothing. Gosh… I am so blessed. But I am also “called out”, “set apart” and empowered. And, I do believe, our God created these beautiful, sentient beasts to remind us….