Saturday, January 28, 2012

Boon's Sunday Sermon #24 - All Creatures Here Below

Title: All Creatures Here Below
Elisabeth Elliot

Mom is out of town today so we are sharing a piece written by one of our all time favorite authors, Elisabeth Elliot.  Enjoy!

The New Yorker had a picture on its cover in February 1968 of a group of people looking at sleeping puppies in a
pet shop window.  Every face was alight, and the women, of course, were tapping on the glass, trying to elicit
some response from the fetching little beagles in the pen.

What is it we see in the faces of puppies? What else in the whole world instantly softens the expressions of the
hardest people as does the sight of a little puppy trotting gaily along the sidewalk? Is there something eternal,
some intimation of unutterable sweetness there which we know will be gone in a matter of weeks?  We want to get
our hands on the softness; we crave response. People who would not dream of addressing a stranger on the street will address a puppy and then often, as though they cannot help themselves, the owner of the puppy as well.

Some years ago my husband and I bought a tiny purebred Scottish terrier. He had a box-shaped body on which black fur grew in the shape of a horse blanket, shaggy and shiny. He had another smaller box for a head, with jaunty chin whiskers, wonderfully bright black eyes and a glistening black nose. His ears pointed sharply, and he moved them up, sideways and back--he could even revolve them--depending on whether he was looking, listening or waiting hopefully to be petted. His tail was a little cone in almost constant motion. His feet were like short flanges at the ends of his unbelievably short legs. His legs were, in fact, just barely long enough to keep his chin off the floor.

The dog's name was MacPhearce. He had a terrier's feistiness and could bark sharply or growl like a tenor
gargling, but was putting on an act ("Is he trained to kill on command?" a man on the street asked), for he was
really very affectionate and badly wanted friends.

I put a blue collar on him and took him out on a blue leash. (He did not, however, wear a plaid coat or rubbers. It seemed logical to me that the coat he came with was designed for his needs.) People would catch a glimpse of him and stop in their tracks. "Look at this dog!" they would say, if they had anyone with them to say it to, or, "Isn't he adorable?" they would say to me. People under forty often said, "What kind of dog is that?" and people over forty said, "Oh, a Scotty! You don't see many of them anymore!"  MacPhearce was not aware that he had gone out of style. He had been succeeded by Boston terriers, then by poodles and boxers and Lhasa apsos.  But it never bothered him much, and he behaved as though he was exactly what he was meant to be, which is more than can be said of some human beings.  One said, "Ooohhh--I can't stand it, he's so cute!"

I wonder if God felt anything like that on the day he created such creatures. "It is very good" is what he is
reported to have said, and I suppose we cannot expect the Almighty to have been thrilled, or even impressed. It was exactly what he had meant. The animal was the living proof of the divine idea.

MacPhearce was not a sinner, theologically speaking, and therefore fulfilled God's intention for him every moment of his life. My husband wrote years ago about a dog he had named Lassie. He believed that she had been "assigned" to him. It was her business to keep him happy, and perhaps of all the marvelous things dogs do for man (herding sheep, retrieving birds, pulling sleds, leading the blind, rescuing the freezing or the drowning), none is more marvelous than this: they are comforters and companions. They think always of their master. What is he doing? Can I accompany him?  Is he happy? How can I cheer him?

A woman I know found her teen-age daughter lying on the living room rug one evening, sobbing into the curly fur of their cocker spaniel. The mother had on many occasions wondered if the dog was worth all the fuss and trouble of training, feeding, cleaning fur off the rugs and furniture. She stopped wondering when she saw that the dog was a refuge and a friend to the child when she would have found it impossible to cry on anyone's shoulder. The mother made up her mind then and there that as long as she had children, at least, she would have a dog. (She has since decided that even she needs him.)

My old friend Dorothy who lives on the Cape has had dachshunds, terriers, poodles and a Scotty. "Oh my, they give so much," she says, "and they ask so little!"

C. S. Lewis had some lovely things to say about animals in his Letters to an American Lady. "I will never laugh at anyone for grieving over a loved beast. I think God wants us to love Him more, not to love creatures (even animals) less. No person, animal, flower, or even pebble, has ever been loved too much--i.e., more than every one of God's works deserves."

In another letter he wrote, "We were talking about cats and dogs the other day and decided that both have
consciences but the dog, being an honest, humble person, always has a bad one, but the cat is a Pharisee and
always has a good one. When he sits and stares you out of countenance he is thanking God that he is not as these dogs, or these humans, or even as these other cats!"

A dog can gaze with adoration and not be embarrassed, but if he finds himself gazed at by a group not entirely
sympathetic, he seems to know this and will often busy himself with licking a paw, or will perhaps decide that he has business elsewhere.  He accepts himself for what he is, and us human beings for whatever we may be, and thus teaches us a lesson in the grace of acceptance.  Dogs can adapt themselves to whatever treatment we may dish out.  If we step on a tail by accident its owner may yelp but will be wagging it at once in forgiveness. A dog's eyes may be filled with reproach if we have left him alone too long, if we go out in the car and tell him to stay, or if his dinner is late, but the reproach is gentle and loving, and he will come and lay his head in our lap seventy times seven.

A truck went by the house the other day labeled Old Mother Hubbard Oven-Baked Dog Foods and Laboratory Diets. The pet food business is an enormous and lucrative one. Any pet shop displays a staggering variety of feeding dishes, foods, toys, medicines, shampoos, flea soaps and powders, beds, baskets, carrying cases, cages, leashes, collars--some of them rhinestone-studded--and garments, including galoshes and raincoats for poodles.  We insult our pets by not allowing them to be animals. We violate their being when we try to make them human.

"Love the pride of your dogs," wrote Isak Dinesen. "Let them not grow fat."  Put not on them outrageous frippery, I would add. Pamper them not with furniture and food luxurious for people but indecent for animals. Recognize what they are, love them for that, let them love you because you love them for what they are and not because you have made of them a poor facsimile of yourself.

George MacDonald, the Scottish preacher and novelist of the nineteenth century, believed that "dogs always behold the face of the Father." To study a dog's face will make you wonder about the redemption of all creation.  Do dogs have souls? We have no clue to that in Scripture. We are told, however, that "everything that exists in heaven or earth shall find its perfection and fulfillment in Christ."

A lady once asked Dr. Harry Ironside of Moody Church in Chicago about the salvation of dogs. She was heartbroken over the death of her little white dog, and was not sure she would be able to enjoy heaven at all if he was not going to be there. "Madam," replied Dr. Ironside, "if when you get to heaven you want your little white dog, I can assure you that he will be there."

What the "perfection and fulfillment" of little white dogs or little black puppies named MacPhearce may mean is not, for us at any rate, a very important question. But it may remind us of unspeakably important questions.
Responsibility to our Creator. Obedience to his call.  Fulfillment of his purpose for us as men and women who have been given the mandate to take care of the earth.  Then we can join with all creatures great and small, and even with the stars of the firmament of which Joseph Addison wrote in 1712:

In reason's ear they all rejoice and utter forth a glorious voice:  Forever singing as they shine, "The hand that
made us is divine."

Copyright 1979, by Elisabeth Elliot
all rights reserved.

Have a blessed week, furiends!


It's Who We Are


Friday, January 27, 2012

Mr. Chewy - It's What's for Dinner :-)

So a couple of weeks ago, we received a very nice email from Mr. Chewy asking if we would be interested in testing out and reviewing their website in exchange for $50 worth of products.  Boy, howdy, did someone say free food???  Yes, indeed!  We were interested.

Mom says feeding seven dogs isn't always convenient... especially when five of them are rather large dogs like we Golden Retrievers are.  I don't know what all the fuss is about.  Seems simple enough to me.  They walk into the laundry room, scoop our food into our bowls, and then we do the rest.  She said something about cost and getting those big bags of food to and from the car and to and from the house.  I don't know what she means by all that because the food always seems to just magically appear.  Mom said after ordering from Mr. Chewy, that sure seemed like the case.  She made the order one evening and then three days later a nice man appeared with food for us.  She also said that because the prices are lower on Mr. Chewy's site, she was able to choose a better quality food that is designed for dogs like Kudzu who are prone to joint disorders.  We can't wait to see if it makes a difference in how he feels.

Did we mention we got treats too??  Oh, yeah, we got treats!  Bil-Jac is our favorite!  Since we are 90 miles away from the closest retailer that sell Bil-Jac, we thought it was pretty awesome for it to arrive on our door steps.

In addition to dog food and treats and potty supplies, they also have products for C-A-T-S.  (Shhh, don't tell.  Mom didn't order the cats anything and it's suppose to stay a secret!) 

 Mr. Chewy also carries flea and tick protection.  And shipping is always free on orders of $49 or more.

Mom gives our shopping experience with Mr. Chewy two thumbs way up.  I'll have to give 'em four paws, cause well, I don't have thumbs.

Mr. Chewy also hosts an impressive referral system for their customers.  It's a win/win thing.  You can find more information about it on their website or click HERE.

We are now loyal Mr. Chewy customers.  We hope you'll check 'em out too!!


Hi-Tech Healthy Living

How did people ever lose weight and work towards a healthier lifestyle before websites and apps and video games were available in our modern world?

When I began my quest towards healthy living just a couple of weeks back, I initially started with Wii Fitness.  What I especially like about the Wii Fitness game is that it challenges you more and more as you advance through levels.  You aren't stuck doing the same routine every day, so you can expect different results.  So far I have mostly done yoga, aerobics, and balance games that help to improve your overall posture.  The more I do it, the better I get.  The better I get, the more challenging it becomes.  I can't wait to add some more of the Wii fitness games to our collection (especially Zumba!).  (Disclaimer:  I am not using Wii Fit exclusively in my weight loss journey.  Results vary person to person.)

My Fitness Pal's website has become a valuable asset as I learn to make healthier choices in regards to dining.  When I entered my weight, height, and age and shared how much weight I'd like to lose over how much time, it instantly responded with a daily calorie intake.  To achieve my goal it tells me exactly how much of which nutrients I should eat daily.  It also allows me to enter each individual food that is eaten and counts the calories from it for you.  It has a huge database that range from fresh to frozen to farmer's market to Wal-Mart to restaurants.  A lot less paper work on my end as it tells me exactly how many calories I have left at any point in the day.  It also allows you to log work-outs and tells you exactly how many calories you burn based on your size, the activity, and the time spent.  The community aspect also makes for a wonderful experience.  I searched topics such as: "Made to Crave", "100+", and "Fibromyalgia" to find people walking the same path I am.  The encouragement and accountability are wonderful!  I also have downloaded the free My Fitness Pal app to my Android smart phone to track my progress away from home.   The information is shared between the phone and site so that my information is always current wherever I might be.

Speaking of apps -

I really wanted a pedometer that not only counted my steps but also traced my route and mapped how far I'd walked.  After downloading a couple that I wasn't really please with, I searched the Android Market and found the Cardio Trainer.  I can't begin to tell you how handy this FREE app is.  Simply put your phone in your pocket and it tracks your every movement.  Put it in workout mode and it will tell you how far you've walked and how many calories you've burned.  It also plays the music stored in your phone's library as you're working out.  The GPS feature shows exactly where you are and where you are going and how far you've traveled.  It is the perfect combination!

These are a few simple elements that keep me motivated daily.  Do you have any sites, games, or apps that you've found essential to your routine?

(Oh, and if you're on My Fitness Pal, be sure to add me as a friend.  I'm agapegoldens and I look forward to encouraging you!)


Thursday, January 26, 2012

Fibromyalgia and Weight Loss

                       I was first diagnosed with Fibromyalgia during my second semester of college.  The effects of this horrible disease have been crippling at times.  They have also sabotaged all previous weight loss efforts.  Not this time.  
No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.  Romans 8:37 

Not familiar with Fibromalgia?  Allow me to acquaint you:

Today a combination of a bad weather system and fibromaylgia have left me feeling fatigued and sluggish and aching all over.  I have not been able to exercise the past two days.  Today I am DETERMINED that I will move more even if it isn't an extended work-out.

I found some great links for more information regarding trying to lose weight with fibromyalgia.  The are a wonderful source that I'm sure I'll be going back to often.  They are:

And perhaps my favorite - Fibromyalgia Information Foundation - this includes beneficial exercises for fibro folks.

 But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us.  We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair;  persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed.  We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body.
   2 Corinthians 4:7-10

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Wordless Wednesday - Shelter Pets

Mom was asked to do some more pics for a special project for the rescue shelter we volunteer at.  Her goal was to capture the pups personalities.  Here's some of the sweet hearts she spent the day playing with.


Monday, January 23, 2012

Something To Look Forward To

Prior to our family's first visit to the magical world of Disney in 2008, I spent more than nine months planning for the perfect trip.

The planning and expectation were well worth it.  The time invested in the details gave my family not one but two wonderful vacations to the enchanted land.

I had waited my entire lifetime to go to Disney World.  I'd dreamed of it as a child, teenager, and adult.  But I'd only heard about it from others, seen pictures of it, and read about it.  I had no idea what it would actually be like until I got there.  It was worth the wait.

I am going about my weight loss journey in much the same way.  Right now I feel like I am in the planning stages.  It is going to take months of determination and hard work.  But the end result is going to be so worth it - a healthy, new me!

I can't wait!

Looking forward to the prize is keeping me focused.

Eight pounds gone.  Ninety-five to go!

To God be the glory!!

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Boon's Sunday Sermon #23 - Overcoming Adversity

Many times when we are out with Kudzu, people's initial reaction upon seeing him is to say something like, "Oh, poor baby."  While I understand their sympathy, it is wasted on Kudzu.

Had Kudzu not lost his leg, his former owner would not have surrendered him.  If his former owner had not surrendered him, he would not be in a home where he can truly live life to its full potential.  He would still be an "outdoor accessory" instead of a loved family member and an inspiration for others.

Through the very situation that stifled Kudzu in others eyes, it is also the same one that brought him to his God given destiny.

How have you responded to adversity in your own life?  Have you let it define you or used it to advance you?  We all go through hard times and are in someway a victim to plans that weren't our own.  We don't have to let those things defeat us.

 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.  Romans 8:37 

God has a plan and a purpose for you.  He can take all of those broken pieces and give you a testimony.  Romans 8:28 assures us that "He works all things together for good for those who love Him and are called according to His purpose."

Instead of living defeated, we have the ability to choose to live victorious.  Instead of using our injury as a crutch, we can use it for a testimony.

They triumphed over him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony; - Revelation 12:11  

Kudzu has taught me in more than one way that it true - For we walk by faith, not by sight.  2 Corinthians 5:7 

Give whatever is holding you back over to God.  Let Him use it to give you victory so that you might live the full purpose He intended for your life.

Have a blessed week, friends.


Friday, January 20, 2012

M2C - Chapter Two

As I have begun to become more aware of my eating habits, I find that most of my cravings occur when I am bored or when I am stressed.  I do enjoy comfort food - especially french fries (and if they happen to be covered with chili and cheese, all the better).  I have laid this at Jesus' feet and am standing firm that He is my deliverer.  I am two weeks french fry free, people!  God is good!!

I have many motivations moving me towards the goal to become healthier:

1.  My family.  Not only do I want to be able to be actively involved in their lives and to be able to enjoy playing with them - football, catch, whatever - I also want to hang around this world long enough to watch my kids grow up and grow old with my husband.  (If I'd continued down the path I was on, I probably wouldn't have much of a chance at a long life.)  At present time I also become embarrassed for my husband or children when they introduce me to a friend or associate.  I feel like people look at my husband and think "poor guy" and my children's friends see the shell of what I have become rather than the fun, spunky/funky mom I actually am.

2. I want to feel better.  I have lived with Fibromyalgia for half of my life, and I'm sick and tired of being sick and tired.  In the past it has been hard to make myself exercise when my body was already so worn down and fatigued, but since I have started, it has made 110% difference in the way I feel in general.  Praise God!!

3.  I want to look better.  Yep, I said it.  I'm vain.  I want to look better so that I will feel more accepted by others instead of feeling judged by my appearance rather than what I can contribute.  This is my selfish desire.  But it's true.  So there it is.

4.  I want to grow in my relationship with God.  We Christian folks are so good at pointing fingers at people who fornicate, smoke, drink, and get high, and in the same breath justify unhealthy eating as an excuse for fellowship.  It can't be justified - not when it leads to a life time of unhealthy habits that have turned into a hundred extra pounds that leave you without the ability to live the life of freedom that Christ died to give you.  Again, I lay down my desires for more of Him.

I love the idea of replacing my cravings for food with prayer.  As I seek to overcome a life time of unhealthy choices - soda, starches, chocolate, and cheescake - what better way to achieve it than by asking for His strength!  It's killing two birds with one stone - drawing closer to Him and becoming healthier at the same time!  This is a win/win, folks!

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.  2 Corinthians 12:9

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Happy Birthday, Kudzu

Some of you may remember the story of how Kudzu came to be a member of the Love Shack Pack, but for those of you don't...

In May - a month after bringing Boondocks home - we received an email telling us about a four month old Golden Retriever whose leg had been amputated after his prior owner left him unattended for days and he'd become entangled in a hammock.  The owner didn't want the expense or burden of a "disabled dog" and surrendered him.  The wonderful staff at Crystal Springs Animal Hospital raised the money for his medical costs and then re-homed him with us.

Kudzu has a couple of quirks to work out and as soon as we do, he'll test for his CGC and do his therapy dog test.  He has a great personality - so full of love.  He greets everyone with a hug that can melt the coldest of hearts.

Kudzu turned "one" Sunday, January 15.  We couldn't be more thrilled to have him as part of our family.


Here are some pics of him that mark his first year.

Our first meeting.

Two days post surgery.

He fit right in from the start.

First Day Home

Who needs four legs??

Happy Boy

Kudzu LOVES to swim.

Kudzu's first therapy visit.

Kudzu works as a reading tutor.

The girls just can't get enough of him.

Kudzu's first Christmas

The Un-Stoppable, Kudzu

What a gorgeous boy he's become.

You can see the depths of his soul with a glance into his eyes.

Come back Sunday for Boon's Sunday Sermon to be encouraged by Kudzu's "testimony".


Not Such Baby Steps

When I began this journey less than two weeks ago, I said I was going to start small in hopes of making lasting progress.  My intentions were to: 1. No more soft drinks.  2.  Exercise.  3.  Eat better - no more white food.  4. Take vitamins.

Instead of easing in to my small changes, I hit them all head on at the same time.  Well, I did have about a ten day head start on the soda's, but that's it.  I began exercising Monday, January 9.  Tuesday, January 10th I began eliminating all white from my diet and sticking to a less than 1300 calories a day food plan.  Wednesday, January 11th, I started taking a women's multi-vitamin and fish oil.

Ten days later.  I feel fabulous and have lost over six pounds.  The usual aches and fatigue associated with Fibromylagia have not plagued me in the same way the did prior to ten days ago.

I have been doing Yoga courtesy of Wii Fitness, and yesterday was able to stretch easily into a "warrior pose" while photographing dogs for BARL to achieve the perfect shot of the dogs in action.  I also have been doing the step walk on Wii as well as walking my dogs and kids all over our neighborhood.  As a result I was also able to run while playing with the dogs.  I never thought I'd be able to run again.  Granted, it wasn't far or for long, but I did it - and it FELT GREAT!

I can tell a difference in the way my clothes fit and see a difference in the shape of my face.  Ten days and six pounds have left me feeling encouraged and empowered!!

God is my strength and deliverer and with Him all things are possible!

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Made to Crave - Chapter One Reflections

I'm participating in Melissa Taylor's online Bible study, "Made to Crave."  I've decided to keep track of my weight loss (down 6.5 pounds in 8 days!) and Bible study progress here since this blog is intended to be my personal journal anyway.

Here are the questions and my responses from the first chapter.

If you could sit down and have an imaginary conversation with your craving, what do you think it might say to you?
"You know you want me."  

What questions would you want to ask it?
"Are you really what's best for me?"

How do you imagine it might respond?
"LOL.. you're joking, right?"  

(Apparently my craving is a smart-aleck!)

How do you respond to the idea that God made us to crave?
If we didn't have any cravings or desires in our lives, what would cause us to pursue anything?  I think we'd all live ordinary, complacent lives.  God made us to crave where we would dream bigger - not so our bums would grow bigger.

Have you ever pursued a craving --a longing, passion, or desire -- that made a positive contribution to your life?
Our desire to work with dogs led to being able to work with people with our dogs.  It's become a beautiful ministry out of something that seems very foolish to many.

What do you think distinguishes that kind of craving from the craving that leads you to eat in unhealthy ways?
God's purpose being fulfilled.  

If it's true that we are made to crave, how might it change the way you understand your cravings?
Not all cravings are negative.  I need to be more in tune with what does and does not bring glory to God.

Do you believe there could be any benefits to listening to your cravings rather than trying to silence them?  If so, what might those benefits be?
Yes.  If we understood where our cravings come from and the purpose they serve, maybe we would make better choices regarding our cravings. 

The Bible describes three ways Satan tries to lure us away from loving God: cravings, lust of the eyes, and boasting (1 John 2:15-16).  Lysa explains how Satan used these tactics with both Eve and Jesus.  Using the list below, think back over the last twenty-four hours or the last few days to see if you recognize how you may have been tempered in similar ways.

Cravings:  meeting physical desires outside the will of God.  In what ways were you tempted by desires for things such as food, alcohol, drugs, or sex?
I have noticed that using Facebook and the internet in general to fill time have become unhealthy cravings in my life.

Lust of the eyes:  meetings material desires outside the will of God.  In what ways were you tempted by desires for material things--clothing, financial portfolio, appliances, vacation plans, cosmetics, home decor, electronics, etc.?
This doesn't really apply to me.  The life-style we have chosen to allow me to stay home with our children doesn't provide for many, meaningless none necessities.  Material things have never been that important to me.  

Boasting:  meeting needs for significance outside the will of God.  In what ways were you tempted by desires to prop up your significance--perhaps by name dropping, exaggerating, feigning humility or other virtues, doing something just because you knew it would be observed by others, etc.?
This is an issue I deal more with.  Because I am constantly seeking other people's approval, there are times that I am not as humble as I should be.  

Of the three kinds of temptations, which is the most difficult for you to resist?
Facebook - I mean who doesn't want to be up to date on EVERYONE's current situation? 

Which is the easiest to resist?  Why?
Lust of the eyes.  I am content with what I have.

Jesus quotes the truth of Scripture to defeat temptation.  Have you ever used Scripture in this way?  Yes.  What was the result?  Victory.  How do you feel about the idea of using this approach to address your unhealthy eating patterns? Hopeful.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

In His Image

When it says we're created in His image, it was talking about the One Sovereign God, the Creator of the universe.  Somewhere along the way my physique transitioned to a more accurate representation of Buddha than our Father God.  And now I'm excited to finally be doing something about it.

Thanks to the grace of God and, I am four and a half pounds lighter than I was when I began challenging myself this past Monday.  I have been logging every bite I take and every move I make into fitness pal to show myself just how much I am accomplishing each day.  I love that it is available as an app on my phone and helps to hold me accountable wherever I go.

I am excited to be starting the Made to Crave Bible study at Melissa Taylor's site tomorrow.  Hopefully my book will be here soon!

I'm not where I want to be, but praise God, I'm not where I was!

Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your bodies.  1 Corinthians 6:19, 20 

Boon's Sunday Sermon #22 - Pardoned

Several years ago we were contacted about an American Eskimo Spitz that was in a high kill shelter and scheduled to be put down.  The breed was one in which I was well acquainted having been my grandmother's chosen dog when I was a child.  We were told that this dog was "vicious" and "beyond hope".  Not willing to accept this verdict, my husband and I drove two hundred miles to pick the dog up.  As we were greeted by the folks from the shelter we were told, "This dog is loco.  We have it crated and will not put our hands in to remove it.  Let's back our crate to yours and let him run into it."  They went on to inform us that because he was such a loud, obnoxious barker he was equipped with his own bark collar as an added bonus.  I was sickened by their lack of compassion as well as their lack of education.

Upon arriving home with "Puff", I spoke gently to him as I opened his crate.  I calmly reached inside and pulled him out.  As soon as he was out, I took the bark collar off of him.  He licked my face with gratitude.  (Because Puff had been sentenced to wear this collar even while he was in the shelter, each time a human appeared in the dog yard sending ALL the dogs into a wild frenzy, a squealing noise went off in his ears.  Thus, he associated humans with the noise and the pain it caused.  Therefore, he had been aggressive towards shelter workers.)

Because of our hope of what Puff could become, we gave him a second chance and were able to see him reach his potential.  He went from death row to our foster home to his furr-ever home.  Mercy was granted.

Former Mississippi Governor, Haley Barbour, has made national headlines this past week as he pardoned or granted clemency to near two hundred convicts on his last day in office.  A firestorm of accusations and scorn has been far reached by his act.  As Gov. Barbour explained, of this number 189 of these prisoners had already served their sentence and had been released.  To them he was extending mercy - granting them a clean slate and hope for gainful employment.  The remaining prisoners had worked as trustees at the governor's mansion during his eight year term.  He felt that they had paid their dues and that they were redeemable.  And so, he gave them back their lives with a second chance for a new start.

Is what Gov. Barbour did for these men and women much different than what Christ did for the entire world?

2 Corinthians 5:21 says, "God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God."

We deserved death for our sins.  We deserved punishment and to be held accountable.  But God saw something in us worth saving and to offer His creation a second chance, he sent His only Son to die in our place.

What are you doing with your second chance?  Are you still living as a slave to sin and your past or as the new creation you became when you accepted Christ as your Savior?  

John 8:36 says, "So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed."

Let go of yesterday and of who you were so that you can live in the fullness of the new life Christ died to give you.