Thursday, June 25, 2015

Who let the dogs out?

Somehow when I was growing up, our house became a refuge for orphaned dogs.  One by one, we seemed to accumulate beloved pets who were conveniently left behind, mostly by my brothers.  Temporary guests gradually evolved into permanent residents.  At one point, there were three dogs living at our house, who were like fun-loving fraternity brothers.

I vowed I would never have a dog.  But that is another story in itself.

Our fenced yard was viewed by those dogs not as a place of freedom to enjoy and frolic, but more like the walled yard of a penitentiary.  I was convinced that it was their mission in life to escape by any means possible.  Every time they were let out, they would literally browse the perimeters of the yard, pushing up against every picket to see if one was loose.  And then again, there was the gate, often inadvertently left open by one of my brothers mowing the yard or playing ball, always intending to come back, but somehow seldom remembering to return and close it.

And so, it became an unwritten rule in our house that whoever let the dogs out should first check the gate to make sure it was closed and fastened.  The consequences of an open gate impacted us and everyone around us. Three dogs on the loose defined the word "mayhem."  They scattered and ran away as fast as possible, scouring the neighborhood and looking for trouble. It was extreme havoc, multiplied by three.

This week, I had a proverbial pack of dogs of my own, waiting to get out by any means possible.  There was a huge opportunity -- a very open gate -- to speak ungraciously about someone.  And God reminded me about the consequences of letting those unruly dogs out.

Set a guard over my mouth, O LORD,
keep watch over the door of my lips.

                              Psalm 141. 3

As I entered the situation, as I opened the door, I was very conscious of making sure that gate was closed and secure, aware of unkind words, barking and straining at the leash.  I chose not to say anything.  And even before the situation was over, God had not just changed my words, He changed my heart.

Before a volatile situation, or even into the most ordinary day, secure that gate.  There is never a need to let out those misbehaving dogs and make a mess of everything.

Give me, O LORD,
words of kindness and grace,
              even in this.

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