man's best friend

The dog and God are mans best friend Faithfulness, loyalty, companionship, unconditional love ... I think it's interesting that all of these traits are used to describe both God and dogs.

Over the past year we have raised our black lab Samson, the handsome one, from puppy to adult and added our second dog Ben, the crazy one, to the mix. I never thought I would learn so much about confidence, patience and anger all from a couple of dogs. But prior to this I had never really owned a dog of my own. I had grown up with pets, but I was never the one responsible for taking care of them. So when it came time to train, exercise and clean up after them it felt a bit overwhelming.

When I walk them I sometimes get so frustrated when they pull me, or rather constantly pull the whole time, that I have this sort of power struggle with them and yank them harder than I should. (You should know that when I walk them it's on a short leash with the purpose of keeping them next to or behind me.) I know yanking them is not best practice by any means, but I'm working on. So anyways, I find myself praying a lot on walks to help me be patient and focus on being my dogs pack leader.

So the other night as we were ending our walk the dogs started acting up again, and again I tried to put them in their place. Immediately afterwards I thought how God is so patient with us that it amazed me how He deals with us even when we are rebellious and strongly pull in our own direction. But then it hit me that God doesn't hold us on a leash. He's given us free will and the choice to accept His love or not. But the worst part was the realization that I do more of the leash holding in my relationship with God. I try and bring Him under control to my liking and obey my every command, just like my dogs. This was shocking to me, because I had never thought about my relationship with the one who created me like this before.

But even more amazing is how God is love and no matter how much we hurt Him His love is unconditional. Just like a dog, whose minds are quick to forget and live in the moment, God is able to forgive us through the blood of Jesus and love us "in the moment" of every day of our lives. And it's not just in walking my dog that I find myself wanting to take control over God. I am constantly having to die to myself in my marriage, at work and a lot of the time behind the wheel.

Update: The last few days on my walks with the dogs I've been focusing more on enjoying the walk and less on controlling them, and that's helped tremendously. I know that practice and patience and daily exercise are the key ingredients to keeping me and my dogs happy.

7 daily needs

Between my wife and I it would be fair to say that I enjoy the mornings a lot more. My wife is definitely the night owl. Not me. Maybe it's the four years that the military made me work 12 hour shifts and wake up at 4 am to exercise? Or maybe it's the fact that I have a dog who thinks it's fun to wake me up by stretching his fronts paws right in my face and then rolling all over me until I get up to let him out. But I like to think that the time I have in the morning is worth getting up for. I see it as a new leaf turning over, another chance to right the wrongs and to start fresh. The following activities help me on a day-to-day basis. I hope they help you too.

This doesn't necessarily mean spending an hour on your knees in a solemn state of mind. Maybe you pray in the shower, or before you eat breakfast. I don't know, that's between you and God. But from personal experiences I've found it's impossible to have a heart-to-heart with God when feeling obligated to pray. My best advice is just be real with God and allow your heart to be open.

Some of the most intimate moments I've had in prayer have been when I laid bare all my doubts and fears and allowed The Lord to wash over me with His Word. If you have never prayed out loud, or at all for that matter, I highly recommend you give it a try. Once you start a journey for the Truth, God will find you.

There is a great book called "The Artists Way". It's marketed as a spiritual path to higher creativy. Maybe, like me, you are a creative person and think why do I need a book to help me be creative? From my own experience the book is not meant to teach you how to be creative but to assist you in letting your creativity flow freely.

Writing is something I enjoy, but not something that comes all that easy to me. And keeping a journal is a perfect way to throw out all the rules and express your desires, your opinions or your next great idea for a project. If writing is not your style why not keep a sketchbook or collage book? There are plenty of great resources online and in bookstore that show you how to make your own journals.

Think of it as a way to clear out all the clutter that might be clogging up what you need to be focusing on.

Eating healthier and in moderation helps me feel better about my self. I think it's sad how our modern culture has chosen fast food as a respectable choice for breakfast. Breakfast is the most important meal of the day. It sets the tone for your bodies daily nutritional needs. I'm not saying that we should be stuck in the 50s. Times have changed and it's tough in our fast-paced society to sit down as a family. But even sitting down with a bowl of cereal and some juice will do your body good.

Following suit with eating a good breakfast, it is also important to choose wisely what you drink in the morning. I think most everyone would agree coffee is the "best part of waking up". However, while coffee is a good place to start, as your body actually benefits from caffeine (in moderation), there are other alternatives such as hot tea. Most parts of the world actually drink hot tea instead of coffee. With the vast amount of herbal teas available there would seem to be an extra health benefit from choosing tea over coffee. And lets not forget the classics. Orange juice (complete with 100% Vitamin C), milk (try to stay on the organic side and you're body will love you more) and of course there is always water. I actually find water to be quite refreshing in the morning while my stomach is not ready for something more acidic.

Maybe it's the first thing you do when you wake up, or maybe you wait until later. Whichever time you chose you'll notice you feel healthier throughout the day. My daily workout consist of taking my dogs on a walk. Walking is the perfect way to stay in shape your whole life and is actually the most popular form of exercise in Japan.

In America we live by the creed "bigger is better!" So all you see in fitness magazines are perfectly sculpted, bulky men and women. For me, simple is always better. Why try and kill myself over attaining a body that I neither need nor really want. There are tons of workouts that can be done at home. Pushups, crunches, lunges, squats, chin-ups, stair climbing (works great if you live in apartments), and if you add a core exercise ball or a small set of free weights you can increase the intensity of these basic workouts. I think the best advice I've heard about working out is listen to your body and know what your limits are.

I love to hear what the world sounds like. And where I'm located that includes the sounds of birds, cars passing on a nearby road, dogs barking, lawn mowers and the wonderful sound the wind makes. Most of all I like to listen in between those moments for the silence. Wherever you live, whatever your surroundings, open your ears and explore how amazing it is to be alive.

Another way I enjoy starting my day is turning on a favorite song. If I feel like relaxing I'll turn on some Iron and Wine, or if I'm feeling energetic I'll turn on some Arcade Fire and if I feel like I need to let some steam off I like to listen to Underoath. Whatever your taste in music, find something that suits you.

When God created man He gave him rule over all the earth, but one thing was lacking, a help mate. God saw that it was no good for man to be alone and so he created woman, a perfect fit for him. My intention here is to show that as humans we were designed to live with support in our lives. We were never meant to be solely independent. We all need someone we can talk to, about anything and everything. Sure, keeping a journal is a good place to start, but a journal doesn't talk back. We need people in our lives that will talk straight with us, and tell us when we're screwing things up. We need those relationships in our lives where we can confide in the other person and vice-versa.

For the record I hate "step" programs. That's why I chose not to use a title like "7 daily steps to a better you" or some junk. They never work. I think we are easily drawn to self-help books and articles like that because we want the easy way out. We want to know the answer to everything and how to fix every problem. But that's the beauty of life, we never know what each new day will bring. Every day is another chance to start fresh.