Old Dog, New Tricks


We always have the opportunity to grow in peace, not because of any brilliance on our part but because of the brilliant help God is willing to give us.

My brother, Jim, is a dog whisperer. His work is living proof that you really can teach old dogs new tricks. Take the dog that kept running away or the one that jumped up on people or the one that got into fights or the one that peed every time someone rang the doorbell. Jim has helped these and a host of other dogs overcome behaviors that make it difficult for dogs and owners to live in peace.

Though I don’t mean to insult the Holy Spirit by comparing him to a dog whisperer, even if the latter is my brother, I do want to make the point that the Spirit can help us respond to God throughout the course of our lifetime, regardless of how old or young we may be. That means you and I always have the opportunity to grow in peace, not because of any brilliance on our part but because of the brilliant help God is willing to give.

I was reminded of this yesterday. With my earphones plugged in so I wouldn’t miss a word of my favorite Masterpiece Theatre program, I couldn’t help but notice that my daughters kept coming into the room to talk to me for one reason or another. One was whining about an upcoming dentist appointment. The other wanted to know where the nail polish was. Then the two started arguing. Finally, long past bedtime, my youngest came in triumphantly displaying a tooth she had just pulled and asked if the tooth fairy would please deliver. You get the picture.

Before giving in to the usual temptation to let my irritation mount along with each new interruption, I had a sudden thought. What if all these interruptions were more than they appeared to be? What if they were simple opportunities for me to offer guidance, correction or in the case of the tooth, celebration? So each time, off came the headphones as I responded to the situation at hand.

It was a small thing, true. But what if I could adopt the approach that every unwanted interruption is an opportunity in disguise? What if I could recognize them as the Holy Spirit whispering to me, inviting me to go deeper into the ways of God?

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