Lessons Found In Snow & Dog Poop
Have you entered the storehouses of the snow or seen the storehouses of the hail, which I reserve for times of trouble, for days of war and battle? ~God~
Snow covered the yard. Layers of it had been laid down by one storm after another. The landscape was a rolling white majesty.
There was no chance to stay ahead of it. Every time we dug out, before the shovels were put away, it was tumbling out of the sky once again.
Each day was as beautiful as the next. The pureness of fresh snow is a wonder to me. Even as an old geezer with creeping some-timers, when big snowflakes are wafting down I can stand at the window and be filled with giddiness that wells up from some nearly destroyed innocence.
Or better yet, to be outside in it—to simply stand with arms outstretched and face turned skyward to let the flakes hit my cheeks and settle on my lips is an exhilarating moment of renewal. It takes me back to a time and place before the dreamy bubble of childhood was dismantled by the relentlessly hard realities of life.
The first snowfall of the season is always the best. I’ve been known to get downright silly when the temperature drops low enough for nature to unload moisture in little fluffy packages—it’s miraculous to me. The feelings churn into an energy which would be incredible to be able to tap into at will, but that’s not possible.
One time, early in our thirty-seven year marriage, Anita woke up in the middle of the night because she heard me laughing—she caught me at an open window, with my face pressed against the screen trying to catch a snowflake on my tongue. She giggled and joined me, snuggling close against the frigid air—we shared a tender, captivating closeness.
That moment has never left me. The expression glinting in her eyes was so saturated with joy and affection that it unnerved me—there was an unconditional comprehension and acceptance in her manner.
It was evident that she hoped for goodness and possibility for me—she saw something suppressed within that I couldn’t, wouldn’t, or didn’t want to find for myself. Her look steeled me with a double-shot dose of encouragement.
So yes, I am one of those kooks who nurture an abiding appreciation for snow—it persists in being a neverending mystery to me.
- Lessons From A Friend
In September 2003, I met someone who became one of my best friends and a great teacher. Learning from her has an endless fascination for me because there are wonderful lessons to be discovered in her intuitive and carefree nature. . .
Prissy & Fastidious
At the beginning stages—when the flakes initially descend—my friend Gus enjoys the snow with me.
Frolicking around in it is just fine and dandy—even gobbling up mouthfuls of the latest powdery offering has its appeal, but at some point, she stops being impressed by snow. When the accumulation becomes great enough to inconvenience or disturb her daily routine she goes into a brooding funk that is funny to behold.
Before going any further let me tell you about Gus. She is a nearly eight year old Shetland Sheepdog who partnered up with me when she was weaned at seven weeks, immediately curling up in the hearth of my heart. Since then we’ve shared our lives together, having some of the most profound theological conversations one could ever imagine.
Though she has a male nickname in honor of a fictional western hero of Lonesome Dove fame, and mostly has tomboy characteristics, she can be prissy and fastidious, much like a prima donna Hollywood starlet. She has undeniable human idiosyncrasies, and is especially genteel when it comes to the particulars of her morning or evening constitutional.
When the customary place to do her business gets buried beneath piles of snow, she takes an unusual course of action—she refuses to squat until it becomes absolutely necessary. And then, when it’s apparent that she’ll have to deal with snowy conditions for awhile, she does something that demonstrates an intelligence or instinct that’s remarkable—she reduces her food consumption.
To me, that’s exceptional thinking, considering the fact that many adult human beings have yet to figure out the connection between intake and output. The bulk of what goes in must, sooner or later, come out.
Gus is seldom difficult to get along with, but just like any of us, when irregularity comes a-knocking, she gets out of sorts and can be a bit cranky. She mopes around, staying close to my feet and generally demanding extra pampering. She also takes every opportunity to shoot me a stink-eyed look designed to elicit sympathy and/or empathy—in this she’s quite often successful.
It is in those times that my tri-colored companion has this clearly expressed expectation for me to sweep or shovel a proper area for her to have the space to evacuate her bowels. And it has to be right down to the grass, thank you very much. Of course, I always give it my best effort to accommodate her.
Last week, a burst of springtime came to south-central Pennsylvania. It was blue-skies beautiful, stirring up the kind of fever that has caused more work to be set aside and more school-days to be ditched than can be easily enumerated.
The thaw prevailed until the multiple hills of snow disappeared to reveal greenish-brown grass aspiring to be just plain green. Also exposed was a scattering of a few months worth of dog poop that had been hidden by patchwork shades of white.
I took a careful walk around the foul minefield, surveying the dimensions of the unpleasant activity ahead. It was a mishmash that had the very real potential of squishy detonations at almost every step.
The clean-up chore beckoned, so fully equipped—plastic bags and a trusty pooper scooper—I approached the task with all the enthusiasm of a forced march to a death camp. On a sunshiny afternoon, while nursing a cruddy sore throat and sifting through a truckload of bad memories, I had at it.
All the while Gus stood off at a discreet distance and watched, as though none of it had anything to do with her. I razed and ragged on her once or twice, but she simply tilted her head in a shrug that said she was bored.
I told her she was lucky I loved her. Gus responded to that by actively ignoring me—she sidled away and plopped herself down angled in the opposite direction. It was then that an old idea crept into my head, and I let it stretch out for a spell.
A hiss of breath escaped as a tight smile puckered my mouth. I paused and tilted my eyes upward to be wowed by the stunning color of the sky.
Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red as crimson, they shall be like wool. ~God~
Have you learned spiritual truths from the mundane aspects of a friendship with a pet?
Love & Grace
There I was, mucking around scooping stinking logs of dog poop, and not for the first or likely last time, the whole process crystallized in my mind as a perfect metaphor for God’s relationship with me—I am fortunate that he loves me. God showed his tremendous love for me by sending Christ to die on my behalf while I was still an unrepentant sinner.
Even more than that, standing there with a saggy bag of dog poop, while Gus busily gave me the cold shoulder, it occurred to me that in those times I engage in actively ignoring God, he remains on the job. His outreach and compassionate kindness to me is not conditioned on me being attentive.
I make mistakes and messes—I stumble, fall, and sin. At this stage of life hopefully those instances are mostly rare and unintentional, coming as a result of complacency, foolishness, or gross stupidity.
However, when honesty is stripped naked there’s an inescapable certainty: In kneejerk reactions or when carnality gets off its tether, I’m still capable of taking steaming dumps to mark my territory, just the same as every other sinner saved by grace.
Yet in all my uncaring disregard or dysfunctional disobedience, the One who fashioned the universe out of nothingness, continually provides blessed expressions of his everlasting love for me. The grace of God flows from a bottomless cavern to be endlessly available to everyone.
The snow that falls from leaden-hued clouds transforms the countryside into picturesque purity, but concealed beneath its cover there’s dirty poop, ugliness, and garbage. In a radically different way, the snow of God’s love and grace is an all-encompassing scouring detergent that can never melt or evaporate.
Instead of merely covering the stench of my sin, the snow of God’s love and grace washes me whiter than white—not just once, but rather, every instant I am in desperate need, I can be immersed in the cleansing power of supernatural love.
Those are lessons that I want to be reminded of again and again—those are lessons for everyone to learn or relearn on a regular basis.
May it be so in each of our lives.
- Wanted Man
Wanted Man a.k.a. Ken R. Abell, seeks to be a blessing to others. He's a rake, a rambler, and a teller of tales who understands that there is strength in a story well told and well lived. To learn more, inquire or schedule him, visit this web site.