God must have decided almost three years ago that our family needed to be tested…so, Daisy entered our lives. (I didn’t name her…her former family did…) Don’t be deceived…that cute, almost-pouty face with the equally disarming name is a facade. She is a terror on wheels–even now, almost three years later. God continues to use this golden retriever who we RESCUED (I have to remind her of that!) at 8 months of age…to surface all of our shortcomings! Or to torment us. (Just kidding!)

Apart from Daisy’s presence in our lives, we might grow apathetic and think we were really progressing in our growth in Christ-like character. Silly us. We can’t have that, now can we? 🙂

For instance, if we deceive ourselves into thinking we are becoming more patient, it won’t be long before Daisy will be God’s divine instrument to show us how IMpatient we are! If we pat ourselves on the back that anger is no longer an issue, in a moment Daisy will flush massive irritability to the surface. Hmm…. Praise the Lord… :-/

God uses my animals (all seven of them) to teach me things about myself, about Him, and about life. Daisy is definitely front and center in being used of the Lord. Maybe it is coming off of the the winter months, the rain that has kept me inside more where she definitely has “dominion.” I have never had a dog this neurotic OR spoiled…rotten. (I know, I need to own this…)

One of the things we have been trying to do is teach her NOT to bark at everything. I realize that much of this barking may be due to instinct and territory and all of that, but the truth is, we live where there is a POA that takes a very dim view on dogs that bark incessantly. If we want to avoid fines, we have to keep the dogs reasonably quiet. Thus, she and her counterpart, Jordan (our other dog we got from the pound), live inside when we are home–which is a great deal of the time.

I really feel like the ideal situation for them would be a huge ranch where they could roam and run and not be neurotic…but, for now, this is all I have to offer them.

So, to teach Daisy not to bark I have this system figured out. It works pretty well and keeps my blood pressure down. She typically starts her barking frenzies with a deep throaty growl. If I catch it then, we can usually do ok. She responds best to this system I have worked out. As dorky as it sounds. When she starts that low throaty growl, I use an equally low, firm tone, “Daisy, no barking….” If she barks anyway, I scoop her up in my arms, carry her to the couch, put her on it (I know I am sick!) and put my finger and face in her face and say again in a deep, firm tone… “NO barking…” There is something about this combination that has worked where other “methods” have failed.

When she manages not to bark in spite of the deer or wild turkeys right outside the window, she sometimes turns, comes toward me, tail low, look on her face of “Aren’t you proud of me?” and I make a huge deal out of it. A high-pitched “happy” “Good GIRL! No barking! YAY! Good GIRL!” She loves this and wiggles her bottom with glee as I rub her and make quite a production out of her “good choice.” This works much better than the citronella spray collar we tried each time she barked (we were desperate).

There are times, however, when I hear that deep throaty growl and know that some deer (sometimes as many as 8 or 10 of them) have her attention. We start our exchange:

Daisy: (deep throaty growl…standing in the living room)

Me: (deep voice with conviction, but calm…) Daisy, no barking….

Daisy: (more throaty growl…glancing at me sideways…)

Me: Daisy……no barking…

This is the moment of decision…Will she choose to head for the window? If so, it almost guarantees that she has decided to toss aside her training in favor of a frenzied assault on the window with uproarious barking. This is where the “fun” is and where giving in to instinct and everything else all comes into play. It is tough to stop it once it starts, short of my doing the scooping her up into my arms and toss her on the couch routine….

This week, men were working along our road, clearing out brush, making burn piles, coming and going all day, every day. There were a lot of opportunities for Daisy to practice what she knows and for us to continue to grow in Christ-like character as she chose NOT to. 😉 There were times when she would resist her impulse and come to me tail wagging, “I did good! I am not barking!”

…and then there were the other times… Casting a sidelong look over her shoulder she would head for the window with gusto…maybe holding back barking…for another few seconds…before letting loose in a frenzy!

It was during those times when she would head to the window to look outside that I was reminded of myself. Daisy’s choice to throw her training aside happened before she ever started barking. It happened when she chose to look over her shoulder at me and then head to the window anyhow…knowing that if she looked out the window she would see something surely worthy of “caving in” for…worth barking over.

It reminded me of Romans 13:14 that says: “…make no provision for the flesh in regard to its lusts. “

Now I KNOW that Daisy isn’t “sinning” exactly … so please don’t straighten me out about this, but God certainly used this as a mirror for me…

How often do I, in spite of my “training,” cast a sidelong look to God, but then head toward that spot where I know I will experience temptation that may seem beyond my ability to withstand in the moment? How often do I “make provision for my flesh,” knowing that I will probably “give in” and let slide all that I know is best and right? How often do I cast aside the joy of my Master in exchange for giving in to what seems instinctual to me?

For instance, let’s say I know that each time I go to the Cool Deli I simply will NOT resist buying and eating a huge piece of chocolate cheese cake, no matter what my hunger number. I have a number of options…and depending on which I choose, I think it reflects my intentions. So, let’s say I figure, “Well, I will go in to the Deli, but not buy a piece of chocolate cheesecake.” Ok…that is a good start, perhaps. But then, maybe I go a bit farther the longer I am at the deli. “I will buy the chocolate cheesecake and save it for sharing with my husband at home when I am at a 0.” Ok. Good intentions there, too. The longer I sit at the deli, though, with that unopened cheesecake sitting in front of me (they have them on paper plates, with plastic wrap covering them), the more I begin to ponder… “Well, I am not *quite* at a 5…I *could* have a couple of bites of this cheesecake and be ok…” See? There it is…getting closer to blatantly barking my head off at the deer. 😉 Before I know it, I have eaten the entire piece of chocolate cheesecake!

So, when did my choice to “cast aside my training” happen? In this case, until I grow in maturity, I believe it happened when I chose to buy the cheesecake at all…maybe even when I chose to go buy a sandwich at the Deli at all. Maybe I need to stay away from the Deli for a season!

So, I “make provision for my flesh,” for my lusts to have their way with me when I don’t safeguard my life from those tempting situations that I know cause me to stumble. There may be a season when I need to stay away from the Deli, or a season where I don’t have any of a favorite food in the house, or where I don’t go out to eat with a certain friend who I have historically chowed down with. These choices may be what I need to do to avoid making provisions for my flesh. I want to safeguard my life and so it is worth it to structure things so I am not in these tempting situations.

While I have been writing this, the deer have wandered past the window. Daisy tried her best to resist her urge until Jordan gave in and barked…and then she caved…