Paul shared in the first chapter of Romans, “God revealed Himself in all He created.” Jesus taught that important lessons can be learned from sheep, predatory wolves, and the birds of the air. He encouraged everyone to observe how the Father watches over them. It is obvious they work diligently, but do not worry.
On another occasion, He illustrated God’s intimate love with the observation “not even a sparrow falls to the ground without His notice,” yet we are of even greater value. The wisest man in the Old Testament challenged us to consider the ants and observe their determination to fulfill the necessary task of gathering food and shelter for the challenging seasons they face.
I try to take everything God says seriously. From early childhood, I have thoroughly loved animals and always had a deep desire to observe wildlife and all God’s creation. I’m spellbound by magnificent sunrises and sunsets, breathtaking landscapes, and beautiful flowers. I also enjoy watching a mother dog or deer caring for her young. Where I occasionally play golf near our home, I have been captivated every year by two geese that hatch their young near the fairway. They care for their six to eight babies in the most attentive manner. They watch their every move, observe every potential threat, provide cautious buffers to separate their young from any threat, and quickly herd them to safety, far from any danger or into a greenside lake. I’ve often wanted to record them because I think their example of devotion and watchcare seems so much more caring than many human expressions of parenting.
Eleven years ago, Betty and I were inspired by excited, pleading grandchildren to “please get another dog.” While our children were growing up, we had a long-haired dachshund named Heidi for 15 years. Our hearts were broken when we had to say goodbye to her that we thought we would never have another dog. After much persuasion, little Princess—a black miniature dachshund as slick as a seal—found her way into our hearts and home. I never realized how great the lessons would be that came through her. She actually inspired my most recent book, God of All Creation: Life Lessons from Pets and Wildlife. Our son, Randy, assisted with the editing and writing. It is filled with brief, heart-warming stories that will move nearly everyone from children to seniors, to tears and much laughter. Above all, the stories reveal meaningful spiritual lessons you will easily apply to everyday life.
Once when I was holding Princess, I asked God, “Why did you give us such precious pets?” I sensed God speaking gently in my ear, “To show you how much I love you and how much joy I want to give you. I also wanted you to see how deeply you could love something so obviously insignificant in comparison to all you have in knowledge, wisdom and understanding. I wanted you to know how someone like Me, with omniscient knowledge and omnipotent power, could love someone so small in comparison with all I am.”
I hope you will enjoy this special sneak-preview from the book.
Under His Hand
We have a mat in our garage decorated with a dachshund and the phrase “Caution: Dog Cannot Hold Its Licker.” This is especially true when I’m trying to sleep.
If Betty gets up before I do, she will sometimes allow Princess to jump onto the bed while I am sleeping. Normally my little friend comes straight to my face to show her affection with a wet mess of dog kisses. It’s about as shocking as a pitcher of cold water poured on your head!
One morning I felt her jump up on the bed, so I braced for the barrage. It never came. Instead, she thrust her nose under my hand, wanting me to pet her. In a flash I received an impression from God that this is how we should approach Him every morning.
Imagine how our lives would change if our first thought was not Oh no, another day or Am I late for work? For those who have experienced loss, that waking moment may bring the thought I wonder where he or she is or I miss my loved one. I have been told that a smoker’s first thought upon waking up is often I need a cigarette.
But what if our first action every day was more like Princess’s that morning when she thrust her head under my hand? What if the first thing we did every day was put our heads under God’s hand so He could guide our thoughts and order our steps? Isn’t this what the apostle Paul was getting at in this passage?
Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect. (Romans 12:1-2, NASB)
When God’s hand rests upon our lives, wisdom will enlighten our minds, and integrity will direct our feet. Jesus said that He is light, and His light guides our path. When the light moves, we move. Where He goes, we must go. We not only walk in the light, but we freely express the glory of His light through our lives. This is the life of divine direction under His hand.
When Princess showers me with kisses, I appreciate her enthusiasm and affection, but sometimes it’s a bit much. But when she pushed her head under my hand, I turned my attention to her and petted her head as I contemplated God’s truth. Her move was not bold or boisterous, yet I noticed her. I wanted to care for her needs.
I have no doubt that God never wearies of our enthusiasm and affection, but I also believe that He notices our submission. “Draw near to God and He will draw near to you,” wrote James, the brother of Jesus (4:8, NASB). Under His hand there is warmth and intimacy. When we press in toward God, it’s like Princess nudging my hand. He responds with divine love. He presses in toward us. This is perhaps the most intimate relationship that mankind can have with our holy God while we are still alive on this earth. It is supernatural and life changing. Under His hand there is security and safety.
If the owner of a cat or small dog encounters a large, threatening dog, the person will immediately pick up his or her pet and hold it close. When the owner holds the beloved pet, the animal is usually safe. With God we are always safe when under His hand. The psalmist declared, “He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will abide in the shadow of the Almighty. I will say to the Lord, ‘My refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust!’” (91:1-2, NASB). In the gospel of John, we are reassured of God’s abiding love for us: “My Father, which gave them me, is greater than all; and no man is able to pluck them out of my Father’s hand” (10:29, KJV). One cannot live in the “shadow of the Almighty” without being close. It requires the kind of trust Princess has in me—simple, yet profound. She trusts me completely, even though her limited mind cannot comprehend my plans. She obeys me, for the most part, and her obedience is rewarded with the good things I bring her. I look for ways to give her joy though I am just a man. How much greater is a close relationship with the Creator of the universe when we trust Him completely? The joy He gives surpasses anything we could ever conjure up on our own.
The wisdom, peace and fulfillment of this type of relationship cannot be fully stated. It must be experienced. Perhaps you did not awaken today seeking to have His hand resting on your head, but you can start now by drawing near, and He will draw near to you. Then tomorrow, and every day thereafter, begin your day by pressing closer to God, submitting your will and quieting your mind. When you truly learn to live this way, you will begin to experience the transforming power of His abiding presence.