Devotions for Animal Lovers

October 4th, 2012

In honor of World Animal Day—not conincidentally, also animal loving saint Francis of Assisi's feast day—enjoy these devotions from the newly released Paws to Reflect: 365 Devotions for the Animal Lover's Soul.

Little Foxes

Catch us the foxes, the little foxes, that ruin the vineyards—for our vineyards are in blossom. —Song of Solomon 2:15

At my house teeth marks are on the legs of the wooden chairs. Somehow the rubber gorilla, the yellow bouncy bell ball, and a thousand rawhide bones were not enough to get Veronique through the teething phase. But that’s what puppies do. It’s like little foxes, always needing to chew things.

Every day you have a vineyard to tend in order to yield a harvest of fruit. It is a vineyard full of dreams, gifts, hope for the future, and joy for today. Maybe you want to write or play guitar or plant a garden. What is in your vineyard? What makes your life beautiful? What is calling that needs your attention?

Ever notice how difficult it can be to get around to the things you really want to do? One trip to the grocery store can turn into a day full of errands. One rushed hour fighting traffic to get to the office can kill your ambition. Peace slips away, and dreams fade. It doesn’t happen suddenly.

It happens one disappointed thought at a time. Those are the little foxes that spoil our vineyards.

Words misspoken or encouragement withheld can chip away at your confidence and steal your joy. Fears and doubts can blind you from the grace that is right there waiting to give you your heart’s desire.

What is your heart’s desire? Want to learn a secret? If you pray to have God’s desire be your desire, miracles will happen. Love God first, wholeheartedly, and watch the vineyard blossom! Devote every new day to the Lord, and he will catch the little foxes that spoil the vines.

Those little foxes don’t mean to spoil the vines. They’re just being little foxes. Trust in God as you cultivate your vineyard.

The Songbird

“But get me a musician.” And then, while the musician was playing, the power of the LORD came on him. —2 Kings 3:15

In the daily reading from 2 Kings, we meet Elisha, who was in need of an answer. But first, he asked for a song.

A Chinese proverb says a songbird does not sing because she has an answer; she sings because she has a song. Today, I am seeking a song of peace, hope, courage, and love. The song must break forth, seemingly out of nowhere, but it is not out of nowhere. It is a gift. It is as natural as the song of the songbird.

The gift we receive is the Spirit. The Apostle Paul writes, in 2 Corinthians 3:6, that the Spirit gives life. It is the Spirit who puts the song inside you. Interestingly, the Spirit in Scripture sometimes comes in the form of a bird.

“Take delight in the LORD, and he will give you the desires of your heart,” the psalmist wrote (Psalm 37:4). Maybe we take delight in our accomplishments, or in the number of errands we can scratch off the list in a day, or in a bank account that offers some sense of security, but these things are no answer to our happiness. Maybe they are the answer to a temporary good mood, but they are not the song-givers. What brings happiness is something quite invisible and difficult to describe. Jesus compared it to the wind. You can’t see it, but you know it’s there by the way you feel it brush across you. This is the Spirit that gives the songbird her song.

Are you waiting for a song? There are a thousand ways to seek the song. You can be still and wait. Take a walk. Say a prayer. God is listening for your call. Nothing pleases the Lord more than a heart that longs for true happiness. However you search for the song, know that you are not seeking an answer; you are seeking the true song, the design of your life, shaped by the Spirit. You are the songbird. Your life is the song.

Wesley’s Compassion for Animals

They will not hurt or destroy on all my holy mountain; for the earth will be full of the knowledge of the LORD as the waters cover the sea. —Isaiah 11:9

In his sermon about loving the animals and creation, John Wesley made reference to a book called The Wisdom of Solomon, where it says that God did not make death and has no pleasure in the death of anything living.

Rings true, doesn’t it? God is about life, not death, and so in God’s economy, death only leads to more life.

The Bible teaches of a death necessary for life, like a seed in the ground that dies before it grows, or the leaves that die so the tree can live. Likewise, we must die to selfishness and sin. Paul said the price of sin is death, meaning death of the soul, death of goodness in one’s life and purview, death of joy and peace, and even untimely death of the body. Wesley suggests that just as people are created for life, not death, so are animals.

Wesley suggests in his sermon “The General Deliverance” that God created people to be the “great channel of communication” between God and animals, so in essence, when the Fall occurred, humans dragged the animals right along with them. The animals were robbed of a blessing when humankind chose sin and death.

Wesley did not follow the mainstream Christian tradition of his day.

His theology affirmed animals as worthy of the Creator’s love and redemption.

That may sound outrageous to some even today, but if you search your heart, I know you’ll find that it rings true.

Today when you hug your kitty or your dog or your horse, or as you drive along considering the sparrows, think about how precious they are to God. It’s part of the gift of joy of this day that you are delighted when the animals display the beauty of creation or when they make you laugh or even when they seem to love you more than any person ever has.

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