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Eps 118: Reading People (and Ourselves) | Guest, Anne Bogel

Eps 118: Reading People (and Ourselves) | Guest, Anne Bogel

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Today’s guest is Anne Bogel.

Her book is Reading People: How Seeing the World Through the Lens of Personality Can Change Everything

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Esp 22: Why The Dark Night of the Soul is like Fight Club

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Doug Jackson, Returning Guest and All-Star, Explains the 3 Stages of Spiritual Development and Dispels the Biggest Myths.

Do you know St John of the Cross?

What you don’t know could hurt you…but good news, you are now in for a treat!

Listen and get a fascinating perspective of the darkest places on the spiritual journey with your guide Professor Doug Jackson. See the show notes below!



Historic context of 16th Century Catholic Revival-Era Spanish Mystic, St John of the Cross


3 stages of spiritual development 

How do we know if we are making progress and what can we expect?

St John (1542-1591) provides a roadmap for night

The Beginner Stage
(The beginner loves God for the self’s sake. The beginners thinks, “What’s good for me.”)

John H Coe

Doug explains the Dark Night of the Soul, the important next stage of spiritual development, in keen and helpful detail.


God starts at the first stage (in a place of joy and thrill in God) and allows us delight in spiritual things and feed on “mother’s milk” spiritually.

Next, God helps us get used to our baby teeth by moving us to love God for God’s sake.

John of the Cross takes the 7 deadly sins and show how they can happen to us in a spiritual sense.


God is weening us away from nursing and from spiritual milk. Like a baby, we may misunderstand and feel unloved or unnoticed, at first.


Commodified is the Dark Night of the Soul in Amercian Evangelicalism. The phrase itself is often used inexactly.

It’s not feeling sad or a string of bad things have happened for which we feel upset and confused.

BUT—It is that without cause we feel God has abandon us.

It is not a loss of faith, nor not depression, nor a felt distance because of sin.

It was also an analysis of depression 400 years before Freud! 


God withdraws sensible (sensory, felt) affects. The dark night of the senses. (first phase).


Maybe it feels like prayers are bouncing off the ceiling. Maybe it feels that songs or sermons that had made an affect no longer do. This sense of loss will be different for each person.


Essentially, the delight in God disappears.


Mistakenly, we often may try to shock people back into spiritual infancy with a method, tactic, or suggestion that seems like it might cause feeling once again. (like a book, a conference, a service, etc)


The spiritual advice from John is to not abandon your spiritual practices (like prayer, fellowship, meditation, service, etc) continue to obey God and carry on until you pass through the night. They won’t be fun, but you continue for God’s sake, not your own.

Then you can come out on the other side to the stage of the Proficient. (Though the stages are actually more porous.)


The 2nd stage is where John says most of us get and hardly proceed from.

2nd dark night, is rare, and is horrible and includes a bewilderment and even a loss of faith in God and one comes out with a much richer deeper faith and far more settled and fuller understanding of God.

John Coe using 1 John 2:12-14 explains the stages as well.


John of the Cross found this understanding through terrible suffering and imprisonment and he saw the spiritual connection.


In the Dark Night of the Soul, spiritual answers are obscured and things are hidden from view.

Walking by faith and not sight.


If you can’t find the answers it doesn’t mean that something went wrong, it’s just that you can see right now. There will be a lack of certainty.


Stick with the basics in the dark night.


In the dark night we aren’t doubting our Faith, or God, but but we are doubting our understanding of God and our Faith.

The call is to obey God and persist in our ways as before. Eventually a dawn will come.


In this stage, we jettison things that are not core, central and true and come to understand God in a better way.

BE WARNED: Others may feel anxious to get you back in to where you were.


Backsliding is not the same thing as a Dark Night experience. The Dark Night is progression.


Prophets in the OT go through the dark night times.


Using a different lens to see what is already there.



Elijah after Mt Carmel

Apostle Paul


Jesus (wilderness and Gethsemane)

Jesus “learned obedience” and the the will of God was not pleasant

We all go through these types of dark nights



John of the Cross’s work was (and is) written for [spiritual] guides (leaders) so they can recognize what is happening and to know what not to do.


Some mystical-style theologians have been hijacked and grafted into a different (sometimes New Age) model of how the reality is ( i.e. “divided self”.)


The Devil – So what about the Devil which is a prominent feature in the writings?


John takes the readers’ Christian theology for already granted. The basic Christian theology was assumed because that was the background and beliefs of his audience.


Doug answers…Devil with a Big “D” questions. How do we come to understand John and what he is saying, if it is different than our understanding of The Devil and the spiritual world?

Don’t rehabilitate [John], or superimpose our ideas on his work.

Don’t judge or put parts on trial for the embarrassing and difficult sections of St John of the Cross.


Approach the text thus: “Eat the meat of the fish not the bones”


If the language bothers you, then let it lie fallow and see what is going on in your own heart as you read.


We can learn from old text.


On intellectual honesty and intellectual humility


On why the devotional classics become that way.


On the reading of old books (C.S. Lewis) (click to read)

We have different blind spots now. Different mistakes in different times.


Our cultural and worldview will effect our beliefs.


How do we get through the Dark Night?

It is up to God as a Grace. Our only job is to remain faithful.

Father Francis Kelly Nemeck


The promise is (found in Scripture and from those who’ve gone ahead of us in the Faith) that we come out (into dawn) and see the value of what we went through.

God says to Job: I’m God and you are not.

Job says, “Now I have seen you. I spoke out of turn.”


A word of hope for those in the dark night.

1. Those in the dark night bless those around them and their pride does not effect this because of the Night itself. We are spiritual protected.


In the Dark Night we don’t get to be proud of our humility.

Be faithful know that God is using you and wait it out.


Modern example Mother Teresa. She lived most of her life with a sense of abandonment by God.

“If I ever become a Saint I will be a Saint of Darkness, facing the dark to guide souls to the light.”


People were drawn to her service and work for God even though she felt God’s silence.


On her critics who say she stopped believing in God.

Christopher Hitchens wrote slanderously about her and others in his book “The Missionary Position”. He said she did have the courage to admit publicly that she didn’t believe in God and never had.


Mother Teresa–her fruit shows otherwise (it’s sow belief and faithfulness).

Apostasy is a deliberate walking away from God which is a danger of misunderstanding the Dark Night. This is why trained and wise spiritual guides are essential.


C.S. Lewis character Screwtape urges: “Use the word “phase” to tell him he had it all wrong”

In a genuine Dark Night, we may think we have abandon God or want to and then find ourselves incapable of it.


Doubt in God is like holding a volleyball underwater with just one hand and senses all the force and then thinking there is no volleyball because it cannot be seen.

“We aren’t working without a net and we won’t fall out of the arms of God.”


If you are in the Dark Night…(it helps) remembering “it’s a thing, a documented thing”.


Walking in the footsteps of those who’ve gone before.


What to do if you are in the throes of it all. best advice.

Richard Foster’s advice in the Celebration of Discipline. The chapter on solitude.

Don’t try to explain this to people when you are in it.

(It’s like Fight Club) “The first rule of Fight Club is you don’t talk about fight club”

Most people will not get it. It can hurt our spiritual reputation. God is drawing us into obedience and faith in the absence of feeling. We carry on

Spiritual Director or guide is very important.

“The Dark Night of the Soul” (click to get it free)

“The Way of Spiritual Direction”

“The Spiritual Journey: Crucial Thinking and Stages of Adult Spiritual Genesis”

Henri Nouwen “The Way of the Heart”


Protestantism running thin in certain areas.

Psychology tainted some spiritual experience as pathology and than co-opted with modern Christianity.


Baptists were not systematic theologians early on because of the persecution from the Mother Church (in Rome).


Puritan writers like Jonathan Edwards take God as Physician of the Soul very seriously.


The one sermon that did in Jonathan Edwards in our time.

“The Religious Affections” To teach that the Great Awakening was just an emotional experience or demonic experience. He writes on how to understand what is of God.


On taking your time understanding the Dark Night. God is trying to bring us into greater maturity and Christ likeness.

Have you ever gone through a Dark Night of the Soul?
If you’ve reached the dawn, what was strengthen or changed in you?

Blessings in your night travels. If you aren’t in a Dark Night, it’s coming. Stay Calm and Carry on.

If you have any questions or you would like to drop me a line about what you are going through, please use the contact page. A helpful (worldwide) listing to find qualified guides is here.


Episode 14: A chat with Ed Cyzewski

Episode 14: A chat with Ed Cyzewski

Shownotes for Episode 14: How-to pair wine and chocolate for a great party + a chat with author, Ed Cyzewski

(Your ears are not fooling you. In Columbus, Ohio at 9:30 pm a man rides a bike around and rings a bell as he sells frozen chocolate covered bananas. Too funny. And it sounds delicious, if not suspicious. That’s why I’m featuring chocolate in the wine segment today! Enjoy it. It’s bananas, after all.)

Want to try the practice of EXAMEN?

In this episode Ed and I chat about one of his favorite spiritual practices. It’s been very transforming for me too. It’s the practice of Examen (typically pronounced: EGGS-Aye-men).

This age old practice of reflection, mindfulness, and prayer to begin and end one’s day goes back ages in Christian History and is reflected in spirit throughout the bible. Like in David’s sentiments in the Psalms (like Psalm 119) and in Isaiah 26:9.

“My soul yearns for you in the night; in the morning my spirit longs for you…”

So today I offer you my personal version of the Examen practice!

I call it “The Daily Sharpening Ritual”
–It’s the perfect way to supercharge and renew personal and spiritual awareness in your life.

It’s a simple but effective worksheet makes the practice easier to sustain. I hope you give it a try.
The practice takes just 3-5 minutes each morning and just before bed.
• You can see surprising changes in awareness in only 5 days.
(Simply print out 5 copies and follow-through for 5 days!)

Both EXAMEN-like worksheets below work like an Examen practice, but the 2nd one features prayer more fully in addition to reflection and mindfulness.

Check them out to see which one you like best. Print out both if you’d like:

SharpeningPRAYER• The SHARPENING Ritual 


(Enjoy these resources with my compliments…tipping what you can is optional.)

How we find spark:

We are in this together. As you listen and become part of what is happening here, it will be obvious that I spend a lot of time and a bit of money doing the show: website, paying for media hosting, producing it, editing, adding music, finding and speaking with guests, more editing, more research, and all the rest to bring you something of value in the Spark My Muse podcast.

Lots of heart, sweat and occasionally tears for your enjoyment and inspiration. You get to decide what that means and what it’s worth.


So, I invite you to just listen, read, and contribute what the episode is worth to you.


• If nothing, I apologize. Please, come back and listen again soon.

• If you think it’s worth one dollar, five dollars, twenty-five dollars, six hundred billion-gazillion dollars…you see where I’m going with this…, or offer something of equal value that is not monetary, simply contribute what it has been worth to you. HERE.

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Thank you!
With Love,





Best tips for the tastiest pairing Party of chocolate and wine!

A how-to.

A chocolate and wine tasting party is so much fun.

• It’s ideal for groups of 3-12 people.

• Have each person bring some wine and provide samples of high quality chocolate and let the fun start!

It’s the acid:
One of the tasty things you can do is pair chocolate and wine. Both chocolate and wine have higher levels of acidity which makes them a naturally delicious match.

Well-paired wine and chocolate work together to make each one taste better. Delicious qualities come out in both the wine and the chocolate and even form a third taste. A careful selection is needed.

Here are some ideas of which wine to pair with which kinds of chocolate treats.


The most  important tip to remember is to keep the wine sweeter than the treat it’s pair with.

(If you don’t it can make the wine seem less tasty and flavorful or heighten its bitterness. yucky.)


Make sure you have high-quality chocolate. 

Many supermarketers have a premium chocolate section and you probably only need one bar of each kind or just a good quality box assortment. Baked good work as well and you can search online too.


Taste test the chocolate ahead of time: Pick out certain fruit flavors, determine the sweet and bitter components they have, check for nuttiness qualities and levels of acidity. If the chocolate has a creme center this will take on added complexity that might pair well with fruit-forward wines. 


A rule of thumb is that darker wines tend to pair better which darker chocolate and should be served first: More full-bodied, (heavier feeling in the mouth) dark and drier (not a sweet style) red wine pair well with the more bitter chocolates that have a higher cocoa %.

White wines tend to pair well with milk chocolate blends and chocolates that have sweeter and fruitier flavor notes.

Remember TIP #1 one …keep the wine SWEETER than the chocolate!

Pick your wines according to the flavors you’ve tasted in the chocolate,
 and ask your guests to bring a specific variety of wine.

Here are some specific ideas for the kinds of wine you may want to serve, but you can feel free to experiment and see if your palate prefers something different.

Bittersweet chocolate (70% to 100%): This chocolate type enters the bitter range with deep intensity. Good choices include Bordeaux wines (merlot, cab franc, cab save), Beaujolais, Shiraz, Port, Malbec.

Dark chocolate (50% to 70%): Pair this with more robust wines, such as Cabernet Sauvignon, Zinfandel, Pinot Noir, off-dry chamborcin and Port. A Chianti can match well with chocolate around 65 percent cocoa content.

Milk chocolate: Try Merlot, Pinot Noir, Riesling, Muscat, and dessert wines. Champagne is also a natural match for milk chocolate. The crisp, dry flavour of the bubbly contrasts perfectly with the creaminess of a simple milk chocolate tablet. Be careful of the higher sugar levels in milk chocolate, as these may cancel out any fruitiness in dry red wines, leaving them tasting bitter.

White chocolate (which is really cocoa butter) : Match with Sherry, Muscato (a.k.a. Muscat) a fruity Chardonnay (un-oaked), These wines will pick up on the buttery, slightly oilier tones of the cocoa butter. Vidal Blanc, Niagra blends, catawba blends.

Champagne or sparkling wine goes well with all chocolate types. It is a variety that compliments many kinds of wines. Many fortified dessert wines work well across the chocolate spectrum as well because they tend to be sweeter.

To keep every one sharp and feeling well, Offer your guests some bread or light fare before you begin and keep the wine samples to just an ounce. 

1. Take take a small sip of wine and note the aromas and tastes. Some hosts offer guest a sheet to jot down their observations.

2. Then bite into the chocolate and note what it happening as you taste and eat it.

3. Then you sip the wine again and note the new flavor notes and changes that the chocolate brought to the wine. It’s amazing how much the taste of the wine will change according to what it is paired with.

4. Don’t rush through the pairing. 7-10 minutes per pairing is about right. Allow people to really luxuriate on the experience and talk about the flavors and taste combinations they are experiencing.

This is not a consumption event, it’s a sensory group experience where enhanced awareness is key. Relax and take your time. Chocolate and wine are luxury items.

It’s a great lesson for life too. The point isn’t to bulldoze through life and get it out of the way, but to really notice what is happening and take it all in deeply. Downshift to a better appreciation of encounters with others, with our surroundings, and ultimately with ourselves and to God who makes a home within us.

• Enjoy yourself and let me know of the pairings you came up with  (in the comments section) and how your pairing experimenting went, or what your plans are. I’d love to know. You can post pictures at the Spark My Muse Facebook page too.

Do you have questions? Leave them here, use the voice mail feature, or use the contact page and I’ll try to answer them in future episodes.


Sparking your Muse…
a chat with Ed Cyzewski


Visit Ed’s website.



Interview notes


Ed talks about his upcoming Christian Writer’s Survival Guide book


The practices of prayer and writing are connected in so many ways.


Contemplative prayer

Spiritual Direction

and how Ed is learning more about Holy Spirit and waiting on the Lord


From my experience…”Type A” or productive person’s view of prayer is active or proactive (maybe not involving much listening to God) (Lisa)


Apophatic prayer – God is found in the silence more than I thought (Lisa)


“The Creative process and prayer require us to enter with hands open”.


For both (writing and prayer), you can’t force the outcome…


Submit to the process.

Do the work.


“[A] general principle is to create space to allow inspiration and good writing to happen.”

Maybe (it can happen) in retreats or in different ways.


My favorite podcast Krista Tippet’s show On Being (Lisa)

Pico Iyer-  (paraphrase) “So much information is coming in but we have less space to process it.” -Pico Iyer The Art of Stillness


Never a moment wasted because of technology…but at what cost?


(Ed) on not having times for his brain to slip into neutral..


Ed says walks helped clear his mind, and he had to detox and ween from media.


We have a loss of self and fear of quietness.


40 Day Ignatian retreat bringing a terrifying and alone sense after 2-weeks until she found God in the quiet.


Ed’s method for unplugging and creating space:

Relent technique-going offline after 5pm and weekends.


Leaving my phone in my car when I go for walk to eating out. (Lisa)
• I’ve experienced less anxiety (to my surprise).


(Ed’s sarcasm) College students in the 1990s would die all the time, every week, because they didn’t have cell phones. Funerals every week for the mobile phone-less.


In the 1980s my dad got collect calls from “pick me up”. (Lisa)


UK study showing that teens are more anxious because of tech and over-connectedness.


Maybe because the media (they are using) is socially consequential and not neutral: like watching tv or listening to radio. (Lisa)


From his upcoming book:

Allowing space to grow and learn. His spiritual practice of Examen.

The app he uses: Examine App

The practice helped him come up with writing topics.


The practice showed him the imbalance of his life.



Contemplative writer’s Facebook on group


Kirsten Oliphant

Andi Cumbo-Floyd


The group has lots of generosity there like a support group.


How Ed keeps a balance in mood and outlook when the stories he writes about are negative and make him angry.

How he uses a generous redemptive approach and giving his anger time to dispute so he can write with redemption in mind, inspired by Richard Rhor.


God wants to redeem everyone.


…Controversy and hit pieces build a quick blog audience…but the challenge is to be redemptive and to still confront in love when necessary…


“I’d rather be an Atheist than attend the Village Church” (his angry article)


Trying to encourage others to be redemptive and holding back if he can’t do it in a redemptive way. Waiting is important.


How we change. Example: Women in Ministry and how Ed’s mind changed.


“God is all about the long game.”

(It’s not helpful to create animosity)


(Lisa) “The power of heightening Empathy (to solve problems). Sharing stories helps.

The job of a person who is called to communicate for something bigger than themselves is to ask…

‘Am I able to show people something that they haven’t seen, but  then once they see they know it’s true. And they can’t unseen it’.”

“And to feel it too…what that (other) person is feeling.” -Ed

(If you’d like to have Ed back to discuss how writing can be “soul-killing” and what to do about it, please let us know and leave a comment! Was the show too long? Too short? Ed and I decided we are curious about this, so let us know.)


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Shane Claiborne is joining Spark My Muse as a guest this summer! WHOOP whoop !!!

Essay: Is Blogging like Ginsberg’s “Howl” and Nano Pop?

Screen Shot 2013-11-12 at 10.07.00 PM


It seems like good writing, the kind of rewrites, and reflection, and deliberation is in short supply, chiefly in the blogosphere and the slapdash sphere of most internet magazines. This post will reflect that flavor too. It will seem to you to (mostly) mirror what I am critiquing. It may seem instant or undercooked. It is caught in the vortex of the medium. I won’t pretend otherwise.

But, it’s also a start.

Blogs, we recall were so-named as a combination (or perhaps even slang) of the words Website and Log. An online record of passing thoughts captured in 1s and 0s for internet reader consumption. Outdated posts not recycled as fish wrapper but buried deep under a mountain of newer posts, like digital tels. The more content the more recognition, so say the experts. Plus, the all-important the SEO. We can’t forget that.

Or, at the very least blogs were and are a chance to make a mark on the world, or to a few friends with knowledge of your URL. Are they more than this? Are they less? (You can tell me in the comments section. I’m working the system.)

The Heights
And we have too-often elevated them to a place inappropriate. At times confusing there position–determining what is prolific to be  paramount. Though airy they shimmy under their own weight more than they don’t. But with their own magic, they may sting or bite. They may incite vibrant feuds that recall schoolyard antics–digital spilt lips. They may seem like a sand lot variety of King of the Mountain, riffing on zingers and cultural assertions. Though not long after, they reek of the “My dad can beat up your dad!” slurs. And these too gain vigor as referenced links in posts fueling more of the same. (I won’t give you links. You probably already know of some.)

Blog posts, plentiful like the sands on our cultural shore-scape have piled up like dunes but don’t seem to become a bulwark–an art form like a Pulitzer article, or piece of superb literature, or even a good film. There are some rare exceptions and there are some blog postings that somehow change lives.

More often though something vital is traded for the speed and convenience of the quick write-up. I’m stating the obvious, right?

What is it really?
Like instant coffee, the full-bodied flavor textures and aromas of this medium don’t quite work. Chronically under-brewed, the bulk of the speedily-penned internet articles too reveal not just slapped together writing but the slapped-together thinking ungirding it. We are awash in sloppiness. I don’t exclude myself either.

The passion and angst of any given post may drown out this feature and we may be convinced that we have meat to chew on, that is, until we read really good writing.

Maybe a precise poem, birthed not just from suffering or bliss or insight but from the careful gathering of words like seed beads and the arranging of them like art and embellished patterns on a long gown of societal topography.

Maybe a travel article written not for the rushed, tired, and ravenous tourist consumer, but for the person who truly wonders about other cultures and ways of being human in distant regions. A piece of craft that may include the underlying philosophies escaping the mind of a deeply thoughtful and curious person who can and does take the time. Here there is peace of a certain kind that never makes its way properly to Facebook.

Will the banter or the sarcasm of blogging (and commenting) last through the arc of observable time, at all?

Will it survive weeks, years, decades, after the refinement of reflection and chronological distance makes its way down through it like canyon whitewater? Or will blog posts be captured digital bits of immature polemics, impolitic reverie, and dated fervor of a begone time, like Allen Ginsberg ‘s once criminally obscene 1955 poem Howl reads for us now? A once-debauched and revolutionary vocalization now a kind of caricature of a ruckus time; now a relic of a frenzied, outlying beat–a strange light from a olden day.

Will blogging be frittered like a summering free-love hippie of this time in the Connection and Communication Age, rendered not in the insensate fog of drugs, but in the fever of hot blithering and the lechery of notoriety.

What will be the classic (masterly) posts of blogs from our era, if any? What will be the wheat amongst all the gusting chaff?

Where will there be instead that lasts? Perhaps commentaries well-researched and produced in a arduous string of revisions and heartache and a probing of not just of the topic by of the writer’s own inner world. Questions and ideas that could perhaps give voice to something true, useful, universal and somehow everlasting? The shoulders to stand on.

Will blog posts be like cultural postcards, the scraps from a newly-formed, digital age whose populace didn’t yet crave more than boilerplate reports and passing thoughts? Tweets like echoes of something that mattered. Facebook the endless ticker cataloguing our lives in bits and bytes.

What, if anything, in this blogosphere and this ephemeral epoch will collese and age like well-kept merlot for future readers in future times? Things truly enjoyable and worth saving? Something, say, for high school English classes to ponder 20 years removed?

The postings might go bleached like Polaroids, capturing in anemic hues a snap swatch; the evanescent blush of the solipsistic maiden: the early 2000s cultural zeitgeist.

Not Warhol’s Pop but something slimmer.

To coin a term: Nano-Pop.

# # #

I’d love your links to blog articles that you feel will not just stand the test of time, but may well be considered paragon of blog posting as a literary art form in our times. If you can find any, please put them in the comments section.

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Thanks for reading today.


Evangelized by a Rat Terrier: Communicating Faith with a Bared Belly

Today is Halloween and this book is a murder, thriller, in the religious dramatic fiction….hum.



Today’s post is part of  a blog tour Erin McCole-Cupp!

Erin is a talent writer and a helpful friend of mine. I got a copy of her new book that has done amazingly well on Amazon!
I was thrown back to the 80s—like in a totally awesome way.
(ya catch that!)
She’s stopping by today on her interweb book tour with a great story about her doggie superstar Sigma and a bit about her new book.
Now–Enter, Erin…

Thanks for hosting me, Lisa!  See, dear reader, Lisa and I go way back—way back to the 1990s, when the internet was something viewed on a black screen in tiny pinpoints of green light.  Lisa knew me through my first conversion, the one where I became a Christian, but I’m not sure she knows about my second, far more recent conversion:  that from cat person to dog person—and more specifically to a small dog person.

In Lisa’s latest (and wonderful) book Dog in the Gap, she wrote a chapter called “Taming,” in which she discusses how we humans are tamed by dogs. She writes that the mutual process of caring and being cared for by a dog, “…can, if we let it, carry over into our other relationships–this sacred act of taming each other.  Instead of tolerating each other, we go further in.”


I experienced this, more specifically what Lisa identifies in that same chapter as “mutuality,” starting this past Spring.  We were thinking about getting a second cat…


…because this one doesn’t like us.


When we arrived at the local shelter, we were shocked to find their cat residence virtually empty.  Apparently we’d arrived before the bumper crop of abandoned kittens was due.


“Well, let’s go say ‘hi’ to the dogs,” my husband said.  We went through the kennel and one of the residents made our youngest stop in her tracks.  She pointed and shrieked with delight.


“Tiny dog!  Tiny dog!”


Ugh.  I’d always called small dogs “hors d’oeuvres” or “light snacks,” good for nothing but barking at all hours.  And who on earth would want a tiny ball of noise called a rat terrier?  No. Thank.  You.  Still, for the sake of the kids, I gave in to a “visit” with the little guy, assuming he’d annoy them so much that they’d see some sense and we’d come back in a few weeks for our kitten.


When the shelter volunteer brought him in to us she warned, “Now don’t expect too much, because he’s pretty shy and takes a long time to warm up to–“


The little blur dashed in, threw himself down in front of us all, belly up for scratching.  His tongue lolled out.  He was smiling.


“—new people,” the worker finished.  “Wow!  Look at that!”


We did not choose Sigma.  Sigma chose us.



What did he do next that won me over?  Funny enough, it was the barking.  He barks less than I expected a little dog to bark, but when he does bark, it’s because he is trying to protect our pack.  Stranger at the door?  Get away!    Stranger approaching while the kids walk him?  Stay back!   Is a friend yelling near me, his Mommy?  Yowwowwowwowwow! You’re not allowed to bark at her! Rat terriers are known for being wary of strangers and protective of their territory.  We belong to him.


The most precious example of this I can give is the time a relative stranger accidentally tripped over my middle child’s feet.  Before he could apologize, Sigma jumped up, tapped the guy’s shins with both front paws, and gave a low warning bark.  Do not hurt her!  She is under my protection! 


As I apologized, the perceived “offender” said, “Don’t apologize.  That’s the kind of dog you want taking care of your kids.”


I’ve had a dog before.  I’ve never before had a dog who would clearly give his life for mine and my family’s.  I’ve read about heroic dogs before, but part of me always thought those were melodramatic stories made up to fill dead air on morning radio shows.  Now that I’ve seen the active loyalty of a dog, I can believe that those stories are real.  Siggie believes that we are worth heroic effort.


Sigma chose us.  We belong to him.  He believes we are worth heroic effort.  If “evangelization” means at its root “to bring a message,” Sigma has done just that.  He won me over specifically, not because of anything he demanded of me but because of my value to him, just as I am.  He was the first pet with which (with whom?  hm) I’ve experienced the “mutuality” that Lisa talks about in Dog in the Gap.  Yes, we feed him, walk him, rub his belly, anoint him with flea and tick preventative, and throw tennis balls around for him.  But he does for us, too.


I don’t know about you, but when I think of “evangelist,” someone on a stage comes to mind.  Someone with a podium and a microphone, slathering at the mouth with the Fire of the Spirit, hair gone wild with all the thrashing about he’s done, all in the name of igniting in his listeners the furious love of Christ.  Cerebrally, I know that’s not the only way to share the faith, but my tiny human brain didn’t have room for any more concrete image… until a “Tiny dog!  Tiny dog!” came into my family and made us a pack.  Our “Siggie Baby” is not powerful or smart or eloquent.  His evangelization of me was never about him; it was about showing me what I was worth to him.


That’s such a small way of reaching out, but it’s a genuine way that you don’t need a degree or an agent or a microphone to share.  We can—no, we must show others that someone on earth thinks they are worth choosing, worth claiming in love, and worth heroic effort.  Wouldn’t that be a wonderful, charming way to entice others into seeing that the Body of Christ is a pack worth joining?  After all, don’t we Christians occasionally find ourselves perceived as slobbery, barking hors d’oeuvres?


So how do you dash out of your shelter and show others the vulnerable, bared-belly love of Christ?  Lisa and I tend to bare the bellies of our imaginations:  we write, thus inviting you into the very brains and hearts where we (try, at least) to make a home for Him.  I took particular delight in writing the character Cate Whelihan in Don’t You Forget About Me specifically because she espouses so many things that I think are, well, not so good for us.



I love Cate because she’s part of my pack, and, just like so many real humans I love just because they’re loveable, not because they agree with me.


I know I need to do that more in my real life, outside of my head.  I need to show, not tell, the people I love that I choose them, that they are part of my pack, and that they are worth heroic effort.  If the Son of God can do that for me—for every single one of us—and I’m supposed to be following Him, then I kinda don’t have an excuse to keep it in all my head anymore.


Do you?

# # #

Thanks, Erin!
If you are interested in the book, and gosh, you should be! Purchasing info is here.  The Kindle edition is available now.  The paperback will be available on November 1st (2013).
There’s also a Goodreads giveaway running now through November 15, so you can enter to win a paperback of Don’t You Forget About Me at this link.  
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