This is Ananias' article from the December 2017-January 2018 Newsletter.
My Big Guy read me another Bible story; this one has a connection to Christmas. It was before Jesus was born, right after his mom, Mary, found out she was going to give birth to Jesus. She went to visit her cousin Elizabeth, who was pregnant with John the Baptizer. When they met, Elizabeth shouted her blessings, and Mary responded with a song. (Luke 1.46-55)
I’m not really sure if this is a song, or a poem, but it really means a lot to My Big Guy. He said it is called “the Magnificat.” But I think it is magnificent.
Mary talks about what her son is going to do. She says that her soul magnifies God, and that God has chosen her from the lowly people, and she will be called blessed.
It amazed me when My Big Guy told me that Mary was probably just a teenager when she became pregnant, about the same age as the kids in his C+LIFFE class. That is a lot of trust for anyone, but especially someone that young.
Mary says God shows mercy for generations for those who listen to what he asks of people, but then she starts to describe what God will do through Jesus.
She describes things turning upside down; the powerful will be taken down and those at the low end will be lifted up. The hungry will be fed, the rich will get nothing.
That part confused me for a while, but My Big Guy explained that this leveling is because those who have advantages and blessings have used them only for themselves and not to help others.
One of My Big Guy’s favorite things to point out when he reads me Bible stories is that people are blessed so that they can be a blessing to others. The good things people have or the gifts God has given them are so that they can use those blessings to help out others. When they don’t, they disappoint God. Eventually, God’s justice will prevail and God will level things, bringing the high and low to balance.
As Christmas gets close, we start to think about gifts, gifts we hope to get and gifts we want to give. Instead of that, we should think about what we can give of ourselves.
Mary was a young girl of whom God asked a great thing. She agreed and believed that more great things would come through her son, and then through his followers.
If everyone was willing to trust God and share of their blessings, this world would truly be magnificent.
Love and Licks,
This is Ananias' article from the November newsletter.
My Big Guy gave me a homework assignment while he went to the Lutefisk Dinner at Our Savior’s. He had read Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount and the Beatitudes (Matthew 5:1-12) to me the night before, and said I write my article about that lesson. But it makes NO SENSE!
Jesus is saying all of the people are blessed, but they are dealing with difficult circumstances. They are pour in spirit; they mourn; they are meek; they hunger and thirst for righteousness; they are merciful; they are pure in heart; they are peacemakers; they are persecuted and reviled. How are those things supposed to be a blessing?
So he left me to chew on that, plus a few toys and bones.
I thought about these beatitudes, and wondered if our attitude might play a part in these blessings.
If we are poor in spirit, we are humble, and realize we can’t do it ourselves, we have to put our trust in God.
If we mourn, we understand loss, and can better receive and share God’s love.
If we are meek, we are restrained, and don’t draw attention to ourselves. Instead we know everything comes from God.
If we hunger or thirst for righteousness, we want justice to be done. Jesus promises this will happen.
If we are merciful, we will get mercy. Jesus taught us to forgive others as we have been forgiven by God.
If we are pure in heart, it is only because we have been forgiven and made pure by Jesus. So by accepting that gift of grace and living in response to it, we will be with God.
If we are peacemakers, and work to end violence and prejudice, we are spreading God’s love. That is what we are called to do as Children of God.
The last two still confuse me. If people don’t like us because we are working for justice and the right thing to be done, or they say bad things about us because we are trying to do what Jesus told us to do, then that is their problem. We would be doing what we should do. If that makes them angry and they want to hurt us, they are the ones who are wrong. It may hurt us if they have power over us, but we need to do what God has told us to do.
I think if we focus on what God said to do, and not about how people react to what we do, then we will have the right attitude. And if we are doing what Jesus told us to do, to love others as He loves us, then we really are “blessed.”
That’s what I had figured out when My Big Guy came home. I’m still not sure what lutefisk is, but maybe that is a blessing as well.
Love and Licks,
Ani earned a big belly rub for doing his homework.
This is An Article from Ananias from the October newsletter.
My Big Guy did something SO much better than reading me a story from the Bible. We watched a movie! Did you know they made movies about the stories in the Bible? And they SANG in this one.
The movie is called Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat. It tells the story from Genesis about Joseph and his mean brothers, and what happened to Joseph.
Joseph was one of 12 sons of Jacob, who was also called Israel, and was his father’s favorite. Jacob gave Joseph this coat of many colors, which I didn’t see as such a big deal. But Jacob could see what was going to happen and could figure out what dreams mean.
I think that would be awesome. If I knew what was going to happen, I could warn people. If I could tell what dreams meant, I could help people to know what to do.
While Joseph’s brothers were mean to him – they sold him to slavery and pretended he was dead – Joseph didn’t take the opportunity to pay them back. Instead, he used his position to help them out.
My Big Guy said many of the stories in Genesis are about people who weren’t the best, but God was able to do great things through them. Joseph’s dad, Jacob, was a real scoundrel. Jacob’s dad, Isaac, was almost sacrificed by his father, Abraham, and Abraham would tell people that his wife, Sarah, was his sister! I thought my brothers and sisters were strange!!
But in the story about Joseph, God was always with Joseph in all of the bad things that happened to him, and there were a lot of them. Joseph trusted in God, and God provided for him.
I think God can use us to help accomplish the things God wants, but we have to be willing to trust God, and be willing to sometimes do things that we may not be comfortable doing.
It is hard to speak about our faith. It can be hard to give of the things you have. It can be hard to dedicate some of your time. It can be hard to help others. But those are all things God wants us to do. Those are things Jesus said we should do. We can do them, but they may be easier if we put our trust in God.
Those whom God blessed, especially those through Abraham’s family were not the best people. They had faults, just like all of us. But through them God blessed the people of Israel. And they were supposed to bless all of us.
So maybe we can be a blessing to others, even if we are not perfect. I really like that idea. I’m going to try to be a blessing to My Big Guy and to others.
The one thing I don’t know about the movie we watched. How did Joseph and all of the children of Israel get out of Egypt? Do you know if there is another movie?.
Love and Licks, Ananias
This is Ananias' article from the September newsletter.
My Big Guy told me I had to write this month’s article because he was tired of writing. I’m glad he trusts me to help out.
He’s been reading some of the stories Jesus told to me at night. These parables don’t always make sense, and I like that. It gives me something to chew on when he’s away, besides bones and some furniture.
He read this one about a rich guy named Lazarus (not the one who died and was raised, this one just died) and a poor man. The story is in Luke 16:19-31. The poor man was so poor that he didn’t even have a name.
So they both die; the poor guy goes with the angels, and Lazarus goes to Hades. Lazarus wants Father Abraham to send the poor guy to Lazarus’ family to warn them to change their ways. Abraham refuses, because they all heard from Moses and the prophets what they were to do.
My Big Guy has explained to me that the Law of the people of Israel told them to take care of the poor, the hungry and the needy. But Lazarus ignored this poor guy who lived outside of his house.
It reminds me of how much good we can do with just a little effort. All of the rain they have had in Houston makes me worry about the people and their pets. My Big Guy showed me a video of people rescuing a bunch of dogs who were left behind when their people had to get out.
Lazarus had been blessed during his lifetime. He didn’t have to worry if he would have enough. But he either forgot that we are blessed so that we can be a blessing to others. The good things that God has given us are for us to help those in need. If you are on top, you need to reach down to pull others up.
This isn’t just in helping others who are poor, or homeless, or hungry. This includes those who are rejected because of who they are. It might be because of their skin color, where they came from, who they love, or who they pray to. I don’t understand this. All of you people are so much alike. Yeah, I’m nervous to meet you, but once I know you will be nice to me, I want to get to know you, and share my love with you.
You all can be so much braver than I am. And you can share your love, and God’s love so much easier. I can only give sloppy kisses and rub up against you. You can help each other. You can change someone’s life.
Lazarus wound up regretting not acting and sharing with the poor man. Living a life regretting not helping others must be a torture all on its own.
Please don’t be like Lazarus and ignore the people who can use your help. My Big Guy said we are forgiven so we can give to others, and that we are saved so we can serve. I think that’s a really good idea.
Love and Licks, Ananias
This is An Article from Ananias for the July 2017 ONE in Christ newsletter.
My Big Guy was reading me another Bible story before bedtime. This time it was from John’s Gospel. He said it is at the beginning of chapter 8.
Jesus is at the Temple in Jerusalem, and the leaders bring a woman to him. He said that the leaders said the woman had been caught in adultery. I looked at him because I never heard that word before. He said it means to break a real serious promise, the promise people make when they get married.
The leaders said that someone doing this would get stones thrown at them; then they asked Jesus what they should do. It was a test. But Jesus didn’t answer. Instead he wrote in the sand. After a while, he stood up and told them who ever hadn’t sinned can throw the first stone. Then all the leaders walked away, leaving Jesus and the woman, and he told her not to sin again.
I thought about this for a while. I couldn’t understand adultery, but then I thought about the promise My Big Guy made to take care of me. Sometimes, if he is gone all day, I wonder if he is coming back. Once in a while, if he goes away on a trip, I’ll stay at someone else’s house. I worry that he won’t come back, and I’ll be all alone. But he has always come back, and I have to believe that he will always try to come back.
Breaking any promise is going to hurt someone, and hurting someone isn’t something we should do. But people hurt each other all the time. Dogs do too. We do or say things that hurt other’s feelings. Usually we don’t mean to do it; but sometimes we do.
Jesus said that anyone who had not sinned could throw a stone at the lady first. Since no one except Jesus is sinless, no one could throw a stone, so they left.
Before that, Jesus wrote something in the dirt. I wonder what that was. I tried to ask My Big Guy what he wrote. He said that no one knows; some think he wrote the Ten Commandments, others that he listed the sins that the leaders had committed. I don’t know what he might have written. I think it may have been something about people wanting to think some sins are bigger or worse than others.
But I remember My Big Guy told me that sin creates a broken relationship. He told me about an example he was going to use for a sermon example for the kids. He would tear up a paper plate, then ask them to try to put it back together. Even if you tape or glue it, it won’t be the same.
It doesn’t matter if it is a small tear or a big tear; the plate is damaged forever. Our sins don’t come in different sizes or values. A sin is a sin, and we are all sinners.
Whenever we sin, it damages our relationships. It breaks our plate with others. But it never breaks our plate with God. Jesus took care of that on the cross.
You know, I don’t think it matters what Jesus wrote in the dirt. What matters is what he erased. On the cross, he erased all of our sins. That’s the best promise of all.
Love and Licks,
This is Ananias' article from our April newsletter.
You are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people in God’s own possession. You have become this people so that you may speak of the wonderful acts of the one who called you out of darkness into his amazing light. – 1Peter 2:9
My Big Guy told me I need to work on being more welcoming. I’m sorry to anyone who I scared or made nervous when I barked or growled at you or ran over to see who you were.
I’m used to being around My Big Guy a lot, just him and me. So when somebody comes to see him, I want to make sure that they aren’t going to hurt him. So I act tough.
My Big Guy said that I can trust you all, and tell you I’m not really that tough. It is an act that I put on because I’m really nervous around other people.
I don’t know if you will like me, so I act tough, just in case you don’t. And if you do like me, I get so excited. I want to bounce up, even though I’m not supposed to, and my mouth gets all excited from smiling that I tend to drool a little bit.
So I’m going to work on being nicer, and to not think that people are going to reject me.
It’s scary being new, and sharing your vulnerabilities. I think I got that word right. My Big Guy says we all wear a mask to protect ourselves from ridicule and rejection. I’m not sure what all of those words mean, and I don’t like wearing stuff, but I know my barks make me seem mean, and I’m not.
It’s like when you have to share what it means to you to be a Christian. You don’t want people to think you’re too good to be around them, or that you’re different, so you don’t take it seriously.
Or when you think about inviting someone to join you at a worship service. You get nervous thinking if they will say no, or what they will think about you. You are concerned that they may say yes, but then not show up.
Or when an opportunity to serve comes up at church, you feel a motivation to say, “I can do that.” But then you wonder if you can. You get worried that you don’t know enough, or that your faith isn’t strong enough. Or that you might fail.
Those concerns and doubts are what cause me to bark and growl. So, I’ll work on mine. Can you work on yours?
If I see you out on a walk (and encourage My Big Guy to take me on more walks) I’ll try to be friendlier.
Love and Licks,
This is the Article From Ananias for the December 2016 Newsletter.
I am SO excited about this time of the year.
My Big Guy has gotten out a lot of decorations to put up around the house. He hasn’t put them all up yet, but is working on them. I’ve offered to help, but everything is too high for me to reach. So I mostly just help by smelling them to make sure they are ok to put up.
One of the things he had out that I was sniffing was what he called a Nativity scene. He could tell that I was curious so he stopped putting things on that little tree and told me a story.
It seems that God decided that the best way for people to understand how much God loves them was for God to become a people. That way, God could show them how to love one another.
It makes SO MUCH sense. If My Big Guy could become a dog like me, I’d understand him so much better, and he’d understand me better too.
God didn’t want to be a part of some rich or powerful family. Instead, he chose to be born to a couple who just got married. And the girl who would be his mom, Mary, she was a young girl. My Big Guy said she was probably the age of the girls in his C+LIFFE class. That surprised me. They are barely out of their puppyhood!
But when Gabriel the Angel told her that she had found favor with God, and that God wanted her to give birth to the one who had been promised, she said, “I serve the Lord.”
I am SO proud of that little girl. She was so brave.
But then My Big Guy told me about the journey that she and Joe had to take because of some scents for us. I didn’t understand that. I mean, I smell all kinds of stuff, but I don’t think the government has any business in smelling everybody.
When Mary and Joe got to Bethlehem, nobody would give them a place to stay. So they stayed with the animals, which I understand you people may not like, but I found that to be amazing.
This is An Article From Ananias for the July-Early August issue of the OS/Em Newsletter.
It was strange when My Big Guy read the 5th chapter from Ask, Thank, Tell to me. He paused a lot while he was reading. He told me that much of it ‘rang true.’ I’m not sure I understand what that means.
This chapter was on “Practicing Biblical Stewardship.” I thought I was going to learn all of the stories in the Bible that talked about stewardship, but instead, it was about the Pastor’s role in leading a church’s stewardship work.
Remember, stewardship is being responsible for the gifts God has given you, and using them in a way that honors God and how God wants you to use them.
I was surprised that Mr. Lane said that a lot of churches don’t want their pastor to be involved in stewardship, or to talk about money. That surprised me because Jesus talked about money all of the time, so I thought people would want the pastor to talk about what Jesus talked about.
There was one line where Mr. Lane said people don’t want to “hold their financial lives up to the light of Scripture.” Why wouldn’t you want to know if you are doing what God said to do? I’m always checking with My Big Guy to see if I’m behaving how he wants me to. (I’m getting better!)
Chick said pastors aren’t comfortable in talking to their churches about money for a few reasons. One of them is that the pastor’s salary is usually the biggest item in the budget, and that makes it awkward. I hadn’t thought of that. Also, sometimes pastors aren’t that good at their own stewardship practices, so that makes it even harder to tell others what they should do.
Those made sense to me, but isn’t My Big Guy supposed to tell you about the tough stuff to do? That’s what most of our talks are about now that I’m a grown up bulldogge. He doesn’t have to worry about me messing up the house anymore, so now we talk about being nice to people and other dogs that I meet.
Chick gave some examples of what the pastor should do to lead the church’s stewardship efforts: they should preach on stewardship when the lesson lends itself to it; they should be a part of the stewardship team; and they should be a good example on how they use their gifts.
Then he stopped reading. I looked at him, and even looked at the page to see if we got to the end. He said the last thing was that the pastor should know what each person in the congregation gives. I scratched behind my ear (it helps me think) and thought that was a good idea. He looked at me and said that you have said he shouldn’t know that.
Mr. Lane wrote the common complaint is that if the pastor knows how much people give, they will only care for those who give a lot. I think that hurt My Big Guy’s feelings. It seems like you don’t trust him.
This stewardship stuff has become a real trust issue.
The thing is, if God has trusted us with all of these blessings and gifts, why can’t we trust one another to work together to use them in the way God wants?
Love and Licks, Ananias
This is An Article From Ananias on stewardship from the June-Early July newsletter.
My Big Guy read chapter 4 from the book Ask, Thank, Tell which is about the values of stewardship. He reminded me that stewardship means how we manage and use the gifts and blessings that God has given us. For you all, that means the money and possessions you have, but it also means the talent and abilities you have, like the things you are good at.
I’m good at sleeping and chewing on things, so I was excited to find out how I could be a good steward of these talents.
Mr. Lane who wrote this book says that there six values of someone who gives using Biblical values. They are:
Your giving to God should be the first thing you do, and not just from whatever is left over. My Big Guy explained that proportional means you should give according to how much you have. If you have a lot, you should give a lot, but if you only have a little, just give a little of what you have.
And being cheerful comes from doing all of those and realizing that you are taking the stuff that God has blessed you with, and sharing that with others as a way of sharing God’s love.
It could be like this: You make a plan to set aside a certain share of whatever you get as soon as you get it. It’s the first thing you do, and you do this every time you get something. When you do this, and keep doing it, you can see how what you give is helping those who need to feel God’s love.
Mr. Lane said something that Jesus said, “Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” That confused me for a while. Then I thought that means where ever the things that I think are the most important will be the things I care the most about. Obviously, My Big Guy is my treasure, and I always am worried about him when he’s away.
Then I thought about my toys and bones. I always want them to be around so I can play and chew on them. But if I worry about them, I might forget about My Big Guy. And that would make me sad.
If we worry too much about our stuff, we forget about all of the good things God has given us. Then we could become selfish with our blessings and not want to share them.
I have an idea on how I can become a cheerful giver, and I hope I can share those ideas soon, when My Big Guy says it’s ok.
Licks and Love, Ananias
This is Ananias' article from the May Newsletter.
First, I want to remind everyone to invite your friends, your friends kids and your grandkids to come to the Vacation Bible Schools at Emmanuel and Our Savior’s. The nice ladies who put the VBS together promised me a treat if I would tell you that VBS is for EVERYONE!!!
I’m not sure what I would do if I had two people to listen to like I listen to My Big Guy. I’d be really confused if they told me to do different things at the same time. It’s hard enough for me to try to do what My Big Guy wants me to do, let alone if I had two masters.
That is what the author of Ask, Thank, Tell (the book on stewardship that I’ve asked My Big Guy to read to me) writes about in chapter 3.
Jesus was talking about wealth and possessions when he said “you cannot serve two masters.” In fact, the author says that Jesus talked more about money than any other topic in the Gospels. I wasn’t sure about that, so I made My Big Guy look into that, and he said it was true. (Fact Checked by pbc)
It turns out that Jesus talked about possessions, wealth and money more than he talked about prayer, forgiveness or even his death. The only thing Jesus talked about more than money was the kingdom of God.
The author (Chick Lane) said Jesus did that because he didn’t want people to put their trust in their wealth and themselves, but instead to trust in God to provide. My Big Guy said that is why in the prayer Jesus taught we pray for our daily bread. That is asking God to give us what we need today, instead of relying on saving and storing things up for ourselves.
I get that. I trust that My Big Guy will fill my food and water bowls each day. But between you and me, I do have some treats hidden around the house, just in case. Somehow he found the fish treats, but I’ve hidden others.
But I guess that means that I don’t trust My Big Guy. That makes me sad. I know he loves me and will take care of me, even when I’m bad.
So I’m going to get all those treats I’ve hidden out and will eat them up so that I trust My Big Guy will provide what I need each day.
Mr. Lane said that if we worry about what we have, we can obsess over our wealth and resources and not think about sharing the blessings God has given us with those who don’t have as much as we do.
That makes a lot of sense to me. I’m going to try to figure out how I can share the blessings God has given me. Let me know if you have any ideas.
Licks and Love,
Just a bulldogge,
trying to make sense of this crazy world.
My Big Guy is the Pastor of these churches.
I help him out.
ONE in Christ
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