Who Are You?

“If I asked you who you are, what’s the first thing that comes to mind?”

              “I’m a basketball coach.”

“And if that’s stripped away?”

              “Well, I’m also a history teacher.”

“Okay. If we take that away, who are you?”

              “Um, I’m a husband and a father.”

“And God forbid that should ever change, but if it does, who are you?”

              “I don’t understand this game.”

“It’s not a game, man, who are you?”

               “I’m a white, American male.”

“Ha! That’s for sure! Is there anything else?”

               “Well, I’m a Christian.”

“And what’s that mean?”

               “It means follower of Christ.”

“And how important is that?”

              “It’s very important.”

“Interesting, how it’s so far down your list.”

              “Okay, wait a minute, I could have easily said Christian first.”

“Ya, but you didn’t. Look, your identity will be tied to whatever you give your heart to. It doesn’t sound like the Lord has first place… For someone who knows the Lord, you’re acting like someone who doesn’t. Which makes me wonder, what have you allowed to define you? Something or someone will have first place in your heart, but when you find your identity in the one who created you, it will change your whole perspective.”

This is a conversation between John Harrison and Thomas Hill in the 2019 movie “Overcomer”. The question is a valid one. Who are you? If someone asked you that question, how would you respond?

I’ve been getting some flack from my daughter about not writing articles for the Archive this summer and I promised her I would write this week in honor of her last Sunday before leaving for college. And I want her to ponder this question. Who are you? More than being a college Freshman, or being a white teenage girl, a Generation Z’er, a horse lover, an employee, a sister, a daughter… who are you? What have you allowed to define you?

As you spread your wings and fly, I want you to remember your roots. I want you to remember the things I have taught you. I want you to remember to brush your teeth, and wash your hands, and clean up after yourself. I want you to remember to call your mom. J I want you to remember to take a deep breath and to be nice. But most of all, I want you to remember whose you are.

The moment you professed Jesus to be your Lord and Savior, his identity became yours. Galatians 2:20 says “I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.”

So who are you? Don’t let the world define you. Don’t let society tell you that you are too this or too that. Don’t give your heart to a trophy that will tarnish and fade. This is true for all of us, the college student, the stay-at-home mom, the farmer, the pastor, the __________. Find your identity in the One who created you, in the One who chose you, in the One who redeemed you, in the One who loves you and gave himself for you.

Remember who AND whose you are.

Erin Jacobsma

Christ’s Home

If you want to see ME, stop by any time. If you want to see my HOUSE, make an appointment. I have aspirations of my house looking like a spread in Better Homes & Gardens magazine, but it definitely is not. An unexpected visitor most likely would find blankets strewn on the sofa, dishes littering the counter top, books stacked on the end tables, papers and mail clustered on the table, and laundry piled in front of the washing machine. I guess it’s what they called the lived–in look. This is my norm. My home. Not picture perfect in any way.

As I sat down in my recliner for my morning quiet time, and grabbed a blanket from the floor, I was greeted with Jesus words recorded in John 14:23. “If anyone loves me, he will keep my word; and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him.” Author Jim Maxim continued with these thoughts: “Jesus Christ spoke these glorious words of promise to his disciples: to the one who loves Him and follows His teaching, God the Father, God the Son, and God the Spirit would come into his heart and make a home in him forever! It is astounding that God himself would make his home in us.”

A question whirled through my head as I glanced at the clutter around me. Why would anyone want to make a home with me? Martha Stewart would be appalled.

My morning continued with a walk to the barn and I pointed out to Jesus that if he really wanted to make a home with me a little clutter was the least of my problems. Sometimes “home” resembled my sheep pen at that moment, ripe with the smells of urine, manure, and damp wool; gross and disgusting, not neat and clean.

Now I realize when Jesus stated his desire to make a home with us, he wasn’t talking about getting a mortgage together, moving furniture, and decorating walls. He wants to do life with us, be in relationship with us. He wants to live in our hearts and be Lord of our lives.

I felt convicted that as much as I want my heart to be pristine and put-together, it is often littered with anger, bitterness, and unforgiveness. There are foul odors of envy, pride, resentment, and self-righteousness. Like the apostle Paul states in Romans 7:15, “I do not do what I want, but I do the very things I hate.”

In his booklet “My Heart-Christ’s Home” Robert Boyd Munger says “I will never forget the evening I invited Jesus into my heart. He came into the darkness of my heart and turned on the light. He built a fire in the cold hearth and banished the chill. He started music where there had been stillness and harmony where there had been discord. He filled the emptiness with his own loving fellowship. I have never regretted opening the door to Christ and I never will. This, of course, is the first step in making the heart Christ’s home. He has said, ‘Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me’ (Rev 3:20). If you want to know the reality of God and the personal presence of Jesus Christ at the innermost part of your being, simply open wide the door and ask him to come in and be your Savior and Lord.”

Munger continues, “After Christ entered my heart, in the joy of that new-found relationship, I said to him, ‘Lord, I want this heart of mine to be yours. I want you to settle down here and be fully at home. I want you to use it as your own. Let me show you around and point out some of the features of the home so that you may be more comfortable. I want you to enjoy our time together.”

I have several copies of “My Heart-Christ’s Home” if you would like to read more about a home that’s fit for the Lord. It is my pray for each of you, that you would open your heart to Jesus and allow him to make his home with you. Trust me, he’ll help you with whatever housecleaning needs to be done.

Erin Jacobsma


Can You Be Identified?

Years ago at a SR RCYF Parents Night, the students were instructed to roll up the legs of their jeans and remove their socks and shoes. They were then lined up behind a large sheet of plastic hanging from the ceiling. The parents were then asked to identify which child was theirs by the feet sticking out from under the plastic.

Some parents were concerned that they would not be able to recognize their teenager’s feet, while others were quite confident. I was in the confident category. I had dressed those feet many times as an infant and toddler and our oldest daughter has two very distinct crooked toes, so I was positive I would have no problem identifying her feet. I chose correctly and the other parents also completed the task rather quickly and claimed the feet of each child. Who knew how recognizable our feet are?

While feet seem to be a pretty obscure part of our body, the Bible mentions feet quite often.

There are verses that give warning to our feet:

Proverbs 4:26-27 “Give careful thought to the paths for your feet and be steadfast in all your ways. Do not turn to the right or the left; keep your foot from evil.”

There are verses that reference a sure foundation:

Psalm 17:5 “My steps have held fast to your paths; my feet have not slipped.”

Psalm 40:2 “He drew me up from the pit of destruction, out of the miry bog, and set my feet upon a rock, making my steps secure.”

Other verses paint a picture of spreading the gospel:

Isaiah 52:7 “How beautiful on the mountains are the feet of those who bring good news, who proclaim peace, who bring good tidings, who proclaim salvation, who say to Zion, ‘Your God Reigns.’”

Ephesians 6:14-15 “Stand firm, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace.”

And one of the greatest lessons in all of scripture comes from the washing of feet. John records the event this way: “Jesus got up from the meal, took off his outer clothing, and wrapped a towel around his waist. After that, he poured water into a basin and began to wash his disciples’ feet, drying them with the towel that was wrapped around him. ‘Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet. I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you.’” John 13:4-5, 14-15

Others may not know us by our feet like our parents do, but the Bible does tell us that there is a distinct characteristic that will identify his disciples. John 13:34-35 records Jesus’ words. “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”

As I think about this passage, it makes me cringe. Does the world know us by our love? As Jesus’ followers, do we love well? There are some who claim Christ who are known for their complaining attitude, negative talk, and bickering. Some are known for their gossip, their criticism, their laziness, or their anger. For some, we brush it aside and say “well, that’s just __(name)__.” But that’s not in line with Jesus’ command.

May we, who are of the Jesus kind, be known as followers of Christ by the way we walk, by the way we talk, and by the way we love.

Erin Jacobsma


Living Water

It’s been a long night. Or a short one. Depends how you look at it. I caught a few winks in the recliner, but most of the night was spent on the floor of the kitchen with a sick lamb. She was clinging to life and I so desperately wanted her to live. I lost a newborn lamb a few days ago and I didn’t want a repeat.

We had just picked her up from the big farm earlier in the evening. She baaed all the way home and seemed fine when I put her in her new shelter with her two roommates, Pippi and Pirate. We gave her the name Pansy and supplied her with a few ounces to drink and left the three youngsters to get acquainted.

When I returned for their bedtime feeding, things had changed drastically and I could see our newest addition was in distress. I am definitely no sheep expert, but I decided maybe she was cold and I took her to the house to warm her. She wasn’t able to stand and could hardly let out a sound, but I wrapped her in a warm towel and snuggled her on my lap in front of the furnace vent and started googling what to do with a sick lamb.

Google is a wonderful thing when you are looking for answers, but it can also be very disheartening when you are pretty sure what needs to be done, but you don’t have the right tools. Google suggested, and the thermometer verified, that the lamb was hypothermic. She needed to get warmed up, which I was working on, and she needed milk in her belly. The problem was she wouldn’t drink from the bottle. Tube feeding was an option, but I didn’t have the necessary equipment and I wasn’t about to call around trying to find one in the wee hours of the morning.

I attempted repeatedly to get her to take the bottle or to at least swallow the milk that I could get into her mouth, but with little success. I tried to reason with her that if she didn’t drink she was going to die, but she didn’t seem to understand. As I knelt on the floor watching her struggle to survive, the tears began to flow. Not for the lamb (well, maybe a little), but mostly for the people in my life that the lamb represents, people to whom I have offered Living Water but refuse to swallow, people who ignore warning signs, people who brush off any attempts to help them, people who reject the free gift of salvation through Jesus Christ. My heart ached from the feeling of helplessness as I drifted off to sleep.

And while I cannot make someone drink the Living Water anymore than I can make a baby lamb slurp up a bottle of warm milk, I CAN pray for them.

Heavenly Father, You are the Good Shepherd. You are everything that I want, and I want so badly for others to want you too. By your grace and mercy, pour out your Spirit that all people would repent of their sins and be drawn to you. Replace their heart of stone with a heart of flesh and help them be receptive to your voice. I pray that they will know the truth and the truth will set them free. Raise them from the dead because of your great love. Amen, let it be done.

Erin Jacobsma

In case you are wondering, Pansy made it through the night until I was able to get a tube to feed her with and she is doing much better.


Outward Appearances

I share life with a car enthusiast.

From the day I met him cruising the loop in his ‘78 jet black Pontiac Grand Prix, I could tell his vehicle was important to him. One might call him fussy. He is knowledgeable and skilled at changing oil, flushing fluids, swapping out motors and transmissions, replacing brakes and exhausts, and a thousand other things I know nothing about.

But as particular as he is about the mechanics of the vehicle, he is even more meticulous about its appearance. We do not set things on top of the car, we only need to touch the door handle when entering the car, we don’t put our fingerprints on the window, we kick the dirt off our shoes before we get into the vehicle, and we don’t ever leave trash in the vehicle; or so I’ve been told.

Many hours have been occupied detailing cars together. After all, “a clean car is a happy car”. We even spent the first two hours of our wedding night at the car wash removing hot fudge, whipped cream, and rice from the interior and exterior of our vehicle, left behind by some ruthless hooligans. Of course, my new husband was not very happy.

All that to say, the dear husband likes a clean car. So, when the weather turned bitterly cold the last few weeks and I made the decision to let the barn cats shack up in the garage, trouble started brewing.

All was fine at first. I prepared a container of litter and a cat chow buffet and set the kitties up in a cardboard box with a folded towel for insulation and fuzzy blanket for some extra warmth. The feline princesses seemed thoroughly grateful. They purred and snuggled in and observed life from the box. But as the cold days continued, restlessness set in and they were no longer content with the cardboard condo. They began exploring the garage floor and even caught a mouse. Good kitties!

Then the unthinkable happened. Or at least I hadn’t thought about it. The kittens were again nestled in their box as we shut the lights off and went to bed, but the next morning we were greeted with two calico fur balls perched on the top of my white car and an abundance of dirty little footprints. It appeared as though they had a dance party on the hood, trunk, and roof, and even did the Electric Slide down the windshield a few times. The car was not happy and neither was the husband.

Well, the car got washed and the cats will be returning to the barn as the thermostat rises, but dirty footprints got me thinking about appearances. We spend so much time cleaning and maintaining, primping and preening, just to make sure we look good on the outside, but do we give due diligence to what’s on the inside. Does our heart and attitude get the same amount of attention as the face in the mirror? Are we as attentive to soul maintenance as we are to car maintenance?

A story is told in 1 Samuel 16 about choosing a new king for the people of Israel. God sends Samuel on a mission and he sees several young men who he considers to be a good option. But God says no. More specifically, God says, “Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The Lord  does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.”

If God is more interested in your heart than your appearance, that’s probably a good place for us to look too. During this season of Lent, let’s be more concerned with our heart condition than just looking our Sunday best. “Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me.” Psalm 51:10

Erin Jacobsma


There’s No Place Like Home

There’s no place like home.

There’s no place like home.

There’s no place like home.

Some of you are wondering why I just repeated the same sentence. Others of you are imagining yourself standing in the Land of Oz, wearing ruby red slippers, clicking your heels together three times.

“There’s no place like home” became iconic following the 1939 movie, The Wizard of Oz. The film tells the tale of Dorothy Gale who lives on a farm in Kansas with her dog Toto, Aunt Em and Uncle Henry. Dorothy seeks shelter in her bedroom from an approaching tornado, but the window gets blown in, hits her in the head, and knocks her unconscious. The house is sent spinning into the air and lands in Munchkinland in the Land of Oz.

Chances are you know the rest of the story as Dorothy follows the yellow brick road to Emerald City making friends with the Scarecrow, the Tin Man, and the Cowardly Lion along the journey to find her way home. In the end, all Dorothy needed to do was close her eyes, click the heels of her ruby red slippers together three times and say, “There’s no place like home.”

But what if “home” isn’t a single place? I pondered that question after a conversation with Michelle Klay as she and her family were packing and preparing to leave their home in Florida and return to their home in Africa. What if you have multiple places that you call home, and your heart is torn between the two? I imagine when you are in America a portion of your heart longs to be in Africa and when you are standing on African soil, a part of you wishes you were in America. If you are at home in two different places, two cultures, two continents, do you ever feel at home? There’s no place like home, but where is home?

I got my answer the very next day as I took in the words of Psalm 90. “Lord, you have been our dwelling place throughout all generations.” I don’t know how you would describe a “dwelling place”, but I would call it HOME.

This particular Psalm is a prayer written by Moses. I would guess Moses struggled with his home identity. He was born in a Hebrew village, raised in an Egyptian palace, fled to the land of Midian and started a family there, only to return to Egypt, and then eventually wander in a desert for 40 years. Where was home? The land of Canaan was supposed to be his destination, a place where he could finally put down some roots and unpack his bags, but he never even crossed the threshold.

However, God graciously revealed to Moses along the way that his focus wasn’t supposed to be on a place, but on Him. God’s presence was the only place Moses needed to reside. And Moses could honestly say, Lord, you have been our dwelling place, our refuge, our safe house, our hideout, our sanctuary, our HOME.

The same can be true for us. It would be my prayer for those who say they are followers of Christ, that you could claim the words of Psalm 84:1-2. “How lovely is your dwelling place, O Lord Almighty! My soul yearns, even faints, for the courts of the Lord; my heart and my flesh cry out for the living God.”

In the words of an old song, “This world is not my home, I’m just passing through.”

Erin Jacobsma

(By the way, Caleb & Michelle and boys arrived safely at their home in Africa. Yay, God!)


The One Who Lifts My Head

They say that reading is a key to opening your imagination, but have you ever come across a phrase or sentence that immediately generated a picture or video in your mind? This happened to me a few days ago.

A friend extended a challenge to me to read five Psalms and one chapter from the book of Proverbs every day for one month and to repeat that challenge every month for an entire year. I have always enjoyed reading the Psalms and I like having a plan to stick to, so I accepted his challenge and decided to begin December 1st rather than wait for the New Year.

An additional aspect to the challenge was to “pray” the Psalms, using some of these ancient words to communicate with Father. I flipped open my Bible and started with Psalm 1. “Blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked, or stand in the way of sinners, or sit in the seat of mockers. But his delight is in the law of the Lord.”

O Lord, I want to delight in your laws. Keep me from wicked counsel and sinful ways.

I moved on to Psalm 2. “Why do the nations rage and the peoples plot in vain? The kings of the earth take their stand and the rulers gather together against the Lord and against his Anointed One… The One enthroned in heaven laughs.”

O Lord, I can hear your scoffing roar. What a laughingstock we must be in the heavens. What a joke that people would dare take a stand against you. I want to laugh too… or maybe cry.

I continued my reading journey to Psalm 3. “O Lord, how many are my foes! How many rise up against me! Many are saying of me, “God will not deliver him.” But you are a shield around me, O Lord, my Glorious One, the One who lifts my head.”

Click… instant picture.

“The One who lifts my head”… I see a young child standing in front of his parent. The youngster has his hands shoved deep into his pockets, he chews on his bottom lip, the toe of his shoe digs at a pebble in the dirt, and his eyes are fixed on the ground beneath him. It is obvious that the child has done something he shouldn’t have. The nature of the offense is unclear, but he is most definitely avoiding eye contact with his father. Maybe he’s embarrassed, feeling guilty, or afraid of the look in his father’s eyes. He can’t face the disappointment, the anger, the disgust… and I can’t make out the father’s face to see for myself.

But then as gentle as the stroke of a feather, the father reaches down with both hands, cupping the child’s chin, lifting his head to look him in the eye. The child has no choice but to look upon the face of his father, but instead of anger and disappointment, he sees eyes filled with tenderness, compassion, and love. The irritation and displeasure the young one was certain of was nowhere to be seen, and the child melts into a puddle of tears and relief.

O Father, the child is me. At times I am so disappointed in myself that I am certain You must be too. I can’t bring myself to talk to you or to even look you in the eye. But You are the One who lifts my head, not with firmness and punishment like I feel I deserve, but with tenderness and mercy and an everlasting love. Thank you, Father, for showing me who You are.

During this season of Advent, a season of anticipation, may you gaze into the eyes of the One who lifts your head. Do not be afraid, He brings good news of great joy for all people.

Erin Jacobsma


The Cry of My Heart

The day had arrived. The newborn lambs that I began bottle feeding in March had grown big enough to head to market. As the sun came over the horizon, my regular morning chores included some extra play time in the pasture, a few pictures snapped by the hubby, one last combing of their wool, and a few final hugs before the trailer backed up to the door of the barn. As Littlefoot, Andy, and Olive were sorted from the “herd”, panic began to set in. I use the term “herd” quite loosely since the remaining lambs amounted to two younger ewes, Peanut and Annie. The older lambs boarded the trailer reluctantly, but it was the little girls that became hysterical.

Crying and bleating, I was certain that Peanut was going to jump the fence. I released them from their confinement into the pasture, filled their feed troughs with grain, and put out fresh hay to try to calm them. Nothing worked. For the next hour they raced from the pasture into the barn and back out again, running in circles, climbing up the rails of the fence, and all the while crying, crying, crying.

I wanted to cry with them. Not only was I a little sad to see the other lambs leave the farm, but I could relate to the depths of their distress. Their frantic baas were the sound of my soul.

Life has been stressful, challenging, and draining. My heart breaks, my head hurts, my emotions are raw, my soul feels dry. And I find myself bellowing the words of the ancient song writer in Psalm 13.

1 How long, O Lord? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me?
2 How long must I wrestle with my thoughts and day after day have sorrow in my heart? How long will my enemy triumph over me?
3 Look on me and answer, O Lord my God. Give light to my eyes, or I will sleep in death,
4 and my enemy will say, “I have overcome him,” and my foes will rejoice when I fall.

I added my own lyrics…
How long, O Lord? How long?
How long will this virus rage and disunity spread?
How long will our hugs and handshakes be forbidden and our smiles masked?
How long will truth be silenced and lies run rampant?
How long will relationships be broken and hearts remain hard?
How long will you look the other way?
How long will you sit on your almighty thumb and let the enemy steal, kill, and destroy?
How long, O Lord? How long?

BAA. BAA. Baa. Baa. Eventually the lambs calm down, as does the shepherd girl, and the song writer…
But I trust in your unfailing love; my heart rejoices in your salvation.
I will sing the Lord’s praise, for he has been good to me.

It’s okay to cry out to the Lord. It’s good to get real with our heavenly Father and bare our soul. But don’t stay in panic mode. There is hope.
Why, are you downcast, O my soul? Why so disturbed within me?
Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God. (Psalm 43)

Erin Jacobsma

Safety Rules

Safety / sāf-tē / noun

  1. The condition of being safe from undergoing or causing hurt, injury, or loss
  2. The action of keeping safe

There seems to be a lot of talk this year about safety. Actually safety has been a hot topic for a long time, just ask any business that’s regulated or been investigated by OSHA. The change comes in what we are trying to be safe from.

The “Stay Safe MN” slogan grinds my gears every time I see it, so I’ve been evaluating my angst about safety. Many catchy phrases popped up in my Google “safety” search: safety doesn’t happen by accident; safety isn’t expensive, it’s priceless; when safety is first, you last; safety rules are your best tools.

Most of these slogans were promoted by employers trying to limit insurance claims and other problems at their business, but there are many things that we do to keep ourselves and others safe. Babies are strapped into car seats, boaters wear life jackets, bikers sport helmets. We remove snow and ice from our sidewalks, we clean splattered bugs from our windshields, we secure the handrails on our stairs. Steel-toed boots, leather gloves, hard hats, ear muffs, and goggles are all tools of safety. In the name of safety, my husband is required to wear high visibility clothing at his job, and we buckle up every time we get in a vehicle, (which, I might add, was instrumental in my daughter’s safety a few months ago.) Choosing safety isn’t stupid.

So why does the push to stay safe make me cringe?

First, we have to trust the item or action that provides safety. This is different for each person. Not everyone wears their seatbelt, safety glasses, or helmet. Although some safety measures are regulated by law, not everyone complies. Our confidence, or lack of, will determine our actions. It will also have consequences. King David declares in Psalm 20:7, “Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the Lord our God.” Where is my trust?

Second, I question if we worship safety? Safety, and security often dominate the prayers that I hear from the kids in my classroom… keep us safe on our way home, keep us safe at school, keep my friends safe, my family safe, etc. One would wonder if we live in a hostile country where our safety is in question day in and day out. At one time, I forbid the use of the word safe during our prayer time so we could think beyond our physical security. There is so much more that we could pray about. Instead of praying for safety, lets pray for courage. “For God did not give us a spirit of fear, but a spirit of power, love, and of self-control.” (2 Timothy 1:7) I believe that God is concerned with our physical well-being. Scripture tells us that he watches over the sparrows and flowers and knows when each hair falls from our head. But I also believe that our priority is to seek Him, not safety. “Seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.” (Matthew 6:33)

Third, do we serve a God of safety? Is following Jesus a protection guarantee? Is a life that’s free from pain our reward for faith in God? Jesus said, “Behold, I am sending you out as sheep in the midst of wolves, so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves.” (Matthew 10:16) That doesn’t sound very safe. Jesus also said, “In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33)

Regardless if you have had similar thoughts or different ideas regarding safety, may we all take heed from words found in Philippians chapter 4: “Rejoice in the Lord always… let your reasonableness be known to everyone… do not be anxious… let your requests be made known to God… with thanksgiving… and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”

Erin Jacobsma


Learning From Mistakes

His name is Blue. But there’s nothing blue about him. His coat is black and brown, peppered with gray. Even his eyes are brown, not blue. He’s a spunky, energetic hound that loves people and attention. He was born to hunt and most often you will find him with his nose to the ground. He’s not even my dog. He belongs to my son, but he has taken up residence at our farm for close to a year and loves the wide open space. In dog years, his age is close to mine so when he started howling at 6:00 in the morning to go to the bathroom… well, I can relate.

As I shuffled to the garage to let him out of his kennel, a thought entered my mind that I should grab his shock collar. I dismissed the idea as quickly as it came. After all, we were just going out for a bathroom break not a morning walk. I opened the door to the great outdoors, and while I rubbed the sleep from my eyes, Blue took two steps over the threshold and then bolted across the front lawn. The sun was just beginning to peek over the horizon and I could barely make out what he was after. I hollered his name, and wished I had grabbed the shock collar. I knew we were in trouble when the dark object of Blue’s attention turned and revealed a white stripe down its back. The skunk tried to retreat, but the dog with a one-track nose was determined to investigate and see who this furry friend was. Within seconds, the “friend” became foe and Blue was squinting his eyes and rolling in the grass, and we were both regretting our decisions.

My eyes burned as I googled what to do next. I quickly changed clothes and rushed to the grocery store, while the dog was left chained to the tree to deal with the consequences of his decision. I returned with an arsenal of hydrogen peroxide, baking soda, Dawn dish soap, and tomato juice. The bathing process began, and while the tail-wager appeared fresh and clean, the stink lingered.

I’ve been reflecting on several life lessons from this encounter with our striped adversary.

First, I’ve been contemplating whether the fleeting thought to put Blue’s shock collar on was actually a nudge from the Holy Spirit. The prophet Isaiah tells us that “whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, “This is the way; walk in it.” Perhaps the Spirit was trying to save me some trouble and I ignored his voice. This probably happens more often than I care to admit. Thoughts enter my mind to call a friend, send a card, pay a visit, shut my mouth, walk away, let it go, and I dismiss the thought. Lord, help me to pay better attention, listen more closely, and do what you say!

Second, we are free to choose, but we are not free from the consequences of our choices. The Bible records an abundance of examples of people who were sprayed with the consequences of their decisions… Adam, Eve, Cain, Abraham, Sarah, Lot, Isaac, Esau, Jacob, Judah, Joseph… and that’s just a few from the book of Genesis. And rarely do the consequences of our decisions only affect us. Just as I had to deal with the backfire of Blue’s choices, the ex-wife reels from her partner’s decision to have an affair, the father suffers from the choices of his prodigal son, the business owner agonizes over government decisions, and our world is still in turmoil from decisions made thousands of years ago. The stench lingers. Lord, help us make choices that honor you!

Third, God always provides a way out from temptation. 1 Corinthians 10:13 tells us, “God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it.” He is a Way Maker. We don’t fall into sin, we choose it. We can also choose to walk away. Lord, lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.

Fourth, no matter what we have done, what mistake we made, what opportunity we missed, Father is waiting for us with arms wide open, offering his grace, mercy, forgiveness, and love. There is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus (Romans 8:1). Lord, thank you for loving us and cleansing us from all our filth!

May we be lifelong learners, who learn from our mistakes or from the experiences of a dog named Blue.

Erin Jacobsma