Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Reforming Cowardly Barking

Meet Daisy, the second dog in our household. She is a young dachshund who was added to the family to keep the older dog company. Daisy has acute hearing and barks at the oddest noises. She habitually barks when the house’s heater comes on. Every time I swivel the steps down on the stool in the kitchen she rouses her self from sleep and comes barking. And she even gives a warning yap when I switch the light on in the living room corner.

Now with such sharp hearing you might think she would make a great guard dog, however she is actually a cowardly barker. Some time ago when we had a contractor working in the back yard, Daisy barked continuously to warn us, but she wouldn’t even step one paw out the door to confront the alleged thief. She knew before we did that there was a big shepherd dog next door, but she alerted us with her barking from the safety of her doggie bed in the living room.

Her cowardly barking has been nagging at me for several months. Daisy’s behavior reminds me of how easy it is for Christians to bark and complain about perceived injustices. We can rant and rave over compromised character within leadership or the church’s ignorance of unreached peoples in their community, or any other number of issues within our ministry or teams.

Like our dachshund Daisy, we can feel pretty chuffed with our ability to identify injustices, ungodly behavior, or enemies. We tend to see ourselves as Christian guard dogs. But, like Daisy, we often prefer to bark from safety and comfort. It is way too easy to yap and whine without lifting a finger to bring about change, to lovingly confront others with vital issues, or to pray for God’s practical strategy for tackling a concern.

Jesus actually charged the religious rulers with increasing the rules and laws while not lifting a finger to help bear the burden. The Pharisees and scribes were devout guard dogs of the Law, barking at everyone, but not doing anything to protect or save the people they were barking at. When Jesus came along he saw the same problems, but he was moved by compassion to help lift their burdens. He healed the lame, blind, and lepers. He taught those wandering in spiritual blindness, and he extended forgiveness and love to the disenfranchised of society. His death on the cross made the way for lifting their eternal burden of sin, guilt, and shame.

I’ve started retraining Daisy. When she starts barking at some unknown “enemy” I send her outside to bark. She’s learning not to bark in the house. Thanks to Daisy, I’ve been much more alert to my own tendency to complain! Instead of whinging, complaining, or whining “in the house” I’ve been challenged to go out “there” and take action. Some times it means praying my complaints and doggedly seeking God for justice just as the persistent widow did (Lk 18:1-8). Some times it’s as simple as asking God what he wants me to do about what frustrates me and then go after it.

Daisy’s quirky behavior has had some merit in this house. Thanks to Daisy, I have a constant reminder to quell my tendency to complain. And thanks to God, I can transform my acute sense of wrongs and injustices into points for prayer, love, and action.


  1. Daisey is so cute. She knows it's her job to alert you to "danger" even if she hides!

  2. Thanks, Barb. Yes, she knows her job and is getting a bit more bold. I guess age helps!


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