God's Creatures of Comfort
By Ellen Watts
How can I write about creatures of comfort and not write about dogs? I really don’t have a lot of personal experience with dogs. I’ve only had two dogs. As a child our family had a black cocker spaniel named Inky and after I retired I decide to get a dog as a companion. My experience has been limited but none the less, I’ve learned a lot about caring and companionship from these two dogs.
Inky was an outside dog where we lived in the rural part of Scotland County. When I played outside, she was my constant playmate. My sisters were older and had nothing to do with me. Inky followed my bike around the yard, tail wagging trying to keep up. She went on long walks with me in the thick forests of pine trees that surrounded our family home. She had no idea what a leash was for, it just wasn’t necessary. When I ate my lunch sandwich outside (kids stayed outside all day back then) she got part of the sandwich and part of my apple. We shared the shade under the big oak trees and when I would lay back to watch the clouds, she would lay down beside me and watch them, too. On Sunday afternoons Daddy would let her in to take a nap on the couch with him and I don’t know which one enjoyed it the most! When her life ended we all felt a great sadness and a huge void was left in my life.
After I retired from teaching, I decided that it was time to have a dog of my own. I’d wanted one for many years, but our lives were just too hectic to give a dog the care and attention it would need. I researched breeds and finally decided on this little, tiny fur ball Shih Tzu. I brought her home at eight weeks of age and she was the size of my fist. I learned a lot quickly with the help of books, a knowledgeable soon to be daughter in law, and obedience classes to train me.
Dixie Belle has been one of the most wonderful joys of my life! I had no idea I would love her so much! She is stubborn but cute! She is persistent but charming! She is annoying but endearing! She is there to jump around when I’m happy and nestle into my lap when I’m sad. She knows to run to the kitchen when she hears certain words because something has been spilled! Dixie knows exactly when it is six o’clock (supper time) no matter what time of year! She looks to me to protect her and I believe she would risk her life to protect mine! There are hundreds of stories I could tell of Dixie’s antics and adventures but let me just say that I’m so grateful for her place in my life!
In doing a little research on the internet about dogs, I found an article by Ace Green who named the Five Attributes of Dogs. I believe we should try to adapt these attributes ourselves and into our relationships with others:
|Loyalty; dogs are known for their unwavering loyalty to their masters. Are we loyal to our family, friends, God? Or are we a little shaky there?|
|Internal and External Satisfaction; dogs don’t worry about how their fur looks, or if their tail is too long. They don’t compare their collars to the neighbor’s dog’s collar or worry about their crooked teeth. They don’t really worry about anything! Maybe we worry about way too much!|
|Unconditional Love: Dogs don’t care how much money you have or how you look. They love you just the way you are!|
|Simple Mindset; Dogs eat, sleep and play. That’s it! They aren’t constantly planning, strategizing, etc. We could learn about relaxing from dogs. (You should hear little Dixie snore when she is really deep asleep!)|
|Being Selfless; If we were as selfless as dogs what an amazing world we would live in! Only when it comes to food ( which has to do with survival) do most dogs show selfishness. Unfortunately, we humans put self first. Dogs are constantly trying to please their humans in whatever selfless way they can.|
There are wonderful poems, stories, and videos about the loving companionship of dogs. There are dogs who are specifically trained as comfort animals and therapy dogs. But I believe God created dogs to be our companions for we are dearly and deeply loved! Oh, I know there are working dogs, but I believe that a pet dog has a special purpose and they have been placed in our lives! They can sense our emotions whether it be anger, joy, sadness, frustration, irritability, kindness , gentleness or impatience. God sees us! He knows us and loves us! That’s why he gave us dogs as creatures of comfort!
|"Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience." Colossians 3:12 (NIV)|
There is a four- legged resident in my home named Rich. I do not own him! He can’t be owned! He has a very storied life that has made him the unique creature that he has become.
Rich was rescued from the Guilford County Animal Shelter as an older kitten by my then toddler grandson. He was feisty and obstinate and very much in charge of his territory! He would submit to being petted and carried but had no tolerance for other four- legged creatures. He convinced other cats to evacuate the premises and dogs to steer clear.
After tolerating this for some time it was decided that he should leave the household of his young charge and live with the grandparents. Not long after his arrival at the grandparents, me being one of those, he became disenchanted with the canine inhabitant and ran away. He took up residence with the local feral cat colony for about a year and a half.
Eventually, he opted for a more comfortable environment and steady meals and returned to live with us. He did not like me at all! He often hissed at me and avoided all contact. He preferred my husband, Dale and would sit in his lap every evening and watch tv. He purred loudly and occasionally gave me a surly glance. Once in a while, he would jump up in my lap, realize it was me, and hastily retreat as if to say, “Sorry, wrong person!”
When Dale became ill, Rich spent hours laying on the bed with him, each one comforting the other as Dale grew weaker. Soon after Dale died, Rich began mourning, weeks became months of almost nightly pacing and loud meowing for his friend. I had taken over feeding him months before, but it was some time before he would get up in my lap and settle down.
Now after a year has passed, Rich has now accepted me as his friend. His once solid black fur now has tips of white, his once pointy ears have several notches and scars from defending his territory from other cats. He gets in my lap nightly to watch tv and purrs so loudly that I have to turn up the tv volume. He still sits on the back steps and takes a swing at the dog as she passes. When the two older grandchildren were here several days a week doing virtual school classes, he would sit on the couch above my granddaughter and place his paw on her shoulder as if he were engaged in the lesson.
As I write this, I see that I have left a pencil on the table beside my chair, he will be sure and knock that on the floor tonight as we watch tv together. If the dog is very quiet, she may also join us in the chair, but no sudden moves! Although he is not comfortable with everyone, he chooses to be comforting to me. Studies have shown that cats relieve stress and can be good for one’s emotional health. Rich was not chosen by me to live as my companion but now he has chosen me to be his. I am grateful for God’s creatures of comfort.
Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort.
(2 Corinthians 1:3 NIV)
When I think of my parent’s home in the late Spring I think of hummingbirds. May 25, 2021 would have been my mother’s hundredth birthday, so she is very much on my mind. She had a stroke just before her eighty-ninth birthday and while she was recovering in the hospital in Scotland County, I stayed at her house so that I could check in on her every day. She was very worried about the hummingbirds!
My parent’s home was out in the country, and they had always had between eight and ten hummingbird feeders hanging along the back of their house. After Daddy’s death, Mama continued to keep up the feeding stations. Each day when I visited Mama she asked about the hummingbirds. Was I keeping them clean? Was I filling them each day? Was “Boss Hogg” showing up? There was always one larger hummingbird that fought for a certain feeder, thus dubbed “Boss Hogg”. I did my best to fulfill this responsibility.
Each night after spending the afternoon with her at the hospital, I’d come home usually to a meal I’d picked up on my way home. After the meal I spent at least an hour returning calls to everyone in the community, her church, and our family to give updates on her progress. The next hour was spent making the hummingbird feeder solution that was to go in the feeders the next morning.
My mornings were spent taking down the feeders, rinsing them out and then refilling them. As soon as they were rehung on the hangers Daddy had made years before, the buzzing and the tiny humming sound began. They came out of the woods and suddenly there would be a swarm of no less than fifteen to twenty hummingbirds fighting for their chance at the feeders. Some had to wait their turn perched on the hydrangea bush, others on the nearby mimosa tree. They would keep their distance from me but come close enough that I could hear the air around my head moving as they zoomed by.
Breakfast and several cups of coffee were spent by the big picture window in the den where I pulled up a chair and could be just a foot away from the birds. It was one of those times that just leaves an imprint on your life. The house was so silent and there was nothing and no one else around but those birds and me. I was so in awe of these magnificent, tiny, colorful creatures that darted around at such a high rate of speed yet could just seem to suspend in mid air. What a gift this sight was for me. During those moments of watching the hummingbirds, I forgot to worry about all that was going on with Mama, what I was neglecting at my home, all the things that usually possess my mind. I just sat and marveled at these creatures God had made. I felt such amazing peace and sense that God had it all in hand!
Now I look back and I often think about that time with the hummingbirds. I’ve had feeders at my house and I’m lucky if I see one or two a year. Unless I visit a bird sanctuary, I doubt I’ll ever be surrounded by that many hummingbirds again. God provides us comfort often at times and in ways we don’t even realize. There’s an old saying about stopping to smell the roses, well, I think the last year has taught us to start being more mindful of everything; the flowers in bloom, the leaves on the trees, the birds, even the tiny hummingbirds, the bunny hopping in the yard, the squirrels in the trees. Look for that peace and well being our Lord provides, sometimes His comfort is where we least expect it!
|Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid. (John 14:27 NIV)|
God’s Creatures of Comfort
The last year has been a very trying year for everyone. It has been a very unhappy, uncomfortable, anxious, and miserable year for me. I sought solace in many ways such as prayer, reading scripture, reaching out to friends and family, and seeking grief counseling. However, one of the things I found that has been very therapeutic has been watching the birds in my yard. I’ve always had bird feeders around, but I found myself standing at the window for long moments watching the birds. My parents always fed the birds and attracted many, especially hundreds of hummingbirds. So, feeding and watching birds has been lifelong for me.
As I’ve watched the birds, I began to identify different species, many familiar, and occasionally a stranger I would have to research. I watched their interaction with each other, their habits, even their manners or lack there of. I watched what they like to eat, and what was spit on the ground. All giving me something to think about how we humans behave.
Cardinals, more specifically Northern Cardinals, are a frequent sight at most everyone’s feeder year around. Did you know their name was chosen by the early North American colonists because of their resemblance to the red biretta (cap) and vestments of the Catholic Cardinals?
Male cardinals show affection by feeding their females seeds beak to beak. Awww! Northern Cardinals are monogamous usually for their entire life span. The female stays with the eggs and the young, while the male provides food and protection. Flocks of Northern Cardinals are called a college, conclave, deck, radiance, or Vatican of Cardinals. They are so beautiful and especially striking on a bleak winter day!
Susan Nelson writes in A Look at Birds in the Bible, that there are nearly 300 references to birds in the Bible. They are mentioned more in the Old Testament than the New. Moses talks about birds much more than Paul. Turtle doves, sparrows, pigeons are most frequently referenced. By the way, did you know that all mention of turtles in the Bible is not talking about the reptile but is actually referring to the turtle dove?
One of my favorite Bible passages talks about birds.
Matthew 6:25-34 (NIV)
“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?
“And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith?
So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.”
I hope you have feeders and are keeping them filled with seed. In the coming articles I’ll share information about some of the birds I see at my feeders and maybe share some tales of more of God’s Creatures of Comfort.