“BARKING AT SQUIRRELS”
October 10, 2009
The instant I opened the patio door he tore into the backyard like a Tasmanian devil barking furiously and running as fast as his little five-inch legs could carry him. A few yards in front of him a grayish brown squirrel thought it best to postpone burying a walnut in the lawn and quickly scampered up a nearby apple tree. While madly circling the trunk of the tree the miniature dachshund kept barking repeatedly in as threatening a voice as he could muster pausing occasionally to leap into the air in a vain attempt to scale the wooded refuge and capture the rogue rodent. I stood in the doorway laughing out loud at the futile actions of our clueless puppy.
“Jabba” has been a member of our household for just five months yet this scene has been replayed perhaps a hundred times. Every day he will sit at the patio door and stare through the glass until the enemy appears. When a squirrel has been sighted Jabba will whine and growl until I come and open the door for him. Never in his sojourn with us has the hapless pooch come any closer than ten feet to one of the elusive varmints. Yet he remains undeterred and continues his daily vigil in hopes that some day he may actually be able to catch one. In order to preserve the peace of our home, not to mention that of our neighbors as well, we have been forced to outfit him with a specialized collar which will give him a good jolt of electricity whenever he barks; the louder the bark, the more intense the shock. Thanks to the collar we have managed to mitigate the barking, but the whining and frenzied frustration continues.
In the last few weeks Jabba has taken his sentry duty to our living room window and now equally divides his time between patrolling the front yard and the rear, always maintaining his vigilance and alerting me with frenetic whining any time an evil, bushy-tailed intruder comes too close to our home. His favorite lookout position for observing the front battlefield is perching atop the back of our living room couch. I’ve seen cats maintain such a position for hours but never a dog. However, since his legs are so short, finding a high vantage point from which to pursue his quest seems to make perfect sense, although he does look a trifle silly.
For the past few days once every morning, almost like clockwork, a squirrel will appear outside the front window. Upon catching sight of Jabba faithfully observing the scene from his chosen lookout post, the squirrel will stop in its tracks, rise up on its hind legs, and stare back mockingly at the beast behind the glass. I am convinced the scheming rodent is fully aware of the chaos it is causing inside our home. Jabba will go absolutely nuts at the audacious actions of the furry menace and begin running back and forth through the house at top speed while whining as loudly as he dares. When he finds me, usually sitting in front of the computer in my office, he will jump at my legs trying desperately to get my attention. Don’t I understand that the greatest disaster ever to face the planet is occurring just beyond the window glass? When I make no move to allow him access to the front yard in order to chase away the tiny terrorist, he just looks at me incredulously and then scampers off to check on the whereabouts of the enemy.
Eventually, long after the squirrel has disappeared, Jabba will grow tired of maintaining his lookout vigil and slowly saunter into my office and lie down at my feet with a defeated sigh. If I could possibly read his mind I’m quite certain he would be wondering why I have so little concern for the squirrels of the world and why I don’t fully appreciate all he is doing to keep our home free from such unwelcome pests. However, glancing down from my computer screen, I just shake my head at him and laugh.
“Why do you always go so berserk over a stupid little squirrel?” I asked him the other day after another such episode of insanity. Reaching down to his miniature dachshund height I took his head in my hands and gave him a reassuring rub. “I know you get upset over the squirrels,” I told him hoping somehow he could understand me. “The next time one of those pesky creatures gets into our yard come to me first and we’ll talk about it. I’m not all that concerned about them. I’m actually bigger than the squirrels and I could vanquish them if I wanted to. It’s not that big of a deal. I am truly more concerned about you than about them. The squirrels can run faster than you, they can climb a tree and you can’t, and you will probably never catch one. So why do you bother to sit perched on the couch waiting and watching and going nuts over something that you can’t do anything about?”
“He looks every bit as silly as you!” proclaimed a familiar voice speaking into my spirit. “Are you all that much different from Jabba when you sit in front of the television ranting and raving about what you see on the news every night? Do you realize how silly you look going berserk over all those news websites you have a habit of visiting daily on your computer? There you are day after day perched upon your couch in front of the TV or stationed at your lookout post in front of your computer whining at what is taking place beyond the glass. Do you suppose all your frenetic complaining will result in any positive change? Don’t you think the enemy knows what gets you profoundly upset and uses this as a ploy to fill you with anxiety, tear down your faith, and distract you from spending more time with me?”
“Do you honestly think I am totally ignoring you if I don’t seem quite as upset as you when you cry out to me over some trial that has raised your blood pressure and sent you into a fit of frenzy? Don’t you understand that I allow adverse situations to come near you in order to draw you back to me and to teach you that barking at squirrels accomplishes nothing? Can you trust me to take care of you, to watch out for threatening intruders invading your life, or will you continue to insist on manning the observation post by yourself and going insane at the first sight of trouble? When you see a trial approaching are you willing to make your first move sitting at my feet for a while and allowing me to give you my perspective on what might be about to happen? Oh, and by the way, I am much bigger than any squirrel, or any trial threatening your existence or the wellbeing of your country! I could vanquish them all in a heartbeat if I so wished. But in truth, I am far more concerned about you than about them.”
Ouch! It certainly isn’t pleasant getting reprimanded by the Lord, especially when He uses my dog to get through to me. Which is why I’m passing this one on to those of you who, like me, have a problem with getting a little too anxious about circumstances over which we have little to no control. Judging from the overwhelming amount of angst I’m hearing about coming from within the kingdom, I’m convinced I’m not alone in my anxiety. Are you in the habit of barking at squirrels?
It’s not that we don’t have anything to be worried about. Lately the economy seems to be getting flushed down the toilet and millions of jobs have gone down the drain as well. The value of the dollar is plunging along with the value of our retirement funds. Just as the war in Iraq seems to be quieting down the conflict in Afghanistan is heating up. Iran is on the verge of becoming a nuclear threat to world peace. We live under the constant threat of terrorism. The political climate in this country may be more divided than it’s been since the civil war. We continue to be inundated with prophecies concerning an approaching natural disaster. And some people are convinced that human life on this planet is headed toward extinction due to irreversible climate change. How’s that for a brief list of things that might make us a little anxious!
The Lord has spoken to me about this in the past and has even fitted me with a restraining collar (the Holy Spirit) to warn me when my barking gets too loud. But I still manage to get a little insane at times and whine at all the squirrels I see coming too close for comfort. In truth, other than pray, write my congressman, and vote, I can do almost nothing about the things which concern me the most. So what good does it do to expend so much time and emotional energy going nuts over this stuff? “Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life?” – Matthew 6:27. “Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” – Matthew 6:34.
I’m not saying that we should completely drop out of society and simply wait for Christ to return and rescue us from all these tribulations. Indeed, God expects us to do what we can to make a positive difference in the lives of others around us, many of whom are suffering far more than we are. It’s just too tempting, however, to get so caught up in worldly affairs that we spend all our time chasing after squirrels rather than seeking after Christ.
For decades believers in this country have been passionately petitioning the Lord to bring revival upon this land. As the hoped for revival tarries we have blamed the delay on the fact that so many here are living in luxury. People simply do not feel the need for God to rescue them. The soil is just too hard to penetrate with the Gospel. Perhaps this is the reason God has allowed all these trials to strike our nation. Are we experiencing a tilling of the soil? Is this an answer to our own prayers? Are more people finally feeling the need of a Savior? If so, what should be our response? “Sow for yourselves righteousness, reap the fruit of unfailing love, and break up your unplowed ground; for it is time to seek the Lord, until he comes and showers righteousness on you.” – Hosea 10:12.
So what should be our primary focus? “But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” – Matthew 6:33. Jesus never bothers to tell us what to seek second. There is no need. If our main focus is on serving the King and expanding His kingdom then we will truly be making a positive difference in the lives of others and in our society as a whole. We can either go crazy focusing on what is going wrong in the world or we can be filled with the peace of Christ and focus on bringing the kingdom of God to the world. We can either go chasing after elusive squirrels or we can go searching after lost sheep. We can either maintain our fruitless vigil in front of the glass waiting for the next villain to appear or we can sit at the Lord’s feet and listen for His perspective on the world. We can either act like Martha who, being upset at her sister for spending time with Jesus and overwhelmed with the stuff of life, whined “Lord, don’t you care…?” or we can heed the Lord’s answer: “Martha, Martha…you are worried and upset about many things, but only one thing is needed. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.” – Luke 10:40-42.
The picture I want to leave you with is Jabba sitting at the feet of his master after giving up the chase. Our own Master is calling us to take our attention off of the trials of this world; to give up barking at squirrels. He is inviting us to sit down at His feet, put our trust in Him, and rest in His peace. “Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God.” – Colossians 3:1. “Be still, and know that I am God…” – Psalm 46:10. “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” – John 16:33.
Bill, a child of God giving up barking at squirrels