We have two dogs that are a vital part of our family. “Tink” is a half Yellow Lab, half Chow sweetheart that is about as gentle a dog as there ever was. We claimed he from the Jackson County (MS) Animal Shelter in 1998, about four months after our long-time, much beloved Golden Retriever “Boston” went to be with his Maker. When she was about 2 years old, and in heat, Tink dug out of our yard and “made friends” with a Black Lab that was about the size of an Abrams tank; ten weeks later she presented us with ten squirmy little Black Lab pups. a couple did not make it, we sold one, gave the rest away, and the last was the final Christmas present to our family in 2000.
“Gumbo” (he’s a little bit of this, a little bit of that) looks like a pure bred Black Lab (until you see the black spots on his tongue). He’s a really good looking dog, but is not necessarily the sharpest knife in the drawer (we comment that Gumbo rhymes with dumbo). He has good retrieving skills (good, not great), presents strangers with the impression of being ferocious when he is really a sissy, but we all love him, and I like having another man around the house, someone I can talk to.
Both dogs, as many dogs, are frightened by thunderstorms. For whatever reason, it seems to be magnified in Gumbo. We think that Tink inherited the fear when she was about three months old, and we had to weather a hurricane; maybe it’s genetic through her into Gumbo, we just don’t know.
Last night I was watching the weather, and realized that a solid line of thunderstorms was going to roll through Atlanta in the early morning hours. Our dogs are “outside dogs,” and while they sleep in the enclosed garage, I thought it may be a good idea to bring them into the laundry room for the night, which is where they sleep in awfully cold weather, or through storms.
I rolled out of bed at 4:40 this morning (as usual), fired up the coffee pot, and went into the laundry room to help them feel safe and secure as the storm was just rolling in. Tink settled on the bed and let me rub her belly, whole Gumbo nosed at the door. Before I could stop him, he had it open, and went through it. He usually goes upstairs and tries to get into Kathryn’s room; but for whatever reason, today he headed to the basement. I grabbed a cup of coffee, and headed down there to my office for my quiet time, as I do most every morning. I encouraged him to come into the office with me, and he settled in right by me, shaking like Japan in the recent earthquake.
I did my best to calm him down, to assure him, to help him feel safe. I scratched his ears, rubbed his back, scratched that spot that he likes best (right where his tail connects to his butt), and all he did was shake. I kept telling him it would be OK, that he was a good dog, to settle down, but he just shook. Finally he got up, walked underneath my desk, and curled up into a ball.
I sat there, read a few Psalms, and then looked over at Gumbo. I thought about how much I love that old dog, and how much I wished I could take away his anxiety and fear, and help him to feel safe and secure.
And then it hit me; God wants the same, for me. Rugged, stubborn, individualistic person that I am, I still–even after following Jesus for more than 35 years–try and do it on my own. I’ll wake up in the middle of the night, and start obsessing about something that I cannot do a blessed thing about in the middle of the night. I’ll get into some situation, toss a quick prayer to God, and then try and wrangle my own way through things.
And all along, God has his hand on my shoulder, whispering into my ear, assuring me of His presence, His concern for me, His strength and wisdom, doing all He can to calm me down. If only I would let Him, my life would be far better.
Psalm 121 says “he who watches over Israel
will neither slumber nor sleep.” (verse 4)
I need to remember that; FAR more than I look out for, try to take care of, and show love and affection to my dogs, the Creator of all this is tries to show me how He is looking out for, and taking care of–not to mention show His love and affection for–me.
And He does the same for you, as well. May you sense, feel, and accept His attention today!

Some time ago–YEARS ago, when our daughters (now 24 & 22) were quite young and small, we either bought or were given this fire engine red plate that has YOU ARE SPECIAL TODAY written around the edge. It was pulled out whenever someone moved from Middle School to High School, got a great report card, scored (or blocked) a goal in soccer, won some award, or whatever. Even Mom and Dad have been honored with it’s use from time to time.
Last week it got double duty. First Kathryn, who has just finished a dgree in Early Childhood Development, got an interview and landed a job. Let me tell you, that work in a Day Care for special needs kids (autism, cerebral palsy, down’s syndrome, etc) guarantees one (that’s Kathryn) a special place in the Kingdom of God.
Then Anne got word that she had not only passed the Foreign Service Exam (on her first try), but–as her text to me said, “Holy Moly, my scores were stellar!” What she will do as that process moves forward remains to be seen, but the fact remains that we pulled the plate out a lot last week.
If you don’t have one, you need one. Go get it. Use it for your children (even if or when they are adults), for your grandchildren, heck, even for your spouse. Make someone feel special today.
They deserve it.
And for the record, SO DO YOU!

Last week, after a long, full day of errands and working in the yard, I was tired and starting to feel a bit achy. My wife made it home a bit after 5:00, which is no big deal until you realize she is an elementary school teacher. Having left the house before 7:00, she was getting home after 5:00. (Folks, for the record, teachers–particularly public school teachers, MORE than earn their [meager] pay–it is NOT a 7-3  job, and they pour their hearts into their students, not to mention vast sums of their own financial resources. Sorry, this is one of my soapboxes)

Anyway, she wanted to get in our Thermospa hot tub. I opened it up, and was surprised to see that the power was off. I went to the basement, opened the switchbox, turned the breaker back on, and went back outside. No power again. Back to the basement, flipped the breaker, waited, and after 20 seconds, it tripped. I did this about three times (why? Did I think it would act differently because I wanted it to?!), and finally called the company.

I talked to a guy named Irwin, who talked me through troubleshooting. After doing what he said, I had pretty well identified that I had a problem with pump #1. I called back to get a service call. What I got was a guy named Ken, who walked me through FURTHER troubleshooting. About 35 minutes later. I realized I had the cover off the electrical panel underneath the hot tub, and was tracing wires here and there. I realized I had the potential to connect electricity and water, and imagined a sound my wife may hear, and come out to find me a crispy critter. I was WAY outside my comfort zone.

“Ken,” I asked, “What do I have to do to get a service call?

“All you have to do is ask,” he said.

“Ken, can I please have a service call?”

“Absolutely, Mr. Roberts.” (I did not bother to tell him that technically, it is DR Roberts.)

They will come to the house sometime tomorrow. As of yesterday afternoon, in four days, the water temperature had dropped 20 degrees. We need to get it fixed, and quick. And I simply do not have the skill set to do the job.

Then there were the phone calls I have received over the last week or so, dealing with friends in former churches who are in a bad way, and they are reaching out to me. There is the email I got last night dealing with a friend’s impending surgery. There is the call I got today that advised me of a soul brother’s mother’s imminent death. There is the conversation I had this morning with a guy who is struggling to be a faithful follower of Jesus, deal with some things that are rubbing him personally, and add a son dealing with terrific addictions, and I began to see a different side of me.

After getting a Doctorate in Preaching, I really wanted to continue to work on and be very good at expositing and proclaiming God’s word. Then I landed in a position that has me preaching less and less. It pushed me to my Mother-in-law’s comment several years ago that she had always seen me in more of a pastoral ministry than a preaching one. As another friend said a couple of years ago in email when I asked what I was good at, “Chuck makes people feel good about themselves.  He is always interested in what is going on with them and that makes people feel better.
Chuck makes bad jokes as well as anyone I know.  And given that, there are always a few good ones mixed in there.
Chuck models a good Christian husband and father.  I can’t think of much in this world that is more important.”

I’m beginning to wonder if I have reached my limits, and am rediscovering what I am good at. Maybe time will tell.

Which begs the question, “What are YOUR limits–and what are your strengths?!”