Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Leave It. {Blessing the Boundaries, Part 7}

This post serves as an appendix of sorts to last summer's Blessing the Boundaries series:

Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself ["laid aside His privileges," mg.], taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men (Philippians 2:5-7, NASB).

When we adopted Ebony, we discovered the very day we brought him home that he had significant fear issues. Our research efforts revealed that basic canine training classes help animal anxiety as much as they do other, more aggressive behaviors.

In the second or third week, we learned the "leave it" command. As we placed a yummy treat on the floor within Ebony's field of vision, we told him to "leave it." He was leashed for the training class, so the handler was easily able to check the inevitable lunges for the desired reward. Once Ebony had accepted that this particular food was off-limits, we could tell him to "take it." Needless to say, this was his favorite part of the exercise.

Over many weeks and repetitions, the duration of the hold increased and the proximity of the treat decreased. It's much harder for him to resist temptation when it's truly under his nose or he's waited so long he's drooling.

"Leave it."

"Okay. Take it!"
Why the fuss? How cruel and unusual a trick is this to play on our poor puppy?

As it happens, this exercise does not merely serve to establish who is the master and who the pet. We are training into him, in safe and controlled circumstances, the response we desire from the words, "Leave it." Once solidified, this command proves not only useful but essential when, for example, the coffee bag spills and beans skitter off the counter onto the floor and into his water bowl. "Leave it" then saves an emergency vet visit, at least, and the animal's life, at most. Again, when a glass jar shatters all over the kitchen linoleum and Ebony's instincts draw him toward the kerfuffle, "Leave it" keeps his tender paws at a safe distance.

What seems like an irresistible command to resist the allure of a tantalizing treat is actually the novitiate training for a harder, lifesaving obedience later on. The food incentive is not bad in itself but beneficial in appropriate measures. If it were a bad or unattractive thing we asked him to leave, it would be a poor training tool.

When I consider the Christian practice of fasting, as the Walk with Him Wednesday community has been encouraged to do, the "leave it" command comes to my mind. My practice of fasting has been sporadic and varied, and the last 20 months feel like a protracted fast from many things, but not from food. The off-limits "yummy treats" that call my name are not bad in themselves: visits with my grandmother, road trips with the global nomad who married me, studying cross-legged in my favorite chair, kneeling for prayer. For reasons of His own, however, God has told me to "leave it." I have heard "take it" more often in the last six months, but the boundaries still feel claustrophobic on a regular basis.

Trust calls me to offer those things back to God to keep or restore in His time. Gratitude calls me to look at all the good and perfect gifts He has given, the blessings of this present moment. Praise calls me to bless His name even if the boundaries narrow yet further and the stakes of obedience increase.

When the command chafes and I'm in the throes of tempted to throw a private temper tantrum, God sometimes reminds me of Ebony. Look at that first photo again:

Do you notice the direction of Ebony's gaze? He's looking at me, the one who issued the command and has the power to release him from it. All too often I stare at the bowl of food and drool, which only intensifies my frustration and does not hasten gratification.

For the most part, this blog has been a most blessed "take it!" Unhappily for me, for a little while I am sensing God asking me to leave it be and move a couple of non-blog matters to the fore. I think I can learn and do what is needful offline in the next two to three weeks, but the only way to accomplish that while still in physical therapy and completing the local Bible study commitment is to fast temporarily from posting.

My discomfiture about the prospect arises partly from past experience teaching me the difficulty of regaining momentum after a habit is broken for a time. I'm also realizing, however, that I'm reluctant to relinquish the sense of significance this community provides. That I am looking to your affirmation for approval and validation instead of writing from the overflow of a heart already secure and satisfied in Christ is a warning sign for me. My mental completions of the sentence, "I'd rather blog than _____," also show me this place may be an escape from unpleasant duties I'd just as soon push aside.

(Those of you who blog, have you experienced this? If so, where have you found help?)

Perhaps it is antithetical to blog about not blogging, but I know that you kind crumbles would worry if I suddenly went radio silent without explanation. This way you know how to keep me in your prayers as I keep you in mine and endeavor to keep my eyes on my Father-Master for His word.

Perhaps some of you are also sensing the Holy Spirit's nudge to lay something aside for a while. Perhaps your something is more serious and substantial than mine, or perhaps it's a blessing which has become unruly or doesn't fit within a new set of boundaries you face.

If so, we can watch our Father together and set the eyes of our hearts on Jesus, now exalted to His right hand after Himself pioneering the way for us by leaving the privileges of glory to be born into a poor carpenter's family so that He could lay down His life in love for us. Whether we know the reason for our "leave it" or not, we can lean into His intercession and trust that our Lord has a good purpose in this, that we might love Him and our neighbor better through what we lay aside.
The Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make his face to shine upon you and be gracious to you; the Lord lift up his countenance upon you and give you peace (Numbers 6:24-26, ESV).
If I do not already know your prayer requests from correspondence or your own blog, please feel free to communicate in the comments or by email at crumbsfromhistable[at]gmail[dot]com. With gratitude, I lift your names to the Father in open hands most days, and a privilege that is. Alternately, I'd be delighted to learn from listening to your experience of fasting and any Lenten observance you may have planned.

If the Lord wills, we will regather here March 12 or 13.

Grace to you in our Lord Jesus Christ.
With love in the Lamb,


  1. May His richest blessings attend your "training." May your silence here be filled to overflowing with His Word planted directly in your enormous and tender heart. May everything you lay down bring Him Glory and bring you nearer and nearer His Heart. Prayers are continuing. He is so very Faithful, precious friend. Don't forget that I'm available anytime at all if you need anything. :)

  2. I know you are. Thank you beyond words for that and for your encouraging prayer here. Grace to you and pockets of rest in your crowded days, dear friend.

  3. hi tinuviel,

    from your detailed and pondered letter, it sounds as tho' you have lots of good practical--and, more important spiritual--reasons for post-fasting. simply having a sense that God was asking you to suspend your blogging (even if you had no idea why) would give you a reason to do that. simply seeing that suspending blogging would be good for you in various ways (because it would strengthen your trust in God, allow you to honor your Bible study commitments, and free up time for physical therapy) would likewise give you a reason to suspend blogging (even without any sense that God was asking you to do that). From your post, it sounds as tho' you have both the sense that God wants you to post-fast, and a good understanding of why He does.

    which is not to say us crumbles won't miss your posts! the posts, yes, but not the community and koinonia the posts have brought into being. as long as we are "watching our Father together and setting the eyes of our hearts on Jesus", as long as we are interceding and giving thanks for each other, we are in community--posts or no posts. in that thought there is a joy that not even the prospect of going without your posts for a while can take away...

    praying that the Lord will richly bless you as you strive to be faithful and obedient to Him!


  4. For Lent, I'm giving up my computer during the girls' awake hours, which, sadly, is much more difficult than it should be.

  5. I hear you, friend. And I respect your decision and your loyalty to Jesus to lay down your blog for awhile. I will miss reading what is going on with you, but I'm glad to know ahead of time why you'll be gone!

    Even stepping back from my blog for one week last month was helpful to me to regain a sense of balance. It taught me to "let the blog" go; I write when I can, which is still fairly often, but on days that I can't, it doesn't bother me as much anymore. I still don't think I've found the total balance yet (if that's possible!) but I feel closer to it.

    I'll be praying that your real life matters can be taken care of well, and that the Lord will bless you as you go.

    Love you,

  6. What a good picture you portray here, at many levels! I really want to remember all this! As for the blog posting, well, I'll miss it, but I understand entirely. Feeling I really have to cut back myself! Oo. Maybe just two days a week. Or three. (See, there I go, fudging, already.)

    In the meantime, God bless you, your Bible study, your loved ones, et al.

  7. I noticed where Ebony's eyes were first thing. I think it's the look of expectation that captured me. Ah, yes, we must gaze upon our Lord that way. I have felt many of the things you describe here when it comes to my bloggy thing. God has been good in that He impresses upon me what to prioritize on a daily basis. For me, that looks different all the time. That's why I don't keep a regular blogging schedule, except for my Playdates posts, which have been a joy and a discipline. I'll be praying for you as you make more space for Him.
    Hugs to you. (And I love Ebony's treat ball! I wonder if Lucy Mae would like one of those...)

  8. Maybe I should take a break as well! Yesterday I didn't see the place to comment. I printed this post—and love taking it all in. The scripture is one we had in our wedding. Always reminds me of the true aspiration of this life. The pictures of sweet Ebony and the lesson of when to leave it and when to take it are "pictures" in so many ways. My mind's eye sees Ebony's gaze for how I want to look to the Father, and for how you're seeking to do the same. Blessings during this time of focus, friend. I affirm you as my sister in Christ and trust God's leading for you.

  9. i so respect you for this decision, friend. we will be waiting. love you.


Thank you for sharing your day with me! Your presence here is a gift. *You* are a gift. Right now I am unable to reply to every comment, but please know I read and pray for each and every commenter. Grace and peace to you in Christ.