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Posted Tuesday, September 4, 2012, at 8:56 PM

"Poco! Stop it!" He looked up at her with big, limpid, heart wrenching brown eyes as she yelled at him . . . again. "If you keep that up you won't have any fur left on your back side! Now quit it and be a good boy."

Be a good boy--hmpf. Wasn't a person entitled to scratch when it itched? I mean, it's not like he went around scratching , licking, or chewing all the time. He could go fifteen minutes or more without scratching or biting. It's not like he had fleas. His skin was dry . . .yeah, that's it! Dry skin!

"I'm going to try to comb some of the knots out. I swear you chew dread locks into your fur." She began combing his fur and for the first couple of strokes with gentle and soft touch. Then she hit a knot. "Stop it that hurts," he snarled. "Don't be a baby," she replied as she tugged a knot out of his fur.

The teeth of the "furminator" were filled with a huge knot of reddish-brown fur. He snapped at her as he tried to make her stop. She slapped his nose and told him to be still. He nipped again. This time she held his mouth closed with one hand and combed his tangled locks with the other. From time to time she would stop and clean the brush/comb of fur and then start in again. He growled--since his mouth was held closed--to remind her of his displeasure, but she kept on until he wondered if he had any fur left.

Finally, she released his mouth as she cleaned the brush/comb once more and put it away. Amazingly he did feel better. His coat was smooth and shiny. He didn't itch, and best of all she was calling him handsome and telling him he was a good boy.

He loved getting praised by his mom. He voice got warm and soft; it wrapped about him like a blanket of love and made him feel all gooey inside. After she brushed him she would rub his ears and stroke his head and back. He loved the attention he got from her. It made everything in his world . . . right.

Eventually he wandered off to a sun spot in which to take his nap. He knew she loved him. He just hated following all her rules about being brushed and not scratching or licking. It was his fur after all. If he was fine with knotted fur, then . . . she would start in on him again--eventually.

Perhaps that is how God feels about us. We have annoying habits. We allow our lives to fall into disarray. We end up with dirt, dead cells stacked up, and our hair tied in knots. We aren't a complete mess, but lose our focus quickly.

God, reminds us to stop, clean up, be groomed, and spend time with God. We respond with a snap or growl. We want to do what we want, when we want. Don't force us to be God-like. We would rather argue than listen. We would rather condemn than commend. We would rather judge than be compassionate. We would rather denounce that tolerate. We want top billing--the glory, the praise the . . . .

God, gently and lovingly, you groom us--brush the filth, doubt, hatred, and intolerance from us. Help us God to gentle to your touch and allow you to cleanse us. Use us to love all of your creation--not just the part that looks like us or that we choose to love. We thank you that you cleanse--forgive--us again and again. Help us to be more loving, diverse, and tolerant as we grow to be like you. So be it. Amen.

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From My Heart to Yours
Rayla Stewart Hogue
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Rayla Stewart Hogue is a native of Dexter. She is a wife, mother, and minister of the UCC (United Church of Christ). She seeks to recognize and embrace the unending hues of God's ethne and religion, and commits herself to living and expressing this inclusive diversity through Sacrament and the spoken, written, and sung Word of God.
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