Friday, June 24, 2011

Obedience: Lessons From a Dog

While working with Joaquin on his memoir these last six months, he shared how God used his dogs to teach him about obedience. German shepherds are known to have a high degree of intelligence, which explains why Joaquin believes God has used them to teach him many things in life. While working the nightshift, Joaquin often retreated to the serene setting of the Japanese Gardens in the wee hours of the morning. It was there, in the treasured quiet moments between police calls, where God spoke to Joaquin’s heart.

Owners and breeders of German shepherds are familiar with the initials: GSD. One night while Joaquin was parked at the garden with Rookie, God asked him to take a closer look at those initials.

GSD…God Serving Dog.

Spell DOG backwards…GOD.

Shepherd…how many references in scripture tell us that God is our Shepherd and we are His people.

As all dog owners know, dogs demonstrate unconditional love, much the same as God. Joaquin joked that he thought sometimes God brought these thoughts to his mind just to baffle him. The parallels are plain to see. Just like Joaquin’s dog sits, waiting for his master to speak, we need to do the same with our Master.

Here’s the clincher: when God does speak, we need to respond in obedience. That was the all important part I failed to grasp right away.

On a family vacation in the Black Hills one summer we happened upon BrulĂ© playing in a tourist area. The music from this upcoming band of three was as captivating as the surrounding landscape. Their distinct sound initially caught my attention—the hauntingly beautiful mix of flute, keyboard, and traditional drum they are now famous for. Listening one could immediately sense something deeper at the heart of it. Sure enough, in reading Paul’s Artist Bio I was equally captivated by his life story.

All the way home I heard a Voice, You should write a book about this man…

But before I reached home my own doubts drowned out the Voice, telling me I had no connection to Paul LaRoche, a complete stranger. Besides, I wasn’t Native American, or adopted, and I didn’t have any writing credentials.

And because I didn’t trust the Voice, I let three full years pass before I responded in obedience.

Once I did, doors opened in ways I never could have imagined. What I lacked in experience I gained in affirmations as I began writing, and a series of trips to South Dakota. When Hidden Heritage: The Story of Paul LaRoche was released in 2006, I knew I had found my calling. That same year I went on a mission trip to Mexico with a group from our church. A testimony from one of the men became the material for my next book. Seeds of Salton is a powerful story of courage, love, and the transforming power of forgiveness. And before I could find an agent to rep Seeds of Salton, I received a phone call from Joaquin, asking if I would consider writing his memoir. You see one of the places BrulĂ© played was the Soaring Eagle Casino near Joaquin’s hometown of Saginaw. Joaquin too was moved by their stirring music and found an instant connection to Paul.

I’ve been fortunate to write the stories of these three individuals, a journey that’s allowed me to spend time on an American Indian Reservation, discover the rugged ranchlands of Eastern Montana, and most recently, ride shotgun in Joaquin’s police car.

Lower Brule Sioux Reservation
South Dakota

Montana section road

Montana sunset over the Missouri Breaks

Riding shotgun with Joaquin on patrol

Looking back, think all I would have missed had I not stepped out in faith back in 2002. Come to think of it, that was the very same year we got our dog Miss Abbie, my puppers, who was always at my side, waiting for me to speak.

My faithful and loyal Miss Abbie, helping me write
I dunno…I think Joaquin’s onto something with lessons from a dog.


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