Our Featured blogger this week is Jim Kraus. Jim is the author of The Dog That Talked To God. Be sure to join us for Friday when our giveaway is a copy of the book.
About the Dog That Talked to God
Recently widowed Mary Fassler buys a Miniature Schnauzer, Rufus, and her world is turned sideways in the midst of her grief. It seems that Rufus speaks. And not just to her. He also talks to God.
When Rufus begins sharing advice that could result in major changes, Mary gets the feeling the pooch might not be steering her in the right direction. Or, is she just afraid to take the leap and discover something she desperately needs? Only Rufus…and God…knows.
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What I’ve Learned from Rufus
Rufus, our family dog, is a miniature Schnauzer. The AKC guidebook that describes all things dog, claimed that this breed required no special exercise—a most appealing trait, if you ask me. While that bit of information is sort of maybe half true, there is greater truthiness in the fact that Rufus simply adores going for walks—and will not let me live in peace until he has completed his mission.
He insists on an evening constitutional.
My son is nine—still too young to hike around the neighborhood after dark. After dark, my wife’s energy level drops precipitously low (how convenient for her). So I am left to entertain the furry creature.
Walking is not a bad thing. I like the quiet that comes on after dark. It gives me a chance to think, ponder, and peek in people’s windows from the sidewalk. (hey . . . I’m only kidding. Mostly.Sort of.)
During our thousand evening walks, I have watched Rufus interact with his world. I watched and learned and discovered that Rufus is a wonderfully subtle teacher—teaching about truth, God, faith, and the meaning of everything.
Always be Ready
Rufus’ leash hangs on a hook in the mudroom, right off our garage. If Rufus and I get ready for the walk at the same time, his eyes dart from the leash to the door, to me, then to the leash and so on and so on.
But if it is time for our walk, and Rufus is upstairs, perhaps chewing on a rare and irreplaceable Star Wars figure from my son’s collection, I have an easy method to get the dog’s attention. I simply remove the leash from the hook. That’s enough notice for him. The leash is fabric, mostly, and makes virtually no noise.
But Rufus will hear that faint leash rustle no matter what corner of the house he happens to be in—and no matter how loud my son has Spongebob cranked up to. Rufus will hear the noise, and come skidding into the kitchen, bouncing off the island in the center of the room. (We have wood floors. Rufus would love wall-to-wall carpeting everywhere, but with a nine-year old who carries spillable liquids, we have told him that’s not in the cards for now.)
Rufus is ramped-up, excited and ready to go—and he has reached that level of excitement in a nanosecond.
Now, let me ask you a question. It is a question I have asked myself.
Are we that ready to go? Are we that eager to get out into the world?
The sound of a leash jangling is subtle—not like a drum or a trumpet call from heaven. Just a rustle—and Rufus is ready to meet the world.
Even if I wanted to, I could not make it sound loud. And yet, Rufus is waiting for the call, the invitation. How often have I drowned out the voice of God with the racket outside me—or inside my head?
We should always be that ready to take our lives and ourselves “out there.” If we stay inside, safe, in our Christian world, we do the kingdom no favors.
Always be excited to go.
When Rufus sees the leash, he gets excited. Every time. He knows what the leash entails. The leash equals going outside. He gets excited and runs back and forth in the house, grinning, even though his breed doesn’t grin, but I can see that he really tries.
Regardless of the sort of day Rufus has had, he has never once failed to be excited at this moment. He has never called in sick, he has never moped over to the leash, he has never once refused to be anything other than totally ecstatic.
Now, observing Rufus’ excitement made me ask myself—when I go “out into the world”—do I still get excited? Do I yearn for opportunities to meet non-Christians? Do I seek out experiences with the “world?” Or do I find church, and being with our church family, a safer place to be?
I have been in graduate school for what seems like a very, very long time. I am enrolled in a Master of Writing program—so when I graduate I’ll be able to write more good. The program draws a varied mix of students. I am always the oldest. There are young children—straight out of college. There are men and women in mid-career. And then there is me. Classes run for 12 weeks, once a week for three hours. These classes provide a perfect opportunity to meet other people, to witness to them in a low-key, intellectual way. But to my shame, during my first half-dozen classes, I kept quiet as to who I was and what I was.
Yet, watching Rufus’ excitement at “heading into the world,” made me rethink how I treat these opportunities. I have promised Rufus that I would be more eager to make new friends and make double good use of my school experiences.
What chances have we missed by being too quiet and too reserved?
I should get as excited as Rufus.
Tenet # 3
Always be excited to see what’s new, even if nothing is new.
This is our normal route of nearly all of our walks: down to the end of Wakeman Court, to Prairie Avenue, to Stoddard Avenue, to Forest Avenue, to President Street, to Hawthorn Boulevard, to Glencoe Street, and then to home. Occasionally, I will switch streets, but 90 percent of the time, those streets, in that order, is our route. Rufus has personally inspected every shrub and tree and lamppost and fire hydrant and mailbox and large rock on this route one thousand times.
Now I ask you—can there be that many new smells along the same route? Apparently there are. Rufus leads, heading from pillar to post, every evening, always happy and grinning, always on the search for a new calling card.
And Rufus treats every evening as a one-in-a-lifetime experience.
What’s the take-home lesson of this?
Let me pose a question: How do you approach your daily tasks, your routine events, your day-in-and-day-out required activities? Are you excited? Or do have you begun to dread the day-after-day sort of ordinary things that we all face? Do you get excited doing the exact same thing that you did yesterday—and know that you will do again tomorrow?
So much of our life is routine: eating, cleaning, laundry (although I really like doing laundry) and on and on. We are called on to find, as Rufus has found, the transcendent joy of normal, everyday life.
I am pretty sure that Rufus would not have used the word “transcendent,” but you know what I mean. Find the joy in the everyday—and you will have joy forever.
About Jim Kraus
Jim Kraus is a longtime writer and editor who has authored or co-authored more than 20 books, both fiction and nonfiction. His best-selling humor book, Bloopers, Blunders, Jokes, Quips, and Quotes, was published by Tyndale House Publishers, sold more than 40,000 copies and inspired several spin-off books. Jim, and his wife, novelist Terri Kraus, and one son, live in the Chicago area.
Also residing with them is a sweet and gentle miniature schnauzer named Rufus. Coincidently, Rufus is also the name of the dog in Jim’s latest book, The Dog That Talked to God. “What a coincidence,” Jim said. “What are the odds of that happening?” They also share space with an ill-tempered Siberian cat named Petey.
Jim recently was awarded a Master of Writing Arts degree from DePaul University. “Now, I am able to write more better,” Jim said. (Yes, that is supposed to be humorous.)
Passionate about writing, Jim loves to create true-to-life characters. “I tend to be the one at the party that is on the edge of things–observing how folks act and react. Plus, I’m not that crazy about people in general–so it works out fine.” (Again, it’s supposed to be funny.)
The idea of the last book came from Jim’s twice-daily walks with his dog, Rufus. “I tend to think through problems as we walk, and I sometimes, softly, pose questions to the noble dog Rufus. And if he could, he would answer them. I know he wants to. Sometimes I give his answers a voice. And I imagined that most pet-owners do the same thing. The idea of a talking dog didn’t seem so far-fetched. And the story grew from there.”