A Man’s Best Friend


Timber watching his master.

This dog! His name is Timber, and he belongs to our son Tim.

“I’ve never seen a dog that listens so well,” my friend said to me. We were sitting at the picnic table and Timber waited patiently at the end of the table, the plate of shrimp tails and shells at his feet, untouched.

Timber cocked his head, waiting. Yet he never moved his position or his poise. He just stood, waiting.

On the words, “Okay!” from his master, he scarfed up the food on the plate.

I’ve accused my son of being mean to make his dog wait so long to eat. He challenges me that it does not hurt his dog to know that he has to listen – and waiting a few minutes will not hurt him at all.

He’s right, you know. Timber is the best-behaved dog I have ever known, thanks to his Master.

Tim has taught his dog well. From the time Timber was brought to his new home as a 6-week old puppy, the two have been inseparable. Timber’s mother is a pure-bred German Shepherd. His father – a lab – came from who-knows-where.  Over Thanksgiving in 2010, we went to get two puppies for our place when Tim decided to ride along. We came back with three puppies – two for us and one for him.


Timber and his sister siblings when they were puppies.

Whenever Tim has to be gone for several days and we “dog-sit”, Timber is not happy. He knows we love him and he knows there will be plenty of dog food and table scraps (his favorite), but he misses his Master. Sometimes he won’t eat until Tim gets back. Other days he eats only table scraps and no dog food. I suppose it’s his way of coping with his unhappiness.

Dave has little tolerance for animals in the house. Yet somehow when Timber arrives, the dog manages to be allowed to sit on the rug just inside the kitchen door. If I’m not around, he also manages to come further into the house. I like Timber, but I do not like dog hair on carpet or on sofas.



The mascot of the boat. Timber always rides along.

Whether Tim is on his boat on Mayo Lake or driving one of his trucks, Timber is with him.


Sometimes Tim’s business puts him on the road with a truck and trailer – and Timber is as much a part of the business as anyone else. Everywhere they go, Timber rides on the back of the trailer, moving from side to side to bark at other vehicles and their passengers. Sometimes, if it’s really cold or raining hard, he rides in the cab – but he is always wherever Tim goes.


Timber even comes to church, but he stays outside. He stays either in the vehicle or under the vehicle – wherever Tim puts him and tells him to “Stay!”. On our annual Heroes of Faith night, he participated in the skit Tim performed for his character. Tim was Lazarus with sores on his legs, and Timber came bounding in to lick the “wounds” on Tim’s legs. You would have thought they had rehearsed the skit because it went so well.

Timber functions as a guard dog when his master ventures into precarious situations because of his business. He functions as a playmate for the many children who come in and out of our home. He serves as a watchdog wherever he goes. At the warehouse that houses Tim’s business, he is the mascot.

Most importantly, he serves as his master’s loyal and best friend.


The Two Things That Define Character


Character Defined

In the end, I discovered that my father was right when it came to things of character. My mother was the one who passed it on to us. I can’t tell you how many times I heard her say this:

There are two things that tell the character of a person: 

           settling an estate or building a line fence.

My father had no doubt seen his share of squabbling over line fences, for he was a surveyor and was sometimes called upon to settle disputes. In addition, as a man who served as an executor of many estates, I suppose he had seen and heard it all.

Perhaps that is why he felt so strongly that a person’s true character is shown when it comes to working out differences in our property, our possessions, and our money.


Character in Action

When a fence is put between two properties, there’s always a concern for the right-of-way and who gets which corner so that all is fair. Each party looks out for his interests more than the interests of the other side. That’s our human (sinful) nature.

When it’s time to settle an estate, it matters not so much how things are written in the will to be divided out. What is more important is how we respond when we think things aren’t quite fair. Unfortunately, most times we’re  just selfish enough to keep harboring what we should maybe let go. Sometimes we’re just selfish enough that we don’t consider the other side of the estate.

When it’s time to build a line fence, it matters more that those on the other side of the fence don’t have to fight to get a right-of-way. It matters more how the folks on the other side of the fence might be feeling.


Our Role Model

For the Christian, there are some things to consider because our role model is not our friend or an attorney. Our role model is not our neighbor or our legal counsel.

Our role model is Jesus. The same person Who talked about daily cross-taking to follow Him. The same God Who said we should, as much as possible, be at peace with each other. The same Savior Who gave up His rights so that we can have eternal life. The same person Who said that first,  we are to seek the Kingdom of God and His righteousness.

Much as we’d like to pass it on to our kids, much as we’d like to keep it in the family when all is said and done, there will be no titles or heirloom pieces in Heaven. We won’t be able to take it with us, so let’s make certain the way we’ve obtained it – whether it’s our inheritance or our line fence –  is good, honest, fair, and true.


The Importance of Character

Today, there are families the world over who have developed a rift over the settling of an estate. They miss out on sharing holidays and family reunions. They miss out on seeing grandchildren or nieces and nephews grow up. They miss out on comradery, all because of the response of one side (or both sides) to the Will or the settling of an estate. Sometimes the rift that occurred in the first generation is carried on to the next, and the grudge is maintained. The chasm is wider and the next generation doesn’t even know what the rift was about, yet in loyalty, they carry on the rift.

There are neighbors who aren’t speaking to each other because of a line fence. Walls are built, stones are thrown, and the cold and silence become deeper and stronger. Hatred spews out, and sometimes there is violence. Is it really worth that pain to be so right?!

When we settle an estate or build a line fence, what really shows is not so much the possessions we inherit or the line on the farm. What shows is the character of those who settled the estate and of those who have built that fence.

What does your line fence say to others about your character?

What does the way you’ve settled an estate tell your family about your love for Jesus?




Keeping Your Eyes on the Judge


The judge. Eyes on the judge, all the time!

When our kids showed animals at the annual 4-H Junior Livestock show, they had a lot to learn about caring for animals. There was also much to learn about showing an animal.

The way to show an animal has its secrets. Making the animal tuck in his belly makes the back taller and straighter. Using a show stick to move the legs of the animal so he stands perfectly symmetrical helps him look his best as well.

For an animal to win in a weight category, he has to have muscle tone, just enough fat covering, but not too much, and all of this has to be easily noticed by the way he stands. Trying to have one’s animal look its best isn’t being dishonest. It is making the best use of what the animal has to offer. Some judges run their hands up and down the flank of the animals; others just merely look at the animal as he walks around the ring. Judging is based on the evidence of the quality of meat of the animal will produce when slaughtered.


Showmanship and the judge.

When it comes to showmanship, it doesn’t matter so much how the animal fares in its weight class. What matters more is how the showman presents himself with his animal. The most important thing of all is for a showman to keep his eyes on you-know-who.

That’s hard to do. Watching the animal and the contestant in front of him move around the ring so that movement is fluid and not choppy; making certain that the animal responds well to directions and making certain not to miss sometimes subtle instructions of the judge demands a high level of concentration.

Standing tall and serious, the official watches each contestant and how he handles his animal. I’ve seen a judge seem to make up his mind on positions in showmanship and turn to head to the mic to make his announcement, then spin around and look back at the contestants to see who is still watching him and who isn’t. For a child to take his eyes off the judge at even that final moment can cost him his placement!


In our county, parents line up around the outside of the show ring watching their kids. You know what we hear the most from the parents? “Watch the Judge!”  or “Keep your eyes on the Judge!”

Standing shoulder to shoulder, we parents lined up around the ring. Every time our kid came around and looked at one of us, he’d hear, “Keep your eyes on the judge!” That reminder turned his focus from us to the judge. Every time around the ring.

In their nervousness and excitement, kids often forget their goal: eyes on the judge. In attempting to keep a 1200 pound steer from moving too fast or from planting his feet in the ring, a child may turn and look at his animal and take his eyes off the judge.

Taking one’s eyes off the judge can cost a placement in showmanship.  Keeping the eyes focused is a lot easier said than done.

The simple reminder to a child keeps him remembering – and keeps him looking at the judge.


The end of the show. Our daughter Rebekah with her father. Somebody kept her eyes on the judge!

Life with the judge.

Life is like that. We tend to get distracted by the myriad of options and ideas out there. Soon we are busy watching our animals or other animals in the ring. We forget to keep our eyes on the judge.

There are guidelines and requirements that are in place for successful showmanship.  Instead of looking at others or watching other animals, one must keep his eyes on the judge.

The judge is really our friend – for he helps bring success by his presence and his observation of our obedience. He helps bring success by his standards for performance, and by his expectations.

When there is the noise and tumult of cattle lowing, steers bucking, or lambs bleating, remember that the most important thing you can do is simply keep your eyes on the judge.

When it’s hard to know where to turn, who to listen to, or what to do, there’s one thing you need to do. Turn your eyes, your face, to the judge.  Always face the judge. Just keep your eyes on Him.



I Believe


I believe that God can take a winter-scarred tree

and bring life to its branches

budding greenness

growing and pushing


I believe that He can take those same chlorophyll leaves

and change them to glorious splendor

golden brown



and yellow

Radiating His glory

Proving His faithfulness

unchanging care

through each moment

each season

each year.

I believe


I believe that God can take a wounded, scarred me

and bring life to my being

budding forgiveness

growing love

pushing on

slowly becoming.

I believe that He can take those same baby wings

and change them to

radiant fulfillment



meekness and brokenness

Radiating His image

Proving His power

undying love

through each scar

each weakness

each imperfection.


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