It’s good to talk…

Having an Assistance Dog is a good conversation starter – Marshall, my Hearing Dog, breaks the silence in medical waiting rooms and cuts through the tedium of queues. He’s always up for making new friends and gets people talking. Sometimes people ask me about him, curious as to what exactly a Hearing Dog does, while other times people share something of their own story. His readiness to ‘connect’ brings out the best in people, and his waggy tail seems to spread cheer.

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I’m fortunate to live in a friendly town where people greet each other in passing, but not everywhere I’ve lived has been like this. It’s a shame that sometimes suspicion, judgement or prejudice have silenced people. Humans are inherently social, and when we block normal interaction, we can end up isolated.

Recently there was a knock at our door, and a stranger began: ‘I’m sorry to trouble you, but…’ – He’d driven past and was really interested to find out more about our timber carport as it was ‘just what I’ve been looking for!’
I suggested he gave me his email address so I could send him relevant links. The following morning, I had a lovely reply:

Thank you for being so helpful and human. It was a pleasure to meet someone kind and friendly who understands what can be achieved if we talk to each other. 

I hadn’t done anything remarkable, I was just being human, but his words rang true – ‘what can be achieved if we talk to one another’.

Talking and listening can bring benefits all round. This truth was highlighted in a British Telecom advertising campaign, and thirty years later, the strapline ‘it’s good to talk’ is vernacular.

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Truth is, I was taught to be very wary of strangers, but the risk of stranger-danger is minimal compared with the benefits of connecting. We benefit too, when we connect openly with God. Being honest allows God to give us wisdom.
It’s good to talk (and listen!) Let’s never doubt the positive impact we can have on others, and God can have on us.

Truth is…‘Listen! I stand at the door and knock; if anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in…’
Revelation 3:20

Duty or desire…

My Assistance Dog Marshall has been with me for six months, and we now know one another well! He and I have a strong bond, rooted in mutual trust. I trust him to be my Hearing Dog; he trusts me to care for him and keep him safe.
The key to our strong relationship is that it’s reciprocal. I love Marshall for simply ‘being’ himself, and this love precedes anything he ‘does’ for me. Meanwhile Marshall flourishes in my affection and is eager to please.

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I think all this has parallels with our relationship with God. There’s nothing we can do to make God love us more, and nothing we do that makes God love us less. God simply loves us for who we are. We are after all, called human ‘beings’ rather than human ‘doings’. God must long for us to know ourselves loved, as this frees us to love in response, with any sense of duty being replaced by desire. Genuine love makes life better all round.

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At the beginning of our partnership, Marshall was dutiful. He was simply acting out his training, alerting me to sounds, or waiting beside me for my next command. But now he has got to know me and realises I have his best interests at heart, he’s no longer acting out of duty, he’s responding out of a desire to do his best.

Duty or desire…

Truth is, I’ve known what it is to be dutiful. As a convent schoolgirl, I was taught to be ‘good for God’ otherwise vengeance would follow. Fast forward a few decades, and I now believe in a God who builds us up, not one who beats us down. I only have to look at Marshall to see that it’s no good controlling him through fear. A threat might work in the short-term, but long term our relationship would be damaged. He would mistrust me and be fearful.
So we needn’t be slaves to fear and duty, we are called instead to receive God’s love and desire will follow.

Truth is… ‘So then, you are no longer a slave’ Galatians 4:7

Nudges…

I haven’t been writing recently as I’ve been busy bonding with a new partner.
Just over a month ago I had the news that a possible ‘match’ had been found for me, and the invitation to meet him…

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Yes, ‘him’ is a dog.
I’m deaf, and I’ve been waiting for an Assistance Dog for over two years, so imagine my delight at the prospect of a first meeting to see if there was a spark between us!
There was, and with the basics in place, ‘Marshall’ moved in and a trusting relationship is resulting.
Truth is, I’m learning a lot from him…

A successful partnership has trust at its core. A Hearing Dog trusts a deaf person to notice and respond to what it is communicating through its nudges, and the person trusts the dog to be with them 24/7. Like any meaningful relationship, it’s rooted in trust.
Isn’t this what God longs for us? That we trust God to be with us, and respond knowing that our best interests are at heart.

For Marshall and me, the nudges are all important. Marshall has been trained to nudge my leg with his nose and lead me to what needs my attention.

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His nudges are gentle yet firm, and always for a reason. He urges me to follow him, and in doing so, I find out what I need to know.
Isn’t this the way of God? That if we respond to the nudges we sense, we will discover more of what life is about.
For in doing what we have been gifted to do, and in being who we are blessed to be, we will find connection and fulfilment.

It is true that:

in giving we receive

Giving is about filling the space that has our name on it.
Marshall does this – and without looking for the approval of others. My affirmation of him is sufficient. But he only receives this because he keeps close to me, and senses my affection.
Isn’t this the same for us? If we are to sense deep affirmation and love, we need to keep close to God.

Truth is…. There is more happiness in giving than in receiving. (Acts 20:35)