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Leading people into a maturing new life in Jesus Christ

A Burning Bush Story

On January 4th, 2014, the theme of Pastor Larry’s sermon was “Burning Bushes”. It got me thinking about a ‘burning bush’ episode in my life.

It was the early 1990s. I was driving around running errands when a fleeting thought passed through my mind: “I think I’d like to get a dog.”

“That’s weird,” I said to myself, “I don’t particularly like dogs. I wonder where that came from?” And my thoughts quickly returned to the errands at hand.

I had always been a “cat” person and, while I didn’t dislike other people’s dogs, I’d never had a desire to own one, myself. Cats are companions of a sort, but they are conveniently independent. They bathe themselves, don’t need to be walked, and can be left (with food, water and a litter box, of course) for a couple of days on their own. Owning a dog seemed as if it would be too much of a burden.

Arrow-Puppy

“That’s weird…I’d always been a cat person.”

 

 

Week after week, month after month, that nagging idea of having a dog kept resurfacing until I finally resigned myself to the idea that one day I would be on my way out of the grocery store, I would come across someone giving away free puppies and I “just wouldn’t be able to resist” taking one home with me.

Fast forward half a year or so…

I was a new believer–not really so much a “believer” as a person beginning to take an interest in things church-related. I had been attending a new church in our neighborhood started by a dedicated group of people for the purpose of reaching non-believers. My heart had only just begun to soften to the possibility of an all-powerful, all-knowing, loving god.

One morning my three-year-old daughter and I were at the public library where we ran into one of our neighbors. Dianne said that she was looking for a book of possible dog names because they were getting a new puppy (their beloved 15-year old black lab had died several months before). A family friend of theirs was a breeder in Sun Valley, Idaho, and his pedigreed Labrador Retriever had recently had a litter. The conversation continued something like this:

Me: “That’s interesting, I’ve been toying with the idea of getting a puppy, but if I did, I’d want to get a yellow lab.”

Dianne: “These are yellow labs.”

Me: “Well, I’d want it to be a female.”

Dianne: “There are still two females left! I could ask our friend to reserve one for you if you want…another friend of ours is driving to Sun Valley to get them, I’m sure he wouldn’t mind bringing an additional puppy back with him.”

At this point my stomach was filled with butterflies because I felt an irrepressible urge to get one of these puppies. I also had a strange sense that something extraordinary was about to happen. But it would be so absurd—to send $300 to someone I’d never met, for a puppy I’d never seen. Never mind that I hadn’t ever said a word about having a dog to my husband and our house was on a lot with an unfenced yard.

Driving home from the library I couldn’t shake the surge of excitement and nerves that was welling up in me and I felt compelled to say a silent prayer to a god that I wasn’t even sure I believed in:

“God, if I’m supposed to get one of these puppies, please give me a sign.”

Moments later I pulled up to our mail box and grabbed the day’s mail before heading to the house to fix lunch.

The Everett School District used to sponsor a program called Community Schools that was run by volunteers and charged only minimal fees. They offered cooking, music, and various other classes for kids that my children really enjoyed. The new catalog was at the top of my stack of mail so immediately upon entering the house I opened it to see what we might want to sign up for.

The first class listed was “GOOD DOG!” an obedience class for dogs and their owners.

Wow! Hadn’t I just asked God to give me a sign less than ten minutes earlier?

I fixed some sandwiches and had just gotten Katie into her highchair when my mother-in-law happened to call. I bemoaned the fact that her grand-daughter was making a mess with her sandwich, dropping bits of it all over the floor, to which she replied:

“You should get a dog.” (obviously a dog would lick all the crumbs up off the floor. )

Hmmmm…not even an hour since I asked God for a sign and I’d gotten TWO!

That night after putting the kids to bed I sat down on the couch, picked up the magazine I’d been reading the night before and opened it to the place where I had left off. When I turned the page the very next article was about dogs that had saved people’s lives. Sign number THREE!

By now there wasn’t a doubt in my mind. In a state of wonder I acknowledged that, not only was God REAL, He was undeniably responding to my plea for a sign. I’d already been convinced by the first and second signs, but the third one gave me the courage to approach my husband about it. So, there and then I began to tell Mike, for the very first time, about my (months-long) growing desire to get a dog. Then I told him about my encounter with the neighbor at the library that morning, and my strong feeling[1] that we were “supposed” to get one of those puppies. Remarkably, without hesitation over the $300 or any of the other possible objections, he told me that if I thought it was the right thing to do, it would be fine with him.

I saw God that day. I can’t tell you what color his hair was, if he had big ears, or buck teeth, or wore platform shoes. But he made himself real to me that day. He didn’t appear in a burning bush, he showed up in a Community Schools brochure. He showed up in my mother-in-law’s voice through the telephone line and again in my Good Housekeeping magazine. He was very much present in my husband’s unflinching response to my sudden change of heart about bringing a dog into our family.

I am so thankful that God was able to soften my heart enough for me to recognize Him. He knew it was a pivotal moment for me and he responded accordingly.  It was such a profound experience that I vowed not to trivialize it by asking for “signs” every time I’d have an important decision to make. In fact, to this day, I have yet to ask for another sign from God. That’s not to imply that I don’t seek God’s wisdom and guidance in my life. And I’m not ruling out the possibility that one day I might be inspired to ask for another sign. But I so cherish that moment—that encounter—that I would never aim to abuse it in any way.


We had Arrow for almost nine years before she died of leukemia. She was the best 98-pound yellow lab anyone could ask for. I’m not aware of her having saved any lives in the traditional sense, but she certainly had a part in saving an eternal one.

Footnote 1:

Right or wrong, I chose to omit the part about the praying and the signs God had given me. At that point our relationship and marriage had never had a religious element to it and I didn’t want him to become concerned that I was getting involved in some kind of cult and would start to see everything as a “sign” from God. It was such a new experience for me and I was in a state of “awe”. I hadn’t altogether grasped the implications of the events that day for myself, let alone the other members of my family.
Contributed by Kathy Stephensen

One Comment

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