Delight yourself in the LORD, and He will give you the desires of your heart. – Psalm 37:4
A few days ago, we said goodbye to the best dog we’ve ever had. “Mister Hollywood” was named by 14-year-old Kelly, and she did not allow nicknames, although we eventually got permission to drop the “Mister.”
True to his name, Hollywood could act! Kelly would point at him and say “bang!” and he’d lie down, roll over, and play dead. He could also catch bits of food in his mouth with impressive consistency.
Our daily walks were my prayer times, and if it was cold, Hollywood wore his little argyle sweater, eliciting compliments from passers-by. (He did look dapper!) On bad weather days I’d have my quiet time inside on the loveseat with Hollywood on my lap.
Summers found us walking the beaches, hiking the woods, and kayaking with Hollywood as my lookout. One day he went overboard in his enthusiasm – literally – and Marty had to pick up the dog-paddler in his kayak, as I was laughing so hard, I almost fell out myself.
Age robbed Hollywood of most of his hearing, and eventually his eyesight. When he could still see a little, he still enjoyed our walks, walking with a little spring in his step. But once the last little bit of his eyesight was gone, overnight, he became unable to walk without bumping into things, and we knew it was time.
Once at a speaker’s conference I used Hollywood as an illustration of some lessons I had learned. I was henceforth referred to as “Hollywood’s mom.”
That talk made its way into my book BARRIERS – So, if prayers are so powerful, how come mine don’t get answered?:
“What Are You Looking at?
“Psalm 37:4 says, ‘Delight yourself in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart.‘ I happen to think this is one of the most misunderstood verses of Scripture. The standard interpretation of this verse seems to be that if you pray to God and really believe, He’ll give you whatever you want.
“I think this kind of reasoning reflects the selfish mindset of many believers today. We want what we want, so what do we have to do to get it? In other words, how do I butter up God enough to get Him to give me that house in Maui?
“But it doesn’t say ‘butter up,’ it says, ‘Delight yourself in the Lord.’ Doesn’t that mean He is my true source of joy? And it doesn’t say, ‘He’ll give you what you desire,’ it says, ‘He will give you the desires of your heart.’ Could that mean that first He gives us the desires themselves and then fulfills them?
“I’ve found that if I delight in Him, giving Him everything I have and everything I am, He changes me. Often this means He changes my desires. Then as my heart is aligned to His, His desires become mine. Now as I pray for what I truly desire, I’m praying His will. And that’s when I start seeing Him answer!
“I’ve heard that the original word translated ‘delight’ means literally ‘to set before oneself.’ It’s like a man who sets a picture of his wife and child on his desk at work, where he can easily see it. Looking at it makes him happy, because he loves them – is delighted with them. When we go to God early in the day, we mentally ‘set Him before us,’ focusing on Him. Too many times we get it backwards. We focus on what we want. We make our plans. Then, like good Christian people, we ask God to bless our plans. And later we ask in frustration, ‘Why didn’t You bless our plans?‘
“I can see the answer to that question illustrated every morning at our house.
“Mr. Hollywood is a “morning dog.” This little guy loves breakfast time, because he gets his food, fun, and exercise all at the same time. Every morning I sit with his bowl at the top of our stairs and randomly send each morsel of dog chow up one hall or the other, down to the landing, or all the way to the first floor. Our little guy gets quite a workout chasing down each piece. I try to mix it up, so he’s not just running the same pattern all the time. Usually in his excitement he gets ahead of the game and runs to where he thinks the next treat is going. He’ll stand there, poised, waiting, while I throw the piece somewhere else. This has been going on ever since we started playing this game a couple of years ago, and every day I think, When is he going to figure out, he’s got to watch ME? I mean, I realize he’s not the brightest bulb on the tree, but seriously, how long is it going to take for him to learn this simple lesson?
“Well … How long is it going to take us? How many of us are running at top speed to where we think the blessings are, only to be disappointed?
“I have a radical proposal. What if we spent time at the beginning of each day delighting ourselves in our Creator – worshiping, reading His Word, talking to Him, listening to Him? What do you think would happen if we stopped second-guessing God and just let Him take us where He wants us to go?
“There’s only one way to find out.” [BARRIERS, Chapter Two]
Hollywood even made it into the epilogue:
“This morning Mister Hollywood and I were doing our breakfast routine. I tossed a piece of food down the hall, and he ran after it with gusto. I threw another piece down the stairs; he dashed down to get it and came running back up. It was then that I noticed something different.
“He was watching me this time!
“He’s finally learning.
“And if he can learn, so can we.”
Goodbye, little friend. I’m going to miss you.
Prayer: Lord, Thank You for dogs that teach us about devotion, unconditional love, our dependency on You, trust, and the sheer joy of living. I wonder sometimes if Your angels ever take the form of dogs that both protect us and minister to us so sweetly. I guess I’ll find out someday. Meanwhile, help me to keep my eyes on You and to desire the things You desire for me, that I can pray Your will every day, in Jesus’ name. Amen.