By Candace Barron, Special Contributor…
Paws to Reflect: 365 Devotions for the Animal Lover’s Soul
Devon O’Day and Kim McLean
Abingdon Press, 2012
Hardcover, 384 pages
When I first heard about this book, I jumped at the chance to read a collection of devotionals about dogs.
One of my favorite sayings (usually after a particularly trying meeting) is that I like dogs more than most humans, so imagine my delight to find that one of the authors, Kim McLean, writes, “Numerous times I have heard someone tell me they like dogs and cats better than people.” And “You might say animals teach us how to be better humans. Ironic, isn’t it? I’ve always suspected that it’s not that we don’t like people; it’s that we want our faith in our own species restored.”
My life would be much less full without the love of my dogs. They pull me out of my introverted self and often serve as a catalyst for me to talk to perfect strangers. Animals can break down the barriers that we put up between ourselves.
Paws to Reflect: 365 Devotions for the Animal Lover’s Soul breaks down some of the barriers that we have put between ourselves and God. It gives us concrete examples of how God moves in the world by using the example of animals that surround us, both great and small.
I grew up on a ranch in northern New Mexico. My family had me on horses before I could walk. I can’t imagine a life without horses, dogs, cats, rabbits, lambs and all sorts of other creatures. I believe God put animals on the planet to serve many of our needs, and to inspire us, comfort us and be companions for us. I imagine that some of those shepherds to whom the angels first appeared to announce the coming of the Messiah had dogs with them.
For this review, I chose to study several of the book’s devotionals at random. It took me until the third try to find one about a dog. But each devotional still managed to touch my heart in a profound way. I tend to use the Bible itself as my devotional guide, but I think that the authors of Paws to Reflect have put together a thoroughly scriptural book that I will be using in the future. One of the daily readings was so moving that I choked up while reading it.
One of my favorite events in the life of the church is the Blessing of the Animals. I love seeing the interactions between the people and their pets. The deep love that many people have for their animals mirrors the love God has for us. Unconditional love is hard to understand; our pets give us a brief, fleeting glimpse of the larger truth of the agape love of God.
If you are an animal lover, this is the right devotional guide for you. From frogs to whales, cats to dogs, all living creatures have a story to tell. Paws to Reflect gives us a chance to read those stories through the lens of Scripture.
The Rev. Barron is pastor of Geyer Springs and St. Luke UMCs in Little Rock, Ark