Happy ICSVD!!!

It’s International Celebrate a Spiritual Victory Day!!! Woo-hoo!!! It only comes around once a year, and this is that wonderful day! This joyful event was created out of a need for many Christians to remember that their spiritual walk isn’t always about sin and conviction and failure and general worminess. This special day reminds us that each and every day we are getting a whole lot of things right – usually more than we’re getting wrong. It’s true that this annual celebration is in its first year (in fact, it is only hours old) and has yet to get much traction outside of the Strasburg pastor’s office in which it was conceived. However, maybe with a little back story the movement can burst forth and sweep the globe.

I have a pretty smart dog as mini-Schnauzers go. Seriously, for a true idjit and a bit of a maroon, Sadie has flashes of brilliance. When we first trained her as a puppy, we sought to emphasize positive learning over negative correction. Don’t get me wrong, there were plenty of opportunities to dispense some negative correction – she was a puppy, it’s inevitable. When she would do something wrong or get into someplace she shouldn’t be, we would call out “Pfui” (pronounced “Phooey”). If she continued the behavior, we would use her punishment word “Nein”. Then we would repeat the command “Pfui”. If she then obeyed, she would hear her reward word “Brava” (which sounds more like “Braffa”). We used her punishment word and reward word to teach her all the necessary commands: “Sitz” (sit), “Bleib” (stay), “Platz” (down), etc. In other words, she learned basic dog behavior.

Where her Schnauzy brilliance shows itself is when it comes to her toys. Over her four years of life, she’s accumulated around 20 or so little plush chew toys. Using her reward word “Brava”, we have taught her the name of each one and she will retrieve them on command. Often, we’ll play “The Game” with her, tossing all of her toys into her crate. Then we’ll say, “Sadie, where…is…Bunny?” She’ll run to her crate, root through all her toys, then come running back with her one-eared pink rabbit. “Brava!” we’ll say, giving her a big skitch on the head. “Sadie, where…is…Woody?” She’ll run to her crate, root through, then sprint back with her bedraggled Woodstock. “Brava!” with another skitch. Over and over she’ll fetch what we call for – “Fire” and she’ll get her dragon, “Rex” and she’ll bring her brontosaurus, “Simba” and she’ll snag her lion, “Rocky” and she’ll come back with her raccoon. After each successful retrieval, she’s praised and rewarded.

Now, before I start getting too dog-cocky, I do have to admit that there are often times when we are four or five retrievals into The Game and I’ll tell her “Clarice” or “Dino” and she’ll take off in the opposite direction, searching the entire house before she ends up back at the crate. There, she’ll discover that – shock of shocks – her reindeer or alligator are right where she’d found all her other toys. Still, she is undoubtedly the smartest beast I’ve ever had (although growing up with beagles, the bar is not set too high).

Positive affirmation is such a huge motivator. If we had punished Sadie for getting the wrong toys instead of rewarding her for getting the right ones, she would have learned much more slowly and would have grown to hate The Game. Instead, she loves it because she gets to hear over and over what a good dog she is. In our spiritual walks, I’m willing to bet that just about all of us focus on the Pfui and the Nein much more than we recognize the Brava. It’s a constant cycle of sin, conviction, repentance, repeat. When’s the last time you gave yourself a Brava and a quick skitch behind the ears for resisting a temptation – for saying “no” when many times before you said “yes”. Often, we just feel guilty for even being tempted, which creates a no win situation.

So, for International Celebrate a Spiritual Victory Day, take time to recognize the words that popped into your mouth that you didn’t say, acknowledge resisting the temptation to let your gaze linger on that girl, high-five the Holy Spirit for tamping down the fire when the temper started building, give yourself an extended belly rub for not passing on that juicy story even though, bless her heart, we all really should be praying that God deals with her serious character flaw. Let your spiritual walk today be one of joy and victory and celebrating with your God. He sees your efforts and is pretty darn proud of you. Tomorrow we can go back to usual when I launch the first annual International I Am But A Worm Day.

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