Monday, August 7, 2023

Devotionals for the Heart: How a dog inspired a life lesson about love

Hands of Love
A devotional by Jessica Brodie

Ronny was a small, black dog, his eyes crusted over with sleep and his nose a mess from doing whatever dogs like to do in the dirt. I could tell he was a puppy by his size, but he wasn’t terribly young, just young enough to be filled with excitement about life—and wary of strange people.

I was there to work on his owner’s house for a week, along with a team of other mission volunteers, providing him with a new roof and some other fixes, and his owner was training him to be an outdoor dog. We called him Ronny, even though we didn’t know his name, and he spent his days under a shade tree hanging out in an old utility trailer, tied up on a leash and watching us with extremely cautious eyes.

But he was so adorable, and I couldn’t help myself. On roofing breaks, I’d find myself walking in the back to check on Ronny. I watched from a distance at first, and he’d always scurry out, curious, then run like mad back to his hiding place.

One morning I approached him slowly, slipping my work gloves off and gently holding my hands out for him to inspect. He took a look at my hands and hightailed it for the shadows. I’m not sure what he thought I was going to do with my hands, but he was scared, and I didn’t push it. A few hours later, I checked on him again. And again, Ronny ventured out to look at my hands, then retreated. But this time I spoke sweetly to him, and I tiptoed closer, and he nervously approached me once more. At first, Ronny started to pull back, but I reached out and petted him. He liked it, but then he skittered away, and I went back to my work. We repeated the same little dance twice more that day.

The next day, I expected the same.

“Hey, sweet boy,” I called over to him, slipping off my work gloves and approaching softly.

But this time when I held my hands out to him, Ronny knew what was coming. And this time he didn’t dart back or even flinch. This time he let me pet him right away.

By the end of the week, he was licking my legs and cuddling with me. We were pals, Ronny and I, and I miss him!

As our trip progressed, it got me thinking about hands and how we use them. We can use them to hurt, to push down and oppress. We can use them to point fingers, judgmental and accusatory.

Or we can use them to shake someone’s hand and give them a hug—or, as in Ronny’s case, scratch them behind the ears. We can use them to show love.

We can also use them to help in other ways, cooking a meal for someone, or holding a hammer like I did all that week, nailing shingles to a rotted-out roof so someone else has better shelter.

We can use our hands to reflect Jesus Christ, or we can choose not to.

As a follower of Christ, I want every aspect of my life to reflect Jesus. That means my thoughts, my words, and my hands and feet. That’s one of the things people who do mission work say a lot: that we want to be “the hands and feet of Christ.” But that’s not just about mission work. There are so many ways we can be the hands and feet of Christ.

Think about your own hands today. If you have use of them, how are you able to use them? Are you able to write a letter or hold out your palm in fellowship to a brother or sister, even one who doesn’t seem a lot like you on the surface?

If your hands don’t work, what else can you do? Can you use your heart, your mind, your prayers, anything else at your disposal?

Ronny very quickly understood the difference between hands that want to hurt and hands that want to help. We understand the same.

May we always do what we can to help and love others in the name of Jesus Christ our Savior—our way, our truth, and our life.

“Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves. Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. Share with the Lord’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality” (Romans 12:9-13 NIV).

“Then the Lord your God will make you most prosperous in all the work of your hands and in the fruit of your womb, the young of your livestock and the crops of your land. The Lord will again delight in you and make you prosperous, just as he delighted in your ancestors, if you obey the Lord your God and keep his commands and decrees that are written in this Book of the Law and turn to the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul” (Deuteronomy 30:9-10 NIV).

Let’s Pray: Lord, help me model and reflect You in the world, whether that is through kindness or physical labor. Help me to shine Your light in the darkness now and forever. Amen.

Song of Reflection:
“If We Are The Body” by Casting Crowns. Listen to it here.

Author Bio:

Jessica Brodie is an award-winning Christian novelist, journalist, editor, blogger, and writing coach and the recipient of the 2018 American Christian Fiction Writers Genesis Award for her novel, The Memory Garden

She is also the editor of the South Carolina United Methodist Advocate, the oldest newspaper in Methodism. Learn more about her fiction and read her faith blog at She has a weekly YouTube devotional and podcast

You can also connect with her on Facebook, Twitter, and more. She’s also produced a free eBook, A God-Centered Life: 10 Faith-Based Practices When You’re Feeling Anxious, Grumpy, or Stressed.

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