It was October 31st and I was sitting on the front porch watching children as they scavenged through the neighborhood going door to door looking for candy.  Neighbors stopped by just to say hi.  Typical conversations were held about the weather, the football game, the economy……and the housing market.  As one of our neighbors approached, I noticed that at the end of her leash, she had the most beautiful black dog.  His hair was soft and curly.  His eyes set close together and they seemed to be chocolate brown.  He had an under bite,  a slight wheeze…and within seconds I had fallen in love.  (Please don’t tell my dog, Max.)  As I was rubbing his belly, I commented... 

“you don’t really see many black dogs.”


I was shocked  when she quickly responded…”black dog syndrome.”  The typical conversation about weather and housing market turned into an educational seminar about a condition I had never even heard of.  Apparently black dogs are the black sheep (excuse the pun)  of the canine world.  They are commonly the last, if at all to be adopted at a shelter.  The bigger they are…the worse their chances.  I was at least a bit comforted to find out males are more likely to be adopted than females.  Let’s face it guys…there are very few things we can boast about as men…so I will take what I can get.


Since I was so intrigued by this conversation, I went to the internet and found that black dog syndrome was a true phenomenon.  Destined for death at many shelters, some of the reasons that they are passed over might surprise you.  1. Harmful superstitions.  Black dogs are the center of many common folklore tales.  2. Negative labels.  Apparently people associate having a black dog with living with depression due to the terminology “transcending the black dog.”  3. Fear. Many believe that a black dog is simply more aggressive and dangerous. 4. And this is the one that I was most shocked at……they are just too ordinary.  This phenomenon has actually caused some shelters to adopt a BOGO (buy one get one) policy so that the dark coated canines can find a home.


I guess I shouldn’t be shocked that the fate of a beautiful and loving animal rests in decisions being made around superstitions, labels, and fear.  As I think about the many decisions we make every day, I wonder what is shaping those choices.  Are we so easily influenced?  Do negative labels, superstitions, fear, and opinion polls shape and guide who we are and what we do?  Are we people who act out of conviction or are we people who act simply out of conformity?  I also wonder what other kind of syndromes exist.  Who and what are we excluding based upon what we hear rather than what we see with our spiritual eyes and know to be true?  How many opportunities, friendships, and situations are we missing not simply because of the decisions we make……but more so….the basis of those decisions.


May we pay attention to what is shaping our choices.  May we be a friend of conviction.  May we use it to guide us. May we go against the flow.  May we recognize prejudices in our life and may we deal with them appropriately.  May we freely ask for God’s forgiveness.  May you reach out and ask for others forgiveness as well.  May we not be exclusive but may we have a heart that includes.  May we see things through God’s eyes and may He be involved in the basis for all our decisions. May we never look at black dogs the same again.

 Written by our Pastor Dr. Mark A Bedwell


I have a really nice closet.  Actually, it is more than a closet…it is an entire room. You see, we have a room in our house that is a combination scrapbooking haven, office, and home for my clothes.  While I actually am supposed to use the closet in the room, I have found that the room itself..i.e….the chair, shelves, ironing board, and desk all make perfect homes for such things as t-shirts, shorts, or other clothes that I don’t “have time” to hang up properly.  Basically the scrapbooking/home office has become Pastor Mark’s World’s Largest Closet.  And I am good with that.

But a few months ago something changed.  My daughter entered college and she invited me on a tour of her cramped little closet in the back corner of the den that she had been using to house her clothes.  As I looked into the tiny abyss that was her closet…I quickly knew why this viewing had been requested.  On this day, she wasn’t after my money, she wasn’t after my time my time…..”gasp” …she was after my closet!!! 

I stood in the midst of a huge decision….closet vs. daughter….and as in most cases where dads and their little girls are concerned….daughter won over closet….in a landslide.   As I began moving from mansion closet to shack closet….I had several realizations.  1. I had allowed my closet to get rather messy.  2. I found clothes that I hadn’t seen in years.  3. I found clothes that I loved, but were hidden. I used the downgrade as an opportunity to assess, purge, and re-organize.


It has been two months since I have moved into my tiny little closet, and I want to tell you something….”Life is so much better.” I don’t have any room to make a mess.  I only have the clothes hanging up that I can actually wear.  Since I have limited space, I have to organize, pay attention to where things are, and make a conscious effort to put things where they actually belong.  I hate to say it…..but what looked like a downgrade…..was actually an upgrade.  The tiny corner closet is the perfect home for my clothes and my college girl is enjoying life in the mansion.


Friends…we have been tricked into believing that bigger is better and that more is more.  As Christians we have spread ourselves out so thin and piled on so much stuff that sometimes we find it hard to remember what is even important….or we have misplaced the important underneath piles and piles of unnecessary.  We think the abundant life is about abundance when indeed in retrospect we find truly that it might just be about…..simplicity.  When we work through this realization….we might find that we do have less…but realize that is where abundance can be found.


May you focus this week on accessing your choices. May you purge…get rid of the unnecessary things that are clogging up the paths of abundance that God is trying to bless you with.  May you re-organize around His purpose and His plan.  May you figure out what makes you special…what you are called to do…and may you find the clothes that actually fit.  May you upgrade your life.  May you work through the fear of letting go and may you simply choose the smaller closet.

 Written by our Pastor Dr. Mark A Bedwell