I am very clearly fighting, what I perceive to be, a losing battle against my own dogs. Of all my dogs, the real terror is 8 month old Phoenix. Weighing in at a mere 38 pounds, she’s the smallest of my three. Gentle and seemingly harmless, she is kind to all around her, and careful in her movements. However, what lurks behind that facade is a ten men demolition team. In our family, we are away from our house for about 7 hours at a time, which as she sees it, is 7 hours in which to destroy any furniture within her soft-mouthed grasp. It started small, with her chewing the corners of the walls, but she quickly graduated to our imported living room area rug, where she decided that it in fact did not need the fringed edges. After spending some time ripping out the bottom of the Ethan Allen chair, she then continued on to the legs of our dining room table. With each new piece, we would fight with her, repeatedly telling her “no” and trying to shame her as much as possible in an attempt to get her to stop. Yet, she lingers on that furniture piece a little bit more until she moves to the next one when she is ready. Right now, she is in the process of slowly dismantling our couch and loveseat. First she worked on pulling the cushions off, then chewing the zipper, and then eating most of the stuffing. Yesterday, she ripped off the side of the couch, exposing the frame and nails, and barfed up some too-large chunk of it this morning, that looked as if it exceeded the size of her petite belly. One of the sweetest dogs I know, I pull my hair out in disciplining her, yet it seems to do no good. In times of discouragement, God reminds us to “not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up” (Galatians 6.9). I know that the right thing is to continue in my work with her despite the modest/absent results, but it sure is hard to push forward in this task. However, I also remember the last dogs I trained, and how it took a long time to get them to be as well-behaved as they ended up being. We went through a lot of furniture then, too, but the end result was worth it. In his letter, Paul reminds us to keep perspective when we are struggling through difficult times. We must keep up the effort despite the lack of results, because nothing worth getting is easy to get to begin with. Dieters and exercisers might feel similarly, as they consider cheating or breaking a routine, but sticking with it helps achieve the desired results in the end. When we are faced with the temptation to quit, we must remember that our rewards are not for the present but for future investments. God will reward us in due time, if we have faith that He will. So this week, hold on to the knowledge that our efforts are not in vain, and that if we continue to strive towards the prize, we will be able to proudly point to the fruit of our labors in the end. Amen.