Nichole Collins MacMillan

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Prayer Tip #43: Peanut Butter

Barks Cheering for the Dawgs during the Tennessee game

Barks Cheering for the Dawgs during the Tennessee game

The experts tell me the insane energy of Labrador puppies peaks between eight and ten months.  Guess how old my beautiful boy is?  Yep.  He turns 10 months in a few days.  And he probably weighs about 75 pounds which means that his bounding energy can be really, really destructive.

Some people post puppy shaming photos of destroyed sofas.  We haven’t had that yet.  This monster is all about the food, and so he is the world’s worst counter surfer.  In the past three days, his tally of broken things includes two bowls and a vase.  His favorite games with his 11-year-old German Shorthair Pointer sister are to either put her head in his mouth (the whole thing fits) or to grab her ankle and pull her leg out from under her.  (Biblical scholars will appreciate that I regret not naming this dog Jacob!)  A few weeks ago, his exuberance landed sister dog in forced convalescence as he must have pulled a muscle in her back leg.  I am still quite grateful that she recovered with rest that didn’t require a trip to the vet.


My Aspirational Prayer Life

My Aspirational Prayer Life

Back in the days before I had a puppy – those golden years after my boys’ toddlerhood – I would get up and enjoy the quiet of the morning with a cup of coffee, my prayer book, and my Bible.  Usually before I made my first list, I could pray my way into a day from the stillness of my porch accompanied only by the purring of a cat and the chirping of the birds.


You can see where this is going.

Barks the puppy does not appreciate my morning prayers.  After two trips into the yard to take care of #1 and #2, a bowl of food, and perhaps a helping of the cat’s breakfast if he can get to it in time, he wants to play.  With his sister dog.  Or the tennis ball.  Or the lacrosse ball.  Or the wiggly rope.  Maybe the cat.  But mostly his sister dog.


My prayers are peppered with commands,

“No, Barks!  Let go of Lily.”

“No, Barks!  Sit.”

“No, Barks!  Quiet!”  (His name was as prescient as the name of my first-born child…)

“No, Barks!  No!”


Does God really want to hear me saying “No” all of the time?


I have a friend who managed to train her German Shepherds to lay beside her while she practiced Centering Prayer for 30 minutes every day.

She is a ninja.

I’m just me.

Can I please read three short passages of scripture and listen for the Spirit for just a minute?  Would it be possible to drink ¾ of a cup of coffee while it is still hot?


Today I figured out that it is.  My dogs and I came to a new way of doing morning.  It has nothing to do with the dog learning a new level of respect for me.

It’s peanut butter.

My friend who is a mother of four (she’s a ninja too) used to carry a jar in her purse or diaper bag.  She told me it solved all manner of problems.

And so it does.

IMG_9363IMG_5830Today, I sat still for at least 15 minutes during one of my puppy’s most playful times because I first filled 2 Kong toys with peanut butter and shared them with the dogs while I sat in prayer.

They were in nut butter nirvana.

Abe loves when the dogs are otherwise occupied.

Abe loves when the dogs are otherwise occupied.



The cat and I enjoyed a psalm and were reminded again of God’s abiding presence and love.







IMG_1378And topping my gratitude list tonight is that giant jar of store-brand peanut butter with the word “Dog” written on top.

(Let’s just be real, here, people.  I double dip when stuffing those Kong toys, and I don’t want my boys making a sandwich from the jar I use to do that.  If they don’t read – or they don’t warn their friends – it’s not my fault.)



Earlier this week, I went with a friend to hear Jen Hatmaker speak.  She has been writing and talking recently about pain, the purpose of it, and how we get through it.  Her life has taught her something about that in the past year.  So has mine.  We agree on this on this one very important thing….

When Jesus beckons us to him saying, “Come to me all of you who are weary and heavy laden, and I will give you rest…”  when he draws us to His side and whispers to us…

it is so he can heal us.


And He does.


If it takes a jar of peanut butter and Kong toy…

If it takes a pot of coffee and a purring cat…

If it takes plopping your toddler in front of PBS Kids (or whatever they watch now)…

If it takes running away to a cabin in the woods (I did that recently too)…


Do it.

You don’t have to be a ninja.


But you will find a Gentle Master whose yoke is easy and whose burden is light, and He will heal your soul.


Here’s what I want you to do: Find a quiet, secluded place so you won’t be tempted to role-play before God. Just be there as simply and honestly as you can manage. The focus will shift from you to God, and you will begin to sense his grace.                       Matthew 6:6. The Message


May it be so for you and for me.




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