God works in mighty and mysterious ways to draw together people and ministries. We thought you might enjoy a little “back story” about how our books and outreach through our pets came to happen.
Rewind with me (M. R. Wells) to a Christmas a decade or so ago. I’d been having a persistent training problem with my little sheltie mix, Morgan. I’d been trying to work with him. But Christmas night, he “messed” again. In spite of all my efforts, he’d still blown it. And I lost it.
I knew I loved this dog dearly. I knew my yard was fenced and gated. I knew I didn’t mean what was coming out of my mouth. But I needed to vent. I put Morgan outside, in the fenced and gated yard, and told him to go live somewhere else.
Three minutes later I was running up the outdoor steps to the back fence, calling the little guy. When he came I gathered him in my arms. I plopped down on a step, wept into his fur, and told him that no matter what he did, I would always love him. I told him he was going nowhere. He was mine, no matter how badly he blew it, no matter how many times he messed.
And suddenly, out in the cold on Christmas night, with my little dog in my arms, it hit me. What a picture of my relationship with God! Through faith in Jesus’ death for my sins, I was adopted into God’s family…just as I’d adopted Morgan into mine. But I still sinned. I still kept “messing.” Even so, God didn’t put me out and tell me to go live somewhere else. He loved me so much that He was not willing to part with me, even though I deserved it (so much more than my dog did). So, figuratively speaking, He did with me what I did with Morgan. He gathered me into His lap, wept over me, and forgave me!
In that moment an idea was born. Could I write a book about how my Master used my dogs to reveal more to me about His love?
Fast forward several years from that moment. During the intervening time I occasionally went back to that idea, like a dog to a bone. I toyed with it. But I didn’t really “chew” it. Other people had done devotional books about pets. Was there room for another? Did I have enough to say?
Then one weekend, I was part of a small group praying over a mutual friend who was battling cancer. After our prayer time, some of us started talking. Somehow the subject of my book idea came up. I learned two others in that prayer group, Kris Young and Connie Fleishauer, had both thought of doing books on what their dogs had taught them about God’s love. We looked at each other and said, “What if we wrote a book together?”
I already had an agent because of another book project. We put some thoughts together and shared them with him. He was intrigued and asked that we develop some sample stories. We worked with him to tweak our format and some months later he sold our project to Harvest House Publishers. They released our first book, Four Paws from Heaven: Devotions for Dog Lovers, in February of 2006. It has now sold over 100,000 copies.
Okay, so we’d given recognition to how God used the special dogs in our lives—but what about our cats? Connie and I had kitties too. Were there things God showed us through our equally delightful but somewhat more willful feline friends that would make an engaging devotional for cat lovers?
God emphatically said “yes” and in the process gave Connie and me a new cat-loving co-author…Dottie P. Adams.
Dottie and I had been friends for years. We’d ministered together on the Leaders’ Council of a Community Bible Study class. Dottie was (and is) our class’s Teaching Director and has taught Bible for 20 years. While we were writing Four Paws, she was my “go-to person” when I needed a checkup on my Biblical knowledge. She’d even said, half-jokingly, “If you do a cat book, I want in.”
I wasn’t sure if we ought to do a cat book. But, two weeks from the end of a 30-week study of the Book of Acts, her lecture illustration convinced me we should.
We were studying about how the Apostle Paul trusted God in the face of an impending shipwreck. God had told Paul he would be the Lord’s witness in Rome. He knew God’s sovereign plan would be a protective buffer against his circumstances to preserve him for God’s purposes.
To illustrate this point, Dottie shared a story about her cat Midnight. Midnight delighted to sunbathe in Dottie’s yard every spring. But a pair of blue jays had been dive-bombing this poor kitty, and Midnight was terrorized—so much so that she would not even venture outside. Then one day while Dottie was preparing her lecture on Paul and the shipwreck, she heard “a great commotion of squawking.” It sounded as if the birds were in her bedroom. Rushing to check, she found Midnight curled up on the top of a chair by the window…and the birds fluttering outside. But her dear cat was serene and unbothered—because Midnight had somehow figured out that there was a protective pane of glass between her and her feathered tormenters.
Dottie loves photography. She grabbed a camera and captured the scene. Dottie projected that image on screen as she shared with us about Midnight and observed that God’s sovereign plan was the “protective glass” that kept Paul steady in the face of shipwreck. It could be our protection, too, against the “birds of this life” that tried to dive-bomb our faith.
I looked and listened and thought, “We have to do the cat book!” My agent and Harvest House agreed. Dottie came aboard, Midnight starred in many stories including “Don’t Let the Birds Get to You,” and Purr-ables from Heaven debuted in January of 2008. It sold over 20,000 copies its first year, and was picked up by Crossings Book Club.
God has continued to amaze and bless us as He has taken our ministry further. Readers have shared how our books comforted them in a time of loss, were something they could give to loved ones who might not read other things God-related, and even spurred them to get into a Bible study because they realized they didn’t know that much about the Bible. Harvest House asked to do gift book versions of Four Paws and Purr-ables, illustrated with delightful photography from Rachael Hale. These came out in June of 2008, followed in July of 2009 by a second dog-lovers’ offering, Paws for Reflection. Two more books are slated for release in 2011 and 2012.
Now we’d like to invite you, our readers, to join our journey and add to our story. Email us at the web addresses posted on our bio page. Let us know what you think of our books and whether we can include your comments on our “Bark and Meow Back” page. Share how special pets in your life have ministered to you. Tell us if there’s something you’d like to see in our books that we haven’t thought of yet. We can’t promise to post all the comments we get—but we will try to read them all and respond to any questions you may have.
Thanks for “paws-ing” to read this…and love and blessings from us and our four-foots to you and yours!