Daily Devotional for Small Group Discussion: Pinecones and Poop

Discussion Questions

  1. Do you have a neighbor whose habits you judge critically? How do you confess and release your annoyance?
  2. Do you have a neighbor who is bothered by your habits? How do you excuse or overlook your own lapses?
  3. How do you experience God’s judgment and forgiveness through others?

Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean. – Psalm 51:7 (NRSV)

I know a woman who puts pinecones in her pockets when she walks her dog. She does this so that when the dog poops, she can reach into her pocket, pull out a biodegradable bag and pretend to scoop up the poop. Then she drops her own pinecones onto the grass, next to the poop and picks up the clean pinecones instead. The poop remains on the cold ground, steaming and unclaimed. 

Then she makes a show of tying off the bag and even scrunches up her nose in the way that dog lovers do when they want to draw attention to the fact that they are being good doggie citizens. And because the acorns weigh about the same as poop, everyone at the dog park assumes that she has taken care of their shared environment that day.

“Why don’t you just pick up your own dog’s poop?” I asked. I was astounded at the forensic effort she put into the charade, every day at 6 AM. 

“I can’t!” she said. “I adore my rescue dog. I want him to exercise but picking up his poop makes me sick. Does that make me a terrible person? Am I just not fit to be a dog owner?” 

I will leave that for God to judge, gentle reader. 

For perhaps you, like me, have a teeny tiny judgmental streak when it comes to other people’s bad environmental behavior. And perhaps you, like me, have teeny tiny bouts of amnesia when it comes to remembering your own sad lapses. So let us pray. 

For poop picker-uppers, we give you thanks. For pinecone droppers, we pray. For rescue dogs, with imperfect owners, we stand in awe of what you can do, with us and with our poop. Amen.

Lillian Daniel About the Author
Lillian Daniel is Senior Pastor at First Congregational Church in Dubuque, Iowa, and the author of When “Spiritual But Not Religious” Is Not Enough.