Walking the Dog… a post by Jim

For the past couple months I’ve been very intentional about living present in the ordinary of life with the prayer that God will meet me there. Would like to say that I am a master at that but I am not. However, God is helping me see that the ordinary is filled with extraordinary realities. That seemed to happen a couple days while I was walking my son’s dog (how and why Joy and I have taken in his dog is another matter!).

So … I was walking Jordan at Mount Saint Francis Abby where there are hundreds of acres and miles of trails in fields and woods. This is a great place to appreciate God’s handiwork in nature. Jordan was on his leash as we approached another dog. Jordan is a rescue dog that, for whatever reason, hates any other dog that doesn’t look like him. After a brief skirmish where I had to pull Jordan off the brown lab that was simply looking for a polite meeting we continued our walk.

After a couple hundred yards we met up with a second dog. This time I took more precautionary measures and asked the approaching owner to keep her dog away from mine and added, “My dog is a racist and will attack most any other dog if given the chance.” She quickly informed me that her dog was not racist but a progressive who loved all dogs. “He has a pink leash to prove how progressive he is!”

After we passed each other without incident I heard her son (looked like he was about 5 or 6) ask his mom, “What is a ‘progressive’.” I didn’t hear her answer. But it made me reflect on the power of words AND the assumptions that come with the words that we use.

The point is not to question whether all ‘progressives’ lack any racist traits. The question for me became, “Do I make assumptions about the character of my own soul based simply on words, even good and ‘Christian’ words, that I use? Because I know and use the word ‘humility’ do I assume that I walk in humility toward God and others? Because I know the word ‘sin’ do I really avoid it? Because I know the word ‘courage’ do I display it?

God can use almost anything for the purpose of soul reflection. Even walking the ordinary (racist) dog.

Empathy vs Sympathy…a video post by Tom

Check out the following short video illustrating the important difference between empathy and sympathy.  Now ask the question which one is God? Which one are you? Imagine how the quality of our relationships  would improve if we embodied this…and thus the quality of our lives.

 

God Paid Attention To Me…a post by Joy

God paid attention to me this morning in a way that He knew I would love! I opened the blinds of the window in the bedroom. Immediately I saw a bright red cardinal sitting on top of a tall weed in the field of swaying grasses behind our house. I smiled and whispered a prayer of thankfulness. The beauty of the red bird always reminds me that “God is with me.” He shows up at the most amazing times. He may be flying across my pathway as I’m driving, arriving at the bird feeder on our snow-clad deck in December, or even singing as he lands on the top of my wreath hanging on the front door of our home. The latter has happened at least 3 times this year. The last time it happened, I first heard the close sound of his chirping before seeing him. I walked quickly to the living room to see if he had landed on the wreath again. Sure enough, he had!

I felt that Christ was being playful with me by sending the cardinal to my front door. It delighted my child’s heart within. Intentionally entering into every moment when God’s little messenger comes “flying by,” I am reminded that He loves me unconditionally with my own particularity with no strings attached.

 

Ephesians 3:18-19

And may you have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep his love really is.

May you experience the love of Christ, though it is so great you will never fully understand it. Then you will be filled with the fullness of life and power that comes from God.

 

Thanks be to God!

 

The Lord’s Beauty Upon Us…a post by Joy

Psalm 90:17

“Let the beauty of the Lord our God be upon us. Establish Thou the work of our hands; yes, establish the work of our hands. “

This is one of the first things that came to mind this morning when I awakened. Momentarily outside my window was the distinct chirping call of a bird: the red cardinal. I felt that the beauty of the Lord was being brought to me through His colorful creation. During the next hour I was drawn to that window three times with that familiar sound excited to see the beauty that was behind the call. Every time I see a bright red set of feathers gliding across the air in front of me, I am immediately reminded “God is with me”.

I’m amazed at the different kinds of beauty that have been created by God. Animals, people, and nature, all present ways of His imaginative plan of beauty. This can be “plain as day” to us all to see a view of rivers, mountains, valleys, rolling hills and fields. Yet, I’m amazed that in this Scripture passage, “beauty of the Lord” seems to also be connected with Him “establishing the work of our hands.” He doesn’t mention it once. He mentions it twice as a definite affirmation to all of us who are reading it. Why would it be so important for these two things to segue from one statement to the other?

It seems that one possibility could be that the beauty of the presence of the Lord upon us is, indeed, in the work that He has established for our hands. Whatever that may be according to each of our gifts that He has dispersed among us as a body of believers.

The bright red cardinal is doing what he was “established” or created to do. Sing, fly, and remind me that “…the beauty of the Lord our God is upon us.”

The New International Version translates this verse as: “May the favor of the Lord our God rest on us…

Cat and Dog ‘Theology’

Some years ago I heard of cat and dog ‘theology’. Reducing theological perspectives to generalities about cats and dogs is anthropomophism to extreme (is there such a category as ‘animalmorphism’?!). But I never forgot it! In part because I think in simple terms. In part because of my experience with cats and dogs.

I acknowledge that my experience has led me to a generalization which may not match your experience. But here is mine. ‘Ace’ is the cat. Ace belongs to my daughter who left for college six years ago. Ace didn’t leave. So now for almost 13 years Ace has given me a taste of life with a cat. The one thing that strikes me about Ace is that she relates to me on her terms. When she wants something she shows up. When she doesn’t she refuses to acknowledge my presence.

‘Jody’ is the dog (one of many we had when I was a kid). Jody never tired of playing with me. She always showed up. She never turned her tail on us and walked away. We loved her and it felt like she loved me! I know this is not true of all dogs, but it was true of Jody (and every other dog we had).

Cat and Dog Theology makes the obvious point. About God and about us. God relates to us like a dog, not a cat. And God wants us to respond like a dog, not a cat. Cats seem narcissistic (a generalization … forgive me all cat lovers!). Dogs seem self-giving (again, a generalization … forgive me all who have been bit by a dog!).

In Christ we have the most complete and compelling picture of God’s self-giving. God gave God to death. Whether it is dog-like or cat-like the picture is clear. “God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners” (Romans 5:8). Now we are invited,by grace, to enter the same love for God and others. “I command you to love each other in the same way that I love you … the greatest love is shown when people lay down their lives for their friends” (John 15:12-13).

I confess that I have grown fond of Ace. Even when she turns and walks away. Maybe it is because I am becoming more like Jody!

“Lord, in your mercy, give me the grace to love as you love. Amen.”