Month: July 2014
In Honor of My Dog
Just last weekend, we euthanized our dear Doberman of 15 years, Eirene. If I could only use one adjective to describe Eirene, I would choose the word “gentle.” In Matthew’s “Sermon on the Mount,” Jesus pronounces a blessing on the gentle. He says, “Blessed are the gentle, for they will inherit the earth” (Matthew 5:5). I know most of our English bibles says “Blessed are the meek,” but, trust me, “gentle” is a much better translation of the Greek word.
I often joke that I wish I was more like my dogs. Although lacking in theological sophistication, they (sincere confession here) are sometimes more “Christ-like” in their behavior than their human master… (that would be me). And Eirene’s ability to remain gentle and calm under any and all circumstances (OK, squirrels were an exception) was astonishing.
Last summer, while living in Indy, the two of us were walking and stopped to visit with a neighbor and her bulldog. The neighbor’s cat began to approach Eirene. I was a little uneasy. I told the neighbor, “she’s never met a cat up close; I don’t know what she’ll do.” But Eirene stood perfectly still while the cat came to her, stretched upward and touched her nose to Eirene’s nose. Satisfied that they were adequately acquainted, the cat went on its way.
As a pastor, I am often in situations where someone new “checks me out” (OK, they never try to press their nose to mine… that would be weird and socially unacceptable) and I am rarely as relaxed as Eirene. Sometimes it is awkward, sometimes I wonder what they think of me or wonder about questions they ask me. Sometimes I am cautious and “draw back” from the conversation. But not Eirene. Throughout her life, she was relaxed in everyone’s presence and allowed everyone to introduce themselves in their own way, at their own pace and on their own terms. Now you see why I say, I try to be more like my dog.
This past week’s world events hardly paid any tribute to Eirene’s life. It has been anything but a gentle week in the world. It has been brutal and aggressive. It took confidence and trust for Eirene to stand so still when that strange unknown cat got right up in her face. Gentleness borne out of confidence and trust appear to be qualities we human creatures are severely lacking. But what a blessing it would be to our world, to God’s Kingdom, if we could put more gentleness into practice.
Deserted Place, Open Space
In the morning, while it was still very dark, Jesus got up and went out to a deserted place,
and there he prayed. Mark 1.35
It was exactly one week ago that Britt and I moved out of our home in Indianapolis. We’ve spent this past week hanging out in Cincinnati and tomorrow we will leave for our new home and ministry in Lafayette.
I have welcomed this past week tremendously because it’s been a needed time for rest. The scripture above is one of my favorite. On a first read, it looks like it is nothing but segue material. Jesus had a rock star day of healing people in Peter’s hometown. And now, he’s moving on to the next town to do it all again. These couple of transitional verses go by so quickly, they don’t even merit their own heading in most bible translations…
which really isn’t all that surprising because we’ve become a culture that doesn’t pay much attention to transitions and segues and “down time.” Professionally speaking, “down time” can be judged as “wasted time;” but I’m going to assume that Jesus wasn’t in to wasting time. If you read Mark 1:36-38, you’ll discover that Jesus’ disciples go and hunt him down. (Apparently they also considered “down time” to be “wasted time.”) They tell Jesus what he needs to do next. But Jesus doesn’t give in to their pressure. He announces that they’re moving on to the next town. Jesus’ time spent in prayer defines his itinerary and his tasks.
This past week has been for me a time of “deserted place;” quiet, open space for me to catch my breath a little, to pray, to reflect. Cincinnati is hardly a deserted place, technically speaking. But it has served to be my own version of a “deserted place” and I don’t think my time here has been wasted.
Morton Kelsey writes in The Other Side of Silence: “Silence can be a mini-experience of death and resurrection. It is a temporary cessation of our doing and planning and desires… Action, planning and desiring are all suspended, entrusted to [God] in silence, while the thoughts and emotions and realities that surround them are properly prioritized.” [p. 128] I hope that, in the silence of this past week, I’ve embraced the opportunity for God to put my thoughts, my plans and my desires in proper order…
And I have given thanks to have had this deserted place and open space.