faith, Jesus, the friends

Calm, Bright, Holy Beagle

It was not my usual week-before-Christmas.

Monday, instead of baking and sampling, I was fasting and prepping for Tuesday’s colonoscopy.  It’s not ideal to schedule a colonoscopy the week before Christmas, but it had already been rescheduled twice… The good news is I passed with flying colors. Doc says I don’t have to “Golytely” again for another ten years. Misnomer that.

All is Calm, All is Bright

Wednesday, instead of shopping, I was sitting on a folded quilt on the floor of the veterinary oncologist’s exam room with my back against the wall.  The little beagle lay on her side beside me, head on my lap. A mild, pleasantly soothing incense wafted through the air, mingled with the gentle music playing beside it. I stroked her soft little head and spoke quietly to her as she lay still for the twenty minutes the acupuncture needles needed to do their thing.

“It’s worth it little Be,” I whispered, as I stroked the side of her face, “they are stimulating your immune system and helping to clear the lung congestion.”

She lay perfectly still. Completely calm. Not a single needle fell out this time. What a sweet little love.

Acupuncture needles in place of pine needles.

She has been doing so well – her eyes clear and bright, her energy high – that I was starting to imagine her a medical miracle.

And then Thursday she started coughing. Really coughing. She coughed up a hunk of tissue and what looked like a blood clot.

Silent Night, Holy Night.

So Friday she went back on an antibiotic.

She’s sleeping a lot now, her little body battling pneumonia. So last night, while she slept, I broiled filet Mignon, mashed sweet potatoes and sauteed Brussels sprouts. And then my daughter and the hub went to the 10 pm Candlelight Service while I stayed home with our friends.

I was going to have our own little silent night, holy night – just me, the hound and the beagle. I was going to read them the Christmas story. I was going to tell them what Jesus said about not a single sparrow falling from the sky apart from the Father’s care. I was going to read them the story Nathan told David and explain that God considers pets members of the family, too.

“but the poor man had nothing except one little ewe lamb he had bought. He raised it, and it grew up with him and his children. It shared his food, drank from his cup and even slept in his arms. It was like a daughter to him.”

God had no problem with the way the poor man lovingly cared for his lamb, but He certainly had a problem with the way the rich man treated her as property.

I was going to say, “God loves and cares for all of the creatures He created, guys, and He loves you even more than I do.”

We were going to have our own holy moment while the rest of the family was at church.

But the night turned out to be more silent than holy. The beagle’s breathing was labored as she slept on the sofa beside me. I didn’t want to disturb her by reading aloud. I knew she’d try to respond to the sound of my voice and she needed rest more than anything else.

So I scrolled silently and came upon this from Muddy Boots Manor:

A precious telling of the Christmas story. I think the hound was listening as he lay awake on the floor nearby. The beagle slept through most of it – awaking only briefly and raising her head to see who was talking. Then she drifted back off to sleep.

Now it’s Sunday. Christmas Day.

When my daughter wakes up I’ll make pancakes. I’ll embellish the maple syrup with minced figs, dates and walnuts because on Tuesday the recovery nurse handed me a brochure with a list of high fiber foods and dried figs was at the top.

We’ll open gifts and then I’ll make stuffed mushrooms and a mushroom pate for the hub and the daughter to take with them to the family gathering.

I’ll miss out on some amazing food, but Christmas, it turns out, is not about beautifully set tables and skillfully prepared feasts.

It’s about giving presence to a sick little friend.

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The hound – 96 in dog years – wants extra presence himself these days.

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I did take time to do some fancy wrapping this week.

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Merry Christmas everyone!

#anewkindoffestive

 

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church nonsense, Jesus

Manipulators of Men

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I read a short, encouraging article today. It reminded me of a scene from Blue Like Jazz. I hope you have a minute to read it.

It kinda’ goes along with what I was thinking about after church yesterday.

I used to be a member of a conservative church. Everyone, as far as I knew, was like-minded. So much so that I assumed all Christians were like-minded.

Because everyone was like-minded, the pastor thought nothing of inserting political commentary into his sermons. He didn’t mention anyone by name or violate tax-exempt laws in any way, he just assumed everyone agreed.

From there I began attending a politically diverse church. The pastor may have leaned liberal but the large congregation seemed to be a fairly equal mix of Democrats, Republicans, Liberals, Centrists and Conservatives. There were Independents who lean left, Independents who lean right (me) and Libertarians scattered about, too.

Discussions in the Thursday morning women’s Bible study were uplifting. Because we were aware of the diversity of viewpoints, all political comments were made carefully and with respect. As a result we were able to actually hear one another and even broaden our perspectives. It was easy to love those women – even the ones with whom I disagreed – because their respectfulness loved me back, because it was obvious that our Christian sisterhood was more important than our viewpoints. I miss them.

These days I attend a mostly liberal church.

Sitting in the pew yesterday I thought of any liberal-leaning people who may have been in the audience of that first church years ago. And as I sat in their shoes (shoes that probably walked far away) I missed the mix of the second church.

I missed being where a diversity of opinions was assumed and even appreciated. I missed knowing that at least half the congregation saw what I saw.

As I was walking the beagle the other day God reminded me that half the country sees what I see. He brought to mind the county by county map of the US I saw on election night – the one that was almost completely colored red.

When one half of the country is yelling f- you, it’s easy to feel like you’re in the minority.

When you sit in church and hear a faint f-you from the pulpit and feel a silent f-you in the pew next to you, it’s easy to wonder if you are in the wrong family.

I know the incoming administration wants to make changes to the Johnson Amendment to the tax code, but that could become a nightmare for the church.

Fishers of men could become manipulators of men.

I hope not. I think I might do a little research, weigh the pros and cons.

In the meantime my pastoral friends, a sermon that indulges in even the slightest bit of partisan commentary is a sermon that has just lost its power; a sermon that has just clogged the flow of the Spirit.

At our ritual after-church lunch my daughter shared that one of her friends resurrected his LiveJournal account back when they were in college just to post a rant about this very thing. He ended by saying how much he appreciated that his pastor back home just said what Jesus said and left it at that.

Amen.

#aconservativefishinaliberalsea

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life

Saint and Sinner

It’s been a Robert Duvall movie-thon around here. In the last week or two we’ve watched Tender Mercies (one of my favorites), Open Range (one of the hub’s favorites), Bullit (he played the cab driver), Days of Thunder, Second Hand Lions and The Apostle.

Have you seen The Apostle?

Saint

In the opening scene Duvall’s character – Sonny – comes upon a crash, sticks his head through the car window and offers comfort and salvation to the badly injured couple inside.

We see him lead revivals.

We see the love his church has for him.

Sinner

As we get to know him we wonder whether he’s a little nuts.

We learn his eye wanders while he’s on the road.

We see his wife also stray, while he’s away.

We cover our eyes as he commits a brutal crime of passion.

Redemption

He flees, starts a new life in a new place, becomes beloved by a new community and eventually must pay his debt.

Saint and sinner all rolled into one.

Faith and flesh.

I woke up the other morning to a big ol’ “Hypocrite” emblazoned on my Facebook wall.

Not quite sure why except that I stuck up for God and for Christians and for Republicans the day before.

The unredeemed throw “hypocrite” like a ninja star.

It’s supposed to slay us, shut us up, send us cowering.

But the weapon fails.

We shrug.

They think we think we’re perfect.

We don’t.

We’re saints and sinners. Faith battling flesh.

I’m not sure what Johnny’s song has to do with anything, but it’s in my head so there it is.

Dinner date with the hub tonight.

“No weapon forged against you will prevail, and you will refute every tongue that accuses you. This is the heritage of the servants of the Lord, and this is their vindication from me,” declares the Lord. Isaiah 54:17

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faith, Jesus

We All Need Jesus.

“Do something uplifting today,” the hub said, as he smooched me and left for work.

“I am.” I pointed to the sweet video I was watching, posted by BJ of The River Walk.

He popped his head back through the door and said, “You don’t deserve this.”

“Aww, thank you honey.”

Those were the exact words my dad said, over the phone from Florida, after my first husband left me. And the hub knew it.

Vegetal words – planted 25 years ago by my beloved dad – blooming afresh this morning thanks to my thoughtful hub.

God took a beating on Facebook yesterday.

The depth of hate revealed – for God and for me – was quite troubling.

Vegetal hate, lying deep and dormant, springing up with a vengeance.

I’m sure I’m not the only one who encountered it.

I took the beagle for an uplifting walk in the sunshine and shook it off.

It’s not like God didn’t give full disclosure when I signed on:

“If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first. If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you.”

Now I understand why love had to be commanded in the verse just prior:

“This is my command: Love each other.”

It’s not easy to love those who have a deep-seated hate for you. It’s especially hard when they have a deep-seated hate for God.

Last night, while we were feeding the friends, the hub summed up the reason for all the ugliness on display yesterday:

“It’s all they have.”

“Father Ken is a genius!,” I replied, as it dawned on me.

“What do you mean?,” asked the hub.

I meant the genius foresight in the prayers we’ve been praying every Sunday:

“Help us renounce dependence on our culture’s false securities; let us see them as idols in which we place our highest trust when you, Christ, are our only salvation – guns, the dollar, political parties and their leaders, stock markets, human intelligence, insurance policies, the possessions and provisions we hoard, our strong bodies, our touchscreen technologies.”

“Well, yeah,” said the hub.

It just hadn’t occurred to me that a political party is all some people have. I guess because we’ve been praying this in church – where people have God, too.

I was thinking about “us” as in those of us who were praying, not “us” as in society at large.

I can be dense.

After I walked the beagle I came across a few videos of President-elect Trump being prayed over at various churches while still a candidate. Here is one of them:

I didn’t know he had been prayed over, anointed for the task. That is quite heartening.

Excellent, in fact.

I was buoyant as I headed back outside to give the hound dog his turn.

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As we walked through the woods, I looked up and was reminded that Love always breaks through.

Which had me thinking: When no one hates us it’s only because we are not currently shining the Light into any dark places.

You can quote me on that.

Or you can quote Jesus.

“If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first. If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you.”

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faith, Light

Human Flourishing

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– gettyimages.com

“In the faces of the children of Aleppo we see your image, God, and it is bloodied. In our helplessness and anger at this evil, help us to not grow cynical but to trust that this bloodshed broke your heart long before we even started paying attention.

Come and rescue these little ones and all the Syrian people from the futility of war.

May violence no longer be heard in Syrian land, nor devastation within her borders.

In this nation where we were first called Christians, send legions of angels to lend aid and protection; shield those who bring relief amid great danger; bring justice for those who are dead, and heal those traumatized by this horrific conflict.

May those who bring this terror be visited by angels and converted to the cause of human flourishing.

Lord hear our prayer.”

– Prayers of the people at our little church this morning.

#humanflourishing #relishthethought

 

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life

Ancient of Days

When news of the attack on our embassy in Benghazi was unfolding and a video was being falsely accused, my thoughts went straight to Uriah the Hittite.

You’re probably familiar with what happened to Uriah – murdered in a cover-up – but if you’re not you can read about him here.

The bizarre blaming of a video before any facts were gathered; the blatant lying right into the grieving faces of the victims’ families; the callous, self-protecting “What difference, at this point, does it make?” smacked more and more and more of a desperate cover-up.

With every mention of Benghazi came thoughts of Uriah.

I thought of Abel, too, whose blood cried out from the ground.

And I hoped Ambassador Stevens’ blood and the blood of Sean Smith, Glen Doherty and Tyrone Woods was crying out from the ground, too.

David suffered consequences for killing Uriah:
The sword would never depart from his house.
He would be publicly humiliated.
The son born of the rape he was trying to hide would die.

Plus he was disqualified from rebuilding the temple because of all the violence to which he had been a party.

I’m not saying anyone killed Ambassador Stevens, Sean Smith, Glen Doherty and Tyrone Woods the way David killed Uriah, I’m just saying that if she did, she ought to be disqualified, too. I’m just asking God to avenge the blood of those four innocent men.

“As I looked,
thrones were set in place,
and the Ancient of Days took his seat.
His clothing was as white as snow;
the hair of his head was white like wool.
His throne was flaming with fire,
and its wheels were all ablaze.
A river of fire was flowing,
coming out from before him.
Thousands upon thousands attended him;
ten thousand times ten thousand stood before him.
The court was seated,
and the books were opened.”  Daniel 7:9-10

#ancientofdays

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