Wednesday, December 14, 2005

A Farewell To Buster

This is going to be a little melodramatic, but you'll have to forgive me, my dog died yesterday...

For my 30th birthday a few years ago my wife said we could get a second dog. After many trips to the SPCA and the Wake Cty Animal Shelter, we found a shy, gentle puppy with enourmous feet. They said he was 3 or 4 months old, was a blue tick hound, and would grow to be 80 pounds. Turns out he was some type of Great Dane mix and grew to be 125 pounds. But he had the perfect personality, kind of dopey, great with our kids, never once heard him growl.

We don't know what happened. He seemed fine yesterday morning. He was actually hopping the fence I had set up in my yard to keep him on one side. Then in the afternoon he didn't want to come inside and Bobbi-Jo checked on him a couple hours later and found him in the doghouse not moving. His stomach was a bit distended, and I think he got 'bloat'. It's a condition Danes get where their bowels get twisted and if you don't get them to a vet within 30 minutes, they'll die. (To be honest, we were trying to find a good home for Buster. We had run out of space and needed the room he stayed in downstairs for a play room. My wife had actually been praying that we would be able to find a place for him by Christmas. That tells me two things: 1-I'm not so sure God didn't kill my dog and 2-Don't get on my wife's bad side.)

I read recently that Americans spend 4 billion dollars on either dog food or total pet supplies. It was written in the context of 'how can we care so much for these animals and ignore all the needy people in the world'. I can't disagree... at all. But at the same time, reflecting on Buster's death, I wonder if our care for animals isn't the mis-directed image of God in us. God is a lover and a giver. I think we got our dogs because we wanted something to love, and dogs might be the easiest creatures in the world to love because they're so clueles.... forgiving. They say people who live alone are healthier when if they have a pet. Maybe it just points to that something in us that knows it's right to love and to give. Of all the dogs my family's had in my life, this one was my favorite. I'll miss him.

Well, Buster, here's hoping all dogs really do go to heaven and we'll see you again. Rest in peace, you were a wonderful dog.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Jesus is for losers

We talked at hungry the other night about the blind beggar in John 9 that Christ healed. The point was that this beggar was a loser in his culture's system and that the winner's in their system (the pharisees) were threatened by Christ because He said abundant life is found outside the system they had set up and thrived in. And in the end this beggar chose to leave the system (they kicked him out of the synagogue) and follow Christ. Christ always hung out with the losers and they were the ones who were attracted to Him, maybe because the system didn't offer them much chance of winning.

It really got me thinking about what I think abundant life is and where I think it's going to come from. Yesterday it made me think about this passage from James:

"If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him. But when he asks, he must believe and not doubt, because he who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. That man should not think he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all he does."

I feel like that double-minded man, blown by the wind. I think part of me wishes for more things of the world... a bigger house, a nicer car, more security... and believes that is the abundant life. But the rest of me knows I checked out of that system because I realized it wasn't the abundant life, that I have the opportunity to be a blessing to others as a part of the 'occupation' I've been called to and there is nothing more abundant than that.

The other night I looked at my son as I put him to bed and thought, probably for the first time, "He was created for God's glory." I was challenged as to what I really believed his abundant life was. Do I believe it's the stuff and opportunities that we can provide for him to get ahead in this world? Or is it to cultivate in him a desire for the things of God?

I think God is telling me to make up my mind. I'd love to hear anyone's thoughts on the other night.

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Lost and Found

We started a new series at hungry last sunday night on the statements where Jesus says, "I have come to..." Last week was the story of Zaccheus where Jesus says, "The Son of Man has come to seek and save that which was lost." The part of it that stuck with me (which is wierd to say since I did all the talking but typically I move on pretty quickly to the next week so not tons of stuff sticks with me) was about how you can be going someplace and get lost, and then find someone to follow to your destination, but still not really know where you are and still feel pretty lost. And when we begin to follow Jesus, we don't need to act like we've got it all together, we've just admitted that we're lost and we need someone to follow who knows where we're supposed to be going and how to get there.

Paul is the example that we hold up all the time of what a Christian should look like, but in Romans 7 Paul wrestles deeply with his sin and in his question "who will set me free from the body of this death?" admits that after following Christ his struggle with sin got worst, not better. I feel like American evangelical church culture teaches and encourages people that following Christ is a linear journey away from your sin. But maybe when we start following Christ, He leads us to a deeper knowledge of our sin. Maybe we see the tip of the iceberg in terms of our sin on the day we start following Christ, and He needs us to see how big the rest of it is. And maybe He wants us to see our sin so clearly so that the good news of His dying on the cross and rising from the dead will mean more to us. Maybe that's why He said, "He who is forgiven much, loves much." Maybe the path to transformation and truly loving God isn't away from sin, but towards it. Meister Eckhart (I don't know much about this guy, but cool name) wrote, "Love even your sins, for they will make you love God more." And Paul said, "Where sin increases, grace goes crazy" (my paraphrase).

Obviously I'm not suggesting we wallow in our sins and embrace them, but let's not pretend they're not there. The more lost you know you are, the more closely you'll stay to the One you are following. And I think then we'll truly be depending on Him to transform us instead of us trying to transform ourselves. Ask God to show you a sin you didn't even know you struggled with today, and then thank Him for loving you in spite of it.

Friday, December 02, 2005

Cool Article

I read a lot and don't post much of what I read, but this was a really cool (and long) article on some folks who are taking the kingdom to some overlooked people in the inner city... it will make you long for something more...