Christian based commentaries and observations.

Quote of Note

Billy Graham's Prayer For Our Nation

: 'Heavenly Father, we come before you today to ask your forgiveness and to seek your direction and guidance.
We know Your Word says, 'Woe to those who call evil good,' but that is exactly what we have done.

We have lost our spiritual equilibrium and reversed our values. We have exploited the poor and called it the lottery.

We have rewarded laziness and called it welfare.

We have killed our unborn and called it choice.

We have shot abortionists and called it justifiable.

We have neglected to discipline our children and called it building self esteem.

We have abused power and called it politics.

We have coveted our neighbor's possessions and called it ambition.

We have polluted the air with profanity and pornography and called it freedom of expression.

We have ridiculed the time-honored values of our forefathers and called it enlightenment.

Search us, Oh God, and know our hearts today; cleanse us from every sin and Set us free.
: Amen!'

Who is Jesus


Wednesday, June 29, 2011

A Good Servant? Part 3

If you haven't read "Good Bye Best Friend" you will not completely understand, and enjoy this post.

So what else can be learned from having had such a good dog?
I wonder if the Lord would be saying to me what a good boy?

Do I bring a smile to the face of God when he thinks or talks about me the way Grizz did? You know I am not one of those happy all the time, light up a room, make everyone feel good, bubbly type of people. When I used to talk about Grizz people would notice and say, "you're smiling"! When God bragged about Job to Satan, ( JOB 1:8 Then the LORD said to Satan, "Have you considered my servant Job? There is no one on earth like him; he is blameless and upright, a man who fears God and shuns evil.") I wonder if there was a smile on God's face?

Does my excitement at the presence of God mirror the enthusiasm of Grizz when I would come home? Grizz acted like it was the greatest thing in his world. The presence of God is the greatest thing in my world. Do I take that for granted?

When I sense that God has moved off, do I chase after him? When we walked the paths in the woods Grizz would sometimes wander off the path and explore. I would keep walking or jogging. I would tap on trees, along the path, with his stick, to announce my position. When he noticed I was not near by he would come running until he was right beside me again. He never wanted to be in one room if we were in another. He had to be with us. Do I always walk with God or do I wander off the path?
The Israelites camped with the Lord in the desert. They watched and waited for the cloud, or pillar of fire to lift, signaling that God was moving on. They packed up and followed. Their enemies were watching and waiting for any opportunity to to destroy them. God was their protection and provider. To not stay close meant death. Today we have whole churches and even denominations that have not kept up with the move of God or even stayed camped where they knew him. They have wandered off on their own path, made pacts with the enemy, gotten lost in the dark, can no longer hear the masters voice, and are being led to destruction.

Grizz would bark and shout out with excitement at the food that was being prepared for him. He gobbled up any morsel that was tossed his way from the counter and demand more. He knew that there was good stuff in the refrigerator. When ever it opened he was there.
Do I devour God's word, my spiritual food, with such appreciation or is is a chore and difficult to fit into my time each day. Do I look at the Bible, able to open it on my own, and take from it the "good stuff" I know is in there, with the same eagerness?

When we woke up from our sleep and came downstairs Grizz was excited and delighted. He just needed to love and be loved. His whole body shook and pranced and he would grab a sleeve, pant leg, or drawstring, and pull us to a seat for excited rubbing and loving. It always started my day with a smile and a warm heart. I always enjoyed coming home and finding him waiting, bursting with joy at my arrival. This scripture speaks volumes to loyalty and love that I learned from having had such a great dog:
PS 37:3 Trust in the LORD and do good;
dwell in the land and enjoy safe pasture.

PS 37:4 Delight yourself in the LORD
and he will give you the desires of your heart.

PS 37:5 Commit your way to the LORD;
trust in him and he will do this:

PS 37:6 He will make your righteousness shine like the dawn,
the justice of your cause like the noonday sun.

PS 37:7 Be still before the LORD and wait patiently for him

Much of what Grizz was, was because of how we treated and trained him. He reflected the love and joy that we gave to him. Isn't that how it is with God and his Holy Spirit in us, reflecting back the love that he is? Makes you wonder how we ever go astray, doesn't it?

The haters of God's people often call them "dogs". Soon the words "Christian Dogs" will be heard echoing around the world. I am not going to consider that an insult. A dog at the Master's feet is much better than the enemy being crushed under his feet. I'd rather be a happy and content dog, curled up on the rug, at my beloved masters feet!

Thursday, June 02, 2011

Good Bye Best Friend

There is a gigantic emptiness in our household today. A life, a happiness, an enthusiasm, a joy: a love is gone. The home is barely more than a big house, cold and lonely as it was before he came into our life. It hurts awfully so!
It is very difficult to let go of what we love. One writer devoted an entire book to say that, "learning to let go was what learning love was all about". We go through stages of growth in love suffering and grieving, small then larger, losses of what we love, learning to love with freedom, then ultimately letting go of what we love the most, our own life, trusting our soul into the hands of Love. We love self the most and must learn to become selfless. There is no selfishness in love.
That thought put me over the desire, to put off my own pain, and allow my best friend and unconditional love out of his pain. I knew the exact thoughts that would tear at my heart. There would be no more greetings at the door when I came home. He would hear my truck, and the garage door opening, come running for the mud room, hit the rug, and slide "smack" into the door, then stand there his whole body shaking with joy, his tail thwacking out a beat against the drum of the clothes dryer. I would have to open the door so carefully pushing back his enthusiasm. I was home and we both loved it.
There would be no more of his gentle coaxing to go out for a walk. First it was just a look, a stare with longing sparkling tigers'eye brown eyes, then came a pooof of breath just filling and spilling out of his jowls. Next a "boof" as small air touch his vocal cords, then louder, and finally a bark. If that wasn't enough his big paw came up and pulled gently at my stomach. The whole thing was so like one of those Zen alarm clocks ever gently increasing the demand to "Get Up".
I would miss how happy he got when he noticed one of his toys, a pine cone, or a stick on the ground. With delight he would bounce up into the air like a pony feeling his oats. Then a dance, up and down, in and out, and round a circle would transpire, before he softly took the object into his mouth, showed off what he had and marched proudly off, kicking his legs like a Tennessee Pacer. If it was a pine cone, which we usually took away from him because of his tender stomach, He would look at us with a "side eye" glance, shake his head with delight, and then trot off, "chase me"! What fun?!
No more would the affirmative trumpet of his "your fixing my food" bark be heard from the kitchen, as momma's knife hit the cutting board. Every chop of cucumber, broccoli, melon, apple, chicken or beef, was met with a resounding "YES" bark. A steamed baby carrot was gobbled up as though it was Fillet Mignon.
Then there was the way he met you after you woke up to get ready for work. Not climbing the stairs to the second floor bedrooms, he waited down below. He heard the alarm go off the first time you hit the snooze. Then the creaking of the bed, the feet touching the floor,and the water running down the pipes. His excitement built until it waved through his body from head to tail. As you came down the stairs he could not stand it any longer and the front paws came up the first, second, and third step to greet you faster. He would grab your sleeve or pant leg and pull you to your favourite sitting spot where an orgy of love, kisses, rubs and hugs took place, each time as if there had been days apart.
My personal favourite moments were the jogs on the paths through the woods. I holding a stick, in my hand, at my side, he holding the other end in his mouth. Joined at the stick were we, thick as brothers.
Gone also would be the pain, that he cried through the Memorial Day Weekend. His insides no longer able to sustain his precious life. I had to let him sleep and pray that as "No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love him"(1CO 2:9) will include this bundle of unconditionally loving dog.
"Night, night, Sweet Boy"! "Good night Grizz", the words were those we used to speak when we turned out the light to go to bed. They were on my tongue, but they would not come out, choked by the immediate growing grief.
As his pain came to an end, mine began, convulsing from my torso, up to grip my heart, strangle my throat, and explode out my face, in only seconds. Oh, I miss you soooo much!!

Part 2: Why God? Why?!

Malcolm Muggeridge writes:
“Indeed, I can say with complete truthfulness that everything I have learned in my seventy-five years in this world, everything that has truly enhanced and enlightened my existence, has been through affliction and not through happiness, whether pursued or attained. In other words, if it ever were to be possible to eliminate affliction from our earthly existence...the result would not be to make life delectable, but to make it too banal or trivial to be endurable. This of course is what the cross signifies, and it is the cross more than anything else, that has called me inexorably to Christ.”

So I was in the Vet’s office, sitting there, struggling to say its time for my sweet boy to go night night. I cannot think of anything in my life that was more difficult to do than this day. The Vet agreed that I made the right decision. I signed a paper, ordered a paw print in fired clay, turned away from my best friend, and went out to my truck to get the blanket that would serve as his shroud. It was the very one that we brought him home in from the breeder’s. I handed it to the ladies at the front desk and pulled my truck around back, to await his body. I just could not bare to watch him close his eyes and not come back.
We have 6 acres of land mostly wooded where Grizz and I cut walking/jogging paths, and spent most off our out door time together. There was on spot near the top of a hill that he always went to. That spot is where I would bury him.
Waiting for him, in back of the clinic, seemed like forever and I couldn't’t control my grief. The loss, the guilt of abandonment, the questions: Did I do the right thing? Was it necessary? Would he have recovered and lived? And Why God?!!! Finally the door opened. They wheeled him out on a cart. I gently scooped up his lifeless body, as though it might break, laid it in the back of the truck and secured it.

Through the convulsing pain and tears I dug a 4ft by 4ft by 5ft deep hole. With every push and toss of the shovel came thoughts, questions, frustration and a few answers. So much of my prayers over the last year had been for that puppy/dog. It was Sunday night (Memorial Day Weekend) while on my way to work that my prayer time was different. The Holy Spirit had been very strong in his presence that night. I know that I had made a real connection and that God had heard me. I had asked for the dog to get better, and left room for God's will to be done, but I had also asked for clear direction about what to do on Tue. when the Veterinarian would be in his office. I wanted peace of mind. I got peace from that time with God, but when the Dog was better, and only slightly better, the decision was not easily made.
Q: "Why God? Why God? Of all the litters, and of all the pups whelped in this one, why did we get this one. You knew which dog we would get, how sick he would be, how much we would spend trying to give him a normal life, and how it would all end?"
It had been 1 year and 7 months since we put our deposit down with the breeder. We waited 3 months to get him in Feb. of 2010. A month later it was confirmed he had a liver shunt. ( the blood is allowed to bypass the liver) Eventually 2 trips to Manhattan and an operation would mostly correct that problem, but damage had already been done to his kidneys, as they had been doing all of the work. We spent enough to buy a house in Detroit or Youngstown giving him a chance.
A. "Mark, do you see how much love you have in your heart for the Dog? Do you see the pain your wife has because of the love in her heart for the Dog? Give that love to each other"!
This sliding relationship with my wife had been about 1/3 of my prayers over the last 18 or 19 years. The answer was one that I could give to her, but I knew there was more to this whole experience than that. In her pain she rejected the thought as acceptable. I went to bed that night, unsatisfied and still asking, “why?“
That night at work things got worse as I read in the Wall Street Journal the story of the E-Coli vegetable problem in Europe. In describing the symptoms and results of the disease I realized that E- Coli was what had caused my problems the week before. Symptoms are cramping diarrhea, dehydration, bleeding, and kidney failure. The cruelty of the article was that it can be passed from humans to animals and from animals to humans. Did I cause his illness? Did he have to die or was it treatable. "OH GOD, PLEASE LET ME OUT OF GUILT JAIL"!
A: "Mark, do you remember that the Vet said, 'you did the right thing'? "Remember he talked you out of it in the past." Remember our time together Sunday night"? "I heard you". "Remember Abraham, how I called back his hand, before he could slay Isaac"(Genesis 22:12)? "Would I not do the same for you"? "Would I intentionally hurt you?"
"No Lord you word says, "for I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you…“ (Jeremiah 29:11 ).
"Remember how Grizz hit 100+ lbs, and then lost weight on the next 3 consecutive visits over 6 weeks, and his kidney problems?"
"Yes, Lord and I remember how you did not hold back your hand from your own Son", and how you had previously said," this is my beloved Son in whom I am well pleased.(Matthew 3:17)"
Then the realization hit me hard; this is how much God loved humanity, this is how much God loved me. This is a small taste of the pain God felt when he made Jesus to die for us.
Barely had I swallowed that revelation when I thought of Jesus crying out, "my God, my God why have you forsaken me"(Matthew 27:46) Just as I could not bear to see my beloved dog slip into sleep and breath his last. (I had turned my back on him going to the truck and picking him up afterward.) So it was that I got just a taste of the pain the Father felt in turning his back on his Son in his greatest moment of need. For that moment in time the Father had to turn his back on his Son because of the sin placed on him. For that moment in time the Holy Trinity was fractured as Christ felt the aloneness of the broken relationship. That pain felt when turning his back is how much sin hurts the heart of God.
My thoughts raced to a clip of Ravi Zacharias saying, “you and I, sir, will never really get serious about sin, until we realized just how much it hurts the heart of God!”

“Yes, Lord”
Q: “Was your boy’s death for no reason, a waste?”
A: “No, Lord. It was his time, and he gave us sooo much!” “Thank you for his life with us”
Q: “Mark, was my Son’s death for no reason, a waste?”
A: “ No Lord, That death ransomed all of creation, and reconciled believers to you”!
Q: “What if no-one believes?” “What if the Gospel is made of ’no effect’”?
A: “That would be the most terrible tragic waste ever, Lord”
Q: And that would happen how”?
A: “How then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? and how can they believe, in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? And how can they preach unless they are sent? As it is written, “how beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!“ (Romans 10: 14-15). And “if the salt has lost it flavor…” (Matthew 5:13), if the testimony is no good, then it is no effect and Christ’s death was for nothing.”
“Mark! Go and tell”!

“Blessed are they that mourn. For they will be comforted.(Matthew 5:4)” Could it be that only they that love, mourn? Could it be that because they have love, they are rewarded with comfort?

(4) Malcolm Muggeridge, quoted in Donald McCullough, Waking from the American Dream (Downers Grove, Illinois: InterVarsity, 1988), 145