Christmas Surprise

March 8, 2017

Not too sure how long it has been since I actually sat down and put fingers to keys and felt as if I had something to add to the global blogosphere; but I decided it was time. This little tale begins on Christmas Eve 2016 (with a glance back to August 2015), and jumps into 2017 pretty quickly.

First the glance to August 2015; I can’t believe it, looking back, and discovering that I did not blog this, but on August 22, 2015, our daughter Anne became Mrs. Ryan Brody. Anne and Ryan repeated their vows at Church in the Pines on the shore of Lake Martin, AL–the place where I have been privileged to preach for about 20 years, and only 3 miles from the family Lake House. It was a glorious day, the day every family dreams of, and every detail was absolutely perfect. I delighted in the privilege of walking my daughter down the aisle, and the service was begun by Dan McCall, my first boss out of Seminary, and the pastor who baptized Anne. After I “gave her away,” I stepped around and officiated the remainder of the ceremony.

While the outdoor service (Alabama in August?!) was a bit steamy, the reception was indoors where the AC was set to blizzard. We danced, dined, and partied until the newlyweds departed for Atlanta and then their honeymoon. We returned to the Lake House, where a bunch (BUNCH) of friends were coming to hang out, have a beer, and catch up.

On returning to the house, I was a bit distressed to not be able to locate Gumbo, our almost-15 year old black lab. Long story short, I found him a bit later; he had “expired,” and gone to that place where there are no fences, no cats, and the rabbits are all fat and slow. We buried him there, and took solace in our daughter’s joy in marriage.

We pretty well decided that our dog days were behind us. Lib was tired of sweeping up hair, and I didn’t think I had another dog burial in me. So life moved on.

Until Christmas Eve 2016.

I arrived home a bit before 10:00 PM, having been in or observed what felt like 100 worship services (in actuality it was only eight); I was exhausted, and as I pulled in the driveway I watched Lib run through the kitchen, and wondered, “What’s that all about?” I parked in the garage, walked in, and did not see her. I made it to the den, calling her name, and nothing. I walked upstairs, tossed my suit coat on the bed, and turned to see her step into the opening to the sunroom off our bedroom, as a puppy trotted out of our bathroom into the sun room.

Lib smiled and said, “Merry Christmas,” as I gawked and asked, “Have you lost your mind?!”

She is a pure bred English Lab, and we named her “Scout” (as in Jean Louise in To Kill a Mockingbird). Here she is at about 4.5 months: Scout

This little wiggle worm (see her tail moving too fast to be photographed?!) has brought so much joy into our lives, “It takes two to tell it” (as my mother in law would say.) We have spoiled her rotten, trained her pretty well (she’s easily the smartest dog I have ever had), and she has spoiled us.

And she has taught me about the love of God.

In the mornings, I get up at an unthinkable hour (4:30) to have my quiet time and exercise before the day begins. I let Scout out to “do her business,” then she goes to my office where I have my devotions. I’ve put a bed down there, and she has a couple of toys, and a chew or two. But what she wants is to be in my lap (even at 35 pounds now!), licking my face, begging for attention.

And I find myself wondering, “Why do I not hunger for God’s attention the way this little girl hungers for mine?!” She has inspired me, and taught me that simple affection-pure, unbridled joy-is what God wants from us, as much as Scout gives it to me. She is unquestionable an instrument of sanctification in my life.

And wow, do I (we!) love her!!!

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Are There Dogs in Heaven?

December 6, 2012

I believe there are. I certainly HOPE there are. And as a theologian with a couple of post-graduate degrees, I think I can say with some degree of confidence, that I am safe in saying so.

Here’s my line of logic: God created the world, and all the animals in it. THEN He created humanity, and took a look at whether among all the creatures, there was one that was “fit” to be a helper for the first human. There was not, so along cam woman.

But if God created these animals (cats I think, came along after the Fall, by the way), then it is reasonable to believe that God has an affinity for them. And when I read the Revelation to John (the last book in the Christian Bible, and note that it is The Revelation, NOT “Revelations” as it is so often misrepresented), and read about all the creatures that surround the throne of the Lord, I see dogs in my imagination. OK, maybe it is flavored with sentimentality, but still, I think I have a leg to stand on.

And if I am right, and there ARE dogs in heaven, I’ll know a few. There was Pirate, the dog I received as a birthday present when I turned 11. There was Boston, the Golden Retriever that Lib and I got when we’d only been married about 6 months, who brought joy to our lives for 14 years, and our girls referred to as their “big brother.”

Then there was Tink.

Tink came into our lives four months after Boston had to be “put down.” We found her at the Jackson County (MS) Animal Shelter, and brought her home. A furry little ball of yellow love, she won our hearts and controlled our lives with her affection. Half Chow, Half Yellow Lab, she became our constant companion. She reminded us that dogs are great examples of unconditional love, that they are the best ways for humans to learn responsibility, grace, forgiveness, devotion, affection, and fidelity.

When she was two years old, she dug out of our yard. The next morning, as I walked out to get the morning paper, she trotted up to me with a Black Lab the size of a dump truck. “Oh, Tink, you shameless hussy, what have you done?” I asked, knowing she was in heat. A couple of months later, she produced nine Black Lab pups. We kept one, and named him Gumbo. He is a 90-pound brute that is the biggest sissy you ever met.

That’s when Tink taught us about the devotion of a parent. We learned of her defending him from a neighbor’s cat when it tried to swat Gumbo. Then there was the time Gumbo got out, and Tink stayed with him until someone on the other side of town read her collar and called us.

Tink, when she was seven, managed the move from the Gulf Coast to metropolitan Atlanta with her usual grace. Show her where her bed was, where the supper dish was, and where the water was, and she was happy.

Tink turned 14 back on July 4th, and we celebrated as we always do, with grocery store cupcakes. One bite, swallow, it’s gone. She was slowing down, and started spending more and more time at the door from the Kitchen to the Deck, where she would gaze through the glass to know what we were doing, beg scraps, and fix her brown eyes on us to be let in for “loving,” as we called it.

This past Sunday, something was different. She was a doorstop, not getting up, only lifting her head and wagging her tail. The one time she did get up, she walked like she was drunk.

Monday morning, Lib and I took her to the vet. It took us both to get her there, as she could not, or would not, get up, and try as I might, picking her up was like picking up a 65-pound sack of jello.

Long story short, her heart was constricted by fluid, and there was a fast-growing mass on her heart. We could try to transfer her to another facility, try to drain the fluid, try surgery. The vet emphasized the word “try,” and used the word “critical” several times. Then we all acknowledged her age. “I think we’re there,” I said to Lib.

They brought Tink back in, and we got on the floor with her, as medications were administered to sedate her, then to send her on. “Go find Boston, Tink,” I said. Then she stopped breathing.

We brought her home, and gave her a dignified final resting place. Our hearts continue to be broken, and Gumbo is really confused, but we are focusing our affection and attention on him, and I hope he’ll be fine. I hope we will ALL be fine.

She was my “darlin girl,” as I called her. Will I see her again? I believe so. I believe there are dogs in heaven.

Summer 2011 at Lake MArtin

Summer 2011 at Lake Martin