Friday, October 30, 2009

These Are Not the Dogs You Are Looking For

The family are giving me grief about how slow my search for our next number 1 dog is going. But I'm telling you, there are a lot of ugly dogs out there.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

The Anguish of Job

22 Innocent or wicked, it is all the same to God.

That’s why I say, ‘He destroys both the blameless and the wicked.’
23 When a plague sweeps through,

he laughs at the death of the innocent.
Job 9:22-23 (NLT)

We are studying the book of Job on Wednesday nights, and when we got to these verses last night there seemed to me to be a real chilling effect apparent on our group.

"He laughs at the death of the innocent." - yeah, that'll do it.

Further word study didn't help.
Hebrew Strong's Number: 3932
Hebrew Word: ‏לָעַג‎
Transliteration: lāʿag
a primitive root; to deride; by implication (as if imitating a foreigner) to speak unintelligibly :- have in derision, laugh (to scorn), mock (on), stammering.
—Strong's Talking Greek & Hebrew Dictionary

But other scholars shed some light.

One may think that here Job spoke wrongly about God (9:23), for is it true that God really "laughs when a plague suddenly kills the innocent"? But the meaning of the word "laughs" must be understood in the context of 9:23-24, where Job was speaking of times of calamity or when wicked persons were in power. God destroys both the guiltless and the wicked in military or natural disasters (9:22), and in that sense he does mock the despair of the innocent. Innocence is no plea against suffering in this world. That sentiment is of one piece with the teaching of Ecclesiastes, which shows that being either good or bad is no guarantee of prosperity in this life because death mocks everyone.—Tyndale Concise Bible Commentary

And Spurgeon wrote some very helpful words when he opined:

"As one is startled by a shriek, or saddened by a groan, so these sharp utterances of Job astonish us at first, and then awake our pity. Physical sufferings had placed a strain on Job's mind, and he sought relief by expressing his anguish. Like some solitary prisoner in the gloomy keep of an old castle, he carves on the walls pictures of the abject despondencies which haunt him. His afflictions are aggravated by vain efforts to alleviate them: he wounds his hand with the rough hammer and nail with which he is engraving his griefs.

Of such tortures many of us have had a taste." - Charles Haddon Spurgeon

Yes we have.

And if we are not careful, our experiences can twist our view of God and place us in error. Job was not describing God as He is. He was describing God as He appeared to be based on Job's knowledge of Him and his situation at that time.

Remember this.

35 Can anything ever separate us from Christ’s love? Does it mean he no longer loves us if we have trouble or calamity, or are persecuted, or hungry, or destitute, or in danger, or threatened with death?36 (As the Scriptures say, “For your sake we are killed every day; we are being slaughtered like sheep.” )

37 No, despite all these things, overwhelming victory is ours through Christ, who loved us.

38 And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love.39 No power in the sky above or in the earth below—indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Romans 8:35-39 (NLT)


Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Two weeks and two days after

Sure it's getting easier. Probably am down to tearing up 5 times a day instead of 25. But it still feels awful. Empty house. Empty sofa. Quiet without those "boofs" and "woo woo woo woo" noises. No big sighs when he laid down. No "whack whack" when his tail hit the walls as his excitement showed.

We miss him.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Beginning Again Is Like Herding Cats

So I talked to this guy from a search committee last week. Nothing new about that, it happens every now and then. I'm still where I started out ten years ago and enjoying what God is doing more than ever. But I've always operated by the conviction that I serve at the pleasure of God. So when He decides that this tour of duty has come to a close, I reply "Yes sir!" and pack up and go to the next assignment. I'll talk to anyone about reaching people and God's Church, but again - I've been here 10 years.

Apparently one of my friends thought I'd be a good fit for this church's situation. Remind me to talk to him.

We had an opening flurry of emails, and they wanted to talk on the phone. So I checked out their website and nothing on it suggested a great deal of interest in people on the outside. It did though show me that they were doing "church" extremely well, and give me the idea that the people who were going there were probably happy with the status quo. Checking further, I also saw that their growth was stalled and that they had lost pretty much their entire staff. Bigger church.

So I wrote the search team chair back and explained that my passion (as well as that of my wife) was to express our love of God through reaching and serving people. Then I explained what God has done at, in, and through New Hope this year. As the Texans are so fond of saying, "It ain't bragging if it's a fact." And the fact is, the small church on the corner of Aurora and Valparaiso Parkway has been active in expanding the Kingdom and serving the least of these. We've done things we have never done before and seen God do what He's never done here before. We've taken risks and been rewarded.

I told them I liked that. A LOT. And then I explained that I didn't want to waste their time. So if this was anything other than a call to join other people with the same passions that God has placed in me, perhaps someone else would be their man.

Please understand why I did that. I do NOT have all the answers. And while I may preach to a congregation full of sinners every week, they are listening to one of their own kind. But I love Jesus and I love His Church. So stringing them along or even accepting a call to somewhere like that just is repulsive to me. I want them to succeed - to thrive.

I received a very gracious and wise reply.

He thanked me for my thoughtful and insightful reply (my assumptions about their present condition were right on target as was my understanding of their culture and ethos) and then commented that their big struggle was to look forward instead of reminiscing about past glory. Their core membership was very traditional and resisted change and yet the younger lay leadership wanted it.

They are between a rock and a hard place. BTDT

Can they turn their church's future around?

Only to the extent that they die to the past and to personal preferences and decide in their hearts to look to Jesus for His direction and vision for their church. Can a new pastor help them do that? Yes, but if it's just him, it will take forever for him to build trust enough for substantive change to occur. If the church itself is seized with the passion for souls they need, then it can happen much quicker. But it has to happen. The search team chair said that getting the people in his church to agree on what direction to move was like "herding cats." Yes brother, it most surely is.

I watched as my home church, Bethesda Baptist in Macon, struggled with this very same dilemna and finally died an ignoble death. I swore that I would do whatever it took to keep any church God placed me in to avoid that fate. So when I get an opportunity to help a church, even through the search process, I'm doing it. So we parted ways on good terms.

And as I thought about what God is doing through New Hope, I thanked Him again.

Friday, October 23, 2009

The Big Dog Blues

It's not getting easier.

We're scouring the internet, contacting rescue organizations, and it's too slow. NO dog will ever replace our big heart/friend Henley, but another sure can help us heal. Almost got sucked into a scam yesterday with a Bulldog puppy supposedly in Cameroon. Desperate people do stupid things. Second time so far since Henley's passing. We almost threw $1500 at some Petland people to bring another dane home last week.

Hoping and praying that one of the emails and other outreaches bears fruit soon.

Tough living without a dog.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Joy Comes In All Sizes

"For I have given rest to the weary and joy to the sorrowing.” Jer 31:25

Yesterday marked our first week without our big furry friend, and I was trying to get back into the swing of things, but without much excitement. That's unusual for me, because I really enjoy what I do. But I was still struggling.

Then some messengers of joy showed up in my office. I know some parents try to shield their pastor from interruptions by their kids, but they really don't know how much I love being the kids pastor too. I consider their visits sacred opportunities to hear what God is doing and to learn from them what life is like at their age. It's an awesome blessing. Yesterday was a great example.

First I got to hear Ian's big plans to take his love for Sci-Fi onto the web. And I almost got to hear him whistle. He's so close. :)

I got to tease Jaime Roberts about her first solo trip to New Hope as a newly minted driver. "I so appreciate you parking away from the Honda since it's not paid for," was my opening comment. She smiled sweetly and said "you're welcome."

Then Jonathan Harrington and I got to talk soccer. I was ribbing him about what he had said about his performance this weekend. I know about as much about soccer as I do water polo, so it was interesting to hear from someone who really has a passion for it. Now I know enough to follow the game.

Then Allan showed up and told me about his trip to the Mullet Festival and outlined his plans for the week. Well, not just the week. Allan pulled out his pocket planner and showed me his birthday next year (on a Monday) and said "and you'll have my birthday party this Wednesday." And yes, New Hope will celebrate Allan's birthday on that Wednesday.

He left and Erin and Karon Harrington came in and I showed Erin what dogs I had seen at "Dog Daze" this weekend. Erin told me about her pug, and Karon shared the story of how they got her. We were sharing with each other how special our dogs make us feel.

Mary and Ka'rin Quinnell and Keith Brace came in too and picked up where the Harrington's left off. Keith had me look at several huge dogs, ("Do you have Google?" LOL) and I showed them what an Airedale looks like. We shared our love for dogs -which for Mary is spelled chihuahua. :)

My afternoon was filled with the joy of sharing life with the special people God has placed us with. I came to work dragging and left laughing at just how God had sent messenger after messenger to remind me that life would go on and joy was possible again.

It was awesome. I was blessed beyond anything I expected. God is good.

Monday, October 19, 2009

After A Week...

It'll be a week today since we ended Henley's life to spare him more agony from bone cancer. Every single day I have told myself - we have told ourselves that we did what we needed to do to love Henley just as sacrificially and faithfully as he loved us. That last day was no exception.

It's probably hard for people who have never let a dog capture their heart to grasp just how much they become a part of your life. So let me give you a rundown of what we would have done with Henley so far today.

When we woke up, I'd have looked beside the bed to see how he was. Sometimes he'd scoot so far under the bed he'd get stuck, or back himself into the corner. So I'd check. Then each of us in turn would take a minute to love on Henley before we left the bedroom.

We'd be busy making breakfast and doing morning chores, and we'd hear a "FLAP, FLAP, FLAP" which would be Henley getting his ears in shape. The next thing we'd hear is Henley getting up and making his way down the hall. If we were in the kitchen, he'd look over at us, pause, and we'd call out to him, celebrating another day's beginning. Then we'd take him outside.

From there, we'd come back in and Henley would most often go and get some water. Then he'd come back in where we were eating breakfast and lie down beside us on the couch. That is unless there was bacon involved. Without it, he just shifted his sleep from the bedroom to the couch. With it, he would sit and loom over whoever had it until you gave it up. But most of the time Henley would lay on the loveseat, getting up from it only to stroll outside or get some water and food.

Unless we left the room.

Then Henley would hunt us down and lay down near us. If I was in my office, it wasn't unusual for him to get up and come and sit in the chair with me, getting his rubs and scratches. Or he'd sit in the big chair and look out the window, or pick up his front legs while he sat and paw at me until I paid him the attention he wanted. After a sufficient amount of affection was delivered, he'd lie down nearby.

At lunch, he'd stir himself to come see me about a hot dog. Henley LOVED hot dogs. Earlier in his life I would just give them to him whole, but later because of occasional problems with hot dog returns, I'd mash them up with my hands and put them over his food, making sure that no part was too big for him. Bunny would pour the water off her tuna over his food sometimes as well. Even if he wasn't ready to eat, all you had to say was "go see!" and he'd get up and head back to where his raised food bowls were.

When we'd leave, he'd be left lying on the loveseat. That was where he spent the majority of his day. But when we returned he would meet us at the back door, peeking around Bunny to see me. I'd greet him with as much affection as he did me then he'd go get some more love from Bunny. At times he'd give us some of the vocal antics we heard about even before we picked him up as a puppy. "Oh, the puppy is very vocal," the rescue folks had told us. And he was. A "woo woo woo" was the height of an affectionate response and all three of us LOVED that. If we were gone, even overnight, we'd get a welcome by an almost frantic dog who couldn't seem to tell us enough how much we were missed.

After we got home from work he'd settle back into his spot next to one of us on either the couch or loveseat. Toward the end he could only spend a certain amount of time on one side or the other, and added his bed on the floor to his routine. Dogs are often stoic, and it's hard to tell they hurt, but changes like that coupled with his lameness let us know.

Once we were ready to go to bed, we'd lower the shades, and the sound of them coming down was a trigger for Henley to make his way down the hall and wait for me to get his bed ready. Once it was, he'd circle a couple of times and lie down with a sigh. I'd have to step around him to get into bed, but without fail I'd scratch his face or stroke those velvet-like ears. When the lights were turned out, often he'd sigh again. I always thought that was his way of saying "another day with those crazy humans is over, now I can rest." Henley loved us fiercely every day.

I started this post at church and am finishing it here at the house. Henley added so much to each of us Wilsons. But I'd have to say that he also cost us in other relationships. We just hosted our friend Allan Hill, Sean's friend Jason, and Sean and Chelsea for supper. That wouldn't have happened with Henley here. Allan was scared of Henley. And we'd have had to spend some energy keeping him out of our hair during supper. I blame us, not him. We could have trained him to be more social, and we didn't. To those who came often, he was great. But you had to get to know him.

The most awesome dog I have ever known has been gone a week now. Life goes on, we even get some blessings like tonight we wouldn't have gotten with him, but I miss him terribly still.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Sunday Recap Oct 18, 2009

It was a long, hard week. Lots of personal heartache and lots of ministry needs. So I headed into the weekend with a heavy heart but hopeful that focusing on what God has called me to do with the people He's called me to do life with would help. It did.

Earlier in the week, I picked up my copy of Mark Batterson's "Wild Goose Chase". A few weeks ago when I was preplanning with an eye to Oct and Nov, I had taken it home to read again. Turned out to be just the basis for today's message and most likely the next couple. Batterson's basic premise is that we are living a Christianity that's far different than what God intended. Led by the Holy Spirit, we should not find ourselves being bored or trapped. Today's message dealt with "The Cage of Responsibility."

Our music was:

O Praise Him - Crowder
O Worship the King - Tomlin
Whole World In His Hands - Redman
Come Home Running - Tomlin

I used two video clips, one at the beginning of worship called "Lean In", and then a promo for The World Race 2/3 of the way through.

My hope was that some of us would break free of our chains and be more able to respond to the Holy Spirit's call.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Every Dog Was A Therapy Dog Today

It's been 5 days now since we lost our big friend Henley to bone cancer. We continue to realize all the ways he interacted with us as we lived together as a family. You just don't realize what a part of your life he was until he's gone. Grieving continues here, but we're trying.

We went to Petland the other night just to hold puppies. All of us hate what Petland does to dogs and yet we went. And there we met Caroline (Bunny named her) the Great Dane puppy. She was awesomely sweet and ridiculously expensive, with a spotty pedigree and yet we almost hit the plastic. Even Sean was captured by her. We escaped, went home, and worried about how she was doing. Still do.

Today we went out to "Dog Daze" at the beautiful Ft Walton Beach Landings park. Incredibly nice place and dogs, dogs, dogs as far as the eye could see. Every dog I petted was a therapy dog for me. Some were more responsive than others. The huge English Mastiffs were snuggly and put their paw on you like Henley used to. I got "snuffled" by an Irish Wolfhound. A golden named Zoe gave me a few moments of her love and attention. The standard schnauzer and giant schnauzers were great too, but less affectionate.

The last dog I petted was a merle dane. She gave me a big sloppy kiss. I'll bet Henley told her I needed one. I did.

We'll keep looking for another forever friend.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Missing Him


It's hardest at night. Henley spent most every evening beside one of us on the loveseat or sofa. Then when we'd retire to the bedroom and start to lower the shades, he'd hear the noise and amble back to the bedroom. If we were too slow, he'd stand there impatiently waiting for his bed to be spread out. As soon as that happened, he'd get the covers just right,lay down, and release an "ummpphh" of a satisfied Dane.

We both loved that sound.
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Tuesday, October 13, 2009

He Was Such A Good Dog

Missing our big friend terribly this morning.

Monday, October 12, 2009

All They Know How To Do Is Love

For the first time in 20 years, there's no dog in our house. It's incredibly empty. Our first "inside" dog was Adam's "Daisy". She was a miniature schnauzer with more personality than any dog I've ever known. When we moved down here, Daisy stayed with Adam. Sean's "Ellie" had followed Daisy, another mini schnauzer who was the sweetest dog ever. Chloe, our first Dane,moved down here with us. In fact the first night in our house, while Bunny and Sean slept in the Holiday Inn Express, Chloe, Ellie and I slept on the floor upstairs together. Chloe died tragically at 4. For a little while it was just Ellie, but then Henley came into our life.

When Sean first saw him, he said "It's a miniature Dane." And Henley was for a short period of time, but he kept growing. And growing. And growing. We learned to love the big guy for his own eccentric and wonderful ways. For example, he hated the rumble of the bombs falling out on the range. He would search the house to find Bunny, his protector. He didn't like flying things either - same result.

And every day, every time we left the house and returned, he'd greet us at the door with that goofy look on his face and sometimes a "woo woo woo." The last year we wound up gone a lot for two night stays in Macon. Sean said Henley just mourned the whole time we were gone. So we tried not to be gone, and we bought a vehicle we could take him with us. He went with us to Savannah last year, to Macon several times, and even to Dallas several years ago. The looks on the faces of people when the 42" tall 155lb Great Dane came out of the vehicle were priceless.

Life with a Dane requires adjustments. Nothing is safe on the counter. Once Sean left a Subway sandwich on the counter and left the room. When he returned, he faced a very happy Dane and an empty counter. Cooking was sometimes difficult because if Henley smelled something he liked, like bacon, he'd hover waiting for a handout. He loved hot dogs, cheese, and peanut butter. But he wasn't picky.

Early on, Henley and I walked every morning around the bayous of Valparaiso. When we moved to our present house, we walked for a while but it wasn't the same. Still, anytime I got his leash and "Gentle Leader" out and he saw it, he was ready to go. But this house has a fenced back yard that he loved to patrol. He'd chase squirrels up trees, or just stand and admire his kingdom. He'd sometimes stand on our deck and watch the neighbors downhill. They'd call out to him and enjoyed hearing him "boof!"

At the other house we had a bed just for Henley, but on Sunday afternoons after church we would retreat upstairs for an afternoon nap on the big bed. I have to say that Henley could out sleep me, and that's saying something. When we moved here, we decided to get Henley to sleep on the floor, and he did, mostly beside me. But when we were gone, he'd sleep with Sean ON the bed. Sean's bed isn't that big, but he didn't fuss. It was hard to stay mad at Henley.

He wasn't perfect. He'd get the "zoomies" every now and then and go flying around the room. An animal that size can make a lot happen in a hurry and we'd frantically try to calm him down. The "tail of terror" could cause things to break or be whacked off the coffee table.

But he loved. Oh how he loved. You'd head to the back of the house and in a minute Henley would come and lay down where he could see you. He could not stand to be separated from his people. Every return was a family reunion. Our house can be frantically busy at times. I can get called in the middle of the night and find myself trying to help people through a nightmare. We can have multiple needs from different people. And our family has gone through a lot during Henley's lifetime. Through it all, one thing was constant - Henley's love. That big black body lying next to you on the couch would take away all the stress.

And now he's gone, a victim of bone cancer that had aggressively replaced healthy bone with brittle, and had probably metastasized to his lungs. Still, though it probably hurt terribly, he got up every time and met us, just as he always had. We'd leave the room rather than look at him struggle. But his heart won out, always. When he was so sick this spring, he almost died. He was running a high fever and not getting better at the vet. But when I went back to the kennel, he gave me a "woo woo" and a plaintive bark that said "I want to go home." So for days we hand fed him, almost carried him outside. I slept on the floor next to him and he licked the infection. When our friend Ellen Fannon, a vet herself was talking with the vet at the animal hospital she told him "no, you don't understand - these people will do whatever it takes. They LOVE him."

It was in the same spirit that I decided to release him from the pain. It's achingly sad here now. We've both cried so much we're sick. We cried while buying groceries, cried in the car. It hurts so much. There are times I forget and look for him. Bunny started to move some food back off the counter today and realized she didn't have to anymore. The postman came and went without a single "boof!" I guess I need to tell the UPS guy that he doesn't need to keep leaving dog biscuits in his futile attempt to win Henley over.

Missing my friend.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Sunday Recap Oct 11 2009

Today New Hope met to worship Almighty God and ordain Craig Bryan as a deacon.

We kicked it off with Bob Dylan's "Got To Serve Somebody", and moved through "Indescribable" and "Offering." The invitation song was "I Surrender All."

The take away points were:

- Humility comes before honor. Until we humble ourselves before God, we cannot expect God's best in our lives. We're not ready. If we humble ourselves, in due time God will lift us up.
- No one can be a servant without a master. Accepting the information about Jesus as fact isn't enough to produce change. We have to place ourselves under God's authority and accept His will as our way.
- No one can serve two masters. There is no way that God's and the world's values can coexist. We must follow Jesus.
- Doing acts of kindness isn't nearly as transformational as being kind and acting out of who you are at the core. But as you deny yourself and follow Jesus in your actions, you will find yourself more able to conform to Christ's image.

You gotta serve somebody - Jesus

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Old School

Lord, I want to be a Christian in my heart, in my heart,
Lord, I want to be a Christian in my heart, in my heart.
In my heart, in my heart,
Lord, I want to be a Christian in my heart, in my heart.

Lord, I want to be more loving in my heart, in my heart,
Lord, I want to be more loving in my heart, in my heart.
In my heart, in my heart,
Lord, I want to be more loving in my heart, in my heart.

Lord, I want to be more holy in my heart, in my heart,
Lord, I want to be more holy in my heart, in my heart.
In my heart, in my heart,
Lord, I want to be more holy in my heart, in my heart.

Lord, I want to be like Jesus in my heart, in my heart,
Lord, I want to be like Jesus in my heart, in my heart.
In my heart, in my heart,
Lord, I want to be like Jesus in my heart, in my heart.

I'll be preaching on servanthood tomorrow morning. Even the word seems archaic. To bring the concept across to today is going to take some work. Not only am I up against the changes in language, but I'm living in the most individualistic culture on earth. The Builder generation will hear the call to serve others and silently reply "I've done my part." The boomers will hear and reply "that's what we pay you for." Gen X will think about it and decide they don't have time. Gen Y may still be open to change direction.

For some reason, that old hymn popped into my head this week as I considered Sunday's worship. I know that I probably either learned it during one of my infrequent periods of attendance in church as a boy, or after I got married and became a regular. :) For some reason I think it was the first option. If true, that means that whoever taught it to me is long gone from my memory, but their service to God lives on - in me.

Did you catch that?

I'm writing tonight as a weary man to weary men and women, especially those in smaller churches around the world. Listen! I know it's hard. Week in and week out, showing up to teach the same people, receiving little in the way of positive results immediately, or appreciation and feedback over time. Too many of you get too little "sabbath rest" from God's service and so you find yourselves at the ragged edge of burnout again. "Why should I care? No one else does. What I do doesn't matter."

Stop right now and tell that old liar Satan to remove himself from your presence and quit whispering lies like that in your ears. Rebuke him and he'll leave. For now.

You need to know that even though the boys and girls, men and women that you have served over the years may not remember your name or even who put God's truth - God's message - into their mind and hearts...

God has used you. He has!

I'm sitting here in tears tonight, thanking God for someone I cannot remember, who chose to serve in God's Church for God's glory. So what if I can't remember who it was? God knows, and I expect they were rewarded for their faithfulness with the most precious words any person who loves God can hear: "Well done, good and faithful servant."

Green by Ted Dekker

Just finished reading "Green" by Ted Dekker. Having never read any of his works, I was coming in cold at the tail end of his "Circle" series. The other books in the series are best sellers, I just don't read that much fiction anymore. But Thomas Nelson offered to send me a copy if I would read and review it. So here I am.

The book wasn't easy for me to wrap my head around. The premise involves a man who jumps between two worlds, and the action that follows him affects each profoundly. In the world most like ours, there are conspiracies, tangled relationships, scientific terrors and anguished decisions. In the other world, there's a clearer thread running through it all - God is at work.

I have to admit that dashing back and forth between Bladerunner and World of Warcraft was off-putting. Also would say that the present day world action didn't really hold my interest at all. The world of the horde, elamites, and albinos was far more engaging and the characters more fully developed. In fact at one point I was going to give up. But the characters began to engage more with the Big Story metaphor and I went back in.

Sacrifice, Redemption, Evil, Good - they resonate in this book, especially as it comes to the exciting pre-conclusion. I choose that word instead of conclusion because this book is actually written as both sequel and prequel - it completes the "Circle". So, would I recommend it? Well, if it can keep me and finally draw me in it would probably provide hours of enjoyment for a real fiction aficionado.

Friday, October 09, 2009

The Days Grow Shorter For Henley

Our big friend Henley has been a faithful and constant companion for almost 8 years. When our first Great Dane, Chloe died, we thought we'd never recover. I poured my heart out on the Great Dane lists we read everyday. And a woman in Tampa let us know that her rescue organization had just received a Great Dane puppy. He was black, like Chloe, and he was available. After we were approved by the group, we drove down to Tampa. When we walked up to the home, I looked through the glass door and saw two danes playing. One was obviously an adult, but the other looked too big to be our puppy. But it was him. He rode back on Bunny's lap.

He's been our friend ever since. It's impossible to underestimate how having him has changed our lives. Our coaches are leather because of Henley. We bought our Honda Element in order to transport him. We've taken him with us on trips. We've planned our days around when he needed us. We've loved him fiercely.

We've enjoyed years of leans and slobbers, silly Dane antics, and his ability to take our bad days at the office and absorb them into his love. The best therapy I have ever received has been by simply having him sit next to me on the coach and hearing him bring forth his contented "ummmph." He's greeted us at the door almost every single time we have ever come home, and grieved on those rare occasions we had to leave him here overnight. Unconditional love? Yeah, he does it.

In May, we almost lost him to an infection. And now, it seems we will almost surely not have him much longer. Our friend and vet Ellen Fannon came over to look at a big hard lump on his lower leg Monday and told us it was almost certainly bone cancer. That will be confirmed soon by X-Rays. Treatment is amputation and chemotherapy, but even then you are only buying time. Only 10% live over a year even with treatment, and without it - 4 months - if the pain doesn't press the need to end the dog's life earlier.

Right now, he's still able to get up and limp around. It seems that immediately after getting up, he cannot put much weight on his leg at all, but as he moves around he can use it some. He's changed the positions that he lays in, probably because of the pain. The cancer most commonly found is very aggressive and from what I have read, by the time the bone swelling is seen, has most often already metastasized to the lungs or elsewhere.

For all of us here, the pregrieving has begun. He's been such a big part of our lives and is so loving...

Thursday, October 08, 2009


It is pastor's appreciation month.

Living In Holy Discontent

Thursday. The day it all starts to come together. We've chosen and practiced the music. I've sought and found the text or theme for this Sunday's worship and am deeply involved with it. We're past the Wednesday night speed bump and on the downhill glide. In fact I'm "off" tomorrow. And yet here I sit still trying to figure out a better way to communicate Sunday's message.

Someone asked me this week, "David, it seems like you spend a lot of time trying to find another way to do things. Is that right?" There's no way I can answer that except in the affirmative. Whether things are going great or not so great, I am constantly evaluating what I see and hear and casting a net to try and find a way to do more myself and more importantly - see our church family do more - and BE MORE - like Jesus.

I am not satisfied. I am not content. Can I celebrate our successes? Sure.

But there are so many who do not know Jesus. And we aren't reaching them as often as we could - as we should. We're not loving God with all our hearts, souls, and minds. We're not taking care of the widows and orphans. We're not getting enough done.

That's what drives me.

I was thinking this week how to explain how I got to this place in time. How could I get someone to understand the lens I see the church and the world through. The only way I think might work would be to give them a stack of books that have touched my heart. So here they are. Read these and maybe you'll see what the world looks like from here.

Blue Like Jazz - Donald Miller
Jesus Creed - Scot McKnight
More Ready Than You Realize - Brian McLaren
The Irresistible Revolution - Shaine Claiborne
Red Letters (Living A Faith That Bleeds) - Tom Davis
Simple Church - Thom Rainer, Eric Geiger
The Present Future - Reggie McNeal
Crazy Love - Francis Chan
Searching For God Knows What - Donald Miller
unChristian - Kinnaman & Lyons
They Love Jesus, But Not the Church - Dan Kimball

That'll get you started.

Sunday, October 04, 2009

Sunday Recap Oct 4, 2009

Today's text was of an encounter between Jesus and a Gentile woman. The event puts the differences between Jews and Gentiles in stark terms. The walls that they constructed then aren't really any different than the ones we build today. The contrast between the Gentle woman's confident faith in Jesus and the disciples (or duh-sciples) is great.

As I studied this all week, and let the text percolate, I couldn't get over how many ways we divide from each other. Then how many ways we in the Church and as a church tell people whether or not they are wanted, whether they are loved by God and worthy of our time. Duh-sciples.

To follow Jesus means loving who He loved. "While we were yet sinners..."

But sometimes once you are inside the walls, you forget you were ever an outsider.

To paraphrase Robert Frost, "Someone there is that doesn't want a wall." His name is Jesus.

This week's music -

"Your Grace Is Enough"
"Call Upon His Name"
"Blessed Be Your Name"
"Grace Flows Down"

The basic idea was to help remind each other as we sang praises of just how great God's grace is - regardless.

Thursday, October 01, 2009

If Your Bible Study Seems Dry...

Life in the 21st century races by. The devices we count on to keep us connected succeed in separating us at times from what we need the most - the refreshing time spent with the Holy Spirit in silence. Over and over again we read about the ancients meditating on God's Word. Today we celebrate speed readers.

I like what Mark Batterson wrote this week:

Reading results in one-dimensional knowledge.
Meditating results in two-dimensional revelation.
Obedience results in three-dimensional faith.

In our haste, sometimes we leave out the vital time spent in walking around with the Spirit and digesting the truth of God's Word. I know in my case I have always felt more in command of the material on Sunday if I allowed the text time to "percolate" within my soul.

So if your Bible study seems dry, take time and let it "soak in the Spirit."

- David