Monday, June 24, 2013

God bless you, Dusty!

Dusty the Church Dog never met a bad day.  If it
was snowing, that meant going down to the
nearby elementary school and racing around the
fields; it meant making doggy snow angels in
the front yard, and catching snowballs no matter
how hard they were thrown.  If it was raining,
it meant splashing through puddles, and rolling
in the front yard until he was soaked to the skin.
If it was a crisp fall day, it meant walking down
around the lake (and the campground with the
great smells) looking for the Biscuit Lady, who
always had treats for him.  If it was a clear spring
day, there was nothing better than sitting on
the lawn smelling the leaves uncurling, the
dandelions poking their heads up out of the
sky, the birds building their nests in the trees.

Dusty the Church Dog never met a person
he didn't immediately like and turn into his
new BFF.  From the curmudgeonly neighbor
who always had a frown on his face and a
complaint on his lips to the little kid trying
out his bicycle with training wheels, Dusty
just had to meet them, had to greet them,
had to turn their day into the tail-waggingest
one they had ever had.  He enjoyed meeting
other dogs, especially the little guys in the
neighborhood, and managed to give a wide
berth to any cats he met.  Squirrels always
found a tree to run up, rabbits always seemed
to bounce further when they saw him, and
deer utterly confused him.

Dusty the Church Dog touched lives in ways
in which I can only dream of doing.  He would
turn those big brown eyes towards the face of
the woman sitting in the hallway at the nursing
home, and her face would beam with delight.
He read books by the dozens to kids on Thursday
mornings and taught them how much fun it was
to catch a carrot in midair and crunch it to pieces.
He showed incredible patience in waiting for his
turn at the ice cream place (but don't try to jump
the line in front of him!), and he gave unconditional
love and acceptance to everyone he met, even if
simply passing on the street.

Dusty the Church Dog was my confidant, my trusted
companion, my faithful sidekick, my window into
the the grace, the love, the wonder, the power, the
joy of God which is always around us.  He was the
one who got me out of bed to listen to the geese
flying south.  He was the one who taught me that
there is always something to experience, someone
to meet, some marvelous delight just waiting around
the next corner.  He was the one who couldn't wait
to experience the next moment which was coming
into his life.  He was the one who got me through
some of the toughest days of ministry, of our
struggles with Teddy, of life itself.

Sadly, Dusty the Church Dog finally met something
that didn't love him, that wouldn't give in to his
silly smile and gentle nature, that wouldn't let him
keep going through this life.  A tumor on his spleen
that was causing internal bleeding meant that those
who loved him so much and would miss him beyond
any possible words could describe, had to help him
cross that Rainbow Bridge into peace, gentleness,
and everlasting joy.  So, about an hour ago, we held
him, hugged him, whispered our thanks to him as
he closed his eyes once last time this side of life.

And you will never, ever convince me that the wet
streets and sidewalks we discovered when we
came out of the vet's office were simply from a
passing rain shower.

© 2013  Thom M. Shuman

Friday, June 21, 2013

The Flip Side

Like the psalmist, I pant . . .
   for more intimate time with God,
   for fewer distractions,
   for a life that is more settled and focused.

I think that is why, when I had the chance years ago, to begin my renewal time with a month at the Abbey of Gethsemane; why I try to return there at least once a year; why I try to carve out more silence for myself (but often fail in the attempt!).  That's probably why I try to intentionally build silence into any worship service.

Yet I am starting to recognize that in promoting such silence, in holding up the reading from First Kings 19 as 'The Template' for such a desire and longing in one's life, that I am saying to people that the only way to hear God, the only place to find God, is in the silence. 

It was true for Elijah in that moment, place, and time in his life.  It is true for me in moments at the Abbey and on quiet walks.  But it is not true for every moment, every place, every time, every person. 

Sometimes I need the tempests of God, which rattle the windows of my soul and wake me up in the muddle of the night.  Sometimes I need God to grab my heart and shake me until all the 'stuff' I have accumulated over the years falls off the shelves and breaks.  Sometimes I need the heat of God's passion for the poor, the lost, the oppressed to sear my jaded conscience and get me working for justice and righteousness.

When I was a teenager, and listening to the radio, the disc jockey would sometimes play a record.  I might like the song, it might speak to me, it might bore me to tears.  But then came those magical words, 'and now, on the flip side . . .'

Sometimes God speaks in the wind, the earthquake, the fire.  And then there is silence - that marvelous, gorgeous, longed-for gift - which I couldn't understand if I didn't listen to the flip side as well.
(c) 2013 Thom M. Shuman