31 October 2018

all hallow's eve

St. Aidan of Lindasfarne.  Aidan, with the original meaning of “little fiery one,” known for his itinerant preaching and constructing of churches, made a perfect Scottish name for our own Shetland Sheepdog.

He’s been a little fiery one—ask anyone who’s tried to pet him!  When Banu and I spent a year with my mother in Tennessee when she had health issues, he would growl at my sister’s car when he recognized it parked in the street outside.  Now that’s too “fiery”!

I understand a dog doesn’t need to be saved from sin the way we poor sad humans need, but “hallowed” might describe the way he and other of our fellow animal sisters and brothers exist.

Maybe we can celebrate, and beg forgiveness for, our relationship with for critters with Aidan and all the rest of God’s good creation.

09 October 2018

not yet, little critter

Not yet, little Aidan.  It wasn’t very long after we had to euthanize Duncan, our Sheltie who had nearly lived a life of fifteen years, that my wife was lobbying for another canine.  At first, I resisted.  I wasn’t ready to welcome another dog, let alone another Shetland Sheepdog (forgive us, but we like that breed), into our home—and truth be told, into my heart.

But the fates be damned, I went along with it.

I knew I couldn’t refer to Aidan as “the prince,” as I had Duncan.  The only thing that came to mind was “the critter.”  And maybe it seemed right at the time, and I still think it’s right.  Aidan is the critter.  He was born exactly one week after Duncan passed from this realm into the next.  October 24 will be his seventh birthday, about half as long as our previous pup walked the earth.  If it feels like I’m speaking in the past tense regarding Aidan, well a diagnosis of lymphoma will do that.  (Well, a somewhat 95% verdict of the vet who examined him will do that!)

But he ain’t dead yet.  (I think that’s the only time I’ve written or spoken the non-word “ain’t” ever!)

Of course, miracles happen.  And prayers will rise like incense, as the book of Revelation says are the “golden bowls of incense, which are the prayers of the saints” (5:8).  We’ve said a big fat “no” to chemotherapy; we’re going with acupuncture and Chinese herbs.  Cannabis oil may play a role in his therapy, as well.

If this post seems like self-indulgence, so be it.  But for anyone who’s ever loved a dog (or a cat, for that matter), maybe you understand what I’m saying—and feeling.

Still, not yet, little critter.

23 September 2018

assembled to survive

The assembly of the Synod of the Northeast (PCUSA) was just held in Albany.  Plenty of wonderful things happened, such as the sermon preached by Rev. Dr. Diane Givens Moffett, review of Synod refocusing (actually more interesting than it sounds), and a document prepared by young ministry leaders called “A Confession for Such a Time as This.”

But one event really stuck out for me, and it was the closing worship service, featuring the choir from Valley Stream Presbyterian Church from Long Island.  This white guy was once again introduced to the deep well of the African-American spiritual tradition.  I was moved by their performance of Hezekiah Walker’s “I Need You to Survive.” 

Alyssa Rosenberg, writing for the Washington Post, remarked on its “audacity.”  She said, “If ‘I Need You to Survive’ is situated squarely on the line between romantic and spiritual love that makes gospel such a compelling musical genre, it’s also about the territory that personal relationships and political movements have in common.  Telling someone ‘I need you to survive’ is such a raw statement that it feels almost obscene to utter aloud.” (June 19, 2015)

I wouldn’t use the word “obscene,” but there is a bold, vulnerable honesty to it.  And as I sang those words, I realized in a brand new way, that yes, I need you to survive—or what will become of me?  What will become of us?

Jesus says to all of us, “I need you to survive.”

“I need you, you need me. / We’re all a part of God’s body. / Stand with me, agree with me. / We’re all a part of God’s body.

“It is his will, that every need be supplied. / You are important to me, I need you to survive. / You are important to me, I need you to survive.

“I pray for you, you pray for me. / I love you, I need you to survive. / I won’t harm you with words from my mouth. / I love you, I need you to survive.

“It is his will, that every need be supplied. / You are important to me, I need you to survive.”