Dogs, God, and the Golden Gift of Ongoing Creation

With Hannah, in the Sierra high country…

Four dogs have owned me.

As a dog-loving guy, that’s not many.

And yet each has taught me about life, death, scary words, relationships, and the ways of God.

(All four have been girls. I wonder what that reveals about me?)

Ginger was first. I was a tyke, age-wise still in single digits. I probably whined for weeks (or months), begging for a dog. We made a family decision to have one and the next major hurdle involved naming our furry future. I wanted Ginger and—though memory is unreliable—I believe my older sister suggested something else. We voted, and somehow in that then family of four, Mom swung the election in my direction.

A Chihuahua/terrier mix, Ginger was cute like the proverbial button. Alas, here’s the hard lesson of childhood, of enthusiasm meeting reality: I did a poor job of caring for her. I’d forget to feed her and Mom or Dad had to remind me. Picking up the smelly “objects” deposited in the backyard was often accomplished . . . tomorrow (aka, the day of the week that never dawns). I was good at playing with Ginger, not so good with the short list of other chores. Continue reading →

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Baptized to Ask Questions

19th Century Baptism. Willisville, Illinois

Raised in the American Baptist denomination, it was up to me to declare that I felt led by God’s spirit to be ready for baptism.

“Who wants to give their life over to Christ?” The pastor asked at the end of worship. He seemed to study each member of the congregation.


I do!

Actually, it was a version of, “We do!” My older sister and I, probably after a few minutes of intense discussion (before scurrying outside to play) had decided to get holy and wet.

Which meant standing up in church when the pastor asked who would follow Jesus.

Which meant taking a class to prepare for the big day.

Which meant we’d eventually find ourselves on the other side of the expansive red velvet curtain hiding the baptismal pool from the pew view. Full immersion, baby! Continue reading →

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Me & #metoo

She looked sad. Vulnerable. While others departed worship, after the post-sermon handshakes and “Good message, Pastor” comments, she lingered. After a few moments, we were alone near the entry to the sanctuary.

Like others, she offered nice, neutral words about my sermon, and then she asked—

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This was my second or third Sunday at a new church. What I already suspected, and what was confirmed as my beard grayed and my accumulated sermons eventually numbered in the thousands, is that everyone in a new congregation appears similar during the initial Sunday encounters. As a new pastor, you can’t tell who will be supportive or critical. You don’t yet know the quiet person who shares healing responses when a committee fights over a divisive mission project. You don’t yet know why a woman often cries in the back pew, why a family is always late to worship, or why a man sneaks a single rose in a vase on the table in the narthex. You don’t know the gossips, peacemakers, hotheads, or dreamers. Continue reading →

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