Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Camp and Facebook

As I’ve watched my newsfeed on Facebook this morning, I’ve been reminded of two things: 

  1. How powerful a tool social media can be to help us create and sustain community. 
  2. How something like summer camp, a mission trip, or any other opportunity that takes us away from our day to day lives and places us outside, with strangers, for an extended amount of time can serve as a community building catalyst, sustainer, or an opportunity to grow deeper. 

I was sitting in my office this morning when a private message popped up that contained a hyperlink and a short message of, “I saw this on a friend’s page, he was an adult special needs camper for several years.” The message was from a student at a university located 260 miles away from me that had been a camper and is now a summer staff person at a United Methodist camp, the hyperlink was to an obituary for a 24 year old camper who liked to swim, sit with his friends looking out over the lake, and spent a good portion of the year looking forward to his week at camp, like many of us do. The young adult that shared the link with me, Marshall, is part of a group of young adults that are leading the Young Adult ministry of Camp Mechuwana--part of a newly formed group to build on the important work that has already been done in the camp’s ministry with young adults already. 

The link that that one young adult shared “went viral” as person after person shared it and with it their own feelings of grief as they remembered the infectious smile or the friendly disposition of this camper or lamented how young this person was. 

In a matter of minutes a community of faith began mourning one of its own and the community had no boundaries or walls beyond the 8 weeks of summer camp and a few weekends together here and there. In fact, some of the people who were remembering this camper considers this community their religious community and spend 6 days together, once a year. 

It is not social media that created this community, though. The community was created by the intense, intentional coming together for a week of camp. For adult leaders, youth leaders, and campers alike the formation and bonding that happens in a camping context is unlike any other community formation. 

For many, the community that forms in a camping context is an invitation to envision community in a different way. One of the people that represents spiritual depth to me cannot connect with God while sitting in a pew or participating in the life of a local congregation. Her commitment to listening to God, though, is not absent. Emily says that she connects most with God outside, in the natural environment. She didn’t stop there, though. She explained that the rigidity that is often found in a local church is not appealing, there’a definition for everything that, she feels, often prohibits conversation. 

The development of community, though, also takes place beyond the camp road, cabins, and waterfront. Emily said that what she values most is connecting with people post-camp. “...folks that I have known for less than a week want to be my friend! I love that. I think the part that I use (and value) the most is when we get talking by message, because it's just the two of us, and no one can see what we are saying publicly. I think what gets me the most is when a conversation starts at camp--about God, or what our ideas of heaven are, or if we are being constantly monitored for "sin", or about what the meaning of life is, or anything Big like that--and people come and track me down on Facebook to specifically carry on that conversation.” Utilizing the tools that Facebook provides, Emily is able to continue to strengthen the community that forms in just a few days of camp. 

Emily isn’t involved in a local church. In fact, she her faith community as her camp experience and treats it as such. Her willingness to have tough conversations about theological concepts, the formation of community with a deep concern for others, and a missional component, in my view, makes her experience a “church” experience. St. Augustine of Hippo defined church as a city all of its own inside the city the community gathers. He also believed that church should give us a foretaste of heaven. Regardless of whether you choose to utilize social media or not, you cannot disregard its importance in sustaining community in the 21st century. 

Marshall, the young adult I spoke of above, on the other hand, is deeply connected to a faith community outside of camping ministry. He grew up Episcopalian and still very much identifies with the local church he grew up attending. For Marshall, though, summer camp is an extension of what his religious community has formed him to be. He described the grounds feeling very holy. He talked about being actively involved in the ministries of camp, and says, “...as much as you put into Mechuwana, you will receive...” It is the intentionally going deeper--getting to know people, submerging yourself in the work you do, and surrounding yourself with God. 

Our invitation to go deeper, to move closer to the heart of God, is fostered by the acute formation of community for a short amount of time and, I believe, the utilization of social media to exist outside of that community. Social media is not the end all and be all, but it is a tool that is now at our fingertips (literally!) to be used to invite dispersed communities, like the one that forms at our church related camping and retreat centers, to shape itself in a different way. 

Friday, October 5, 2012

An Open Letter to the Boy Scouts of America

In light of the highly publicized anti-gay stance, including the most recent case of hate published here: http://usnews.nbcnews.com/_news/2012/10/04/14224160-almost-eagle-scout-denied-award-because-he-is-gay?lite,  of the Boy Scouts of America, and after weighing heavily whether I would return my Eagle Award, I sent this letter to the Boy Scouts of America

In 2001 the highest recognition that can be bestowed upon a Boy Scout was bestowed upon me. After 12 years of hard work and dedication to the program, successfully completing the adequate number of merit badges, and successfully leading a service project that benefitted my community, I was granted the Eagle Scout award. To this day, I remember, vividly, the award ceremony, held the afternoon after a terrible snow storm. Letters from dignitaries were read, family traveled a great distance, and there was a lot of celebrating. I was the first Scout, in my troop, to obtain the Eagle award in several years. 

I didn’t realize at the time that the Boy Scouts of America banned certain young men from participating in their program and obtaining the prestigious Eagle Scout Award, if they met all the requirements. I remember being furious that I had been a part of an organization that held archaic views on human sexuality and that an organization that I dedicated my childhood to would have denied friends of mine the ability to attain what I had attained. 

Thinking back, my father, with the help of other parents, started the Cub Scout Pack and the Boy Scout Troop I was a apart of. He relied on a mixed bag of volunteers from all walks of life: single mothers, chain smokers, women, men, day laborers. To my knowledge, he never asked any of them their sexual orientation. 

Increasingly the media is covering stories where Scout Masters are denying the Eagle Award to youth who have met the requirements, but identify as Gay Young Men. What’s more, some of my fellow Eagle Scouts have returned their awards in protest of the anti-gay stance the Boy Scouts of America continues to hold despite protests and clear evidence that morality is not determined by a person’s sexual orientation but by their stewardship of that sexuality. 

Today, as the Pastor, of a United Methodist Church that charters a Boy Scout Troop I have the opportunity to bring greetings from our church and give the Eagle Charge to young men who have obtained the high honor of “Eagle Scout” and every time, in that ceremony, that the Boy Scout Law is recited I am transported back to a time when I was learning the 12 points for the first time. To this day, I strive to live out the twelve points in a way that brings honor to my distinguished award and to God. 

Mr. Williams, when other men began sending their Eagle Scout Awards back to you, in protest of the Boy Scouts of America’s homophobic stance I thought and prayed long and hard about whether I was going to do the same thing. The award was in a box, addressed to you, with a letter, but a day before heading to the post office and proudly dropping it in the mail, I had a change of heart, not because I share the Boy Scouts of America’s hateful opinion of men who are gay, but because I believe in change. 

You see Mr. Williams, it occurred to me that my Eagle Award gives me the same opportunity to change a culture that my serving in a denomination that holds a more tolerant, but no less hateful, stance on people who are Gay and Lesbian. If I keep my award, I can work for change from the inside. I can offer an alternative view of what it means to be an Eagle Scout and live the 12 points of the Scout Law authentically. When I give the Eagle Charge, I can remind the Eagle Scout that he first made a promise, “To keep [his self] physically strong, mentally awake and morally straight,” and part of being mentally awake is being willing to think critically about the world around him. I get to encourage him to challenge hateful rules and regulations, like that of the Boy Scouts of America’s anti-gay stance and that he has a moral imperative to do so, anything less is not living up to his promise to be moral. 

So, Mr. Williams, I can promise you that I will continue to live the Scout Promise and the  12 points of the Scout Law and that I will continue to be proud to be an Eagle Scout, but the promise I made dictates that I continue to work for the full inclusion of men who are gay among the ranks of Eagle Scouts. 

Grace and Peace,

Jordan Shaw, Eagle Scout ’01

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

American Exceptionalism, U.S. History, and Jesus

One of my favorite musicians is Bob Dylan. In 1999, Rolling Stones Magazine rated his 1962 hit, “Blowin’ in the Wind” as one of the world’s top 500 songs. The third verse of that song reads: 
“Yes, how many times must a man look up
Before he can see the sky? 
Yes, how many ears must one man have
Before he can hear people cry? 
Yes, how many deaths will take till he knows
That too many people have died? 
The answer my friend is blowin’ in the wind
The answer is blowin’ in the wind.” 

On my way to a pastoral visit this afternoon I popped in a CD, into the CD player in my car and this song was the first to come on. I’ve always found this song very compelling. Dylan never gives a definitive answer to the questions, like many songs of the same genre. Rather, the questions are rhetorical and instead he merely sings, “The answer is blowin’ in the wind,” saying--the answer to the questions are as intangible as the wind. 

As I write this, it is the eve of September 11. Eleven years ago, I was sitting in my bedroom studying for an Algebra exam and finishing up other homework for the next day. When the first tower was hit, I was sitting in the third row of Mr. Ford’s History class. I remember well the immediate fear of what was going to happen next. I remember the terror I felt, knowing that my father worked for a company that designed war ships for the Navy. I remember the fear of everybody around me as they the schools shut down and they sent us home. Despite the fear mongering that went on, the lock-downs, bomb dogs, random searches I also remembered Jesus‘ words from the Gospel of Matthew, “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God,” (Matthew 5:9) as we gathered at churches, synagogues, mosques, schools, and community events. It seems like everywhere I turned, Jesus’ words were plastered everywhere. Archbishop Elias Chacour points out that the way that English speakers translate these words is to passive--instead of ‘blessed,‘ implying God is blessing people who are peacemakers, the Aramaic (the language which Jesus would have spoken) should be translated to “get up and move, do something.” “Get up and do something you peacemakers, for you will be called children of God.” 

On the eleventh anniversary of when a plane was crashed into a field in Pennsylvania, the Pentagon, and the World Trade Center, in New York, we have two choices: dwell on the terror and fear mongering from that day in 2001 or hang onto Jesus‘ words and work for the peace that passes all understanding. We can allow the fear and suspicion that leads to hatred to rule our lives or we can seek deeper understandings and come together as a global community, allowing God to release us from the bonds of American Exceptionalism, acknowledging the humanity of people who are different than we are, and working for world peace. 

The path to peace is not easy, it’s hard work that requires patient listening and the strength to not be hardened by the disappointments of failed attempts. It requires that we, above all else, desire nothing but God and to do God’s work. The pain that we felt on that day, eleven years ago, is still very real but Jesus is calling us to work through the pain and seek common understandings. 

Jesus is calling us, shall we walk together? 

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

David, Akin, and High School A&P

This summer I have been burried in preparing for interviews with the District Committee on Ministry and the Board of Ordained Ministry, among other things, and have remained slightly distant from my blog. That said, as I come up from air I can’t help but respond to the GOP’s war on women and Rep. Akin’s assertions about rape. 

First off, I use the term “war on women” very intentionally. The Good Old Party is really testing the first part of their name and have asserted that women’s bodies are not their own, they have made claims that they should legislate what happens to a woman’s body and they have challenged the decades old laws that protect women and protect people of color. They may not have said things, blatantly to be racist or sexist but their motives are both and their crusade, in my opinion, should be the war that we should be focused on. 

I spent several years, during seminary, working for a Sexual Assault project in Maine. During my time there I learned a lot--I learned how to listen, I learned how to ask questions and read into situations, I learned how to challenge a system that is set up to re-victimize people at every turn, most of all I learned about rape. I didn’t learn about rape from doctors, attorneys, or nurses; I learned about rape from victim/survivors who were courageous enough to tell their stories and retell their stories.  Whether it was a case of forcible rape, a violent, heinous crime where victims are often lucky to be alive, or whether it was a case of knowing the perpetrator and he taking advantage of the victim, the trauma is the same. There is still a remarkable level of hurt, and emotional scars to carry for the rest of your life and those wounds are reopened every time they tell their story or are reminded of the heinous events that cut their wounds deep. 

One of the most famous cases of rape, is the rape of Bathsheba, in 2 Samuel. David, God’s chosen leader of God’s people abuses his power and rapes Bathsheba. He then adds to the trauma of the family system by ordering Bathsheba’s husband’s death, but does so covertly by sending him the the front lines and letting someone else do his dirty work. His perpetration of a crime as heinous as rape leads to further trauma later on, when his son rapes his daughter--but he wont do anything about it. God calls, over and over again, in this story and in others, for the wrong doer to repent, to recognize what they have done and to turn toward re-imaging themselves in the face of the Holy One. In his raping of Bathsheba and in his actions of having Amnon killed for avenging his sister’s name, when Tamar is raped, he answers God’s call to recognize his wrong doing and turn back to God. 

David was a great poet, and wonderful psalmist and a compassionate human being. Despite the heinous crimes that he committed we have much to learn from him. I am struggling to say the same thing about Representative Akin. When Akin opened his mouth, he did not mis-speak, he did not trip up because he was speaking off the cuff, he did not call Starbucks, Dunkin Donuts or call Burger King, McDonald’s he spoke from his heart and what he said was both disgusting and unforgivable. Mr. Akin injected hate in reprehensible comments about a traumatic crime that is perpetrated everyday all over the world and goes drastically unreported because of fear and misunderstanding. In the few seconds that it took him to say what he said, he revictimized thousands of victims who live with the reality of the crime that was perpetrated against them. The story they had to tell to the medical professionals, District Attorneys, Sexual Assault Advocates, Clergy, in Court, and their families over and over again was brought to life once more by the words of a man who is sadly misguided. 

Later on, when Akin tried to backtrack and apologize for his comment, he minimized what he said by claiming he was “speaking off the cuff” and essentially that he didn’t mean what he said. I’m human, I make mistakes when speaking in public, I trip up, I forget where I am. I have even gone into a men’s room with a live lapel microphone attached to my jacket and said things that should not have been said. I get tripping up, but the sad part is that Akin did not trip up--he said what he was thinking and those thoughts suggest that he is a sexist, misogynistic person who does not understand basic anatomy and physiology, and does not belong in national leadership. I am very clear that I believe that women should have the full range of reproductive choices at their finger-tips. I also believe that men should have the same, and that both men and women should access those services when it is appropriate. I am pro-abortion, and believe that women, and men, have to make decisions that are best for them. That said, I make the assertions that Akin is inappropriate, needs to rethink his position, and needs to re-enroll in a middle-school sexual education class not because I am a Democrat, pro-abortion, and would never vote for the man, but because I have had a glimpse into the world of the people he revictimized and his assumptions are just not true, scientifically or otherwise. 

I am outraged by Representative Akin’s comments, not because I am a victim of sexual assault but because I love people who are and I know they were retraumatized by the hateful words he spewed all over the news. I am outraged by the national news corporations turning his pathetic assumptions into “news,” and reducing themselves to little more than a tabloid, and finally, I am outraged by the local news-service who did not stop and correct him or ask him to leave the set. 

David apologized and truly repented for what he did to his family and his people. He showed great remorse. With Akin’s decision, that was announced today, to stay in the race for the United States Senate, he has no remorse for what he said and did to victims of sexual violence. Not because he hasn’t changed his position on abortion but because he’s willing to put his wants over and above the needs of the people he is asking to represent in Congress. David, imperfect and at times misguided, at the end of the day, admitted his humanness and worked to regain the respect of his people. Akin just continues to dig himself into a deeper hole.

Monday, June 11, 2012

...Prayers, Presence, Gifts, and Service...

One of the best parts of my job as a clergy-person, I think, is working one on one with families, specifically when preparing them for a child’s baptism. There’s something special about the energy and excitement that parents have when thinking and talking about their child’s adoption into the Body of Christ. 
One of the challenges for parents who, maybe have wandered from the church and are now wandering back for the sake of their children, is that they constantly try to reason out what baptism is. In an ‘I’m okay, you’re okay’ world, baptism calls into question our own humanity and our children’s humanity. When we talk about turning from a world of sin, to a world that focuses on Christ and Christ’s teaching, there’s something missing because, Christianity has become so beholden to “I’m okay, you’re okay” thinking. 
The truth is, we are okay--we are born alright. We can’t do anything to make God love us more. The problem comes, though, when we discount the importance of acknowledging the sinfulness of humanity. I consider myself a pretty good person, I work hard, I live as simply as I can, I do what I can to spread the Good News through acts of justice and love. That said, I am no perfect. I know, I know, it’s hard to believe isn’t it? Mom, I know you’re in shock and disbelief that I, your baby boy, am not perfect. I  swear like a sailor, sometimes; I speed, most of the time; I’m impatient, sometimes; I’m sitting in Starbucks writing this right now, so let’s also talk about the fact that I ordered a hot drink in a paper cup and the fact that they fund illegal settlemets in the West Bank. 
Perhaps the watered down, ‘it’s the way we’ve always done it’ practice of baptism and the church’s response to it in reclaiming the importance of the rushing waters of our baptism, is a result of our cultures emphasis on success over and against failure. Success, making as much money as you can, working as hard as you absolutely can, being the best, requires us to hide our blemishes and shortcomings. Society requires us to fit a certain mold, in order to be called ‘successful.’ 
For me, it has been important to keep two things in mind: 
  1. Success, from generation to generation has been defined differently. 
  2. It never has been nor will it ever be all about me...and I just need to deal with it. 
Success for my grandparent’s generation, the beginning of the baby boomers, was defined by a job that paid a living wage; a modest, middle-class house; and having a family. Success from that time to now has changed drastically. If you take a look at the media messages of success, it is outrageous what defines it today. Success can be considered to be defined by driving the best car, getting paid as much as you can for something. Wearing the best clothes. There’s a 10 year old girl in the congregation I serve who has decided that success is defined by her sense of style. What she is doing is connecting what she wears directly to how successful she is or is not that particular day. Success is also being right all of the time. 
It is both troubling and wonderful to watch people come to the realization that it isn’t about them. I work a lot with youth and with, what some are calling ‘emerging adults’- those 18-24 years old. Everything is about them. Their entire world revolves around what kind of grades they get, how something benefits or does not benefit them. To a point...In my experience many are self-absorbed, but the culture that they perpetuate and that others have boldly proclaimed is the dominant American culture, is one that gives back. The youth group of the church that I serve will turn out big numbers for a mission trip but for a trip to a fun destination they will often find something better to do. Why? Not because those activities that our youth minister has planned to be fun aren’t, but because they see themselves, I believe, as servant leaders. 
Our baptism connects us to a world that is completely different than the one we live in presently. It opens to the doors and windows of our whole selves and encourages us to change in new and dynamic ways as we refocus the lenses which we live in the world with and emerge born anew into the Body of Christ. That said, our baptism is not the end--it doesn’t mean that we are in ‘the club’ but that we are now commissioned to proclaim the Gospel with our whole lives. 
By virtue of our baptism, we have a responsibility to live out the teachings of Jesus Christ in a way that connects what goes on in a sanctuary every Sunday, or at another time, with what is going on in the Soup Kitchen, Starbucks, YMCA, or Tennis Club. We have a responsibility to open ourselves to be shaped and changed by the Gospel in a way that we choose the tough, Kingdom way, instead of the comfortable way. 
Are we willing to accept our baptismal vows? Are we ready to allow God to use us to change the world? Only time will tell...

Thursday, May 3, 2012

I Love Women, Bacon, and You!

If you know a United Methodist or are a United Methodist, you know that the United Methodist Super Bowl is happening right now. As I write the delegates that all of our Annual Conferences elected last year are nearing the end of their time in beautiful Tampa, Florida. New England delegation, I have some good news and some bad news for you. The good news is you can come home soon. The bad news is it’s been cold and rainy. Bring some Tampa sun-shine back with you. As I write, General Conference is on their lunch break. I am not there and haven’t been privy to the feel of the room, the side comments, and the snarkiness of delegates aside from what has been offered on the live stream. I have promised my colleagues that I have spent time with over the past week and a half that in four years I will stop giving play-by-plays as recorded on the General Conference Live Stream and Twitter and just attend in person and talk to those people instead of them. Friends, I’m counting on you to remind me that I’ve said this. There’s a great African-American spiritual:

 There is a balm in Gilead, To make the wounded whole;
There is a balm in Gilead, To heal the sin-sick soul.

 Some times I feel discouraged,
And think my work’s in vain,
But then the Holy Spirit
Revives my hope again.

 There is a balm in Gilead, To make the wounded whole;
There is a balm in Gilead, To heal the sin-sick soul.

 If you cannot sing like angels,
If you can’t preach like Paul,
You can tell the love of Jesus,
And say He died for all.

 There is a balm in Gilead, To make the wounded whole;
There is a balm in Gilead, To heal the sin-sick soul.

 Don't ever feel discouraged,
'Cause Jesus is your friend,
And if you lack for knowledge,
He'll never fail to lend.

There is a balm in Gilead, To make the wounded whole;
There is a balm in Gilead, To heal the sin-sick soul.

 Since 1972 the United Methodist Church has held the stance that Homosexuality is incompatible with Christian teachings...or that’s the official stance, anyway. I, as a United Methodist Clergy-person, do not affirm this statement. I don’t affirm that my brothers who are gay or my sisters who are lesbians go against God’s Word. In fact, the hateful prejudices that have infected the church since 1972 and before and have led us to a place where we cannot even agree to disagree are because we have built a fence around God’s Holy Truths--that all people, all of creation, is loved by God so fiercely that you can’t go anywhere to escape it. As you were called in one translation of one of the proposed amendments, I don’t believe you are ‘animals,’ unless that means that we as human beings are all animals and part of the animal kingdom, though something tells me the translator did not mean it that way. I do not believe you are to be stoned to death, even though that’s what the Bible says. I believe you are to be loved, honored, respected, and lifted up as part of God’s beautiful creation. You are beautiful people of God.

 I find it curious, peculier, and disheartening that we, as members of the body of Christ, have become focused on what someone does in their bedroom, in the kitchen, or in the back seat of the car in an abandoned parking lot with another person, but we aren’t worried about the other parts of the Old Testament that we seem so careless to toss around. By the looks of what little of the debate I saw this morning many people, wearing cheap suits, violated the no blended fabric rule. Women were allowed to speak in public (we actually ordain them! Can you believe that!?) And I would guess that at least one person consumed a pork product as part of their breakfast. Why not chastise them? Why not question their validity before God? Why not build walls to keep them out, instead of building bridges of understanding. It’s because in 1956 we saw that the ban on women speaking in public was no longer applied to our culture and voted to ordain women, even though women, by Old Testament law, are not permitted to speak in public. And, because silk or wool suits are expensive and bacon is so delicious. 

This morning’s proceedings and the statements which have followed prove that we have a lot of work to do. It proves that the United Methodist Church has a sin-sick soul. Brothers and sisters who have been at this justice-centered work longer than I have and whose lives are continuously called into question, as the great spiritual says: “Some times [you may] feel discouraged, And think [your] work’s in vain, But then the Holy Spirit [Will revive your] hope again.” The work of a fully inclusive church is far from over. I ceaselessly pray for the day when I can celebrate with others about the fact that the United Methodist Church is a fully inclusive church, regardless of one’s sexual orientation, race, ethnicity, socio-economic status, or age. Today, the work is far from over, some people feel discouraged, some people, thinking the work is in vain, have fled from the church, choosing ordination in other denominations or leaving the body of Christ all together. Some, in an act of desperation have taken their own lives because they believed that God could not love them, because of what their church had taught them. Hear this, though wonderfully made people of God: Your sexual orientation is just one part of the good things that God has done in you. You are beautifully and wonderfully made in God’s vastly diverse image. I love you and God loves you, too.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Lessons About God From Chewy-the-Dog

In November of 2010 my life changed forever. Previous to that day in the late November, days before Thanksgiving, I had merely tolerated dogs. They were creatures that I was, at times, forced to share temporary living space with, and no more. While I and my sisters were growing up we always had cats, for a short time there were hampsters and rabbits. My grandparents always had dogs and I remember getting attached to them, but no more than a child or youth could when visiting several times a year. Then, Chewy-the-Dog moved into the parsonage in Boothbay Harbor, Maine and suddenly life changed. Suddenly, there was another creature that woke me up in the morning, with a cold nose to my nose. There was another reason to go for a walk through town. There was something else to clean up after.

It’s true that Chewy-the-Dog reminded this bachelor that there is joy in sharing a living space with another living being. I think the best thing that Chewy-the-Dog has taught me, though, is how much God loves each and everyone of us.

Things my dog has taught me about God’s love:

No matter how much I screw up, Chewy is always glad to see me- I, like every other human being, am imperfect. I once told someone that I shoot to get things right about 10% of the time. There are days that I feel like I can’t do anything at all right. My family is disappointed, I managed to overlook a detail that was important to a parishioner, I got a parking ticket. It doesn’t matter what happens, when I walk through the door, Chewy’s tail starts wagging and he comes galloping through the kitchen ready to greet me, exuberantly. On the really tough days, he’s there to lay his head in my lap or sit really close to me on the couch as if to say, “don’t worry...it’ll be okay.” His simple actions serve to remind me that no matter where I go or how tough things seem to get, God is there, holding my hand, reminding me that it’s all okay.

Sometimes all you can do is throw a tennis ball- I, like many of my colleagues, work long hours and it is easy to get sucked into working 7 days a week. When Chewy thinks I’ve been working to much he’ll come running with a tennis ball or one of his chew-toys and will get me up to go to the backyard and throw his ball or play with his chew toy. Although he hasn’t learned the art of ‘fetch,’ his version of the game is more ‘fetch then chase,’ which involves me running around the backyard after him, until I’ve wrestled his ball from him, he understands the importance of taking time to stop and rest. It is easy to get sucked into believing that if you put one more hour of work into the day or work for weeks at a time, things in the world will improve. It is true that we are compelled to do God’s work. We are called to emulate the actions of Christ, but even Christ rested. God, on the 7th day of creation rested. We clergy are quick to point out that other professionals sometimes have a ‘savior complex’ but we are slow to realize that we can fall into that trap, too. Working harder and harder, and for what? Kingdom work requires long hours, and hard work but it is not our job to save the world, that’s God’s. It is our job to emulate Christ, to share God’s love and compassion in a world that is aching to know God and invite people into deeper relationships with the God that will save the world.

Even though the kibble never changes, Chewy is always thankful for a full bowl- Twice a day, I pour a cup of the same kibble into Chewy’s bowl. It never fails, when it is time to eat, Chewy is excited to eat what is put before him. When I see him excitedly turn from watching me make dinner, to his bowl and begin devouring the kibble that is just more of the same, it reminds me to be thankful even for the most mundane dish I am preparing. That I should not only be thankful for the wonderful bouillabaisse but also the hard boiled eggs and carrot sticks.

Car rides are the best- It’s not necessarily that we’re going to exciting places. In fact, Chewy-the-Dog and I have the same reaction about going to the doctor, except his reaction is more or less an outward expression of what I feel inside. He doesn’t freak out, because he really doesn’t freak out, but it’s certainly not his favorite place to visit. The exciting part is the journey. It’s the getting into the car and hanging his head out the window. It’s the new smells as we drive along. It’s simply the being with people that love him. As Christians, one of the major tenants of our faith, is that we are going onto perfection, that we someday will love the way God loves, and in some ways we could say that, in that moment ‘we have arrived.’ I certainly look forward to that day, but Chewy reminds me that it is the journey toward perfection that makes up the experience of the destination. The lessons learned on the road that make the difference in our experience. If we don’t live through every part of the journey, how can we appreciate the sweetness of perfection?

Everyday is a new adventure- I am not a morning person. It takes me a little while to get out of bed in the morning. This morning the alarm started going off one hour before I had to get out of bed. Once I am up, I am good to go, but it’s that time between the alarm going off for the first time and placing my feet on the floor that is probably the worst part of my day. Chewy, though, seems to look forward to what the day holds, even though his day usually starts the same way every day. He goes to the backyard, does his business, and then lays in ‘his spot.’ As we move about our day, there are opportunities to share God’s abundance with others. There are opportunities to share God’s peace with others. There are opportunities to be who God is calling you to be in each moment of each day, and that’s something exciting!

Chewy, in some ways, has taught me how love and be loved in return. No matter what happens day to day. No matter if every ball I have in the air crashes to the ground or if I get it all right, Chewy-the-dog is there to see me as God sees me--a beloved child who is just trying to get a small piece of life right.