A False Honeymoon

same sex marriage

This past Friday, as many expected, the Supreme Court, by a 5-4 vote, ruled that under the Constitution, “same-sex couples may exercise the fundamental right to marry.”  Brushing aside arguments about history and the purpose of marriage, Justice Kennedy, writing for the majority, wrote “No longer may this liberty be denied to them.”

This ruling should be no surprise to anyone.  All along, court-watchers knew that it would all come down to what Justice Kennedy thought about the issue.  The votes of the other eight justices were never really in doubt.  It was obvious that Justice Kennedy, as the author of Planned Parenthood’s infamous “mystery passage,” would have trouble excluding same-sex marriage from “the right to define one’s own concept of existence.”

Justice Kennedy’s opinion, along with the four dissenting opinions, will be dissected and analyzed for some time.  For all you Christians out there, who find yourselves really shaken up over this decision, I would like to console you a bit by stating what should be very obvious to you: Five Justices of the Supreme Court cannot redefine marriage itself, not any more than Roe vs. Wade could redefine the sanctity of life.

Just as Roe vs. Wade marked a new phase in the struggle for the sanctity of life and the dignity of new persons, Friday’s decision marks a new phase in the fight for the God-ordained gift of family.

Of course, that’s not what the majority of the Court would have us believe.  That is why Justice Kennedy framed his opinion as the next logical step in the history of our evolving ideas about freedom and equality.

The key word in that sentence is “evolving.”  In Kennedy’s take, our forebears who had moral objections to same-sex relations, never mind same-sex marriage, were unenlightened and cruel.  This idea that Kennedy is sharing to the American public is, at its very essence, chronological snobbery.  This idea was way too much for Chief Justice Roberts who, in dissent, wrote, “The Court today not only overlooks our entire country’s history and tradition, but actively repudiates it, referring to live only in the heady day of the here and now.  To blind yourself to history is both prideful and unwise.”

These are strong words, but Chief Justice Roberts was not the only one who felt this decision was a demonstration of arrogance at its very extreme.  Allan Carlson recently wrote, “same-sex marriage is merely the current enthusiasm of a relatively small number of deracinated, secularized, mostly childless, and largely white elites in ten percent of the world’s countries.”  He continues, “Despite intense forms of bribery and extortion now practiced by the United States and the European Union, few other nations are likely to join ‘the West’ in this latest surrender to the sexual revolution.”

Unfortunately as of last Friday, we now live among the ten percent.  While Carlson is correct when he writes that in the long run, as viewed from a Christian perspective, last Friday’s decision will “mean little,” in the short-to-medium run it poses challenges for believers.

There is no doubt that there are a lot of people with very strong opinions and beliefs on both sides of the issue.  If you would humor me a little, I would like to share with you some of my thoughts on the issue.

Let me start by saying that I am a Christian, I believe in God, and I have an active, growing relationship with God.  Whenever I have a question about what I should believe or how I should stand on any issue, I go to the guidebook that God has provided to me, the Holy Bible.  When you look in the Bible, there are two different parts that discuss the idea of marriage and what marriage should be.  I would like to take a look at both parts and go from there.

 

Genesis 1:26-27 (NIV)

26 Then God said, “Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness, so that they may rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky, over the livestock and all the wild animals, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.”

27 So God created mankind in his own image,
    in the image of God he created them;
    male and female he created them.

 

Matthew 19:4-6 (NIV)

“Haven’t you read,” he replied, “that at the beginning the Creator ‘made them male and female,’ and said, ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh’? So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate.”

 

It is clear, to me, from reading these passages, that God created man and woman, as separate, but both in His own image.  He created both male and female to rule over all the animals and creatures of this world.  God created male and female to be united as one and the two will become one.  Once, joined the two should not be separated.  At no point in the Bible does it state that man should be united with man or woman should be united with woman.  I believe that if God had any intention in His great plan for our lives thought that involved same-sex marriage, He would have discussed that in the Bible.  Since He did not, it is my belief that same-sex marriage directly violates God’s plan for our lives and is therefore, by definition, a sin.

With that being said, I also want us to go a little further and again look at the Bible and see what it says about the idea of us judging the sins of others.

 

James 4:11-12 (NIV)

11 Brothers and sisters, do not slander one another. Anyone who speaks against a brother or sister[a] or judges them speaks against the law and judges it. When you judge the law, you are not keeping it, but sitting in judgment on it.12  There is only one Lawgiver and Judge, the one who is able to save and destroy. But you—who are you to judge your neighbor?

 

Romans 2:1-4 (NIV)

You, therefore, have no excuse, you who pass judgment on someone else, for at whatever point you judge another, you are condemning yourself, because you who pass judgment do the same things. Now we know that God’s judgment against those who do such things is based on truth. So when you, a mere human being, pass judgment on them and yet do the same things, do you think you will escape God’s judgment? Or do you show contempt for the riches of his kindness, forbearance and patience, not realizing that God’s kindness is intended to lead you to repentance?

 

Matthew 7:1-5 (NIV)

“Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.

“Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.

 

John 8:1-7 (NIV)

 

but Jesus went to the Mount of Olives.

At dawn he appeared again in the temple courts, where all the people gathered around him, and he sat down to teach them. The teachers of the law and the Pharisees brought in a woman caught in adultery. They made her stand before the group and said to Jesus, “Teacher, this woman was caught in the act of adultery. In the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women. Now what do you say?” They were using this question as a trap, in order to have a basis for accusing him.

But Jesus bent down and started to write on the ground with his finger. When they kept on questioning him, he straightened up and said to them, “Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.”

 

I am not going to say that all sins are equal, but every single person who has ever lived on earth, with the exception of Jesus Himself, have committed sin.  This is clearly stated in the book of Romans:

 

Romans 3:23 (NIV)

23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,

We all sin, but as we read in the above passages, it is not our place, as humans to judge the sins of others.  Only God has the right to judge our sins.

If Christians start getting angry at gays and start lashing out at them, they are just in the wrong as those participating in those same-sex marriages.  If people are going to pull out their Bibles to show people, in anger, where it says what they are doing wrong, they need to be prepared to look up in the Bible the parts that talk about judging sin as being wrong.

God tells us that we are to show love and forgiveness towards all our brothers and sisters on earth no matter what sin or sins they have committed.  We need to do this because God has commanded us to do so and He has done this for each and every one of us.

With that being said, I feel that, if 2 gay people choose to get married, during the ceremony, there should be no mention of God or any reference to the Bible at all.  Our country has declared that it is OK for same sex marriage, but God has not.  If one is to choose to engage in a same sex marriage, it is wrong to bring God into it.  That is my opinion so you can choose to agree or disagree, however you see fit.

To summarize, here is what I believe regarding same-sex marriage:

Sin is wrong.  Same-sex marriage is a sin.  Same-sex marriage is wrong.  Humans judging the sins of others is wrong.  Only God has the right to judge sins.  We are all called to show love and forgiveness to all people, just as God loves and forgives us.

This past Sunday, the pastor at the church I attend here in Ames, took the time to read a letter that the newly appointed president of the EFCA (Kevin Kompelien) wrote to the entire membership of the EFCA, talking about this very topic.  I thought the letter was very well written and I would like to share with you a portion of what it said:

The Word of God is clear in both Genesis 1:26-27 and Matthew 19:4-6 that marriage was established by God and is a covenant relationship between a man and a woman.  The EFCA Spiritual Heritage Committee in a document entitled “A Church Statement on Human Sexuality,” gives the following suggested definition of marriage:

Marriage is the original and foundational institution of human society, established by God as a one-flesh, covenantal union between a man and a woman that is life-long (until separated by death), exclusive (monogamous and faithful), and generative in nature (designed for bearing and rearing children), and it is to reflect the relationship between Christ and the Church.

The reality of the situation for us as the people of God is that today’s Supreme Court decision did not take God by surprise nor does it in any way change the Biblical definition of marriage.  Rather it is a call for us to clearly embrace our Lord’s definition of marriage and to respond to this recent development with grace and truth like He would (John 1:14).  It will be important that our responses reflect the character and heart of Jesus to the world around us.

We have moved into a time when our perspective on marriage is no longer supported by the law of our nation and is quickly being abandoned by a growing number of Americans.  However, this is not a time to wring our hands in despair or to respond in anger.  Responses of fear or anger will not honor the Lord nor will they demonstrate the redemptive power of the gospel.  Rather this is an opportunity for us to be the church and to live out what we say we believe.

Now is the time for us to commit to pray for the leaders of our nation as Paul wrote in Romans 13:1-7, to be gracious to those who don’t share our views and love them as people created in the image of God, and to engage the world around us on this issue in ways that speak truth and point people to the redeeming gospel of Jesus.

As these events unfold in our nation we must ever more clearly stand on the truth of God’s Word regarding marriage, demonstrate to the world around us the beauty of loving Christian marriages, and commit ourselves to teach and model Biblical marriage to our children and grandchildren who are growing up in a rapidly changing future.

None of us knows exactly what challenges the future holds for the church and for us as followers of Jesus.  What we do know is that the Lord of the church is in charge and he has a plan that he will work to completion to His ultimate glory.  It will be important for all of us to be prayerful and wise as we lead the church and our families in the days to come.

I think that this letter is very well-written.  In essence, we need to leave the consequences of this decision up to God and His plan and put our focus into loving God, loving others, and a lot of prayer to and about both.

Now more than ever, we need to emphasize instructing our kids in the fullness of the Christian faith.  They have to learn what marriage really is, not what the Court and the culture would have us believe it is.

We need to be prepared for the inevitable impact this decision will have on how we practice our faith.

Like the pro-life movement learned to do in the wake of Roe vs. Wade, we’ll need to find ways to help those victimized by this chapter of the sexual revolution.  Every other chapter has had its victims.  This one will too.

Most of all though, we need to pray that God would equip us for and sustain us through these challenges.  As Carlson put it, “The twenty-first Christian century should actually be an exciting time to be alive for believers call to witness to the Truth.  Despair is useless.  Hope is certain.”

I say Amen to that!

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Choosing Forgiveness in Charleston

Charleston

Some acts are so terrible, it seems wrong to even talk about them.  Some acts, however, are so gracious, we marvel at them and must talk about them.

Today, I felt compelled to talk about the events of last week, the horrific killing of nine people at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina.

Why you might ask.  The reason is that in that tragic event, we are seeing how light can overcome darkness.  How love can overcome hate.

As most of you already know, on June 17th, a man described as “white, with sandy-blond hair, around 21 years old and 5 feet 9 inches in height, wearing a gray sweatshirt and jeans” entered Emanuel and participated in a Bible study led by the Church’s pastor, Clementa C. Pinckney.  At about 9 pm, the man, subsequently identified as Dylann Roof, opened fire killing nine people, including Pastor Pinckney.

Almost as quickly as the reports came out, the political pundits, both liberal and conservative, started using the shooting to further their pet causes, from banning the Confederate flag to the need to permit people to carry guns in church.  I guess that is to be expected in our society.

What is not what you would expect in today’s society, was the fact that the people of Emanuel church wanted to talk about something far more important: grace and forgiveness.

In an interview with the BBC, the children of Sharonda Singleton, one of the victims, told the reporter, “We already forgive (Dylann Roof) and there’s nothing but love from our side of the family.”

They weren’t alone.  Stephen Singleton, Emanuel’s former pastor, told NPR that “we’re people of faith, and people of faith know that we heal.  God helps us heal.  This doesn’t drive us away from God.  This drives us to God, and that’s why I’m here now.”  When asked what his former parishioners had told him, he continued, “There are a lot of broken hearts, a lot of sorrow and a lot of healing to be done.  And that’s what we’re going to work on, and that’s what we’re going to focus on because if we get bitter and angry, we just make a bad situation worse.”

A relative of another victim, Myra Thompson, said “I forgive him and family forgives him.  But we would like him to take this opportunity to repent” and “give your life to the One who matters most: Christ.”

Senator Tim Scott, appearing on Face the Nation said that while Roof may have intended to ignite a war between the races, he brought the people of Charleston closer together.

I think the apostle Paul may have said it best in the books of Galatians and Ephesians:

Galatians 3:28 (NIV)

28 There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.

 

Ephesians 2:14-16 (NIV)

14 For he himself is our peace, who has made the two groups one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility, 15 by setting aside in his flesh the law with its commands and regulations. His purpose was to create in himself one new humanity out of the two, thus making peace, 16 and in one body to reconcile both of them to God through the cross, by which he put to death their hostility.

 

Ephesians 2:18 (NIV)

18 For through him we both have access to the Father by one Spirit.

We are all one in the eyes of God.  All nations, all races, all sexes are God’s children.  He created us, He loves us beyond our comprehension, and He wants to have a close relationship with each and every one of us.  We have come a long way since the last century, but do not be fooled; racism still exists and it is still a problem.  As long as there is sin in this world, it will always be a problem.  Racism is cowardly and hateful and is so far away from God and His plans for our lives.

But the people of Emanuel have responded in a way that is distinctly, if not uniquely, Christian: loving those who hate you, forgiving those who sin against you, and blessing those who would persecute you.  The way they are handling this goes against what our culture would say to do.  Their responses shine out like a great beacon in the world around them that is filled with darkness and hate.  Through these people and their responses, we see that Jesus does still live among us, in the souls of these brave victims.

Christian ideas may no longer have the same power in our culture that they once had.  But they are not completely absent.  Against the kind of grace on display in Charleston, there is no argument that God does exist and He is evident through people who are willing to respond with love and forgiveness instead of hate.

We even saw this on display in Roof’s capture.  A North Carolina woman, at great personal risk, followed Roof’s car until she was sure it was him and then called the police.  When asked why, she replied, “I had been praying for those people on my way to work … I was in the right place at the right time that the Lord puts you.”

I think that this tragedy is reminiscent of the horrific event from years ago, the murder of five Amish girls in Nickel Mines, Pennsylvania.  The members of the Amish community forgave the murderer.  The families of the victims reached out to the widow of the perpetrator.  At that time, Chuck Colson asked these key questions: “How are we working, in our own communities, to build cultures of grace?  Are we teaching our children to forgive?  Are we actively working to restore offenders and reach out in aid to victims?  Are we overcoming evil in the world by good, as we are commanded to do?”

In this case my question to all of us is: If evil and tragedy come our way, are we ready to respond in love the same way our brothers and sisters in Charleston have?

I think it is important that we pray for those who are suffering from this painful event, but I also think it is important that we find it in our hearts to pray for the person who caused this.  We need to pray that through this event he can come to find God in his life and develop a relationship with Him.  If we can do that, then we are demonstrating God’s love and forgiveness in our own hearts and we are helping those who are suffering to heal.  If we are not able to do that, then we are letting the darkness win.  We are letting the evil associated with this tragic event win and that would be an even bigger tragedy.

Prayer is great, but we need to go beyond prayer.  We need to relate to these victims and use their response as a model for how we react to evil.  We all have the power within us to diffuse the effects of evil, but we have to make the choice within our own hearts, and choose how we respond, and if we can respond with love and forgiveness, know that we can make a difference in our world, even if it is a small one.

What happened in Charleston is a tragic reminder of the great darkness in the world.  But in the aftermath we see the truth that the “light shines in the darkness and the darkness cannot overcome it.”

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Service Please

service

A few weeks ago, someone shared a link to me that showed the Top 10 Service Phrases Anyone Who Works with Others Should Know.

I thought it was really good and served as a great reminder that we should all serve one another.  I think that these are words that we should all try to use more when dealing with other people.  They are important to say not only to customers you talk to through work, but in how you interact with all people at all times.  This list is oriented towards business, but it can be easily adapted to you non-business dealings as well.

I know there are times that I do a pretty good job at saying these things, but there are other times when I have not said these words and I really should have.  I wanted to share this list with you so that we can all be reminded of the things we should be saying to show people that we really do want to serve them.

 

Top 10 Service Phrases Anyone Who Works with Others Should Know

 

The Ten most important words:

“I apologize for our/my mistake.  Let me make it right.”

When something goes wrong, most people just want to be heard and acknowledged.  So listen, apologize, then ask what you can do to make it right.

 

The Nine most important words:

“Thank you for your business, please come back again.”

Repeat customers cost less than new customers and are often more loyal.

 

The Eight most important words:

“I’m not sure, but I will find out.”

It’s ok if you don’t know the answer; it’s not ok to make the customer keep searching for it.  That’s your job.

 

The Seven most important words:

“What else can I do for you?”

Be prepared to go the extra mile; there is less competition there.

 

The Six most important words:

“What is most convenient for you?”

Your customers will be pleasantly surprised when you ask what’s convenient for them.

 

The Five most important words:

“How may I serve you?”

This question reinforces your role in the relationship.  Play that role the best that you can.

 

The Four most important words:

“How did we do?”

Feedback is critical.  Your customers have a unique perspective and they appreciate being asked.

 

The Three most important words:

“Glad you’re here!”

Customers who feel welcome spend more time, more money and are more likely to return.

 

The Two most important words:

“Thank you.”

Basic manners, but how often do you get thanked when you’re the customer?

 

The One most important word:

“Yes.”

Become a yes person.

 

Are there any other important phrases you can think of when serving others?  If you make it a priority to serve others, your rewards will come back in a much greater proportion than the time and effort you put in to serving.  People want to feel appreciated and when you can show that, it goes a really long way.

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Seek Him First

idol

Over time, our culture has become numb to the concept of worship.  People bow down to many things, seeking fulfillment and pleasure in the things of this world.  But since God is our ultimate fulfillment (and why we were made), people will continue to remain unfulfilled until they find Him.  The problem with things of this world is that they are of this world.  They do not last.  Nothing on earth lasts.  People all die.  From the moment we are born we begin to age and we will all eventually die at some point.  All the animals die.  All the plants die.  Buildings are built and eventually fall down.  Everything, but God, has a shelf life.  Yet, people continue to look for happiness and fulfillment from things other than Him.  And in the distance, God patiently awaits the return of His children from their wanderings.

I want to challenge each of you to ask yourself this crucial question:

Who are you bowing down to?

Maybe you are bowing down to the god of approval?  If your happiness is dependent on what others think about you, then that might be the case.  Maybe you are bowing down to stuff?  Things like clothes, cars, houses, shoes,…etc.  Maybe you are bowing down to the god of money?  I know that there are many times in my life that I have put things in my life ahead of God.  These were things that had no business being the focus of my life.  Patiently, God has seen me through this and still loves me the same and welcomes me with open arms.

God clearly tells us in the Bible that we should not have other idols before Him.  Jesus tells us that we can’t serve Him and idols at the same time.  It has to be one or the other.  Any time we put our focus on idols, it takes our focus off of Him.  We should strive to keep our focus on Him and try to be like Jesus in how we live our lives each and every day.  If you’ve built idols in your heart, then you need refocus your focus on God and let Him give you the strength to tear those other idols down.

No matter what your temptation is, you can find wisdom and strength in God’s Word.  That means that we have got to open our Bibles and start reading them regularly.  When we read the Bible and make ourselves open to change, God will change us from the inside out.  I recommend starting with the book of Proverbs.  This book is ideally suited to regular reading.  There are 31 chapters in the book of Proverbs and there are 31 days in most months.  Commit to reading one chapter of Proverbs each day for one whole month and see if you are the same at the end of that month as you were when you started.  As you dive into each chapter, you’ll soak in timeless instruction, explore a biblical illustration of human love, and be challenged to live abundantly with God as your source of life.

Our temporary pursuits can never compare to the eternal riches that God has in store for us.  May you find your ultimate satisfaction in your Creator, Sustainer, Savior, and Redeemer-Jesus.

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Bosco’s Last Gift

dog heaven

Just two nights ago I heard the news.  Bosco, my wife’s family dog had to be put to sleep.  It was hard news for everyone to hear.  Bosco had reached the point where he could no longer get up so he was just lying there on his comforter on the porch.  His family knew his time was up so they had to make the very hard decision to take him to the vet and have him put to sleep.  Bosco slowly passed into the night on Wed. 5/27/15.

On one hand, he was 16 years old and outlived most dogs born when he was born.  His body was riddled with various lumps and tumors.  He had almost completely lost his hearing and he did not see very well.  He was losing weight and was mostly skin and bones.  Most would say it was his time to go and they would be right.  After all, he had lived a very long, full life.

On the other hand, all those things can’t trump the emotional connection you make with your pet.  For 16 years Bosco was there.  He was there on the good days and he was there on the bad days and never once did he complain.  He just loved and was as loyal as the day is long.  That is what good dogs do and he was one of the best.

When a pet becomes so intertwined with the fabric and makeup of a family, it is never easy to let that pet go, even if it is the right thing to do.  I have known Bosco for the past 4 years, but his family has known him his whole life.  Bosco’s death brought tears to my eyes, but to his family, it must have been even more devastating.

I believe that God put dogs on this earth to show us how we should live our lives, but never quite do.  Dogs love unconditionally, are not racist, and are not uncomfortable around gays.  They treat males and females the same.  Dogs do not judge or hold grudges.  They are always happy to see you when you get home and they never leave you, at least while they are alive.  Dogs are everything we could hope to be, but aren’t.

I think this quote really sums up what dogs are:

Dogs are our link to paradise.  They don’t know evil or jealously or discontent.  To sit with a dog on a hillside on a glorious afternoon is to be back in Eden, where doing nothing was not boring.  It was peace.

                                                                                                                     Milan Kundera

I was lucky enough to spend time with Bosco this past weekend.  I pet him several times throughout the extended weekend.  On Sunday, the family was shredding up pork butt that Todd and Corey had just smoked.  I ended up with two big hunks of mostly fat and snuck them onto the back porch to give them to Bosco.  Todd has told me over and over not to feed Bosco scraps, but I couldn’t resist.  Bosco quickly ate both pieces and then licked my hand with appreciation.  It made him very happy and that was the most important thing.

We have continued to watch Bosco’s health worsen and Todd and I had discussed that the time would soon be coming when he would have to be put down.  I told him that I did not think he would make it through another winter so maybe sometime this fall would be a good time to have him put down.  Those decisions are never easy to make.

On Memorial Day, I noticed on more than one occasion, Bosco was standing there and his hind legs were stretched out, almost like he was having trouble supporting his own weight.  Meghan noticed it too.  I did mention it to the family, but he wasn’t doing it all the time so we didn’t think too much of it.  I’m not sure why, but at one point on that day, I had this feeling that Bosco was getting very near to the end and that this might be the last time I would ever see him.  Call it intuition or just a sense from being around animals so much growing up.  I just had that feeling.  I have always felt a sense of closeness with animals and seemed to know what they were thinking.  I was an only child so on many occasions growing up, various pets were the closest things I had to brothers or sisters.  I loved animals so much in fact, that I have devoted a great deal of my life to them by becoming a veterinarian.  I always felt like it was my responsibility to stand up for animal’s welfare since many of animals can’t do that for themselves.

I woke up early on Tuesday before any of the rest of the family was up yet.  I had to leave early for work by 6 am that morning.  I still had that strong sense that this was somehow the last time I was going to see Bosco so I took a couple of minutes and sat down beside him as he lay there, half asleep, on his dog pillow by the TV.  I sat there and gently petted his head and scratched behind his ears, which he likes so much.  He put his head up and looked at me with sad eyes as though he was saying goodbye.  As I look back on that moment, I realize what a special and precious moment that really was.  It is a shame that can’t really appreciate the magnitude of those moments as they are happening.  It is only in the recesses of our memories that those moments blossom into their full importance.

As Bosco and I shared that moment, through his old and tired eyes, he shared with me a lifetime of memories he had.  Memories of a life of loving those around him and of being loved.  Even though Bosco could never write or speak to make his last will, I am going to attempt to create his will for him based on what I think he would have said if he could.

Here is Bosco’s last gift to his family.  Here is Bosco’s will and last words:

 

I, Bosco Hassebrock (familiarly known to my family, friends, and acquaintances simply as “Bosco”), because the burden of my years and infirmities that are heavy upon me, and I realize the end of my life is near, do hereby bury my last will and testament in the mind of my Master.  He will not know it is there until after I am gone.  Then, remembering me in his loneliness, he will suddenly know of this testament, and I ask him to then to inscribe it as a memorial to me.

I have little in the way of material things to leave.  Dogs are wiser than men.  They do not set great store upon things.  They do not waste their day hoarding property.  They do not ruin their sleep worrying about how to keep the objects they have, and to obtain the objects they still want to have.  There is nothing of value I have to bequeath except my love and my faith.  These I leave to all those who have loved me.  To my Master Todd and Mary who will morn me the most, to Stephanie, Meghan, and Corey who have been so good to me.  To little Conor, who has made my last years feel young again.  If I listed all of those I have known and have loved me, my Master would have to write a book.  Perhaps it is vain of me to boast when I am so near death, which returns all beasts and vanities to dust, but I have always been an extremely lovable dog.

I ask my family to remember me always, but not to grieve for me too long.  In my life I have tried to be a comfort to them in times of sorrow, and a reason for added joy in their happiness.  It is painful for me to think that even in death, I should cause them pain.  Let them remember that while no dog has ever had a happier life (and this I owe to their love and care for me), now that I have grown blind and deaf and lame, and even my sense of smell fails me so that rabbit could be right under my nose and I might not know, my pride has sunk to a sick, bewildered humiliation.  I feel life is taunting me with having over-lingered my welcome.  It is time I said good-bye, before I become too sick and a burden on myself and on those who love me.  It will be sorrow to leave them, but not a sorrow to die.  Dogs do not fear death as people do.  We accept it as part of life, not as something alien and terrible which destroys life.  What may come after death, who knows?  I would like to believe, along with all my fellow dogs who have passed before me, that there is a Heaven where one is always young and full of energy; where all the day one dillies and dallies with a loving multitude of angels.  A place where jack rabbits, that run fast, but not too fast, are as the sands in a desert.  A place where each blissful hour is mealtime and where in the long evenings, there are millions of fireplaces with logs that are forever burning and one curls oneself up and blinks into the flames and nods and dreams, remembering the old brave days spent on earth, and the love of one’s family still there.

I am afraid this is too much for even such a dog as I am to expect.  But peace, at least, is certain.  Peace and long rest for a weary old heart and head and limbs, and eternal sleep in the earth that I have loved so well.  Perhaps, after all, this is best.

One last request I earnestly make.  When I am gone, please do not say, “When Bosco dies we must never have another dog.  I love him so much I could never love another one.”  I would ask, for love of me, to have another dog.  It would be a poor tribute to my memory never to have a dog again.  What I would like to feel is that, have once had me in the family, now my family can’t live without a dog.  I have never had a narrow, jealous spirit.  I have always held the belief that most dogs (and maybe even a couple of cats) are good.  Some dogs, of course are better than others.  Boxers, as everyone knows, are the best.  So I suggest a Boxer to be my successor.  He can hardly be as well-mannered or as distinguished and handsome as I was in my prime.  My Master must not ask the impossible.  But he will do his best, I am sure, and even his inevitable defects will help by comparison to keep my memory green.  To him, I bequeath my collar, leash, pillow, and comforter.  He will never give them the distinction that I did, but again I am sure he will do his utmost not to appear a mere gauche provincial dog.  Here in this small town, he may prove himself quite worthy of comparison, in some respects.  He will, I presume, come closer to rabbits than I have been able to in recent years.  And for his faults, I hereby wish him the happiness I know will be his in my old home.

One last word of farewell, dear Master, family, and friends.  Whenever you think of me, say to yourselves with regret, but also with happiness in your hearts at the remembrance of my long, happy life with you: “Here lies one who loved us and whom we loved.”  No matter how deep my sleep I shall hear you, and not all the power of death can keep my spirit from wagging a grateful tail.

                                                                                                   Forever and Loyally Yours,

                                                                                                   Bosco

 

Don’t worry buddy, you will never be forgotten and you will always be loved.  Take it easy on those rabbits up there.

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The Unsung Peacemakers of Baltimore

Baltimore

Even though we are a few weeks removed from the events that happened in Baltimore, I want to bring us back to those events just for the sake of trying to get a fuller picture of the events that took place.  It was not all bad things that came out of this.

While the destruction was very troubling, not everything that happened was bad.  Sometimes, out of great tragedy, we see heroes step up and do great things in bad situations.  They are like little beacons of light in an overall dark place.  We saw this very thing so powerfully on 9/11 and the weeks and months following that great tragedy.

If you were like me, you saw the images coming from Baltimore and the destruction to that city very troublesome.  Following the funeral of Freddie Gray, a man who died in the custody of Baltimore police, rioters in Baltimore torched countless vehicles, businesses, and community assets.  With police officers injured and some 200 rioters arrested, no wonder Maryland’s governor called in the National Guard.  Destroying property and endangering lives is not a protest, it’s a crime.  Lighting things on fire is not the right course of action.

I am a White Sox fan and because of the riots, the Orioles and White Sox played the first game in the history of baseball in which fans were not allowed into the stadium to watch the game.  This was because they decided that they could not spare security or any law enforcement to be at the game.  The Sox lost by the way.

The steady stream of images and sound-bites coming from Baltimore quickly got wearisome not because they weren’t true, but because they weren’t the whole truth.

In an article that ran in the Washington Post, Trilla Newbell of the Southern Baptist Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission asked, “can we please start sharing the good news out of Baltimore?”

If you didn’t know that there was good news, you were not alone.  Newbell calls them “stories of quiet faithfulness.”  There were photos of Baltimore residents forming human barricades to keep rioters from the police, children passing out bottles of water to National Guardsmen, and a video of a Vietnam vet shooing hoodlums away.  These photos showed a side of the city that many people never saw.

But what really filled me with hope was the response made by the Christians of Baltimore.  Local pastors locked arms and marched into the heart of the riots, urged people to remain calm, and even held impromptu church services in the streets.  A video was shown of a chorus of “Amazing Grace” breaking out into the streets.  There were images of church volunteers sweeping up broken glass among all the chaos.  These were just a few of the moving images and stories that leaked out on Twitter while footage of burning police cars dominated the TV coverage.

After several schools closed, several area churches opened their doors to provide safe place for students.  Some, like Metropolitan United Methodist, handed out sack lunches to kids who otherwise would not have eaten.

Brad O’Brien, a Baptist minister and church planter, turned out with others early on that Tuesday morning to help with the cleanup.  “We know that if the Gospel can resurrect our dead hearts then it can bring hope to this community,” he said, trash bag in hand.  “Our hope is not in our police chief or the governor.  Our hope is in Christ alone.”

Amen.  I agree completely.

Perhaps the most profound moment was a Monday night CNN report on the three-alarm fire at a community center.  Slated to open this year, the Mary Harvin Transformation Center was a joint project between churches looking to provide housing, recreation, and a family atmosphere in one of Baltimore’s roughest neighborhoods.

Looking on as flames engulfed years of work, Reverend Donte’ Hickman of Southern Baptist Church had nothing to offer but forgiveness.  “My heart is broken,” he said.  “…somebody obviously didn’t understand that we were working on behalf of the community…we were seeking to restore people.”

“What do you see here?” asked a reporter.

“I see revival,” Hickman calmly replied.  “I see the opportunity to rebuild from the ashes.”

As Chuck Colson once said, “In the worst of times, Christians do the best of things.”

There’s no question that what happened in Baltimore was the worst of times, but the examples of Christian citizens who weren’t content to spectate or to curse the darkness, brought me great hope.

You can be sure that for the residents of Baltimore, these peacemakers did what the rioters failed to do: they brought positive change.  Even if not all of them made the evening news.

Let’s learn from their example and the next time the world around us is filled with darkness, let’s step up and be shining lights of hope.  Let’s be the people who God created us to be.  Let’s let the ways of love and peace guide our thoughts and actions.  Those are the very first baby steps to real and lasting change.

Posted in Accountability, Attitude, Change, Communication, Decisions, Evangelism, God, Hope, Image, Influence, Inspirational, Life Stories, Motivational, Opportunity, Reinventing Yourself, Relationships, Social Media, Thoughts/Mindset | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Choose to Make the First Move

first move

Colossians 3:12 (NLT)

12 Since God chose you to be the holy people he loves, you must clothe yourselves with tender-hearted mercy, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience.

Too often, when something doesn’t go the way we expect it to, we make the mistake of telling ourselves, “It’s not fair.  It’s not right.  When that changes, when that improves, then I’ll have a better attitude.”  Sitting around and waiting for your circumstances to change before you get on with your plans just won’t result in the plans you have.  You have to make the first move.  If you do your part, then God will do His part.  We need to quit worrying about God changing another person and allow God to change us first.

It can be really hard to have a good attitude when it seems like life is down on you.  Remaining positive when it seems like nothing is going your way can be a real challenge.  It can be really easy to get down on yourself and say maybe I should just settle.  Don’t settle though.  Get the right attitude and you will find that you will be lifted out of the hole that you are currently in and you will be raised up to new heights that you did not know were even possible.

Is there something you’re letting overwhelm you?  Maybe you think it’s too much to handle.  Make the decision to get up each morning and tell yourself, “God, I want to thank You that I can handle a difficult boss.  I can handle getting stuck in traffic.  I can handle my plans not working out.  Lord, thank You that I’ll have a good attitude wherever I am.”

We need to decide ahead of time that we are going to stay in an attitude of faith and expectancy.  Choose to show the characteristics of mercy, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience.  Even when others do not show these qualities towards you, you choose to show these qualities back to them anyway.

We need to choose God’s ways and let Him order our steps all the days of our life.  If we can do this, we will find that this life will be pretty amazing and the next life will be exponentially better than this one.

Posted in Attitude, Change, Communication, Decisions, God, Image, Influence, Inspirational, Leadership, Leaving a Legacy, Mentoring, Motivational, Opportunity, Performance, Reinventing Yourself, Relationships, Selling, Serving, Thoughts/Mindset | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment