Thursday, March 31, 2016

All Dogs Go to Heaven

"Scratch a dog and you'll find a permanent job."

Ah, yes! Find a dog to pet and you've made a friend for life. I am more partial to dogs so if you are a cat lover and have them as pets, kudos to you, but there ain't nothing like a dog.

 A dog will greet you at the door when you first get home.

A dog will lie by your side no matter what your feeling or what condition you are in.

A dog will welcome you home after a week's long journey as if you had been gone for months.

Some have even trained their dog to go get them a beer out of the fridge or cooler. Oh, the humanity!!

Well, you get the gist of it. Cats carry on the persona of "you exist to serve me" where as a dog it is
"I exist to serve you." Cats want to be loved by you, where as dogs want to give you the attention.

Everyday we see countless stories of dogs welcoming their soldier companions home from a 6 month or longer tour of duty and the dogs are jumping and hugging and woofing it up like there's no tomorrow. Then we have the unfortunate incidents of a dog losing it's master and are seen lying by their coffin knowing that they are gone.

Dogs carry with them emotions just like us humans. A recent video gone viral is of a dog celebrating his 11th birthday in style. His owners wanted to do something special for their dog who was diagnosed with cancer and given a short time left to live. They gave him a birthday cake and a giant box of dog stuffies to tear apart. The dog went crazy with joy. The family treated him as one of the family and rightfully so.

A handful of years ago while walking the dog through the neighborhood, I saw a Lost Dog poster. Along with a photo of the dog and contact information was this message:

Lost Dog
Pees on the carpet
Chews the kids toys
Digs holes in the yard
Still want him back

Yep, part of the family. All pets are part of the family and play an integral part to our lives.

Beside carrying with them emotions and feelings, dogs are smart. Some are used as service dogs, others as police dogs, and others are used to comfort both seniors and hospital patients. I love the technique one dentist uses to calm his patients, especially the children; he has his golden retriever hang around the office and dentist chair to unnerve those fears.

For all of the good that dogs do in particular to enrich the lives of others, why wouldn't we see our beloved pets in heaven. One would argue that they don't have a soul, but yet they do carry the same emotions and feelings that us humans do and they provide comfort and peace to others.

One definition of soul: the spiritual or immaterial part of a human being or animal. regarded as immortal.

Another dictionary defines soul as: the spirit and essence of a person.

So, it really isn't too far-fetched to say 'dogs got to heaven'. And not just dogs, but cats and any other pets as well.  Our pets serve a specific purpose here on earth and I'm glad they do, especially dogs!

If you are interested and if I've peeked your interest on cats vs. dogs, there is an excellent book out called Cat and Dog Theology. Just click on the link to Intervarsity Press on my home page and check it out.


Thursday, March 24, 2016

More Than Words

"Great thoughts speak only to the thoughtful mind, but great actions speak to all mankind."
- Theodore Roosevelt

While researching great quotes about action vs. words, I was somewhat surprised yet amused at how many of these sayings came from politicians. Ahh, if only they could truly live up to their words and promises!

Actions do speak louder than words.

1. The other day at a senior assisted living facility, I sat down next to an elderly woman named Harriet who was in a wheel chair. She was soft spoken and I really couldn't comprehend all that she was saying. But she was grinning from ear to ear as I spoke to her. Perhaps it was because I took the time to recognize her and sit down to talk with her.

2. One of my favorite films is the 1946 classic The Best Years of our Lives. It tells the stories of three men coming home from World War II and finding difficulty connecting back to civilian life. One of the men is a sailor named Homer, a star football player who became engaged to the girl next door named Wilma. After losing both hands in the war, Homer returns home but doesn't want to burden Wilma with his handicap so he eventually pushes her away. But each time Homer pushes Wilma away she still says, "I love you."

For as many times Wilma declared "I love you", Homer didn't believe it, thinking she was just playing the sympathy card, until one night when Homer decides to show her what she would have to live with. Homer asks her to come upstairs and tuck him in his bed good night.

Wilma unbuttons his shirt and Homer wiggles out of the strap upon each shoulder which harnesses his hooks for hands. Wilma, with no hesitation or awkwardness upon her, helps put Homer's pajama top on and declares, "You see, Homer? No big deal. I still love you."

For all the times Wilma declared "I love you", Homer had to see it to believe it.

What makes this such an impactful story is that Homer is played by Harold Russell who is handicapped, losing his hands in the war. He would go one to win an Oscar for his portrayal.

3. While walking the trail the other day I came across a woman walking her puppy while pushing her infant child in a stroller. Once the baby started to cry profusely, she lifted the baby out of the stroller and cradled him. The crying stopped instantly! It was because of her actions.

Actions do speak louder than words. And there is no greater action than that which we will be reflecting upon in the next few days.

Jesus dying on the cross for our sins is the most selfless action we will ever see. An action of love for all mankind.

For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.

For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved. (John 3:16-17)

And on the third day, He arose!


Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Moments in Time

"Jerry, do I stink?", Elaine

"Yes! Your beyond stink.", Jerry

"But I enjoy dancing.", Elaine

"And that ain't helpin', Sister.", Jerry

Another great Seinfeld moment where Elaine discovers she's an awful dancer. But...she enjoys dancing and that's all that matters, right?

It didn't take much for the smartest man in the world to be happy, in fact it was something so simple that made Albert Einstein a happy man,

"A table, a chair, a bowl of fruit and a violin; what else does a man need to be happy?"

Just recently while hanging with some family members, I was somewhat coaxed into watching an episode of American Idols worst auditions. I did not think it was possible for there to be anybody who could sing worst than me!

The show brought us some great laughter, but it also brought to me this realization while watching:
each person that sang, no matter how bad they were nor how out of tune they were, they actually enjoyed singing. And that's all that matters.

Time after time throughout our childhood we have all heard the be happy referendum from our parents and teachers.

Do whatever makes you happy.

Don't worry, be happy. (which ended up being a song)

Be happy for this moment.

Who cares what others think as long as you are happy.

The secret to happiness is to be yourself.

Let go and be happy.

Sometimes it's those little moments that can transpire joy. One day last week while most of Chicago took to social media to vent politics and a rally that went awry, I was sitting outside soaking in the most beautiful sunset.

Don't let amazing moments pass you by, because if you blink you will miss them.
Anne Frank suggested, "Think of all the beauty still left around you and be happy."


Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Travel like a Penguin

"If you wish to travel far and fast, travel light. Take off all your envies, jealousies, unforgiveness, selfishness and fears."

Just recently I read the story of a man in Brazil who rescued a Magellanic penguin who was covered in oil and struggling to survive. Once the penguin fully recovered the man released him back into the wild. The Brazilian now can't get rid of him! The penguin will travel afar, only to come back and spend 8 months out of the year with the man who saved him. Kindness has it's rewards!

In the documentary film March of the Penguins, you will learn the astonishing life of Emperor penguins. The filmmakers spent or should I say prevail through temperatures hovering around 40 below zero to capture amazing footage of these creatures and their habitat during breeding season.

What is so unique about these creatures is that it is the male penguin who protects the eggs for up to 125 days, while the female penguins begin their trek for hundreds of miles for food, which they will digest and then travel back to nurture their young. It truly is a reversal of roles, isn't it?

Penguins are unselfish.

Penguins like to travel, just as us humans do. And no matter what road or trail we embark on, we are sure to come across at least one person who may need our assistance. I've had this happen several times, and I have found that it was pure perfect timing. After having visited and ministered to so many people in various settings the last few months, I have not only become comfortable around anybody, but more visible to my surroundings, observant of whomever I come in contact with.

Yesterday I started out walking on my usual trail, a 3 mile loop around Salt Creek and sure enough it happened. I was not even a few steps onto the trail when a man walking his dog and unfamiliar with where the trail leads or goes to found me. Or was it I found him?

 As we began to strike up a conversation, we would end up walking the entire 3 mile loop together. Needless to say he was thankful our paths met, thankful he came across someone who knew where they were going so he didn't get lost, and we ended up enjoying our walk and conversation together, something he said he needed.

Today there are some many people struggling, especially here in America.

Be aware of your surroundings.

Be observant of those around you.

Strip yourself of yourself  and your selfishness.

True humility is not thinking less of yourself but thinking of yourself less.

 Remember, travel light. You never know who might need you.


Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Tapping Into the Tree of...Maple Syrup?

"No winter lasts forever; no Spring skip's it's turn."

Ahh, two of my favorites: Spring and a stack of pancakes with real maple syrup. Now you don't necessarily have to wait until Spring for pancakes, but if you want the real maple syrup no need to look any further than March 13th if you live near me in the Chicago 'burbs.

On this day children of all ages, even you mom and dad, will be tapping the trees for maple syrup. Near my favorite walking trails the trees are already prepared for catching the stuff that makes pancakes ever so delightful and blending so eloquently with melted butter.

Within the forest there are many trees ready to be tapped and drained with maple syrup like this photo. While visiting the Old Grau Mill Nature Center one day where this all takes place, I learned the following sweet discovery, a Native American Indian legend:

An Indian, after hunting all day and only getting one scrawny rabbit, threw his tomahawk in disgust into a maple tree. A mokuk (small birch bark bucket) beneath the tree suddenly filled with sap, and thinking it was water, his wife used it to cook the rabbit. The sap boiled down to syrup and the Indians enjoyed the sweetest rabbit they'd ever eaten.

Indians tapped maple trees by breaking off branches or chopping large gashes in the trunks. Sap was collected in leak proof bowls made from a single piece of birch bark with the ends folded so that there were no seams.

Now, let's go get some pancakes!