Thoughts on pets . . .

Today is National Dog Day.  It may not actually be that important to any one who doesn’t have a dog, or perhaps even to some people who do have a dog.  Until a couple of years ago, such a holiday would not have meant much to me.  In fact, I probably would have thought it was silly.

I think much differently now.

I first met Oscar at Thanksgiving in 2007.  I was at my grandparents’ house and I saw my youngest brother swinging him around with a knotted rope in my grandparents’ living room.  I wasn’t really a fan of Oscar because he looked like a Chihuahua to me and in my opinion was just a little “yipper dog.”   I was a bit surprised that Oscar was in the house because Grandpa and Grandma (to my knowledge) had never had a dog in the house.  My grandparents had always had lots of animals on the farm, but as their health declined and they were inside more and more, they got little Oscar for company.

Oscar puppy

Oscar as a puppy

The next time I remember seeing him, was Thanksgiving of 2013.  Grandpa had passed away several years earlier and Oscar had stayed on as Grandma’s companion.  He had aged in those years and had begun having seizures.

We had Thanksgiving lunch at my aunt’s house.  I was getting ready to leave, but thought I would take all of my kids up to grandma’s house so that they could see where I used to spend so much time as a kid (Grandma was still at my aunt’s house).  When I opened the front door, Oscar ran out into the driveway.  I didn’t know if he would run off, so went to catch him.  One of my older kids caught him, picked him up and carried him into the house.  Once in the house, he squirmed out of their arms and fell pretty hard to the floor.  He started having a seizure and I immediately sent my kids back to the van.  I got down on the floor and held Oscar tightly between my knees.  His dark eyes just stared into mine, moistened with the tears that often accompany his seizures.  In just a few moments, I bonded with him.

As we headed back to Illinois, I had a lot of time to think on the drive.  My mind regarding pets had changed quickly in those short minutes that I was holding Oscar.  My thoughts became more substantive as I passed the miles on the way home.  I was a bit confused because I could tell that my opinions were changing.  My resistance to emotional attachments to pets was weakening.

If you know me, I filter everything through the Bible, so I started thinking of “pets” in the Bible.  (I understand the context and the interpretation of the Bible story I’m getting ready to cite; I’m not misapplying it, I’m simply explaining something that dawned on me from the passage).  The “pet” that came to mind was in the story that Nathan the prophet told to David about the man who had many sheep, yet stole the singular pet sheep of his neighbor in order to feed his guest.  David was so angry at the injustice that he wanted to execute the man who stole the lamb.  It dawned on me that David didn’t think like I did.  I would have thought, “make him repay sheep for sheep, it’s just an animal.”  David understood (and so did Nathan the prophet) the affection that rests between an animal and a person; he considered the violation worthy of death.  With that thought circulating, I realized what Oscar meant to my Grandma.  I then realized that Oscar had become very valuable to me.

I talked to my mom on the phone and told her that if for some reason Oscar outlived Grandma, that I would be glad to have him if it was okay with everyone else.  I didn’t know that it would be so soon, but Grandma only lived another couple of months; my mom and her siblings decided it was okay for me to have Oscar.

I knew how much Oscar meant to Grandma, but it wasn’t until Grandma had passed away and my aunt posted a picture of Oscar staring at Grandma’s empty bed that I realized how much Grandma meant to Oscar.

Oscar at Grandma's Bed

Oscar staring at Grandma’s empty bed

My family has had Oscar for about a year and a half.  I can only imagine the change in his life going from living alone with grandma to a house with 7 (now 8) children in it.  But he has adapted very well.  His favorite part of the day is clearly 3:30 pm when all of the kids come in the house from school.  He can hardly contain his excitement as he runs around everyone’s feet greeting them as they come in the house.  Of course he still has seizures, but with medicine, they are not too frequent and not too severe.  He LOVES milk bones and table food (he only eats regular dog food when he thinks he can’t get anything else).  He sleeps on the lower bunk bed with Joel; he sits on the couch between the kids during our Bible time; he comes to the dining room when we’re eating; he always meets us at the back door when we come home; he barks at the post man (even the other day while having a seizure); he’s protective of baby Gilead when I get down on the floor to play with him; I could say much more. . . Basically, he’s added a new dimension of love to our home.

He fulfilled his purpose as a companion for my grandparents.  Now his purpose is to bring love and affection to our family and he is doing a very good job.  Oscar is almost 10 years old; I dread the day when his little heart will stop beating, when it does it will break the hearts of a lot of people in this family.

Happy National Dog Day Oscar!  You are a gift from God, created to bring joy and comfort first to my Grandparents, now to me and my family!

Oscar on my lap

Me and Oscar

So who do you trust?

questionA couple of weeks ago, after our mid-week service, we had a stranger walk in the back door of the church while we were standing around visiting.  I stepped outside to talk to him and he began telling me that he was a traveling minister who went to various churches to help “teach them the truth.”  He then indicated that most churches helped him financially in some way or another.

My interest was piqued and so I began to engage him in a theological discussion (not that I was tempted to have him “teach” our church the truth).  To make a long story short, he rejected much of the N.T. as being spurious.  The only parts of the N.T. that he accepted were the gospels, Acts, Romans, 1st and 2nd Corinthians, and the Revelation.  I challenged him and he told me that it was clear from grammar and word usage that the other so-called Pauline epistles were not written by the same author.  He quoted higher criticism and then told me that I took everything by tradition just like most every other person who calls themselves a Christian.  Our conversation didn’t get very far because anytime I would quote a verse of Scripture to him, he would dismiss it as being fraudulent.  I came to the conclusion that he was more like Hymenaeus and Philetus who “overthrow the faith of some” based on false teaching (2nd Timothy 2:18).

The conversation was at least 45 minutes long and he wanted to debate further, but I declined as it was unprofitable and without edification, and by this time my family was in the van ready to go home.  Over the last couple of weeks, I’ve thought of several things that relate to the conversation.

Every person is a person of faith.  This man claimed to be a Christian, though I doubt it.  The reality is that he trusts critics and skeptics.  I know that he did not know Greek well enough (if at all) to be able to tell from the grammar and language if Colossians was counterfeit.  So, he had chosen to believe those who question the Bible, I choose to believe the Bible.  Either way, we both are people of faith; I trust God, he trusts men.

The same truth is evident in things such as creation/evolution and Theism/atheism.  A creationist believes that God created the world as recorded in Genesis 1-2.  An evolutionist believes that the origins of geology, biology, and cosmology are explained by scientists.  However, as much as men want to claim that evolution is a scientific fact, it was not observed and can’t be reproduced – so it is still a theory.  I choose to believe God, evolutionists believe men.

I believe that God is revealed through the Bible.  Atheists believe that there is verifiable proof that God does not exist.  Agnostics believe that there is not enough evidence to declare that God does exist or does not exist.  The reality is that all three positions require faith.  I believe God.  The Atheist believes his human logic and experience (though fallible and limited).  The Agnostic believes there is not sufficient evidence to draw a conclusion.

We are all people of faith because of the next point:

Man’s knowledge is finite.  The Agnostic is at least right in this, only his conclusion leads him to distrust while mine leads me to greater trust.  My knowledge is finite and so I choose to believe the Bible.

There is no way that any man can know, academically or experientially, all that there is to know in or beyond his lifetime.  I was not at the origin of the universe and so I have to take someone else’s word for it.  When there is something that I cannot know, I will take the Word of God over the word of men.  I know this is faith, but taking the word of men is also faith.  I believe that God is a greater foundation for faith than fallible and finite men.

I have absolute trust in God and an absolute distrust of men.  I admit that I have faith.  But honesty demands that every man admits that he has to have faith in something because it is absolutely impossible for every man to infinitely know everything.  So, I take God’s Word for everything.

What a man chooses to believe determines how he lives.  Those who choose to believe that there is no God or choose to believe in evolution, live in accordance with what they have chosen to believe (or chosen not to believe).  Evolution presents the possibility of the origin of the universe apart from God and so there is no need to be concerned with a God.  Life without God makes the mind of man the measure of knowledge and so the supreme authority.  Life without God means that there is no eternity and so one lives only for today.

Since I believe in God and the Bible as being His revelation to mankind, it affects the way I live.  I believe what the Bible says about life on this earth and about eternity.  Consequently, those beliefs dictate my actions.  Whatever the Bible says about humanity, about government, about society, about eternity, about science, about morals, about history, or any subject – is my authority and I live accordingly.

Conclusion.  The man that I talked to a couple of weeks ago rejected much of the N.T. because he chose to take the word of men.  He was living with the impossible hope that he could discern everything logically and academically.  Therefore, he had no certainty.

I know it’s faith, but I take God at His Word on every subject because I know that I – and all men – are finite and fallible, so for me faith in God and His Word is the only valid option.  That faith guides my whole life.