Friday, August 31, 2012

This is Dakota, BJ's dog. I know I've referenced him before. I've probably even told stories about him, here.

Dakota is an Australian Shepherd/Basenji mix. He is about 14.

Back in the late 1990's we decided we were going to get a dog. Our family piled into our van and drove to a couple of different humane societies to find the "right dog." We looked at and played with many.

Our last stop was the Indianapolis Humane Society. We walked in and began to look around at way too many abandoned dogs. We had not been there long when BJ sat down in front of a kennel and said, "Dad, this is the dog!"

My reply was something along the lines of, "we're going to look at several dogs, BJ."

We did.

We took dog after dog out into the play yard to get to know them. Each one quickly abandoned us to look at any other distraction that came along. All of them, except for Dakota.

He was 6 months old, and had been named Cassady by his first owners. They moved out of state and could not take him with them.

Their loss was our gain. There was a required waiting period at that time. It wasn't easy to leave without him. He ignored everything but us. He was "our dog."

When the day came that we got to bring him home, we were all very excited!

He quickly became a member of our family. He loved playing fetch, chasing Frisbees and occasionally catching them and bringing them back. He captured the attention of many because of his unusual cinnamon coloration.

Through the years, he became most attached to my son. They were best friends. BJ and Dakota spent a great deal of time together. Dakota waited for him to get home from school, and got antsy when he knew it was about time.

They found great joy in one another.

Dakota had some other favorites in my family.

He went on many trips in the car, and would usually by sense of smell, know when we were near specific destinations. He remembered them by their aroma. He became very excited when we arrived at certain places. Especially my brother Brad's. His whole body would start to wiggle almost uncontrollably when we neared his place.

Sometimes I would tell him, "Brad is coming over," and he would bark then run from window to door, looking for him. He wouldn't stop until Brad arrived.

He has brought us a great deal of joy through the years.

When BJ went into the hospital, Dakota was lonely. Especially since he had just returned from being in Peru for 5 weeks.

It is very emotional for me when I  remember watching Dakota look for BJ, after he had passed. Dakota would walk into his room and sniff the air, then turn and look at me with the question on his face.

Our home in Tulsa has a shelf where part of BJ's ashes rest (some are also on a mountain top in a Muslim nation in North Africa). From time to time, Dakota will walk over to the rosewood box and sniff it for several moments.

I believe he remembers.

When we moved to Tulsa, we left Dakota with Brad. We knew we were going to be gone for 6 week periods at a time. We felt it was unfair to him. Brad has a dog of similar age, and they got along pretty well.

Roughly three years ago, we asked to have him back. He has been a resident of our home in Tulsa, since.

He is getting old.

When Deanna and I were in Peru this past summer, we had Lauren and Weston, and another dear friend look in on him. They did well, with him, but it was a hard summer for him.

When we arrived home, he had been incontinent for the last couple of days. We honestly have struggled to know if it was incontinence or if he was expressing his displeasure at his circumstances.

Arthritis has set in. He struggles to move after he has been sleeping.

I confess I am having difficulty with this winter season of his life. I cannot handle watching him struggle. We have had many conversations about the inevitable.

This past week, he was incontinent (or annoyed with us), again.

Today when I went home for lunch, I watched him struggle for 5 minutes or more to get up.

I bent down to help him and tried to get him to just lay still, while I stroked his coat. He just loves attention, and forced his way up. He is so sweet.

This is the season that tends to be difficult for us to negotiate. It's been about seven years. Somehow, it would seem fitting for Dakota join BJ.

We have once again asked the Lord to take the decision from our hands.

This one will be somehow, easier to make. Still, he is BJ's dog and his loss will be very difficult on many levels.

I just don't want him to suffer.

Seeking His strength even in these details. My God cares about such things and wants us to bring Him glory even in this. We are seeking to walk with integrity and compassion.


Friday, August 17, 2012

Tuckers 1st Birthday celebration

Recently, a major fast food chicken chain was in the news for the beliefs of its owners. Beliefs that have become highly unpopular in segments of mainstream society.

The outpouring of the Christian community to support the chain was significant.

I heard from one franchise owner who relayed how they responded. She conveyed that they tried to love their detractors through this time. They tried to be grace.

Many Christian patrons attempted to do likewise.

There are many stories as a result of this polarizing event.

My question is this.

What would happen if we united to love those who don't know Him, in similar fashion to the way we embraced Chick-fil-a?

What if we each responded to the call on our lives as believers to love people, and to lose our judgmental attitudes?

Jesus had compassion. Scripture describes His reaction:

"When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd." (Mtw 9:36)

He saw their need, but didn't judge. Rather he was moved to love. He compelled His disciples to pray for them. If we maintain His heart and attitude, we would understand that when the Bible says...

"the way of the wicked is like deep darkness; they do not know what makes them stumble." (Proverbs 4:19)

...that our role is not to condemn, rather to surround them in prayer, then love them. 

It is difficult to lead someone into a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ if we are stoning them with our words and attitudes.

We can become so entrenched in what we believe that we fail to recognize the judgmental spirit when it rises up and takes over our witness.

We are to live as Christ lived. We are to represent who He is, and all He stands for. This means we must routinely exit our comfort zones to love.

I am including a story today of what loving someone looks like. This is just one example: 
(I copied this from the facebook page of Gracepoint Church, Denton, Tx)

Listen to these words of a taxicab driver: Because I drive the night shift, my cab often becomes a moving confessional. Passengers climb in, sit behind me in total anonymity, & tell me about their lives. I encounter people whose lives amaze me, ennoble me, make me laugh & sometimes weep. But none touched me more than a woman I picked up late one August night.

Responding to a call from a small brick fourplex in a quiet part of town, I assumed I was being sent to pick up some partiers, or someone who had just had a fight with a lover, or a worker heading to an early shift at some factory in the industrial part of town.

When I arrived at 2:30 a.m., the building was dark except for a single light in a ground floor window. Under these circumstances, many drivers would just honk once or twice, then drive away.

But I had seen too many impoverished people who depended on taxis as their only means of transportation. Unless a situation smelled of danger, I always went to the door. This passenger might be someone who needs my assistance, I reasoned to myself. So I walked to the door & knocked.

"Just a minute", answered a frail, elderly voice. After a long pause, the door opened. A small woman in her 80s stood before me. She was wearing a print dress & a pillbox hat with a veil pinned on it, like somebody out of a 1940’s movie.

The apartment looked as if no one had lived in it for years. All the furniture was covered with sheets. There were no clocks on the walls, no knickknacks or utensils on the counters. In the corner was a cardboard box filled with photos & glassware.

"Would you carry my bag out to the car?" she asked. I took the bag & then turned to assist her. She took my arm & we walked slowly toward the curb. She kept thanking me for my kindness. "It’s nothing", I told her. "I just try to treat my passengers the way I would want my mother treated". "Oh, you’re such a good boy", she said.

When we got in the cab, she gave me an address, then asked, "Could you drive through downtown?" "It’s not the shortest way," I answered quickly. "Oh, I don’t mind," she said. "I’m in no hurry. I’m on my way to a hospice."

I looked in the rearview mirror. Her eyes were glistening. "I don’t have any family left," she continued. "The doctor says I don’t have very long." I quietly reached over & shut off the meter. "What route would you like me to take?" I asked.

For the next two hours, we drove through the city. She showed me the building where she had once worked as an elevator operator. We drove through the neighborhood where she & her husband had lived when they were newlyweds.

She had me pull up in front of a furniture warehouse that had once been a ballroom where she had gone dancing as a girl. Sometimes she’d ask me to slow in front of a particular building or corner & would sit staring into the darkness, saying nothing.

As the first hint of sun was creasing the horizon, she suddenly said, "I’m tired. Let’s go now."

We drove in silence to the address she had given me. Two orderlies came out to the cab as soon as we pulled up. They were solicitous & intent, watching her every move. They must have been expecting her.

I opened the trunk & took the small suitcase to the door. The woman was already seated in a wheelchair.

"How much do I owe you?" she asked, reaching into her purse. "Nothing," I said. "You have to make a living," she answered. "There are other passengers," I responded.

Almost without thinking, I bent & gave her a hug. She held onto me tightly. "You gave an old woman a little moment of joy," she said. "Thank you."

I squeezed her hand, then walked into the dim morning light. Behind me, a door shut. It was the sound of the closing of a life. I didn’t pick up any more passengers that shift. I drove aimlessly, lost in thought. For the rest of that day, I could hardly talk.

What if that woman had gotten an angry driver, or one who was impatient to end his shift? What if I had refused to take the run, or had honked once, then driven away?

I don’t think that I have done anything more important in my life. We’re conditioned to think that our lives revolve around great moments. But great moments often catch us unaware - beautifully wrapped in what others may consider a small one.

What would happen if we each set aside personal agendas for a day, or a week, and just sought to love those He brought into our paths? What if for a time, we went the extra mile?

If we each reached out to meet others needs instead of our own, I believe it would revolutionize our way of  thinking, and ultimately, our way of living.

Jesus is revolutionary.

So should we be.

But first, we must learn have compassion and love.


Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Deanna with some of the children of Huancabamba, Peru

Our lives have been a bit of a whirlwind since our return to the states. Deanna's father passed away on August 4th. We made a trip to Kentucky for services and time with family. We had not all been together with her family in way to long. It was a great time of fellowship and catching up.

That may sound a bit insensitive. It really isn't meant to be. Her father was a minister throughout his adult life. 15 years ago, he crashed into a concrete abutment while making hospital visits. He had fallen asleep behind the wheel.

The family lost him that day. He has been present physically since, but the brain damage that occurred that day, claimed his ability to communicate and function. He has been bed ridden for the last 5 or more years, and Deanna's mom has been formidable in her care of him.

Both of their prayers had been that he would pass in his sleep. While the timing was not of their choosing, the Lord did call him home somewhere between midnight Friday, and 7 am Saturday.

This brought to a close, the difficult grieving over a 15 year journey. It brought a raw, sharp conclusion to any idea that the Lord may miraculously heal him, this side of heaven.

However, family and friends were afforded the privilege of celebrating His 81 years of serving and following Jesus.

He had full military honors at his burial. I found that incredibly moving. It stirred a place and a tenderness in me that I had not visited before. It was incredible.

Our time with family was such and encouragement to Deanna's mom.

For the last 15 years, her life has been about her husbands care. Though she was not ready for him to go home, she needs the rest. She looks forward to being able to serve the Lord through the local body, and she will surely encourage and inspire others through her amazing baking talents, and her heart for Jesus.

I am very blessed to have married into this family. Though the storms of life have brought about hardship along the way, they continue to seek and to serve Him.

Deanna began her new school year, yesterday.

That became bittersweet seven years ago. The first day back elicits many difficult memories.

Sometimes I am not as sensitive to this anniversary as I need to be.

Deanna is an amazing music teacher, and blesses the lives of young elementary students with her love for Jesus and for them. She loves collecting their unsolicited hugs. She won't have students until Thursday. When they return, a fresh sense of purpose will wash over her.

We each need that from time to time. He provides the same, when we are seeking Him.

I have missed being here...