Tag Archive | love one another

A Litter Reunion

Floey - thinking hard about something, lying on the couch with her legs crossed, as usual.

Floey – thinking hard about something, lying on the couch with her legs crossed, as usual.

“What’s on your mind, Floey? You’ve been staring off into space for a long time,” I asked.

“Oh, hi, Mom. I didn’t notice you come into the room. I’ve been thinking about tonight.”

“Oh, yeah. Tonight’s your big night. You’re going to see all your litter mates again for the first time since your adoptions. I bet you’re excited.”

6 puppies playing cropped

Just over a year and a half ago, Floey and her litter mates must have looked a lot like this.

“In some ways, I am. I can hardly wait to see them. All six of us will be together again for the first time in over a year. But I’m sure we’ve all changed a lot. I know I have. What if I don’t like them? What if they don’t like me? We all played together the first six months of our lives, but then we were moved away from the Indian reservation in northern Minnesota where they wanted to shoot us, and a rescue group brought us to Wisconsin to find new homes. Over the next few months we all went our separate ways. What if one of my brothers or sisters has turned into a really mean dog? I don’t want to play with any mean dog, even if he or she is a sibling.”

Two dogs grin against each other

Floey’s imagination gone wild…

“Wait a minute, Floey. You mean to tell me that you will stop loving one or more of your siblings if you don’t approve of the way they act tonight?”

“I guess so, but only if they deserve it, Mom. If they growl and snap at me, and act like an enemy, I’ll be very disappointed, but I won’t play with them. With five litter mates, I’m sure I’ll find someone else who’s nicer to play with.”

“Oh, Floey, don’t worry about this. I bet they’ll all be nice dogs. I’m sure they were all adorable pups just like you when they were chosen to be adopted. You’ll have a great time playing together again tonight.”

“I hope so, Mom. I think you’re probably right, but I’m a little worried anyway. What if …”

“Floey, since you have a nagging little concern about the ‘what if’ possibilities, I think I need to tell you about what I read in Jimmy Carter’s devotional book this morning. He referenced Matthew 5. Here are the verses he referred to from THE MESSAGE version. Jesus said:

“Here’s another old saying that deserves a second look: ‘Eye for eye, tooth for tooth.’ Is that going to get us anywhere? Here’s what I propose: ‘Don’t hit back at all.’ If someone strikes you, stand there and take it. If someone drags you into court and sues for the shirt off your back, giftwrap your best coat and make a present of it. And if someone takes unfair advantage of you, use the occasion to practice the servant life. No more tit-for-tat stuff. Live generously.

“You’re familiar with the old written law, ‘Love your friend,’ and its unwritten companion, ‘Hate your enemy.’ I’m challenging that. I’m telling you to love your enemies. Let them bring out the best in you, not the worst. When someone gives you a hard time, respond with the energies of prayer, for then you are working out of your true selves, your God-created selves. …

Live generously and graciously toward others, the way God lives toward you.

[Excerpts from Matthew 5:38-48]

Jimmy Carter went on to explain, “The command to ‘love your enemy’ is both startling and unique to the Christian faith; no other religion has a parallel teaching… Christ commanded [us to have] … a self-sacrificial love for other human beings [and dogs], even for those who may never love you back or who may not seem lovable.” [“Through the Year with Jimmy Carter”]

Floey-Marian faces selfie“Mom, does that really mean that if one of my siblings has turned into a mean dog, that I need to pray for him?”

“Yes, Floey. I think it means that you need to pray for him, and play with him, too – be nice to him, kind of like Jesus said to give him a present of your best coat.”

“Wow! That might be hard. What if he bites me, or grabs my collar and drags me?”

“Well, that probably won’t happen. Remember, your litter mates are probably all just as nice and fun-loving as you. But if one of them is overwhelmed with all the excitement, remember that Mim and I, and all the other adopters, will be there, too, and we’ll see that no one gets hurt. For all of us, our dogs are our best friends, and we’ll take care of all of you. Oh, and most important, God will be there, too! Your Mama Dog will probably be standing right next to God, the two of them watching all of you playing together.”

“OK. I’ll stop worrying, and just be excited about our first reunion,  6:30 tonight at the dog park. Are you going to bring special treats for me and all my new/old buddies?”

1 dog angel

God and Mama Dog watching the play date.

Love One Another – Reflections from Jail

Love One Another HANDSOne of the Bible readings in church yesterday was from the book of John.  Jesus said,

I give you a new commandment,
that you love one another.
Just as I have loved you,
you also should love one another.
By this everyone will know that you are my disciples,
if you have love for one another.

 (John 13:34-35 NRSV)

But what does it really mean to love one another? Paul addressed this question in I Corinthians 13, a passage frequently read at weddings.

Love is patient;
Love is kind;
Love is not envious or boastful or arrogant or rude.

It does not insist on its own way;
It is not irritable or resentful;
It does not rejoice in wrongdoing, but rejoices in the truth.

It bears all things,
believes all things,
hopes all things,
and endures all things.

[I Corinthians 13: 4-7 NRSV]

But even this reading is somewhat abstract. Tanya, one of the inmates in the county jail, wrote her own poetic reflection on what it means to her when Jesus says to love one another. I talked with Tanya last Thursday after the women’s worship service, and asked her if I could use her reflection in my blog sometime. She was happy to give me permission, although she prefers that I not identify her by her full name.

First, let me describe the context of Tanya writing this reflection. Several weeks ago, during Lent, in one of the worship services, the chaplain gave us about 15 minutes to do something creative to express our feelings. A couple of the women drew pictures. One young woman drew a picture of herself giving a birthday present to her little boy. She said she hoped to be out of jail in time to be home for his birthday. I played the piano – whatever hymns and spirituals came into my mind. One of the women told me she recognized every song I played. Tanya wrote a reflection on what love means to her. That 15 minutes was probably the most peaceful part of the day for all of us.

After listening again yesterday in church to what the Bible says about loving one another, I think now is a good time to share Tanya’s reflection on love.

Love is praying for my enemies –
In the same way I pray for my family

Love is growing in God –
Every day in every way

Love is not only knowing that angels are near –
But feeling them touch my soul

Love is willingness to give all –
And at the same time receive none

Love is a trust that never wavers –
No matter what stands in your way

Love is loving more than you know how –
Yet expecting nothing in return

Love is the melting of your soul –
In the coldest day you’ve known

 Tanya, 2013

Love in action: Mim's mom, Selma, caring for a stray kitten that had been dropped off at the farm.

Loving one another in our home 20 years ago:
Mim’s mom, Selma, caring for a stray kitten dropped off at the farm.

What I’ve Learned about Debating

Marian's high school graduation picture

Marian’s high school graduation picture

Prior to the Vice Presidential Debate last week, Governor Romney was criticized for saying he didn’t think his running mate, Paul Ryan, had much debate experience – maybe in high school he might have had some. That got me thinking about my experience on my high school debate team.

When I was a junior in high school, a few friends talked me into joining the debate team. I didn’t really know what I was getting into, but that was okay. I was having fun with my friends. The national debate topic for high schools in the 1964-1965 school year was: “Resolved: That nuclear weapons should be controlled by an international organization.” Almost fifty years later, I guess the topic is still somewhat timely!

According to the rules for high school debate fifty years ago (I don’t know if they’ve changed or not over the years), a debate team had four members, two affirmatives and two negatives. The affirmatives supported the resolution and the negatives argued against the resolution. Each debater spoke in a predefined order for a prescribed number of minutes. Timekeepers were absolute in cutting off the speaker at the precise second of the time limit. The judge, an English teacher/debate coach from another school, determined the winner based on how convincing the arguments were.

I always debated as second negative. My primary responsibility was to refute the specific plan proposed by the opposition, regardless of what their plan was. Going into the debate, I had no idea what specific plan was going to be proposed. That meant I had to listen carefully to what the plan was, determine quickly what the weakest points of the plan were, and attack the plan where it was most vulnerable.

How did I prepare for that? My fellow negative and I spent many evenings and weekends together reading news magazines, specifically looking for articles related to the debate topic. We discussed how the key points mentioned by experts in those articles could be cited – or refuted – to make our points. Not all high school kids would consider that a fun way to spend several hours every week, but it was a good way for non-athletic friends to have a reason to spend time together.

I gained a lot from my experience on the debate team. I learned how to listen very carefully to what someone says, and how to respond quickly and authoritatively to convince a third person that I had a better perspective on the issue than my opponent.  I also learned that the third person, the judge, responded to more than just the facts I presented. The judge was influenced just as much by my attitude, speaking style, and self-confidence as by my facts.

The rules for Presidential Debates are a little different. The timekeeper has become the moderator with the dual role of asking questions and trying to limit the time each candidate takes for response. The role of judge has been assigned to everyone who votes, although there are plenty of commentators on TV who try to assume that role. The debaters – the candidates – have also learned that the judges – the voters – are influenced much more by their demeanor than by their actual arguments.

In the New Testament, we can read how Jesus debated. The religious leaders of the day frequently tried to trip him up with trick questions. In Mark 10, the Pharisees asked him a question about whether or not divorce is legal. In the next chapter, the chief priests, the teachers of the law, and the elders asked him what authority he had to be doing the things he was doing. In chapter 12, some more Pharisees tried to trick him with a question about taxes. Then some Sadducees questioned him about husbands and wives being reunited in heaven. In all cases, Jesus was a good debater. He always gave them an answer that made them think in more depth about the real question they had asked.

I think Jesus’ best debate performance is recorded in Mark 12.

One of the religion scholars came up. Hearing the lively exchanges of question and answer and seeing how sharp Jesus was in his answers, he put in his question: “Which is most important of all the commandments?”

Jesus said, “The first in importance is, ‘Listen, Israel: The Lord your God is one; so love the Lord God with all your passion and prayer and intelligence and energy.’ And here is the second: ‘Love others as well as you love yourself.’ There is no other commandment that ranks with these.” [Mark 12:28-31 MSG]

How did Jesus prep for his debates? At times, Jesus went off by himself to pray. I doubt that he had practice debates with his Father, but I’m sure they spent quiet time understanding their values and priorities, knowing what their love for the world would mean for Jesus.

The presidential candidates and vice presidential candidates, all four of them, are known as followers of Jesus. I guess that means they understand and agree with what Jesus said was the greatest and second greatest commandments – to love God and to love our neighbors.

As we listen to the debates throughout this political season, let’s watch for these values to come out as each candidate tries to express his vision for America. Or, if these values aren’t reflected in the official debates, maybe we can think about how they might be reflected in the informal debates we have in our families, churches, and communities.

Or, maybe, we can just think about how these values are reflected in our lives.