Tuesday, April 26, 2016

You Should Have Called

Sign seen in a textile mill, "When your thread becomes tangled, call the foreman." A young woman was new on the job. Her thread became tangled and she thought, "I'll just straighten this out myself." She tried, but the situation only worsened. Finally she called the foreman. "I did the best I could," she said. "No you didn't. To do the best, you should have called me." 

"Do not lean on your own understanding" (Proverbs 3:5b) means just that, it doesn't mean exhaust your understanding and then ask God - it means don't rely on it...period. When Jesus says in John 15 that we can do nothing of ourselves we don't really believe Him, we don't think He really meant that. Surely He wants to us to try to solve the problem first and then, and only then, seek His help.


Friday, April 22, 2016

No Need of the Sun

Father, I want to know Thee, but my cowardly heart fears to give up its toys. I cannot part with them without inward bleeding, and I do not try to hide from Thee the terror of parting. I come trembling, but I do come. Please root from my heart all those things which I have cherished so long and which have become a very part of my living self, so that Thou mayest enter and dwell there without a rival. Then shalt Thou make the place of Thy feet glorious. Then shall my heart have no need of the sun to shine in it, for Thyself wilt be the light of it, and there shall be no night there. In Jesus' name, Amen.

A.W. Tozer

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Grace to Rise and Follow

O God, I have tasted Thy goodness, and it has both satisfied me and made me thirsty for more. I am painfully conscious of my need of further grace. I am ashamed of my lack of desire. O God, the Triune God, I want to want Thee; I long to be filled with longing; I thirst to be made more thirsty still. Show me Thy glory, I pray Thee, so that I may know Thee indeed. Begin in mercy a new work of love within me. Say to my soul, "Rise up, my love, my fair one, and come away." Then give me grace to rise and follow Thee up from this misty lowland where I have wandered so long. In Jesus' name. Amen.

A.W. Tozer

Monday, April 18, 2016

The Cellar

"Whenever I find myself in the cellar of affliction, I look for the Lord's choicest wines."

Samuel Rutherford.(1600 - 1661)

Friday, April 15, 2016

More on a Tale of Tails

After Mitzi went to Narnia it was quite some time before we considered another dog – so for a couple of years it was just Darby, which I think was probably fine with Darby because as long as Darby had Vickie Darby was fine. Besides, as previously mentioned, The Mitz could be temperamental and snarl and bite at Darby – maybe Mitz suffered from PTS due to her childhood experiences running the streets of Richmond. In any case, Darby was fine, we were fine, and I grieved over the loss of Mitzi – Mitzi was my dog, Darby was Vickie’s dog…though as I pointed out over the course of her life, Darby was my dog too/two.

A coworker’s basset hound had a litter of pups, she insisted that the father was a border collie, but we’ve seen no evidence of that with Lina, next in our line of puppies – our guess is that the father is a beagle – we don’t discuss this around Lina, no reason to bring up questions of such a nature.

Lina has a black tail with a white tip, and when she’s chasing something the tip is in the air and she is moving like a rocket sled, but when she isn’t chasing something or running to see us when we return home she is s-l-o-w….v-e-r-y  s-l-o-w. When she is unleashing her energy she is amazingly fast, but otherwise she seems to operate on the assumption that if there is no reason to be in a hurry why bother with being in a hurry. He tail is long and thin and when she sleeps she can curl it up so that is touches her nose. When she was a puppy a neighbor looked at Lina and said, “She sure is long, but it looks like she has all her parts.”

Just before we adopted her we had read George MacDonald’s The Princess and Curdie. Curdie had a faithful dog-like companion named Lina – so that’s where Lina’s name came from and she has lived up to her name. There is nothing quite like having a dog as a friend.

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Francis de Sales - A Pondering

From one of the letters of Francis de Sales to a lady:

"Keep in mind the main lesson he [Jesus] left us - in three words so that we would never forget it and could repeat it a hundred times a day: Learn of me, he said, that I am gentle and humble of heart. That says it all: to have a heart gentle toward one's neighbor and humble toward God. At every moment give this heart, the very heart of your heart, to our Savior. You will see that as this divine, delicate lover takes his place in your heart, the world with it vanities and superfluities will leave." 

As I ponder these words of de Sales I'm reminded of David's words in Psalm 18, "Thy gentleness has made me great." 

The world does not value what it needs the most - for it will not take the time to receive what it needs - it is too busy trying to obtain things to mask what it most truly needs. 

Perhaps if the world were confronted with gentleness it might be such a shock that it would stop and look and listen...even for a second or two. If not the world, then perhaps one child in the world...maybe even one adult.

Wouldn't that be something to be thankful for? That because of my gentleness, because of your gentleness, because of our gentleness...that one life would come to know the Gentle One?

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Darby’s Tail

Chris Ann had a bobbed tail that was like a metronome on high speed, Mitzi had a foofy tail, the tip of which, when her tail was curled, would touch her back as she pranced; Darby, our tan shepherd – lab mix, had a long tail that was mainly straight, but with just a little bend upward when she walked or ran.

You may recall that shortly after moving to Richmond that Vickie and I discussed getting another dog and that we decided against it; and that within weeks I arrived home on a Friday to find Mitzi keeping Vickie and Chris Ann company. For the next three years it was Bob, Vickie, Christy, and Mitzi; and while Mitz could be temperamental, by and large the four of us got along pretty well. Then one day I arrived home, walked through the kitchen and into the dining room, and there was Vickie with a puppy.

A coworker had found a litter of puppies in the woods around her home, brought them into work in a box, and one of them somehow picked Vickie as her new mom. By this time of life and marriage I was smart enough to know that I had no say in the matter of yet another dog.

A couple of nights after the puppy’s arrival we were out to dinner (that is Vickie and I were out to dinner, not the puppy and I, not the puppy and Vickie and I…just Vickie and I) and were discussing what name to give the puppy. We asked the waitress what she thought and she said she’d give it some thought. Later that evening she told us that the matter had been put to the staff in the kitchen and that Darby was the name they agreed on – since Darby seemed like a fine name to us, Darby it would be.

Darby, with her straight tail, would be Momma’s dog unlike any dog we’ve had – she loved Vickie; oh she loved me too, but she loved Vickie. Wherever Vickie went Darby went, from a puppy to an old girl. Darby is kind of a link in our dog family – Darby knew Chris Ann and she knew Mitzi, and she also knew Lina (our basset mix); now we have Lina and Lily – so Darby is the link in the chain of dogs. Darby could pass on to Lina what she knew of Chris and Mitz, and Lina could pass on to Lily what she knew of Darby and what Darby told her about Mitz and Chris. If you are not a dog person this will make so sense – but try to enjoy the ride.

There is another thing about Darby, not to be discussed here in detail, maybe another time, but for the record I’ll state it: Darby was with us during some great times and low times – she traveled with us from Richmond to the Boston area and then to Western Mass and then back to Richmond; then to the Shenandoah Valley that turned out to be a valley of the shadow of death. Darby died shortly before we moved back to Richmond – I think she had done all she could for us and that the old girl just couldn’t do anymore. My how we loved her! We’ve loved them all, we love the two we have now – they are all special – but if a dog can have an old soul then Darby had one.

As I said, Darby was Vickie’s dog, she was Momma’s dog – as long as she could see Vickie she was content – it’s good to be loved by a dog.

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Words to Ponder from C.S. Lewis

"I believe in Christianity as I believe that the sun has risen, not only because I see it, but because by it I see everything else."

"If we really think that home is elsewhere, and that this life is a "wandering to find home," why should we not look forward to the arrival?"

C.S. Lewis

Monday, April 11, 2016


I am recruiting for a key position within my portfolio and as I sort through resumes and speak to people on the phone my key question is, “Who this person? Is she (or he) someone I can trust? Is honesty important to this person? Is this person someone who will develop others or is he (or she) just looking out for himself?”

The majority of the resumes I receive only take me a few seconds to read; that’s because they don’t address the key components of the advertised position, meaning that the senders haven’t thought about what I’m looking for – or else they just can’t read…maybe it’s both.

When society has jettisoned the transcendent, the immutable; when it has attacked the idea of a constant benchmark – then what is left to trust? There is nothing. I want people who I do not need to treat as machines that I manipulate, in fact I won’t do that – I insist on looking at people as people. That, however, can be a problem when people look at themselves and each other as machines to be manipulated or as biological accidents with no lasting worth.

It’s tough to recruit, or to do basic business, when you have long-term thinking in a short-term world.

Trustworthiness is a vanishing virtue. 

Friday, April 8, 2016

The Mitz’s Tail

While Chris Ann had a bobbed tail, Mitzi had a foofy tail. As far as we could tell Mitzi was a Border Collie mix; she certainly had the temperament of a Border Collie – she was in charge. When Mitz was on yard patrol (walking around the perimeter of her yard) her fluffy tail would curl to the point of the tip touching her back. Inside the house sometimes you’d see a curled tail appear in the back of the sofa, moving from one end to the other until a dog made its appearance.  

“The Mitz” was a temperamental dog, while she could play with Chris Ann and Darby (at one time we had three dogs), she could also unexpectedly be mean to them; thankfully she had more good days than bad days and it was fun to watch her play with her dog sisters. I think it must have been her uncertain early childhood that caused her antisocial behavior – maybe we should have taken her to a therapist.

We had just moved to Richmond with Chris Ann, had talked about getting another dog and had decided against it, when I came home one Friday to find Chris Ann, Vickie, and a new dog. Vickie was working in downtown Richmond when the police came into her office with a dog who they had caught running the streets; they asked if they could confine the dog in the office until animal control arrived. Vickie, no doubt considering our recent discussion about getting another dog, and remembering that we had decided not to get one, thought it best to bring the dog home so we could reconsider our decision.

The challenge was that Vickie took a commuter bus to work and she could not take the dog on the bus to the commuter parking lot. Her coworkers located an unsuspecting soul in another department who lived close to the commuter parking lot and convinced him to give a strange woman and a stranger (and very dirty) dog a ride. Animal control was informed they were no longer needed.

When I was confronted with this new dog, recalling our recent conversation about not getting another dog, I said that she had to go. One dog was enough responsibility, two was one too many. As it happened it snowed on Monday so we couldn’t take the dog to the animal shelter and by Tuesday it was too late to disengage my heart (Vickie’s was already engaged) and we named her Mitzi – otherwise known as Mitz – or as we saw her character develop – “The Mitz”. As I write this it occurs to me that Vickie probably already knew that by Monday I wouldn’t be able to take the new dog to the dog pound – I think she may have been humoring me with her ready acquiescence to my plan to just keep the dog for the weekend.

Oh what a foofy fluffy curly tail The Mitz had.

Thursday, April 7, 2016

Dog Nose – Part 4

A body with a dog nose in the front has a tail on the back. When Chris Ann, a Cocker Spaniel, was with us, even though she had a bobbed tail she wagged it as best she could – of course Chris Ann wagged the entire back-half of her body, she could get so excited that she’d pee. A rule for living with Chris Ann is that when we arrived home that we’d open the door and let her run outside to greet us, otherwise in her excitement she might have an accident inside the house. I guess that’s what happens when your whole back half is moving at the speed of a centrifuge.

Writing this conjures up the image of taking Christy to visit friends who had just moved into a brand new house with, naturally, brand new carpet. Vickie, Christy and I walked into the great room and were talking (that is Vickie and I were talking) with our friends when three or four of our friends’ cats came to inspect Christy, while Christy didn’t pee, a few round objects rolled out of her behind. Needless to say Chris wasn’t wagging her tail – it was frozen in cat alert. Vickie was embarrassed by the incident, but Chris didn’t even seem to be aware that she was rolling out housewarming gifts and I thought it was amusing. I’m sure the cats thought, “Doesn’t she know how to use the litter box?”

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Dog Nose – Part 3

The nose, the eyes, the smile. Of course dogs smile.

Dogs who are secure in the love of their family (pack) smile, just watch them while they are asleep, watch them as they watch you. You may say that it’s just anthropomorphic nonsense – really?

The relationship of man to dog has many possibilities – on the lowest end it is one of crass exploitation akin to the gladiatorial games – when the heart and mind and soul of man are debased to the point that man takes evil pleasure in the abuse of dogs. On the higher end there is the mysterious loving relationship of man and symbiotic friend.

Paul indicates that creation is not as it should be, but that when mankind entered a state of corruption that creation shared in that condition, this is why creation’s release from the “slavery to corruption” is linked to the freedom of the glory of the children of God (Romans 8:20ff). Yahweh, through the prophet Isaiah, promises that the “wolf and the lamb will graze together (Isaiah 65:25); things are not what they should be but a day will come when they will be what they are meant to be.

Suppose that just as debased man can cruelly bring creation down to torment that redeemed man can experience some measure of bringing creation up from corruption? Those men and women who respond in some measure to the image of God within them are more likely to care for creation (whether they recognize it as creation or as an evolutionary process), and those who are experiencing redemption have the opportunity (seldom taken) to carry that care to a higher level by recognizing that there is a Divine mandate and stewardship given to them in their care and relationship to creation.

Do dogs smile? There are those who think they don’t and then there are those who know they do. Those who know they do have the joy of knowing that smile, just as they have the joy of looking into the dog’s eyes…and just as they know the joy of being touched by a dog’s wonderful wet nose. 

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Dog Nose Part 2

Of course along with dog nose comes dog eyes - there is something about those eyes. The eyes of our dogs are trusting eyes, they don't know fear. Oh there was the time Lily was scared by a fox and slammed into the front door; when Vickie opened it Lily ran and hid under our bed for a few hours.
There was also the time, when Lily was a puppy, when a huge Air Force transport came over our home at what seemed rooftop height and Lily, who was on a lead, tried to pull me into the house. But as a way of life our dogs Lina and Lily don't know fear. The same was true of Chris Ann, and Mitzi, and Darby when they were with us.
It hurts when I see dogs with eyes of fear and uncertainty; dogs that have been abandoned or abused, eyes that once trusted, that likely trusted too much; eyes that may want to trust again, but they are afraid.
This is part of the great betrayal - man betrays dog. We domesticated them, we brought them in, we used them for our own ends, and then we betrayed them. They give so much and we give so little.
Dogs know us, they anticipate us, they are tuned into us...because they watch us. Our movements, our facial expressions - their eyes take it all in. And when those eyes connect with us there is a bond for those who are blessed and gifted to receive it, to be a part of it, to participate in it. A wet nose, searching attentive eyes; a companion there for us...a dog.

Monday, April 4, 2016

The Comfort of Dog Nose

The other day I was taking a nap when I awoke to dog nose on my hand…wet dog nose. I opened my eyes and it was Lily; apparently I had slept long enough.

It is true, when I awake from naps I tend to be cranky and crabby – just ask Vickie. But there is something about the love emanating from wet dog nose that is comforting, and rather than crank or crab I simply accept the fact that the dog behind the nose loves me and wants companionship. Awaking to wet dog nose is preferable to an alarm clock, or for that matter preferable to anything I can think of at present. 

Friday, April 1, 2016

Closing Churches in an Election Year

I think we should close the churches in a presidential election year – after all, the way many of us talk the fate of the world and of ourselves depends on who we place in the White House – the Gospel seems to take second or third or fourth place. Where our treasure is, there will our hearts be also.