Saturday, March 12, 2011

As a Dog Returns to Its Vomit, So a Fool Repeats His Folly

I love my dog. He is a European Boxer. You know, the ones with the smooshed noses. The ones that are "so ugly, they're cute." We named him Duff. No not after Homer Simpson's beer of choice. After the Scottish word for "dark." He is such a calm dog. And a quick learner. However, he has some serious separation anxiety. He can't be left alone in the house, or car, or anywhere for more than five minutes.

Do it and we reap his destruction: garbage cans turned over and riffled through; bras, hats, shoes, toys torn to pieces; a puddle of drool; and yes, we even stumble across poop and pee in the unlikeliest of places (like on the couch). So we've taken to tying him up with a metal chain around a metal support beam in the carpet-less room of the basement. We tried a metal cage, but he is such a determined beast that he always found a way out (even through lock and rope).

When we do get back to him, it takes a good ten minutes for him to calm himself down. A process which sometimes involves him throwing up because he has gotten himself so worked up. It's always a pain having to clean up after him when we get home. But there is at least one part of the clean-up process with which Duff is willing to help: eating the vomit that he expelled moments earlier.

This afternoon, I had to run over to church to get some copying done. Ruthie wasn't home. I didn't want Duff running around outside by himself. We already lost one dog that way. So I quietly slipped out of the house and left Duff there, unchained. I wouldn't be gone long.

I was gone longer than I anticipated.

And, when I got home, there was a panting Duff to greet me at the door, an overturned garbage can in the kitchen. I don't know about the basement. Honestly, I'm afraid to go down there. And yes, there was the remains of a puddle of vomit.

My question is, who's the bigger fool? The dog for eating his vomit, or me for leaving him unattended.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Children Are a Gift of the LORD

I can't believe how quickly Ella is growing up. Time sure speeds along. I still picture her as a babbling, bubbly, toddler. She hasn't lost the bubbly. She still jabbers. But she doesn't sound like a toddler much any more.

She's a little girl who says things like, "Dad, I have a hypothesis ...", who apologizes after passing wind because as she says, "I don't like when I do that," who sets me straight after I get upset by reminding me that "Jesus wants us to be love," who had her first official sleepover last night, and is having her first official play-date this afternoon.

She has more of a social life than I do. Not that I'm complaining. I'm more comfortable surrounded by my walls, and by my family. So it was strange waking up this morning without being woken up by Ella.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

"For Nothing Is Impossible with God."

I believe my exact words were, "Holy Crap!"

I came back from the movie store and had hardly walked into the kitchen when Ruthie came out of the bathroom.

"Take off your coat and stay a while."

"Um. Okay."

She held out a pregnancy test.

"What's that?" I said puzzled by the symbols that had appeared on the stick. ( + | ).

"I'm pregnant."

"What? Let me see the instructions." Sure enough, the test claimed Ruthie is pregnant. "Take another one," I said in disbelief. The second revealed the same results.

Not that I (or Ruthie) can begin to compare ourselves to the Virgin Mary, but I still can't help echoing her words to the angel Gabriel, "How will this be." It's not that I don't think God is capable. It's just that I didn't think it was possible.

Up to that moment we had basically figured that a biological child was not part of God's plan for us. We had come to grips with it. We already have a beautiful, sweet daughter through adoption. We couldn't have asked for a better child. I hadn't given up the desire for another child, but I had stopped actively praying for one.

Almost eight years ago, I was diagnosed with Stage IV Rhabdomyosarcoma. The cocktail of chemo that I had to take for a year left me sterile. Or so I thought. The chances were slim to none.

Well, the boys are back in town.

There was given me a thorn in my flesh.

Sunday August 30 2009

So two posts in one day. Both incredibly tardy. But both incredibly major.

Okay, so I admit, I don't know if I can even begin to compare what God permitted to happen to me with the thorn (whatever it was) that was stuck in Paul's side. But I have a pretty good idea, after making companions with crutches and a couch for the last 7 weeks and most likely being stuck with them for the next four, what Paul meant when he called his thorn "a messenger of Satan." There are just some days when you want to throw up your hands and scream at the heavens, "I GIVE UP!"

But you don't. Because you've got God speaking to your heart, uttering the only words you need to hear and the only words that help, "My grace is sufficient for you." 'Nuff Zed. Except for the story of my foot:

I was volunteering at a church sponsored soccer camp. Every evening someone provided food for the travelling coaches. There were 14 of us that night who went to this person's apartment. 12 people got onto the elevator at the apartment complex. I was the thirteenth. (No I am not superstitious.)

As I stepped (left-foot) onto the elevator, I remember thinking two things: 1) what is the weight capacity? 2) why is so-and-so getting shorter? The elevator was starting to sag under the weight. There was no sound – no cable snapping, no warning bell. It just kept going and picked up enough momentum to spin me around so that I was now facing the door, watching my right foot, which was still outside of the elevator, disappear above my head between the elevator door and the elevator shaft.

I saw my foot vanish first, then my leg up to my knee. I remember screaming. The pain was so excruciating that I believed my leg was going to snap. It very well might have if so-and-so had not instinctively been holding me up, keeping me from hanging upside down by my ankle.

Shortly after, the elevator stopped – I don’t know how far it had dropped. I think one floor. When it did stop so-and-so yanked me down, freeing my foot from the elevator shaft. I was assisted to the floor. Someone gave me a t-shirt to wrap around my ankle. I was in shock. I felt no pain. Couldn’t figure out why they wanted me to hold the shirt so tightly around my ankle. So I looked down and saw the blood. Then I loosened the shirt and saw the wound. Shortly after I had been freed, the elevator dropped again, another floor, before shooting wildly up to the 10th floor.

... Nightmare Hollywood-style.

Miracle God-style ...

I still have my foot. No broken bones. No torn tendons. Just an 11 centimeter (from one side of my ankle to the other) laceration so deep I could see my achilles before they stitched me up. A work-weeks stay in the hospital hooked up to IV antibiotics. Six weeks on couch arrest, with who knows how many to go. Only when it's completely closed up and healed over can I put any pressure on my foot. Then its two months of physical therapy, learning how to walk again. Two months before they'll think about letting me get behind the wheel of a car.

So Abram left, as the LORD had told him.

Sunday August 30 2009

"I'm back. I'm back in the saddle again. I'm back." (Aerosmith)

I'm looking at the date of this post, thinking, "How odd." My last post was in January. I didn't even know which direction the Lord would lead me. Maybe I had an inkling. And now here I am almost eight months later. A new house, with no payments. An old house on the market. A new flock. A new church.

What a strange feeling driving the last five miles of a 700 mile trip. This is it. Gulp. What an even stranger feeling to walk into a new home, an unfamiliar home, and see all the familiar furnishings. Already unpacked and set up by Ruthie. Wonderful Ruthie. Where would I be without Ruthie.

I am so glad for the three constants in my life, especially when life is turned upside down. I have Ruthie, my rib, by my side. I have Ella, my bella, in my arms. I have Jesus, my Savior, holding me in his everlasting arms.

"Not my will, but yours be done."

Sunday January 4 2009

Three weeks to make a decision. One week to mull over my current call. One week to think about the call being extended to me. One week to weigh the one against the other. Then one more week to find peace with the decision before I announce it to the congregation.

There is so much information, so much history, so much unknown that you have to consider. At the same time I've got to be thinking about Ruthie and Ella - but not letting their needs be the overriding reason for making a decision. And then there's the house. The worst housing crisis in decades. What are we going to do with this house?

But the bottom line is, it's not my wants or desires that need to be fulfilled. It's God's. Your kingdom come, Lord. Which direction should I take that will most benefit the work of your kingdom? Grant me peace with a choice.

So Jacob was left alone, and a man wrestled with him.

Sunday January 24 2009

This is nothing new for so many shepherds. But it sure is new to me. It's only been a week, but man, what a roller-coaster of a ride. Changes of mind at least three times a day. Sometimes those convinctions happening two minutes after the previous one. Sleepless nights. Restless nights. Nights where I'm so exhausted I don't want to get up till after 9:00. I finally understand what pastors mean when they say that they are wrestling with a call. And I am definitely getting a good idea of what Jacob experienced that long night by the River Jabbok. Gracious Lord, I'm hanging on until you bless me with an answer. And when that answer comes, I'm still going to hold tight.

"Speak, LORD, your servant is listening."

Monday December 29 2008

Ten minutes before the Church Council Meeting: Part II the phone rang. Area code 989. A familiar prefix, but the caller ID displays a name I don't recognize. "Hello, Erich? This is Pastor *****. I'm calling to inform you that the congregation of St. James in North Branch, Michigan has just extended you the call to serve as their shepherd."

I knew that I was going to get a phone call like that some day. I've been in the ministry for four years. But right then, at that moment, at this particular time of year? Like Samuel, I wasn't expecting God to be calling my name. They always say it happens when you least expect it. Better now than a year ago. Back then I wouldn't have thought twice about taking a call to anywhere.

In the beginning ...

Just a note about my posts ... The first few are actually from a blog I started a few years ago. I would have continued that blog. Or I would have closed it down after rolling it into this one. However, I forgot the password and closed the email account it was connected to.