Jack Lewis, the Bible Study Dog (BSD) has been quite sweet to me the last few days. He is eager to lie down with me whenever I get into my recliner chair. He wedges himself in tightly beside my leg. This afternoon, while my cell phone was charging in another room and Jack Lewis was sleeping on my lap, I just could not disturb Jack to answer the phone. Jack Lewis catches a ball, sometimes in the air, when I throw it around the kitchen. Today, the BSD, rolled over for me to rub his stomach, which is very unlike Jack. He also came in to my office and laid down on his office bed while I was working. The amazing symbiotic relationship between dogs and humans, that God has provided, was on full display.
Why is Jack so sociable these days? It may have something to do with the reality that I am a little more mobile because my doctor is allowing me now to be “90-10” weight-bearing. Just the higher energy level in the house is stimulating, and yet, comforting to the BSD. The two pictures above, taken when Jack was just a few weeks old, helped to motivate me to rescue Jack (he had been abandoned). These pictures of Jack are the only pictures of Jack I have on my computer. I hope to get some recent photos up, with the help of techie friends.
Jack Lewis is now about two years old (some people say three years, but they are incorrect). He is completely black, except for some white hair on his chin. The vet guessed that Jack is a Dachshund – Jack Russell Terrier mix. Jack has the long body and front bow legs typical of dachshunds and the head, chest and temperament of a terrier. Some people were worried that the Bible Study Dog was gaining too much weight, but at 22 lbs., the vet says he is right on target. Jack is a small dog, but he envisions himself as a large dog, a mighty predator, and a faithful and frightening alert dog. I think he sees himself like this:
But actually, Jack Lewis looks very much like this:
And when Jack Lewis stretches himself out on the floor to study me (see my post, “Prayer – Part Dos/Deux/Zwei/Due/Two” of 7/26/14), he looks like this:
Jack Lewis has a reputation as a sleek, handsome dog. One day as I was coming home, a young man was leaning over our fence. He said, “Is that your dog?” I said, “Yes.” After asking about what breed of dog Jack was, the man said, “That is the most beautiful dog I’ve ever seen!” Many people in our neighborhood know Jack. People walking their dogs address Jack by name, sometimes stopping to allow canine greetings. One neighbor lets her large dog into our yard occasionally to play with Jack Lewis. Everybody loves Jack.
However, recently, the BSD has been losing his hair on the top of his head. At some times of day, Jack looks startled or frightened because of his pale cranial pallor. Or he appears for a moment to be a non-canine animal, like a bat or some small creature from the movie, “Jurassic Park”, or some hitherto unsuspected urban prowler. He also seems a little feral (I love that word) or wild. I am reminded that in addition to Jack Lewis’ sociable, domesticated, human-oriented side, Jack also carries his genetic inheritance of the untamed wild dog. It seems easier to see this when he looks a bit strange.
I had a professor in theological seminary who said, “The longer I live, the more God seems weird or strange to me.” I take this to mean that some of the categories we have for understanding God, while remaining true as far they go, seem inadequate for understanding God as we walk with him and see his surprising actions and plans. To learn from the Father or the Son or the Holy Spirit we must be open to surprise, paradox and mystery. Someone that you love remains, at least partially, a mystery (“Wow, I never knew that about you!”), while someone that you do not love (are indifferent to) is addressed with box-making, controlling language (“You always…”, “You never…”).
God has revealed himself, especially in Jesus Christ, as our Father, Guide, Provider, Forgiver, Lover, Protector who is all-knowing and all-powerful and always good and loving. He causes all events to work together for our good (Rom. 8:28). Jesus does not call his disciples merely “servants” (John 15:15, NRSV), but “…friends, because I have made known to you everything that I have heard from my Father.” (John 15:15c, NRSV) Jesus genuinely desires our fellowship with him (Revelation 3:20).
And yet, if we are to receive from God that which we do not already think and feel, God must be for us a bit wild (see my post, “Fake Wizard or Awesome God?”, about paragraph 17, of 8/3/14), even strange. Not only is God our Friend and Savior; he is also holy, other. We are made in the image of God and are now being made like Jesus, but nonetheless, we are not God. God is Other or as Martin Buber or Karl Barth or some postmodern theorists would say, the Other (don’t worry, there won’t be a test on this).
Consider these words of God, spoken through the prophet, Isaiah:
“For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
nor are your ways my ways, says the LORD.
For as the heavens are higher than the earth,
so are my ways higher than your ways
and my thoughts than your thoughts. (Isaiah 55:8-9, NRSV)
That’s about as Other as one can get! Part of what we mean by ‘holiness’ is who God is in himself, his difference, his otherness (for explosive and compelling pictures of this look at Isaiah in the temple in Isaiah 9 and Moses before the burning bush in Exodus 3).
But here comes a twist…wait for it… God is not worse than we thought or imagined, but better! Look at the verses before our text:
“Seek the LORD while he may be found,
call upon him while he is near;
let the wicked forsake their way,
and the unrighteous their thoughts;
let them return to the LORD,
that he may have mercy on them,
and to God, for he will abundantly pardon. (Isa. 55:6-7, NRSV, emphasis added)
And then a verse after our text:
“For you shall go out in joy, and be led back in peace;
the mountains and the hills before you shall burst into song,
and all the trees of the field shall clap their hands.” (Isa. 55:12, NRSV)
It’s a good thing that God is God and I am not, because he is so much more forgiving than I am. It’s also good that his plans for me are much better than I can imagine. God calls us all to turn from our idols that do not satisfy (see my post, “What We Are” of 5/28/14) and receive the abundant life that is God and that is better than we can imagine. “Ho, everyone who thirsts, come to the waters; and you that have no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without price. Why do you spend your money for that which is not bread, and your labor for that which does not satisfy? Listen carefully to me, and eat what is good, and delight yourself in rich food. Incline your ear, and come to me; listen so that you may live.” (Isa. 55:1-3a, NRSV)
This post was powered by, “The Best of Kansas” (1984) by Kansas and, “Live From The Strip” (1999) by Kate Miner.