(This newsletter was originally written in April 2005. I’m just fresh out of doing the Mark Schultz/POG concert and after that event again had thoughts about how we so much want to communicate with and praise God, even though we have very limited ability to share that for the most part and are limited in our attempt to do so many of the times. So, I thought I’d revisit this note, reading it encouraged me once again, hope it encourages you as well… By the way, Ivy is still doing just fine!)
My Dog Wants To Talk to Me!
That’s true. I’ve seen it! But, that’s not the place to begin. Ivy is her name. She is our second Beagle. If you remember I did a newsletter a few years ago about our first Beagle, Jessie. I identified in that earlier letter how much Jessie meant to me. She was the first dog that had lived in our house and the first dog that, in some strange way, became a very real part of our family. She didn’t really do that much to be so “connected to us” but she “connected” just the same. As I recall, the whole purpose of that letter was to identify how much we all loved Jessie just because she was our dog. She certainly was not the only dog deserving of such love, but no other dog got the attention and the affection as much as Jessie did in our lives. I compared our love for Jessie dog to the Love of God for “His” own, His family. A family made up of believers. That Love for us is justified only because we are His. It’s not because we deserve it, or earn it; it’s just because we’re His! His Grace grants it to us. (Galatians Chapter 3)
I really loved writing that letter. As I wrote it I discovered how deep, how wide and how high the love of Christ is for all “His children” that have accepted being chosen by Him. Just as we chose Jessie at the kennel, so the Creator of the Universe chose you and picked you out to be a part of His family. All the things Jessie needed (shelter, food and love) we provided. Jessie loved us as much as we loved her. Now as dogs go, she was a great dog and a dog that taught me a great lesson about God’s Love for His children.
But, Ivy, the subject of this letter, is the one that wants to talk to me. It was this past evening. I was fooling ’round with Ivy. I began to talk to her in the usual manner. You know the kind of talking that people do to dogs, cats and babies. You could just see it in her eyes. Pretty soon her head cocked a little off center and she began to move her mouth in such a way that I could just tell she wanted to talk to me, wanted to tell me how much she loved this game. I think she wanted to tell me how much she loved having this relationship with someone. Of course all she could do was take off running and jumping and twisting and wagging her tail (what in Beagle language is called a flag) at me. But I could see that desire to talk to me just the same. Towering over her, a picture went off in my head about the Father and our attempt to “talk to Him” and strong desire to listen. I was almost brought to tears thinking about how sad it would actually be if Ivy wanted so much to talk to me and not have a language to communicate with me. I was aware of the sadness I felt by not being able to let her know how much I appreciated and loved her desire to “talk to me.” Just seeing her attempt to do the best she could pleased me as much as if we could actually talk to one another.
There’s a very rare simplicity in “dog and master love.” I really don’t do very much to cause Ivy to respond to me, to love me so. Oh, I feed her, give her water and take her outside. But, that’s about it. Actually, she could live without me, I suppose. It would be harder living without my love but she could do it. (We, too, can live without His love, but it’s not easy, not comfortable, not pleasant, and simply not the way it was meant to be.) For all the things I “don’t do” for Ivy, she still gets so excited when I get home each night. She’s devoted. Just like clockwork, Ivy meets me at the door each night and “just loves me to death.” It pleases me so to have that happen. It’s rare in this world that anyone is “unjustifiably happy” just to see someone else. It surely is the same way with the Father. I’m sure when we meet with Him he is overjoyed to have us so “giddy” to be with Him. What great pleasure He must get out of those moments.
Ivy’s “tickled” with any attention I give her; she goes “nuts” about it. She jumps high in the air, spins, twists and barks with an unusual vigor. Man-worship if you will! When you take the time to watch and notice her response, it almost brings tears to your eyes to be the benefactor of so much approval and love. How the Father must feel when we celebrate before Him.
My dog wants to talk to me! She really does. She wants to communicate so badly and be much more a part of the relationship. But you know the important thing? Ivy does all she can do to express her love for me. It’s an expression with limits. I’m sure in the scheme of all Creation, our expression to the Father is limited as well. However, just as I appreciate and recognize Ivy’s “limited” expression of love, the Father recognizes our expressions as well. My heart breaks observing her desire mixed with her minimum ability to interact with me. She can’t “say what she wants to say” but I love “the desire to talk to me” just the same.
Dog ownership is “strange” in so many ways. It seems like an ancient idea, perhaps from the loneliness of some earlier time. I know that people that have never owned a dog that’s been a part of the family (in the house, eats with you, sleeps at your feet, runs to the door to meet you, does all kinds of tricks for just a pat on the head: that kind of being a part of the family) can’t really understand. They can’t “feel or appreciate” that relationship because they have never experienced that kind of relationship “with an animal.” When you tell people about it, they just kind of shrug their shoulders and think maybe that’s over the top just a little bit. But, there’s something we can learn from that experience. Not surprisingly, people feel the same way when they are unaware of a relationship with God. I mean they just can’t get it. It’s just not imaginable for them until it’s real to them. I didn’t get it about Jessie and Ivy until I got it! I didn’t get it about the Father until I got it! When we first picked up Jessie, you could never have made me believe I could care so much for a dog; that I could have experienced so much from a dog. After she died, I couldn’t wait to experience that “unconditional love” again. Jessie left an impression on my heart. Ivy continues that today. Our experience with the Father is much the same. Once experienced, you never want to give His unconditional Love up. What was not imaginable before that experience is now commonplace, normal and consistent. I’m glad we got a Beagle. Jessie taught me so much about the Love of God toward us. Ivy has taught me about our love toward God. I’m more aware of my limited and simple communication with God and yet, how pleased He is to see that expression just the same. I understand that just because “my dog wants to talk to me!”
I remember writing a newsletter a few years ago about how much I enjoy working with genealogy. I should add it’s the kind of ‘enjoy’ that’s similar to playing golf. For most people, playing golf frustrates more than satisfies. You play and you’re still way over par and yet you keep going back for more. We keep going back because there’s some mechanism in our brains that lets us forget the 10 bad shots we made and remember the one great shot. Well, genealogy’s like that. You run into these brick walls and just can’t find any way around them. It’s frustrating, but for some strange reason you keep going back and playing genealogy. You know in your wee little brain somewhere you’ve exhausted every avenue of discovery, but you keep trying, hoping and dreaming of finding something that surprises you.
I was going over some family notes the other day, using the internet again, trying to get past one of those brick walls. Some say the definition of crazy is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results. Well, that may be true except, of course, when it comes to genealogy. You just keep doing the same thing over and over and just maybe, unexpectedly, something shows up you can use. I do feel a little self-conscious whenever Jane looks over at me sitting at the computer and I have the usual ‘Family-Tree Maker’ software up and I’m sitting at my desk staring at the screen. It’s kind of like I’m waiting for some inspiration to come and send me off on this journey to the ‘Neverland’ of genealogy. She just shakes her head and knows that no amount of logic or persuasion can get me to give up looking for that one little bit of information that will lead me to ‘striking gold’ in the family tree.
Recently, there I sat, staring at the computer screen. It occurred to me why hadn’t I just simply asked my grandfather about his family? It would have been so simple to ask him. His name alone should have caused me to ask something about the family. I mean, why Blanchard Rufus? ‘How did you get tagged with that name Grandpa?’ Why didn’t I ask him just one question in all the years? I spent almost 21 years of my life in his life and not one question about his mom and dad. As I sat there, it dawned on me why I had not asked anything about his parents. They did not exist! Now, I know very obviously, he did have a mother and father, but when you’re all consumed with yourself (just the way it is when you’re young, and sometimes as an adult), centered entirely on yourself, you can’t think about the reality of anything older than your Grandma and Grandpa. That’s as old as old can be for kids. You mean my grandparents had parents? You mean Blanchard Rufus was two years old once? Go figure!
Now you think I’m kidding, don’t you? I’m not. All I remember is some 70-year old bald man. As a child, it just didn’t cross my mind that anything went beyond what was in my world at that moment in time. Kids have a crippling disadvantage at life. You see, kids only live in the moment. They are either: happy and therefore loud, or sad and therefore loud. They have no interest in the past and little interest in the future. That’s our present problem. You see, we are children of God…we’re just like kids! Our interest and vision is too narrow and it only consists of our needs for the moment. We want what we want right now! We take very little time to think about the big picture. We don’t care about what happened before and what will happen in the future. ‘Hey God! Just give me what I want now.’
It would be much better if we were full grown but it seems we aren’t. However, there’s a hope in the heart of God for us. He waits for us as we continue to come into a perfect (the Greek meaning is mature) believer. In the natural world, as we mature, something changes about our vision. When I was a child, I was around the greatest source of information about my family-my grandparents, but I was oblivious to it! I could have cared less. I was so unaware of anything other than my own little life-circle that it could not enter my mind that there was anything to care about. Today, I could kick myself for being so careless. Now, I sit and stare at that computer screen and think about how much I could have filled in the blanks if only it had crossed my mind that John had William, and William begat James Alfred and James Alfred was the father of Blanchard.
Now I have thousands of questions but it’s too late. All my interest came too late for me to take advantage of it. For the most part, it seems to parallel our interest in the Gospel. It took me 35 years to get interested enough in the Love of God for me to start searching it out and how it might affect the present and my future. I was born again at 16 years old but I wasted half my life never thinking about it much. Just didn’t cross my mind to pay attention to the fact that our Father left us a letter to encourage us, to direct us in our life. It’s a love letter about how much He cares about us, takes an interest in us. It’s a message of how much He thinks about us, even when we don’t think much about Him.
Now, we all find ourselves at the cross-roads of the secular and spiritual. Today, we live in the ‘super-bowl’ of struggles between those two world-views. And in the middle of that, we very seldom check the owner’s manual (Bible) on how to keep this ‘world’ running. There’s a rich past to look at and to gather before it’s too late, before it all passes away. We’re at the cross-roads of being child-like and mature. We can continue to be relatively unaware of the world around us and only think in terms of ‘where’s mine’. We can continue to perceive the world as it affects each of us individually, or we can look past this moment to our family history, actually to what Family we are a part of (the family of God).
Today, I’m sorry for having been so consumed with my own life as a child, my own way, not thinking about my grandfather’s life and family. Wish I’d taken more interest in things past and things future. It would be a great joy to have taken just a moment to consider the lives of my grandfather, his wife and children and family ties, rather than only thinking about myself. I still have a couple keepsakes and some wonderful memories of our time together but I’m missing the most interesting keepsake: knowing about him personally and how he thought, things he found interesting and the things he found valuable.
Perhaps you’re just like I was at 16, born again but just standing around scratching your head trying to figure out ‘what’s next’. I don’t mean necessarily getting into the genealogy thing, but how ‘bout the suggestion to get as much information as you can about the Father? Many times we live only for the moment. We measure our lives by what is happening only in that particular moment in time. We ignore the future even thought there is a day common for all of us. If everything we believe is true about Dad, as we mature in His message, as we grow up in Him, we will want to know more about how he thinks, who He is, what He is interested in, what He found valuable and not just that He exists. After all you don’t want to get caught just sitting staring at the screen and not have a clue about your ‘Family-tree’ when the thing crashes for the last time! We have such a rich family history and future to be learned about now.