Death of a Pit Bull

Death of a Pit Bull

I learned this morning that Hector the Pit Bull had died. I never met the dog nor his owners. I only knew of him from his Facebook page.

pit bull
Hector and his family

This was no ordinary pup with publicity. Hector was one of the pit bulls seized from Michael Vick’s dog fighting operation. Some of the dogs were too far gone psychologically and had to live in a rescue the rest of their days.

Then there were the dogs like Hector. His early years were spent in brutality, pain, violence, and terror but his rescuers saw past the beginnings and saw past the dreaded pit bull label. They gave Hector a chance.

Not only was he adopted by a family, but he became a certified Canine Good Citizen* and certified therapy dog. As the end approached his family took him to his favorite places, gave him a soft bed in which to rest, covered by a warm blanket. A canine companion stayed by his side. He ended his days on this earth surrounded by his adopted family, who were just some of the people who loved him.

He began his life in a life no dog should have.

He ended his life in a way every dog deserves. Oh, what the heck – in the way most of us people would want as well… given loving attention, lots of treats, a faithful dog by our side and nothing but love at the end.

I have a friend who wants to know if a book or movie “ends well.” She doesn’t want to invest her time if her heart is only going to be broken at the end. Hector’s story ended well.

I don’t know about you, but I can go a long time on the light and the love of such a story. I know such stories sustain many animal rescuers as they wade through the horrors they must encounter in the course of their rescues.

Such light and love sustains me in my work as well. Sometimes someone will ask me, “How do you do it? How do you listen to such painful stories?” Some of the stories my clients tell me are indeed heart-breaking. Some of them make me angry for the injustice that has been done. We don’t get much choice about our beginnings, and some of their beginnings have also been tough.

The joy of my work, however, is that the beginning of their stories isn’t the end of their stories. As we work, I get to see the light come back to their eyes… or maybe shine for the first time. I get to see them move through the pain into the healing, to stop listening to the lies about who they are and what they deserve in this life.

Hector’s past wasn’t his present.

What about you?

*Canine Good Citizen requires that a dog pass a test safely handling things such as encountering strangers and strange dogs.

The grace of old clothes

The grace of old clothes

Recently I was reading about a new company that rents clothes online. You order it, wear it as long as you like and then return it. Now  I can see the value if you’ve got a fancy ball to go to (or in the immortal words of Archie Campbell’s Rindercella, “a bancy fall”) and you’re not the kind who ordinarily does such things. Why spend hundreds of dollars on a dress to be worn once?

But the owner was positioning the company for ordinary clothes as well. She used the example of a winter coat. “Don’t we just rent that?” she said. After all, we wear it for six months and then put it back in the back of the closet. (For those of us in the south those numbers are adjusted accordingly.)

I thought about my camel colored pea coat, a bargain I found several years ago, on sale and inexplicably in my petite size (even the sleeves fit – a rarity for me.) When I slip it on the soft wool feels like a hug. It’s familiar. We’ve bonded through the miles we’ve traveled together on the barely-cool-enough-for-it days of fall to the bundled up days of winter.

I thought about other clothes in my closet… the clothes that  I can date because my mother gave them to me and it’s been more than a few years since she cruised a Talbot’s store. The clothes that felt just right form the very first day and that are a part of my weekly rotation. The clothes that are a cause for celebration when I can fit into them and wear them.

I think about the clothes now worn with frayed edges and bald spots. Some are passed along to the yard work/painting drawer. And some are put out of their misery – or at least put out in the trash, too far gone for Goodwill.

Perhaps such musings are nothing more than the first world nostalgia of someone entitled enough to have more than a few outfits in my closet, who has the luxury of switching from summer to winter closets. But it made me think of deeper things.

It’s tempting to be dazzled by what’s shiny and new. It’s what this clothing rental business is counting on. After all, aren’t you getting the new iPhone? But there’s something to be said for the connections that come through the years. I enjoy making new friends, but as the Girl Scout song says, not at the expense of the old.

Old clothes. Old pets. Old friends. They may be a bit worn but what a treasure it is to share the miles with them.

The table will be wide

The Table Will Be Wide

a sermon by Peggy Haymes
Isaiah 40:25-31
I John 4:7-12

It’s a strange sort of day.
All around us trees are beginning to look like collection of paintbrushes,
their tips dipped in yellow and burgundy.
The thermometer
has dropped to temperatures
more appropriate for Pumpkin Spice Latte season.

For the folks who dread winter
it feels like a harbinger of doom.
but I suspect that the most seasonally challenged of us
still cannot help to delight
in a day like we had yesterday.

Bright. Shiny. Crisp.

It’s a strange sort of time
because when you read a newspaper that you hold in your hands
or watch the news
or catch up online,
the world looks considerably less shiny.

Ebola once sounded exotic,
the stuff of an adventure novel.
Now it feels scary
and Africa feels a bit too close.
I saw a slide show online this week
of pictures from Liberia.
I tried to fathom what it was like for the people in those pictures
to be stretched out on the hard earth,
so terribly sick,
perhaps sick unto death,
with friends and family afraid to come near.
What is a like to try to work there,
knowing that even with best precautions,
you may be next.
What is it like to live there,
watching your family and your village and your town
decimated before your eyes?
What is it like
to watch your country being destroyed
not by war but by illness?

The world looks less shiny
and verily, seems filled
with bubble, bubble, toil and trouble.
In Hong Kong umbrellas are weapons of choice
as protestors try to protect themselves
while saving their futures.

In Syria,
captive are beheaded.
Does anyone really know what’s going on in
Israel and Gaza,
in Egypt,
in Afghanistan?

Lord, have mercy.

It’s not just out there, you know.
Parents search for children
who cannot be found,
and parents sit vigil by the besides of children
praying for cures to be found.
Terrible things are done to the vulnerable..
a child, a wife, a girlfriend,
even an animal.
Terrible things are done
to this creation that is our home
and our stewardship.

Lord, have mercy.

Today is World Communion Sunday.

World Communion Sunday was begun as a way
for the multicultural and multi-hued
body of Christ to remember that we are indeed one.
Whether our label is Baptist or Episcopal or Methodist or Presbyterian or Catholic
or some other brand,
whether we are in a first world country
or a third
or somewhere in-between,
we are one as the body of Christ.

But as I thought about this service
and as I thought about the news
and as I thought about the stories I hear every day,
it seemed to me that the whole world
felt a bit broken.
Maybe we gather at this table not as a sign of our unity
but as a sign of our brokenness.
Because, this table,
it knows something about broken things.

We have two texts for today.
The first comes from the book of Isaiah (40:25-31)

The audience of the prophet
knew something about broken worlds.
They lived in one.

Despite the reassurances of the TV preachers with good hair
that everything was going to be just fine,
their country was defeated by the Babylonians.
Overrun, really.
The Temple, God’s house, was destroyed
and many of them were taken away from their own homes
into exile.
Many of them would never get home again.
They feel like God has abandoned them.

To a dispirited and dejected people,
Isaiah thunders out words of challenges and hope.
God is not defeated
and God hasn’t given up.

Even when the most aerobically conditioned among us
fall by the wayside,
God’s people keep going.
Not just shuffling along.
But flying.

God gives power to the faint.
To the weak God gives strength.
To those who wait upon God,
to those who don’t give up,
to those who keep showing up,
God won’t abandon them.
God will renew them.
God will lift them up.

Now our second text may not seem like
it has much in common with the first.
The writer, whom we call John,
is writing to this new Christian community.
Jesus hasn’t yet returned
so they have to figure out
how to live with each other
in the meantime.

My beloved friends, this is how you know
You’re one of God’s people:
you love.

The apple cannot fall far from the tree.
God is love,
and so should we love.

God showed us how far love can go.
Out of the love the infinite,
all powerful God
became a helpless baby
who had to be fed
and carried from one place to the next
and I daresay, have his diapers changed.

Out of love,
this baby grew up to be a man
who taught and healed and loved.
A man who chose to share in the experiences that we share,
to love his friends,
to be hurt by them and even betrayed by them,
to be tired and to be hungry,
to be hurt and humiliated,
to be shamed and to be bruised,
to be beaten up.
Finally, to die.

God showed us
that love knows no boundaries
and God’s love knows no limits.

Do you know of Nadia Bolz-Weber?
She’s the minister
who is known for her use of what many feel is not not quite appropriate for the sanctuary languageand collection of tattoos,     including a large Mary Magdalene on her forearm.

But she is also known for reminding us that grace isn’t just for those of us
who clean up real good
or who never got that dirty to begin with.

She writes,
“God was never about making me spiffy; God was about making me new… It happens to all of us. God simply keeps reaching down into the dirt of humanity and resurrecting us from the graves we dig for ourselves through our violence, our lies, our selfishness, our arrogance, and our addictions. and God keeps loving us back to life over and over.” ( Nadi Bolz-Weber, Pastrix, p. 174)

We gather at this table
because it’s a table that knows about brokenness.
Jesus says it right out loud:
this is my body, broken for you.

But the broken isn’t the end of the story.
This table is set with love.

We gather at this table
because our host Jesus meets us here,
reminding us that God loves this whole
shiny, hurting, confused, brilliant world.

We gather at this table
because this is food for the weary.
This is strength for the struggling.
This is balm for the sad.
This is celebration for the joyful.
This is blessing and commission for the strong…
and the weak,
for the successful
and the failures.
In other words,
we gather at this table
because there is room here for all of us.
there is love enough here
for you
and for me
and for this whole world.

We gather at this table
knowing that broken isn’t the last word.

It is strange sort of days but God knows,
God knows,
they are days held in the heart of God.
As are we.
As I was preparing for this service I came across this poem.
It is a blessing for World Communion Sunday,
and it is our blessing.

And the Table Will Be Wide

A Blessing for World Communion Sunday

And the table


will be wide.


And the welcome


will be wide.

And the arms

will open wide


to gather us in.

And our hearts


will open wide


to receive.

And we will come
 as children who trust


there is enough.

And we will come


unhindered and free


And our aching


will be met

with bread.

And our sorrow


will be met

with wine.

And we will open our hands


to the feast

without shame.

And we will turn


toward each other

without fear.


And we will give up

our appetite


for despair.

And we will taste


and know

of delight.

And we will become bread

for a hungering world.


And we will become drink


for those who thirst.


And the blessed

will become the blessing.


And everywhere

will be the feast.
– Jan Richardson

© Jan Richardson. janrichardson.com.

Amen.

Lindley Park Church, Greensboro, NC 210/5/2014

Who are you today?

I’ve been reading Ruth Reichl’s memoir, Garlic and Sapphires: Adventures of a food critic in disguise. Reichl served as food critic for the New York Times, although you may know her, as I do, as a judge on Top Chef. One of the challenges of any food critic is remaining anonymous. Before she even arrived in New York for her interview with the Times, local restaurants had her picture on the wall for employees to see. Of course, if you’re found out a food critic the visit is worthless; you’ll get the very best treatment possible.

When Reichl began working for the times she began getting creative with her disguises. With the help of her friends she began creating not only a disguise but a persona, crafting a story that fit her character. She enjoyed this rather advanced version of playing dress up. What took her by surprise, however, was how different she felt inside the garb of each woman. With some she felt free and outgoing; with others she felt burdened and invisible.

But she didn’t just feel different; she was treated differently. From the doorman of her apartment building to the taxi drivers to the restaurant staff, her interactions varied widely according to her disguise. Sometimes people were eager to engage with her. Other times people are just as eager to hide from her.

All of which made me think: what guises do we put on? As you prepare for the day, do you put on the emotional clothes of the failure and screw-up who can’t do anything right? Do you wear the jacket of a victim who never seems to win? Do you put on confidence or a trusting curiosity about the world?

Just as Reichl discovered, the people we become affects the people we meet.

Tomorrow morning as you prepare for your day, ask yourself: Who am I today? Who do I want to be? Who do I choose to be?


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