Well, I am really settled in after my first year here at First Church! How can I tell? First of all, I now have at least a rudimentary sense of “who’s who”. And I know at least a little about the traditions and the treasures of the church. And I have some sense of the challenges we face together as we seek to remain a vibrant, vital church in Portland’s downtown core.
But beyond all that, I am really settled in…having (finally) sold my Eugene home last fall, and now having purchased a home in Beaverton. Life feels more settled for me. So much so that I recently welcomed a new family member into my home… a 5-year old rescued Corgi. And I am reminded again of the truth Mary Ellen Ashcroft articulates in her book, Dogspell:
Dog ownership leaves tracks all over your life. No more walking away from your house on some glorious vacation (or a long day at the office). A house sitter, a kennel – you need to think of your dog.
It can definitely be a hassle, to count a dog among one’s family members. On the other hand, a dog can be counted as one of life’s sweetest blessings. If little Maggie were not there, I would open my door, and no one would rush out, tail wagging madly, seeking desperately to be the first to say “Welcome home!” If she were not there, I would have one less reason to get out and walk around the neighborhood, one less reason to get out of bed when I’m tired or grumpy or just plain bored.
Sure, there would be no clumps of hair accumulating on the carpet, no surprise excavations in the back yard. But without my dog, where would I look for such a vivid illustration of God’s unconditional love for me?
The complete title to Ashcroft’s book reads this way: Dogspell: A Dogmatic Theology on the Abounding Love of God. In it, the author uses dogs as a metaphor for God, and suggests:
Exhausted, in a moment of forgetfulness, I pick up the leash. My dog scrambles to her feet, dances the whole body wag. She leaps, she runs to the door. She is ready to go anywhere with me. How could I have forgotten that?
Doglike, God takes the slightest indication on my part and multiplies it. The spark – the prayer “God help me”, a response to an altar call, a word that even sounds like “w-a-l-k”, and before I know it we’re in a blaze of joyful, tail-wagging pleasure. I may say it over and over: “No. Get down; no dogs allowed. Stay. Down” I hesitate just once, and there is God, at my elbow, ready to greet me. The crinkle of a plastic bag, the tread of tennis shoes, the word “walk” and the dog is up, leaning over the gate, wagging her willingness.
I love my dog for the companionship she provides me, my daughters, and anyone else who come to visit. I love her for alerting us when she senses danger, for rousing us from slumber, for playing with us and for making us laugh (have you seen a Corgi run?) But beyond all that, I appreciate my dog for the glimpses she gives me of God. From those deep brown eyes to that dancing little body, it is good to be reminded that God is always there, ready to greet me, and hoping to walk alongside.