The header is a sign of my wish for Spring to come.  

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From dog to God

In a previous post I told of our dog Teddy who went with us to Mennonite Church assemblies. Perhaps there are other dogs that go to Mennonite Church Assemblies with their masters, but I do not know of any.  By the word of Jesus alone I am assured that Jesus is always present at assemblies, but I doubt that he is always pleased.  When the delegates to the Philadelphia assembly began to debate LGBTQ issues, I was not a delegate so I was free to get up and leave the meeting. I opined that Jesus like me was not listed as a delegate so he likely in sorrow and disgust may have left the assembly before me.

After leaving the assembly I followed word of mouth directions to the basement of an African American church where LGBTQ people rejected by Mennonites had gathered with friends and relatives to encourage one another, and to worship.  The sound of congregational singing made me feel at home, immediately.

I was surprised to meet a certain fellow pastor and his wife.  I asked why they were there, and they told me of their gay son who was active in a non-Mennonite church on the west coast.  I knew their son’s grandfather as a man of unusual grace. When he asked about his grandson on the west coast and learned of his grandson’s gayness, the old gentleman was silent for a moment, and then admitted quietly: I must learn more about grace. It was a happy moment.  I do not know where my dog Teddy was. but I do believe  that Jesus was present in this meeting of the LGBTQ and their sympathizers.

These days I am reading reports of The Summit in Orlando. I sense a unanimous desire that recurs in the themes.  Everyone believes that Jesus should be and is the center of church life.  Somewhere I read that Jesus should be at the center of the church, and that the boundary or the church should be permeable.  This would make the church a powerful attraction and easily accessed.

Franciscan Father Richard Rohr notes that Jesus did not invite the people of his day to worship him.  But often he invited disciples to a new life style. His invitation was, “follow me”.  So, will the Jesus be worshiped by Mennonites in ways not wished for, or be followed to life, to death and to life, which makes all the difference. Jesus may wish to move from the church’s center to the forefront of a pilgrim church that fulfills its mission in the world.

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About Going to the Dogs at Evergreen

Pepper, Martin’s dog

On Saturday afternoon Sandy our Evergreen Assisted Living activities director who loves animals put on a dog show for us.  One was a friendly Collie that reminded me of Uncle Walter’s dog. On a one word command “fetch” his dog leapt to bring the cows to the milking shed.

Pepper was my childhood terrier.  If I laid down she slept on my chest. If I lay on my back she slept on my chest.   If I went for a walk by the run she chased after whatever she smelled in the woods, but if I called her name she was immediately at my side.

Whimper and Aunt Lizzie

Pepper was replaced by Wimper: a  boston terrier who earned his name by whimpering his way into our lives.  We enjoyed him in many ways. But when Rachel visited her grandparents, Whimper made a fatal mistake. He snapped at Rachel when she toddled near his box behind the kitchen stove.  The next morning at his wife’s request, my father took whimper behind the barn and ended his life.  That sounds cruel, but to my Mother Whimper’s life was nothing compared to the safety of her precious granddaughter.  Boston Terriers remain my favorite breed and I could tell several stories about them.

In Tampa, the dogs we adopted were usually killed by cars on the street in front of our house. Our neighbor worked for a vet and he promised a dog for Conrad, our little boy. One day I was met at the door by Rhoda with a little brown puppy in her hands.  He became the favorite dog of our married life.  The neighbor explained that he was one forth Chihuawa and the rest was anything we wanted.

Rhoda housebroke Teddy perfectly and he had a special attachment to her. He needed to be on a leash in a camp ground.  If I took his leash and said “find Rhoda,” he unfailingly led me to where she was.  He mostly traveled with us whereeever we went,

Also, he remembered wherever he had been as a puppy.  He had a special fondness for Lakewood Retreat. If he went there with us he became excited a mile or two before arriving.  It must have had a special small to him.

Crystal enjoying heat from the pellet stove

He went with us to a Mennonite Assembly in Aimes, Iowa.  We were sent to a girl’s dormitory for lodging.  We took Teddy with us.  I called the attention of the girl who checked us in to our little dog.  She said quietly, “I haven’t seen him”.  We went to our room on the fifth floor before I remembered to take him for his “walk”.  After he had finished his “business”. he pulled me into the dormitory to the elevator door, out on the fifth floor and down the hall to our  room.  He knew where Rhoda was.  He was our dog and we were his people.

(Written while Joyce was in Milford, Nebraska, with her sister celebrating the seventieth birthday of their younger brother.)

Tippy, Pepper, and Whimper
Dearie, Teddy, and Candy 
Goshen dog Crystal 

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The Church is Green

The hours before and after midnight of July 5 I read the Tmail from The Mennonite that reported Day 2 of the Orlando Convention. A keynote address was delivered by Phil Kniss. I remember Phil as a boy and now his picture showed him with graying hair.  I like the way he started his address:

Kniss started out by owning his social location within the church. “We are having a Future Church Summit here, and I’m smack dab in the middle of the church of the past,” he said. “I’m not apologizing for who I am. But we who have the privilege and power must stop and listen longer, deeper and with more vulnerability.”

Kniss said that those who have traditionally held positions of power will need to “become OK having less of a voice and fewer votes in a [church] board room” and he noted that “we are all healthier when we own up to the power we have and give account to others for how we exercise it.

This reminded me of “The Fantasy Sermon” I imagined myself preaching to a fantasy congregation which I posted on this website.  You may find it an interesting read by clicking here  I believed what I preached and  concluded,

Finally, the seniors, middle-aged, and youth of this (fantasy) congregation need to communicate with one another. Seniors need to help the youth to believe that the unchangeable can be changed, the immovable can be moved, and the impossible can be done. Youth need the middle-aged to legitimize their vision. The pain of change is followed by the challenges of new life, hope and opportunity.

I hope that the attitudes described by Kniss and the kind of inter-generational conversations fantasized above take place at the convention and the summit that follows.  If it happens it will not be because of outside influences, but because the people who are there sway to the blowing of the Holy Spirit.

While pondering the posts about the Orlando Mennonite Convention, I was also thinking of the testimony of Pastor Pamela Yoder to our children at CMC.  She helped them and the adults in the church to understand that before she was a Mennonite she was a soldier in the United States Army and Indiana’s nation guard.  This is worth hearing.  You may click on the link and scroll into the service 20 minutes to hear her life story.  Click here. She said that Jesus was with her all the time.  I believe her. As we stop and listen and speak and allow the church to be more inclusive, a green church grows greener.

green greening greener
divided church wilts and droops
green growth with Jesus

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