According to some Christian outlooks we were made for another world. Perhaps, rather, we were made for
this world to recreate, reclaim, and renew unto God's future aspiration by the power of His Spirit. - R.E. Slater
Secularization theory has been massively falsified. We don't live in an age of secularity. We live in an age of
explosive, pervasive religiosity... an age of religious pluralism. - Peter L. Berger
Exploring the edge of life and faith in a post-everything world. - Todd Littleton
I don't need another reason to believe, your love is all around for me to see. - anon
Thou art our need; and in giving us more of thyself thou givest us all. - Khalil Gibran, Prayer XXIII
Be careful what you pretend to be. You become what you pretend to be. - Kurt Vonnegut
Religious beliefs, far from being primary, are often shaped and adjusted by our social goals. - Jim Forest
People, even more than things, need to be restored, renewed, revived, reclaimed, and redeemed; never throw out anyone. - anon
... Certainly God's love has made fools of us all. - R.E. Slater
An apocalyptic Christian faith doesn't wait for Jesus to come, but for Jesus to become in our midst. - R.E. Slater
Christian belief in God begins with the cross and resurrection of Jesus, not with rational apologetics. - Eberhard Jüngel, Jürgen Moltmann
Our knowledge of God is through the 'I-Thou' encounter, not in finding God at the end of a syllogism or argument.
There is a grave danger in any Christian treatment of God as an object. The God of Jesus Christ and Scripture is
irreducibly subject and never made as an object, a force, a
power, or a principle that can be manipulated. - Emil Brunner
Ehyeh Asher Ehyeh means "I will be that who I have yet to become." - God (Ex 3.14)
Our job is to love others without stopping to inquire whether or not they are worthy. - Thomas Merton
The church is God's world-changing social experiment of bringing unlikes and differents to the Eucharist/Communion table
to share life with one another as a new kind of family. When this happens we show to the world what love, justice, peace,
reconciliation, and life together is designed by God to be. The church is God's show-and-tell for the world to see how God wants
us to live as a blended, global, polypluralistic family united with one will, by one Lord, and baptized by one Spirit. - anon
The cross that is planted at the heart of the history of the world cannot be uprooted. - Jacques Ellul

Thursday, September 3, 2015

The Story of Pets in Our Lives


Chip husking corn with the girls

Today's blog will be a light-hearted affair drawn from Scientific America's September issue. Over the year's it seems that I've cared for almost every animal available at a pet store, except for the exotic, cold-blooded kind. In my youth we lived on a farm and had lots of hunting dogs and barnyard cats which I would play with by the hour. My own dog was a collie I named "Pal" who was both my friend and playmate until he died at the start of my sophomore year in high school. It broke my heart.

When married, my wife and I had no kids for a long while and to help blunt the trauma of this experience I bought a miniature Shetland Collie from a litter of seven, tied an oversized red ribbon around its neck, and surprised her one Christmas morning. We affectionately named our small doggie "Bear." My wife was thrilled with the snuggly puppy and for many years he filled the gap in our hearts where kids could not. We found ourselves content serving together in lay ministry to college/carreer and single adults, at work, going to graduate school, and simply enjoying life as always with friends, family, travels, and what not.

And then, a most unexpected thing happened. We had a son who became our miracle child in many ways. We had learned years earlier from an infertility specialist that we would never have kids in life. But, per God's grand surprises in life, not only did we have a son but two years later we also had a daughter to care for. Since then, both have moved out, gone to college, were married last fall, and have begun their own lives. Our daughter lives in town nearby while our son lives on the far side of the state whom we occasionally get to visit one way or the other.

We grew up as a close family, went to family parties together, camped, and played sports together. I even had the great privilege to coach both our kids in a number of different sports all the way up into their high school years. And through those years, we raised a number of different critters. From "pinchy" hermit crabs to several varieties of tropical fish, hamsters, parakeets, ducks, chickens, and even a stray cat (which now lives my daughter). We also had a couple of miniature dachshunds - you know, the "Toy Story" kind - to love and care for.

Moreover, each pet has had its own story in our lives. The fish kept us busy cleaning the large tanks and changing their water as they swam about without a care in the world. Our hamsters liked to prattle about in the wee hours of the night running round-and-round on their spinning wheels while keeping us light-sleepers up. The stray cat was soon discovered days later in my daughter's room stashed away where we wouldn't discover it (the urine gave it away; plus by allergies!). And the bright parakeets sang gaily in the mornings, chirped at suppertime, and were finally abandoned to a dear friend with a house better fitted for the distraction.

Another adventure was the caretake of baby chickens so cute when little. My daughter liked the silky kinds but she also had an eye for the unusual. Anyway, those "baby peeps" soon grew up and required a 2-story coop fully roofed, vented, and heated, which we built one long weekend from scrap lumber, wire, paint and roofing shingles. Early on we learned not to let our chickens run loose in the backyard where the hawks soon found innocent prey to feast upon. Afterwards, we were more careful to "watched over" our flock (sans a departed brother or sister) when they ran "free" outside. And, of course, we had one very pretty chicken dubbed "the dragon" or "monster." He was a bantam rooster with sharp talons and a short temper. He didn't like being fussed over and preferred to be left alone. Consequently it became my responsibility to "handle" it in the evenings because it was so "scary." But then again, dear dad was consigned all those "icky" jobs - from killing spiders to picking up poop - as our family grew up.

Since we live in Michigan the weather is very cold and snowy... even in the fall. So when coming home one night from work my daughter said her "fighting bantam rooster" was still outside in the cold dark. That she was too scared to catch it. And even her big, tall, boyfriend was "chicken."

"Horrors!"I thought. "It had been rainy and snowing all day and it must be near dead." So out into the weather I went. No coat. No gloves. Just me searching for a bedraggled "fighter" whom I found roosted up on one of the fence lines shivering in the dark. I carefully picked him up and he went completely limp in my cold, wet hands. I quickly took it back and tucked him away in the coop we had built underneath a warming lamp and there kept careful watch on it all through the night. By morning our little fighter had revived a little and eventually won his life back to return to his ornery ways.

On another day, a much sadder one, my heart was broken again when our daughter returned from her middle school trip out East to hug and hold her dachshund she had missed so greatly. But she never had the chance. As we were carrying her luggage upstairs to her bedroom I noticed dear "Chipper" racing carefree around the front yard unleashed. I also noticed from out the window a young woman walking her dog on the street. Immediately I dropped everything and raced down the stairs. But I wasn't fast enough as Chip had launched himself into the street to confront the big dog. In doing so a very large van ran over him and squashed his lower back and body. The pain and yowls were horrible to listen to and nothing could be done but put him down. So instead of our daughter hugging her dog she rode in the back seat in tears holding his broken body in her lap as I drove us to the Pet ER Clinic on the far side of town. The drive seemed to last for an eternity. Once there, we said goodbye through more tears and heavy hearts, as Chip was put to sleep to go where all good doggies go up to doggy heaven. That was a particularly hard day.

Today, my wife and I are alone again with our memories, jobs, and daily routines. We have a new dachshund named "Jackson" ("Jack" for short) who is no longer young when purchased long years ago as a replacement for Chip. He's my wife's dog and deigns to ignore me most days as I pick up his poop from the yard (or sometimes the house), feed him, take him to the vet for his shoots, the groomer for his baths, and buy the occasional doggy toy and dental bone for him. Still, he adores my wife, unlike Chip, and my collie Pal, who loved me. The story of the pets in our lives has been a story of life made all the fuller when we open up our hearts to new experiences, events, and lessons.

Peace,

R.E. Slater
Edited September 3, 2015


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What Your Pet Reveals about You

Is there a typical cat person or snake owner? The jury is still out

Most of us think our pets say a lot about who we are. Why else would we proudly proclaim our loyalty on T-shirts and in online profile pictures? Yet few scientists have rigorously investigated whether our choice of pet reveals anything about our personality, beliefs or lifestyle. Scientific American MIND rounded up the smattering of available research and highlighted some of the more interesting findings in the infographic that starts below and continues on the next pages. Some information comes from peer-reviewed studies, but the bulk of the data derives from huge market surveys undertaken by interested parties in the pet industry, such as the American Veterinary Medical Association, which tracks pet populations, owner demographics and expenditures to follow how pet ownership in the U.S. changes over time. As you will see, these surveys reveal interesting things about people and the pets they love.
And Now a Few Words from Pet Owners
Our survey drives home the fact—supported by several studies—that our animal companions are integral to how we see ourselves. For instance, men who like being seen as tough may get a tough-looking dog to help them project that image. Some people are proud rabbit or poodle owners because having those pets is a family tradition. Other folks might keep less popular critters, such as spiders or snakes, because they feel these animals are misunderstood, much like themselves.
Below, at the left, we provide some intriguing findings from readers who admire or have more than one type of pet and some data on how owners of specific animals describe themselves. At the right is a sampling of the hundreds of passionate responses we got to the question: What makes you a dog person, a cat person, neither or both? Visit our Web site (www.ScientificAmerican.com/Mind/pet-survey) for more survey results.