Once Upon a Gospel – An Invitation to Love

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By: Jana Greene

Once upon a time, there was a good and perfect King whose agenda for the whole land was Love.

He provided everything his subjects needed – in this realm and The Eternal one – but one subject became jealous of the King and wanted to rule in his stead. Being the good and perfect King that He was, Love banished the hateful subject -who was one of the beings considered a friend of The King Himself  – from the Kingdom. He became a defector with his greedy endeavor to be equal with his Creator.

Furious at being banished, The Defector appealed to the less-than-royal castle walkers to leave the King’s dominion. He was very persuasive, and took a third of their masses with him. Because The King was Love Incarnate, The King mourned their loss. But his mourning was supplanted by a great concern for the subjects of his kingdom and their heirs. For the The Defector and his minions – subject to eternal separation from Love – vowed to use whatever evil means necessary to recruit members. Nothing was off limits.

Suffering and death. But also temptation and slick false-life advertising to sell it.

One of the biggest weapons used against the kingdom subjects was the very freedom The King had invoked a the First Testing. Essentially, it sounded something like this (and like exactly the same message he is spinning in this generation):

Don’t you think YOU should be King? Why does King Love get, well … all the love. You are ruler of your own life! You can have all the power. The King is out to ruin your fun and your lives. He sits up there on His throne, having no idea of your struggles. And that’s IF He exists…..Have you ever even SEEN Him in person? I didn’t think so. Maybe He doesn’t even exist. Maybe Love cannot save the world.

And the subjects were deceived, because a tiny seed in their hearts was watered by the slick words that appealed to Self over King. And confusion took root and has become a plague upon the earth ever since. Many subjects decided to follow the ruler of Self and, in turn, rejected The King’s perfect will.

Many declared they were subjects of no land at all, and by doing so, still made a choice to defect the Kingdom. There was no dual citizenship. Perfect Love casts out all fear, and fear was at the root of autonomy of the Subjects of No Land.”

There seemed no end to the weaponry that The Defector had at his disposal. Yes, good old sin bugaboos ran amok, But often times the destruction came in other slippery forms: Shame, Defeat, Distraction, Depression, Addiction, and a general elevation to Self while – at the same time – beating it down by diminishing it’s value.

It seemed like The Defector had the deck stacked in his favor, as all of the subjects had one thing in common, bestowed by the King – Choice. The Power to accept The King of Love, ruler of the Kingdom and keep the laws enacted by him in love for their own good, or to defect themselves to a more self-serving path.

Oh, the humanity – literally!

Could no one save The Kingdom from the author of confusion?

Will no one step in to save the subjects created to serve The King and those He loves?

And then The Magic happened. The King Himself would become a subject. He himself – through His divine heir – would become man and King, and show up in person. He would be Redeemer. He would know the anxiety and hardship of the masses, just like any other subject. But He would come to show them that The King is Love.

A nobler knight or king, the world had never known. Instead of cavorting with elite and rule-keeping, The Redeemer loved on the castoffs, touched the un-touchables. The peasants. He lived His life in a manner befitting The King in all ways. Whether teaching in the temples or on the street, all subjects were invited to become members of The King’s fold. And His love was the invitation to citizenship.

Healing. Unselfishness. Unconditional Love.

The Redeemer walked the realm for 33 years, a short span of time in history, but changed absolutely everything.

No longer could the subjects resent The King for not have walked among them as a common subject. The Redeemer showed the way that any subject could  become a bona-fide royal. He did so without serving Self or following any of the rules of the conniving Defector.

He would finally be crowned a King with a headpiece of thorns in a mockery of ascension to the Kingdom Throne. The Defector had a heyday. He considered a major win for his ruling. In truth, it was the beginning of His ultimate end.

Those who followed the defectors and beat him to a bloody death did not know they were in fact cementing the admission of Whomsoever into an Eternal Kingdom. The one who defected from The Eternal for seeking equality with The King made it possible for all of us to be equal heirs in all The King’s riches, in essence. Ironic, and beautiful paradox, that one.

The names of all the subjects – those who serve The King and those who serve The Defector – were on His lips, pleading with Love to administer grace and mercy. The subjects who accepted The Redeemer received permanent citizenship in the Eternal Kingdom.

The King ALWAYS uses what the enemy plans for evil to the GOOD of those who love Him.

The Magic – known as Holy Spirit – he left with the subjects, so that His power would be forever close at hand. That spirit of all that is lovely, The Magic lives on to this very generation.

The Defector knew the Day of the Redeemer had been coming, and he was prepared. Further making a mockery of Love, The Defector upped his war game, and with each new generation of subjects, became better and better at deceiving them.

Those satisfied to serve Self we easy to take down and make slaves to The Defector and his flunkies. With the ultimate knowledge that he is doomed to failure, he is quite literally hell-bent on taking as many subjects with him in eternal alienation from Love.

Even some of the Eternal Kingdom citizens sometimes forgot they are citizens of a Higher Order through the work of The Redeemer, the spoils of a war already won on the cross.  They struggled mightily, far more than people with an eternal birthright should. Tasked with spreading the message of unearned love to the whole world, they became weary.

The Defector must never allow subjects of The King to rest. They are dangerous on the battlefield, a liability to the Evil One’s schemes to overthrow The King. He was always on the prowl, looking for chinks in the armor that The Magic covered them in. He perfected the tips of his arrows and narrowed his aim, upping the ante with each attack.

It is for this reason the Redeemed subjects are not spared hardship and even occasional agony.

It’s not the end of the story. The King gets the last word. Love always wins, you know.

Because the Bible isn’t a fairy tale at all.

The King of Love exists. We call him God, and He isn’t the stuff of fables. The Redeemer who is both God and Man? He is Jesus. And there is, in fact, a Defector called Satan, and his demonic hosts of demons who defected the angelic realms. I know it sounds mythical, until you consider the state of the war, pestilence, and destruction both large-scale and in our personal lives. Look around the world we inhabit, so infused with suffering and tribulation. There should be no doubt we have a living enemy. And – here’s the twist in the story – it’s not us.

Yes, evil seems to be running the trial of the world as it hurtles toward implosion, as The Defector makes his closing arguments against us. Darkness is his counsel.

But our Counsel is Truth.

Our Judge? Love.

Your enemy doesn’t get to make it to your sentencing at the end of your life without allowing you to testify on your own behalf. And that testimony is the one and true light that vanquishes even the blackest darkness.

Our testimony is simply JESUS.

If you know The Redeemer, this tale may seem a filtered-down, fable-esque take on the Gospel. But a lot of people haven’t heard it in a relate-able way, and I’m hoping this little blog post helps one person see hope with new eyes.

The story has a happy ending.

If you don’t know The Redeemer, know that there is a good and perfect King whose agenda for the whole life is Love. He came in human form to understand the  anxiety and hardship of the masses, and to offer reprieve and eternal life.

His Kingdom – His LOVE – is available to you. Not Once upon a time, but today.

God bless us subjects, every one.

 

SCRIPTURAL REFERENCES:

“And don’t tell me that I have no authority to write like this. I’m perfectly free to do this—isn’t that obvious? Haven’t I been given a job to do? Wasn’t I commissioned to this work in a face-to-face meeting with Jesus, our Master? Aren’t you yourselves proof of the good work that I’ve done for the Master? Even if no one else admits the authority of my commission, you can’t deny it. Why, my work with you is living proof of my authority!” – 1 Corinthians 9:1-2 (MSG)

It is written: “In the beginning God (prepared, formed, fashioned, and) created the heavens and the earth. The earth was without form and an empty waste, and darkness was upon the face of the very great deep. The Spirit of God was moving (hovering, brooding) over the face of the waters. And God said, Let there be light; and there was light. …” – Genesis 1 (AMPC)

“When Lucifer was cast out of Heaven, one third of all the angels were cast out with him.” – Revelations 12:14-9

“Bilious and bloated, they gas,
    “God is gone.”
Their words are poison gas,
    fouling the air; they poison
Rivers and skies;
    thistles are their cash crop.

God sticks his head out of heaven.
    He looks around.
He’s looking for someone not stupid—
    one man, even, God-expectant,
    just one God-ready woman.

He comes up empty. A string
    of zeros. Useless, unshepherded
Sheep, taking turns pretending
    to be Shepherd.
The ninety and nine
    follow their fellow.” – Psalm 14:1-4

This history-changing gift changed the world forever. “This how much God loved the world: He gave his Son, his one and only Son. And this is why: so that no one need be destroyed; by believing in him, anyone can have a whole and lasting life. God didn’t go to all the trouble of sending his Son merely to point an accusing finger, telling the world how bad it was. He came to help, to put the world right again. Anyone who trusts in him is acquitted; anyone who refuses to trust him has long since been under the death sentence without knowing it. And why? Because of that person’s failure to believe in the one-of-a-kind Son of God when introduced to him.– John 3:16-18 (MSG)

 

Choosing YOU: “How blessed is God! And what a blessing he is! He’s the Father of our Master, Jesus Christ, and takes us to the high places of blessing in him. Long before he laid down earth’s foundations, he had us in mind, had settled on us as the focus of his love, to be made whole and holy by his love. Long, long ago he decided to adopt us into his family through Jesus Christ. (What pleasure he took in planning this!) He wanted us to enter into the celebration of his lavish gift-giving by the hand of his beloved Son.” – Ephesians 4:1 (MSG)

“How? you ask. In Christ. God put the wrong on him who never did anything wrong, so we could be put right with God.” 1 Corinthians 5:21 (MSG)

As his killers laugh and mock him as He is dying, throwing dice to see who would keep His robes as a macabre souvenir, He pleaded with The King: “Father, forgive them, for they don’t know what they are doing.” – Luke 23:24 (ENT)

The Redeemer said it Himself: “I’m telling you these things while I’m still living with you. The Friend, the Holy Spirit whom the Father will send at my request, will make everything plain to you. He will remind you of all the things I have told you. I’m leaving you well and whole. That’s my parting gift to you. Peace. I don’t leave you the way you’re used to being left—feeling abandoned, bereft. So don’t be upset. Don’t be distraught.” – John 14:26-27 (MSG)

To which The King decreed  “You see what this means—all these pioneers who blazed the way, all these veterans cheering us on? It means we’d better get on with it. Strip down, start running—and never quit! No extra spiritual fat, no parasitic sins. Keep your eyes on Jesus, who both began and finished this race we’re in. Study how he did it. Because he never lost sight of where he was headed—that exhilarating finish in and with God—he could put up with anything along the way: Cross, shame, whatever. And now he’s there, in the place of honor, right alongside God. When you find yourselves flagging in your faith, go over that story again, item by item, that long litany of hostility he plowed through. That will shoot adrenaline into your souls!” – Hebrew 12:1 (MSG)

For The King issued this proclamation: “Keep a cool head. Stay alert. The Devil is poised to pounce, and would like nothing better than to catch you napping. Keep your guard up. You’re not the only ones plunged into these hard times. It’s the same with Christians all over the world. So keep a firm grip on the faith. The suffering won’t last forever. It won’t be long before this generous God who has great plans for us in Christ—eternal and glorious plans they are!—will have you put together and on your feet for good. He gets the last word; yes, he does.” – 1 Peter 5:8

As fellow subject and apostle summed it up: “You yourselves are a case study of what he does. At one time you all had your backs turned to God, thinking rebellious thoughts of him, giving him trouble every chance you got. But now, by giving himself completely at the Cross, actually dying for you, Christ brought you over to God’s side and put your lives together, whole and holy in his presence. You don’t walk away from a gift like that! You stay grounded and steady in that bond of trust, constantly tuned in to the Message, careful not to be distracted or diverted. There is no other Message—just this one. Every creature under heaven gets this same Message. I, Paul, am a messenger of this Message.  Colossiains 1:22 (MSG)

“Do everything readily and cheerfully—no bickering, no second-guessing allowed! Go out into the world uncorrupted, a breath of fresh air in this squalid and polluted society. Provide people with a glimpse of good living and of the living God. Carry the light-giving Message into the night so I’ll have good cause to be proud of you on the day that Christ returns. You’ll be living proof that I didn’t go to all this work for nothing.” – Philippians 2:15-16 (MSG)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Love in a Strident Age

StridentBy: Jana Greene
If you have a computer, watch the news on TV, hold casual conversations around the water cooler at work, or simply do not live under a rock, you may be noticing the obtrusive, piercing, and jarring way people interact with one another nowadays.

Everybody seems so strident, so harsh and self-righteous and RIGHT about everything, all the time. Worse, from causal conversation to message boards online to Facebook posts and letters to the editor, those same folks lord their views over the rest of us peons who may believe differently. Where does that come from?

If it is not coming from a place of love and compassion, it isn’t of God.

I think the stridency has something to do with the determination that neither God nor devil exists. We make our own rules, and in doing so, have no rules about how to treat one another. The current vernacular seems to be “And in the off chance they do exist (and not just the Almighty Science), they are not the boss of me!”

But as Bob Dylan reminded us in a song released during another strident age, “You may serve the devil, and you may serve the Lord, but you’re gonna have to serve somebody.” When you are your own Higher Power, you are not accountable for hurting others.

If I give everything I own to the poor and even go to the stake to be burned as a martyr, but I don’t love, I’ve gotten nowhere. So, no matter what I say, what I believe, and what I do, I’m bankrupt without love.

We were all born with natures that desperately wish to be right about everything. Never before have people been so keen on using their own personal opinions to belittle those of others. The explosion of the internet age seems to have renewed our license to do so 100-fold.

Is it wrong to be a man who feels trapped in a woman’s body?

Speaking of a woman’s body, should the life in her womb be considered part and parcel of her alone, or a soul developing separate from her own?

Are you a bigot if you believe in equality for all, rather than special privileges for some?

What about race riots? Am I unsympathetic to consider rioting a crime in itself?

And is it unrealistic to expect that taking guns from a law-abiding people will result in those non-law abiding throwing theirs to the ground?

We all have opinions on all of these issues, some of us very strong ones. You can probably tell how I feel from the way the sentences were worded.

But remember the old adage, “It’s not what you say, it’s how you say it?” It was a ‘thing’ back before folks found offense in absolutely everything EXCEPT offending one another by means of disrespecting them. Disrespect is ALWAYS offensive.

In asserting our oh-so-surely-right opinions about every conceivable subject, we spew vitriol at even people we purport to love. That’s when we lose everything. That’s when it doesn’t even matter if you are right or wrong. You are bankrupt.

In an internet age, it is helpful to refer to an antiquated (but still living) document that gives advice for how not to leave this world in worse shape than when you entered it. In such a strident age – where everything seems topsy turvy – checking the list can be a helpful way to determine who is influencing you when you engage with others.

(I have to check it myself in order not to wreck myself frequently.)

Love never gives up.
This doesn’t mean fight about it until you are right! This means always remain hopeful for resolution and hope.

Love cares more for others than for self.
Holy moly, this is a biggie. We are only on number two on the checklist and already, I’m squirmy. If I love you more than myself, the nature of my need to be right all the time becomes much less jarring.

Love doesn’t want what it doesn’t have.
In this case, “what it doesn’t have” is the illusion of being right all of the time. I’ve been guilty of ignoring this one in my quest to best the opinion of one I deemed wrong.

Love doesn’t strut.
“Strutting” proudly in Facebook comments or in real actual life is not an act of love. The enemy loves to see you strut.

Doesn’t have a swelled head.
Our heads are just so crammed with ‘knowledge’ in this explosion of information, we forget to leave room for plain old love.

Doesn’t force itself on others.
OUCH.
I’ll venture to bet that in the entire history of the interwebs, nobody has ever said, ‘gee…..I DID see it this way, but now that you’ve forced it down my throat, I now see it THAT way.”

Isn’t always “Me First”.
This is where it gets the stickiest. Because we are born with ‘me first’ natures and then conditioned to groom that ‘me first’ attitude in all of our affairs. The fastest train to true unhappiness is the Me First Express.

Doesn’t fly off the handle.
Flying off the handle includes putting hurtful thoughts directed toward others to keyboard and on a computer screen.

Doesn’t keep score of the sins of others.
Another tricky one because, by damn….we LOVE to keep score, don’t we? We are really good at it! If you have determined that I am a terrible human being because of something I believe, you will be sure to keep a scorecard every time I screw up so that you can prove to yourself I am that terrible human being.
Doesn’t revel when others grovel.
If someone offends you and disrespects you, and apologizes, you should especially throw that scorecard away. Keeping no record of wrongs means forgiving.

Takes pleasure in the flowering of truth.
We all do reap what we sow, of that there is no doubt. Think about that the next time you are tempted to engage with a person who you perceive as ‘goading’ you. Your response will plant a seed. You can plant a seed of your truth without pulling up their whole garden. You can say what you need to say in love. It is a lost art, that.

Puts up with anything.
Short of abuse, of course. If you love someone and their opinions differ from yours (no matter HOW wrong they are!) be patient with them. Love is patient and kind. Not a doormat, but a welcome mat.

Trusts God always.
Choose this day whom you will serve. Because (and this will come as a shock to some of you….) you are not the Highest Power in the universe. If you choose not to serve God, who IS Himself LOVE, you are still making a choice. Serving and trusting go hand-in-hand. He is trustworthy, I promise.

Always looks for the best.
Looking for the worst in people is the path of least resistance, and it is SO easy. But Jesus rolled out the red carpet for the worst sinners, He saw them for who they truly were to His father – royalty. He saw beyond their ideologies and wrong-thinking.

Never looks back.
“There are far, far better things ahead than any we leave behind.” C.S. Lewis knew it. I know it, too.

But keeps going to the end.
It’s a process, to be sure. But until I breathe my last, I will keep striving to be less strident and more full of Love. To be rich in it, you know? Not bankrupt of respect for others. Because we all have to live on this big blue marble together by God’s design.

Love never dies.
And at the end…..what end?

The thing about love is that you take it with you. Every kindness, every positive word you give others in place of disrespect, every encouragement – it all lasts forever. It is the only thing that lasts forever. Harsh words sting and rot the flesh until death. But words said in love? They flower and you carry the scent into heaven with you.

When you manifest hatred toward someone because of their beliefs, you too are a bigot. When you manifest disrespect toward another human being, you are bankrupt. You have nothing to draw from to prove yourself either wrong or right – your account is already empty.

Whom are you serving? The obtrusive, piercing, and jarring way people interact with one another nowadays comes from somewhere. God is not at its source.

Now, see….if God is Love itself, there is hope. This is what I love about Jesus. While we were still sinners – obnoxious, self-righteous, strident and rude sinners –  (who perhaps denied his very existence) he died for us. He manifested love. He simply IS LOVE.

Inspired speech will be over some day; praying in tongues will end; understanding will reach its limit. We know only a portion of the truth, and what we say about God is always incomplete. But when the Complete arrives, our incompletes will be canceled….

And this absolute truth –

We don’t yet see things clearly. We’re squinting in a fog, peering through a mist. But it won’t be long before the weather clears and the sun shines bright! We’ll see it all then, see it all as clearly as God sees us, knowing him directly just as he knows us!

So, how to conduct ourselves until we see clearly? It starts with recognizing that loving others is more important that “being right” about everything. That includes loving the ones who simply don’t care that they are not acting in love toward others.

But for right now, until that completeness, we have three things to do to lead us toward that consummation: Trust steadily in God, hope unswervingly, love extravagantly.

And the best of the three is love.

*Scripture referenced found in 1 Corinthians 13:3-13 (The Message)

48 Shades of Love – God delights in Us

God loves his colorful ones!
God loves his colorful ones!

By: Jana Greene

My church is having a series of prayer meetings each evening for 40 days, and  I attended one of the gatherings last week. For the first hour or so, each of us finds a quiet space in the sanctuary away from distractions and just soaks up God. There is worship music playing softly, and the lights are low, and if you happen to fall asleep in the love of your Father and snore, nobody judges you. After that hour, we gather together with our pastor, who asks us what we “heard” or “felt” or “saw” or sensed during our quiet prayer time.

I’m not spiritually evolved enough yet to say that my thoughts during prayer center on prophesy, or  theological issues, or epiphanies that would part the Red Sea with their amazing-ness. Sometimes, I just tell God how much I love him, and I praise him, and ask for his favor….and then my mind wanders to things like wondering if we need to stop at the store and pick up milk, or what is the deal with the Obama administration, or did I take my vitamin today, to being just amazed that God took a cracked pot like me and calls her his own. He knows I’m a little flaky. He doesn’t hold it (or anything else, thanks to the grace of Christ) against me.

When we gathered up front of the church after quiet prayer, I told the group that I had the  little vision. In it, I was very small – maybe four years old –  and lying on the living room floor at my grandparents’ house. I’m on my tummy, and I have a brand new coloring book and crayons, and I am just going to town in that coloring book…brows furrowed, colors carefully sought, humming a happy song that I was just making up as I went along.

My maternal grandfather, Papa – the only male influence in my young life that was safe and unconditional loving –  is nearby in his recliner, listening to me yammer on. Because I am talking-slash-humming the whole time I am coloring – about everything and nothing. He chuckles every now and again and asks to see the picture I’m working on (and raves over every work of art I do.) These memories  – being 100% who I was (chatty, creative, open) without any risk or fear of rejection….that’s the feeling I go back to as I continue to understand who I am, and who my Heavenly Father truly is.

You might even say that Papa delighted in me.

It’s scary to share your wonkiest thoughts in  a group of people, but I did. And nobody thought I was weird or spiritually inferior. Everyone just loves on everyone else in that church and encourages you to be who God created you. They encourage you to seek out who that is, because honestly, most of us are carrying around so much garbage – self-loathing, conditioning of religiosity, confusion of what the world has told us we are – we need to cut through all of that other crap and accept who Abba really says we are.

Our pastor suggested that Holy Spirit gave me that memory at just the right time, and that – metaphorically, at least – I should think of God as my Papa during those coloring sessions – patient and interested in hearing all I have to say – my yammerings. That he is  anxious to see what I’m working on, and that nothing I do is insignificant to him.  I thought about Little Me coloring on the living room floor and talking to my Papa. Perhaps I should be less worried about coloring in the lines. I’ve tried to make a pretty picture my whole life, and forgot what it felt like to be enough.

The very next day, a dear friend in church brought me a gift that brought tears to my eyes – a grown-up coloring book featuring pictures of butterflies to color. She said something to the effect that God wants to be my Papa and says to start coloring again. You are still that little girl to him.
It was a metaphor I needed to see, to touch tangibly. It was a gift to my heart for her to do such a thing.

And just this morning, my husband gave me a birthday gift – a brand-new, 48-color box of crayons. Not art store  professional pencils, but crayons made by Crayola as God intended they be. I opened the box and smelled them (well, wouldn’t YOU?) and marveled at how good our Father is. In order to remind me that he is my Daddy and I am his own girl, a coloring book and crayons were used to illustrate the point. He GETS me, I tell you!

What a blessing to share a vulnerable insight and be blessed for it! What a blessing to have friends who understand and support this season in my life in which I am seeking to return to the fundamentals of faith as a child. What a blessing to lean into the Papa-ness of Abba – to be 100% who I am without fear of risk or rejection.

It is my 46th birthday today. And I am going to color in a coloring book with my set of brand new crayons – literally and figuratively. I am not going to worry about staying in the lines. I will motormouth my love to God – talking to him about every little detail. There might even be humming. He is my Papa and I am his little one. I might even make him chuckle at times.

He delights in me, you know.


“For the LORD takes pleasure in His people; He will beautify the afflicted ones with salvation.” – Psalms149:4 (MSG)

 

The Holiness of Old Dogs

By:  Jana Greene

There is something holy about old dogs.  I can’t quote scripture to prove it, but I can see the sacredness in the eyes of my old dog, Emmie.  And I know God sees it in her too, that He placed it there.

I’m finding that God often places the holy and pure things where we least expect them.  I know that He uses my dog to make me a better person, to teach me things.

Emmie has been a good and faithful friend to me for more than fourteen years.  A Golden Retriever (with a bit of Chow-Chow) she never knew the first thing about retrieving. But being kind and loving, joyful and true?  She knows everything about that.

When I call to her, she comes to me – even though she is old and creaky probably has a million good doggie reasons why she would rather not.  She might be on her soft bed, having the dream in which she is jumping the chain-link fence like she used to.  Or a dream in which she finally catches that tormenting cat.  But, she always comes to me when I call, tail in full-wag….. counting it all joy.  “Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds.” – James 1:2

She enjoys her life, with little concern for the future.  Although it’s not easy for her to get into the back seat these days, she loves car rides.  Groaning a little as I help her hoist her achy haunches up, she seems to say, Mom, roll down the window already!  We might be going to the park, or to the vet’s office; she knows either one is a possibility.  No matter!  On the road she  is just a smiling doggie in my rearview mirror, her coat an explosion of golden fur in the wind, her slobber forming a snail-like trail down the side of my car, anxious for nothing.  “Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life?” –   Matthew 6:25 -27 (NIV)

Emmie is an expert on affection, both the giving and receiving of.  She hasn’t yet learned that she doesn’t need to sit on top of me to be with me.  She simply cannot get close enough, even when I am trying to get things done.  Her tail wagging furiously, she is conveying that she loves me too much to contain it in a lady-like, reserved manner.  It reminds me of times that I raise my hands at church during worship, unfettered by rules, overcome with gratitude…when I just cannot get close enough, love/grace/gratitude bubbling over.   “This service that you perform is not only supplying the needs of God’s people but is also overflowing in many expressions of thanks to God.” – 2 Corinthians 9:12 (NIV)

But the holiest attribute that Emmie displays might also be the most subtle.  It is the way she humbly seeks my face.  When offered a treat, her gaze is not on my hand (or the delicious bone I’m holding) … No, she is staring at the acceptance in my expression, her big, chocolate drop eyes searching to read my face.  Interestingly, the Bible reminds us to seek the face of God, not his hand and what he can offer us in the way of treats.  “Look to the Lord and his strength; seek his face always.” – 1 Chron. 16:11

My sweet Emmie may not know about retrieving.  But she knows all about love, unconditionally.

Over the years….

In times of sorrow, I have buried my face in her uber-floofy coat and cried buckets of tears, and she didn’t seem to mind.  She lay perfectly still, only moving to lick my face.  Always compassionate.

In times of great joy, she has skipped circles around me, pouncing up and down as if she had a single clue as to what the celebration was all about.  Joyous oblivion.

In times of sickness or pain, she is my shadow, following me to the kitchen, the mailbox, even to the bathroom.  Endlessly loyal.

Yesterday, I bent down to kiss the top of her cone-y head like I have hundreds of times before.   I held her face up in my hands and looked into her eyes.  Heart melting, a feeling came over me of sweet reverence.  It took my breath away a little.  I’ve felt just this way before……

Where have I felt this feeling before?

And then I remembered:  standing in Saint Patrick’s Cathedral in New York City.  I, as a tourist from North Carolina, standing in the sanctuary of the church, having never seen so regal a place, in the presence of magnificence….. awed and humbled.  How odd that the countenance of a loving, loyal animal would remind me of such a holy place.  The same sensation of being close to what His hand had fashioned flooded me in this realization:  Where God’s glory is manifest in the great majesty of  architecture and art, it is also manifest in the eyes of an old dog.

Holy and sacred – right where God placed it.