The First Day of School

photoOne of the great joys of serving as Bishop in ECMN is the opportunity to be involved with our schools: Shattuck-St. Mary’s and Breck. And one of my favorite activities is to be a part of the Opening School Chapel.

In my experience, there is nothing like the first day of school. There is always this palpable energy which is a combination of both anticipation and anxiety. Everyone at all levels engaged in the educational endeavor is both excited about all the possibilities of the new school year. At the same time they are all wondering how it will all play out.

In many respects, the same could be said about our journey of faith. We are a people called to live with eagerness as we proclaim, “Christ will come again!” In many ways, this our rallying cry of hopefulness. Yet amidst that sense of anticipation, there are undoubtedly times of, “How long O Lord?” as we, too, wonder how it will play out.

The reality is that both scenarios demand a high level of faithfulness in God’s grace. It is a place of tension between anticipation and anxiety, between Christ is risen and Christ will come again, between affirming our faith in Church and living it out each and every moment of our lives. The only way to do so is to be faithful in God’s grace.

In their own way, that is what I see on the faces of students on the first day. They are excited, they are anxious. But amidst it all, they seem to believe it is all going to work out. The same is true for us as people of faith. So enjoy the experience!

The Bond We Share with Animals

photoOne of the blessings of being not only the son but the grandson of veterinarians, is that I have always been around animals. I have also walked the journey from breeding to birthing through training, and being with the critters during their last moments of life. Truth be told, whether you want to call it the “birds and the bees” of the life cycle, I experienced most of it at an early age through animals.

As the old saying goes, “Dog is man’s best friend.” For a number of people, their dog, cat, horse, gerbil, or pet of any kind, is one of the closest companions they have in their lives. There is undoubtedly a connection with the critters we share our lives with that for many is as deep as that they share with their own kind.

Three wonderful and very personal examples of the bond we share with animals:

Our eldest son, like his parents, has never not had a dog in his life. Last spring when he decided he was ready to move to apartment living, he also decided that it was time for him to get his own dog. As you might imagine, lots of conversations ensued with his parents. In the end, he rescued a puppy and the joy (and life lessons about full responsibility for another) has been life changing for him.

My mother-in-law has also been a dog person all of her life. This last spring she lost her much loved golden retriever. My father-in-law passed away a little over five years ago, and with the death of her pooch, my mother-in-law was alone for the first time in her life. That was until last week. After an all-family exhaustive search, a wonderful 2-year-old golden retriever found himself a new home. Immediately, my mother-in-law seemed five years younger.

Earlier this week, one of my dearest friends called to tell me of the death of his faithful dog of 13 years. He was sad – I was sad. We remembered, we reminisced, we joked about their daily routine. They shared much of the journey and much love, and she will be missed like all good friends and companions are when they leave their earthly life. And in the end, there is a sense of blessing for all of the above.

On more than one occasion kids have asked me if their pets go to heaven. Clearly, the heart of the question is just like folks hopes and prayers for their human loved ones: “Is my loved one in a good place? And will I see them again?”

“And God said, ‘Let the earth bring forth living creatures of every kind: cattle and creeping things and wild animals of the earth of every kind.’ And it was so. God made the wild animals of the earth of every kind, and the cattle of every kind, and everything that creeps upon the ground of every kind. And God saw that it was good.”  Genesis 1:24

Reconciliation

photoAs we walked down the aisle of the store, a loud bellowing voice from behind us shouted, “Gentlemen?” We all turned around, a very brief moment of sizing each other up, then the moment was quickly interrupted as the fellow behind us made a witty, smart aleck comment. A lively, warm exchange ensued, and ended when agreement was struck to get together a couple hours later.

The thing is, my companions had been out of relationship with this guy – by his own initiating – for close to five years. It was abrupt, it was painful, and I think most assumed it would never be reconciled. And yet, here they were, some three hours later, sitting around reminiscing and enjoying each other’s company.

Reconciliation, when or how it happens, is always transformational. It is an invitation to begin again. It is an opportunity to not only choose a new path, but to intentionally walk together.

Reconciliation is not the same thing as resolution. Past actions, differences, and disagreements are a part of the narrative between people. It is not a matter of erasing a mistake on a piece of paper – the actions did in fact happen, and as such are written in ink in our story.

Yet all of us are invited to begin a new chapter with those we have been out of relationship with. All of us can intentionally choose to walk a new path again with those we walked with at one time. Repentance, mutually taking responsibility or a form of accountability in one way or another, may be part of the journey.

Reconciliation is about accepting the invitation to once again be in relationship and to be intentional about continuing to walk together. There is no higher call as people of faith, nothing more central to God’s mission, than for us to be in relationship…than to be reconciled with each other and through Christ to God.