Tuesday, September 30, 2008

shih tzu love

This was the last weekend for our Outward Focused Life series. It ended with a big volunteer fair with opportunities to plug into ministry and serve others.

Had I more time, I probably would have talked a bit about what deters us from being servants. There is an element in our fallen genetics that resonantly whispers with Milton’s Devil in Paradise Lost: “Better to reign in hell than serve in heaven.”

I think we’re easily deceived with this one. It’s my daily challenge, frankly, in a thousand little decisions. Or a million points of darkness. I lose sight of the freedom servanthood gracefully brings. There is a false freedom that enslaves me.

One day while sitting at a traffic light I noticed a man walking across a field at the VOA Park with a big Labrador dog. This dog seemed to be having a spectacular time running around him. He appeared thoroughly thrilled to be there with his master, circling him, panting, and ready to do whatever the master wanted to do. There was no leash, but the dog was staying tightly close and apparently having boatloads of, uh, dog-fun.

My Shih Tzu dog, Lucy (don’t laugh…), on the other hand, will probably never see life beyond her leash. I’m fairly sure she has the I.Q. of a carrot. One day I took Lucy for a walk around the little pond at the front of our subdivision. For some wacky reason I thought, “I bet if I take her off the leash, we’ll have a bonding moment. Master and man’s best friend, sitting by the pond together watching the wind bend the cattails and the geese fertilize the grass.” In an idealized moment of insanity, I took her off the leash. Lucy trotted a few feet ahead, stopped, looked back at me and then at the street ahead, and suddenly took off like a bullet.

I ran after her, but with no hope of catching up. She shot down the highway veering out in the middle of the street as fast as she could. By this time I’d resorted to calling her every name possible within the ethical parameters of being a pastor and city decency laws. Or in the immortal words of Ned Flanders, “Ding dang doodley darn it.”

Finally, I gave up and figured I’d eventually see her picture on a milk carton. But someone in the next subdivision was able to grab her. By the time I caught up to them, Lucy’s eyes were wild with freedom and her tongue as long as her abandoned leash. But it’s a freedom that could have killed her because she had no clue of the danger of two-ton SUV’s. Or who would feed her. Or the peril of the pound. And don’t even mention vivisectionists.

The leash is for her safety because she won’t listen to the voice of her master.

That’s the difference between a trust-based relationship with Jesus…and religion. The Law is a leash designed to keep us safe and protected. But true childlike trust and freedom is found in the leash-lessness of grace, when we find ourselves satisfied with the voice of our Master, romping in the fields of the Kingdom with Him, fetching whatever He throws and panting for His presence. We trust Him to keep us safe. We take pleasure in His calling our name.

If God asks me to be a servant—to get over myself—do I delight in that…or do I need some cosmic leash?

Maybe it depends on the choices I make today.


  1. do you need a leash? do you look fashonable in a leash? ask your wife.

    being single for 20 years i do not need a leash. I think God is the biggest respector of your life, free will and all that. If there is no love there then you probably did not get it.

    dog spelled backwards is god. I always wondered about that one. cat spelled backward is tac. must be something special about dogs but cats are not.

  2. When we took our cat down to Florida, we knew there were alligators in the neighborhood. Not wishing him to be eaten, we bought him a leash. As soon as we put the leash on him, he laid down and refused to move. He remained inside for the entire vacation.

  3. Do I have just cause to file a complaint against my church, when someone in the VCC/HR department[G. S.], interviews me for a job that I am well qualified for, tells me; “we have a problem hiring you because you are NOT MARRIED to your girlfriend and living under the same roof”, & “because it is standard practice of the our church to hire only individuals that are married to their loved one and not co-habiting with one another…based on the Holy Bible and the honor of marriage” [Greg S. & Dennis B. of Vineyard Community Church of Cincinnati {Sept/02/2008}]. My girlfriend and I honor the Bible and it’s laws for marriage by sleeping separately in two different rooms, and abs cent from sex until our future plans of marriage. And I did indeed inform both parties in my strong Christian standards in which I exercise completely/daily, (based on the laws of the Old Testament). We are under the same roof, but living as roommates do, just like a coeds in a Coed College Dorm.
    Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their work:
    If one falls down, his friend can help him up. But pity the man who falls and has no one to help him up!
    Also, if two lie down together, they will keep warm. But how can one keep warm alone?
    Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.
    The Bible
    Ecclesiastes 4

    This goes deeper than that…we have an associate (division) pastor for approx. 3-4 years, from England within our church, “Keith”, which this individual has two drug convictions of marijuana(1982), whom is allowed on staff, and this church does background checks, but will allow such individual to be a part of our church, in a leadership position. I have nothing against any person(s) whom choose to better his/her way of life. He was given a chance to prove himself…all I ask for is that same-equal chance to prove myself as well. I have a felony conviction(Jan./2000), myself, and the church will not allow me in any volunteer programs and/or employment within the church. In the scope of these things, the church is exercising a “double standard”. I have applied for several volunteer programs since I started attending VCC in Oct./2007, to say the least for employment within as well.
    When the President does it, that means that it is not illegal.
    Richard Nixon

  4. Here’s the quick response, anonymous: I wouldn’t have hired you either.

    We pay our staff from the very hard-earned tithe dollars of people who trust us to hire the best we possibly can and expect the best from their staff. Having healthy policies in place help do that and it happens to be our policy to not hire people who are co-habitating. Yeah, none of us are sinless, but we do expect simple respect of leadership decisions and policies. Call me quaint, but I’ve seen too many pastors and church staffs crash-and-burn because they couldn’t handle their hormones. BTW, if it’s a financial thing, find a guy to share an apartment instead of someone you’re romantically attached to: it will spare you any temptation and probably make for a better witness to the folks around you—there is that injunction about the “appearance of evil.”

    Second, I don’t contextually get the Ecclesiastes verses. Good luck on “lying down together and keeping each other warm” in two separate rooms.

    Third, Keith’s marijuana convictions were things he admits were wrong; he’s never tried to justify it. Plus, your facts are off; it was over thirty-three years ago, he was seventeen, he afterwards became a follower of Christ, and he’s been with us for 8 years. Again, he never tried to justify his actions. And for some legal trivia, his convictions were expunged in England.

    Fourth, don’t know where you’ve chosen to volunteer or the nature of your felony, but there are definitely areas where anyone with a felony record cannot volunteer. Some of this has to do with legal reasons.

    Fifth, poor judgment and attitude. Those are huge for anyone coming on staff. This is not the forum to air your grievance and shows immaturity and poor judgment. Email me, HR or talk to your community pastor or small group leader directly. We have a good system for dealing with grievances and try hard to exercise a Matthew 18 approach to relational disagreements. There is no double-standard here.

  5. Dave, we miss you! But we have found a home-church closer to our home on the Westside of town. We will forever give you lots of credit, though, for helping us along, and we will alway consider VCC our beginning place of family faith.

    Need a favor (did you see this coming given the glowing praise?): Please pray for Spencer Henderson and his family. He has cancer-bad, 40 years old, good guy, Believer, husband, father, cop, warrior. His pictures and some of the story are on my blog:


    I'm not asking you to make it public, unless you want to, but we need people really praying for them now. If you can spread the word at all, well you know.


  6. dave
    having a blog is saying what you want. But saying that, the people who post on here also, say what they want, its called no cosmic leash. Whether the post is inappropiate, condemning, uplifting, prophetic, prayerful, that is all up to the person who has no cosmic leash.

    You have to love free will, no matter how messy it is and thats why God the Father, Holy Spirit, and Jesus did not give us a cosmic leash. He first loved us and thats why we love him. Get used to the messiness, turn your stuff over to God and quit worrying about tomorrow.

  7. Hey Anon,

    I am glad that Dave allows free posting on this site. We should all have the right to put our foot in our mouths and look like blithering idiots. I speak from experience, since I have posted some raw stuff on here in the past. Even the title of this blog conjures the notion of the free exchange of ideas. Even when folks don't see eye to eye on this board, I think the discussion is very healthy for the believers and seekers that visit this online forum. With that said. . .wow, sorry almost typed something profane there that would have offended folks. Let me take a breath and try this again.


    Okay. Are you out of your mind? Did you really think you would find any support here for your case? Now look, I am probably the last person that should be chucking a stone in your direction given the glass house I live in, but dude, you really need to get over yourself. Look, Dave and others were very calm and reasoned in their response to you. I bet the person that interviewed you and explained why you didn't "get the job" was pretty polite and tolerant as well. I am not one of those type of people. Since you apparently did not get the message, let me give it a whirl. There is probably a reason that I am no longer of staff at VCC, but sometimes a bit of brutal honesty is actually a form of kindness. If you had sat across from me in an interview as you described and told me that nonsensical rationale not only would you not have been hired, you would have found yourself taking a swim in the deep end of the ugly pond we have out in the back of the church--and we don't have a diving board.