“The Lord your God is one; so love the Lord God with all your passion and prayer and intelligence and energy.’ And here is the second: ‘Love others as well as you love yourself.’ There is no other commandment that ranks with these.” Mark 12:30-31, From The Message Bible.
Last week, August 7-13, 2016 was really difficult. On top of everything else, the weather was especially humid, muggy and hot. At work, at home, it seemed that all I did was sweat. Even when I turned on our air conditioning unit all I did was sweat.
Wednesday afternoon, I arrived home from work to find a moving van taking up a big space in our back alley. It didn’t seem to be going anywhere. The van brought back a ton of sad memories from the life-changing move I had to make my senior year in high school. The next day the neighbor lady complained about me wanting them to move the truck out of the alley. This upset me so much my husband went outside to see what was going on. Usually the city notifies us in advance that someone is moving in next door. I knew they if they were having to move into Section 8 housing, they must be in a difficult situation. I was too exhausted and worn out to deal with any extra stress at that point.
Saturday, August 13, 2016, I read the awful news that in Joplin, Missouri, USA, someone went on a random shooting spree and shot two comfort dogs and two of their handlers from the Lutheran Church Charities. These dogs are beautiful and kind, like my beloved golden retriever Buddy. I follow the comfort dogs and support their work. The comfort dogs are specially trained to bring comfort to people who have been victims of trauma and loss. When I saw the news on Facebook, I started crying. I could not believe it--who would shoot agents of ministry? These dogs are just so special! A lot of effort, time, and training goes into the formation of these dogs and their handlers.
As I found out more of the news on the comfort dogs, I learned that a shooter was apparently angry and randomly shooting at vehicles. He shot at the van the dogs and the handlers were in. Two handlers were injured, one very seriously. One of the dogs—Jackson—was shot in the ear; and Louie was shot in the neck and had to have surgery. Later I read that to help these dogs and their ministry cope, they’d brought in other comfort dogs from around the country!
As Christians, we are called to the ministry of love, faith, hope, charity, and forgiveness. There are times when a wrong has been done that we do not want to forgive ourselves as well as others. Sometimes we do not want to make things right again—for some reason we want to hang on to the trouble.
But God’s love calls us all to a higher standard of living and being. Sometimes, love can be really hard, such as in the shootings that took place in Orlando, Florida this Summer of 2016. We are called to forgive and even love the shooter(s) in all these senseless killings and misunderstandings in life. The greatest commandment of Christ is, “The Lord your God is one; so love the Lord God with all your passion and prayer and intelligence and energy.’ And here is the second: ‘Love others as well as you love yourself.’ There is no other commandment that ranks with these.” Mark 12:30-31, from The Message Bible.
I have a passion for these Comfort Dogs. I am friends with several of them on through the Facebook Connection. I read of the good they are doing. I love the dogs and the Comfort Dog ministry. They bring healing, mercy, and love to those who are hurting in life. They are the ones who need to be comforted.
The act of forgiveness and mercy does not condone what has been done in violence. What it does is helps one’s heart to heal, to somehow move on in life rather than be chained to the past. It shows us that one can rise above the senseless hurt and horrible deeds. It makes us a better person. Sometimes the person who has committed the horrible violence could also really be hurting. Jesus forgave those who put him on the cross.
In my own life, the neighbor lady is very likely a single mom. I know that moving any time is stressful; moving with kids even more so. When I am ready, I may take one of my stuffed comfort dogs over to her place in Section 8 housing, and let her keep the dog for comfort.
Tonight, when we did our Lectio Divina Readings for the day, the song, “There is a Balm in Gilead,” was the Vespers Hymn. I told my husband, how appropriate that hymn was for the past week. It seemed to validate everything I have been going through. God will bring us hope. Light will overcome the darkness and the hard times. We will get through all this seemingly senseless tragedy and grief. We must “practice faithfully random acts of kindness.” The world today needs that now more than ever.
Addendum: Late Monday afternoon, August 15, my own dog Buddy died. He was six and a half years old and had been doing well, except had been a bit lethargic for a few days. We thought it was the heat, but had scheduled a visit to the veterinarian for Tuesday, the next day. He never made it. As we grieve Buddy’s loss and all else that is happening in the world, I continue to believe in hope. I give thanks for those that bring us some sense of comfort, those who show us love and grace in this world full of trouble. If you have animal companions in life, don't forget to treasure the gift they are while they are with you, even if they aren't perfect.
I may not understand it all now, but give thanks to God, who understands it all, and provides ways to find peace, love, and ways through misunderstandings--and right now, most of all, God provides ways to keep hope alive.
Wishing all of you peace, love, comfort, and hope through in whatever is going on in your life.
In Christ, Amen.
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