Saturday, October 07, 2017

If I Were Preaching Tomorrow...

Year A
Proper 22
RCL

Exodus 20:1-4, 7-9, 12-20 Psalm 19 Philippians 3:4b-14 Matthew 21:33-46

If I were preaching tomorrow then I would have to say that last Sunday, the Ten Commandments were violently violated.

We have taken the 2nd Amendment which states:
A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.

   and made it into a god. It has become more important than the lives that are destroyed by one who has been given the right “to keep and bear arms.” That right is more important than people gathered in a movie theatre, than children in a high school, than children in an elementary school, than people gathered in a church for bible study, than people at a night club, than people at a concert…that right for a few has become more important than the lives of innocent people doing nothing but studying, praying, singing, dancing, enjoying life. That right shall not be infringed by the rights of others to live, love, and pursue happiness.

These weapons have become idols, false idols that have directed attention away from God alone.

In my wrath, I have used God’s name to curse those who hold the power to do something yet do nothing to save us from this violent onslaught. I am sure I am not alone.

This most recent tragedy happened on a day we set aside as a day of worship. Yes, I know that many of us are no longer thinking of church or God by the time of day that this happened, nonetheless, it was Sunday. Regardless, this was an unholy act. God created all the days. Each one is holy.

Mothers and fathers were not honored. They were slaughtered. Their children were cut down.

Murder was committed. Mass murder. 

Perhaps there was no adultery committed. But if we think in terms of cheating, unfaithfulness, there were those things committed.

Lives were drained. The future was stolen. Health was robbed. Innocence was stripped away. The illusion of peace was shattered.

Lies have been told about the necessity for weapons. Falsehoods have been propagated to make people think they have a right to carry a semi-automatic weapon. False witness has been borne against all the victims of violent weapons allowing too many to think they are safe in a culture that worships rapid-fire weapons capable of mutilating almost 600 people in under ten minutes.

Lives were coveted so much so that one person took 58 of them, 59 when we remember he took his own. Many of those lives were lived in love. Perhaps it was the love he coveted.
Is God testing us, attempting to stop our idolatry by scaring the sin out of us?

If I were preaching tomorrow, I would have to wonder about the Gospel of Matthew. Not about tenants necessarily but about the idea that once again we have rejected the stone that should be our cornerstone.

It is easy to say that this is not about ME. I am not for irresponsible gun ownership. I am not for all who wish to have an assault rifle. I am not rejecting the cornerstone!

But I wonder…am I producing fruit of the kingdom? Am I likely to fall on this stone and be broken into pieces? Will I be crushed by it or cause another to be so? What can I do to change the culture? How can I, little old me, do anything that will change this culture of violence that we worship as if it has known us since before we were born; while we were in our mother’s womb, as if it knew the number of hairs on our heads, as if it loved us as only God can?


I think I am glad I am not preaching tomorrow. 

Monday, August 21, 2017

Sermon offered at St. Paul's Carondelet, Proper 15, Year A

Can you begin to imagine being despised so much that your own brothers would throw you into a pit with the thought of killing you? Or that you could be sold into slavery because of that fear, jealousy, hatred?

Joseph was obviously a very special person because throughout his ordeal, he kept his faith, his belief that all things would be well, eventually. Regardless of how dire the immediate moment appeared, there remained a faith that God was always with him. And he, of course, was right. Joseph’s dreams had shown him the bigger picture. Anger or retaliation against his brothers had no place in the end. His brothers were simply a vehicle to get him started on his journey. He had a job to do and those things he went through were simply a part of it.

Matthew’s gospel reading has the Pharisees and scribes criticizing the disciples because they did not wash their hands before they ate. This was not because they were concerned about germs; it was about the purity laws.

Purity symbolizes holiness. The Jews believed that God was holy and pure and people were not naturally so. The purpose for the laws was to give them a starting point, a way to learn how to be pure for God, a rule book, if you will. It was to guide them, to get them started on their journey towards God.

Jesus said that it is not what goes into the mouth that makes a person unclean.
Jesus told the critics that they were hypocrites, honoring God with their lips but their hearts were far away. Their actions and their words did not match. Jesus was trying to tell them that they were too focused on human rules. Human rules/laws are often tools used for exclusion.

Jesus said what comes out of the mouth comes from the heart. The words we use are important. These tell others what kind of a person we are – through and through. As people speak, they give hints into their inner most thoughts.

We know the big things that make us unclean – murder, violence, and all crimes against other humans. We know the rules. Break these rules and we can go to prison – some of us far easier than others. However, just because we don’t kill or maim others does not mean that our hearts are pure.

It is not what we eat or unwashed hands that makes us unclean. Our words…our actions defile us. Words of hate, actions of violence…these things make us unclean.

There has been an urgency in the gospel parables over the past few weeks. Jesus is on a mission, trying to help the Jews and the disciples understand that life as they know it is about to change dramatically.

His message is about Transformation. The way of life as they know it being turned upside down and all around. Sowing seeds of the kingdom so that it grows and flourishes. Hiding yeast in the midst of life so that there is disruption of all that is known.

Human rules trap us into thinking that change is not a good thing. And that causes fear. Fear causes us to hold on tight to those things we know. Love is sacrificed for the sake of remaining the same.

There is an urgency in our lives today as well. I believe that is what happened this past week in Charlottesville. The White Supremists do not understand that God’s love is big enough for all of us, that the Word is for all of us, regardless of how we worship, the color of our skin, our gender identity, our marriages. God’s love is bigger than our human imaginations.

Jesus is the change.

Jesus is the remedy to the ills that inflict humans. His death, resurrection and gift of the Spirit deals with the wickedness that taints humans. Purity laws are unnecessary.

Jesus as the remedy has to be applied to the dis-ease deep inside us so that we can understand the idea of being pure in God – through and through.

There is an ugly stain that runs throughout the history of humans. 
Babylonians, Greeks, Romans.
Native Americans. Slavery of Africans. 
Turkish massacre of Armenians. 
Nazis and Jews. Japanese Americans. 
South Africa and apartheid. 
Rwanda. Bosnia and Croatia.
Mexicans/South Americans, Muslims, the Sudan.

Ethnic Cleansing -- a term that is relatively new although the practice is old. The definition is this: an attempt by one ethnic group to get rid of members of an unwanted ethnic group by deportation, displacement or mass killing. What is going on now in the US is Ethnic Cleansing. Do not be fooled. The deportation of those considered unworthy of being in the US. Families being split apart. Children brought to the US as babies yet deported to Mexico as young adults. I know people who have generations of family born in the US but carry their passports with them to prove their citizenship out of fear of being stopped and deported. The new rule is deport first, ask question later.

The White Nationalists hatred of Jews, Blacks, LGBT people – mainly, anyone different than how they perceive themselves to be. They see no humanity in those who are different from themselves – mainly white males. All others are just that – “Other”. Less than. Not worthy. Unwanted. Unnecessary. Violence is one answer to the elimination of these.

Our Presiding Bishop, Michael Curry, calls it the “stain of bigotry.”

Marian Wright Edelman of the Children’s Defense Fund writes:
There are not two sides to Nazism. There are not two sides to White supremacism, bigotry, and racial and religious hatred and intolerance. Heather Heyer – a nonviolent protester against racial intolerance – is not as much at fault as the man who violently and deliberately hit and killed her with his car on a Charlottesville street.

The Jews considered Canaanites unclean. They did not observe the same rites. And here was this unclean woman chasing after Jesus, calling out to him, demanding that he do something for her. The disciples knew the rules. They wanted Jesus to tell her to go away.

But he didn’t. He stopped to listen. She came to him, begging him, calling him the Son of David, and saying, “my daughter is tormented by a demon.” 

Jesus knew his mission. To help the Jews understand that God was in the midst of fulfilling a promise. The Kingdom of Heaven was beginning and they needed to understand quickly that Jesus was that kingdom. It was important that the Jews hear this message first. So, Jesus tells the woman, “I am sent only to the lost sheep of Israel.” The people of Israel were supposed to be the ones sharing the message…after they understood it. But she continued, believing so strongly that she knelt in front of him and said, “Lord, help me.” Jesus told her that it would not be fair to take the food from the children and give it to the dogs. Nevertheless, she persisted. She said, “Yes, Lord, yet even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters’ table.”

She understood so much more than the disciples or the people of Israel. She knew that Jesus was the messiah, the Son of David, the one that was promised was here. She already understood the Easter message and it had not even happened yet. This unclean woman knew. And Jesus recognized that. Great is your faith! He said. And her daughter was healed. He could have walked away. But he didn’t. Not only did he listen but he realized that she was right.

We get so caught up in rules – it is difficult for us to realize that the Kingdom of heaven has only two rules. Love God. Love one another.

Once upon a time, about 20 years ago, I was like this woman. I was at my wit’s end. I had nowhere to turn. In my office at work, I could not concentrate. I could not work. I could not even pray, at least not in the way I thought of prayer. In reality, my mind was desperately ranting at God, begging for help. My daughter was in trouble and I had no way of helping her. I did not even realize the extent of the problems that had hold of her. I knew only that she was in trouble. I picked up a little green Gideon’s Bible – I had no idea where it had come from but it was there. I randomly opened the little bible and it fell on this passage. Actually it could have been the Mark version, I don’t remember. Regardless, I realized as I read this random passage that I was being offered a vision into the future. A glimpse into the kingdom of heaven. I had no idea of what was to come or when it was coming but I knew that something had shifted just a little bit and I realized that there was change coming. And I also knew that it was good. Where there had been a hopelessness, a ray of hope had been illuminated.

I would like to tell of a miracle that happened that day and all manner of things were made well immediately but that, of course, reminds us that our time is not God’s time. It is a long journey from woundedness to healing and the scars run deep. But on that day, I saw something more than I had seen before. And I held on tightly to that vision. And the good news today is that my daughter is healing. And I am so proud of her.

I wonder if the Pharisees and disciples perceived a slight twist – a glimpse into the kingdom of heaven, a vision of things to come when Jesus talked about rules? or when the woman was talking? It was made more real in the Caananite woman’s life because she believed so strongly in that kingdom regardless of whether she had heard the message or not. She knew it in her heart and it came out in her words.

The theologian NT Wright writes:
“Being a Christian in the world today often focuses on the faith that badgers and harries God in prayer to do, now, already, what others are content to wait for in the future.” We cannot be content to wait.

We must continue to pray for a stop to the injustices of the world, the bigotry, the hatred because of “Otherness” - the color of skin or ethnicity or gender or religion, the wars, the violence. We pray that those who are afraid will be made well in their affliction. We pray that we will understand that Jesus came to change things, to disrupt our understanding of the here and now and to lead us into the kingdom of heaven. We pray that we will claim God’s promises today with a faith that will not be put off.

What little shift or twist do we feel in our lives that lead us to a new understanding that the Kingdom is here, now, today.  We have a role to play today in the midst of this unrest and dis-ease. The time for standing on the sidelines as spectators – if there was ever a time – is past. We are players in this kingdom of heaven. We are the hands and feet of Christ and there is a message to be delivered and love to share. We are being made new every day. We have all that we need to move forward.

I read a post on Facebook yesterday. It is actually a dismissal prayer; however, I think it fits as a beginning for this new day.

May God bless us with discomfort. Discomfort at easy answers, half truths, and superficial relationships, so that we may live deep within our heart.

May God bless us with anger. Anger at injustice, oppression and exploitation of people, so that we may work for justice, freedom and peace.

May God bless us with tears. Tears to shed for those who suffer from pain, rejection, starvation and war, so that we may reach out our hand to comfort them and turn their pain into joy.

May God bless us with foolishness. Enough foolishness to believe that we can make a difference in this world, so that we can do what others claim cannot be done.

As we gather at that table, ponder this: what new thing is God making for us and through us…and how will we respond?


Amen

Sunday, July 30, 2017

Sermon Offered at Christ Church Cathedral, July 30, 2017

Matthew 13:31-33,44-52 Proper 12
Year A


Open my lips, O Lord, *
and my mouth shall proclaim your praise. Amen.

Good Morning. Wow. I look out into this group of people and I see so many faces that I love. I am about to cry.  

I remember the first time I walked through those red doors. The first thing I saw was a man sitting in a chair, asleep leaning against the wall. The second thing was the banner that stated Our Church Has AIDS. Each of these things struck me as profound.

It was on a hot day in August, 2007 when my family and I walked through those doors, two moms and a boy, on a journey from Texas to find where God was calling us. As we walked into to this space, we knew surely the Holy Spirit was here with us.  
It is good to be back within these walls. Who knew I would be here this many years? Ten years!! Or that I would one day be standing in this place, in this pulpit?

But I am not here to talk about me. I am here today to talk about new things. Yet it is out of the old news that new things have come.

I am here today to talk about Jubilee Ministries. May 2016 Bishop Smith named me the Diocesan Jubilee Officer for the Diocese of Missouri. I learned about Jubilee Ministries because as manager of Trinity Food Ministry at Trinity Church CWE, the Pantry had been a Jubilee Center for a long time.

The idea of Jubilee comes from passages in Leviticus declaring every fiftieth year a year of release for the captives – release from whatever holds them captive. 
Moreover, God reminds the people that no one owns anything, that all belongs to God. We all are aliens and sojourners with God.

In Deuteronomy 15, a plan is laid out to make certain that no one lives in poverty and that we all love God and take care of one another. That’s the idea of Jubilee.

Jubilee Ministries was created by an act of General Convention in 1983 as a way to encourage Dioceses and parishes into ministry of joint discipleship in Christ with poor and oppressed people, wherever they are found, to meet basic human needs and to build a just society.

St. Louis City has its share of poor and oppressed people and those whose basic needs are not being met. Some would say that it is a very unjust society.

I read an article by Wes Moore, CEO of the Robin Hood Society – he made a heavy pronouncement: The war on poverty has become a war on the poor.

And I see the truth in that statement every day.

Healthcare, housing, education, hunger – all basic needs. All as so far below adequate for too many people. We are not taking care of one another.

What we have here is a basic conflict of Kingdoms.

Jesus came to redefine the understanding of Kingdom. The world was split in two – those who understood Jesus to be the new king and those labeled “this generation” who were in opposition to all that kingdom meant. They were fine with the old. It was good and safe and known. And more than that, they thought it was enough.  

But Jesus was telling them that everything was changing. His death and his resurrection would turn the world upside down. His message was– pay attention! the Kingdom of heaven was NOW.

The kingdom of heaven is here. We cannot spread it. We didn’t build it or establish it. It has already spread. It is already built. It is already established. Jesus did that. He is trying to tell that in these parables.

masal (MAW-SHAL) is the Hebrew word for parable but it can be translated many ways. A figurative saying, a proverb, a riddle. But it is not the meaning of the word parable with which we must concern ourselves. Rather, it is how the parable works in the Gospels.

Allegories can have many points; a parable just one. Parables are not moralistic, but tell us to be ready, to UNDERSTAND something.

Last Sunday, the Gospel parable was about the weeds growing up in the midst of the wheat. The bad is growing right in the midst of the good but it is not ours to separate, because we can’t always tell which is the weed and which is the wheat. So, we leave that part of it alone. Let it be.

The parables for today begin with “The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed…”
Anyone who has ever gardened or worked with mustard plant know that it may grow large with a lot of pruning, but it does not grow into a tree. If it is not properly pruned, it is scraggly and produces few leaves. It becomes more like a weed than a food source, much less a place for birds to makes nests.
But what a contrast! This lowly plant used as an image for the kingdom of heaven! This image that Jesus builds is beyond our own understanding of our known reality.

“The kingdom of heaven is like yeast that a woman took and mixed in with three measures of flour until all of it was leavened.”
Three measures of flour equal approximately a bushel. That is a lot of bread! Who needs that much bread? But the kingdom of heaven is abundant, more than we can imagine needing.

Yeast is most often used as a symbol of corruption in the scriptures – the leaven of Herod, the leaven of the Sadducees. Here it is used in a positive way.

This NRSV reading of the gospel does not use the word “hid” but the RSV does. The woman “hid” the yeast in the flour and it worked silently to grow and expand. Yeast is disruptive. It changes things. The kingdom of heaven is disruptive to what we perceive to be normal.

“The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, and, “Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant in search of fine pearls; and these treasures being found.

The man in the field and the merchant each sell all that they have to pursue this one treasure, pure and fine. Each of these parables note one thing – the pearl/the treasure is worth more than anything else. It is the ONLY thing that matters.

Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a net that was thrown into the sea and caught fish of every kind; when they pulled it in, they put the good into baskets but threw out the bad. So it will be at the end of the age.

A reminder of the importance of what we are doing now – prior to the time of weeping and gnashing of teeth. Because there will be a sorting of the good and bad eventually.

Jesus asks, “Have you understood all this?” They answered, “Yes.” And he said to them, “Therefore every scribe who has been trained for the kingdom of heaven is like the master of a household who brings out of his treasure what is new and what is old.”

We have a responsibility to be a part of that Kingdom.

So, to recap: the kingdom of heaven is beyond our understanding of reality; it is disruptive, timely (now), precious, selective, and we have responsibilities. Like the weeds of earlier or the good or bad fish, it is not ours to separate the evil from the righteous. This is not about “fishing for people”. The separating and the sorting will happen eventually but what are we doing in the meanwhile. It is a choice that must be made immediately – to choose the treasure now or to continue to hold on to the old understandings. NT Wright calls the choice “real, stark, and sharp.”

We continue to be faced with this choice. Do we understand now any better than the disciples did? Do we see that the old is that scripture, traditions, past glories, these are our old treasure? Do we see that the new treasure is Jesus and the understanding that his gospel is our truth as followers of Christ? That the new shines light on the old treasure allowing us to see it in a new way? We don’t need to discard it. We just need to look at it differently.

Are we stuck in lamenting the passing of the old or are we rejoicing in the possibility of new vision?

Wright also wrote that these parables are a challenge to us in two ways: understanding and action.
“Understanding without action is sterile; action without understanding is exhausting and useless.”

I think that many of us can relate to that quote. How many times have we understood but done nothing? How many times have we followed our leaders but did not fully understand? Or we got so caught up in the action that forgot the reason why we were involved. That is what burn out is all about. Burned out and used up.

What does it mean for us today to be scribes trained for the kingdom of heaven? I tell you, we are scribes being trained for the kingdom of heaven. What other reason do we have for being here?

Jubilee Ministry is a training ground for just that. Jubilee is about living out our baptismal vows – to seek and serve Christ in all persons, to love one another as we are loved, to strive for justice and peace among all people and to respect the dignity of every human being. It’s all about understanding and action. It is a ministry of joint discipleship in Christ with poor and oppressed people, wherever they are found, to meet basic human needs and to build a just society.

Christ Church Cathedral has a rich history of social activism and past heroes. The AIDS epidemic is one thing that comes quickly to mind. And with that Michael Allen who proclaimed:
“At this table we do not accept nor do we condone the ways of this world, the way we separate people from each other, separating rich and poor, male and female, gay and straight, black and white, and all the other ways we use to demean and belittle the people around us.”

These ideas are the rich words of the old treasure.

But there is more. From racial justice & gay rights to issues of homelessness & poverty– Christ Church Cathedral has a rich history of working to defend the dignity of every human being.

And the work continues:
 – Ms. Carol’s Breakfast is still meeting the basic human need of food on Saturday mornings. Work is ongoing to build a just society with the housing initiative. Acting as a temporary shelter on frigid winter nights. Offering a safe space for those who need to get out of the heat during the summer days.

Yet…what new thing is God creating for us and through us right here in this Cathedral today?

A new vision of what is good and just for the Cathedral of the Diocese might be a Jubilee Center, working in that ministry of Joint discipleship in Christ WITH poor and oppressed people, meeting basic human needs and building a just society…right here, in this space, downtown St. Louis City.

What more can be done than is already being done?   We are limited only by our human imaginations.

The kingdom of heaven is beyond our understanding of reality, it is disruptive, It is Now, it is oh so precious, it is selective and we have responsibilities. What are we going to do about it?

Are we able to understand this?

I have to get Paul into this sermon somewhere. So here he is to help us understand this kingdom of heaven:
Thank God for the Holy Spirit who helps us in our weakness, knowing that we don’t pray or act as we should yet the Spirit knows our hearts and comes in with sighs too deep for words. And God, searching our hearts, knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit acts only according to the will of God.  

All these things work together for good for those who love God, and who are called according to God’s purpose. We have a purpose here. For those who are called are justified and those who are justified are glorified. If God is for us, who is against us? Who can separate from the love of Christ? Will Hardship? Distress? Persecution? Famine? Peril? separate us from that love?

I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor opioid epidemics, nor homelessness, nor gun violence, nor hunger, nor environmental disasters, nor anything else in all creation will be able to separate us from the Love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

We are in the midst of the Kingdom of heaven. We are scribes being trained for this kingdom of heaven.

Amen.  

Friday, July 21, 2017

Headaches and thanks

Luke 12:48

It seems I have been doing a lot of griping lately – not enough of this, too much of that; not enough room, not enough time – the litany goes on and on.

Abundance brings its own headaches and issues.

I do live in a world of abundance and it is an intentional understanding of abundance, for the most part. I believe that when I begin to hold onto things, just in case; when I begin to hoard, far less is received.

This is lived out every week at Trinity Food Ministry Pantry. I try to give, and give, and then give some more. Still, the larder seems full, space is limited. So, I gripe.

But I have a friend – Gwen. She is such a friend that she is comfortable yanking my chain, pulling me up short when I complain.

And so, she did recently. After listening to me for a good while, she asked, “What’s the rest of that verse “much will be given?” Well, I couldn’t recall right off the top of my head, so I asked my other friend, “Google” if she knew. Of course, she did.

Luke 12:48
“From everyone to whom much has been given, much will be required; and from one to whom much has been entrusted, even more will be demanded.”

Gwen said, “yeah, that’s it. That’s what I was thinking while you were talking. You have a lot, you owe a lot.”

See what I mean? Gwen stopped me short.

Immediately, I offered a short prayer of thanksgiving. Then, I followed that up by asking that God help me so that I did not become complacent in my abundance.

There is always a lesson, isn’t there?


Today, I am thankful for Gwen and for abundance. 

Saturday, April 22, 2017

Still Here

So.

This is a strange waiting game. Waiting for Jake to die. Rather grim. But then, sometimes I forget. In fact, I actually only remember when he refuses to eat. Or when I hug him and get an armful of bones.

My #science educated self knows that no animal can live without functioning kidneys. And so the doctor said. It is just a matter of time. But he is eating, drinking, running, and being a dog. And his nose is wet even as I know that he has to be dehydrated. He even played with London last night and was barking at Theopholis this morning.

He is still Jake. Slobbery, hairy, big Jake that wants to love and be loved. So much so that sometimes I feel like he is playing us, big time.

For a while, all he wanted was boiled eggs. He refused to eat the special KD food. He didn't want any of the things I added to entice him to eat. Eggs. Just eggs. And he didn't want these placed in his dish. he wanted me to hand him a whole egg. Then he would run to the living room, get on his big pillow, and then, he would eat the egg. Then he would rush back to the kitchen for another.

Now, he turns his nose up at eggs. He started eating the KD beef stew again. Strange dog. But then, a day or so later. Nah. Nose up again. However, I could tell he was hungry. So, I offered the egg again. Nope.

There was frozen, skinless chicken breast in the freezer so I cooked a couple of those. Bingo! Yes. he liked that.

Today, he ate the KD beef stew but wanted more so I gave him more chicken. I think he would have eaten more but that was all there was.

I will go buy more KD beef stew AND chicken today.

Tomorrow? Who knows?

Monday, April 10, 2017

An Update on the BDE III, Jake

We took Jake to the vet last Friday. The numbers were not good at all. The blood urea nitrogen was out of sight - 130 is the highest level they can measure. Phosphorus was 12. Creatinin was 8. The specific gravity of his urine indicated that his urine is dilute, which means, what goes in, comes out. There is no filtering. Potassium was normal, as was his heart rate and respiratory. He tested anemic which means that his bone marrow is not able to build the red blood he needs. And he was severely dehydrated.

All of this is basically very bad news, except for the potassium levels plus heart and respiration rates. Those were good. 

They gave him an anti-nausea shot plus a "camel-back". That is, they injected sub-cutaneously saline solution. 

We could have gone to the emergency clinic to leave him for a couple of days so that they could give him IV solution to rehydrate him and flush out his system. That still isn't off of the table as an option. However, he is in acute renal failure.

All weekend long the sun was shining and Jake was eating. The subcutaneous injection made him feel much better. We spent a great deal of time outside and he loved just being with us. 

Now, on Monday morning, it is rainy and solemn. Jake turned around after sniffing his food. He didn't even want a cookie. Or a slice of cheese. Nothing. He isn't even drinking any water. 

I have a call into the vet's office. I have to find out options. But I feel as though we are simply buying minutes. 

He is not telling me anything at this moment but that he is tired and not hungry. But he still gets up to go outside and he continues to lean against me when he stands (his way of hugging). 

We will continue to wait. Until it's time. Until he says. 

Friday, April 07, 2017

Senses


I stand in the still of the house, looking out of the window. I see the shadows made by the tiny new leaves on the trees. I feel something…from the past. I don’t know what or from when it is but I feel it any time I look at the shadows/shade made by a bright green tree filtering the sun. It is a sense that time has stood still, that there is a soft sense of melancholy yet not outright sadness. It is almost a sense of what can be rather than of what has been. It is a feeling that peace is within reach but probably not touchable. It is something, I know, that needs to be contemplated. 

Monday, April 03, 2017

The Saga of Jake and the Best Dogs Ever

We missed the “Best Dog Ever” so much.  She was only 2 months old when I rescued her from the Roanoke (TX) Humane Society.  Rude Dog was the first and the BDE above all others. She was mine and I was hers from the moment we saw one another. 

She got her name because she had a sensitive stomach and would turn the air hot and blue with her emissions. She started off life with the name of Priscilla. We were still searching for a good name for her when we felt/saw the first gas fog she emitted (until we finally found a food she could eat without killing us all). By that time, Rude (pronounced Rudie) had stuck. 

Rude was such an important part of our lives. I didn’t think I would ever have another dog I cared so much about. We had several other dogs and they were good and well loved but they were not Rude. I think it was the fact that she was half Newfoundland. That makes them special. Or it could have been because she went through some really hard times and she was always near me. We had her for 13 years.

A good while after we let her go, Debbie surprised me one day with a picture of this forlorn big dog standing in a corner with his sad face looking over his shoulder. He looked ashamed, as though he could not understand why his foster parents had sent him to this cell.



She showed me that picture and I knew he was waiting on us. So off we went to the Fort Worth Humane Society. I knelt in the middle of the floor and he came over to me and crawled up in my lap…as best he could. We all fell in love. All my Rude love came washing out of me and covered him up.

He was two when we got him. His face had not even filled out fully. He was a small Newf, weighing only 100 lbs at his best weight but shorter than average. He never did get much taller – just broader. He only looked like a full blood Newf after he turned five, after he broaden out some.



He traveled across the U.S. with us. Texas born and raised, he loved St. Louis and the snow. He loved being loved. He loved loving. I am sure he was far from perfect but I can’t remember anything negative. He was just the Best Dog Ever II.

And then he got sick. Ten is and was a good span of life for a Newfie. A full blood Newf may only live between 5-7 years. That is not very long at all for an animal so full of love and devotion.

So, it is probably easy to see why we wanted another big guy. But we didn’t want one like Jak because we didn’t want to compare. We should have known that each one of them is different from the other. Jak was nothing like Rude, except in the best way – their love of being loved and of loving.

One day, a picture of a brown Newf appeared on one of the Newfie rescue sites. We had to go see him. Brown was different and nothing like Black Jak. 

The foster people he was staying with had him in a barn stall. He was covered in thick fur mats and hay. And he was seventeen months old and wild. He had no collar nor leash training. His instinct was to get that noose from around his neck as quickly as possible and to fight with all his might. It took four adults to get him into our car. Once we got him home and up the back stairs (finally), he paced for 24 hours. He was exhausted but it was just too much.



Brushing, touching, talking, over the next couple of days finally calmed him down some. Then he got his first bath.




He was a different dog! Two six-week sessions of classes at obedience school (for us, not him) taught us how to help him understand what we wanted. He became as big of a love (actually about 40 pounds bigger) than Jak.

He came to us with the name of Zeus but 1) it didn’t fit him and 2) he did not respond to it in the least. Some might think that we named him Jake after Jak. But no. The State Farm commercial was playing at the time and Jake (from State Farm) just sort of stuck. Plus, when we called him Jake he looked at us.

We signed him up for the big dog wellness plan at Banfield (PetSmart). We got all the work done, fully intent upon making sure we took good care of this big guy. Sometime during the first few months of his acclimation, we realized how much he was drinking and peeing. We realized how much he was peeing because we would come home from work and through the living room, hallway, kitchen, dining room there would be a line of pee. Yep, he walks and pees. Not inside any more, thankfully.

Sigh.

Jake is the product of a breeder. He was raised in a large concrete outdoor kennel. His hair was bleached from the sun. I don’t know if the mats were from the breeder or the foster but he was a mess. Obviously, he had never been in a house before, nor had any training at all. When he had to pee, he did. Thank God, he likes corners away from everyone and thing to poop, otherwise, I suppose we would have found huge dog piles in the house.

We became much more diligent about taking the big guy outside. We monitored his water intake. Slowly, he began to understand. But he was still peeing literal rivers and drinking buckets of water. We asked the vet about it. I was worried about diabetes.

The results of all the tests (not covered under our wellness plan) showed that he already had damage to his kidneys. The diagnosis was Chronic Kidney Disease. The vet had us put him on a very expensive dog food. He ate it for a while. Then, suddenly, he stopped eating as much. We added pumpkin. That helped for a little while. Then, no. We added egg. That was better but then, he just stopped. He would walk up to the bowl, look at it, shake his head and back away. Then he would turn and go to his bed. He lost from 140 pounds to 117 in a short time.

The vet said keep on trying to feed him the prescription dog food. But Jake didn’t care what she said. What were we supposed to do? Just let him starve? She said he needed the low protein diet. She thought he was being stubborn. She just didn’t understand that he knew something she didn’t.

I began researching Chronic Kidney Disease in canines. There are a couple of good sites that offer help. However, I am not sure they fully understand either.

We tried several different recipes. We tried raw foods at first but he couldn’t digest those. So, we tried Raw turkey, sweet potato, and soft cooked egg. That worked for a while but he started tossing that up. The mess was easily identifiable. If the sweet potato was not cooked enough, it came back up. If the egg was cooked too much, up it came. And if the food was anywhere close to chilled, all of it came back up.

We tried the raw turkey, smushy cooked sweet potato, and raw egg. That worked but it certainly wasn’t putting any fat on him. He was bones and hair. He seemed to have plenty of energy though and he seemed happy. He was just incredibly thin. But he has been eating.

Yesterday, he had to be coaxed to eat. This morning, nothing. He would not, could not be convinced that eating was a good thing. I even went through all that soggy mess and picked out as much sweet potato as I could, thinking that maybe that was offending him. But he still was not interested. So, I offered him a small hunk of raw turkey by itself. He sniffed it and walked away.

So, here we are. The Saga of Jake and his quest to be a BDE. Maybe he will eat later today. Maybe he just doesn’t like the same old food every single day. Perhaps I will leave out the turkey tonight. Or the sweet potato.

Thankfully, we have two chow-hounds who will eat anything. Theo’s nickname is Hoover because he inhales food without even chewing. The Queen London thinks she should not be eating lowly dog food, anyway. So, it is good that the food won’t go to waste.

But meanwhile, Jake is wasting away. We worry about this big guy leaving us too soon. He is only three. That’s just too much dog to love in a short year and a half. We want more time of him being healthy and energetic. He hasn’t earned the BDE III award yet. But he is working on it. He just needs a little more time.