Friday, August 28, 2015

Pets and How They Teach Us...

Two Dogs and a Parrot, What Our Animal Friends Can Teach Us About Life is a new book from Joan Chittister, published by Blue Bridge and available at Chittester is a Benedictine nun in Erie, PA. One of her books, The Gift of Years (2008) was very popular. Her book called Happiness is another I appreciated and reviewed on this blog in 2013. Since 2008, she has written at least ten more books!

As busy as she is, who knew that Joan Chittester loves animals and often had a pet? In this book, she tells stories of three of her pets, an Irish Setter named Danny, a Golden Retriever named Duffy, and a Parrot named Lady Hildegard or Lady, as she was more popularly known. One at a time, each has seven mini-chapters in this book for their stories to be shared.

First came Danny, an Irish Setter described as "an absolute lexicon of lessons in life, the kind I was not expecting to learn. At least not from a dog." They went to a dog show and she expected Danny to perform as the other dogs did. Instead, she learned from Danny that "life is not about becoming someone else. Life is a matter of coming to be the best of what we are and allowing ourselves to enjoy being it, at the same time."

Next was Duffy, a Golden Retriever who was gentle, well-mannered, patient and quiet, also very large. Duffy "was a great, friendly bear of a dog." Love to Duffy "meant the willingness to do what he did not want to do, if it meant he could be with you." The nuns had their hands full with Duffy. When they went to the beach, he would not go into the water. Much disappointed, Chittester considered it the lesson of a lifetime as she wrote: "We can't make anyone else be what we want them to be---but we can let them be themselves. and love them for that and that alone."

And last but not least, we read about Lady. After the dogs died, Chittister remember that in her childhood her mother let her have a parakeet for a pet, and she thought, how about a parrot now? And so they had one and Lady taught them. One of the nuns tried to teach her to move quickly to prayer meeting by saying to Lady, "Step up." Repeatedly and not so kindly. Later, the parrot learned to say it to the nuns: "Step up," she barked, and not so kindly either.

In her Afterword, Chittister describes what a wonder it has been for the nuns to share their Monastery with these pets. There is also a poem Joan Chittister has written: "A Prayer for Animals."

---Lois Sibley            

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Walking with Jesus through His Word

Walking with Jesus through His Word, by Dennis E. Johnson has a subtitle as well: Discovering Christ in All the Scriptures, published by P&R Publishing. Johnson is professor of practical theology at Westminster Seminary California. He is an ordained minister in the Presbyterian Church in America (PCA) and author of many books and commentaries. Johnson claims that the sixty-six books of the Christian Scriptures, the Bible, "are bound together by a central theme, a single plotline, and a unique Hero, Jesus the Messiah." His book attempts to prove this theory, using the names and stories, and incidents that happened throughout early biblical history. You might expect him then to begin with Adam, but no, he begins with two disciples walking home from a difficult day in Jerusalem, when a young man joins them on their way. They don't recognize Jesus and he begins to tell them of "all the things beginning with Moses and all the Prophets that concerned himself" (Luke 24:27).

And so the journey begins. Using the metaphor of going on a journey, Johnson tells it all in six parts. In the last part he discusses how walking with Jesus through his Word changes us. And, it's quite amazing how he weaves in the many leaders and their stories, such as Moses, David, Jeremiah, "the Torah-loving man of Psalm 1," and others who served as prophets, priests, and kings.

In the end, Johnson names Jesus as the Final Prophet, Perfect Priest, and King of Kings. He remembers who they were in ancient Israel and how they now come under the guidance of Jesus: "the Son who reveals to us the will of God for our salvation; the priest who reconciles us to God; and the king, who rules over all." Johnson hopes walking through God's Word with Jesus, "we will find that our living Savior is moving us to marvel and worship, to hope and trust, to become more like him."

I wonder if Jesus expected that those who served in the synagogue and temple, and those who were disciples and new believers, both Jew and Gentile, would now come together as God's people. In his Gospel, Luke writes that Jesus said, "'I must proclaim the good news of the kingdom of God....' so he continued proclaiming the message of God in the synagogues" (Luke 4:43, 44). And in Luke 24:44, Luke writes that Jesus said to the disciples: "'everything written about me in the law of Moses, the prophets and the psalms must be fulfilled.' Then he opened their eyes to understand the Scriptures."

He must have been disappointed when the two groups did not and have not come together yet. Perhaps it will happen when he comes again! Be ready!

---Lois Sibley