I did not preach this morning. Thank you to Cody Nielsen, Chaplain and Executive Director of the Wesley Foundation at the University of Minnesota for preaching this morning at First UMC.
Here is the reflection I wrote for our upcoming May newsletter.
“Simply accept the fact that you are accepted!” If that happens to us, we experience grace.
Paul Tillich, The Shaking of the Foundations, 162
When we moved to Duluth in the summer of 2005, we had a dog named Annie. Annie, a miniature cocker spaniel, had been part of our family for sixteen years at that time. She was older than our daughter Sarah. Annie’s health we not very good, and a year later we made the difficult decision to put her to sleep. It was an emotional time for us all.
Within weeks, Julie, and our daughters Beth and Sarah were scouring the newspapers looking at dog ads. I wasn’t so sure about the idea, but I had sense enough not to fight it. In August 2006 we added Abby, a female Pomeranian-poodle mix (yes, that’s a “pom-a-poo”) to our family. There had been another pom-a-poo available and we toyed with the idea of two dogs, thinking that they could keep each other company when no one else was home. By the time we got back to the woman who sold us Abby, the boy dog had been sold.
A year later this woman called us up to let us know that Abby’s dad had sired another litter of puppies and asked if we would be interested in one. Again, I was the hesitant one, but we went to look. There was a little female pom-a-poo who seemed to like us. The owner said, “Why don’t you take her home for the weekend to see how the dogs get along. If it doesn’t work, you can bring her back.” Foolishly, we took her home. Who could bring her back? This dog we named Grace. My family let me pick her name and I chose a favorite theological idea.
Each of our dogs has been a gift to us in their own way. Both dogs like people. They are friendly. Grace has been particularly affectionate. She has been a bundle of energy, a little sparkle. For whatever reason, she took to being my constant companion. When I would get up and move from one room to the next, Grace was there. On mornings when I was in bed longer than Julie, Grace curled up next to me. When I was the last one home, Grace waited for me near the door. One might say that Grace incarnated the theological concept she was named after, she was, for me, a six and a half pound furry bundle of acceptance.
God’s grace, God’s acceptance of us, is at the heart of my faith. I also believe that small embodiments of such grace are wonderful gifts in the midst of life. When the day is difficult, it is a joy to have some small reminder of the wonder of grace and acceptance.
Early in the morning, on Wednesday April 17, our little dog Grace died in my arms. God’s grace, especially as experienced in the love of family and the support of friends, will remain the most important dimensions of my life. I sure will miss my other small reminder of grace, though.
Grace and Peace,
Here is a picture of Grace shortly after we brought her home.