If you have been reading my blogs on a regular basis, you know that we have two wonderful dogs in our home. There are times that having a dog is just like having a child. You have to clean up the messes that a dog can create, you have to make sure they are fed and let outside, you need to make sure that they get proper exercise, and you are to provide for almost all their needs. A dog can be the most adorable and loving creature on earth one minute and a frustrating trouble-maker the next. This weekend I told my husband that while I may at times think having our dogs can be a hassle, I could never imagine my life without a dog in our house.
As I have thought about the benefits which dogs bring into my life, I have come to truly see them as a true gift from God. I think that a dog is God’s way of giving us a very tangible demonstration of one of God’s greatest traits—unconditional love. I am not aware of any creature in God’s creation which demonstrates unconditional love like a dog.
At times when I have gotten angry at one of my dogs for doing something like knocking a lamp off and breaking it, my dog forgives my anger and comes to show me signs of affection. Dogs can sense our emotions and are always the first ones to attempt to provide comfort when we are sad. No one appears to be more excited to see me when I return home from either a short or long absence than my dogs. Cuddling next to me is the most important desire of my dogs. Through their actions, dogs demonstrate a love which has no bound.
God created dogs and equipped them to be messengers of God’s unconditional love for us. I have heard far too many stories of dogs who have been abused by their owners and yet keep returning to them. This reminds me of how many times God is ignored, blamed, lashed out at, and even denied, yet God returns to me over and over with affection, acceptance, forgiveness, and genuine love.
I give thanks to God for giving me dogs to fill my life with unconditional love. I give thanks to God for providing me a tangible example of what God’s unconditional love is like. I give thanks to God for the love that I experience daily from our two dogs.
Yesterday, my home state was devastated by a storm which they are now calling a derecho. I had no idea that there was even a storm classification such as this one but my understanding is that it is like an inland hurricane. Wind gusts in the city from which we moved were 100 mph or higher. The pictures which people are posting of the damage is amazing. I am used to tornadoes having lived a large portion of my life in Iowa and the damage seems to me to be as bad as a tornado. Many people continue to be without power and limited cellular service. The power of wind is truly amazing.
Even before yesterday’s storm and the impact it has had on my friends and family, I had thought about writing a post on the wind and the Holy Spirit. Yesterday’s news seemed to make such a post even more relevant. There are many characteristics which wind and the Spirit share. It is little wonder that in both the Hebrew and Greek texts of the Bible the word used for Spirit is the same word used for wind or breath.
In the story of the creation found in Genesis. The second verse in the first chapter states that, “the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters.” The Hebrew word here translated as Spirit of God is ruha which is the same Hebrew word for wind, breath, and life. In the story of Pentecost found in Acts 2, it states in the fourth verse, “All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit.” The word translated here as Spirit is pneuma the original Greek. Again, this Greek word can also mean wind or breath. Clearly, both the Hebrews and the Greeks saw the Holy Spirit as having the characteristics of the wind.
Our experience with the Spirit can be as varied as our experience with the wind. Currently in Texas, we are in our hot period of the year. We typically are very dry in August and our temperatures quickly reach the high 90s and low 100s. Wind is a positive when it arrives on days such as these. We cherish the movement of the air which provides relief from the relentless heat. We see the wind as a blessing and our experience with it is very positive. The Spirit can be the same way in our lives. We can find refreshment and relief from the heat of life through the Spirit.
Sometimes the wind is just a quiet breeze which provides movement of the trees creating a beauty for us to enjoy. Other times the wind can be violent and life changing as the people of Iowa and other Midwestern states have experienced this week. The Spirit is the same. At times in our lives we experience the Spirit to be gentle and our eyes are opened to the beauty which surrounds us. Another time in our life the Spirit can be overpowering, almost violent, and bring about a radical change in our lives.
I am sure you can find other examples of how the wind and the Holy Spirit share characteristics. I encourage you to think about those experiences in your life which you have had with both. Like humanity has attempted to do with the wind in harnessing its power to generate energy, I challenge you to harness the power of the Spirit in your life to generate life itself.
Please keep all those affected by the wind in Iowa and other states in your prayers this week. May this life changing experience offer opportunities of new life and growth. May your experience of the Spirit also create life changing results.
“For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8:38-39, NIV)
It was many years ago when I was introduced to this passage from the Bible. I was asked by a very close friend to become involved in a week-long camp for youth interested in music, arts and drama. I was recruited to lead the drama portion at the Presbyterian camp near where I grew up. The youth came to camp on Sunday and were given the script to a musical which was chosen in advance. We spent the week auditioning, rehearsing, building sets, worshiping, studying the Bible, and enjoying the lake. The camp culminated in a performance of the musical on Friday night. A few years later, we began to also tour with the musical around the area for three additional performances. One of the musicals which we chose to perform was entitled, Big Picture. Toward the climax of the plot, a grieving parent sits on his son’s bed and reads from his son’s open Bible. This is the passage which he reads and his perspective on life and God is forever changed. (You can send me a message if you want to know more about the plot.)
Since assisting with this musical, this passage has become the most important Bible passage to me. I have often turned to these words when dealing with challenges in my life. This passage has spoken to me when I feel unloved or unworthy of being loved. When doubts about my faith have arisen, this passage echoes in my mind. Asked what is the most important thing to know about God and I will answer by quoting these words attributed to the writer of the letter to the Romans.
From my perspective, these are the only words a person truly needs to know when thinking about their relationship with God. My reasoning is that if there is NOTHING which can separate us from the love of God, why worry.
Our world tries to convince us that we can never measure up to what God wants. Churches have even made the mistake of saying that the only way to be in relationship with God is by following a list of rules. People have told others that their actions, words, thoughts, lives are unfit for the love of God. Criteria has been established in some faith communities to determine who qualifies to be a member based on the color of their skin, their financial status, their sexuality, their type of work, their background. To all of those with this approach to Christianity, I say it is time to read your Bible again and specifically this passage.
The writer makes it very clear here that no power upon the earth, no spiritual being, no aspects of our lives are capable of removing us from the love of God. We are not even capable of doing this for ourselves. God loves us completely as demonstrated through the life of Jesus the Christ.
Believe this good news and live accordingly!