For my dog loving friends – two of my favourite dog presentations

This is especially for Edwina and for Simon both enduring horrendous chemotherapy regimes. I would have put it on FB but I can’t work out how to load these kind of files on there. Just a little dog happiness to keep you going…


You may also enjoy ‘Bob the Dog does theology again’ or

Is it possible to think without words?’

Finally, here is a ‘kiss’ from Bob x and one from me x

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Is it possible to think without words?

I’m back at college… more long words: epistemological, ontological and eschatological (loosely translated ‘how did we get ‘stuff’/what is ‘stuff’/what will happen to ‘stuff’ in the end)

I’ve been wondering whether it’s possible to think without words? It must be: children who can’t yet speak can still think. Even my dog ‘thinks’ but how do either of them do this ‘thinking’ without having words to do it?

Not having a speechless infant to observe, I’ve had to resort to watching Bobby, my dog. I’ve realised he  ‘thinks’ in two ways: he ‘thinks’ with the colours of emotions and he ‘thinks’ under the pressure of appetite.

He definitely experiences emotion. If I tie him up outside a shop and disappear inside, he cries, howls and whines in a way that would have people calling the RSPCA. He clearly experiences anxiety.

On the other hand, say the magic word ‘walk’ and he is joy unbounded. He will bark solidly for sheer delight (the only time this is permitted) for the whole time it takes you to find your gloves, put on your wellies, coat, find your keys, programme your ipod… then retrieve the gloves from under the dining room table where he has ‘cunningly’ (but somewhat predictably) hidden them.

Here is a picture of ‘Joy Unbounded’:Then there is frustration: he has a particular bark that means ‘I need help’. Neither of us could describe it but it’s very distinct and what it normally means is ‘my toy has gone under the sofa, come and do something about it NOW’.

Then there is contentment: this is stretched out belly up in front of the fire with all four paws in the air.

Finally, there is misery: ‘You’re leaving me here? How could you?’  The misery look is either a totally deflated ‘flat on the floor’ effect:

Or he achieves a sulk by sitting in his bed with his back towards you throwing the occasional insulting look over his shoulder.

Bobby also ‘thinks’ in appetites: ‘Feed me’, ‘Let me out!’ and ‘Must Roll in That’ being his response to a) hunger b) the need to pee and c) the smell of fox poo.

All this ‘thinking without words’ has helped me to see that there are levels of ‘knowing’ stuff that are not intellectual and don’t require words.  There is the ‘knowing’ that we experience through our emotions (‘I am loved’). The ‘knowing’ we experience through our appetites (I’m hungry). And a ‘knowing’ that we can sense in our spirit (‘I’m not alone’). The Bible says that the Holy Spirit of God ‘bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God’ (Romans 8:16)

To fully experience life, love, and the universe we need to cultivate all these ways of knowing and not just expect to understand life by walking down the same old word-filled track that only engages our intellect and not our souls.  Not for nothing did Jesus say ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, mind, soul and strength‘.

Lord, I want to see you more clearly, love you more dearly and follow you more nearly, please don’t let all the long words come between us.

Looking at God through a Keyhole

I told you a few weeks ago I was having trouble with Luke 13:24 where Jesus says ‘Make every effort to enter through the narrow door, because many, I tell you, will try to enter and will not be able to’.

This difficult statement is Jesus’ reply to the entirely reasonable question ‘Are only a few people going to be saved?’ Rather typically Jesus doesn’t give a direct answer (ie the precise number of  the ‘saved is 229, 3o7, 562,4443,555 322!) instead he implies it will be hard and that ‘not many’ will gain entry.

Well, that’s very depressing, isn’t it?  And if it’s not too disrespectful to say so, it rather prompts the question, ”why make it so blinkin’ hard, God?’

The problem is that this statement seems to be at odds with so much else the Bible has to say about the wideness of God’s grace and mercy. ‘all who received him’ (John 1:12) ‘whoever believes in him’ (John 3:16) and ‘How great the love the Father has lavished on us’ (1 John 3:1) to name just a few (and there are lots written by people whose names were not John). It’s even at odds with the end of the original conversation ‘People will come from east and west and north and south and will take their places at the feast in the Kingdom of God’ (v.29)

So all that explains why I’ve had a problem with Luke 13. However I have made progress with this issue. It was a phrase from Os Guiness’ brilliant book on doubt that helped me out (the book is called God in the Dark) He said sometimes we are guilty of ‘keyhole theology’. We take a few words out of context or we draw big conclusions from one thing that we don’t even see that  clearly.

It was while I was preparing a sermon on Romans 11 that I suddenly realised how important it was to remember to whom Jesus was talking in Luke 13.  His audience was exclusively Jewish and for them to accept Jesus as God’s anointed would undoubtedly be very hard and on a ‘few’ of them would enter through this narrow door into God’s kingdom. This door was narrow and difficult because Jesus was so not the Messiah they expected.

Os Guiness says there are two key questions that we need to answer: ‘Is God there?’ and ‘Is God good?’ I’m learning to rely less and less on having all the answers and more and more on my belief that he IS there and he IS good. Whatever else I don’t understand has to be framed by these certainties.