Dog Shaming is not Biblical

While online recently I have several times come across the mention of a new website called “dog-shaming.com” – which is a site where dog owners may post pictures of their sinful, shameful animal with a handwritten note describing their vice (as if composed personally by the canine). The idea is, I guess, a whimsical effort to shame the dog by the public humiliation of their sin for all to see … stuff like eating and barfing unmentionables, ripping up and destroying varied items of property, or, well, acting like an animal without human sensitivities and social norms!  There are a lot of humorous pictures!

Being the owner of a Jack Russell Terrier, I was not actually surprised to see that about one-half of all entries were about the deeds of JRTs!

Before I write some thoughts after the pictures, let me just show you a couple of examples from the web page (and then later, one of my own)…

A public confession of sins may be an appropriate activity – especially when the sin committed was a public one that affected other folks. But I have to say that biblically speaking, it would be far more honorable to have a “faming” web page rather than a “shaming” page. Consider this Scriptural thought from Hebrews 10:24 … “And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds …”

As I’ve oft written, I am smitten by my dog – which I love immensely for her stellar character and demeanor beyond that most frequently displayed by homo-sapiens. So in that vein, here is my picture of my good friend Joules:

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Snake Good News, Bad News

It has been a while since I’ve written a blog post on snakes – a blogging tradition I’ve maintained for many years now. They’ve not crossed my path in a long time – which is just fine with me. I’ve not seen any around my country property this year … aw nuts!… I shouldn’t have written that. Now I’ll be sure to see one very soon.

Anyhow, there was both good news and bad news about snakes in the media outlets today – both about pythons. What do you want first? The bad news??? OK…

Bad News: The largest Burmese Python ever captured in the Everglades was reported today as measuring close to 18 feet and weighing 164 pounds. Of course, these are invasive species – let loose there by exotic pet owners who realize that their pet reptile has outgrown its happy home. They are populating heavily in this habitat and doing what snakes do best – creating problems (see Genesis chapter 3 for validation). This Florida monster was dissected and found to have 87 eggs! These miscreants have been known to even eat deer and alligators. One of the researchers said, “A 17 1/2-foot snake could eat anything it wants.”  Oh joy! But this one is dead.

Good News: There is a strange snake disease among pythons that causes them to tie themselves in knots! Known as Inclusion Body Disease – or more generically as Mad Snake Disease – it strikes captive pythons and boa constrictors. Apparently it has been isolated to a virus in rodents that has become resident in these snakes. I’m trying to feel bad for the snakes, but am having a difficult time getting there! I have always wondered how very long snakes keep themselves organized – like when they are all curled up and have to move quickly. They never seem to encounter the same troubles I have with things like hoses and extension cords.

 

It Just Ain’t the Same!

This past week we travelled for a couple of days to the Jersey Shore. I guess these two nights in Wildwood comprise our summer vacation for this year.

Wildwood was a second home for me as a kid. Most summers we would spend two weeks there. We stayed in the home of an older Swedish couple that my parents had somehow met from years of going to this community and searching rental places. We all became almost like family to the Johnsons. But about the time I was getting out of college and getting married, this couple had passed away and we no longer gathered at the same home. There have been a couple of extended family gatherings in North Wildwood over the past 35 years, but my memories are mostly frozen in the mid 60s to mid 70s.

So in this summer of reconnecting a bit with my past – known and unknown (but now discovered a bit) – I wanted to spend a couple of days biking around Wildwood to all the places I frequented 40-50 years ago.

My summer home in Wildwood for many years

It just ain’t the same.

Wildwood has really gone downhill over the years. We stayed at a 4-star motel. Hmmm…. These star ratings must be rather arbitrary. I think we’ve somewhere and sometime stayed at a worse place … I think … though I can’t remember where. And I think we’ve probably paid more somewhere … I think … though I can’t remember where or when. I kept saying to Diana, “Think of this as a missionary trip into a foreign culture!”  She couldn’t seem to connect to the humor in that suggestion!

I had heard stories that Wildwood is at the bottom end of a cycle to renovate and resuscitate its former greatness. The home where we used to stay is on a block in very serious need of renovation. The house itself appears to be uninhabitable at the moment. It was all very sad to see, as this was a nice neighborhood in the past.

And then there was a restaurant where we always visited most evenings. Like the name of the people from whom we rented rooms, we ate most dinners at Johnson’s – which is now a pancake house of a chain of such eateries. I asked the owner about this, and he showed me how they had preserved the sign from the former establishment.

Even the beach is all different. Whereas it seems that most shore communities regularly battle to keep their beaches from washing into the ocean, at Wildwood the beach has doubled or tripled in size …. So walking to the actual ocean is now a major trek across the sand. And in the years since we went there, the city has built a convention center on the very spot where I spent so many happy days of my childhood at the beach.

This fishing pier called “Dad’s Place” was exactly that for my dad. He loved fishing there – never caught much, but, just being there instead of the office was enough to make him happy.

So though it was nice for one day to have Nate and Allie and the grandkids come down from Allie’s family’s homes in Ocean City, NJ, I drove out of Wildwood with the posture of permanently closing that chapter of life. It cannot be recreated in any way. I don’t intend to ever go back.

I Have Lost My #1 Blogs Reader

I Have Lost My #1 Blogs Reader

My dear friend Jack Corderman died this week. I will have the honor of hosting and speaking at his service tomorrow morning at Tri-State Fellowship.

I have often seen and heard people register a “huh!” of surprise when they find out that we were pals and Tuesday lunch-mates for many years. We don’t immediately seem to have a lot in common. Our backgrounds are very different. Jack was a Democrat (though he changed later) state senator, judge, and lawyer – working in the most secular of jobs. I have been a Republican Party Chairman and have spent my life in the most non-secular of jobs. Jack was in earlier years a heavy drinking and bombastic fellow full of strong opinions. Though my New Jersey opinionated verbiage has at times gotten me into trouble, by comparison I am surely a much more reserved, guarded person … and from a family of non drinkers to the extent that an ancestor is the ultimate originator of the 12-step program concept. Jack travelled somewhere around the USA almost every weekend; I go months at a time without ever leaving Washington County. And the biggest: he is a multi-generational local, whereas I just recently stepped off the bus 18 years ago.

In my early years here in this community I knew Jack very causally through Rotary and through his occasional visits at my church. Dave Swacina – our other lunch partner – was warmly acquainted with Jack dating back to Jack’s survival of the letter bomb attack upon his life. Those two guys were already meeting for lunch on Tuesdays at the China King. Apparently one day Jack said to Dave, “Who does Randy have as friends he can really open up with and talk to? We should invite him to join us.”  That was about 13 years ago – at least.

So most weeks we have gathered at the same table – first in the old restaurant location north of the Hagerstown Police Department, but since in the new location on the south side of the same. We’ve all become good friends as well with the Chinese owner – Kevin – an American success story and all-around good guy.

For all his gruff and crustacean exterior, Jack is one of the most kind and warm-hearted fellows I’ve ever known.  He is also a bottom line guy. In the book of Proverbs it says that Faithful are the wounds of a friend; but the kisses of an enemy are deceitful. Jack was a faithful friend who would tell me what I needed to hear, not what I wanted to hear. That is an invaluable person to have in your world – given the self-deceit and the self-everything we are prone to accumulate in our natural state.

Jack Corderman’s friendship was a watershed event for me. Just before coming to TSF and to Hagerstown in 1994, I had graduated from my doctoral program that Spring. What followed was an exciting time of establishing TSF and moving us to our current facility, building a house, and watching my kids become high school runners at a high level of success. But I was sick of books. After a 9-year college/seminary program with the doctoral addition not long after, I had seen about enough books for a lifetime. I stopped reading other than what I had to for the job. But Jack was always reading something and talking about it. I was ashamed of myself for not knowing what he was talking about. So I started reading again, and we began to exchange books and book suggestions. He got me back on the track I needed to be on – that of a lifelong learner. I was back to a life of reading, writing, researching … including my Antietam associations (which Jack so encouraged and enjoyed) down to the writing of these several blogs.

Jack was my #1 reader of the things I write. I’d sit down on a Tuesday at lunch, and one of the first things he would talk about is something that I had just written about the Civil War or another topic – even the mundane or humorous things I often include in this blog column. Those of you who’ve read this blog of mine know that I’ve located some long lost family from my biological past before my adoption. The last time I saw Jack (who had advised me on how to approach a relative who had no idea I was out there and who would be obviously skeptical), I told him about this and he was so fascinated by the results of my search.

So we were friends – even though I’m 13 years younger. And honestly as I ponder it, this is the first loss of my inner circle of closest guy friends and associates – though I continue to miss my right arm in the 2010 passing of Beth Ostoich. Yes, I’ll miss Jack terribly. I am sure that every Tuesday at 12:30 for the rest of my life I will think of him and fondly remember the ways he enriched my life through our conversations.

A Theology of the Beach

The Beach as Therapy

There is now scientific proof of something we have almost all sensed and known to be true – that there is something naturally therapeutic about the beach! Oh yes – here’s a topic that will preach! Eric Boutieller will shout an ecstatic “amen” to this one … he LOVES the beach! (I think it has something to do with the sun shining on his head!)

There was a research study done in Europe with 2750 people which found that time spent near the seaside – regardless of the weather – was better for emotional and physical health than time spent at any other place of leisure, such as a park. Some scientists speculate that the atmospheric turbulence caused by breaking waves releases charged ions into the air … producing mood boosting endorphins and serotonin – hormones that cause a sense of well-being. The same thing we know to be true of a good, hearty laugh, and even the Scriptures support such (Proverbs 17:22).

Could we find the same support for the beach?

The only three occasions of the word “beach” being used in the Bible are in the accounts of Paul’s journeys in the book of Acts – so not much to go on there. How about the word “waves?”  It is actually used 29 times, although to be honest, most of those occurrences present a concept of tumult, disarray, danger, and the angry power of nature.

But there is one very positive usage of “waves” as illustrating well-being … even though it is in the context of a rebuke of the nation of Israel for not trusting God and obeying Him. It says in Isaiah 48:17-18 “This is what the Lord says—your Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel: “I am the Lord your God, who teaches you what is best for you, who directs you in the way you should go. If only you had paid attention to my commands, your peace would have been like a river, your well-being like the waves of the sea.”  

Well… that’s good enough for me to build a “beach theology!”  It is God’s will for us to spend time on the beach – the Bible as much as says so! Right?

So … I’m going to go for a couple of days of biblically-based well-being next week!