Saturday, September 29, 2012

I think I blogged a while back about touch. Let's add dogs and touch.

Here  [The link won't take you there anymore. She wrote an excellent post on training your kids and "stranger danger." Not sure where it went. More recently (2014) she posted about touch.] is a profound blog post about pets and touch by, yes, a dog person Sarah Wilson - someone I greatly respect for her technique and expertise. 

In the world of therapy dogs there is a growing group of ministry dogs - therapy dogs in yet another venue. Therapy dogs are dogs trained to visit people in nursing homes and other institutional settings. They usually visit with their owners who are trained volunteers. Sometimes their owners are professional teachers, counselors, pastors. The dog (and person) must be good with people, other visiting dogs and animals and the sights, sounds, smells  and activities in nursing homes, schools, and similar institutions and situations. There is also a R.E.A.D dog program where kids can read to therapy dogs who are particularly good with children in a non-judgemental environment.

If you have a dog who is particularly good with people and more specifically kids, google "therapy dogs," "R.E.A.D. dogs, or "ministry dogs" you'll find lots of interesting information. The progression is obedience training so you can pass the AKC Canine Good Citizen test with your dog, then there is Therapy Dog training/test, and more specialized R.E.A.D dog training. If your dog is socially" bomb-proof" (calm with people, dogs, cats, and new or crazy situations) and he/she listens to you you'll whizz through the training! If your dog already goes to work with you and loves everyone, you're already there!

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Thinking about older elementary and junior high children:  We read the Old Testament in the context of a Savior but when the OT was written, Jesus hadn't come yet.

Are there creation themes in Old Testament stories that we miss because we read it through a New Testament window? Does it matter?

Does our scientific thinking keep us from really reflecting on God as relational Creator when we read the Old Testament stories?

How do your respond to unscientific child-like faith?

What do the Old Testament stories tell us about the Maker of Heaven and Earth and His creative power? How do the Old Testament stories renew our understanding of a Creator God Who is relational and involved?

How can these reminders better prepare us for the new life He sent us in a Baby who grows into a Man and dies and lives again to reconcile us with that same God who made us to do what He made us to do?

Chapter 4: "Creation and Foundation Narratives of Israel" *

*from God and World in the Old Testament: A Relational Theology by Terence E. Fretheim

We probably take  the influence of the natural world on the people of Israel in the OT for granted. Dr. Fretheim doesn't do this. His window is even wider: Individuals, family, extended family, community exist in a larger context - not just the God-created natural world, a world full of neighboring peoples and cultures.

The author continually points out to us that Creation's story continues. It doesn't stop because we begin to focus on the life of God's "chosen" people. God is still Creator. Creation continues to be an integral part (the very context) of Israel's story. (pg 91)  Dr Fretheim emphasizes often that God's created world is bigger than His chosen people.

The story of God's work in His people ultimately affects the greater cosmos: the land, other peoples. ( p 92)

In Genesis, man is called to care for what God has made. Despite the Fall, man is still called to faithfulness. (p. 93)

Man is good - created in the image of God. Man chose not to trust God and he will continually battle with that inclination. Yet, on occasion, men like Noah and Moses overcome and chose to faithfully serve the God who created them. (p. 94)

Humans are individuals but always part of communities. "To be concerned about the development and continuing dynamic of  family is a creational matter." (p. 94)

The author makes an interesting comment about family conflict: "A key to understanding the family stories [in the OT] is that God's choosing, speaking, and acting generate much of the conflict. At the same time, God does not leave the principals to stew in their own often ill-conceived interactions. God remains at work in and through an amazing range of family problems and possibilities, finally for purposes of reconciliation. (Gen 50:20)" (p. 94) This extends to God's concern for a nation and even for those "outsiders" - not the chosen Israel. (p. 95)

The author notes the creation theme in Joseph's story."This story draws important links between family life and national life and, and in the person Joseph, demonstrates the importance of good national leadership for the proper development of social life, indeed God's entire creation (Gen 41:53-57). National life is often compromised by the sinfulness of individual leaders and systemic forms of evil (including Joseph), but the nation remains a key structure of creation in and through which God is at work for life and blessing."(p 95)

Land adds creational focus in these narratives. Land is a source of God's provision. It is a gift. It is a source of blessing. Sin may affect the land but "...the land is apparently understood to be subject to such realities as drought just by virtue of its createdness." (p. 97)

He says, "cosmic order is linked to moral order" and gives examples. (p. 97)

He talks about "implied law" before Moses. "By building the law into the created order, the point is made that every human being, not simply the chosen people, is to attend to the law for the sake of the creation and all its creatures." (p 99) " As with the relational model of creation with which we have been working , we have here a relational model of the development of law." (p 100)

He successfully looks for ways that creation, not just salvation, themes from Genesis 1-11 continue through Israel's story. "Most fundamentally, the images of God in Genesis 1-11 witness to a God who is present and active in the world more generally, not just in Israel." God intends "Abraham to be a blessing to all 'families'" (p 101)

God is the God who "Speaks/Reveals" (p 102), "the God who Elects" (p.102) "the God Who Saves" (p. 103), the "God who Makes (Covenant) Promises," "The God Who Blesses" (p. 106-108), the God Who Judges (p 108), the God Who is Relational ( p 108-109).

He looks at creation themes in Exodus: "Pharoah, a historical symbol for the anticreational forces of death, seeks to subvert God's life-giving work with death-dealing efforts, to close down God's work of multiplication and fruitfulness. Such efforts are a threat to undo God's creative work with negative macrocosmic ramifications." (p 112-113) He puts this part of Israel's story in a bigger context. The redemption story is bigger than just Israel.

He talks about the plagues and how "they are all out of kilter with their created way of being." (p 119)

He spends a number of pages talking about the parting of the Red Sea. "Given the anticreational forces incarnate in Egypt and the pharaoh, no simple local or historical victory will do; God's victory must be and is cosmic in scope." (p 124) God's liberation is universal. "God's redemptive act reclaims Israel as God's own and reconstitutes them as a living, growing people." (p 125) "The effect that God intends in the act of redemption is a new creation -in the dynamic sense." (p 126). 
The author draws attention to the re-creational themes expressed through God's provision for Israel in the wilderness. If God's miracles use natural means, is it less God? If God leads us to provision already available through the natural world, but unknown to us, is it less a miracle? Is it less God's provision? (p 126-8) Again, the author keeps highlighting parallels and similarities to the creations story in Genesis as Israel's story unfolds.

He links the tabernacle and creation - a movable "place" spoken and built to God's specifications, the way creation was - a sanctuary for God moving in the midst of His people. (128-131)

Dr. Fretheim ends the chapter with a reminder that all that God created, all that God creates, all that continues to reproduce what God has made is still good! "The glory manifest [in the tabernacle] is to stream out into the larger world. The shining of Moses' face in the wake of the experience of the divine glory (Exod 34:29-35) is to become characteristic of Israel as a whole, a radiating out into the larger world of those glorious effects of God's dwelling among Israel." (p. 131)

These are just bits and pieces. We don't always know and understand why God does what He does but there are things that  make more sense in the context of all that God has created that don't make sense when we narrow our focus.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Liturgy boxes! Whether or not you use an actual liturgy 
or not, great idea! Play with it! Make it work for your own faith community!

Sunday, September 09, 2012


Someone asked me, how does reading a book like this change how you do what you do, or how you interact with people?

Any book that draws attention to sides of God clearly revealed in the scriptures but that we don't pay attention to is worth noting. How we perceive God affects how we reflect Him, which affects the people around us and their understanding of the God we claim. Admittedly, some are healers and some are warriors at two extremes. God is both and more.

In Genesis, we hear God sharing his thoughts.

He shared His work with Adam. He gave Adam opportunity to contribute.

God adjusted to the way Adam and Eve exercized their free will. He protected them and all that He had made. He had to manage the situation.

He clothed them when they discovered they were naked.

God created a world that kept creating.

God's creation never stopped being good even though it suffered for man's failure to believe God.  God didn't change His mind about that.

The work God intended for man changed when man chose not to believe God.

Man's relationship with Eve and with the serpent changed.

God isn't operating as a tyrannical monarch. Benevolent dictator? Benevolent, for sure.

God is amazingly patient but His patience has limits.

God had regrets but still didn't trash all that He had created.

Pick a chapter of scripture and make observations about God. Is He the God you know?
Still working on a short clip snap shot format.  I don't have photos that work or rather the time to play with that. But I'll think about it!

Chapter 3: "Creation at Risk: Disrupted, Endangered, Restored" *

*from God and World in the Old Testament: A Relational Theology by Terence E. Fretheim

He focuses on Genesis 3-11 

I still think books like this would make great guides for two-year community Bible studies! But you'd have let the questions and observations that ruffle your thinking send you back to the scriptures! You'd have to focus on the scriptures, not the book. You may read and focus on different thoughts, but here are the ideas that jumped out at me.

What God did was risky, "...genuine relationships always entail risks (at least pre-eschaton)". The author sees God's creation in a "constant state of revision" and notes that God shares that process, especially with us. The creatures God has made are finite and able to "fail in the fulfillment of their tasks and responsibilities, of course, and that can have negative effects on the entire created order" - deep and far-reaching. (pg 69) "Moral evil had cosmic effects." (pg 70)

"For God to have forced compliance to the divine will and not allowed creatures the freedom to fail would have been to deny any genuine relationship." (pg 70)

Regarding "the fall" (and the author explores this concept at length) "The issue is not the use of the mind or the gathering of experience, but the mistrust of God that the human move assumes." ( p.75) All of creation is affected when Adam and Eve chose not to believe God but God didn't start over and God didn't stop interacting with mankind.

"More generally, humans wanted control over their own lives; they now have control in grievously distorted and unevenly distributed forms. They wanted to transcend creaturely limits; they have found newly intensified forms of limitation. They now have the knowledge they desired, but not the perspective to  handle it well. . . Even in the wake of these effects, God remains in relationship with the creatures and hopeful signs for the future emerge, though expulsion from the garden becomes necessary." (pg 76) Sound like parenting?

The story of Cain and Abel. "This story is important for the theme of creation not least because it reflects God's involvement with a family apart from the ministrations of the community of faith." (p.77)

Man's sin didn't make God's creation evil. "God continues to be effectively at work for good across the created order and people are responsive to that divine activity among them." The author says that Israel had a "strong sense of God's continuing creative work apart from the chosen community."(p. 78)

The Flood: "...while flood imagery may be used to depict [difficulty, suffering, catastrophe] , God's promise at the end of the flood story indicates that the flood was an event that would not be repeated. Hence, the flood should never be used as a type of illustration of divine judgement" but rather the certainty of God's promise that it would never happen again. (p. 81) God saved a righteous man and his family. The world wasn't totally corrupt. He saved enough of His original creation to start over. (He remembered the animals)

After the flood, God changed some things. He still gave humans responsibilities "[b]ut sinful human beings do not possess sufficient resources for the responsibilities they have been given; only God can assure the creation's future." (p. 85) Do we not possess sufficient resources to reliably handle the responsibilities God gives us? Something to ponder. More the issue is God's ultimate influence on the outcome.

It's a scary thing to think  that God has given humankind the freedom and responsibility He's given us. It also takes Him off the hook when we want to blame Him for everything that goes wrong.

God makes a covenant. He makes an unconditional, public, promise to His creation. God's promise here is not dependent on us. Our choices can still bode badly for us and have far-reaching effects but God will keep His covenant. (p. 85) This "covenant of peace" was made to the entire natural order. (p.86)

"God's absolute commitment to the creation is used to ground God's commitment to Israel." The rainbow will remind Him."This divine restraint in dealing with evil set the direction for a different approach to dealing with sin and evil and to the redemption of the world." (p 87) The author's focus, remember, is on God's relational presence and ongoing interaction with what He's made.

Families become nations. (p 87) "Problems and possibilities of various sorts - both good and evil- take on a communal aspect." (p 88) "The move from individual behaviors to systemic forms of evil is remarkably in tune with reality and will perdure as an ongoing pattern adversely affecting God's good creation. God will work against such human developments, but not in a way that will destroy the creation or compromise the divine promise." (p. 88)  God is awesome and remarkable - is he not?!

As this chapter draws to a close, the author makes observations about the story of the Tower of Babel and begins the story of Abraham. 

Saturday, September 08, 2012

Chapter 2 "The Creation Accounts of Genesis" *

 *from God and World in the Old Testament: A Relational Theology by Terence E. Fretheim

Chapter 2 is here!

Not that this is a difficult book to read but there is so much to process! If you want the real meat of it, take the time to ponder the passages of scripture in the light of the author's observations and let the Word change your thinking... Here is my over-simplification of the author's observations and a bit of my own random processing.

First and foremost, the author's thoughts about the relational character of God aren't sentimental, modernistic notions but observations about God's initial and ongoing interactions with what He created (and creates) as expressed in the scriptures.

God is Creator, communicator, servant.  God is interactive, not out there somewhere.  He shared his thoughts with man. He shared His work with man. God named, then He let man name. He took something he made (dirt) and made something new (man). He took man, and made woman. He made them in such a way that they could continue creating human beings and set up all of creation to do that.

The author's focus is less on God relating to what He has created as a non-resident ruler or landlord but more as Creator including what and whom He's created in the process of continuing what He began - not as clones but as helpers.

It wasn't enough for God to just create and enjoy His creation, by Himself. It wasn't enough for God and man to have only each other. God gave woman to man and they created more people. The creatures of the earth created more of themselves. The non-animal creation created more of itself. The non-living creation also continued to create...Such a God we have!

Rest was part of God's creative process, the author says that perhaps it gave God opportunity to enjoy the fruit of His labors. God had a day for this and a day for that - interesting observation. God orders time as a dimension of His creation: sunrise and sundown, phases of the moon, phases of the night sky, seasons.

The author's observation that God kept evaluating His work was an interesting observation: God said, "This is good!" Creation - God's creation - is good. It wasn't "good" that man be alone - just him and God. It wasn't "good" that man be alone with just God and all the other things that God had created. God made woman. Man had been helping God. Woman would help man. Interesting?

There was give and take between God and His creation. God made clothes for Adam and Eve after they fell. Interesting observation that patriarchy came with the "fall." God took them out of the garden to protect them from the possibility of continuing on the path they were on and partaking of the Tree of Life and living forever with the "Knowledge of Good and Evil."

That's an interesting thought, isn't it. Is it in God's plan to save us from the "knowledge of good and evil," to redeem us from the effects of "the knowledge of good and evil?" Is that why Jesus came? Is that what our restoration, our being brought  back into a right relationship with God, walking with Him in the cool of the evening might look like?

God gave Adam and Eve the freedom to choose, knowing they could choose badly and they did. But God responded without giving up on that which He had made ... Man's choice affected all that God had made and God rolled with it, so to speak...Our wonderful interactive, relational, Creator God!