Ravin Rev, 02/01/2019

“Because of the dog’s joyfulness, our own is increased. It is no small gift. It is not the least reason why we should honor as love the dog of our own life, and the dog down the street, and all the dogs not yet born. What would the world be like without music or rivers or the green and tender grass? What would this world be like without dogs?”

“A dog can never tell you what she knows from the smells of the world, but you know, watching her, that you know almost nothing.”

“Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?”

-Mary Oliver

The “Kindom” of God is like a dog park. I know my friends who self-identify as cat people are already apoplectic at this comparison, and my friends who puzzle over my love of dogs are likely rolling their eyes. Dogs at a dog park seem a silly thing to compare with God’s “kindom.” Yet I find a kindred spirit in Mary Oliver, the Pulitzer prize winning poet who died in January of this year. She even wrote a book of prose and poetry titled “Dog Songs.” If such a poet as Mary Oliver can see the wonder of Creation in our canine companions, then maybe I am not so crazy as some might suspect.

The ‘Kindom” of God is like a dog park. Mary Oliver wrote “You may not agree, you may not care, … you should know that of all the sights I love in this world — and there are plenty — very near the top of the list is this one: dogs without leashes.” Until the recent “polar vortex” here in Iowa, Teresa and I would take our two dogs to the dog park just about every day, let them off the leash, and watch as they blissfully bound away. It is the sheer joy that makes me think of God’s “kindom.”

And each dog expresses that joy in different ways. There is the dog who runs continuously and non-stop around the park. There are the barkers and the inappropriate sniffers; the shy ones and the squirrel chasers; small dogs and large dogs; dogs of every breed and personality.  And they all share a joy of being together enjoying the wildness and preciousness of life. I wonder when I lost that simple sense of joy or if I really every glimpsed it.

One of Mary Oliver’s poems captures this “kindom” of God:
“I had a dog who loved flowers. Briskly she went through the fields, yet paused for the honeysuckle or the rose, her dark head and her wet nose touching the face of every one with its petals of silk, with its fragrance rising into the air where the bees, their bodies heavy with pollen, hovered—and easily she adored every blossom, not in the serious, careful way that we choose this blossom or that blossom—the way we praise or don’t praise— the way we love or don’t love— but the way we long to be— that happy in the heaven of earth— that wild, that loving.”

The “kindom” of God is like a dog park. My prayer for us all is that we will know the wild and precious and loving grace of God each and every day!

Grace & Peace,