While there are innumerable blessings provided by my dog’s role as Northminster’s first-ever canine intern…there are also moments that, let’s say, “show room for growth”.
As some of you know first-hand, he doesn’t like surprises. At all. Don Spencer, Becky Vaughn, Teri, and countless other wonderful and well-meaning people have been on the business end of a good barking when Chocolate doesn’t hear them coming. And even if he does hear you coming, there’s no guarantee that he’s going to be in the mood for guests. Stranger and old friend alike are sometimes treated with nervousness because he’s not sure if he’s good with so many variables and unpredictable humans in the room.
And fair enough. About 6 months ago, we took him away from his Mom and Dad, his siblings, and his previous owners. The first several times we took him out of the house, it was to the vet for a variety of (choosing my words) stressful procedures and tests. Then we threw him into an unfamiliar high-traffic area here at Northminster…and, yes, he was tentative at first. But I read an article this week that said that his barking can be seen as a positive. While I’m definitely not sure about that…the article said that it’s encouraging because it shows that Chocolate sees Northminster as home. He’s skittish and defensive because he’s defending his turf. The anxiety and defensiveness show that he loves this place…he doesn’t want anything unpredictable or chaotic to harm his “den” and “pack”.
Every summer I like to preach a sermon series so that we, as a congregation, can look deeper into a certain book or theme. I thought and prayed a lot about where Northminster is right now, collectively and as individuals; and I keep coming back to the theme of fear. Unfortunately, fear is used in a lot of different way these days; as motivator, manipulator, counterargument, and way of life. It impacts the approaches we have to the people and places we love most dramatically. We carry fear about chaos and change damaging our “dens” and “packs” …and it pours out of us in anger, anxiety, defensiveness, and hesitation. We hear so much about danger and betrayal; and many of us know it first-hand. I’m afraid we hold fear close and let it define us as people and as the church.
But I believe God has always called us to something more. In this Summer’s Series—Be Not Afraid: Living and Planting Hope in a World Obsessed with Fear—we’re going to take a deep look at how fear is encountered and overcome in some of the great the stories of our faith. While we will spend time diagnosing and identifying fear and its effects…we’ll also talk about the gifts God provides in the midst of anxiety and the callings/risks we have to embrace to move forward into hope.
I’m excited about looking at our shared anxieties and hesitations together in the light of a God who has moved for centuries to free us from fear so that we might show hope, grace, and new life to the world around us. I’m excited to be reminded once again of God who walks with us and brings peace so that we can stop giving so much energy to worry, defensiveness, and anxiously defending our home. I’m excited to see how we can all work to train ourselves in the way I’m trying to train our intern: To rest in the faith that we can show gracious hope instead of just “barking”.