Pastoral Relief and Retreat

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Wethersfield, CT, United States
I am Pastor at Poquonock Community Church, Congregational (CCCC) in Windsor, CT. My wife Jama and I live in Wetherfield, CT. We'd like to invite you to Terre Haute -- High Ground -- That's what Jama and I call the retreat space on our property. We offer free intentional get-away retreats. We'll feed you and house you and give you space to be with the Lord. All are welcome; no questions asked. This blog is my daily devotional journal. I write it because it is so easy to go for weeks without ever taking the time to be alone with God. Writing helps me develop a discipline I need.

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Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Pavlov's Dogs


And I tell you, ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened.  What father among you, if his son asks for a fish, will instead of a fish give him a serpent; or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!”
(Luke 11:9-13 ESV)

Every morning at about 6:45 our dachshund “Hoover” (the 31st US President) extracts himself from our bed and stands on my back for a moment, a signal it is time to get up.  I oblige him, because to do otherwise would be futile.  After I get my bearings, I open the bedroom door.  Hoover always barks exactly twice at the top of the stairs.  It is a signal to the other dog, a lab-shepherd mix named “Truman” (yes, the 33rd US President) that he is on his way. 

Hoover gleefully throws himself down the stairs (ever watch a dachshund descend a flight of stairs?  Toy Story had it right – think Slinky), and runs to the downstairs bathroom door (where Truman sleeps), and barks his fool head off.   Truman is 11 ½.  He’s long past the age where “morning” is all that exciting.  Hoover continues to bark and dance until I go into the garage and get their food.  Truman joins in once the food dish is in sight and does a Michael Jackson moon walk backing himself into the bathroom once more awaiting the coveted brown nuggets.  Can kibble really be that much of a thrill? 

Bizarre behavior, you say?  You can observe this same behavior any Sunday you like at 10 am.  That’s when most of us who are part of a church get dressed up (crawling out from under the covers), sing a few hymns or worship songs (bark at the top of the stairs), do a dance (stand, sit, stand, sit), and hold out our hand looking mostly for kibble from God. 

When Jesus tells us we can ask and seek and knock, our attention immediately goes to physical concerns.  Most of our prayers in church have to do with the sick, the elderly, the infirm, and the poor.  Jesus cuts right to the point: “What father among you, if his son asks for a fish, will instead of a fish give him a serpent?”  Imagine if, instead of kibble one morning, I brought out rotted vegetables from our compost bin?   Okay.  Bad analogy.  Hoover and Truman would gladly eat those.

To butcher an old analogy, God could give you a fish and you’d be happy.  But his concern is much more in teaching you how to fish for men.   Why ask for a handout from God when you could have his very heart?  The best gift God can give you is his Holy Spirit.  When he gives you his Spirit in abundance, he empowers you to do the things his Spirit leads you into.  You are no longer a beggar, living in crisis from handout to handout.  You become an heir with a vision and a plan. 

Is God concerned with healing the sick?  Sure!  But before you spend a lot of time in church praying he would heal the sick, review: have YOU gone out in the power of the Holy Spirit and been with the sick?  Is God concerned with the plight of the elderly and infirm?  Sure!  But before you spend a lot of time in church asking him to take care of them, review: have YOU gone out in the power of the Holy Spirit and been with the infirm and the elderly?  Is God concerned with the poor?  Sure!  But before you spend a lot of time in church praying he would take care of the poor, review: have YOU gone out in the power of the Holy Spirit and been with the poor?  We do much more for others by asking God for his Holy Spirit in abundance to empower us for ministry than we ever could by merely asking for a handout for them from God.  As Paul says in 1 Corinthians 12:31, “earnestly desire the higher gifts.”

Jon


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