Thursday, August 29, 2013

"God is a wild old dog"

Patty Griffin has produced one of the finest "gospel" albums of recent days with her homage to her father on American Kid. There are several songs of note on the album as it weaves a story of love, family, failure and redemption. In one of the more captivating songs, she likens God to a "wild old dog, someone left out on the highway".
God is a wild old dog
Someone left out on the highway
I seen him running by me
He don't belong to no one now
He don't belong to no one now

In the lyric she captures a great truth that is often lost on religious types, especially churches and denominations who consider themselves at the front of holding forth the gospel. There is a sense in which people seem to cage God to their own perspective and ideas. They OWN God. They have him all figured out. There are no questions left unanswered, no theological ambiguity, no doctrinal conundrums, no sense of doubt. They approach God the way an animal lover might approach a stray dog and take him in and give him a sense of belonging. Who are we to think that we can ever own God or give God a sense of belonging. If we see anything about God's nature in scripture, it is that he is not given to being dictated by his creation. He is above all of the created order, thus he is free to move as he pleases like a wild old dog running along the highway. 

At times I seem to think I have God figured out. I think I know exactly what he is doing and will do. Then like a wild mutt he surprises me. I don't have a trademark or a copyright on God and neither does anyone else, so why do I try to limit what God can do in my life and the world around me. 

Reflections on Prayer in Wales

My time spent this summer in Caernarfon, Wales was formational in many different ways. First, it reminded me that people are people no matter what country you are in. Second, it reminded me that God is bigger than my southern, American caricature that often drives my understanding of God. Lastly, the impact that the trip had on my prayer life has been incredible, like the first bite of fresh Chick-fil-A chicken sandwich.
The majority of the trip consisted of prayer walking for half our day. We spent time walking through all the different parts of the town and into the outskirts of the town into the sheep infested countryside. I will admit that pray has never come easy for me. It is something I have wrestled with in attempt to hear the voice of God leading me, though at times I suspect that God's voice sounds eerily like my own. My prayer walking experience opened my eyes to the need that I have for God to be present in my life as well as the lives of people I interact with each day. I was humbled by the power of simply confessing that I didn't know the extent of every individual situation and need but that God did and does.

Part of our experience was an exercise in listening prayer. I am staunchly convinced that most Christians spent time uttering prayers to the extent that we become experts at babbling and seldom practice the discipline of shutting up to listen to God. Each day I was challenged in my faith, encouraged to hold on fast to the God of my faith, and to trust in his will for me, the people around me, and the world. That sounds like, "let go and let God"...nothing could be further from the lesson I learned. It was this deep sense of trust even when I doubted the one in whom I trust. It was something akin to jumping off the trapeze platform with no net and not enough a bar. I am finding that jumping is part of what God is looking for from me.