Saturday, July 12, 2008

A Redneck Joke with a Lesson

There’s another favorite redneck joke of mine that goes as follows:

Cyril wasn’t known for being the brightest boy in town. Darryl decided to try to help his little brother one day to become smarter so he gave him a handful of small brown things.

"These are smart pills, runt. Now, eat ‘em up." Cyril ate ‘em up. "Now I’m gonna give you some more tomorrow, and keep givin’ you some every day. You gotta take ‘em a while ‘fore you start feelin’ smarter."

Darryl gave his little brother Cyril some more of the smart pills every day, doubling the dosage each time. Cyril would chew his way through patiently each time, but as time went on, he started to dislike the bad taste in his mouth after he’d eaten them. He told his brother about the bad taste, but Darryl always said, "That’s in your head, boy. These are smart pills. Now keep eatin’ ‘em, and one day you’ll git smart!"

So Cyril kept doing his darndest to eat every single pill he was given. His chewing became slower and slower as his facial expression revealed more and more how distasteful he found the pills. His stomach churned after he ate them and he wondered why he wasn’t getting any smarter, just feeling frustrated at how dumb he still felt and queasy besides. Finally one day when Darryl tried to give Cyril his daily dose, Cyril declared, "Maaaan, these here smart pills taste like goat turds! I ain’t eatin’ no more of these thangs!"

Darryl heartily thumped his brother on the back as he declared gleefully, "NOW you’re gettin’ smarter, little brother, NOW you’re gettin’ smarter!"


Funny and crass though this old joke is, there are some ironic parallels I see in this to my experience in institutional church. I also ‘ate’ whatever I was given. I was told if I came often enough and ‘ate’ enough of what they served up, I’d sooner or later turn into a model Christian.

While my experience wasn’t as much of a total scam as poor Cyril’s, I will say that I feel like I ate enough ‘turds’ at institutional church that it was making me sick both spiritually and emotionally. When I shared these feelings with other members or leaders, they told me it must be because of doubt, unbelief, unconfessed sin, etc. and I needed to have a ‘deliverance’ of some sort. I should read this book or do that Bible study, come to church more often, and find an accountability partner. If I kept eating their food, sooner or later it was bound to do the job they promised it would.

Finally we walked out. It wasn’t working. I had realized, "This is not doing what they said it would do. I feel worse instead of better. I just can’t do it anymore." I don’t think Father would ever laugh at me, but perhaps he was a bit like Darryl in saying, "Now you’re getting somewhere, my daughter, now you’re getting somewhere."

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Redneck Jokes for the Week

On the lighter side of things, here are a few that made me guffaw:

You might be a redneck if:

-Down where you come from reruns of Hee Haw are called documentaries.

-You've been on TV more than 5 times describing the sound of a tornado.

-You think the OJ trial was a taste test between Sunkist and Minute Maid.

-You were acquitted for murdering your first wife after she threw out your Elvis 8-tracks.

-You had to remove a toothpick for your wedding pictures.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Bear the Dog

Bear is our black laborador retriever. She died on Thursday, June 26. But I still find myself referring to her in the present tense many times, because I am trying to learn to see things from an eternal perspective. Time is irrelevant to many things in the spiritual realm.

We first learned of Bear through an on-line ad that said an elderly couple in poor health needed a new home for their 10 month old black lab. We had finally settled into our country home, winter was past, and it was time to realize a long-awaited dream: to get a family dog.

Knowing that cuddly little puppies are quickly snapped up by eager new owners, we decided to start with an older dog that might not so easily find a home, but not an adult dog who might not take a liking to our rambunctious 3 year old. So I know Bear had our name on her, written by our Father. When we arrived at the listed address, Bear was sleeping on the porch of a tiny, run down house surrounded by a yard so small it could hardly be called a yard. When we got out of the car, she woke up and ran to the fence, wagging her tail and barking hello. We all fell in love on the spot.

Bear weighed about 65 pounds when we got her and continued gaining a pound a week for most of the time she was here on earth with us. As big as she was, she never lost those big round puppy eyes. You could say Bear is very boisterous. She knocked my three year old daughter flat on the ground every time she went out the door for the first couple of weeks. By the end of the third week my daughter was lying across Bear’s back, singing to her or sharing a cookie with her. Bear quickly bonded to all of us and learned good dog behavior in a short time, though her eagerness didn’t always permit her to exercise what she knows.

A couple of weeks later we unexpectedly found ourselves the proud family of two other puppies (that story another time). Bear happily took charge as the young ‘mother’ of the two younger pups and the dominant dog among the three. Strider and Ranger took their cues from Bear. Soon, the three of them could be seen splashing in the creek, then rolling in the dirt, then jumping on the nearest available human with the cleanest clothes on. The mail carrier learned to slow down as she approached our box, knowing that Bear would run to greet her. She also learned to roll up her truck window when she stopped to deliver our mail, since Bear was more than eager to hop through it and help her with the rest of the afternoon’s mail.

Bear chewed through several pairs of shoes, a couple of lawn chairs, a set of practice golf balls, a couple of shirts, and a copy of "He Loves Me" by Wayne Jacobsen, among other things. She eagerly ate apples, carrots, celery and cucumbers. She loved it when I picked her a handful of blackberries and fed them to her. I’d never heard of a dog with such vegetarian tastes, but Bear seemed eager to share in everything we did, including what we ate.

One of my favorite memories of her is the way she’d hop up in my lap, all 70 plus pounds, as if she were a little lap dog, and throw her head over my shoulder as I hugged and talked to her. She was like a dog version of Baby Huey, a giant baby just wanting endless love and attention.

The morning that she died, she seemed fine all the way up to the time when we found her dead. My last memory of her was having her come barreling up to me as I walked up from the mailbox. She had rolled in something smelly the night before, and she was all wet from the rain, so I pushed her down when she jumped on me. I told her to ‘sit’ and she did. I patted her head, and she trotted off. Half an hour later we found her dead.

Father is slowly but surely growing faith in me. I would have kicked myself for pushing her down a few years ago. I would have been mad at myself for losing the "last chance" to love on her with a big hug. But now, I think that that was one small moment in time. I think Father will redeem all things that hurt us in our hearts. I know that my Father who notices when a single sparrow falls, remembers us with great concern when our pets die.

The vet said she died of an aneurysm, which is unusual but not unheard of in dogs. We brought her body home, and lovingly buried her beneath a tall oak tree at the edge of our woods. We cried as we shoveled dirt over our young dog’s body. But we smiled as we stood by the new grave, remembering how Bear loved to gobble blackberries by the handful as offered to her. We laughed and shook our heads as we remembered how she would knock a person and their chair over wanting to be a "baby lap dog" at 70 something pounds. We cried some more, and laughed some more. We cried because we miss her and we know we won’t see her again for a while. We laughed because we know Father loves her, and we are picturing our Bear playing with other animals romping in the heavenly realms.

I am not here to present a case for animals in heaven or not. Like with many things, people can and will interpret Scripture to say whatever they want it to, according to what is already in their hearts. When I see my heavenly Father face to face, if I’m wrong and animals are not in heaven, I don’t think he’s going to cluck and point the finger at me for believing such a thing. People who dedicate their time to arguing for the doctrine of "no animals in heaven" just irritate me. It’s not love to take a grieving animal lover who has lost a pet, and shove their face in "no animals allowed" doctrine and call it love. As with countless other examples, people who would do this value being "RIGHT" over being LOVING.

The idea of being in heaven with so many people everywhere, especially those who made a career out of being "RIGHT" about everything, just makes me nervous by itself (remember, I’m an introvert). The idea of no animals on top of that, just makes me depressed. It sounds a step better than hell, of course. But, then we are back to the core of Christianity. Is escaping hell what it’s all about? Or, getting in touch with our heart’s deepest cries and having them answered by our Father?

On that note, I am giving myself permission to be me. I am an animal lover who hopes to be surrounded by animals as well as people in heaven. And I hope Bear is the first one of them to knock me down with puppy eagerness as I walk in through the gates.