Fur All The Saints

Charlie

I have heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love toward all the saints, and for this reason  I do not cease to give thanks for you as I remember you in my prayers. –Ephesians 1:15-16

A saint is a person who is recognized as having an exceptional degree of holiness or likeness or closeness to God.  –Wikipedia

It’s my devotion. So if I want to use All Saints Day to venerate my dearly departed doggie, I’m gonna do it.

Not that this won’t be met with some controversy, I’m sure.  The debate over whether animals have souls has gone on for centuries.  People are adamant on both sides.  Even Catholic Popes have weighed in differently down through the ages.

Most recently, in 2014, Pope Frances made the claim that animals go to heaven.  It made international press–too bad everybody was quoting somebody else by mistake.  We don’t actually know what the Pope’s thoughts on pets in the afterlife are.  I wonder if he ever had a dog?

My dog, Charlie, left this Earth yesterday, early afternoon.  My wife and I don’t have kids, so Charlie was the third member of our family.  We’ve had many tears as we’ve watched his cancer get the best of him.  Saying goodbye to someone you love is so hard.

I’ll be honest–if you were to call into question the existence of a soul in Charlie, my wife would probably beat you up.  So I don’t recommend that, at least not this week.  For us, and millions of pet owners, the answer is obvious.  The spark of creation, the capacity for love points to an unmistakable soul.  Something God-given and eternal.  Charlie has a soul.

Now, I’m gonna take it one step further.  Can a dog be a Saint?

We have several definitions of “Saint” that we use in the church.  They can differ from one denomination to the next, but here’s what we talk about in my church.  A Saint is:

  1. Someone who has impacted the lives of others in a profound and loving way.
  2. A member of the congregation, living or dead.
  3. Anyone whom we have loved and lost.

Those are pretty roomy definitions, and designed to be that way.

The Catholic Church goes further:  A saint (lower case) is anyone in heaven.  A Saint (upper case) is someone “who has been formally canonized that is, officially and authoritatively declared a saint, by the Church as holder of the Keys of the Kingdom of Heaven, and is therefore believed to be in Heaven by the grace of God” (Wikipedia)

I think Charlie would have to have performed a couple miracles (and be human) in order to be considered for canonization, (we’re talking Mother Theresa material), so maybe not the extra fancy description of Saint.  But, looking at #1 up there, I’m gonna say he counts in my book.

For 12 years he followed/shepherded us everywhere we went.  He cuddled, played tug, and seemed to know when we needed an extra dose of affection.  He was incredibly smart–we counted well more than a dozen words or phrases he understood completely.  He ran with Jan for years around Wyandotte County Lake, protecting her.  He traveled around the country with us.  And on the rare occasion when Jan and I would raise our voices, he would come and sit right between us.

I could go on, and probably never convince some that Charlie is being deserving of Sainthood.  That’s okay.  I suppose you’ll have to take my word for it —  That dog taught me more about love, service and commitment then most humans ever will.

So, if you’re not a pet owner, consider becoming one!

And if you are a pet owner — I give you permission (which you don’t need) to call your special pets Saints, too.   I figure, if the paw fits, wear it.

I believe we are surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses, and not all of them walk on two legs.

But hey, when you turn your eyes to God, you can go ahead and discern that for yourself.

After all…

It’s your devotion.

Have a great week,

Mitch

doggie_heaven-767087

 

9 extreme ideas for getting people into your church.

So you’ve hung out door hangers, talked to your neighbors, and put ads in the paper.

If nothing seems to be working, try these 9 extreme ideas for getting people into your church.

*Note* It’s up to you to decide which of these has merit, which are kind of silly, and which are just crazy enough they might work.

1. GIVE AWAY A BIG SCREEN TV ONCE A MONTH91BZ7U+n1+L._SL1500_ (1)

Let’s get the most extreme idea out of the way early.  But hear me out, this might actually work.  A 40″ Smart TV costs around $260. Every guest who signs in the attendance book for the entire 4 week period is eligible to win the TV.  The winner would be announced on the 5th Sunday. So, for $260 you have enhanced the attendance of visitors, giving them 5 weeks to acclimate.  You may be saying this is flat our bribery (and I might too), but you could also call it “our special visitors gift.”  All the other visitors get a $10 gift card to Best Buy, and hopefully they will have put some money in the offering plate to offset the cost.   I told you this was an extreme list…

2. OPEN A STARBUCKS IN YOUR FELLOWSHIP HALLimages (1)

Keep in mind, setting up a Keurig and some discount coffee flavors will not bring people into your church.  However, if you’re serving the best coffee in town, even if people need to pay something for it, you could attract sleepy-heads who need their gourmet coffee fix.  Bonus Points:  Let them take their coffee into the sanctuary!

3. START COUNTING OTHER THINGS AS “WORSHIP ATTENDANCE”Holy-yoga-street-sue-bidstrup

Our church has a couple “Holy Yoga” classes that include prayer, movement, silence, and intense spirituality.   Sounds like a worship service to me.  (There’s even an offering).   We also have a “Kingdom Seekers” class for grade school and mid-high students on Wednesday afternoons.  Part of the activity is a worship time.  Singing, praying, a message, and so forth for the kids.  I could make a strong argument that both of these constitute worship, thereby raising my average worship attendance by about 85 every week!  So far, the only real reason I could see to “count” those as worship would be to remind our church of the sacred times outside our 8:30 & 11:00 service.  Still, it’s in the back of my mind.

4. GIVE LOTS OF “SCHOLARSHIPS” FOR STUDENTS TO SING, OR…

Christians at church.

Christians at church.

You know the old “your mom paid me to be your best friend” gig?  It actually works.  “pay” a minimal scholarship to a handful of kids to sing in the choir or the praise band, and soon their parents may come, or their friends.  If there’s a population segment missing from your worship, why not financially support someone who can help reach those people?

5. TWO WORDS:  BREAKFAST BUFFETes_bfastbuffet_11_712x342_FitToBoxSmallDimension_Center

$5 to eat, $3 if you’re worshiping afterwards.  Again, if it’s the best in town…

6. GO PET FRIENDLYlaugh

Pet owners are a different breed.  (get it?)  There is a spiritual bond pet owners have with their pets, so why not incorporate that with worship?  Have a special worship service in the fellowship hall that is pet friendly.  Sing a couple songs, say some prayers, and even a short message that respects that animal world.  If you’ve ever done a blessing of the animals, you know what the possibilities are.

7. GIVE TICKETS TO POLICE OFFICERSmlb-al-wild-card-oakland-athletics-kansas-city-royals-850x560

Turn the tables!  Invite the area’s police to worship, and lure them with two free tickets to the Royals (or whatever).  During worship, have them stand and thank them profusely.   The same idea could work with a BARBECUE FOR FIRE FIGHTERS

8. FREE HAIRCUT DAYdt.common.streams.StreamServer

If you have several hair stylists in your congregation, enlist them (paid or not) to offer free hair cuts before and after worship.  How about a slogan like “Look spiffy for church”?

9. OR…STOP WORRYING ABOUT NUMBERS.  THINK VITALITY.vitality.min_

You can stop worrying so much about numbers.  The truth is, Christianity in North American is on a downswing, so dropping in numbers is to be expected.  Instead, focus your attention on being vital — a congregation that is aggressively reaching out into the world with love and Good News.

Funny thing…the list above, silly as it is, is the kind of stuff a vital congregation would do.

Not to make numbers,

but to make disciples.

Have a great week,

Mitch