Thursday

The Hound of Heaven

Our dog Chuck is a daschund-beagle mix, which means that he is a hound and is a good hunter. There are two classifications of hounds: hounds that track by sight and those that track by scent. Chuck is definitely the latter. In fact, he is often our first clue that a mouse is in the house because he'll start sniffing all over the place - obsessively.

Bloodhounds are especially tenacious and were originally bred to hunt large animals. Now they are used by law enforcement to track down people. Bloodhounds, like all scent hounds, have high endurance levels and can track their quarry for miles. They can even track a scent through running water, according to dog-names.org.uk.

Have you ever heard God referred to as the hound of heaven? The term came from a poem written by Francis Thompson, who describes running from God like trying to escape a hound: "From those strong Feet that followed, followed after. But with unhurrying chase, And unperturbèd pace, Deliberate speed, majestic instancy, They beat ..."

This term for God applies to my dad's experience. In 1967 as a soldier in Vietnam, my dad was rummaging through his locker one night and picked up a Bible that my grandmother had given him. At that time, my dad, who was not a Christian, prayed, "God, if you get me out of here I promise to serve you."

What my dad did not understand at the time is that he had unleashed a baying hound that chased him for another five years until he was caught. Like so many have said about being caught, all they could do was give up and serve. The ironic thing about the story was that my dad told it during his annual church treasurer's report. Not only had he kept his promise, he had served God by doing a job in the church that not many people want!

All of us have a story to tell about God chasing us. If you haven't been caught, you might as well give up. The Hound of Heaven is tenacious. You'll be happier (and more peaceful) if you just let yourself get caught.

Note: "Hound of Heaven" is also a poem written by Francis Thompson.

Headless chicken syndrome, part 2

Just like so many other attributes of the Christian life, the key to rest is in our attitude. Jesus said it best, of course. For example, in the Sermon on the Mount he told us it was not enough to refrain from murdering; one has to purge hatred from the heart. Also, it is not enough to refrain from committing adultery. One has to abandon lust as well.

So it is with rest. It is not enough to say that we will take a nap on Sunday afternoon as part of our rest (although I do enjoy my naps religiously, so to speak). We must listen to the Holy Spirit concerning what activities we need to involve ourselves with, or abandon. “Rest” encompasses much more than simple physical rest; it is necessary to take the time to recharge our “spiritual batteries.”

We must refrain from what I have formerly called the “headless chicken syndrome.” This is when we run around like a chicken with its head cut off, going from activity to activity desperately trying to fill our time for one reason or another, caught up in the “hamster wheel” of 21st century life.
Of course some days or weeks are headless chicken days or weeks. Oftentimes, we cannot help being busy and sometimes circumstances are beyond our control. However, like I said, it is our attitude that counts.

The next time you find yourself running around the proverbial barnyard in an aimless fashion, ask yourself, “Why am I doing what I am doing?” It could be that you are trying to please someone, or perhaps you have trouble just saying “no.” It could be that you feel guilty about something and you are trying to pay penance. The only trouble with paying self-induced penance is that it will never be enough. Maybe you are too busy because you are disorganized.

There are a multitude of reasons as to why we run around in a frenzy. However, once we start figuring out the whys and wherefores of why we are doing what we are doing, we have to be careful not to fill our time with other needless activities. That’s why the attitude is the heart of the matter. We will never be cured of the headless chicken syndrome until we get to the root of our behavior.

So what is this attitude of rest that I am trying to describe? It is peace. It is simplicity. It is the ability to maintain the right priorities. It is the desire to live a godly life; to develop a personal relationship with God. It’s the realization that you can pitch your Blackberry into City Park pond and everything will still be okay. That is the attitude of rest. It is worth working toward.