Thursday, April 30, 2009


Riker's legacy

Saturday, I wept as I mowed the back yard, grieving for Riker, our beloved corgi -- blubbering, gasping, talking to myself in incredulity. The yard was his world.

Crying -- hard! -- for a dog!

It pried open grief, long ignored, for Mama ER, and the long, slow march to her passing in late February 2007, chronicled here almost daily starting Nov. 22, 2006.

This happened as I was thinking hard about my automatic call for bombing when I heard the Taliban was close to Islamabad -- and immediately wondered whether I should try to repent of such kneejerk reactions.

And I thought, as I wept: If I can love my Riker so much, and grieve him in a way that causes me to grieve my mama -- how much more do the mamas and daddies and brothers and sisters and sons and daughters of my enemies love them?

And how can I, if I'm trying to follow Jesus, how can I want to hurt so many people? How can I nurse such thinking, such potential for vengeful violence, in myself, and dare even consider any kind of formal ministry?

That was the epiphany I mentioned the other day.

I don't see how I can.

Riker's legacy? It could be that his passing unlocked whatever part of me it is that naturally keeps me from being a peace maker. I'm no pacifist. But I don't see how I, or anyone, can be a Christian and be anything like a warmonger.


My sincere sympathies on Riker. "Clean as a hound's tooth" could be "pure as a dog's heart".
Dr. ER said, after reading this:

"This isn't strange to me; RIKER was the embodiment of pacifist ... Bailey running
off with his bones all those years. Of course, this was the mature Riker, not the one who ate the totch (couch -- ER).

"Riker loved, more than anything, to chase birds. Even in Stillwater (before we met -- ER), he'd ring the bells like he wanted to go out for a pee and there was just a slightly different ring and I knew it was an 'I see some birds that need chasing bad' ring. Sometimes I'd just go ahead and let him chase birds. He did it here, too -- you saw him. Riker knew he couldn't catch them, though -- he was smart that way. He had some fun with them. Riker kept his eye on the sparrow."

First off, having held my dear Great Dane while she was put to sleep, I will testify that it was as heartbreaking as any other death through which I have lived. I understand your grief, and offer my condolences.

Second, on dogs and grace. Few species offer better examples of unabashed, unselfconscious love and devotion as dogs. Cats we keep around because they amuse and infuriate us. Birds? Never understood that one. Ferrets?!? Who wants a weasel in the house?

Dogs, though, we keep around because they love us. No matter who we are. Hitler had German Shepherds that were so devoted to him he murdered them when he killed himself. Gary Larson, of Far Side fame, drew a cartoon once, depicting a dog on a Viking ship, wagging its tail as a group returned from sacking and burning, raping and pillaging, the point being that no matter who we are or what we do, dogs love us. This isn't a sign of stupidity or mindlessness, but of pure grace.

I'm not surprised that your meditation on the life of Riker led you to the thoughts you did. Standing and staring in the face of such utter and complete grace should, if we have any sense at all, leave us pondering our own equivocation on all sorts of matters. Should you go whole hog, and write a book on your experience (everyone else does, why not you?), you should dedicate it to him (along with the Dr. Mrs., of course . . .).
sorry on the passing of your best friend. sometimes a pet's death is harder to take than a humans... mainly because pets are always there for you and don't talk back ;-)

as for the ministry part... i wish i could claim pacifist but in no way shape or form can i... i don't think Jesus did either. he was nonviolent, but he sought out some shit and threw some pigs into the sea, whithered a fig tree, and called at least one woman a dog because of her race. not to mention the temple thing.

the thing that makes you a better potential pastor than 90% of pastors already in the field is that you recognize this about your self. self awareness is a rare thing. i think that's one of the first things you'll learn in seminary. (although it might take to your second year ;-))

rawk on dude. i hope your heart mends quickly and your memories never fade.
and that would be my wife's log in.. sorry abooot that.
A dog's love is unconditional.
That is a true loss.
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