Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Faith Perspectives: The Dog Days of Summer

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Faith Perspectives: The Dog Days of Summer

Article excerpt

With the heat index hitting triple digits this week, we're living in the "dog days" of summer. But what does that phrase mean?

Its origin lies in the rising of Sirius, the dog star, from early July through mid-August. It is thus synonymous with the hot, humid time when you venture out only in early morning or late evening.

We could, however, give a more literal meaning to the phrase.

I recently asked my congregation to submit photos of their dogs. The response was overwhelming. In the span of two weeks, more than 160 pictures flooded my inbox. The images exuded affection and creativity, reflecting an intense connection between dog and owner.

Accordingly, such folks would appreciate a couple of important lessons taught by their canine companions.

One would be a lesson about God's relationship with us.

A theme connecting both Hebrew and Christian scriptures is the love of God. The psalmist said that God is "slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love" (Psalm 103:8). Paul famously said nothing will separate us from God's love in Christ (Romans 8:39).

However, that phrase "love of God" is nebulous. It's much more powerful when you tie love to something tangible ...

such as a canine face.

Do a YouTube search for "dog greets owner" and view the clips. The dogs go crazy. My favorite is that of a terrier greeting her owner after a two-year's absence; she gets so excited that she passes out.

This is love in action, and it's not a stretch to have such an image in mind when reflecting upon God's feelings for us. The father in the parable of the prodigal son (Luke 15:11-32) almost faints when his wayward son returns home. Is running to embrace the boy, putting expensive clothes on him, and throwing a lavish party any different from excessive tail-wagging when the door opens?

Such ever-hopeful love, of course, isn't the same as approval. The late Catholic priest and writer Henri Nouwen, in his book "Bread for the Journey," noted this.

"We often confuse unconditional love with unconditional approval," he wrote. …

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