CLERGY CORNER

Posted on 17 November 2016 by LeslieM

Thanksgiving is a great time to recall the many blessings that surround us. If I were to write about every blessing that I have received, I am sure that there would not be enough ink and paper in the world. So I chose one in particular.

One of the blessings of my life, as well as the life of my family, is the blessing of being part of Southeastern Guide Dogs, which has its headquarters in Palmetto, FL. When our children were very small and I wanted to spend time with them and be visible in the community, my wife and I decided that this would be a great opportunity to accomplish both. As a pastor, I needed to find a new hobby or a new passion that was completely different than what I was doing in my career. So we started being “puppy raisers.”

Puppy raisers raise puppies and train them until they are old enough to return to Palmetto and complete their training to become Guide Dogs for the sight impaired. While many do not qualify for that very special job, most dogs take on another job such as arson dogs, classroom dogs to assist in reading, dogs that help people who suffer from seizures, etc. And, of course, some of them wind up as pets.

Some people told me that they thought it was cruel to subject children to the trauma of raising a puppy only to let them go. Then we, as a family, went to a graduation when the sight-impaired and their companion were venturing off into the world. My kids, at a very young age, realized that the rewards that came with this sacrifice far outweighed the heart-ache of saying goodbye.

Now, we have the privilege of being “breeder hosts.” We host a dog, Gizmo, who has given birth to three litters and will probably give birth to a total of four. We also hosted Bentley, who sired 82 puppies before he “retired.” Now he is our pet.

I share this because, through the experience my family and I have had with Southeastern Guide Dogs, we have seen God at work in a very profound way. We have a greater appreciation of our Creator because of the lives we have seen blessed by God’s creation.

This experience opened my eyes to the reality that God honors animals and created them to bless God’s people. I became keenly aware of the multiple times animals are mentioned in the Bible and the important roles that they have played throughout both the Hebrew and Greek Testaments.

From the beginning of humanity, God gave dominion to humans over the “fish of the sea, the birds of the air and every living thing that moves upon the earth.” (Genesis 1:28 NRSV) And, when humanity disappointed God, God went out of his way to protect his creation by assigning Noah the task of building an ark for two of every creature (Genesis 6:19-20) and seven pairs of every clean animal (Genesis 7:2).

Animals even get honored and mentioned in the 10th Commandment when God warned us not to covet our neighbor’s oxen or donkey.

I was struck by some of the details in Jonah 3 when even the animals wore sackcloth as a sign of repentance in the city of Nineveh. (Imagine your pet in sackcloth) And, ever the stickler on details, God even knows when a sparrow falls. (Matthew 10:29)

And even if we move from animals to people, what profession was most honored in the Bible? I think we know it is the shepherd.

I am grateful to be a part of Southeastern Guide Dogs. I am grateful for the unique bond we had as a family that learned a skill together, a skill that has blessed numerous people. I am grateful for having four different puppies go through our loving hands and into the loving hands of people who cannot see, children who struggle with reading, people who suffer from seizures, or veterans in therapy.

Happy Thanksgiving and embrace this holiday as a time to count your blessings. Happy counting.

Pastor Gross is a pastor of Zion Lutheran Church, located at 959 SE 6 Ave., Deerfield Beach, FL 33441. For more information, contact 954-421-3146 or visit www.zion-lutheran.org.

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