Thursday, June 16, 2005

The Preacher’s Corner
By Rev. Dr. Milton Winter

Happy with minimum of material provisions

Practiced preachers are justifiably reserved about using their children, or in my case, pets, for illustrative material. This is especially true for me since my dogs recently mounted a full-scale attack when one of my finest church ladies called at my back door.

That said, I cannot resist musing about one of my dog Skipper’s most interesting traits. The photo published with this essay illustrates what I am talking about. It shows Skipper sleeping in his basket, cuddling with his possession. Yes, I wrote “possession.” For he values only one.

This dog, now 16-1/2 years old, and usually quite a dignified old gentleman, has kept up with the miniature soccer ball you see under his chin since the very day I brought him home as a six-week old puppy! That afternoon Mrs. Sara Hettinger (another of my best church ladies, who unlike many, included her minister in all the happy occasions instead of just the sad) came bearing gifts for the new pup.

One of Sara’s presents for the “baby” was this little soccer ball, and I think it took all of five minutes for him to figure out how to play “catch,” a game we have enjoyed ever since. Skipper used to be quite athletic, assuming the stance of a third baseman as he would position himself to retrieve a pitch! If humans have to be “coached” in such pursuits, it was all natural for this creature.

Of course, with such energies and aptitudes, I bought many more such toys for Skipper across the years. (His mate, “Lady,” being a lady, had and has no interest whatsoever in “ball.”) However, I gradually realized that Skipper lost interest quickly in any of the newer toys. The only one he would ever bring to me for tossing was the little soccer ball. Eventually I gave up and tossed all the unused toys in the trash.

I even noticed that he would carefully hide it every night at bedtime, and would come whining to me in the morning to get it out from under the antique chest where he had placed it the night before. After we moved to my present location, he has seemed content to keep the ball with him overnight in his bed.

Skipper is now too rickety to play much ball. All I can do is to gently roll the ball a few feet from his bed and with great effort he will struggle to his feet and retrieve it. I have never seen him forego the opportunity. One of my friends thinks that when a puppy he “imprinted” on the ball like a baby duck, thinking somehow that it was his “mother!”

The lesson I draw from this story is the admirable trait of this creature to be content, indeed happy with a minimum of material provisions. Jesus famously sent out his disciples preaching, charging them to take nothing for the journey except a staff, sandals, and one coat. There is no evidence that Christ renounced all provisions, but throughout the Bible there seems to be an attitude that no one should keep for himself more than one needs.

These thoughts come to my mind as I walk through those enticing “box stores.” (I recently read that a modern definition of “the good life” is to be within one hour of a box store. Local readers of this article will realize that we are poised in reach of a dozen.

What fun it is to stroll among all the items, so attractively displayed — and (we are told) so reasonably priced. As I push my basket up and down the aisles, I find myself suddenly “needing” all sorts of things I have gotten by without perfectly well for the past fifty years! Such are the power of “temptations to the eye.”

I notice that the box store even sells books about religion — volumes devoted to the theology that one can call down prosperity by miraculous power — a good idea for those who intend on filling their baskets without much calculation as to how they will pay the bill when their “plastic” bill comes due! Perhaps it is in the store’s interest to promote such preachers.

The Bible says to pray for “daily bread,” not daily cake. And the implication is that if we learn thus to be content, there will be enough in this world for all.

When I moved last year I made sure we gathered up Skipper’s little ball and got it to the new location. It seems enough for him. And would that we could be as “portable” and happy as Jesus and His disciples. If we were, we might be able to do more good in all the places we go.

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