Thursday, September 11, 2014

9/11: Did these die in vain?

One line of Lincoln's "Gettysburg Address" sticks out to me as the most profound, and serves as the central theme:

"We here highly resolve that these dead 
shall not have died in vain." 

On this 13th anniversary of 9/11/01, I wonder if those who died that day, "died in vain." 

Government leaders, politicians, citizens all over the nation, joined arm-in-arm and prayed. They prayed for God's blessing to be upon our nation. It looked, for a day, for a week, maybe a month, that the America our fathers founded, was storming back. Those of us who thought so, were wrong.

My suspicion is that we were not much different that day than the drunk, on the brink of alcohol poisoning, spinning endlessly in his own mind, who wraps his arms around the filthy porcelain altar, and begs for God's mercy one more time, promising never to touch another drop should he survive. 

So what about America? Were we just reeling from the intoxication of national tragedy, making empty promises to an unknown god? I can't speak for the heart of any individual, but I can reflect on the current spiritual state of our nation. 

Our nation is no better today than it was then. Morally speaking, we have done little more than free-fall since that fateful day. Who argues that the general morality of our people has improved over the last 13 years? Who argues that we are a more God-fearing nation today than we were then? Who contends that we are doing better at identifying evil and eliminating it from our world, our nation, and our hearts than we were 13 years ago?

Marriage has been almost completely undermined by liberal thinkers. Man-against-man violence is still prevalent. Prayer is still not welcome. Christianity is more ridiculed and outcast today than it ever was in our nation, and its violent nemesis, Islam, is praised and given exception. Unbelief and infidelity is championed. Individualism and sexual liberty is considered honorable. Our national leaders are still dishonest and scandalous. Our press is still ridiculously subjective. Our people are still highly distracted with their hobbies and playthings, unapologetic, impenitent and un-spiritual. Our economic fortress is a house of cards. Our bioethics are highly questionable. We murder the young and old alike at our own discretion, and never bat an eye. The innocent are victimized, and the guilty are pampered. To boot, a paragraph such as this will be read and viewed by many as completely false. We call darkness light, and light darkness.

One Monday morning America was brought to her knees, and she promised God that if she ever got out of that mess, she wouldn't do it again. Today, America is obliviously drunk again, and passed out on the bathroom floor. She's not even begging for another chance. She hasn't learned a thing. 

Today, 13 short years later, I am of the persuasion that these 2,977 souls, indeed, sadly, perished in vain. Their deaths failed to crystallize the message. Today, their blood fails to do little more than paint a picture, elicit an emotions, and serve as backdrop to national security and border control conversations. It goes no deeper than that. We are too superficial a society. We are sad, but we are not sorry. 

Monday, August 25, 2014

Just a Little Rusty


Heaven goes by favor; if it went by merit, you would stay out and your dog would go in.
Mark Twain

Warning: This is not a blog post filled with pictures of a dog and his goofy owners. 

Okay, so yes it is. But it's more than that. 

Hang tight and go for a little ride with us. 

The adventure begins! Meeting Rusty for the first time. 

Tag ready.

Bringing Rusty home


He earned nicknames rather quickly: Russell, Goofy, Trusty, Buddy, Knucklehead, Thumper, to name a few

He really stole his family's heart!

Could he be more adorable?

Could we appear to be more smitten?

Then, the accident. 

We brought Rusty home on Wednesday, August 6. Less than 2 weeks later, on Sunday night, August 17, one of our children turned the corner into the kitchen and fell on Rusty, causing serious head trauma. I thought he would die right there on the kitchen floor as he howled twice and slipped into unconsciousness. Blood began to pour from his nose, and we were mortified. 

Our children couldn't decide whether to cry or shout or decide who was to blame. We assured them that this was an accident, at that there would be no blaming anyone, and I scooped Rusty up, and our 17 year-old son drove me to the Veterinary Emergency hospital in Canton, OH. 

The outlook, according to the doctor, was "grave." 

It was at this point that I realized that Rusty was a bona fide member of our family, something I never imagined would happen with me and "a dog." For the next 48 hours, we called several times each day, and visited briefly every evening. He was put on oxygen, IV fluids, and manitol (medicine to help reduce swelling in the brain). Fortunately, X-rays and blood work showed no other structural damage or internal bleeding. If Rusty could survive the head trauma, there were no functional problems. His life was worth waiting for.

Tuesday night

Monday came and went with no change. Tuesday came and went with no change. Rusty was losing weight and showing no positive signs. His temperature spiked several times and held. He was dying. And we didn't want to prolong his suffering. We had a serious discussion with the kids on Tuesday about the possibility of Rusty never coming home. 

When we visited the hospital Tuesday night, the first words we heard were, "Why don't you guys come to the conference room to visit Rusty tonight?

The conference room. The last time I was in a medical "conference" room, it was to accompany a family who was being told, essentially, that all that could be done for their loved one had been done, so I knew exactly how the conference room conversation was going to go. 

In the meantime, we were being encouraged by some not to give up. We were being encouraged by some to go ahead and let him go and replace him with another one of Rusty's brothers. At that time, there were three still available. 

But I absolutely couldn't stand the thought of talking about Rusty being replaced while he laid there and fought for his little life. Call me naive or unrealistic, but I just thought Rusty deserved a small amount of courtesy while he lived and breathed, and if that meant missing another pup from the litter, then so be it. Rusty deserved our whole-hearted attention to the bitter end, and none of them would be him anyway. I know Rusty isn't a child. I've heard of people who lost a child being told they could just "go ahead and have another one." Seriously? I do value my children over my pets (for the most part), but neither of them are the equivalent of a box of pencils. 

As they brought Rusty to us Tuesday night, he was completely unresponsive. We cried, and petted, and held, and cried some more, and talked, and all the things you might imagine. They left us in the conference room for a LONG time. Nearly an hour. The next person to walk through the door was going to advise us to euthanize, and we were preparing to let him go. 

As the doctor entered, the hinges of the door squeaked terribly and loudly, and Rusty's little head shot straight up and turned toward the door, and he began to open his eyes! She was in as much shock as we were. She had planned to say one thing, but another came out, "Well, we haven't seen THAT before!" 

It didn't take us all long to decide that we were going to give Rusty another 24 hours at least. 

Over the next week, we called 2 or 3 times each day, and visited daily, each time, utilizing the same conference room to surround Rusty with a little love (and a little noise) from our family. 

During that time, he has started standing on his own, being a little more alert, and even eating and drinking a little. Yesterday, he was taken off his I.V. 

And TODAY, if nothing else changes, he is coming home. 

"He won't not be the same dog"
"He might be a little, you know, slow..."

Here's the thing: we're not stupid. We're not insane (okay, that's debatable). We know that he's a dog, and we understand that he's not a human and he's our pet, not our child. We have children, and we have pets, and they're not the same. I get it.

But he is a living being that God created. If there is not a single sparrow that falls without God's notice, then His eye is on little Rusty, too. Rusty is not just a pet. Rusty is a part of God's plan for our lives, and for the lives of many others he has touched. Nothing is more God-like in love and compassion and tenderness than a dog. We made a promise to him, and to ourselves, and to his Creator, that we would do him good all the days of his life. 

Rusty will probably not be the same, but he will be ours. And we are determined to be his. We are determined to provide him a life worth living. If ever we come to the conclusion that living is worse than dying, we will let him go. But as long as he is willing to fight for life, we will fight with him. 

The journey continues

We have all learned a lot from Trusty Rusty, but perhaps the greatest lesson thus far has been unconditional love. Yes, we have unconditional love for him. But I'm talking about his love for us. Never once has he complained, or scowled, or held a grudge, or sought to place blame on those responsible for his condition. He is content to love and be loved. 

I am thankful that God has allowed Rusty to be a part of our family. Rusty has made us a better family. And I know that he will have many more things to teach us - he will continue to mold our hearts - as we prepare to bring him home. 

*For those of you who cared enough to pray for Rusty, or for the hearts of our children, or to give positive comments and support via social media, thank you very much. We have been continually strengthened by you. Thank you for going on the journey with us. We'll keep you updated :-)


Rusty's big day

On August 26, we brought Rusty home from the Stark County Veterinary Emergency Clinic. 

He was able to walk some - albeit in circles. Once to the left, later to the right. You could tell that he was struggling, but willing. He watched the cats with interest. He ate relatively well. I kept detailed notes of everything we did that day. He was awake several times, took several wobbly walks, barked a little here and there, and really seemed comfortable at home. 

However, it was more apparent than ever that he had a long way to go. If he was going to recover to a moderately reasonable level, it was going to take months. It was going to be daily nursing and therapy and he was going to require support at practically every level. Still, if he was willing to fight, we were willing to fight with him and give him as much effort as he was giving us. 

I was determined that day to get as much fluid in him as possible, as I didn't want to have to give him sub-dermal fluids, but in the end, we decided to do it anyway. We didn't want him dehydrated on top of injured. He didn't eat all that well during the day, but for his evening meal, I determined that he would eat well. I syringe fed him the full amount, and he didn't refuse any of it. But he was tired. Really tired. Around 10pm he laid down in his kennel, and it was obvious that he had had a big day. He was wiped out. Frankly, so was I.

Through the night

I carried his kennel up to our bedroom so I could lie beside him on the floor. I kept the side door open (there was no real fear of him bolting or anything, so I wanted to stay close to him). 

I set my alarm for about 2am, so I could check on him, and perhaps try to feed him or give him a little water, and clean him up if necessary. I was absolutely exhausted when my alarm went off, and he didn't really stir when I got up, so I decided he probably needed the rest. 

I got up again about 4 and immediately knew something wasn't right. He had been in his kennel since about 10 the night before, and had never changed position - at all. Even though he was minimally mobile, he would make adjustments and move. 

I listened carefully in the dark. He was breathing. But I'd heard that kind of breathing before. Ministry has put me in the room of many sick and dying people. I've watched people breathe their last. Rusty was dying. His breathing was labored and shallow.

I put my hand on him and called his name. I tried to stir him a little. His eyes were slightly open. He was not responsive. 

I woke Sam up and told her I knew it was time to let Rusty go. I took him to the clinic and they asked if they could run one small test to see if he was hypoglycemic. I knew better. Even they were grasping at straws. He had fought so hard for all of them, for all of us. None of us wanted to see it end this way. A couple minutes later, the doc returned and told me that not only was his sugar normal, his temperature was a dreadful 108. 

He could have suffered a burst aneurysm or suffered a seizure or blood clot - who knows. No sense in playing that record.

The final moments

The last moments with Rusty were not what I imagined they would be. I imagined I'd be petting an old dog, recalling all the fond memories of our time together. 

Instead, I was back in the conference room of the emergency clinic. I was alone. It was 4:30 in the morning. I was a disheveled mess. 

I don't know how you feel about this kind of thing, but I felt it my duty to go on this last walk with him. Maybe he didn't know I was there. I don't know. But when the Vet asks, "Would you like us to take care of him, or would you like to be there," I just don't know how I could have the power and yet choose not to be with him. 

She brought him in to me and told me it would go very quickly, and that there would be no discomfort. Not for him, anyway. Sure enough, and much more quickly than I imagined when she told me "quickly," his little heart stopped and he was gone. 

I gave him to the tech, and went to the lobby to wait. 

The doc herself came out. She had tears streaming down her face. She had taken the time to prepare his little body herself. He was wrapped up in a little fleece baby blanket. She laid him in the laundry basket, lined with a fleece blanket that I had brought him in, and said, "This one was very hard." 

I'm telling you, this little guy wormed into everyone's heart. There wasn't a person that ever met him that didn't instantly fall in love with him, and recognize what a special pup he was, and what great potential he had. 

We shared a hug, and I thanked her for taking such good care of him. And for the third time in just two weeks, I was bringing Rusty home - but this time, it was to bury him. 

Final resting place

Out in our side yard, beneath the maples and pines that line the fence, I dug a grave. The sun was just beginning to rise above the tree line to my right. It's not every day that you do something like this, and it's silly the things you think of. 

"Stupid dog." I jammed that shovel into the ground, jumped on it, leveraged an island of dirt and grass, and flipped it off to the side. I cried some more, and jammed the shovel down again. How on earth could such a silly little creature tear such a hole in my heart? 

I walked in the house and Sam was in the kitchen. And we just cried. And I laughed because I cried. I cried in pain and laughed in disbelief that losing our dog - the dog we had for less than 2 weeks - could actually hurt that deep. We cried, and laughed, and cried, and laughed until our stomachs hurt. 

We just loved that dog. 


I wasn't ready. I told Sam that I wasn't interested in any "rebound" dog, and that I wouldn't be a fair owner toward another dog after Rusty. I needed time to accept and love a dog again. Apparently, I like dogs just a little.

But she thought it would be better for the kids to move quickly and get another. 

Enter, Max. Max is Rusty's brother; twice as stupid, just as adorable. Am I heard occasionally telling Max that he's no Rusty? Maybe. Don't you dare - I said I wouldn't be fair to the next one. But seriously, Max is just as sweet as can be, and we are all glad to have him. Couldn't imagine life without him. 

Here's the kicker: a lot of people followed Rusty's story and progress. So many people prayed and sent notes of encouragement along the way. He was the talk of our Facebook friends, and even of our church prayer requests, for a solid week. He was a little celebrity. 

So when the breeder let us know that Max was the last of the litter, and that we'd make a great home for him, we all consented (I, kicking and screaming. I'm telling you, I didn't want to do all that again). 

The next day, we learned that someone had contacted the breeder and paid for Max's adoption for us! I don't know who, but that sure was a thoughtful and generous thing to do! 

Friday, July 11, 2014

Objective Morality: The Worst Thing Ever?

(I read an article today - book review actually - that got my wheels spinning. Link to the book review here).

I often wonder, if moral relativists (who are almost universally atheists) are convinced that morality is a purely a product of our evolutionary brains, why are they so adamant that everyone know about it? Why write papers, deliver lectures, write books about it? Our ape "cousins" do no such thing. They don't seem to be concerned with whether or not morality is incidental or inherent. They don't seem offended by anything that happens in nature.

Come to think of it, I've never seen any animal offended by anything that happens in nature. Why do other animals not cry against the atrocities they witness? Why ARE there no atrocities in nature? Why do we film animals eating one another, but warn of graphic footage when human beings are involved in similar violence? Why is it okay for humans to eat animals, but not to eat other humans?

Theists are compelled to promote objective morality based upon their view that humans are a special creation, a higher-than-animal creature, fashioned in the image of their Divine Creator, who endowed us with an eternal soul, and intrinsic moral value (among other things).

What compels the atheist and the moral relativist to "make converts" to their view? It seems contradictory to nature's law for creatures of survival (like us really advanced apes) to have any conscious view of morality whatsoever, much less a conscientious one.

Why is it that humans have developed this self-awareness and moral compass not evidenced by other species? How does self-awareness and morality (which, whether objective or not, undeniably exists) promote survival? Seems to me that moral sensitivity, which is nowhere else evidenced in nature, is a great detriment to our better good.

If evolution is true, we should stop wasting time trying to figure out how we developed the moral gene, and spend more time and resources trying to identify and eradicate it. Morality seems, to be, a great faux pas of evolution, stifling to progress.

Here are some questions for the person who thinks that nothing is objectively right or wrong:

Is it wrong to deny moral relativity? 
Is it evil to accept the concept of objective morality? 
Should I accept moral relativity?

A moral relativist cannot answer any of these "Yes," since morality is (according to him) only the product of evolutionary circumstances. Objective morality doesn't exist, so the questions are moot.

If he answers any of these "No," then he denies his own cause as irrelevant. So much for writing books, giving lectures, and making converts.

If morality is merely the product of the evolutionary mind, then evolution is true and God is false. But if that is so, then how stupid we are as a species to obsess over it. We could be busy surviving - killing one another and storing up flesh in our genius electric-powered ice boxes for the next long winter. Oh, I guess the argument against that would have something to do with industrialization and the acquisition of "spare time," something our baboon grandparents didn't have, but I digress. Instead, we're in classrooms pondering the "why" of morality. Talk about baboons! If only they knew what we silly human-apes were doing, sitting around in those classrooms reading books about the evolution of morality!

However, if morality is the product of a divine Creator who endowed the human species alone with it, then moral relativity is objectively false, and God is true. And if that is so, then human beings are not apes at all, but rather are a special creation, a higher-than-animal creature, fashioned in the image of their Divine Creator. And it is through Him that we possess our sense of moral awareness.

And THAT is worth writing books, giving lectures and making converts.