Saturday, September 13, 2008


We said good-bye to a very good dog yesterday. Sojourner was our first baby--he has been part of our family since just after Marcus and I were married and moved into our first house. And he was the sweetest dog I have ever met. He would let the cat beat up on him, and never minded when the kids pulled his fur or climbed on him. Like most dogs, I guess, he was always happy to see us when we arrived home, always up for a walk. He loved to chase squirrels through the woods, and his favorite snack was raw carrots.
Sojourner was a rescue dog--he had bounced around from home to home until he finally came to us--and that's why we named him Sojourner (although we often just called him "Sojo"). He was a special needs dog. He had a skin condition for which the vet first prescribed a special diet (he was the only vegetarian in the house), and he took steroids, and we tried dozens of different shampoos. He would itch until he had bald patches, and boy did he stink! But about a year ago we finally sorted all his skin issues and finally his coat looked great. And he never, ever protested taking his allergy shot, so long as he got his treat afterwards.
What got him in the end was a tumor growing in his sinus. We had hoped it was just some kind of infection and we tried several different treatments, none of which gave him any relief. Together with our vet, we decided that putting him to sleep was the most humane thing to do.
Before we took him to the vet for the last time, I read to him Dog Heaven, so he (and we) might not feel so sad (although I cried the whole time I was reading to him). After all, it was just one more sojourn, and in dog heaven there are fields to run in, cat-shaped dog biscuits, and angel children. And in dog heaven, dogs get to be where they belong: "with God who made them."
Once he was gone, we were talking with our vet, Dr. Gouri Krishna, and I said that there really didn't seem to be any such thing as a good end for a dog. But she said the most wise and wonderful thing. She said, "But he had lots of good moments in his life, and dogs are better at living in the moment than we are. For them death is just one more moment; it's just the end."
I used to have a bumper sticker on our old car that said "Lord, help me be the person my dog thinks I am." That is still my prayer. And I also pray that I can learn from Sojo how to live more in the moment. Thank you, Sojo, for being such a good dog and for sharing your life with us. We will miss you very much.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Does it Matter if the President Wears Pantyhose?

One of the best classes I took at Hendrix College had nothing to do with my Religious Studies major, but it was fascinating nonetheless. It was called "Gender, Sexuality and American Politics," and it was taught by one of my favorite professors, Dr. Jay Barth.

Sarah Palin
Originally uploaded by MBS1983

I particularly remember one class session where we watched political ads for women candidates, including a woman who had run for Lieutenant Governor in Arkansas (and lost), Charlie Cole Chaffin. I will never forget this woman, dressed in jeans and a plaid shirt, posed with her hunting rifle and retriever, trying to balance the need to appear both tough and feminine at the same time. She seemed to have it down-this complicated female leader formula (her name is "Charlie" for goodness sakes!), and yet in the end, it didn't really matter.

Who knew that just 12 years after I took that class in college, we would have a presidential race like the one we have this year. For the first time, a woman and an African-American man were vying for a major party's Presidential nomination. And now we have Barak Obama running for President and Sarah Palin running as the Vice-Presidential candidate with John McCain. Wow!

In some ways this is really great. But it has also given me pause. As a woman who has been the first female pastor in both churches that I have served, I think I have some sense of the extra level of scrutiny that can be placed on women leaders at times. I, too, have been pregnant (twice) while being in a public leadership position, and people have questioned my ability to be both an effective pastor and a good mom. And I have even had people say rude, inappropriate and sexist/sexual things to me on occasion (in church of all places--aren't you shocked!) So while being a pastor doesn't really compare with being an elected political leader (but I do, ahem, have REAL responsibilities, too), I think I may understand some of what Gov. Palin has also experienced in her career. And I am excited that there is a woman on one of the presidential tickets!

But I think we need to ask ourselves: when it comes down to it, what matters more? If I can identify with the personal narrative of a candidate or if their policies are in line with my values? This is a tough one, but I hope that all Americans will take seriously the policy positions of both candidates and let that be our guide, rather than just deciding based on whose story is more like our own. I don't expect that all women will support Sarah Palin, just like I wouldn't expect all African-Americans to support Barak Obama, or all white men to support John McCain or Joe Biden just because they are also white men.

As Christians I think that our need to look at each of the candidates policy positions is even more crucial. Our faith should inform our political views because Christ calls us to seek justice and righteousness in this world. The Christian organization, Sojourners has a non-partisan voters resource called "Vote Your Values" that I thought was helpful in looking at political policies broadly and in a Christian context, that you might want to check out, too.

This is going to be an historic election no matter which way it goes and I am excited to be a part of it. I hope that everyone will take advantage of the freedom we have in this country to choose our political leaders, and think, pray and vote!

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

small wonders

On our vacation to "wild and wonderful" West Virginia last week, I was the unofficial family photographer. In addition to lots of pictures of the kids (Nora climbing rocks, Graham in the baby backpack...) my eye and my camera was continually drawn to the smallest signs of God's beautiful creation. I have posted a few here:

And because I just can't's one family photo: