Being a preacher means that everything that happens in my life is filtered through a strange lens that asks whether or not this is something I could preach about or use in some way to further proclaim and explain the Gospel. I don’t do this consciously, it just sort of happens. I used to practice this sort of thinking, hoping that with time it would just come automatically, like that airline pilot who had practiced emergency landings so many times it was not a big deal for him to land a plane in a river.
I think I might be getting there. I was walking my dog the other night, it was cold-ish and snowy-ish, and I just wanted to be planted at home with a good book and a cup of Chamomile tea winding down at the end of a long day. Instead I was walking Annabelle, our family dog. She was being her usual one-year-old self, full of energy moving quickly, covering ground in a way that suggested she too just wanted to get back to the fire.
Then she slowed down, peed on a tree, and I thought of God.
The thing is she didn’t pee on just any tree. She peed on what might be the biggest tree in my new neighborhood. One of the fun things about moving across the country is how many things that were once overly familiar (like trees) are now utterly strange. The tree she peed on had a trunk that was larger (by several times) than anything you could ever find in the east. Now maybe it’s not all that big for here, I’ve see the Sequoias and whatnot and I know they are enormous, but this one was big enough to catch my attention. I looked up figuring it to be a pretty tall tree given the trunk. A ways up the tree split into 4 trees. I kid you not when I say that part way up this tree it splits into what would be 4 big trees in Montreal. I instantly thought “Man, God is crazy! How did he ever come up with this stuff?”
Not a terribly deep or original thought, I know, but it came with a force all it’s own. God is creative and powerful and makes beautiful things, like that tree, or my dog, or fires, or novelists, or leaves that can taste good when they are dried out only to have hot water applied to them, or peaceful places to live where one can quietly walk one’s dog and contemplate God of jazz or whatever one wants.
I thought about the passage about how all the heavens declare God’s glory and about where Jesus says if the people didn’t cheer him on then even the rocks would do so. God is the maker and the king and sometimes he reminds us of that, even when we aren’t looking to be reminded, even when all a stranger might see is a cold man impatiently waiting for his dog to finish peeing on a tree.