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Faces on Faith: Teaching an old dog new tricks

By Staff | Aug 6, 2019

Rev. Larry L. Marshall

I am a dog lover. Over the past 70 years, there have not been too many times when I have not had a dog as part of my family. Presently our friendly and faithful companion is Zeke, a miniature schnauzer. For the past nine years, Zeke’s territory has been defined by an invisible dog fence, allowing him free rein over our property. But recently we moved, and now Zeke must be on a leash whenever he is outside. Every morning the challenge is on: trying to teach an old dog new tricks.

Dare I say that as we travel the road of faith, a similar scenario is played out between God and God’s children. That’s right; even when we are seasoned adults the challenge is on to teach us old dogs new tricks. Human behavior suggests there is a lot of tugging and pulling going on. Edwin Friedman, a Jewish Rabbi and therapist, describes in his book, “Generation to Generation,” how family dynamics shape who we are and how we live. He calls this comfortable/familiar zone the “at-home feeling.” When Dorothy left Kansas in the tornado and ended up on the road to Oz, she lost that at-home feeling and declared “We’re not in Kansas anymore, Toto.”

Truth be told, we humans desire the “at-home” feeling from a faith perspective also. Our place of worship feels like home: We enjoy being a long-time member, seeing the same people at the same time each week; on and on. There is a benefit to this familiarity but what happens when God calls us to take a new or deeper step of faith?

Just prior to my eldest son’s graduation from college, I asked him what he was going to do with his life after college. He had majored in German and had spent his entire junior year at the University of Salzburg in Austria. To my surprise he revealed plans to go to Haiti as a missionary. Without hesitation I replied, “Son, I don’t think they speak German in Haiti.” He ended up spending three years there, and when I traveled to Haiti as a part of a work team a year later, I was able to see first-hand the new things God was doing in and through his life.

During a very difficult time in Israel’s history the prophet Isaiah becomes God’s mouthpiece by giving hope to people who had lost that at-home feeling. Forget the former things, do not dwell on the past. See I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? (Isaiah 43:18-19).

When Isaiah was called, God said “Whom shall I send? Who will go for us?” Isaiah’s answer was “Here I am, Lord, send me.” God’s call is no different today! When we take that step of faith we will realize that God can truly teach an old dog new tricks.

The Rev. Larry L. Marshall is the pastor at the Captiva Chapel by the Sea.