Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Dabo

It has been an exciting week in the Osborne household. And it all has to do with animals.

As I've posted before, Suzy and I have been adoptive parents of a cat for several years. Her name was Cleopatra (or Cleo for short). Notice I said "was." She died last week.

It was the weirdest thing. On Sunday, September 5, we came home from church to find that she'd vomited all around the house. And for several days she kept vomiting (even though she stopped eating entirely). We could find nothing unusual that she'd ingested. She was an indoor cat, so it couldn't have been something outside. But she was really sick. She acted very strange, too, like she'd aged 20 years or something. She walked slowly, and when she wasn't throwing up she just lay on the floor like an old cat. I took her to the vet, and they wanted to do all these tests. They theorized that it was renal failure or something like that. But it might have simply been that she was dehydrated. That made sense. Especially since the tests were going to run into the hundreds of dollars.

So the vet gave us some bags of fluid, and since Suzy is a nurse she injected it under Cleo's skin twice a day for a couple days. Cleo showed no response. The vomiting continued. Finally on Wednesday night of last week, she passed away in her sleep.

Suzy and I were sad. We'd grown very fond of Cleo and she was a great kitty. Very affectionate. We remembered how forlorn and skinny she was when we first brought her home from Gulfport, Mississippi, where our grandkids found her hiding underneath their church. She was a symbol for us of redemption.

Well, I'm the most surprised of anyone for what I'm about to tell you. The very next day, we go get a dog.

We've had several dogs in our family over the years, so I'm a dog lover. But after our last dog died 10 years ago or so, I insisted that we would never again get a dog. They're too much trouble, I said. They'd tie us down, I said. They'd ruin our home, I said. But what did I do when Suzy suggested we get a dog? I said yes. YES! I was such a pushover!

Suzy has always wanted a bichon frise. She'd had her eye on this bichon frise puppy at a nearby pet store. So sure enough, after she got off work on Thursday, we met at the pet store, said hello to this little puppy, and a couple hours later we walk out of the store with this dog under our arms.

We love him! We struggled to come up with a good name. We figured since he's French we ought to give him a French name. But they all sounded too girly. So we blended a French name with a name only a select group of Southern football fans will understand: Dabo.

Dabo is the first name of the head coach of Clemson University's football team, Dabo Swinney. His brothers called him "Dabo" when he was a little kid, intending to say "That boy." So we named our puppy "Dabo." For a second name, we came up with "Leblanc." The reason for that is that Suzy wanted to name him Jean Valjean, and I protested. But in Les Miserables, Valjean is also known as Monsieur Leblanc. So that settled it. Our puppy would be called Dabo Leblanc.

He's a really good puppy. He's already doing pretty well with his "outside" business, although he's had a few accidents in the house. He's very affectionate, as I'm told all bichons are. He likes to run and play fetch and chew on things. We're learning his routines and trying to follow the rules.

I have to admit, it's fun being a dog owner again. I just didn't expect it to happen quite this way.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Invictus

Invictus is the story of Nelson Mandela's rise to the presidency of South Africa in 1994, and the role played by his support of the Springboks (South Africa's national rugby team) in reconciling blacks and whites after apartheid. The film is directed by Clint Eastwood. Morgan Freeman is excellent in the role of his friend Mandela. Matt Damon co-stars as Francois Pienaar, captain of the Springboks, whose transformation from bitter Afrikaner to Mandela supporter is a metaphor for what took place in the nation as a whole. I thought Damon was very believable, particularly turning in an authentic-looking performance on the rugby field.

I didn't know a lot about Mandela before watching Invictus. Admittedly, the movie is one-sided. It focuses exclusively on his efforts to reconcile the races in post-apartheid South Africa and his contributions to human rights. There is controversy, of course, about his criticism of US foreign policy and his early activities while leader of the armed wing of the African National Congress. But his conciliatory tone during his five years as leader of a nation torn by years of racial strife is inspiring. He admirably illustrates Romans 12:21 - "Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good."

The movie points out that while Mandela was in prison, the poem "Invictus" was his inspiration. Written from a hospital bed by William Ernest Henley, English poet of the 19th century, "Invictus" eulogizes man's "unconquerable soul." It ends with these well-known words,
I am the master of my fate:
I am the captain of my soul.
Umm, no. Not true. One of the most basic truths of human existence is that there is a God, and we are not him.

Henley wrote his poem from a God-less worldview. In the first stanza, he thanks "whatever gods may be" for his perseverance through suffering. He goes on to boast that his head is "bloody, but unbowed." And most stoutly, in the third stanza he writes,
Beyond this place of wrath and tears
Looms but the Horror of the shade,
And yet the menace of the years
Finds and shall find me unafraid.
That is an extraordinary boast for a man who at age 12 developed tuberculosis of the bone. If his poem accurately reflects the state of his heart, Henley should have spent less time praising the human spirit and more time fearing the one "who, after the killing of the body, has power to throw you into hell. Yes, I tell you, fear him" (Luke 12:5, NIV).

Henley's poem may have inspired great deeds of victory for Mandela and the Springboks, but it is a lie that will lead to spiritual defeat.

The Bible says to boast in nothing but Christ (Galatians 6:14). Every beat of our hearts is a gift of God's grace. He alone is sovereign. To be sure you will be safe on Judgment Day, you must enter the "strait gate" that Henley talks about in his poem - the one that Jesus offers in the gospel (Matthew 7:13). That gate is Jesus himself, who took our place on the cross because of "how charged with punishments [is] the scroll" of our lives.

If you are trusting in Jesus, who winced and cried aloud under the bludgeonings of the cross, and whose head was bloody but unbowed, then you can face death with courage. Until then, be willing to be conquered by the grace and mercy of Christ.