My great grandpa, Calvin Casebeer, 1865
I just buried another puppy. Robin and I have been raising puppies for over twenty years. We’re not a kennel. We’ve never had more than two breeding females at a time. Still, when you keep two breeding females and each one has a litter of pups each year; over a twenty year period, that’s a bunch of puppies! With each litter of pups, it’s not uncommon to have one little puppy whose not got the spunk to make it. That always makes me sad. They’re just dogs, you may say; get over it! After all these years of watching helpless little puppies draw their last breath in my lap, you’d think it wouldn’t bother me.
There’s a little scrap of scripture in the third chapter of Ecclesiastes, which talks about animals and heaven. It rarely surfaces in a sermon. There’s much in the Bible that rarely surfaces in sermons. I’m not a theologian, and I’m not interested in debating whether or not animals go to heaven. In any case, the way I read this scripture, it suggests to me that no one knows whether animals go to heaven. I find that comforting, especially when I’ve just lost a weeklong struggle to save a little puppy.
The attached photo is my great granddad, Calvin Casebeer, soon after he concluded his service during the Civil War. He looks gaunt and traumatized, just as you’d expect him to look following such a horrific experience. Following the war, Calvin spent the rest of his life reaching out to people and sharing The Good News, that Jesus loves us. Calvin passed away in 1907. I never got to meet him. I sure wish I had. I believe we need more people in the world like Calvin. I rarely miss the evening news. I frequently find it discouraging. Day after day, I watch people trying to pass off petty, political bickering as Christianity. Petty political bickering is just that! Christianity is something entirely different. Christianity is about reaching out compassionately to others, and like Calvin, sharing the Good News that Jesus loves us.
A short distance from our home is a pond and a little hill overlooking a meadow. As often as possible, I take my morning coffee back to that little overlook, and spend time sharing my doubts and fears with Jesus. Some people will find this disturbing; some because they have absolutely no belief in a Savior, and others because they feel confident that, if there actually is a Savior, he surely has more important things to do than spend time visiting with an old hillbilly like me. Here’s my response to that: The strength of my faith varies from day to day. I wish it didn’t, but it does. I believe that’s true of most of us. On the good days, when my faith is strong, I believe that God, in His infinite wisdom and awesome power, is able to spend time with each and every one of us, just like we’re the only soul on earth. It lifts my spirit to believe that. I see no reason not to. I also believe it’s in the best interest of everyone who’s willing, to believe that as well, and to share that Good News with others, and help others believe that Jesus loves them too. I believe that one of these days I’ll hug great grandpa Calvin, and I believe Heaven is literally alive with puppies.
Shannon Thomas Casebeer