Tom and Nate - my two younger boys - went over to Mrs. Ruth's yesterday to wash her four dogs. She has beagles, the kind of dog that just won the Westminster Dog Show. The boys enjoyed the work. When I picked them up, they wouldn't leave until they had petted all the dogs again. They must get this from their mother.
I'm not really a dog person. Give me a good book, a cup of coffee, a slice of pie or any one of these over a dog. I know this is a character flaw. But when I see a dog, I see something that needs to be walked, fed and taken to the vet. The boys see it completely differently. Where I see "thing," they see personality.
On the way home from Mrs. Ruth's the boys told me the names of the four dogs - Rocky, Bitsy, Zelda, and Cisco - and remarked on how each was different. (Evidently Zelda will bark at you if you don't pet her enough.) Just hearing the names of the dogs makes them more interesting, and the next time I see them I'm going to try to match the dog to the name.
Speaking of naming animals, did you know that this was one of Adam's first jobs? Read Genesis 2, "Out of the ground the Lord God formed every beast of the field and every bird of the air, and brought them to Adam to see what he would call them. And whatever Adam called each living creature that was its name."
It doesn't say that Adam petted them all. But he did have to pay attention enough to name them all. He had to focus on each kind of creature, individually. Now surely Adam would have named the creatures on the earth on his own, eventually, without the Lord's prompting. He would have been walking through the garden and said, "I say, there's something new; I think I'll call it a lion." No, the naming was not left to chance; this was a big deal to God. All the newly created creatures were brought to Adam. The message is that these creatures are important, notice them, name them, and care for them.
(By the way, the Bible does not say that God brought a gold nugget or a barrel of oil to Adam to be named - living things clearly take priority over material things.)
The message is repeated a few chapters later when God warns Noah of an upcoming world-wide flood. Noah is commanded to build an ark large enough for his human family and large enough for a male and female of each kind of land based creature. The ark was to be a floating zoo; Noah a zookeeper. God clearly values all the different creatures on the earth. And strange as it may be, God must even know about Zelda, Mrs. Ruth's attention seeking beagle.
Jesus said to his disciples, "Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies? Yet not one of them is forgotten by God. Indeed, the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Don't be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows."
Sparrows, beagles, people - God sees the whole world. Some of us may not be dog-lovers, but thankfully, God is a people-lover. God knows your name, your quirks, your likes and dislikes. Imagine how you ought to love, and then imagine that this is the way that God already does love you, "For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have everlasting life."
John Donaldson is pastor at Newborn and Mansfield UMC. Send e-mail to