Sunday, February 26, 2017

three cheers for our dogs!

Yesterday it was with sadness that two of my Facebook friends lost their dogs due to old age. To some, it was "just a dog!" Just a dog. To those of us, however, who are owned by our dogs, they were not "just a dog." They were four legged bundles of unconditional love, energy, healing, friendship, hope, opportunities of laughter, intimate moments filled with snuggles, shared times of happiness and more!

As I mourned with them, I thought of the many dogs I have had in my past. "Jack" was my first collie that I had at age eleven. Jack was my solace in a home that was full of abuse. he became my confidante. When I wanted to get away from the dysfunction, Jack and I took long walks together. I had such pride in that dog. When he had to be euthanized at age eleven due to arthritis that rendered him unable to walk, my world came crashing down. I was so angry! By this time, I was 22, still trying to find my own place in a confusing world and marriage. A miracle occurred, however. Within two weeks, a stray collie appeared and whose owner never claimed her. I named her, (what else!) "Lassie." Lassie and I became best friends, she knew all of my secrets and when life became too much for me, we would take long walks together, walks that would ease my burdens for a little while.

In all, I had many dogs but the one that truly turned my life around was a wayward setter puppy named Patrick! It was because of Patrick and his mischievous antics that a book was born and thus, a writing career! Yes, dogs do have a way of making us better people. D-O-G is G-O-D spelled backwards, after all.

Dogs also show us what true, unconditional love is like. Dogs serve us in many ways: police K-9s. War dogs. Service dogs for the blind and disabled. There are many instances of homeless people who have dogs. Those dogs weather the storms (literally), preferring to stay by the side of one who loves them rather than having a cozy home with plush couches. The unconditional love of dogs closely mirrors the love that Jesus has for each one of us. Regardless of our past (or present), regardless of our sins, Jesus loves us so much. Yet so many people cast Him off, just as many do their dogs. Dogs take a lot of abuse and yet, tail wagging, they come back time after time, in the hope that this time it will be the time they will be noticed for the attributes that are always appreciated.

I have worked with animals since I was 16 years old in some form. Boarding kennel caretaker, animal control officer, vet tech and more, I have seen the best and worst of humanity through the eyes of a dog and I have cried. Likewise, Jesus has also seen the best and worst of humanity and probably asks Himself, "was my death all in vain? Is this what it has come to then?"

Lent is just two days away. For me, Lent is a time of deep contemplation. What has happened since last can I become a better person in the upcoming year? Lent is not just a six week period of reflection, it is a way of life, of walking in the same footsteps that Jesus walked all throughout His ministry. For good and for bad, He showed us through example, time and again, how we can be better people. Yet many people have decided that they know better; they create rules and religions to explain, in complex terms, the simplicity that Jesus taught us.

Let's break it down in terms a dog can understand: "A dog is the only thing on earth that loves you more than he loves himself."

The same thing can be said for Jesus.

After all....d-o-g is G-o-d...spelled backwards.

Sunday, February 19, 2017

the fruit of service

There was an interesting story in today's Minneapolis Star-Tribune, in reference to hospital chaplains. ("Hospital Chaplains Answer a New Call" February 19, 2017) No longer are they "just" Catholic or Lutheran, but they are from a wide variety of beliefs and in some cases, non-denominational. People nowadays do not want someone to tote a Bible and give some whipped up sermon, so much as just to have someone there with them in the lowest time of their life. Someone who can empathize, someone who can dole out a hug, a massage and some words of understanding or, in some cases, to just hold hands and breathe in the silence. In one instance, according to the news article, a chaplain brought in a CD of Pink Floyd, and the patient and he had a lengthy talk about music. The chaplain said later that he was sure had he come bearing a Bible, the man would have tossed him out! (If one is familiar with the music of Pink Floyd, I'm thinking that either "Learning to Fly" or else "Comfortably Numb" would be very appropriate discussion topics in this case!) is it that we have come to this point? Actually, it was there all along. When Jesus began His ministry, it was not to preach of hell fire and doom, but rather to preach by EXAMPLE. He walked among the sick, He raised the dead, He ate with tax collectors and counseled women. He saved a woman from being stoned and vocalized His appreciation of children. He taught by example. As we all know, words are cheap, actions are more powerful than words. He criticized the Pharisees and scribes of His time who vocalized long and loud of how he wasn't "following the rules!" Silly them! If only they knew Who they were complaining about, I'm sure they would have realized just how foolish they were! But they were so focused on the "rules and regulations," they couldn't see the One in their midst.

The same can be said about nursing homes also-- of how they are places in which people are forgotten. I have been to a few in which the residents are all lined up in their wheelchairs in the community room. A TV is on, but no one pays attention. People walk by, but no one is noticing the absolute poverty in the room. Yes, poverty...poverty of soul, poverty of spirit, the loneliness is so palpable, yet no one addresses the need. Residents wait...for the phone call from family that rarely comes, they wait for visits that rarely take place...they wait for death to finally take them away from the emptiness that is the end of their lives. All they want is to be acknowledged. Everyone is so enamored with babies, yet at the full circle stage of life, when seniors slowly succumb to more infantile ways, no one thinks it is so cute when grandma forgets to use her speech filters, or grandpa soils his underwear or Uncle Joe needs help to walk to the bathroom. No one wants to sit and read a story to Aunt Louise and no one tucks in Mama...who, when she was younger, always tucked in her children and said prayers with one. Last week, I walked into a nursing facility armed with magazines for the residents and an adult coloring book for one gal who I know loves to use those. She was waiting for me by the door. When I handed that book to her, her eyes glazed over with tears. She was speechless. "Why did you do this? For me?" she asked incredulously. I hugged her and told her that she had mentioned she liked to do that and so.... The look on her face was priceless, but in my heart, I was given a most wonderful gift, the gift of her gratitude.

According to the news story, what is becoming more relevant is not religion, (Catholic, Protestant, etc.) but rather, spirituality. Not so much focus is placed anymore on dogma, but rather, going back to the example that Jesus taught us. Showing love, not judgment. Showing compassion, not sermons. Showing peace and offering love in a non-threatening way. To me, religion, with all of its talk of being non-confrontational, can be so hypocritical in its thinking, in all of its "do as I say but not as I do" conventional-isms. St. Francis of Assisi admonished his followers to "preach the Gospel...use words only when necessary."  Mother Teresa spoke of the poverty of the soul, when a touch means more to people than a loaf of bread. When our souls become so hungry for love and attention that some people who lose their significant others can also die within minutes to days later, all because they fear being alone.

Someone I know works at a nursing home. He signed on as a maintenance man, became a certified nursing assistant (CNA) and also puts forth effort at truly understanding everyone he works with, from greeting his co-workers and walking them in from their cars on icy cold days, to providing entertainment in the form of comedy routines for the residents. Everything he does comes from his very generous heart. Oh, if only we ALL could muster that much enthusiasm, the world would be so much more accommodating!

The human touch. Babies are known to die without it, but us older folks, too, we all need that validation, that hug, that verbal pat on the back, that affirmation of "you are special and I love you!" I myself work as a food service assistant (OK, lunch lady!) in a high school. I greet kids by name, I serve them food with a smile, I chat with them, I even laugh with them. They soak this stuff up! I think school lunch is that one place where they don't feel the weight of judgment or of being graded, as they do in classrooms. They can just be themselves. If I can make even one person happier than they were before, then I have not failed.

Today, where can you be a symbol of hope...of love and joy? In your workplace? In your neighborhoods and communities? Is there a nursing home that you can visit or volunteer at? Do you have  a friend in the hospital that maybe needs your words and sweet face for a visit? There is so much need in the be a friend requires NO need to haul out the checkbook...just a need to BE the reason that someone smiles today. Go ahead...BE the one!

Sunday, February 5, 2017

do you feel needed?

I have always been a worrier...ever since I can remember. My life was very uncertain and dysfunctional all due to an abusive mom and a dad who didn't exert his authority to make things right. Thus, I worried, "what have I done wrong NOW?" "Why can't I have lunch--again?" "Why doesn't mom love me?" The anxieties that I endured, from being bullied at school due to our very poor home life, to my parents belonging to an organized religion whose main credo was that "if you don't do it God's way, He will destroy you!" Wow! Tough baggage there! So not only was I a loser in my mom's eyes, their "church" also considered me to be a loser as well. I became a loner. All I really had at that point was my own confidence that somehow, God did NOT see me as a reject. Look at Peter, he rejected Jesus three times, I told myself, yet Jesus also told him three times how much Peter was loved! Even the sparrows were loved!  Luke 12:6-8 said "are not five sparrows sold for two pennies? Yet not one of them is forgotten by God. And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. So do not be afraid, you are worth more than many sparrows. I tell you, everyone who confesses Me before men, the Son of Man will also confess him before the angels of God."

I received this Heavenletter today in an e-mail. It spoke to me...maybe you will also see yourself in it:

God said: 
Dear One who worries needlessly, let Me say what I have to say in this way:

You have no choice but to have confidence in your Self. I am your Very Self, so, it is for you to have confidence in Me. Unless you have confidence in Me, you have disbelief. You are practiced in disbelief. You were taught it, and you learned it. Let go of disbelief now. Stop asking yourself all the questions.

Pick up an image of yourself as the innocent you are. Pick up the baby of yourself and lavish love on her. No one, especially you, is to put yourself in disarray

It is to you I write, Godwriter, as an aside. Let Us have a heart to heart. You understand Heavenletters very well. You are doing My Will. Let go of perceived results – recognition, numbers, personality, hard work, etc. No matter how close you are to Heavenletters, Heavenletters are My responsibility. Forget about confidence in yourself. Have confidence in Me which is the same as to say confidence in your Self.

The existence of Heavenletters came from Me. I looked over the whole world, and I asked Myself: "Which One of My Children is to tend to these particular Words of Mine on Earth?"
I looked for a Relayer of My Words. I spotted you. I picked you out. You were handy, and you’re good at it.

My eyes fell on you. There was no doubt in My Mind. There was no doubt in My Heart.

This is the big difference between you, the personality, and Me, the Oversoul. You know how to doubt. I wouldn't know how to doubt if I tried.
In a nutshell, you are plopped in the middle of the relative world whereas I roam free in The Absolute. I am Infinity-Bound, meaning Infinity as the Vastness that I go for and that I AM. This is as true for you and everyone else.

My Children seem to set up road-blocks for themselves, however. Don’t ask any more: "How am I doing? Am I doing this right? What have I left undone?"

If you must comment, say: "How unbelievably fortunate am I to be here now in this place.” Glory, glory.

If you must ask a question, ask: “What's next for me to do?"

You are One Cinderella among Many on Earth who serve as they serve. You came out of the Ashes of Ignorance, and I poured you into a New Life. Never mind so much what you are doing or how you got here. Just keep your eyes on Me.
I found you. You are found. I confirmed you. You are confirmed. I am here. You are here with Me. I chose you, and you are chosen. You do as I ask. I threw the ball at you. You caught it. Now you have run with it ever since. Have fun with this adventure. That’s all you have to do.

You are not being tested. Even if you were being tested, you were accepted long ago. There is no way you can fail. I am at the Helm. Remind yourself that you don’t do much. You simply pick up My Words here and there. Your task is simply to pick up My Words. I am the Decider of which words you pluck. Allow yourself to be filled with this joy. This Joy I gave to you just as you are meant to have it. It is worth a King’s Ransom, and you who had no idea you were to follow Me like this are following Me just like this.

I ask you to be naught but a plodder who trails after Me, picking up the sticks I leave behind. This is your opportunity to play in Infinity!

Come with Me. I am the Comet. You are one of many who are the Tail of the Comet. After all, what choice do you or anyone have but to follow Me? 
~ Heavenletter#5917 Infinity Bound