How lovely are thy branches…

“There’s nothing more beautiful than a tree,” Alain Le Goff liked to say…

“Look how they’re working …They’re linking the earth to the tree and sunsetsky. That’s very difficult, son. The sky is so lightweight that it’s always at the point of taking off. If there were no trees, it would bid us farewell …You can see that the trunk of a tree is a thick rope. Sometimes there are knots inside. The strands of the rope work themselves loose at each end so that they can fasten onto the sky and the earth. At the top they’re called branches, and at the bottom, roots. But it comes to the same thing.”– Pierre-Jakez Helias, Horse of Pride

I love trees. They give us shade, shelter, and oxygen. They hold the soil to the hillside, fruit on their branches, and our tire swings above the ground.

When I was a little girl I walked home from school by a property that had a line  of little fir trees which were left, unplanted and drying up, next to dusty holes that someone had dug for them. The trees seemed to have been forgotten and abandoned. My heart went out to them. I plucked one of the little firs up and brought it home to Mom. Mom tried to explain that those trees belonged to someone, but it did not compute – it was obvious to me that those trees deserved a better care-giver than the person who had left them, with their little roots drying up in the open air. Mom must have realized that if that tree was going to survive it needed to be planted post haste – so she found me a planter big enough to accommodate a tree’s roots, and provided a home for “Treesa” (the name I gave her). When we moved several years later, we brought Treesa with us and planted her on our new property, where she lived, grew, and prospered. (Treesa’s sister trees – the other little firs that had been waiting with her to be planted the day I walked past them – never did get planted, and didn’t make it.)

Every year a little fir tree on the path along Bellingham Bay slowly begins accumulating Christmas decorations on its branches. Why this particular tree was picked to be the path’s annual Christmas tree, I do not know. But she’s a very jaunty little tree, and it brings me great joy to contribute to her Christmas finery, and to see her all gussied-up for Christmas.

Christmas tree 2

“For ye shall go out with joy, and be led forth with peace: the mountains and the hills shall break forth before you into singing, and all the trees of the field shall clap their hands.” – Isaiah 55: 12

“And he shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that bringeth forth his fruit in his season; his leaf also shall not wither; and whatsoever he doeth shall prosper.” – Psalms 1: 3

green Padden         winter trees in upstate NY 600 year-old tree in Deception Pass, WA      Adirondack winter trees (2) autumn trees            Bellingham tree autumn trees            Padden trees    boy in tree

 

all photos by Karen Molenaar Terrell

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An Opinion on Opinions

“There are, it may be, so many kinds of voices in the world, and none of them is without signification…How is it then, brethren? when ye come together, every one of you hath a psalm, hath a doctrine, hath a tongue, hath a revelation, hath an interpretation. Let all things be done unto edifying… If any thing be revealed to another that sitteth by, let the first hold his peace.For ye may all prophesy one by one, that all may learn, and all may be comforted. For God is not the author of confusion, but of peace, as in all churches of the saints.” –  I Corinthians 14

“We should remember that the world is wide; that there are a thousand million different human wills, opinions, ambitions, tastes, and loves; that each person has a different history, constitution, culture, character, from all the rest; that human life is the work, the play, the ceaseless action and reaction upon each other of these different atoms. Then, we should go forth into life with the smallest expectations, but with the largest patience; with a keen relish for and appreciation of everything beautiful, great, and good, but with a temper so genial that the friction of the world shall not wear upon our sensibilities; with an equanimity so settled that no passing breath nor accidental disturbance shall agitate or ruffle it; with a charity broad enough to cover the whole world’s evil, and sweet enough to neutralize what is bitter in it, – determined not to be offended when no wrong is meant nor even when it is, unless the offense be against God.” – from Prose Works by Mary Baker Eddy

***

Opinions. I have them. You have them. The news media has them. The world is filled with them. Sometimes we’re kind of proud of them. Sometimes we walk around all puffed-up about how courageous we are to share them with anyone who will listen (and even with those who won’t). And sometimes we might be inclined to think that if we voice our opinions enough times, they will – poof! – become facts. 🙂

But, sadly, no matter how many times we share our opinions they will remain what they are: opinions. I know. It’s kind of lowering, ain’t it?

When I was a little girl there were some really great news anchors on television – Walter Cronkite, Edward Murrow – these guys had class. You rarely saw them laughing or chatting, or bringing their personalities or opinions to the news. They presented the facts, and let their audience come to their own conclusions about things. They were calm, stable presences on the airwaves. They weren’t timid about questioning authority. Nor were they afraid of exposing evil.

Four principles Edward R. Murrow used in reporting the news were” skepticism, honor, honesty, and courage.”  (http://news.wsu.edu/pages/Publications.asp?Action=Detail&PublicationID=31626&PageID=21) And, it is my opinion, that if we all sought to bring these four principles into our own lives, the world would be a more genial place. in Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, Eddy writes: “It requires courage to utter truth; for the higher Truth lifts her voice, the louder will error scream, until its inarticulate sound is forever silenced in oblivion.” I think we see a nice example of truth lifting “her voice” in Murrow’s reporting of the McCarthy Hearings in the 1950’s (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e4LZsDqSSfk).

In Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures Mary Baker Eddy writes: “In Christian Science mere opinion is valueless. Proof is essential to a due estimate of this subject.” I think in most things, “mere opinion is valueless.” Which. Yeah, I guess that’s just my opinion, though. 🙂

The Christmas Cat

(Originally published on December 19th, 2011)

Yesterday I told you about the Christmas Dog. Today I have a Christmas CAT story to share… 🙂

A few days ago my son came home from his walk with Sam the Dog, to tell me that they’d found a bloodied little calico cat on the side of the road.  She seemed to be injured, wasn’t moving much, had just enough energy to hiss at the dog, but not much energy beyond that. I grabbed a towel (the yellow Pittsburgh Steelers towel my dear in-laws from Pennsylvania sent us several years ago when the Seahaws and the Steelers were duking it out in some bowl game – I figured if any of my towels was going to end up bloody, it might as well be that one) and followed the son to the kitty.

She was curled up on the side of the road, not moving much – except for one twitchy ear. She hissed defensively when I reached down to hold her, but I wrapped her up in the towel so she couldn’t scratch and held her close to me. I told the son to get my car keys and purse and meet me at the car, and I slowly carried the kitty back to our house.

Once I was holding her, she stopped hissing and fidgeting, and when I sat down in the car with her, she relaxed against me, laid her head on my arm and began to purr as I petted her head and ears. As the son drove us to the vet’s I sang the song I’d once sung, years ago, to the Christmas Dog. “Everlasting arms of Love, are beneath, around, above…” (words by John R. MacDuff) and the kitty looked up at me with the same look of trust and love that the Christmas Dog had once shown me.

I’ll be honest, the picture was not pretty. She looked to have been hit in the head by a car. Her jaw was out of alignment, and her eyes were filling up with blood. In my thoughts, I tried to establish who this little kitty was, as an expression of God – tried to establish her in my thoughts as God’s perfect idea, held whole, complete, and untouched by accident, in the consciousness of Love.  What gave me some courage and confidence about the whole situation was the kitty herself – she seemed totally calm, totally unaware that she looked a mess, and completely content just resting on my lap, wrapped up in the towel. She was…well…she was very matter of fact about it all, to tell you the truth.

When we got to the vet’s I carried her inside (she was still purring), and the dear receptionist and assistant there immediately, but gently, removed the cat from my arms and whisked her away to a backroom. Before I left her there, they told me that a microchip had been found on her and that they’d try to contact the owners. I told them that if they couldn’t find the owners, I’d be willing to take responsibility for the kitty.  (In the short drive to the vet’s she’d already managed to capture my heart.)

The next morning I called the vet’s to get an update, and was relieved to learn that the kitty was still alive, was actually doing “pretty good,” and was still purring. The owner had come in and decisions were being made as to how to proceed regarding the kitty’s jaw, which had been shattered.

This morning, on our way to church, we noticed our next-door neighbors had a sign in their front yard that read “Slow down” and we wondered if there might be some connection between that sign and the kitty-cat we’d found near their house two days ago.  Tonight I knocked on their door and found that they were, indeed, the owners of that sweet kitty. They brought me in to look at her. She was snugly ensconced in a kitty carrier, half-dozing, and looking much better than she did when I first met her. The neighbors were happy to learn that I’d been the person the doctor had referred to as “The Good Samaritan” – “Mystery solved!” said Robert with a grin – and I was happy to learn that my neighbors were the owners of that dear kitty – I know she’s in a good home if she’s living with them.

And here’s the really cool thing:  Because the little calico cat lives right next door to me, I’ll get to see her all the time!

Post Script: A year has passed since I originally published this post. The calico cat still lives next door to us and she is one of the sweetest, friendliest little cats I have ever known – she comes over and visits with us a couple times a week, lets herself be picked up and petted, and has even wandered into our home once or twice. And she’s still purring… 🙂

Joy! Peace! Good will to all (and I’m not just talking those with two legs)!

(excerpt from The Madcap Christian Scientist’s Christmas Book)

The Christmas Dog

“This is the doctrine of Christian Science: that divine Love cannot be deprived of its manifestation, or object; that joy cannot be turned into sorrow, for sorrow is not the master of joy; that good can never produce evil; that matter can never produce mind, nor life result in death.”

From Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures by Mary Baker Eddy

***

Christmas Eve, 1988.  I was in a funk.  I couldn’t see that I was making much progress in my life.  My teaching career seemed to be frozen, and I was beginning to think my husband and I would never own our own home or have children. The world seemed a very bleak and unhappy place to me.  No matter how many batches of fudge I whipped up or how many times I heard Bing Crosby sing “White Christmas,” I couldn’t seem to find the Christmas spirit.

I was washing the breakfast dishes, thinking my unhappy thoughts, when I heard gunshots coming from the pasture behind our house.  I thought it was the neighbor boys shooting at the seagulls again and, all full of teacherly harrumph, decided to take it upon myself to go out and “have a word with them.”

But after I’d marched outside I realized that it wasn’t the neighbor boys at all.  John, the dairy farmer who lived on the adjoining property, was walking away with a rifle, and an animal (a calf, I thought) was struggling to get up in the field behind our house.  Every time it would push up on its legs it would immediately collapse back to the ground.

I wondered if maybe John had made a mistake and accidentally shot the animal, so I ran out to investigate and found that the animal was a dog.  It had foam and blood around its muzzle.  She was vulnerable and helpless – had just been shot, after all – but instead of lashing out at me or growling as I’d expect an injured animal to do, she was looking up at me with an expression of trust and seemed to be expecting me to take care of her.

“John!”  I yelled, running after the farmer.  He turned around, surprised to see me.  “John, what happened?” I asked, pointing back towards the dog.

A look of remorse came into his eyes.  “Oh, I’m sorry you saw that, Karen. The dog is a stray and it’s been chasing my cows.  I had to kill it.”

“But John, it’s not dead yet.”

John looked back at the dog and grimaced.  “Oh man,” he said.  “I’m really sorry. I’ll go finish the job.  Put it out of its misery.”

By this time another dog had joined the dog that had been shot.  It was running around its friend, barking encouragement, trying to get its buddy to rise up and escape.  The sight of the one dog trying to help his comrade broke my heart.  I made a quick decision. “Let me and my husband take care of it.”

“Are you sure?”

I nodded and he agreed to let me do what I could for the animal.

Unbeknownst to me, as soon as I ran out of the house my husband, knowing that something was wrong, had gotten out his binoculars and was watching my progress in the field.  He saw the look on my face as I ran back.  By the time I reached our house he was ready to do whatever he needed to do to help me.  I explained the situation to him, we put together a box full of towels, and he called the vet.

As we drove his truck around to where the dog lay in the field, I noticed that, while the dog’s canine companion had finally left the scene (never to be seen again), John had gone to the dog and was kneeling down next to her.  He was petting her, using soothing words to comfort her, and the dog was looking up at John with that look of trust she’d given me.  John helped my husband load her in the back of the truck and we began our drive to the vet’s.

I rode in the back of the truck with the dog as my husband drove, and sang hymns to her.  As I sang words from one of my favorite hymns from the Christian Science Hymnal– “Everlasting arms of Love are beneathe, around, above” – the dog leaned against my shoulder and looked up at me with an expression of pure love in her blue eyes.

Once we reached the animal clinic, the veterinarian came out to take a look at her.  After checking her over he told us that apparently a bullet had gone through her head, that he’d take care of her over the holiday weekend – keep her warm and hydrated – but that he wasn’t going to give her any medical treatment.  I got the distinct impression that he didn’t think the dog was going to make it.

My husband and I went to my parents’ home for the Christmas weekend, both of us praying that the dog would still be alive when we returned.  For me, praying for her really meant trying to see the dog as God sees her.  I tried to realize the wholeness and completeness of her as an expression of God, an idea of God.  I reasoned that all the dog could experience was the goodness of God – all she could feel is what Love feels, all she could know is what Truth knows, all she could be is the perfect reflection of God.  I tried to recognize the reality of these things for me, too, and for all of God’s creation.

She made it through the weekend, but when we went to pick her up the vet told us that she wasn’t “out of the woods, yet.”    He told us that if she couldn’t eat, drink, or walk on her own in the next few days, we’d need to bring her back and he’d need to put her to sleep.

We brought her home and put her in a big box in our living room, with a bowl of water and soft dog food by her side.  I continued to pray.  In the middle of the night I got up and went out to where she lay in her box.  Impulsively, I bent down and scooped some water from the dish into her mouth.  She swallowed it, and then leaned over and drank a little from the bowl.  I was elated!  Inspired by her reaction to the water, I bent over and grabbed a glob of dog food and threw a little onto her tongue.  She smacked her mouth together, swallowed the food, and leaned over to eat a bit more.  Now I was beyond elated!  She’d accomplished two of the three requirements the vet had made for her!

The next day I took her out for a walk.  She’d take a few steps and then lean against me.  Then she’d take a few more steps and lean.  But she was walking!  We would not be taking her back to the veterinarian.

In the next two weeks her progress was amazing.  By the end of that period she was not only walking, but running and jumping and chasing balls.  Her appetite was healthy.  She was having no problems drinking or eating.

But one of the most amazing parts of this whole Christmas blessing was the relationship that developed between this dog and the man who had shot her.  They became good friends.  The dog, in fact, became the neighborhood mascot.  (And she never again chased anyone’s cows.)

What the dog brought to me, who had, if you recall, been in a deep funk when she entered our lives, was a sense of the true spirit of Christmas – the Christly spirit of forgiveness, hope, faith, love.  She brought me the recognition that nothing, absolutely nothing, is impossible to God.

We named our new dog Christmas because that is what she brought us that year.

Within a few years all those things that I had wondered if I would ever have as part of my life came to me – a teaching job, children, and a home of our own.  It is my belief that our Christmas Dog prepared my heart to be ready for all of those things to enter my life.

– excerpt from *Blessings: Adventures of a Madcap Christian Scientist* by Karen Molenaar Terrell

http://www.amazon.com/Blessings-Adventures-Madcap-Christian-Scientist/dp/1419612298/ref=ntt_at_ep_dpt_1