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
018
Advertisements

They Were Beautiful!

“When the heart speaks, however simple the words, its language is always acceptable to those who have hearts.”
– Mary Baker Eddy

On Friday during my break I walked from my work to the county offices/courthouse to get new tabs for my car. The area around the court building is a little sketchy – bail offices, and etc. As I walked towards the entrance to the county offices a pair of men walked towards me down the sidewalk. I’m just going to say it – and I’m hoping you’ll understand and not make judgments on me for saying it – but these men looked scary. They were both thin (my immediate thought was “meth”) and kind of wild-eyed and nervous-looking, and they each were members of different racial minorities. Now I don’t know, exactly, what led me to do this – but I know I made an instant conscious choice – I smiled at each of them and said a friendly hello as they approached me down the sidewalk. They each looked a little surprised, and gave me a hello in return. And it was like – in that moment I saw who they really were, you know? They were beautiful! It was very humbling.

And yesterday, as I was waiting with Scotty in a long line at the local dollar store, I experienced another connection with my fellow humans that brought me a lot of joy. The wait was long, but no one was complaining, no one was cranky – everyone was just patiently waiting, sort of chatting with each other. We were behind a little family – a man – maybe a grampa? – and a little boy and girl, conversing with each other in rapid Spanish. While they waited, the boy and girl were checking things out on the racks across from the checkout counter – they’d pick things up – bracelets and toys – and look them over and then put them back. I told the grampa that he had a nice family – that I liked the way the children were behaving themselves. He smiled and thanked me.

Right after that the little girl found a jumbo-sized pen with Cinderella on it and she held the pen up to her grampa and began talking to him in Spanish. I knew she wanted that pen. I told the grampa that I would buy that pen for her. He hesitated, and then saw that the idea of that made me happy, and agreed to let me do that. The little boy found a jumbo pen with Spiderman on it – and I told the grampa I’d buy that one, too.

After I’d paid for the pens I handed them to the children and they both looked up at me with their big brown eyes and thanked me. I smiled and said, “De nada.” The little girl smiled a big smile and asked me, in English, if I speak Spanish. I told her not very well, but I was trying to learn it. I praised her for speaking both languages so beautifully, and she gave me another big smile.

Meanwhile, the cashier was managing to keep a straight face while I tried to practice my Spanish on the children. I thanked him for not laughing at my horrible Spanish. He grinned and said he has a hard time, too, sometimes, and he wished Scotty and me a good day.

There was just something so… these connections bring me such joy, you know? – like a little taste of heaven.

love-is-with-you

 

Someone to Blame

There once was someone else to blame –
– “Toblame” was the name of the game
– the Millennials, the Boomers,
and media with “fake rumors”
were targets for the blame and the shame.

There once was someone else to blame –
Just fill in the blank with a name –
the Jews, Muslims, Christians,
atheists, or immigrants from immigrations
were handy to blame when they came.

And then one day there was a metacognition
we shared in a moment of clear vision
when we saw we each held the key
– a better world could start with each “me” –
and we laid down the blame for our mission.

There once was something else to blame –
Anonymouses or those who had fame,
the poor and the rich,
or a computer glitch
– things never got fixed
when we had something else we could blame.
– Karen Molenaar Terrell

earth NASA

The Cosmos Couldn’t Have Picked a Better Tool

The cosmos couldn’t have
picked a better tool
to rouse her people
from their slumbers
a caricature of a fool –
word-lazy money-crazy
who’d

unite all thinking folks
of every gender and race
against a common foe
and brace each one
to pick up the pace
and move past  color,

sex, religion and non-
religion, political party,
and geographic location,
to save the earth, save
the ocean – can’t be tardy
to revive the notion that

everyone matters – not
just the rich, nor the white,
not just the”Christians”
or reality stars, or corporate
bigwigs – time to do what’s right
for the rest of of the folks, too.
– Karen Molenaar Terrell

light in the forest

Lake Padden Forest (Photo by Karen Molenaar Terrell)

 

We Forgive

“…old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.”
II Corinthians 5: 17

We forgive because
we no longer need the pain.
We forgive because
good is all that we gained.
We forgive because
love is all that remains.

Struggling to forgive old sleights and slingshotting
words sent to us, and sent by us, too, guilt
and hurt having a heyday in our hearts.
But how do we let go of the memories of mean
-ness and the bullying of those years when
we were the targets, the receivers (or givers?)
of hate? How do we let go, move on, forgive?

“…if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature…”
Can we really start new? How…?
Accepting all the good that comes from being
the target of envy, bigotry, hate – the strength
and confidence and empathy that comes
from surviving the bitter times – accepting
the healing, means an acknowledgement
that the rest is done and over. It served its
purpose. Judas to Jesus: It brought our
ascension. Led us to better times. Hate’s job
is done now – a cheap plastic toy from our
childhood – we put it down and move on –
no longer interested.

“…old things are passed away; behold,
all things are become new.”

We forgive because
we no longer need the pain.
We forgive because
good is all that we gained.
We forgive because
love is all that remains.
– Karen Molenaar Terrell

Love Hath Made

Sunset over flooded fields in Skagit County, Washington State. Photo by Karen Molenaar Terrell.

 

 

Good Morals?

I love when somebody gives me something interesting to ponder. A member of my local community recently suggested that people moved to our area because of the “good morals and values” that our community has. This got me to thinking: What is morality? Where do you find morality? What do you base your morality on? Do you think morality is limited to just certain religions or can anyone be a moral person?

I don’t think morality is limited to a specific place, people, political party, or religion. For me, people with good morals are the people who are kind to one another, and to their fellow creatures. For me, good morals are seen in honesty, integrity, hard work, generosity, compassion, and kindness. People who aren’t quick to jump off the handle and start yelling at each other, calling each other names, and threatening each other are, I believe, showing good morals. People who are able to thoughtfully reflect on their beliefs, who can admit when they’re wrong, and are more concerned about someone else’s needs than their own wants show good morality.

I was raised in what, I guess, you would call the Christian tradition. “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. Love your neighbor. Love your enemies. Feed the hungry. Blessed are the peacemakers” – these are the passages from the Bible that were emphasized in my up-bringing. But I have friends from all religions and non-religions, and from all around the world, who share these beliefs with me. I don’t think you need to be a Christian to be a good person.

My parents didn’t maybe share the same religious beliefs (and for a time they didn’t even belong to the same political party), but they shared the same values: Be kind; don’t be quick to judge; appreciate the environment and take care of it; help those in need. I’m grateful to them for passing those values onto my brothers and me.

Okay – your turn. What are your thoughts about morality?

be-kind-2

I don’t hate Donald Trump…

No, honestly, I don’t hate Donald Trump. I hate what he says and does and tweets. I hate how he twists events so that he never has to take responsibility for them. I hate the cruelty and mockery he shows to the disabled, the disadvantaged, and those who are seeking refuge here. I hate the way in which he incites hatred in others. But I don’t hate HIM. I don’t wish harm to come to him or his family. I just don’t think he’s the right person to be leading my country.