The Christmas Dog

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It is time, once again, for the telling of “The Christmas Dog” –

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.
– Karen Molenaar Terrell, from *Blessings: Adventures of the Madcap Christian Scientist*

via The Christmas Dog

How can I help?

I see friends struggling, hurting, in pain, vulnerable, scared.
And I want to help.
So I ask myself: How can I do that? – how can I help?
And the answer comes to me – quick and clear.
See my friends as they really are – confident, strong,
healthy, whole, fearless, full of life and joy.
And see myself that way, too.
– Karen Molenaar Terrell

T’was Two Weeks Afore Christmas

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T’was Two Weeks Afore Christmas

T’was two weeks afore Christmas and all through Eff Bee
not a creature was stirring – not a she, he, or me
We were prostrate and spent from the holiday bustle
not a twitch could be seen from the teeniest muscle.

We lay all unblinking in our respective beds
while visions of gift-wrapping swirled through our heads
And clad in our jammies and our way cool madcaps
we had the vague hopeful hope our bodies would take naps.

Holiday jangles and jingles pinged through our brains –
Presley, Crosby, and Mathis taking us down memory lanes –
and would we remember every member to be gifted?
We mentally went through our lists, hoping none were omitted

There were homes to be decorated and cards to be sent
parties, caroling, and cookie-making, and we hadn’t made a dent.
But with a collective sigh we remembered there and then
that it’s really about good will to all creatures, women, and men.

And so our thoughts finally settled and our bodies relaxed
as we thought of those we love and a world festooned in pax.
With our hearts wrapped in kindness and the world as our ‘hood
We’re all brethren and sistren – and verily, It’s all good!
– Karen Molenaar Terrell, from The Madcap Christian Scientist’s Christmas Book

via T’was Two Weeks Afore Christmas 

christmas tree 2015

Christmas Lights

“Trust.”

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Revisiting this one from 2016. This experience I had on the night of the presidential election has kept me going for the last three years…

Trust

Taking the dog for a walk,
the shooting star got my
attention when it flew across
the heavens on the evening
of November eighth. I stopped
in my tracks, looking skyward,
alert now, and the voice said,
“Trust. Everything is happening
as it needs to happen.
Don’t be afraid. Trust.”

And crap. I knew then. I knew
who’d won the election – why
else would I need to be reassured?

I went inside. And saw my fears
confirmed. And felt weirdly
stilled inside. Holding on
to that message: “Trust.”

The voice didn’t say what was to come
would be easy, or without struggle
or challenge. It didn’t provide
details of how, where, when or why.
It just said, “Don’t be afraid. Trust.”

And the earth rises now.
Thirsty for Truth. Joining in Love.
Crying for justice.
In the streets. From the rooftops.
Through the wires of computers
across the world.

“Everything is happening
as it needs to happen.
Trust,” said the voice of Love.
– Karen Molenaar Terrell

 

via “Trust.”

Feedback from Writer’s Digest for *Are You Taking Me Home Now?: Adventures with Dad*

I received feedback from “Writer’s Digest” today for my book, Are You Taking Me Home Now?: Adventures with Dad. The feedback meant a lot to me and was encouraging. In an effort to be honest, I’m going to post everything here – all the ratings, and all of the judge’s commentary – with nothing omitted. I think the judge gave me some useful feedback.

From Judge #34, 27th Annual Writer’s Digest Self-Published Book Awards:
***
Books are evaluated on a scale of 1 to 5, with 1 meaning “needs improvement” and 5 meaning “outstanding”.

Structure, Organization, and Pacing: 5
Spelling, Punctuation, and Grammar: 5
Production Quality and Cover Design: 5
Plot and Story Appeal: 5
Character Appeal and Development: 4
Voice and Writing Style: 5

Judge’s Commentary:

What a lovely story about your dad. I enjoyed how much of a hero he was to you. I also liked how you ended your narratives with you and your dad expressing your love for each other. That was very heartwarming and rang true. You set your book up almost as though you were writing poems to him, reflecting how much he meant to you. Through your compassionate writing, you showed how important it was to keep that poetry going as he began to lose his mental faculties.

Having said that, because you brought me into your story and into your relationship with your father, I would have liked a small paragraph at the end of the book letting me know whether he’s still alive, if he’s passed, how he’s doing. You could preface it by saying, ‘At the time of this writing…’ I make this suggestion because, in the previous pages, you’d allowed me to be a part of your family and witness the deep love you had for each other. That’s why it’s important to let me (and future readers) know what happened at the end of your story. It’s a fitting close to a sweet book and an equally sweet relationship.

*Are You Taking Me Home Now?: Adventures with Dad* can be ordered through your favorite book store or ordered online through Amazon.

God Doesn’t Need Evil to Accomplish Good

To my fellow Christians –

If you are under the belief that God needs lies, dishonesty, and concealing the truth to accomplish His will then I believe you sorely underestimate God. If you believe that God allows corruption, hypocrisy, misogyny, racism, greed, bigotry, bullying, mocking the handicapped, inequity, injustice, greed, bribery, and extortion in order to bring “salvation” to our nation – then I believe you are missing, entirely, the whole point, the fundamental message of the Christ – “love your neighbor” – “God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them” – “There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus” – “Then shall the King say unto them on his right hand, Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world: for I was hungry, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in: naked, and ye clothed me: I was sick, and ye visited me: I was in prison, and ye came unto me” – “behold, the kingdom of God is within you.”

The God I worship doesn’t need the help of evil to accomplish Her will.

– Karen Molenaar Terrell

“…on earth peace, good will toward all.”

Rejoicing in the Truth

It seems to me that – whether you’re a Democrat or a Republican – you’d want an opportunity for the truth to be revealed, right? Who wouldn’t want that? The truth can prove guilt OR innocence. It seems to me the only people who wouldn’t want an opportunity for the truth to be revealed would be those people who believe someone is guilty and want to hide that.

“Love does not rejoice in evil but rejoices with the truth.”
– I Corinthians 13:6

“…he who loves will love Truth not less than men. He will rejoice in the Truth—rejoice not in what he has been taught to believe; not in this church’s doctrine or in that; not in this ism or in that ism; but ‘in the Truth.’ He will accept only what is real; he will strive to get at facts; he will search for Truth with a humble and unbiased mind, and cherish whatever he finds at any sacrifice.”
– Henry Drummond, The Greatest Thing in the World

 

Truth