Unburdening — Like The Rising Mist

By Renaissance Girl

I’ve always been intrigued by the verse in Genesis that says, “but there went up a mist from the earth and watered the whole face of the ground.” It puts this beautiful image in my mind of the Garden of Eden, colors alive with newness, in full bloom, and a fine mist hovering over it all catching the light. (I wonder if God gave a sneak preview of his rainbow).

I was up before the sun this morning — working on a project until it was time to take my dog out. I went a slightly different route than normal and arrived at the harbor around 6:30. The sun had just barely left the horizon, and was splashing the water with streaks of pink and gold. I stopped and my dog sat quietly. I turned my head to look towards the end of the harbor and there it was. Rising up from the water was a fine layer of mist, gently moving with the currents of air and rising to follow the sun. And, somehow, I felt some of my anxieties of the day lifting with it.

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Lessons From My Dog

By Renaissance Girl

I was working on a project the other morning — one that involved keeping careful count of an item, and therefore required my full concentration.

My dog was with me, quietly hovering just on the edge of my circle of focus . . . except for his insistent repetition of dropping his tennis ball on a box in front of me, or at my feet, and then backing up expectantly, waiting for me to catapult it into the air so he could give chase. He’d pull back and wait for a minute, then, if he did not get the desired response, he’d snatch it up again and drop it an inch away (as if maybe just a slightly different location would inspire a better result).  We’d had our play time so I ignored him while I finished up.

But at some point he pulled my focus away from my task and onto his face, his ears alert, jaw twitching, and wide brown eyes full of confident and hopeful expectancy — truly believing if he just kept at it, eventually I’d turn his way and kick the ball — which I did.

And it hit me — here was an image of our relationship with God — or perhaps what it should be. Not that He ignores us, but sometimes the answer doesn’t come in the time I want it to. Too often I quit and simply walk away from the ball — or maybe snatch it back in frustration and sulk — or tear it to pieces. But maybe the point — and the work — is to stay in the constant state of hope and expectancy, believing that the answer WILL come — and poised and ready to spring after it with all joy.

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Gregorian Chant: The Eternal Song

By Cantor

“Even the dogs” 

In 2007, I had the privilege of being part of a group of four cantors who spent the entire summer studying chant with Mary Berry in Cambridge, England. Dr. Berry taught us much about chant, and welcomed us as part of her family which included her dogs, Kai and Tien.

Never one to miss an opportunity to teach chant through daily life, Dr. Berry would chant an ancient Gregorian grace before meals. On the surface, that did not seem a particular surprise. However, what made that chant memorable were the dogs, Kai and Tien. It made no difference where the dogs were or, even what time it was. All Dr. Berry had to do was begin this simple and child-like little chant, Benedicite, and the dogs “came-a-running!” Their faces expressed a level of joy that made us all howl in laughter – just like Kai and Tien. Dinner time was a time to rejoice and they knew it!

I will never forget the beaming look in Dr. Berry’s eyes as she gave each dog their treat after they dutifully sat through the remainder of the chant. This was one of Dr. Berry’s favorite ways to show that all creatures – even the dogs -had a joyful response to the loving voice of their Master!

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Cartoon of St Philip’s Schola © Kath Walker 2011


By Renaissance Girl

My dog started a fight with another dog yesterday. It was completely my fault. I was outside with some friends and took him off his leash to let him roam around while we talked. I didn’t even see the other dog coming — but he did. It happened so fast and I didn’t stand a chance of grabbing him. Eventually I did and thankfully, there were no major injuries — but my heart was pounding for a long time.

I don’t understand why my dog doesn’t like this other dog — he has no reason but their greetings are never friendly. So I Googled the question, “what makes dogs aggressive towards certain other dogs.” The first page to come up was Cesar Millan’s website. I have such respect and admiration for him, so I opened the article hopefully. Actually, he didn’t specifically address the question I asked, but this phrase caught my eye. “You need to become the dog’s pack leader and establish rules, boundaries, and limitations. You need to fulfill the dog as Nature intended him to be fulfilled.”  I don’t think about my dog being “fulfilled” but it stuck with me. In talking it through later, I realized that, similar to parents with children, I buck against boundaries myself so I don’t like to require them of my dog. But, aside from putting him and others in a dangerous situation, it also leaves him unfulfilled, worried about filling a spot that shouldn’t be his to fill.

Maybe that’s how God sees us — he gives us structures and boundaries so we are relieved of the pressure to be someone we’re not, and can simply be who we are created to be, and thus fulfilled.

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Lessons From Chipper

By Melodious Monk 

If we are open to it, God can use anything to speak to us. A couple of years ago the brothers got a small black and white bulldog-bull terrier mix from a dog shelter in New Jersey. He was a rescue dog that needed a home, and we where lucky enough to get him before he was euthanized. Chipper, among many attributes, is unwavering in his desire to play! Whether it is tug-of-war, catching Frisbees, wrestling, or just being with someone, if Chipper isn’t asleep, then he’s eager to find you. This attitude is due in part to his gratitude to have a home, to have someone who has “saved” him. I know that Jesus has saved me from much in my life – but I forget this so quickly. When a circumstance goes against how I’d like it, seemingly spinning out of control, I feel angry and afraid. I feel like God has left me and I want to run. I’ve forgotten who feeds me and who has the power to save me. I stop looking to be with, to “play” with, to learn from, and to be fed by my master. Chipper, on the other hand, is even more grateful to see me, even if I’m a little late to feed him dinner, or for our normal time to go for a walk. In fact, he’s even more grateful that I finally did come!  And so is God with us – ever ready.


All Creatures Great and Small

by Renaissance Girl  

I love the feast of St.Francis. I start looking forward to the Blessing of the Animals about a week before it happens. This year it took place in the atrium of our church. It had rained most of the day and the sky was still dark so we gathered under cover of the atrium roof.
It’s a beautiful chaos — dogs, cats, rabbits, turtles, and even a lizard. Some of them snuggle close to their owners while others lurch out, trying to meet all the others. Someone barks a hello from across the circle and people smile at the honest exuberance of an animal. We bless them and then disperse, a few playful romps springing up along the way – or a final snarl letting the others know who’s boss.
What I love is the sense that a meeting of spirits has just happened that we really don’t even know. I can’t argue all the theology of whether animals have souls or not, but I believe there are things they see that we can’t. I’ve sometimes caught my dog staring at something intently in the air that I certainly am not seeing. And I am often stunned at what animals teach us about love, and forgiveness, and total abandonment to whatever’s in front of them — living in the moment.  
St. Francis statue1


A Generous Spirit

by Sr Nunother 

Vulnerability is from the Latin word vulnerabilis, meaning capable of being physically or emotionally wounded; open, sensitive, yielding readily to. It’s a quality that eludes me and in searching for it, I found Dave the Poodle. He weighs about ten pounds, has a bad back and bad breath. These things do not inhibit Dave, who enters a room as if everyone has been waiting just for him. He’s available for whatever a day offers and keenly aware of his mission to love and protect one sister in particular. Dave has an aesthetic bent that, if he were a person, would surely lead to a vocation in the arts. And he’s not afraid to let it show (see picture below!)  I see great generosity in Dave’s vulnerability. When I’m defensive, and I often am, I’m an emotional miser, unable to meet or even recognize the needs of others.


Unexpected Joy in Change

I found myself thinking back this morning to life as a child, when every holiday was filled with the potential to sleep in, spend all day doing nothing but “fun stuff” and end with a bang and hopefully a movie. I sit here this morning in the home I share with two friends and their families, and I find myself laughing at what happens when you don’t even notice. When did the desire to skip your nap become the desire to occupy the kids (or dog) so you can sit down for 5 minutes?  When did the scheming to get out of chores become excited anticipation of those moments when everyone is out of the house and you can get some cleaning done?  And, when does it happen that your greatest desire goes from jumping in the car and escaping to some far off playground with friends, to just having a few hours to be home?
What amazes me is that the joy is the same.  As a child, you can’t imagine anything could be better then pizza and ice cream. Suddenly, five minutes with friends just sitting and talking, feels like a gourmet feast. Here, amid the mayhem and expectations of children on this holiday, I wonder what the day will hold and what unexpected pockets of joy will be discovered.

Checking In

I took my dog to a local dog park recently. His favorite thing is to be in the water. The park, which runs along the edge of a cove, is like Paradise to him. I let him out of the car and he’s off like a shot, completely disinterested in any other dogs as he makes his way to the water and charges in. A path runs along the beach and I walk that while he follows along from out in the water. Between the path and the water is beach grass, about 2 or 3 feet high, and at times we lose sight of each other. I laughed out loud after a few times seeing his head pop through the grass, checking to see that I was still there before he disappeared again. It was so like a child, brave and adventurous, until he or she loses sight of their parent. The quick glance to be sure they are still there gives away the underlying fear of being left alone. The image came back to me again after the sermon this Sunday.  It was about faith in God versus faith in ourselves. If we consistently check in with Him, it allays our fear that we will be left to do it alone. We just have to remember to poke our head through the grass and make eye contact.


A Matter of Trust

by Sr Nunother  

Rise and shine – a simple directive that’s very convicting.  I contrast myself with Liberty the poodle.  She greets each morning with full body stretches that communicate, “Wow, what a great new day!”  She likes her chin scratched while stretching and provides a “fangy” smile of approval.  Next on her agenda is a brisk before breakfast walk.

My awakening is either sluggish or anxiety propelled.  I deal with thoughts that something dreadful could happen or am annoyed at the world and everyone in it.  Is it residue from an unremembered bad dream?  Unresolved conflict from the day before?  Or merely a habit that allows me temporary control (albeit of a negative sort.)

One of us trusts in the goodness of God and is content; the other needs a little shine in their rising.