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Quinn the Hedgehog, following his blessing & a sprinkling of Holy Water.

Despite my religious upbringing, (or perhaps, in part, because of it), I often struggle with matters of a spiritual nature.  But I have come to realize that even after many years of doubt, I still have a strong faith that is always going to be a part of who I am.  There is spirit here, around us and inside us, pervading every living thing.   I still believe there is a Creator, a Plan…and there is Love.

So often I have sought comfort in organized religion, only to find it lacking in forgiveness, acceptance, and compassion…the very tenets on which it was built.  Yet from time to time, I’m reminded that real love for ALL of God’s creatures is alive and well.  One of the most moving events we attend as a rescue group each October is the Blessing of the Pets at our local Catholic church, St. Mary’s.  This year, we were fortunate enough to attend a second blessing at St. Luke’s Episcopal Church.

Brother and sister team Daniel & Mira socialize after the ceremony.

Among the young dogs of velvety fur and puppy breath, the older but wiser canines with their grey muzzles and gentle eyes, and the occasional pretentious cat, you never know what you might see.  This year’s hedgehog sighting was a first for me.  Quinn was a little shy, but seemed to enjoy the attention.  This was also the first time I’ve seen a turtle receive God’s blessings.

"Speedy" is Blessed

 There is a reverent calm among the animals as they are receiving the sacred blessing.  It’s almost like they know, as animals so often do, with an awareness superior to our own.

JT, blessed by Msgr. Kirk: “Creature of God, be blessed in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.”

The writer of this poem gives credit to “the Lord God” for “all things bright and beautiful”, but I believe her words of gratitude are fitting to all, no matter what you call your Spirit, your Creator.

 
Maker of Heaven and Earth
 
All things bright and beautiful,
All creatures great and small,
All things wise and wonderful,
The Lord God made them all.
 
Each little flower that opens,
Each little bird that sings,
He made their glowing colours,
He made their tiny wings.
 
The rich man in his castle,
The poor man at his gate,
God made them, high or lowly,
And ordered their estate.
 
The purple-headed mountain,
The river running by,
The sunset, and the morning,
That brightens up the sky.
 
The cold wind in the winter,
The pleasant summer sun,
The ripe fruits in the garden,
He made them every one.
 
The tall trees in the greenwood,
The meadows where we play,
The rushes by the water,
We gather every day;
 
He gave us eyes to see them,
And lips that we might tell,
How great is God Almighty,
Who has made all things well.
 
-Cecil Frances Alexander
 
 
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Let me first qualify this post by stating that I would never be arrogant enough to compare anything I do with Mother Teresa.  I may be crazy, but I’m not completely impaired…yet 🙂

Everyone who reads this blog knows that I rescue dogs from situations of abandonment, neglect, and abuse.  Dogs, dogs, dogs.  After my full-time job ends, rescue is what I do with every spare moment, dime, thought and ounce of energy.  Rescuing dogs (and cats) is my “thing”, as my mother put it last week, when we were once again arguing about the toll rescue is taking on my life.  “I thought surely Walt’s health problems and your own would be a sign it’s time to slow down.”  Or as my dad said, “Why don’t you back off that rescue “thing” and let Walt have a normal life?  It’s killing y’all with all this stress.”   The “thing” is, they’re right.

The last several months have been hell.  I found myself in a very tearful place yesterday where the only emotion I could feel was failure: failure as a wife, employee, rescuer, sister, daughter, aunt, and friend.   The logical part of me knows this is temporary, a symptom of worse-than-usual burnout, yet my heart knows there is truth to it, and that something has to change.  The rescue that has always brought me joy and fed my soul now brings a sense of begrudging obligation, and I have found myself starting to resent anyone I know that is perky, happy, or lives with any degree of normalcy.  

In a nutshell, I’m freaking tired of being punished for doing good.

I once read that Mother Teresa, in sharp contrast to the tireless humanitarian she was painted to be, suffered severe bouts of depression; dark nights of the soul in which she found herself not only separated from God, but doubted His existence entirely because of the endless suffering she witnessed.  Since then, I have read a lot about her, hoping to glean insights into how she kept going, and where she found motivation to continue.  Mother Teresa said, in the context of feeding the poor, “I always fill my own bowl first.”  She was also quoted as saying, “Do not think that love, in order to be genuine, has to be extraordinary.  What we need is to love without getting tired.” 

So yeah, she “got it” that you put yourself first, or you can’t help anybody else.  What Mother Teresa DIDN’T elaborate on is the HOW.  

So I have three questions for anyone who is up for a little deep thinking, questions for which I have sought answers for years and still not discovered a solution that works for me:

1.  How do you say NO when you know nobody else will do something but you?  Or that somebody else WILL do it, but you’ll be guilt-ridden and might as well do it yourself? 

2. Are we really obligated to give back here in our brief time on earth?  To what extent?  Why are those who work to end suffering punished and robbed of happiness, while those who call it a day after the 9 – 5 and family drama, those folks seem to have some pleasure in life?  Are we supposed to live in hell here, hoping for some relief  in the hereafter?

3. How do you REALLY find balance in life?  If you DO feel obligated to give back, and every day brings a request to which you CAN’T say NO without GUILT – where’s the balance?

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