Now don’t get me wrong…I believe in security checks at airports. I want  safe skies as much as you do…but have we gone just abit crazy?

Today, my 82 year old tiny, white-haired, cane carrying Mom went through security at the charming, small Santa Fe, New Mexico airport. She had been on a little “get away” trip with us as her husband of 61 years (my Dad) died exactly three months ago. She has been grieving and we hoped this little trip would lighten her downcast spirit.

The American Airlines ticket agents had been so kind to her. Then there was an announcement over the loud speaker for all of us to get in line to go through security. Mom was in front of me in the security line. She heard the person in front of her say something about metal. So she told the security guard that she had two metal knee replacements. Obviously, too much information.

She was pulled out of the line, taken to a glass booth and made to wait awhile, then the blue rubber-gloved female security officer took her into a separate area that looked like a black-curtained room where she was patted down. Then for some unknown reason, they tested the material of her trousers and found some sort of “scary” chemical (likely “dangerous” dry cleaner fluid) and called in a professional for further analyzation. The other security officers went through her cell phone, her carry-on sack, and the contents of her purse. This interrogation lasted about 45 minutes in the waiting area of this little airport in front of all the other passengers. My law abiding, tax-paying, flag waving, church-going senior citizen momma was publicly humiliated by her government and she cried in embarrassment. She couldn’t stop the tears of humiliation. When she got home she found a card in her suitcase that they had gone through her checked-on luggage also.

When she boarded the American Eagle flight, the  deep radio-voiced African American steward who has a close iconic resemblance to the angel Gabriel recognized her distress, came over to her, knelt in that tiny aisle, and spoke balming words of comfort, offered her some tissues to help dry her eyes, and pressed a special snack treat into her hands. Praise God for an angel in the skies!

What do you think, should I file a complaint with the FAA on behalf of my mother or just forget it?

P.S. A friend just informed me that last week at LaGuardia airport an elderly woman who needed some money for retirement was paid to carry a cell phone activation device into the airport and the airport was shut down for two hours, maybe this is why she was pulled out for this long security check.


Partying with Christ

A night to remember. One of my friends was the Rabbi of our local synagogue and she invited me, my husband, and the church I pastor to some wonderful events at their synagogue. There is always lots of fabulous food, the most exquisitely decorated tables, and incredible hospitality. One of the most memorable experiences was the evening that a Jewish”gospel” group (yes, that is what they called themselves) played in their sanctuary. We were rockin’, hands in air, and the rabbi and some of the members were dancing in the aisles.  If I had closed my eyes and not seen the gorgeous Star of David chandeliers, the awesome stained glass windows with Jewish symbolism,  and the Torah in its sacred ark on the east wall, I would have thought I was in a charismatic service of worship. Harvey and I had the most glorious time of worship and fellowship with our Jewish friends. It was a night to remember.

Everyone’s Invited. Since then I have pondered about the Jewish Christ, the rabbi Jesus whom I love and serve. Surely, in his Jewishness he danced, and partied, and ate and drank. My theology of The Table is based upon Christ’s invitation to the outcast, the struggler, the seeker, the hungry, the thirsty to come and dine, to come and party. Everyone’s invited! Taste and See that the Lord is good!

Pretty Great Wedding Reception! Don’t you love watching Jewish weddings depicted on television with the joyous dancing, the couple carried in chairs above the dancing and adoring family and friends, and exhuberant music and abundant food and drink. I hope I get to attend one someday.

One of the first stories in the Gospels is Jesus being invited to the wedding where there must have been great partying with lots of food and wine freely flowing…because it ran out before the party was over. Jesus, at the bequest or should we say the command of his mom,  then took water and  turned it into the best wine of the evening, not the cheap stuff at the end of  a party when everyone has had so much to drink that they don’t realize that the good stuff’s gone. At the end, Jesus is still providing the best to make sure that the party continued in style.

Jesus and Zacchaeus

Inviting yourself to dinner. Jesus saw a small man up in a sycamore tree and Jesus, not waiting for an invitation, invited himself to have dinner. He wanted to party with one of the most hated and despised of people, the Jewish tax collector who had sold his soul to the Roman authorities. Some considered him Scumbag material. Zacchaeus  invited his other outcast friends to the feast and from being in the presence of the Christ who not only partied with them, but accepted them just as they were, Zacchaeus was a changed and transformed man, giving away half of what he owned and giving back four times what he had taken in false commissions. Salvation came to that house that day. Partying brought salvation.

Etiquette party pooper bloopers. In the gospels of Matthew and Luke, there are two similar versions of the partying parable. Jesus told a parable of a royal man who planned a sumptuous banquet and sent out the finest handwritten and hand delivered invitations to his first class friends. His Emily Post possee didn’t bother to RSVP or to show up, so the party giver sent out his servants to hand deliver his invitation to the outcasts, the sick, the handicapped, and when there was still room at the party, the country bumpkins were invited also and they came and had an overflowing banquet.

Lost stuff. Jesus told three parables about lost things…lost coins, lost sheep, and a lost son. At the conclusion of each parable, when the lost coin and the lost sheep were found and when the lost son returns home, there is great revelry, great rejoicing, dancing, and partying and feasting. Jesus declares, “The lost has been found, rejoice and party with me.”

Jesus rejoicing that his lost sheep has been found
Laughing Shepherd by Karen Graeser

Best Bridal Banquet. In the Apocalypse, the book of Revelation, the Bridegroom, Jesus invites us to the heavenly marriage banquet where we eat with the Lamb of God and party in the awesome presence of the One whom we have loved through faith. I can only imagine that the best wine will be available also at His own wedding.

Party, Fiesta, Foreverrrr! Dallas Willard, one of the the finest Christian philosophers of our times states that “God is happy.” Our God is not a dour One who is spending eternity keeping a record of our wrong doings. Our living God is the one who invites us to the party, who dances with us, and embraces us because the lost has been found. We are God’s beloved, so let’s dance, let’s party with jubilation!! I have told my family that when I die, they are to have a party…a dance with classic rock n’ roll…no sad, dour stuff…celebrate that I had a great life, that I am experiencing resurrection, and that as part of the communion of saints that I’ll be partying too!

St. Francis with lots of God's creations

St. Francis with lots of God's creations

This morning as I was driving to work (to church) on Laurel St., I saw a beautiful tiger kitty curled up right in the very middle of the busy road, laying on the straight yellow dividing line. I drove past her, but the Spirit kept nudging me to turn around and go back. I did. U-turned. Stopped my car on the side of the road and fortunately there were very few cars going by. I picked up her lovely soft still warm body, laid her on the plush green grass, and prayed a blessing over her. If she had still been alive, I assume ( I hope) I would have taken her to the vet, but she had already recently died. May her owner  find her and be comforted in the loss of this fine friend.St. Francis with cat

Then at the conclusion of work today, two women came to the church and wanted to have their two darling dogs to be blessed. Love to hear the stories of how pets and their owners are brought together and what they mean to each other. Pets are God gifts to companion with us on life’s pilgrimage. What an honor to get the privilege to bless and hold God’s beloved creations in my heart and in my hands.

The last meal I ate with my beloved Daddy was on  the Saturday before Father’s Day in June at Outback Steakhouse in Addison. That day the manager was giving out scratch off games to see how much the Father was getting off on his next meal. Daddy got a $5.00 off certificate and Harvey got a $25.00 off voucher. Daddy kept kidding Harvey that he sure got the better deal of that meal!  From that point on, his appetite diminished and he just quit eating until he died (resurrected) August 14. So, tonight, we used that voucher for a lovely, almost free meal with precious memories of a last supper with a very special man. Thank you Outback.

The blessing of pets, the gift of good food, and the grace of great memories. You just never know what a day may bring.

Pilgrimage to the Olympic Peninsula.

Dancing Trees, Magnificent Mountains, Crashing waves, Cool Air…these are a few of my favorite things!

Beginning the journey. Hubby and I took a very crowded Continental Airlines flight from Houston to Seattle, Washington last week. I like Continental, except their seats are the tiniest of any airline I have flown. Since we were in the bulkhead on October 12, the first day they were selling food items, we were the first persons who bought anything from them…tried the cheese and fruit plate. It was actually pretty good-came on a contemporary shaped white plate with some red grapes, small round of brie and slices of gouda and cheddar with a few pecans and 4 water crackers for $6.25, probably less expensive than the food in the terminal. Just be prepared, they only take credit cards for food payment.

Toyota Traveling. We arrived into cool, dry weather in Seattle, rented a noisy Toyota Yaris with a strangely arranged  dashboard (don’t get me wrong we aren’t against Toyotas, we own  Toyota Prius’ that we love) and took the short,  view- filled ferry ride to Port Townsend.

Lots of Logging.We drove through beautiful areas to Port Angeles and stayed a couple of nights at the new Holiday Inn Express while we trapsed through the awesome ancient Olympic National Forest. We had our photos made by giant trees. I hugged some trees. The Tree's a Tad Taller than HarveyOutside of the National Forest there were not many vehicles on the road, except logging truck after logging truck filled with huge evergreen logs, barreling along the two lane highways…made me very sad to see lots of bald spots where clear-cut logging had been in recent action. There were some places where new trees had been replanted, but in other areas, particularly in the southwestern section not so much.

Tweenish Twilight. Before we left for the trip, we looked up Olympic Pennisula on Youtube.com. Our first video was of a man and a woman of our vintage hiding behind tall trees, then peeping around,  in a sort of grown-up hide and seek,  yelling out “I’m a vampire.” We thought that was really bizarre and wondered if the clean, low ozone air had done something wacky to these people’s minds. But, upon arrival we discovered that this area is “Twilight” territory. The author of the series chose the little town of Forks and the beach area of LaPush as the place of her teen vampire tales. Lots of younger teenaged girls and their Moms were to be found in Twilight t-shirts having their photos made in front of various signage. From what we heard, it’s been howlingly grrrreat for the economy of these out-of-the-way places.

Salmon fishing. We came upon a group of fisherman who were salmon fishing near Clallam Bay. It was interesting to see them fishing and filleting those large fish. We sort of felt like we were in National Geographic.

Salmon fishing and filleting

Bullman Beach and Yummy Food.We stayed two nights at the very reasonably priced Bullman Beach Inn, near Neah Bay, a lovely older 1950’s vibe inn right on the beachfront. The place was spotless and the views were incredible. Sleeping and waking to the sound of crashing waves is heavenly. The tall lush evergreens that I lovingly call “dancing trees” and the views of mountainous Canada from our living room were healing to my soul. We had a personal butler named Mouse Mouse who checked on us often and purred and meowed. We ate delish wood stove baked pizza and homemade bread at Linda’s Bakery on the Makah Reservation.

A room with a view...from our living room at Bullman Beach Inn
incredible views, sounds, and smells at Bullman Beach Inn

At the ends of the earth…or at least the continental U.S. Harvey and I trekked  the falsely advertised “easy” (should I say…not handicapped accessible) hike to Dungeness Spit near Sequim. We had the beautiful beach all to ourselves, but decided not to hike the 10 mile round trip on sand dotted with cobblestones. We then hiked an easier path to the awesomely beautiful Cape Flattery, the very northwesterly end of the continental U.S. It was eye-candy for the soul.Harvey at the very tip end of the continental U.S. at Cape Flattery

Ravishing Ruby Beach
Ravishing Ruby Beach

Beaches and Museum.We walked alone on beautiful beaches throughout the pennisula, some of our favorites being Rialta Beach and Ruby Beach.

The Makah Tribal Museum was worth every moment. This tribe has a long history on the peninsula.

Fellow Pilgrim. At Linda’s Bakery, we met an interesting young woman who is traveling by herself across the U.S. She is couch surfing much of the way and has met some interesting people along the road. We kept running into her at various places. Pilgrimage has a way of opening you up to new experiences, to see the goodness in humanity, and allowing you to trust your soul. God bless her as she continues to find healing and wholeness. May the fullness of shalom be hers.

Travel Tip: I never stay in any hotel anywhere in the world without studying about it on TripAdvisor.com. That is where I learned about Bullman Beach Inn.

Prayer of thanks. It was a great trip to refresh, renew, and continue to heal our hearts. Several losses in one year are hard on the soul, body, and mind. Thank you God for such incredible beauty that touched my soul in deep places. Your creation is magnificent, thank you for sharing with us a glimpse of the heavenlies. It was truly an enchanting peninsula pilgrimage.

A deep philosophical/theological question for today…why are some cats friendly and some are not?

Last week, my hubby and I stayed at the wonderful Bullman Beach Inn, right on the oceanfront of the Olympic Pennisula. The second creation to greet us after the young innkeeper Jason was the butler of Bullman Beach Inn, Mouse Mouse…the big burly yellow and white short haired cat who lives next door. He wanted to come into our apartment with us and show us around. Mr. Mouse Mouse demanded that I hold him like a baby while he purred away singing beautiful kitty music.

Mouse Mouse, butler of Bullman Beach Inn

We have three cats, Bird, Luther, and Pumpkin. Bird is friendly. He is a short haired cat who is the brother of Pumpkin…must have been the same mother, but different dad as they are total opposites. Skinny Bird loves everybody and plump Pumpkin does not. Last night we had a first time guest in our home and she said that her new friend Bird came and slept on her neck during the night.

Bird, the friendly smart cat

But giant Maine Coon Luther and fairly large Pumpkin are shy, scaredy-cats, rarely will they let anyone new near them. They love us and are cuddly, but with no one else. All three were raised with the same love and devoted care. Is it genetic?

The Scaredy Cats
The Scaredy Cats

Circle of Life

Yesterday, Friday, October 1, my family experienced the Circle of Life. Uncle John, Harvey’s uncle passed away in the afternoon. He was 86 and had been playing golf two days before when he had a probable massive heart attack on the greens. He died the way lots of golfers would dream of going! Last night, our grand-niece Charlotte Jean-Claire was born. She is a beautiful brunette that comes from a long line of beautiful and strong women. My Dad, her great-grandfather passed away August 14th before her birth, but as a physician who deeply loved his family, I cannot help but imagine that he watched over her birth and made sure everything went well!!

May Uncle John enjoy his birth into  heaven and may Charlotte’s birth find heaven on earth.

Beautiful Charlotte, my grand-niece

Aren’t we thankful for the pets that share our life’s pilgrimage with us?

Beloved Wesley Departs. In March, we had to put our beloved 17 year old cat named Wesley (named for John Wesley) to sleep. He was our first family pet, he had orange and white long hair that was beautiful until about a year ago. We found 6 month Wesley at the Southeast Texas Humane Society where he charmed us with his antics of chasing a roach on the wall.  At the end of his life, he quickly went from 12-14 lbs. to about 7-9 lbs. He made a miraculous recovery several times, but the last time he was just too sick. Harvey, James, and I had a little family funeral service at the vet’s before he died. We remembered all the fun times we had together with him and we prayed a blessing of thanksgiving over him and asked angels to attend this sweet creation of God to the heavenlies (yes, I believe that there are animals in the heavenlies as they are part of God’s redeemed creation also). James and me blessing our beloved 17 year old Wesley

Our Current Pets.Currently, we have three  cats, a large Maine Coon cat named Luther (for Martin Luther) and two Hurricane Rita kitties named Purry Pumpkin because he sings (purrs)  all the time and and Bird (because the vet tech’s daughter said he looked blue like a bluebird and because of the location of where we found him).

Hurricane Rita Prayers for a Pet (preferably a dog.) In late August 2005, with the warnings of Hurricane Rita’s possibly hitting Beaumont, we decided we had better pack up and head north. On the way out of the driveway  with our car packed to the gills with our worldly possessions and cats jammed into whatever crevice they could find,  I told God that whatever little animal that he wanted us to take care of we would do so….just knowing in my child-like heart that a dog would be waiting in our driveway when we returned home. Thousands of Hurricane Katrina victims had been living in our city in the month since Katrina hit the Gulf Coast. We had heard stories of their pets being left behind and needing a new home, so my yard and my heart were available for a pup that needed a home.

Hurricane Rita Gifts from God. We returned to Southeast Texas about 2-3 weeks later after the Hurricane hit Beaumont and the Gulf Coast, to our home with a huge pine tree through the dining room, the balcony knocked off, and the front yard resembling old photos of Civil War battlefields. We drove in the driveway and like a child expectant at Christmas, I was craning my head looking for that new pet, that new dog. I just knew that a beautiful pup was going to come around the corner and let out a “welcome home …I’m your new dog kind of bark.” But alas, there was no doggie gift.

Later that day, we went to Harvey’s office to clean up the hurricane mess there. I was in the back office trying to cool off in the air conditioning as his office’s electricity had come back on and ours at home had not. Harvey was picking up a tree that had been blown down in his parking lot. I heard a knock, knock, knock on the window and there was Harvey beaming, tenderly holding up for me to see a tiny 2-3 week old yellow and white fuzzy kitten in his hand. I ran out in the stifling humidity and heat and cuddled that little precious bundle of purry fur in my hands and said, “Oh great…gee thanks God, now I am in the crazy cat lady category!!” I was now the owner of four cats.

A few minutes later, another tap, tap, tap on the window and he lovingly holds up another little bundle of grayish-blue and white fur. I ran outside and found myself holding the answers  to my prayer, a tiny kitten in each hand. “Now I REALLY am in the crazy cat lady category!” I prayed and You answered…just not how I expected. According to a neighbor, those two precious little babies had been carried up in the tree by the neighborhood ferrell mama cat when she sensed the hurricane was coming to keep them out of the flood. When the tornadoes came through, the tree tumbled down, and the limbs and leaves protected those tiny furry babies under the tree until we found them. They have been such a joy to us.

Welcome to the Family. Luther, the big 23-25 lb. Maine Coon, had been in subjugation for two years to the senior Wesley and he was almost neurotic. He must have been lonesome. I remember one day not long before the hurricane, laying my hands on Luther’s head and praying for him and placing the sign of the cross on his big beautiful head. God answered that kitty and human prayer.

Harvey and I were wary of showing those tiny kittens to Luther, because he is so large and he could harm them very easily if he desired. When Luther saw the “blue” one he just sort of opened one eye , but when we showed him that  little orange and white kitten, he sighed the most heartwrenching sound (like “I’ve been waiting for you, what took you so long!”), he took his huge paw and arm and pulled the little orange and white kitten up to himself and snuggled him in as his own baby and from that point on Luther has been a much happier kitty cat. Luther and Purry Pumpkin are inseparable friends. That singing Hurricane Rita kitty was the answer to Luther’s and my prayer. As long as I live, I will never forget Luther’s pure sigh of  pure joy, it still sends shivers down my arms.

Luther with his arm around his dear friend, Pumpkin

Blessings of the Animals. Several years ago, First Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) where I pastor, started having a Blessing of the Animals each Fall close to St. Francis’ Day. The church members and neighbors bring their beloved pets and we gather around the labyrinth on our grounds. The dogs, cats, and even a horse gather and they are usually rather noisy and having fun rough-housing on our grounds. But the minute, we begin the service, each and every time, those beloved creations of God settle down, become quiet and reverent. It is a sacred time as we thank God for our pets and each pet receives a blessing and a treat. Our next Blessings of the Animals is Saturday, November 9 at 11:00 am.

Dogtoberfest. Last year, Main Street Beaumont graciously welcomed our church’s suggestion to have a Dog Blessing Booth at their Dogtoberfest in October. Several of our church members were trained to bless the pets and did a great job. Each dog received a personal blessing and a doggie treat bag. We will participate once again in that fun and sacred time on Saturday, October 9 from 9-3:30 at the giant Dalmatian Fire Hydrant in downtown Beaumont near the Fire Museum and Crockett Street.

Dogtoberfest 2010
Dogtoberfest 2010

Our pets share our homes, our lives, and our hearts. They somehow intwine their lives with ours. They are part of God’s creation and we are blessed to have their unconditional love and faithful friendship. They will greet us someday in the heavenlies. Here is a link to a wonderful video on God and dogs: http://www.godanddog.org/

Please join me in a prayer of thanks for your pet:

Dear God, thank you for the great and good gift of (pet’s name). I am blessed that you have allowed (pet’s name) to share his/her life with me. Help me to be a good friend to my pet and to provide for him/her in the same way that you provide for me. Thank you for his/her love  and faithfulness. Help my pet to know Your love through my devoted care and love for him/her. Thank you also for the vet who helps me care for (pet’s name.) Help me to recognize my pet’s needs and may he/she be a happy and well-adjusted part of our family as long as he/she lives. Amen.

Bird, Wesley, Pumpkin, Luther in their favorite place
Bird, Wesley, Pumpkin, Luther in their favorite place

Would you share your story of how your pet came to live with you? Share a story of something special that your pet has done.

Update as of September 2011. Sadly, our beautiful handsome huge Maine Coon Luther died on August 16. His vet and techs attended the little funeral we had at the office and they cried as much as we did. We are very grateful for their loving care of him his last few weeks. He is greatly grieved by his human and cat family. Run Luther run across the Rainbow Bridge. I hope you greet us someday on the other side.

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