Month: July 2014

Louie’s famous!

So my daughter Lisa posted a cute bulldog picture on my timeline. I looked at it and thought, “Oh, that’s just what Louie does.” Then I looked again, and it IS Louie, clear down to his white collar with the blue logos of Heavensent Bulldog Rescue, who are the people who brought us Louie last November.

Louie from Humans of NY

Cris, our dogwalker says that a photographer took some pictures when he was walking Louie outside the Seminary gate last week.  It turns out that the photographer was the guy from Humans of New York .  The caption says “He wants to go home,” which is probably what Cris told him, because that is the way Louie acts when he decides it’s time to go home. On Facebook, the picture has almost 700,000 likes and 40,000 shares.  I think the most likes I’ve ever gotten on a Facebook post was 52.  So Mr. Louie is much better liked than me.

There were, of course, also thousands of comments, few of which I looked at.  Apparently a lot of them reflected the commenters’ prejudices and sanctimonious assumptions about bulldogs and their owners.  I don’t worry about that, it troubles me more that so many people spend so much energy being prejudiced and sanctimonious than that they have opinions about breeds of dogs, or even about me.

But let me give a little description of Louie.  After Thekla died in the Fall of 2012, we were pretty broken up and didn’t want to think about another dog, Hilda was enough.  But in the Fall of 2013, Paula saw a picture of Louie who was being fostered by Heavensent Bulldog Rescue and her heart went out to him.  He came to live with us at the beginning of November.  Louie turned 8 years old in March. We know this because we have the pedigree that the original owners got when they purchased him from a pet store. We could tell that it was a pet store sale, because googling the breeder shows a commercial breeder in Oklahoma that wholesales bulldogs to pet stores.  I wouldn’t buy from such a breeder, or a pet store, but Louie’s background is his background, much as many of our own backgrounds are not as perfect as we would like them to be.

Louie has massive shoulders, even in the bulldog world he has massive shoulders.  My guess is, he never had puppy obedience training either.  He’s the most gentle guy in the world (I often compare his personality and build to offensive lineman in American football, but you have to know a few of them for that to make sense), but when he decides he wants to go someplace, he goes.  And he pulls hard, probably at about 5 horsepower.  Usually the place he wants to go is home to bed, his favorite place.  I think he would do well in teaching courses at a Peace Academy, in passive resistance. The picture above is just one of his moves, and it takes all of my ingenuity, strength, and charm to get him to move, especially when he is in his bed.

Louie was 58 pounds when he came to us.  He has lost about 5 pounds since then, and actually looks in pretty good shape (for an offensive guard).  He has some health problems, like dry eye, which requires daily drops. However he is not unhealthy and does not have breathing problems. He snores less now that he has lost some weight, but he breathes normally and does not suffer particularly from the heat, although bulldogs are sensitive to the heat and we keep our apartment cool and outdoor walks short, especially in the summer.Hilda2

Hilda keeps Louie active by pouncing on him and wrestling with him, though she’s barely half his size.  They get along very well, though Louie is a sleep specialist, and likes to keep in practice.  Even though Louie is famous, he doesn’t let it go to his head, he prefers to continue to sleep.

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Comfortable Words–Inviting us beyond our comfort zone

A sermon preached at St. Paul’s-on-the-Hill, Ossining, NY July 6, 2014Yoke

“Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke uponyou, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”

Those of us who grew up long ago in the Episcopal Church recognize the first part of this as the “Comfortable Words” that were said right after the confession and absolution every week in the 1928 Book of Common Prayer communion service. Sometimes they are said in the Rite I Eucharist. When I think about it, it is very appropriate to hear these words every week—Jesus says who he is for everyone—I will give you rest—my yoke is easy. The Gospel is good news for everyone; you don’t have to be one of the elite. His yoke is easy, and you don’t have to be a great mystic exercising ascetic discipline, you don’t have to be smart or well educated, you don’t even need to be as well-off as your neighbors, or as good as you expect yourself to be. “Come to me”—Jesus welcomes each one, and refreshes us all, particularly in our harried, too fast, too many expectations contemporary existence.

All of us need to hear that regularly, anybody who thinks they have outgrown it or is too advanced to need it, is probably mistaken. That’s what Jesus says to us, but what do we say to one another? The top of today’s Gospel lesson has a pretty good summary: Jesus compares the current generation (I think the current generation 2000 years ago was probably not measurably different than the generation we are in), he compares them to bratty kids in the market place, who complain whether somebody dances or whether they mourn—nothing is ever good enough or satisfactory. Sometimes it’s noted how mean kids can be, I’ve certainly seen it and even been on the receiving end of it when I was a child. However, people don’t actually outgrow that, they just get better at concealing it. Jesus points out that religious people were the same way with John the Baptist and with him. John was a scary prophet, who spent a lot of his time fasting, praying and calling people to repentance. Rather than listening to him, those who represented themselves as religious said, “Oh, he has a demon, and besides I don’t like his choice of clothes.” Jesus, on the other hand, spent a lot of time enjoying people, extending hospitality and accepting hospitality from others. The same people responded, “Way too much partying here, and those people he welcomes are just not the right kind of people.”

Jesus’ words are comfortable and simple: Come to me, Everyone! Rest with me awhile. But people, often those who claim to be the ones who Jesus is inviting, will find ways to make those words complicated and definitely uncomfortable, especially for those who are not the right kind of people.

Last week on Facebook, someone was quoted as saying, “Since we know that at least one homeless person will come in glory to judge the living and the dead, we ought to be careful about the way we treat the rest of them.” People like to draw circles around themselves and have some people inside the circle and others outside. But Jesus makes it hard for us to get away with that kind of thing. For one thing, he had the very characteristics that people of his time—and some still in our time—would use to exclude him. He was a Jew, he hung around with sinners and, in regard to sinners, he was an equal opportunity offender: tax collectors and political collaborators, the poor and the zealot anti-Roman insurrectionists, the prostitutes and the Pharisees, the widows and centurions were all people with whom Jesus shared hospitality and his life.

Jesus leads us into a realm that includes possibilities that we resist, and welcome that we often can’t believe. Thus he said,

“I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and the intelligent and have revealed them to infants; yes, Father, for such was your gracious will.”

Beyond our power and planning, the Kingdom of God is built by the innocence of infants, yet includes even the arrogant and the fearful, and others who are not as welcoming as Jesus. For all of us are called in those comfortable words:

“Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”