Wednesday, August 26, 2015


I think it has been well established that Charlie leads a privileged life. He has many toys to play with, and of course he has his favorites. Of all his toys, Charlie really loves his life-like stuffed rodents best.

He finds no greater satisfaction than to carry a stuffed chipmunk or squirrel around the house in his mouth. He loves the thrill of ripping it to shreds, removing it’s stuffing, and finally getting the squeaker out so he can silence the creature once and for all.

That is, until I got him a swimming pool.

For Vacation Bible School this year, one of our Son Treasure Island games warranted a child’s swimming pool. (Only $4 at Walmart!) I promptly purchased it, and then brought it home for Charlie.

He was unsure at first, but it is clearly his favorite now. We can hardly keep him from it. As soon as he goes into the back yard, he steps into the pool and splashes and plays. He would literally be out there for hours if we let him.

It’s actually really inconvenient for him to be playing so obsessively in the pool. He gets soaking wet and filthy. Getting him dried off is a problem, and we are all concerned about his coming indoors wet with the air conditioning blowing. He’s moved passed really liking this toy to being obsessed with it. Some might even say he’s addicted to the pool.

Of course, Charlie is a dog, so he doesn’t have rational thought to know better than to constantly play in the water.

We on the other hand do. But, many of us find ourselves in the throes of obsession. Sometimes, that obsession even leads to addiction.

I don’t just mean the common addictions, either, like sex, alcohol, or drugs. What about folks who are addicted to work, or who become clean freaks?

All addiction starts out as something we find pleasure in. Often it is something that is supposed to be good for us. Whether it is a medication to help with pain, a way to show pride in one’s home, or the way we support our family, when taken to the extreme these things can be harmful to us.

Addiction is literally defined as something pleasurable or healthy which becomes compulsive to the point of interfering with our daily life. Think for a moment. Work, cleaning, the desire to be the best, all of those can become addictions just as much as drugs or alcohol can.

Sometimes we get lost in the thing. Other times we drive ourselves to it. Either way it is the same, something has come between us and our relationship with God and those around us.

It’s one of the reasons we have the ten commandments. God knows we have the tendency to take things too far. Jesus gave us the beatitudes to remind us of the same thing. The stuff of the world is not here to control us. Keeping our relationships at the center of our lives can help us to remember that.

It’s part of why we go to church, right? To remind ourselves that we are not the bosses or in control, God is. That can be a tough pill to swallow sometimes. We like control, it makes us feel safe and secure. It’s what leads to those addictions. We think we are in control, but it’s exactly the opposite of that.

God calls us back to himself. He calls us back to each other. We aren’t doing anyone any good if our entire focus is on the stuff. As a matter of fact, addiction makes us unwitting attackers to those around us. Literally the thing we think is good is hurting those around us.

So just like we have to call Charlie out of that pool, God calls us out of our sinful life. It’s not just for our benefit either, but for those around us. Ready to come in, Charlie?

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Who rescued whom?

We adopted Charlie from the Humane Society of Westmoreland County. Before he was our dog, Charlie was a stray. He is, what some folks call, a rescue dog.

No one is sure what kind of life Charlie led before he was picked up, but he must have been a stray for at least some time. He was found digging out of trash cans, and was under nourished and under weight.

On his very first visit to the vet as our dog, he weighed only 34.5 lbs. After his first year we had him up to 38 lbs., and our vet was pleased that Charlie was thriving in our care. These days, we sometimes get scolded for feeding him too much, and we work to keep his weight just under the 40 pound mark.

He lives a life of luxury now. No hunting for food, no worries about where he will rest his head. He always has a steady supply of toys and treats. Yes, Charlie has definitely been rescued from the scary life of a stray. But, he wasn’t the only one who was rescued!

I’m not even sure what I did before that dog came into my life! He makes me smile. He makes me laugh. He lets me cuddle him when I’m sad, and helays by my side at the end of the day. Charlie greets me each daywith a doggie smile and a wagging tail. That dog makes me happy!

I’ve seen the bumper sticker many times, “Who rescued whom?” I definitely need that for my car!

Charlie eases my stress level when I’ve had a bad day. It’s actually been shown in studies that having a pet helps with depression and improves over all health. Charlie has certainly had a positive influence on me! It’s hard to stay upset when you have such a cute guy wagging his tail and wanting to play or snuggle!

The great thing about a pet is, they don’t keep score of who is rescuing whom. They never worry if you’ve done more for them than they have done for you. Pets are just happy to love and be loved.

We don’t do as well, do we? Sometimes we get so caught up counting what we have done for others that we forget to count what they have done for us. Sometimes we forget the benefit that others are in our lives.

We are so blessed that God doesn’t do the same! Jesus forgives us again and again when we fail. One of our biggest mistakes, though, is thinking our failure is only in not loving Jesus. We forget that we are supposed to love one another, too!

It’s funny that throughout the bible Jesus keeps telling us to love one another, but we just don’t seem to get that part. We like to focus on the part about loving God, but not loving each other.

When God gave us the ten commandments, they were about how we treat God, but they are also about how we are supposed to treat one another.

When Jesus was teaching the disciples, he constantly told them that the way you love God is the way you love others. That doesn’t just mean the homeless person, or the kids with cancer, either. It means your very own spouse and children, even when they don’t help with the chores. It means loving your next door neighbor, even when she gossips about you. Those are sometimes hard things to do, but forgiveness is part of love.

Remembering that your spouse loved you when you acted unlovable; or that your children see you as a hero, even when you don’t feel like one; remembering that your neighbor showed you kindness when you needed it--those are the things that help us to see the face of Jesus in those around us.

Keeping our focus on the positive helps us to see more positive. Remembering that we haven’t gotten here alone, but with the help of others, reminds us that we aren’t just the rescuers. It helps to realize that through others, God is rescuing us. So Charlie, who rescued whom?

- Christy Cabaniss
  Parish Minister

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

The Routine

Pet life has a rhythm and routine to it, and Charlie’s life is no different.

Every day when he wakes up, his first desire is to be outside. Not only does he take care of his doggie business, he “checks the perimeter” to ensure no rodents have infiltrated his yard. After that, he gets his morning meal. From there, he follows me to the bedroom to sigh and mope as I get ready for work.

Once I’ve left, I have it on good authority that Charlie regularly checks the back windows for invaders and alternately naps throughout his day. If there are people home, he will pester them from time to time to go out and verify the safety of our yard.

When I return home from work, he expects to be let out. He then has his dinner at 6 o’clock. Around 8 he has a game of fetch or tug-of-war. Then around 9, Charlie retires for the evening. It doesn’t matter who is up or what they are doing, he goes back to the bedroom and sleeps.

Day after day, this is the routine of Charlie’s life. He doesn’t seem at all dissatisfied with it. When things are different, like when we have company, it is a stress to his little doggie system. He has to get extra sleep in to accommodate all the excitement his body has experienced. Overall, though, he enjoys his routine life and is happy for it to remain that way.

We have routines too. Time for work, time for play, time for our social activities. Some people even have their meal options scheduled. Spaghetti night, taco Tuesday, soup on Fridays, etc.

As human beings, we refer to ourselves as creatures of habit. Mostly, I think that phrase is said in a deprecating fashion, but what’s wrong with some order to our lives?

I was recently on vacation, and attended Mass at another parish. Everything was different even though it was the same Mass. The church building was brand new and very contemporary. The parish was made up of so many cultures of people with different accents and styles of clothes. Even their music options were different than what I am used to.

Sometimes, I really like to go to a totally different Mass in order to force myself to focus on what I am doing and how I am praying. But this time, it wasn’t a good thing.

I was in a bad mood that morning, and I wanted the simple rhythm and routine I’m used to so I could talk to God about my problems. Instead, I was so distracted by everything being so different. It made me uncomfortable. I was out of sorts, and felt as if not one minute had been spent with God.

What a great life lesson, right?

How often are our routines disrupted? How many times have we been longing for that simple routine only to be left with sickness, death, unemployment, the list could go on and on!

Are those the times that God isn’t around? Is it in those difficult moments that God is punishing us? I don’t think so. They are just the twists and turns that are our journey.

Sometimes we are thrown off by these disruptions, and sometimes they realign our lives. Both are opportunities to see God at work in our lives, either through those we are able to help or through those who are helping us.

Life isn’t always about being the helping hand. Sometimes we need to be helped. Disruptions to our routine can make that uncomfortably obvious. It can be humbling to realize we aren’t perfect, but after all isn’t that what going to church is supposed to be about?

God calls to us in many different ways, and sometimes it can be in those disruptions to our routines. Hopefully, going to Mass is a good disruption for us. A way to realize we are more than just our habits.

Right, Charlie?

~Christy Cabaniss