My week ended talking to the horses. To be clear on this, let me state up front, they did not talk back, at least not in a way I could comprehend. My week began with a video of our grand-dog howling away as he listened to a goose call. My daughter's laugh, heard on the video, as she was watching her big puppy "sing", was the sound of love mixed with joy.
Later I toured the wooded lot of a friend, which comes complete with a large pond, paths that lead to a river, and quiet spots next to a bubbling brook for meditation. During the course of our tour we saw frogs who seemed to welcome us to their pond as old friends. We saw toads engaged in the spring ritual of creating new life, although our host did admonish them for their lack of discretion in choosing to mate in public. Of course, the toads may have been wondering about why we were staring at them...this was their yard after all. One certainly had a great sense of the rhythm of life wandering past bird's nest and rushing water.
My week was capped with an invitation to bless a horse cared for and ridden by the daughter of a some friends of ours. When I said "yes" to the invitation the word spread throughout the barn and by the time our blessing service was set to occur there was a parade of about ten horses and their riders waiting to be blessed. I was introduced to them all by name: Maxx, and his friends. They were beautiful animals. The caretaker of one told me that her horse was crabby that day. When I asked how she knew, she made a face that somehow managed to perfectly capture the look on her horse's face, and it did indeed look crabby.
I offered a prayer written by an archbishop of Canterbury which begins, "O Lord, give us humility to thank You for the creation of animals, who can show affection which sometimes puts us to shame. Enlarge our respect for these your creatures, of who we are the guardians." That line captures an idea that is as old as God’s promise to Noah that God loves all of his creation and the creatures in it, and he appoints human beings as the caretakers, or guardians of God's creatures. So, the blessing I offered properly states of the animals, "May we respect them and cherish them for they are Your gift to us; through them may we come to know You better and praise you, their Creator."
I grew up singing a hymn, now a favorite, that he wrote, "All creatures of our God and King, Lift up your voice and with us sing, "Alleluia!" A more current take on that idea is in the song which declares "Let Everything that has Breath Praise the Lord," That is our privilege as the guardians of God's creatures, to nourish and protect them so that they can sing Alleluia. I can't be sure if our grand-dog was singing "Alleluia" or crying "please stop!" I don't know if the horses could sense that I was trying to bring God's blessing into their barn and over their pasture. I wonder whether the frogs were welcoming to their pond or wishing I would go away. But, the week was a blessing for me because I was reminded that we do not walk this earth alone. I was reminded, as Paul tells us, that "all creation" waits for the restoration of the new Kingdom. So, this week, as you feed your birds, as you play with your pets, as you search for creatures along rivers and wooded paths, remember to invite them to sing "Alleluia!" And don't forget to sing with them.
(This entry is from 2010, but offered anew in honor of a friend’s dog who died this week. As we mourned together, I was reminded how dear are all God’s creatures.)