Thursday, April 27, 2017

Tuesday Morning Dog Training Meetings


 Ida Williams, Director of Marketing and Communication

On Tuesday mornings I meet with the brothers who run the training program for our weekly dog training meeting.  At these meetings, we review the week’s schedule: dogs being dropped off, picked up, any calls to be made.  The brothers review applications, answer questions from training clients, and direct me on any correspondences that need to go out.

Dog training meetings are held after Matins.  Brother Christopher typically grabs a quick breakfast of toast with almond butter, and Brother Thomas has a cup of coffee.  Bora (Brother Thomas’s dog) joins us.  Brother Christopher sits on my right at the head of the table, and Brother Thomas across from me.  The meetings are so familiar that if the brothers switched chairs, I would feel that I must have shown up to the wrong meeting.  Each meeting starts with a prayer.

“…let us be mindful of your presence... Amen.”

I am going to make a jump here so you know where I am going with this story.  Recently at my church, we experienced a terrible loss.  Our associate pastor’s 32-day-old son died of SIDS.  When I relayed to my senior pastor that the monks and nuns were including the family in their prayers, his response was “those are some good praying guys up there.”
They are professional dog trainers, cheesecake bakers, writers, but when it comes to praying no one can hold a candle to the monks and nuns of New Skete.

What if I took a cue from these “good praying guys” and started different parts of my day with that prayer?  

A few days later, as I got into my car, I prayed “God, let me be mindful of your presence as I drive to work.”  I got behind a car doing 40 miles an hour in a 55-mile-an-hour zone.   My impatience started to grow, and I was set to berate the driver who was going to make me late for my meeting; then I remembered that God was present.  I didn’t want God to hear me fly off the handle, especially after the prayer I had just prayed.   So instead I said, “God, I don’t know where this guy is going so slowly, but I hope he makes it there safe, and if by chance he turns off at the next intersection that would be great.”  I smiled and felt better about the drive.  He did not turn at the next intersection.  I was not late.

Last month, a blizzard had me a little behind on preparations for the Lenten Retreat.  When I arrived to work two days before the retreat, I prayed that I would be mindful of God’s presence throughout the day.  As soon as I walked in the door, all those little things that have a tendency to pop up when you are already stressed did just that. Pop, pop, pop.  There was a phone message from a training customer that needed to change their drop-off date, another message about attending the retreat, a check on my desk with a note that said “I found this in the cash drawer but it was not put through point of sale,” the computer and phone were not working at the training center so the clients who dropped off their dogs needed to be contacted, there were questions that needed to be answered before a new website for the cheesecakes could go live, a missed and extended deadline for a newspaper ad, and the classroom still had packing materials that were supposed to have been moved out by Monday.   I grumbled, wanted to scream, felt like crying.  Where was God’s presence?  Karen cut the bookmarks/agendas for the retreat, Brother Gregory alphabetized the nametags and assembled the journals and pens, and Josh moved tables and set up chairs.  Ah, God’s presence.

I am not sure this is what the brothers and sisters mean when they pray “Let us be mindful of your presence,” but it works for me.

This morning as Brother Christopher, Brother Thomas, Bora, and I gathered for our Tuesday morning dog training meeting, Brother Christopher prayed “…let us be mindful of your presence... Amen.”  I giggled.  Not because of the prayer, but because even though Brother Thomas was sitting across from me with his cup of coffee, and Brother Christopher was sitting on my right at the head of the table, he had switched his breakfast.  He had two pieces of toast, one with almond butter, and two small oranges.  Was I at the right meeting?