Connie Seraphine

What Dogs Teach Us

Sep 25, 2018
Susan Stephens / WNIJ

Our President likes to call people “dogs” – meant as an insult, but is really a compliment. I’ll tell you why.

"Humans stay on this earth a long time learning to be good. Dogs stay just a short time as they already are."

The unknown source who penned this was likely a person who not only loved dogs, but also learned from them.

Trying To Save Summer Through Procrastination

Aug 23, 2018

 

 

Be A Guard Dog

Jul 17, 2018

Recently in our sheep pasture, we found a healthy lamb with its throat gouged out, the sad victim of a coyote strike.  Thankfully, no other lambs or mothers were harmed.  After blocking the hole dug under the pasture fence, we made sure our Great Pyrenees guard dog was out with the sheep to protect them each night.

A Book With Lessons And Memories

Jun 13, 2018

A book written in Portuguese in 1968 has a special place in my heart.

As a student at Princeton Theological Seminary, I joined others to attend some informal evening seminars in the home of one of our professors to hear about a book he was translating by a Brazilian teacher. So we lounged on the living room floor of Dr. Richard Shaull, discussing Pedagogy of the Oppressed, by Paulo Freire.

A Lesson In The Lambing

May 3, 2018

My husband and I have been keen fans of the BBC series, “Call the Midwife.”

Set in post-war, poverty-stricken East London, the midwives – both religious and lay – face complicated birthing challenges in each episode. In each situation they show courage and grace, blended with their own human emotions and shortcomings. At the end of each episode, the narrator, Vanessa Redgrave, reflects on what was learned and celebrated.

Brightening The Ides Of March

Mar 29, 2018

“Beware the Ides of March!”

William Shakespeare penned this line in his play, “Julius Caesar.”

It was an ominous warning voiced by a soothsayer to Julius Caesar before he made his way to the Roman Senate on March 15, 44 BC, where he met his death by assassination. It was carried out by angry senators who felt Caesar was amassing too much power in the Roman Republic. But in history, it marks the shift from the Republic to the start of Roman empire-building.

Tips For Getting Unstuck

Feb 22, 2018

It was my turn to take our border collies for a run after our recent snowstorm dumped a foot of light, wind-blown snow.

On our four-wheeler, I realized the trail around the edges of our plowed furrows would be a challenge. I could feel my anxiety mounting as I slipped the ATV into lower gear to seek traction.

Here's Another Pesky 'Bug' To Avoid

Jan 18, 2018

Have you been worried about the many contagious bugs trying to invade our bodies? But did you know that anxiety also can be contagious? If you spend time with an individual or a group that is tense or negative, you know how hard it is to not pick up this anxious bug.

A Season Seeking Hope

Dec 14, 2017

I don’t know about you, but this holiday season, I’m struggling. I feel a dissonance in my soul as nostalgic Christmas carols compete with a daily diet of very troubling news.

My heart is heavy with the political and social divisions in our country, the painful aftermath of the many natural disasters, the ever-recurring terrorism, famine and wars around the world.

Sensing a deepening of hopelessness, a hymn came to mind, not connected to this Christmas season. It’s called, “Shepherd me, O God.” Marty Haugen, the composer, based it on the familiar 23rd Psalm.

A quiz question: What are 74 million Lutherans around the world celebrating this year?

The answer: 500 years ago, Martin Luther started a major “Reformation” of the medieval Church by posting 95 “Theses,” or debate points, about unbiblical church practices.

Gathering Provides Special Feelings

Oct 5, 2017

If I were writing my “back to school” Fall essay, I would tell this story.

Imagine a three-day gathering of people ages five months to the upper 70s; from cities, suburb and farming communities; standing on continuums spanning political, religious and cultural identities. Then put them in ethnically diverse restaurants, in pick-up basketball, and on picnic blankets in an urban park. On the third day, see them congregate at an antique furniture building in Chicago’s West Town neighborhood for a wedding celebration.

We Must Maintain Hope

Aug 31, 2017

I am disturbed by the increasing reports of young people who get hooked on opioid drugs. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, every day more than 90 Americans die from overdosing.

What’s going on, we wonder? In the late 1990s, health care providers were told opioid pain relievers were non-addictive, thus over-prescribed them. Unused bottles in our bathroom closets are temptations. People are looking for another drug high. But I believe that underlying any reason is the loss of hope.

Helping Leaders Change Systems

Jul 27, 2017

I am involved in a national leader-training effort through my Lutheran denomination.  

Called “Natural Systems Academy,” it is based on Murray Bowen’s Family Systems research. It involves church leaders attending four years of workshops to learn how to help congregational pastors stay calm and thoughtful in the midst of anxious or conflicted situations.

Sound easy?

Animals Can Be Truly Amazing

Jun 22, 2017

Recently, I picked up a saved 2008 National Geographic magazine with the title, “Inside Animal Minds.” It described years of animal cognitive research.

The cover featured “Betsy,” a Border Collie who, at six years old, had a vocabulary of 340 words and counting. She also could link photographs with the objects they represent.

We know that animals such as elephants, chimps, and dolphins have social and communication skills, but did you know that crows can solve problems and use tools? That was once thought the sole domain of primates.

The Gift Of Intuition

May 18, 2017

I have always been intrigued by “intuition.” What is it really? Where do intuitive ideas come from? Are they “real” or “trustworthy?”

Recently I came across the writings of Meister Eckhart, a Roman Catholic philosopher and mystic in the 13th century. He named intuition as a form of knowledge. The “Master Teacher” wrote:

“Intuition, then, is the knowledge of the passive intellect, the self-awareness, which accompanies all action and all conscious, deliberate reflection. It is passive … It has to be allowed to happen.”

A Baby Is A Sign Of Hope

Apr 19, 2017

A few weeks ago I became a grandmother for the first time. Our daughter, Rebekah, gave birth to an adorable and healthy baby girl. Rebekah and Mike had worked hard for this magic moment, enduring three infertility interventions.

The week of her scheduled inducement, people across our family and in our faith community were holding this family in prayer. In a world which seems more and more inhospitable, anxious, and even dangerous, we all need to be reassured that good things still happen that bring joy.

A Tale Of Two Immigants

Feb 22, 2017

America, the “Land of Opportunity,” has drawn endless immigrants to our shores. My family story connects this dream of the future to a unique story of the past.

In the late 1800s in Stavanger, Norway, Grandfather Abraham could not inherit the family farm as a younger son. Other sons of Norway had found good work and land possibilities in America, so he followed suit. He worked for three years on ranches in the Dakotas, saved enough money to get back to Norway, find a bride, and pursue his dream.

A Contrary Take On Walls

Jan 25, 2017

On Nov. 9, twenty-eight years ago, the East German socialist government responded to weeks of civil unrest by opening the Berlin wall, allowing people from the soviet-controlled country to visit relatives and friends in the West. The fall of this infamous wall paved the way for German reunification less than a year later.

There's More To It Than Just A Flag

Dec 28, 2016

Some days after the election, I witnessed a war going on between powerful symbols.

Attached to a rural mailbox was the American flag, wind unfurled, but upside down with the union stars almost touching the plowed field. Shortly after, another flag appeared in a plowed furrow behind the other one with the Stars and Stripes standing proudly and defiantly upright.

Battle lines had been drawn. These flags really looked like they were ready to fight!

A Step Beyond 'Hospitality'

Nov 30, 2016

Let no one ever come to you without leaving better and happier.

In Westport, southwest Ireland, my husband and I were enjoying our last day at a B&B, situated on a river running through this picturesque seacoast town. 

The first morning there, Sadie, the owner, heard we were animal lovers and introduced us to her menagerie of pets – Runner ducks, a rescued border collie, and an adopted cat that had been scooped out of the river.  She couldn’t turn away any orphaned animal, she explained.

Putting The Touch On Each Other

Nov 2, 2016

Have you been touched today? I ask this in all sincerity, in the context of appropriate touch, of course.

Being given a hug from a loved one or friend or even a hand on your shoulder communicates something valuable beyond a tender sign of friendship or love. I believe we have a deep desire to be recognized, to have our personhood affirmed as a unique individual among others. I believe this is true for all living creatures.

Heritage Provides Us Strength

Oct 5, 2016

I almost died four years ago when I forgot to take my cell phone with me.  But it turned out to be a blessing in disguise.

On a brisk November morning, I mounted the ATV and took our Border Collies for a run.  Cresting the hill, I saw below that John had corralled our sheep in a temporary electric fence and knew this spelled trouble. Turning around fast, I hoped the dogs hadn’t caught sight of this.  But one had. 

Our Pets Can Teach Us A Lot

Aug 11, 2016
Connie Seraphine

If you've ever had a pet, you've enjoyed the bond that grows between you – a bond forged by devotion and loyalty. We’ve also witnessed this bonding between animals.

Thirteen years ago we chose a Great Pyrenees to protect our sheep from predators. After a rambunctious puppy stage, Frodo faithfully kept coyotes away with his deep, resonating bark and 150-pound presence.

The Body Politic Needs Rehab

Mar 31, 2016

It was early sunrise as my husband drove me to the hospital emergency room. Throbbing pains were spiking up the back of my head with every breath. “Why is this happening!?” I cried.

The X-rays answered my distress. Arthritis, almost fusing three cervical vertebrae, pointed to a deterioration of the discs, with spurs forming a bridge over the vertebrae. Rather than surgery, rehabilitation with neck stretches and muscle strengthening was the order of the day.

Connie Seraphine

Mar 31, 2016

Connie Seraphine is a Sycamore-area writer and poet.

Connie's poem "Little Lamb" was one of the six top winners in the WNIJ poetry contest "For Better or Verse" conducted in February 2016.

Her writings frequently appear on the blog, WritingSacred.org.

She and her husband John operate Heatherhope Farms, which they describe as "a 43-acre working sheep farm, training ground for working Border Collies and  sheep herding demonstrations for groups from schools, retirement centers, and religious and social service institutions."