I keep learning and forgetting and learning again the spiritual power of praise and gratitude—eucharisteo.
It’s one of those spiritual practices that unleashes disproportionate power—like prayer, or the power of love.
Why it even works in the animal kingdom.
Several feisty horses live in the field behind my garden. Many villagers bring them apples and carrots, and stroke them. But I have not grown up with horses, and while I enjoy looking at them, and love the placid, gentle, almost bovine look in their eyes, I do not voluntarily pet them. I consider my small delicate hands, and their long mouths and enormous teeth, and the disproportion alarms me.
Well, as I cross their field on my walks across country footpaths, the horses come up to me, snorting, snuffling me to see if I have brought them crunchy treats. If I have a water bottle, they go for it, assuming it’s a treat for them. They surround me, I freeze, and they come closer, putting their noses into the red hood of my coat, as if it’s a nosebag! Talk about up close and personal!
I have called Roy on my mobile to come and rescue me, the horses trying to get hold of the mobile, and have then just stood there frozen, waiting, snuffled by horses, because if I moved, they followed me.
And then I took to avoiding the field behind our orchard, the natural gateway to field after field with public footpaths through them. Garsington has more public footpaths through fields than any other Oxfordshire village!
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Well, this week, the horses came, majestic and determined, with their characteristic snort. “He sayeth among the trumpets, Ha, Ha.” (Job 39:25.)
I decided not to give way to fear, because they probably smell it. All animals instinctively seek dominance, and to assert a pecking order (the bullying primate behaviour which Frank Schaeffer sees in conservative Christians who insist on male headship and female submission. Okay, digression over 🙂
And so this week, instead of turning around as the horses trot towards me from every corner of the field, or saying, in a somewhat quavery voice any horse worth its salt could hear through, “Nice horse, good horse, let me go,” I decided to genuinely praise the God who made them.
And so I stroked that long, long nose, as long as my arm, and said aloud, gingerly at first, but gaining conviction, “Lord, I praise you for this beautiful horse. I praise you for its tranquil, dreamy eyes. I praise you for its strong body. I praise you for its (oops, over-) friendly temperament.”
And as I stroked, and praised, I genuinely began to calm down, and to see the beauty of that huge, gentle plaintive-eyed horse, and it too began to calm down, and—hallelujah!!–let me go on my way without following me.
Wow, he had realized that I wasn’t afraid, that I had grown to like him. He had sensed that I was calm, and so did not feel the need to bully me by following me, in his snorty Ha-Ha way.
The music of Orpheus was meant to calm the animals. Well, apparently, so is the music of praise to their creator.