Live This Moment

by the Rev. Buddy Stallings


In some ways, it is a mystery that I am so drawn to Advent, given who I am and how I do life. Although I often pretend to be a patient man, in my heart I know better. I do not like waiting. I don’t suppose anyone particularly does. But some seem to be better than I am at waiting for the fullness of time, waiting with the beatific gaze of a truly spiritually patient person. I admire such people except when I want to smack them. It just doesn’t come naturally for me; but deep in my soul, I do know, as you do, that Advent is about something truly important. Even in a clamorous season, Advent’s quiet is rich and deep; and it signals the telling again of a story we have heard as many years as we’ve been alive, a story which stirs us no matter how desperately the culture attempts to trivialize it.


The miracle is that each hearing of the story, no matter how dispassionately we can recount the details, has all the potential of hearing it as though for the first time. Walter Brueggeman says that Advent is an “abrupt disruption of our ordinary time.” And it is. It arrives with the abrupt reminder that God is still in the process of giving, the process of giving God’s self, coming among us and in us yet one more time with all the promise of the first.


Yesterday, the sermon I heard poignantly differentiated between death and not living. The first is literal and something about which we have generally minimal choice; the second is metaphorical and almost always surrounded by numerous choices. The priest’s point was that death is not something to be feared for it exists squarely in the realm of God. Not living, on the other hand, is the choice we so often make by attempting to regard the temporal as the eternal, by substituting baubles for what truly matters. Advent uses the language of the unexpected coming of the Son of Man as a metaphor for this choice. Jesus’ plea to us is that we live each moment fully and with awareness, conscious of God’s presence in and around every moment we live. Though the admonition to live in the moment has become trivialized by Hallmark and Blue Mountain cards, it happens to be the truth. If we don’t live this moment, we don’t truly live. The past either fills us with nostalgia about an era that wasn’t as good as we remember or overwhelms us with all sorts of regrets about things that may not have been as bad as we remember and even if they were, can’t be changed. The future scares us to death because we have lived long enough to know that there is absolutely no telling what could happen and that good and bad fall on us all. Only the present is a moment truly within our grasp. Jesus said, “Wake up and don’t miss this moment – for God shows up in the present!”


Something deeply sad happened in my life last week that oddly brought home how important the message of Advent is. On Thanksgiving Eve, my funky little dog, Gretchen, died in my arms. She was attended by the kindest, most Christ-like veterinarian in the world, who injected her with a lethal dose of medicine to end her pain that couldn’t be controlled any other way. Though the moment felt much more like Good Friday than the start of Advent, over these few days I have been able to see how many times Gretchen invited me to live in the present moment, which seemed to be the only world in which she lived. If I left for twenty minutes, my return was greeted with full-long-body wiggling as though I’d been gone for weeks and would never leave again. The instances I allowed myself the time and presence to embrace all that enthusiastic loving were eternal moments, the absence of which now makes me terribly sad even as the memory of them invites and will invite me again and again to grab the moment for it so often is the occasion of God and love.


33 thoughts on “Live This Moment”

  1. Oh, I’m so sorry about Gretchen. She was a faithful companion – nothing like coming home to a loving pet. Thank you for sharing this sad but meaningful moment, and its relation to us humans waiting during Advent.

    1. Thanks, Needie, I know you guys have walked many people through that pain—no doubt ever so lovingly.

  2. I met Gretchen once when I drove Molitor to the airport to go to NYC! Having had a weiner dog once, can relate to full-body wiggling! Sorry for your loss of that connection!

    1. Ah, Ted. I am so glad you got to meet her. Some have said she was an “acquired” taste; I acquired it to the max! Thanks for writing.

  3. So very sorry for your loss. I know that Molitor and his wonderful “service” dog are rejoicing in their reunion,

  4. Somewhere in the depths of my memory is an observation that Paul Tillich made “that life is permeable by grace.” He meant this both in the ordinary sense, as well as the infusion of the divine. Gretchen graced you, and our creatures can teach us how to look for the goodness of God. I am thankful you have the memories of this sweet, mischievous little dog.

    1. I’ve thought so much about St. Francis this week. Again and again, he said that God loves. Period. I believe that. Gretchen certainly was a God-bearer to me and Molitor.

  5. Oh, Buddy. I feel like I knew Gretchen and I’m so sorry for your loss. What wonderful spiritual gifts we receive from our beloved pets! Thanks for sharing this one.

    1. Mary Jane, amen and amen. I love that you felt like you knew her. She was just something—huge personality! And we treasured her!

  6. Thank you for this heartfelt reflection on Advent. I try to be patient but sometimes I am not. I am so sorry to hear about Gretchen. It is so hard to lose them. Yet, she and you have given me new ways to think about the anticipation of this season. Love and blessings to you.

    1. Such kind and lovely words. I know you and Brooks are major dog lovers yourself. Live the moment. I do think they teach us that.

  7. So very sorry for your loss of your beloved pup. Thank you for reminding us to live in the moment and to realize our moments with grace and love.

    1. Thanks, Kim. Grace and love indeed. At my age, I am FINALLY (though rarely truly successfully) trying to live in that moment for I firmly that is the avenue of God.

    1. Terre, thanks much. We’ve all been there, but it is sure is hard. Darri and Keith have been a comfort this week!

  8. Buddy, thanks for this beautiful and poignant message. Hope to live more in the moment this season. So sorry about Gretchen. I felt connected to her each time I heard her bark as your Molitor ring tone on your celll:) She is in my and Ruthie’s prayers as she crosses the rainbow bridge, and you are in our prayers to be comforted by fond memories of her. Love, Paul

    1. He loved her for sure, and that bark signaled that he was calling! He liked that! So hope this busy season is full of “the. moments.”

  9. Buddy, thank you so much for your wise and comforting words! And, thank you for sharing your precious Gretchen with us. I am so very sorry. Love and best wishes

    1. Though as I have said, some saw her as an acquired taste, I know you would have liked her. She was stylish and sassy! Thanks much for writing.

  10. Thank you so much for this story. I too am impatient. I too have a dog of 14+ years who awaits my arrival if I ever leave. He has illnesses that the vet thinks will take him soon. He lives through them. I try to prepare each time. I see him everyday as the day I have his gift. I am sorry for your loss and sadness. I know my time is drawing near. I too will appreciate the days now and moving forward forever. Peanut helps me live in the present.

    1. Peanut sounds like a lucky dog, and I know you are a lucky owner!! Hang on to him as long as you can. Thanks much for writing.

    1. I am a learner in this department as much as a practitioner! I hope you all are doing well and that the season is joyful!!

  11. My heart goes out to you. I have had and lost so many beloved dogs in my life and each one contributed something special like the times I spent in church and felt a presence of a spirit speaking to me. It was through people, music, or sermons but mostly through children who God speaks through just as through animals.

    1. It is all true, isn’t it? I am sure that eventually I will get another dog. The pain of losing one stings but the joy of their companionship is forever. Sending all good wishes!!!

  12. Patient- me? I’ll try to do better………
    I must say that I am living more in the moment these days. A prostate cancer diagnosis and the subsequent surgery/slow recovery will do to you.
    A blessed Advent to you Buddy!

    1. Bless you, Gary. Sorry to hear about your surgery but glad that you are recovering, even if slowly. Life has a way of teaching us stuff, yes? All good wishes for the blessed season!

  13. My heart aches for you, and my imagination jumps for joy at the thought of happy reunions of all creatures great and small, long and tall, with feathers and fins, etc. etc. Love You!

  14. Isn’t that the grandest image??? Molitor loved Gretchen so much. Who knows maybe they are frolicking right now?!
    Peace, love, joy, peace, peace……for the season!!!

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