My Religious Lab

I said to my dog, “You’ve had a nice day.
You went for a walk, a run and a swim.”
He got all excited because he thought
those were things yet to do today with him.
My dog doesn’t live in the past
and if I said, “Tomorrow,” he
would look at me sideways fast.
Not in the past and not in the future,
my dog is grounded in the mindful now
and that must make him a Buddhist, somehow.

He Came Across a New Word

“An epithalamium (/ˌɛpɨθəˈleɪmiəm/; Latin form of Greek ἐπιθαλάμιον epithalamion from ἐπί epi “upon,” and θάλαμος thalamos nuptial chamber) is a poem written specifically for the bride on the way to her marital chamber.”

He came across a new word: epithalamium.
The poet wrote a poem titled Epithalamion for his
friends on the occasion of their marriage. It was
sensuous and tender and poetically descriptive
of two becoming one. He read the poem on the
day before the twentieth anniversary of his wed-
ding. Ironically on the same day, the day before
his twentieth, a friend, not knowing of the sign-
ificance of the up-coming day, had sent a wed-
ding reception toast which covered the four
loves: storge — empathy, philia — friendship,
eros — physical attraction, agape — self-sacri-
ficial love. He thought about the beautiful epi-
poem and the four loves and thou-
ght they were all wonderful but after twenty the
second time and twenty-six the first, he decid-
ed that he’d better pay the most attention to
agape if the other three had any chance of sur-
vival. Sometimes age and experience lend
themselves towards wisdom, sometimes.

Ruining Prayer

He read a poem about an impatient
father teaching his son how to tie
shoe laces. The poet used the meta-
phor of a knot and how it took most
of his life to untie the knot of his
father’s hold on him. In this case
he is the father with the self-made
knot of guilt and regret in his sto-
mach like Marley’s ball and chain
carried around forever about teach-
ing his daughter to pray, losing pat-
ience when the child couldn’t mem-
orize the words quickly enough for
him causing her to cry. Can you im-
agine ruining prayer for a child?
Neither could he.

Scratching His Head

Scratching his head and rubbing his
new buzz cut his fingers felt the rough
scar of an old accident. He was trans-
ported back forty-five years. Trying to
impress his country parishioners, the
wet-behind-the-ears preacher from the
big city volunteered to cut tobacco one
Friday morning. He got caught between
the rows of cut tobacco, panicked, duck-
ed down and rose up too soon scraping
his head on a cottering pin. Blood gush-
ed like a stuck pig; they roared in laugh-
ter as he emerged from the tobacco.
They wrapped his head in a towel from
the general store next door and sent him
on his way looking like Omar Sharif or
Peter O’Toole in Lawrence of Arabia
driving fast past the farms on his way to
the physician. He had to drive himself;
the tobacco had to be cut. “See you
Sunday, preacher,” they roared after
him and then said to one another he was
told later, “Did you notice he didn’t say
a bad word?” In the moment he drove a-
way he realized he wouldn’t have a long
tenure in the country church. No he didn’t.
He thought about what stories would be
told between then and Sunday, what he
would look like as he entered the pulpit
on Sunday and how much laughter there
would be at his expense. All his fears
came true and it was then he thought he
wouldn’t stay long in the rural, Kentucky
countryside. But he did.