It's A Dog's Life

Saturday, December 16, 2006

Rowan Becomes A Methodist

Well, the morning was kind of boring but I had a pretty exciting afternoon. I became a Methodist!

My guardian acts like the world revolves around her so, before I could become a Methodist, we had to spend the morning doing all the things she wanted to do: Wash her clothes, make her bed, cook her breakfast, wash her dishes. It was all just fun stuff for her, nothing fun for me.

And, let me ask you about this… Lindy, that’s my guardian, she washes my bowl every couple of days but she washes her bowl every single times she uses it! Does that seem right to you? It doesn’t seem right to me. -- Well, it's beside the point. But, I do think about stuff like that, I'll tell you what.

With all the other activities going on I didn't dream that I'd get to do anything as wonderful as become a Methodist. Methodists are the best, I'll tell you what. They have treats.

How it happened is me and Lindy got in the car just like we were going to the lake or something. But, surprise... Lindy took me to a church. It was a Methodist one. I’ll bet you are wondering what they do at Methodist church. I know I’ve always wanted to know. Well, for one thing, and this surprised me, church is all about me. That's why I love it! All the humans there were really happy to see me, like they'd been expecting me. I was the whole focus of attention. Clearly, I am wonderful.

Lindy told me beforehand that all the churchers were Protestants and so I was scared at first. But, as it turns out, those Protestant Methodists have boxes and boxes of treats. That, of course, was the moment of my conversion.

My fellow Methodists were real generous with the treats and the pets. I guess that’s in imitation of the radical kind of hospitality Jesus was always doing. Surprisingly, Jesus did not have a dog. You’d think that the Good Shepherd would have a good dog to help watch over the little lambs. Guess not. To his credit, though, I don’t think Jesus had a cat either.

Following my conversion, the head Methodist came out. Her name is Wynn. At first I thought she was an angel but it turns out that she was just dressed up like Jesus! She gave me a treat and petted me. I love her. Then I had to sit still for my blessing. I had very good behavior during this part. It seemed to me pretty much like what Lindy does at home, except for the being dressed like Jesus part. But, I was mainly thinking of maybe getting another treat. I kept my eyes open during the blessing and so did Lindy. I saw her. I hope that doesn’t make me a bad Methodist. It’s so hard being religious.

There were other animals there at the church too. I saw a donkey which proves what Lindy has always said which is that there are a lot of jack asses at church. So, that wasn't much of a surprise. And I also saw some sheep. Plus I think there was a cow lowing in the background. Maybe one of the ones Jesus’ father owns. Lindy called this a nativity scene. She has special words which she just makes up like that. "Advent," for example. "Gaudatet," you know that's made up. Anyway, all those animals, I guess, are already Methodists which, clearly, is the best religion because they have treats for dogs, and hay for the donkeys. It's really swell.

I loved going to church. I want to go everyday to see Wynn who dresses like Jesus and to have some treats. Alas, I don’t think Lindy will take me again. For one thing, she is of the misguided notion that such things should happen on the Feast of St. Francis who, like Jesus, didn't even have a dog. And, plus, I think that church is mainly for humans. Even though I joined and everything. I doubt I’ll get to go back any time soon.

Lindy had fun too. She even said that she likes Methodists and she would think about becoming one if it weren’t for the theology and the liturgy. Honestly! Humans can be SO petty.

On the way home Lindy made some remark about those Methodists and their extemporaneous prayer. Lindy thinks that worship has better order to it when you read your prayers out of a book. She's like that. "Lex orandi, lex credendi," she said -- more made up words. Lindy said that how you pray is the same as how you believe so that if you are lazy and sloppy in praying that your beliving will be equally discheveled. That's why she reads out of a book. I think she may have forgotten that it's really the guardian -- and by that I mean THE Guardian, who does the praying anyway. She does try real hard but sometimes Lindy forgets the basics.

I'll bet that Lindy dosen't know that Methodists aren't the only ones who make up their prayers. Dogs do too. That's because we can't read! You’ve never seen a pack of hound dogs huddled around a prayer book, have you? You know, unless it was made out of that chewy leather.

Dogs don’t read their prayers and we don't say them at set times either. I pray at all the hours. All us dogs do it. Pray without ceasing is even in the Bible. But, when it says take my words and eat them, that part’s not literal so don’t chew on the cover of any Bibles, not even the calfskin ones. Some dogs have found out the hard way on that I heard.

Look, here's how I pray: When I am running, I am praying. When I wag my tail and jump, that’s praising God. And, when I bark that’s how I sing my Psalms. All extemporaneous.

When I do my job of keeping birds off the porch and protecting Lindy, I am showing my desire to be faithful. And when I lick and curl up next to Lindy, that is me saying that I want to be close with God and get pets from God.

When I am sleeping, I am dreaming of Heaven. When I wake up and stretch, I am showing my longing for God. When I obey, I am showing that I am happy to have such a wonderful master and guardian, even if the earthly representative is somewhat… well, flawed.

None of that is in a prayer book,I'll tell you what.

My whole life is a liturgy, a dance to God. Every single woof is a prayer, even the growlier ones. I trust God to make it into whatever God wants. I’m a dog so I can do that. I think humans forget that they can let God do the praying.

I talked to Lindy about the whole prayer thing and here is what she told me:

"It is said that one of the great spiritual Masters, Moses, who also did not have a dog, once came upon a man who was praying. The man's prayer sounded so strange that Moses stopped and listened.

As he listened, Moses realized that the man's prayer was insulting to God. "Let me come close to you," the man prayed, "and I promise to clean your body when it is dirty. If lice are there, I will take them away. And I am a good shoemaker. I will make you perfect shoes. Nobody looks after your needs Lord. I will make sure your needs are met. If you fall ill, I will serve you and bring to you what will cleanse you of sickness. I know how to cook and I will prepare lavish feasts of nourishment for you."

Enraged, Moses interrupted the man shouting, "Stop! Stop! Your heresy. What are you saying? That God has lice on his body? That God's clothes are dirty and that you will clean them? That God can be ill and have need for food that you will cook for him? Who taught you this prayer?"

Stunned, the man tearfully replied, "No one taught me this prayer. I have not learned it from anywhere. I am very poor and I am very uneducated and I don't know how to pray. I have made it up from the things I know about. Life troubles me very much, so it must trouble God. Sometimes the food I find is not very good and my stomach aches. God must also suffer in this way. This is just my own experience that has become my prayer, but if you know the right prayer please teach me."

Filled with compassion, Moses taught the man the right prayer. The man bowed down to Moses, thanking him as tears of deep gratitude flowed form his eyes. The man departed and Moses was very pleased at this opportunity to help another to see his error and learn the correct way to pray.

While Moses slept, God appeared to him in a dream. His voice filled with anger, God said, "I sent you there to bring people closer to me but now you have thrown away one of my greatest lovers. This 'right prayer' you have taught him will keep him from me. He will now only repeat the words you have told him. Those words will be a barrier between his spirit and mine. It is not a prayer at all. Prayer has nothing to do with law or with being right. Prayer is about love."

This story helped me to know that me and all the other dogs are doing OK just by loving God with our lives. God is happy when our praying is from our experience, not from some formula made up by humans. So, I am going to just keep on being a good dog and praying by running and jumping, obeying, and having a fun life. ...And eating treats.

This is my church.
This is the part that's about me.