This originally appeared as part of the Daily Sip, a website from Charles LaFond, a spiritual companion, author, potter and fundraiser who lives on a farm in New Mexico with his dog Kai. offering regular meditations and reflections on spirituality and church fundraising
This is Kai-the dog. He goes with me wherever I go and challenges, with his very being, any idea of an angry, domesticated God. Kai-the-dog has accompanied me for 12 years. Every night he licks my forehead before going to sleep and every morning he waits patiently until I wake up fully, and then climbs up onto the pillows and licks my head all over. “Charles, you are a very good human.” I feel it from Kai but it seems to be an echo, like Kai is some kind of antenna reflecting a message from farther out in the cosmos.
Kai began this behavior, for the very first time and ever since, when I arrived home after being hit by a city train in Prague. Never before had he done this nightly and morning ritual. And yet ever since arriving home from that difficult experience, Kai-the-dog has done this, without fail, every morning and every night. It is as if he is kissing the boo-boo better.
But not just the injury of the train accident. I wonder if he is trying to heal my thoughts. My thoughts, maybe like yours; are not my friend. Most of my thoughts come from my lizard-brain – “flight, fight or freeze.” The question is this: how do I greet them and how do I take them into inquiry like Byron Katie’s four brain-peace-making questions?
State the anxious thought in one brief sentence. Write it down. Then ask these questions:
Is it true?
Can you be absolutely sure it is true?
How do you react when you think the thought “…….”?
Who would you be without that thought “…..”?
I have never ended with number four without its answer being “peaceful.” Never. Not once. Never, ever, ever. Peaceful-ness is high emotional intelligence.
Kai-the-dog is sitting near me, in the sun, as I write this. His English black-lab coat is oily blue-black in the sun. His muzzle is grey. His demeanor is, as always, peaceful, observant of me, aware while also dozing.
Tonight he will lick my head as he did this morning and will tomorrow morning. And likewise, I will spend the entire day telling him, out loud, as if he is fluent in English, that he is a very, very good dog. Sure, sometimes he grabs my creamsicle from my hand when I am not paying attention. Sure sometimes he slime-poos on the carpet when he is very sick. Sure, sometimes he pulls the leash in his excitement to see a friend. But that is him simply being a dog. So, the verdict is: “he is good, a very good dog, and much-loved.”
Much is made of the “d-o-g spelled backwards” thing. It’s sweet. It’s true in my experience. What if God’s answer to much of our weeping and wailing about sin is “that is simply them being human.”
God, though, is so much more than a reverse metaphor for my beloved dog. God is mystery and so I try to stay away from theologians who seek to explain God in the same way I patiently listen to a two-year-old “explain” how trees talk…its true but not the whole story. Best to smile politely and suggest a fun game. I also try to stay away from worshiping God since really God seems, like Kai-the-dog, to simply want to be with me and tell me things and mostly sit in silence with me looking at the alfalfa field and the apple orchard beyond it and the bumble bees on the Russian Sage borders and the horses whinnying for attention while we read a psalm or two. Jesus gave us a list to do, but we decided the 90 minutes of “church” was a better and the only plan. Whether “church” is an act of connection or simply a bit of lovely entertainment with hymns and creeds to check off a box is a fair question. I am not against church. It’s great for connection and learning. But it is to the spiritual life what a cupcake is to dinner. A lovely end to a great week of working on Jesus’ checklist. Feed the poor, sit with the marginalized, clothe the naked, soothe the crushed, liberate the abused, risk your life for the down-trodden… you know the list… you hear it on Sundays if you go to church.
Kai-the-dog reminds me that I need not go to a building to find God. And God often reminds me that the creeds would be perfect if they simply began with one uncapitalized word: “…and…”