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Five Spiritualigious Vignettes

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01 Dog guilt

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My sharp shout, “Hey!” scared Sparky, my beloved, small, dachshund-chihuahua mix.

His little face looks up and says—I like to believe I know what he’s thinking—“I’m sorry. I’m really sorry. I didn’t mean to. I didn’t know.”

But he and I both know what he did.

The single piece of jellied bread—prosecution’s exhibit A—sits alone before me on the counter.

The peanut butter half of what was going to become the PB & J sandwich I make every morning for Annie’s school lunch is missing.

I add it to my mental litany of daily resentments: from now until eternity, I will need to be vigilant about leaving food near the edge of the kitchen counter.

And I am a little, tiny bit proud of my diminutive COVID-rescue pal.

Until today, I had never even considered he’d be able to reach food there.

Good for him.

If he hadn’t just eaten half of a sandwich, I’d think he deserves a treat.

On my way back to the refrigerator to get the peanut butter, I remember something: this morning, I made myself a piece of buttered toast with strawberry jam.

That’s what I am looking at on the counter.

The sandwich for Annie was already made, sitting in its usual container, in its usual spot on the counter, ready for her to take it to school.

I reprimanded my doggie unfairly.

I’m not certain how one makes a proper amends to a pooch.

So, I give him a little treat.

And I see forgiveness in his eyes.

***

02 Snake Faith

***

“Were you pentecostal with or without snakes?” I ask the violet-haired book editor I am interviewing via Zoom.

If anyone tells me they are or were Pentecostal, I always ask that same question.

She tells me WITH, laughs, pauses, and continues, “Well, at my cousin’s church, not my immediate family’s—which is where I liked to go because it was more exciting.”

“Pentecostal with snakes” means that handling venomous snakes is part of the liturgy.

There is a line in Luke. “Behold, I give unto you power to tread on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy: and nothing shall by any means hurt you.”

It’s a beautiful notion: Jesus promises followers a power so mighty they could tread on snakes.

Some people have taken that to mean that if they love and are loved by God enough, faith will protect them and they can handle Appalachian copperheads without getting hurt.

I overeat chocolate chip cookies with the same ignorance.

***

03 Thinking about it

***

“What disturbs people’s minds are not events but their judgments on events.”

Epictetus

How very true.

It’s like nobody buys a Maserati because they want a Maserati.

People buy a Maserati because they want the feeling they imagine they will have when they own a Maserati.

We don’t get upset at the event as much as we get upset about what we think about the event.

Whoa.

***

04 Lost and found

***

I just learned why lost keys are always in the last place you look!

Because you stop looking for them when you find them.

So then, I wonder, why do I kick myself for not finding them sooner?

***

05 Request/demand

***

I have taken up the habit of adding a version of the phrase, “but please feel free to say no” to many of the requests I make.

“Would you be so kind as to text me a summary of the session I’ll miss?” I ask a new friend at a conference from which I have to leave early, “and don’t hesitate to say no. No is a perfectly acceptable answer.”

I have done this ever since I learned the difference between a request and a demand.

I thought it was about how politely you asked.

It’s not.

It is only a request if the person being asked does not believe it will be held against them if they do not complete the task.

Let’s take that apart for a moment.

No matter how nicely I request that one of my children bring me a roll of toilet paper, if they believe I would hold it against them if they did not—which is probably the case—it is not a request, but a demand.

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With love,
Rabbi Brian

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