Church is for the Dogs

Working in the church can be both an enormous high and a dreadful low.  There are moments when you can’t believe you are fortunate enough to participate in something so wonderful and meaningful.  There are also those times when you wonder where God is in all this nonsense and how could a loving God have anything to do with this mess.

The reality is the profession spends most of its time spent somewhere in between these two extremes.  It’s in these times the humor found working in church seems to blossom.  My kids love for me to tell them the many stories of when I worked in church.  They seem to never tire hearing the zany exploits of the God’s truly chosen.  While I must admit, sometimes I’ve been known to embellish some of the details, the stories themselves are completely true.  The fact that the story is real probably is what makes it so funny.

One story that gets much play involved an older couple who happened to be blind.  If memory serves me correctly, they wove cane seats and backs for chairs.  They were a lovely couple who had been through much together and really loved each other.

Each had a guide dog that provided protection and direction as they lived their existence.  He had a large white lab named Bud and she a black lab named Dolly.  (the names have been changed to protect their identities)  One would never notice this couple anywhere without these two dogs.  This included church.

It says much about a church that welcomes guide dogs.  Even the best trained and intentioned still from time to time act like dogs.  While that isn’t a problem for most people to have a dog sit beside you in church it does take adjusting if your a new staff member or a visitor from out of town.

These old dogs had been coming to church for as long as anyone could remember (overlook the obvious pun here) and were a regular fixture.  They sat beneath the couple’s feet in the center section about halfway back from the front.  The male “Bud” had a tendency to fall asleep very fast and find himself in a deep sleep before the choir ever got out the first note.  This would have been a good thing except “Bud” snored like a weedwacker in need of a tune-up.  He also lived out exotic fantasies in his sleep.  I hope they involved chasing a rabbit or the like as we were in church.  He seemed to act out what ever was happening in his dream, even growling or snorting while it was happening.  Sometimes he would awaken himself with a bark, which was always good for an awkward stare from that week’s visitors.

I mentioned that these two dogs where good sleepers, well, these dogs also lost many inhibitions when they slept as well.  Admit it…farts are funny, whether silent or loud.  Anyway you slice it, farts makes us laugh.  “Bud” mostly produced the silent type.  They would slowly start to make their presence known…build up strength of purpose…then bam!,  before anyone had time to react it would overwhelm the sanctuary.  This colorless emitance would starve the room for oxygen.  People would begin to look tearfully at those sitting nearby with disgust.  Helpless looks were returned that said, “It wasn’t me” or “what the hell is that”?  This was always good for a great laugh by the youth as the younger generation still enjoy a good laugh.  We had quite a youth group then,  I often wondered if it was me or the opportunity to do church with dogs that led to our good numbers.  The preacher seldom seemed aware of what was the culprit of this vile event.   He must have wondered why so many people looked upset when he spoke.  Maybe the dogs were trying to tell us something?

“Bud” had a terrific internal clock that had been honed by years of experience and repetition.  At 12:00 sharp he instinctively knew the church service should be over and would sit bolt upright and begin to whimper.  “Time to go” he seemed to be saying.  If the pastor felt overly inspired that week he would be reminded of his mortality by the sound of a barking dog who said what everyone else was thinking.  “Shut up and sit down” …”don’t you know I’ve got to pee”?

The antics of “Bud” and “Dolly” where memorable.  I have to wonder what God was thinking when these dogs performed.  The little I understand about God tells me laughter may have been present.  Sometimes it takes the off-beat behavior of a pair of dogs to help us understand that church doesn’t have to be such a stale, dry, boring place. 

God works in mysterious ways, errr, I mean I hope that’s the case.

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