“If you have a dog, walk that dog,” preacher and academician Fred Craddick was said to have advised young preachers. My literal-minded friends, knowing that I have four dogs and I try to walk them every morning. might look at Fred’s advice and ask, “What does that have to do with preaching?”
But I also have friends who immediately reach for metaphors, even when faced with a statement that is meant to be taken literally. They are the ones who, when I say I am heading out to the barn to throw some hay to the sheep, ask, “I wonder what she meant by that?”
Of course, Craddock was noting that the preacher lives in both worlds. We are immersed, like everyone, in the literal world. But preachers are, also probably like everyone, always looking for metaphors.
“Preach about what you know,” Fred was saying. “Explore your own life. If you look deeply at your own experience, you will find the Sacred there.” That advice, as it turns out, can apply to anyone looking for sacred connections.
Every morning before the sheep are out of the barn, my four dogs and I walk through the pasture. Although I am often distracted by thoughts of what my day might hold, or how much I have to get done before I head for the ferry, I try to stay as present to that moment in that field that day as I possibly can. I enjoy the way my dog Annie leads the pack, choosing which stick will become The Stick- the one Mac will want no matter how many alternative sticks there are around. I like to watch Lefty who chooses the biggest stick he can find to carry, running circles around the other two border collie. Giaco, the guardian dog, play bows and jumps and runs too at the beginning of our walk. Then he finds a higher spot in the field where he can sit and survey it all.
I make a point of walking all the way to the bottom of the field, no matter how much of a hurry I’m in. I reach out and touch the fence to keep myself from rushing things. I resist the temptation to turn around too early.
If I pay close enough attention to those moments, then I indeed get a sense of the Sacred. This is where I want to center my life. God shows up on the dog walk too. Or maybe I should say, I notice that God is there just as God has always been.
Do you have a dog? If you are looking for a way to center yourself, you might want to go walk that dog. And I mean that literally. Or feel free to apply it metaphorically. Because you don’t have to be walking a dog to center yourself. God is everywhere.