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The Rev. Dr. Scott Black Johnston The Rev. Dr. Scott Black Johnston

The Rev. Dr. Scott Black Johnston is senior pastor of Fifth Avenue Presbyterian Church in New York, NY.

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Presbyterian Church (USA)

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Fifth Avenue Presbyterian Church, New York, NY


Dr. Scott Black Johnston: Canine Theology

May 06, 2012

My family recently acquired a dog. Fergus is six months old. He is small (about 10 pounds), vanilla with caramel-coated ears, and fully charged with puppy zing. When someone visits our apartment, Fergus runs to them, cavorts around, and generally communicates, "You are my new most favorite person in the world!"  When I get home in the evening, he races from the kitchen to greet me with a full-body wag.

Fergus is teaching me about grace - about receiving unmerited favor again and again and again.

He is teaching me something else, too. Almost every day, I walk around the reservoir in Central Park. Most of the time I walk with my wife Amy, sometimes our two kids come along, other times I walk alone. Whether I am with a family member or alone on these walks, I almost never get into a conversation with other people. Sure, I've given directions to lost tourists, but that's about it.

That's all changed now.

Once Fergus began accompanying us on our walks, we have been tugged (quite literally) into conversations with all sorts of other park wanderers. Some are brief exchanges of pleasantries with other dog owners as our respective pets give each other a sniff. Yet the bulk of these conversations happen when Fergus gives some passing stranger his full-body wag. This gift of uninhibited friendliness cuts through every kind of barrier and carefully cultivated New York reticence.

It is really quite remarkable.

I was reflecting on the different perspective that I get journeying through this city with and without Fergus the other day when I saw a slogan (a proverb?) that captured the life lesson for me.

On the back of a beat-up Volvo going down Lexington Avenue was a bumper sticker that said simply:  "Wag More, Woof Less."

Amen.

Taken with permission from Scott's blog, Sharp About Your Prayers.


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