Sunday my rescue Sheltie, Stormy, was teaching me about Christianity. Pheh, you say. No, read on and you’ll see why a good shepherd helped me feel the season even more deeply.
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Sunday I had an event that would require me to leave part-way through church. As I’d put in a 13 hour day on Saturday with the red suit (not counting travel time) I elected to sleep in and get some beauty sleep. I need beauty sleep. I will hit a church service Monday on my way to work, so the guilt level was low.
As has become the tradition, when I looked out into the hallway from my bed I saw Stormy sleeping with her back to me. She stands guard and watches the stairs when I’m sleeping. On the mornings when my wife is up and about before I am, Stormy stays at her post until I get up, not leaving the doorway to so much as go out and relieve herself, or get a drink of water. She takes her job seriously.
After I’d consumed caffeine, taken a shower, and combed the beard out I started to apply my face. Yes, that beard won’t whiten itself…yet. While I’m very much gray, and get it bleached a couple of times a year, it looks yellow under the camera. So some Ben Nye’s Snow White is in order to get it camera ready.
While applying the secret sauce, I noticed a nose poking into the bathroom. Stormy very rarely comes in there when I’m around. We joke that it’s her office, but she doesn’t just check on what’s going on in there as a normal thing.
In the four years (almost) that she’s been with us, she’s seen me do this ritual at least
sixty times. But today she was watching with rapt attention.
I never know how much she understands of what we say. I do know that she likes being addressed as a thinking creature. Kissy noises and baby-talk are not on her list of favorite things. She’s clearly very smart, has a huge vocabulary for a dog that came to us late in her life, but I never really know what’s just me babbling and what’s understood.
I explained to her that I was Santa Claus and that I had to change my appearance so that people would recognize me as him. That stopped me in my tracks. Do I really think that I’m Santa Claus? No. But with or without the beard whitener I try very hard to present the image, and act the role, of who Nicholas of Myra really was in this life. Sometimes I’m on the money. Sometimes not. But the makeup is of little consequence.
It’s the tone of voice. The listening to people. The gentle touch on an arm, or the top of a head. The engagement of each person as an individual. Mostly, however, it’s the love. I truly love the people who come to see me as Nicholas.
That might sound funny to those who have never had the blessing of putting on the Red Suit. But it made me ask myself if I followed Christ. Oh, I’m a Christian, but do I really follow Him?
I spent the next few hours on a couch, taking pictures and smiling. But the whole time, I was examining my values and my behavior.
The answer is that I try pretty hard. Yes, I’m still a foul-mouthed cynic with a taste for the bizarre. But I do pay attention to what He says. I try to listen. I try to treat others well. I try to be kind to animals, honor children, and keep the sink empty. I fail a lot. But that’s not what He asks of us: He’s all about the trying, and accepting His love.
And that, folks, is how a Shetland Sheep dog named Stormy got me thinking about God today. Deep critter, good friend, a joy in my life, and a blessing.
Have a great week. Stop in Friday for more Christmas music videos.
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