No Walk in the Park Let Me Tell You

A few months ago, I walked our golden retriever, Penny (alias thieving hound dog), at a dog park.

Penny learns to share.

Beautiful, sunny day.

Loads of dog owners with their prides and joys.

Plus one family—Mom, Dad, and three kids—out for a stroll.

Okay, let me repeat a key detail here—“at a dog park.”

After a good heart-elevating walk (me) and bouncing romp through fields (her), Penny and I reversed our direction and headed toward the parking lot. I dangled the leash as we ambled toward the final obstacle, a bridge, where I planned on snaring the runaway (Penny follows me up until it’s time to head home), snapping on her leash, and navigating the final hundred yards to the car.

Hark! The laughter of small children. And that’s all it took for Penny to decide she had to meet and greet this family made up of five poor souls without a dog of their own. She bounded toward them.

Within moments, shrieks of terror erupted. Dad said, “Our kids are afraid of dogs.”

Fear on their part translated into excitement on Penny’s part. The more they screamed the more she danced around them.

Within a few short seconds, our idyllic Sunday afternoon melted away into a bad dream, one I wanted badly to wake up from. Of course, the nightmarish feelings didn’t include Penny. She remained as happy as a…a…well…dog, blissfully unaware of her tragic actions.

My both beautiful and brilliant bride, upon hearing my sad tale later, said, “What—your kids are afraid of clowns so you take them to the circus?” (Remember the key detail—“at a dog park?” Of course, you do.)

Let me recount what happens at a dog park, just in case you happen to be a parent of children afraid of dogs or you’re a cat owner—which means you don’t have to do the walking thing (Lucky you!).

1)      People walk dogs. Imagine that! Little ones, big ones, young ones, old ones. Black, white, spotted, long-haired, short-haired. Dogs. Dogs. Dogs. Each and every one. All dogs. All the time.

2)      People talk dogs. Any time I’ve met another person walking a dog, the two of us talk about our dogs. “What kind of dog do you have?” “How old is he?” “How long have you had her?” “He was bred to fight badgers.” “We’re still working on the youngest one’s behavior.” “Yeah, she’s still a puppy.” Stuff like that. The conversation focuses so much on dogs that I’ll walk away knowing the dog’s name and history but not have a clue about its owner. Other than he or she loves dogs.

Okay, stick with me on this. Trust me when I say, “This isn’t about dogs.”

What? But I like dogs.

Yeah, me too. But this still isn’t about dogs.

If I go to a dog park, I talk dogs.

If I go to a ball park, I talk baseball.

If I go to a theater, I talk movies (and get shushed a lot plus a few nasty looks).

If I go to an aquarium, I talk fish.

If I go to a zoo, I talk animals.

If I go to a stadium, I talk football.

If I go to a library, I don’t talk (much).

If I go to church…

Remember what I knew about a dog owner? Not much other than he or she loves dogs.

You know. If all I knew about you was not much other than you loved Jesus, it would be enough.

Here’s an assignment for you.

Next time you walk into a church building think about a dog park then tune into people’s conversations.

Questions: So what would you add to the list—at a…I talk about…? What do people talk about at your church? What do you talk about?

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About tnealtarver

I've traveled and spoken around the world but always love to come home. There I eat exceptional meals, drink coffee to my heart's content, and get loved like nowhere else on earth. I believe a community centered in Christ should be all that and so much more.
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6 Responses to No Walk in the Park Let Me Tell You

  1. Mary Jeffries says:

    So please tell us what people DO talk about in church! Is it about God? Is it about family? Is it gossip? Is it positive or negative? I have heard it all. But rarely do I hear anyone share about their faith in of all places, church.

  2. tnealtarver says:

    I’ll report back after Sunday. This post though addresses not others, but me! What do I talk about at church?

  3. Great comparison and interesting question. I’ll be curious to hear the results. If the “park” influences our conversation, how can we then make God a greater part of our conversation as the church gathers together? Thanks for provoking some good think time.

    • tnealtarver says:

      Less than 24 hours and counting. Almost feels like Christmas Eve and the anticipation of opening gifts. I’m just as curious to see what I say as I am what others. Hope to hear from you, Richard, as well. Keep those pastoral ears tuned in.

  4. I enjoyed this blog post because it made perfect sense! The way your story ties in to your point is a smooth transition that allows readers to go from a story they comprehend, to a point that hits home. At church yesterday, I evaluated what was being talked about. It’s interesting to see common trends in discussion within the church. My own conversations weren’t always centered around God, and that’s something I am going to check myself for now. Thank you!


  5. tnealtarver says:

    If you check out “A Sunday Morning Observed,”, you’ll read what I experienced the Sunday following this post. A few others also commented on their experiences.

    Thank you for your encouraging words. I appreciate them.

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