We all know about the gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John.
But not so many are aware of the gospel of Sam.
Sam wasn’t exactly a saint. But he was a very good dog, who survived a fire and used to lived on Kauai. His owner was Bill Miller, the pastor at St. Michael and All Angel Episcopal Church before he moved on a few years ago.
Miller wrote this 2005 book, “The Gospel According to Sam: Animal Stories for the Soul.” In a few words, the short stories in it are heavenly, even angelic, if you don’t mind the pushing of a celestial theme.
This is a collection of 30 stories sure to delight. Miller is a witty writer, one who turns phases that catch your attention and make you smile, chuckle. It’s not all fluff and fun. His stories take a look at faith, love, hope, God, life. He shares messages worthy of a Sunday sermon and then talking them over at the dinner table that night. If we really take his words to heart, they might change us.
At the center of his adventures is Sam, the dog with the big heart, full of joy, love and excitement.
In one story, “Be Not Afraid,” he writes: “Our fears sometimes paralyze us from the soul on up and drive us to make some pretty meaningless, if not destructive, choices. Most of us, like Sam, run from our fears: hiding in the security of relationships with people we don’t really like or want to be near, pursuing addictive and obsessive behaviors which numb the pain and temporarily take our minds off the threatening terrors, fleeing from the depressing dark night of the soul which may in fact harbor our salvation.”
Wow. Who among us isn’t fearful of what we know, and what we don’t know?
In “Let Sleeping Dogs Pray,” he writes something that seems so simple, yet is in a way is extraordinary: “But Sam and the monastery dogs are well aware that sometimes the most enlightened option is not to act or react. But just to be. Aware. Asleep. Appreciative. Sometimes the best advice for the stressed-out soul is this: ‘Don’t just do something. Stand there. Better yet, lie there. And pray.’”
One of my favorite stories, “A Reverence for Rabbits,” reads: “The times change. My dad started buying whatever gas was cheapest. I’m a Chevron man myself. And God has grown up. He no longer scampers when I pull up. Doesn’t wear a uniform. Isn’t aligned with a particular company. Always eludes my grasp when I try to shake his hand. And all of us continue to evolve. But I still brake for bunnies. And keep searching for God. It’s quite a long trek.”
Miller is a gifted storyteller. But they’re more than stories. They’re lessons of life that he shares with an open heart and asks us to join him in celebrating those moments — moments that often make us laugh at life and reflect on the connection between humans and our animal friends.
Miller’s book isn’t easy to find. Your best bet is probably The Bookstore in Hanapepe. I picked up a signed, hardback edition there for $10. It was a great deal. The joy I’ve gotten from his stories are priceless.
Sam passed away at 10 p.m. Aug. 26, 2005. He went to heaven and a well-deserved sainthood.
Bill Buley, editor-in-chief, can be reached at 245-0457 or firstname.lastname@example.org.