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Once I was lost

It’s coming upon a year since we adopted our little girl Maisie, a dog who was recued from the streets. We have watched her turn from a timid, sad creature to a happy and healthy furry friend.

I got home late one night this week and walked Maisie when the sun had already set, and any lingering daylight was almost lost in the clouds of a rainy day.

We met a neighbor and her dog as we headed toward our house. In their tussled greeting of each other, Maisie pulled free from her collar and my heart went to my throat. She is a fast runner and had escaped from the house a few times, but I had been able to retrieve her after a few minutes. As soon as she was loose  from the collar and leash, she sped away in the direction of a cat we had passed a little earlier. I could hear her yelping go farther in the distance as she was on the chase.

“I have gone astray like a lost sheep . . . ” Psalm 119:176

I hurried to the door of the house and called for Sweet William to bring the treat jar. I’ve enticed Maisie to me on other occasions with a shake of the jar.

I went toward the sound of her yelping, calling her name and shaking the jar. This time it was not working.

My neighbor put her dog in the house and came to our yard to help me. We could hear and see glimpses of Maisie’s white hair as she ran through the little woods that surround our house. Our calling was lost on her. She was intent on finding the trail of that cat.

My neighbor thought Maisie was close enough once as she lunged for her, then fell flat on the ground. Our efforts were failing.

Maisie came out of the wood, nose still to the ground and ran around our house. She was headed to other houses, other neighborhoods, the busy road just beyond. I went after her knowing she has no sense about traffic. If she went to the road, I feared the worst, that she would be hit by an oncoming car. If she left our neighborhood, there is not telling where she would end up.

What man of you, having a hundred sheep, if he has lost one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the open country, and go after the one that is lost, until he finds it? —Luke 15:4

It was dark by now and there were no glimpses of my little girl, no sounds of her bark. My dread was that she was gone. Gone too far for me to find her tonight. I would have to look tomorrow when it was daylight.

Maisie could not know that the only food she might find out there in the raw world would be trash, her water would be stale and muddy. She would search for someplace out of the weather to sleep and she would be cold. There would be no kibble provided, the kind that keeps her healthy and her coat shiny. She would be unprotected where coyotes roam and people with shotguns are not afraid to use them. She would not have a fence where she could run and play and still be under the watchful eyes of Sweet William and me.

He longed to fill his stomach with the pods that the pigs were eating, but no one gave him anything. –Luke 15:16

She did not realize that we are the fountain from which her every blessing flows.

As I headed to the house where Sweet William was praying for her to return, I heard him call me, “She’s in the fence.” How in the world?

My neighbor had enticed Maisie with one of the treats we were both carrying in our hands, and she had lured her inside the fence behind the house, the fence we put up just for Maisie. The fence with both gates open for her to run into.

The kindness of God leads us to repentance. –Romans 2:4

I gathered up the wet, muddy mess she was, carried her to the bathtub and began to wash her. I found a bloody place on her neck where she had probably tangled with the wild blackberry brambles throughout the little woods.

As I rinsed off the sudsy water, I leaned my face down to Maisie’s face and I cried, tears of relief and thankfulness that she had come home to us. She does not know how much she is loved; how much trouble we went through to bring her home; how we choose her and paid the price for her; how we continue to love her, provide for her and look out for her best interest.

I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with unfailing kindness. –Jeremiah 31:3

I dried her off and put medicine on her wound.

He anoints my head with oil. — Psalm 23:5

I did not even try to explain the dangers of the outside world to Maisie. It would not have done any good. She thinks like a dog and acts like a dog because she is a dog.

Surely I was sinful at birth . . . –Psalm 51:5

I could not make her understand that the limitations we have imposed on her are for her good, to keep her healthy and to protect her, to give her a long, happy life with people who love her and want good things for her.

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the LORD. — Isiah 55:8

Maisie is on house arrest for now, and she wears a restraining collar when we walk outside. It’s not meant to hurt her, only to keep her in my control. This discipline is for her good.

It was good for me to be afflicted so that I might learn your decrees. — Psalm 119:71

She is a little subdued today, and perhaps a little worn from her heyday of perceived freedom. What she thought was pure bliss would have ended badly had it not been for the persistence of people who cared about her. She has to remain within our boundaries, not because we are being mean, but because we love her.

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Now remain in my love. John 15:9b

Maisie once was lost, but now she is found. And so was I.

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Sunday grace

I walk in the stillness of the dawn and the early morning fog, the faint sound of a train in the distance. The day begins fresh and clean with mercies fresh from the Father’s hand.

Leaves and branches are strewn on the pavement and grassy fields, the results of a blowing wind and rain the evening before. The dead have clung to trees too long. The violent tugging loosed them. They needed to go. They were lifeless.

I’ve had some dead branches fall away this week, burdens, grief and emotions I clung to long enough. They needed to go. They were lifeless and sapping the life from me.

Moments in Scripture pull me back from my self focus, to the One who is the central focus of all of existence. Of life itself. The Father invites me to lay down my heavy load, to come and find forgiveness and rest.

I respond to His invitation, confessing my sin, feeling His embrace. He wipes away the tears and wipes the slate clean again.

I am the beloved of God, not because I have much to offer but because He offers all. Though I fall and fail, His love is unfailing and catches the fallen.

In returning I find Sabbath.

Sunday grace.

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Hosea 14:1-2

 

Sunday grace

Another Sunday.  Another church service.  Another week begins.

How will I spend the precious time I’m given?  A day, an hour, a minute, a moment.

There is no promise of tomorrow.  There is only today.  Will I fret and worry, let me heart swirl, uncontrolled in anxiety?  Will I plan and organize and purpose to do things, build things as a monument to myself?  Will I love, forgive, encourage?  Will I invest in the temporal or the eternal?

God gives me the choice.  It is His gift of freedom.  But He offers me the wisdom and the Word to see a better way, the best way to live out this one wild and beautiful life I have.

Dear Father above,

You are gracious, merciful, and full of compassion and understanding.  You are good.  You are holy.

Forgive me for squandering your gift, for using it in senseless and worthless ways.  You know my heart.  You know the things that frustrate me and get me off track so easily.  I cast down every thought and imagination that exalts itself above the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord and Savior who lived His wild and beautiful life to the full.  Abundantly.  In complete submission to Your will.

I want to live like that.  I am weak and helpless to do it on my own.  Fill me with the fullness of your Spirit and let me recognize once again that You have already provided everything I need to live a life pleasing to you.  A victorious life.  A life worth living.

It is in Jesus’ name I ask,

Amen

Sunday grace.

Winter

Photo by Elena Walls