It's almost laughable. Each time it happens, it's not even surprising. In every debacle, each mountaintop experience, and even in the day-to-day challenges that life throws my way - there's a story in it all. It's gotten to the point where my head is always on a swivel, waiting to see how today's little snafu can be used to teach me or someone else a lesson - especially about God. My life is one sermon illustration after another.
Lately, my everyday experiences have gone to the dogs - literally. I love living in Siloam - and I love running in Siloam. Siloam has the kindest and gentlest pups that get loose on a daily basis. Our subdivision is full of great people and wonderful families - and dogs of all sizes and breeds. Our own little Shih Tzu, Rocky, adds to the menagerie of canine wonderment!
As a runner, you learn very quickly that dogs have this innate sense to know when a runner (or walker) is really enjoying himself or herself. It's this amazing ability of our canine friends that kicks in and causes them to break free from the bonds that hold them, to jump a six foot fence, or to somehow unlock the front door, turn the knob, and come loping down the sidewalk to aid us in our journey. I have no idea how they do it - but in their daring daylight escapes, our furry friends put Steve McQueen, James Garner, and Richard Attenborough to shame! (If you don't know what I am talking about - search up The Great Escape).
Not all pups are friendly when they finally get a taste of freedom. When I lived in Jacksonville, Illinois, I was actually bitten by a dog on a run. I wish I could say that it was a massive, hulking mauler that came charging and I stared him down, but not before he could sink his sharp teeth into my arm as I went to battle to protect some innocent elderly lady while crossing the street. Instead, I get to say that a little Jack Russel Terrier chased me about 30 feet before sinking his teeth into my calf muscle, tearing my running tights, and drawing blood - causing me to get a tetanus shot. Don't laugh - it hurt!
The pups in Siloam are much more friendly. About a month ago, a beautiful Labrador mix followed Samantha home from a morning run. Samantha brought me the tiny leash that we use for our 14 pound Shih Tzu to corral this 60 pound female runaway - it was quite a sight! I called the number on Shelly's tag (the name has been changed to protect the innocent), and didn't get an answer. My next thought was to call the county and see if anyone had called, but something inside me kept me from doing so (I hear you, Lord!). So, Shelly and I started on a journey through our neighborhood walking the sidewalks, looking for her family. After a few blocks, a car stopped and called her by name - she pulled me along as she gleefully went to her people.
Just last week, we spotted a dog running through our yard at 10 o'clock at night. I ran out to the front porch to see a magnificent golden retriever sprinting back and forth across the street - destined for doom. I called the pup over. Although skittish at first, he eventually came over to me and let me pet him and take hold of his collar. Once again, my loving wife came out with the leash. I began walking "Jake" (again, name changed!) through the neighborhood until I heard someone cry out, "Jake! We're so glad we found you!!" Mission accomplished! The owners were so grateful for the help and were actually shocked that I would parade the pup around the neighborhood looking for his people. I simply said, "I know that if it was Rocky, I would want someone to do the same for me." As I walked back to the house, full of joy that comes from a good deed, the Holy Spirit immediately prompted me: "I do that all the time."
Of course! Our Shepherd leaves the ninety-nine to find the lost sheep. He'll do anything - and how joyful He must be when we are rescued. We are all like those pups - running aimlessly across the street with reckless abandon at our perceived freedom - until we realize we're lost.
But our Shepherd isn't content to let us keep hiding, He comes looking and calls us by name (John 10:3), will we hear our name and respond? (John 10:27)
Listen to "Run to the Father" by Cody Carnes.
-- Jeremy DeGroot is Lead Pastor at FBC Siloam Springs, a husband, daddy, and musician. You can contact him via email at [email protected] or reach out on Facebook.