Today’s Word from Deacon Amy…
I went back to college in 2013 – I was one of the oldest students in most of my classes. One of our first projects was to create a visual display featuring images of God. I was pretty proud of my trifold photo collage. I hauled it into class, only to find that all of the other students had done PowerPoint presentations. I felt old. But – that trifold board is hanging on the wall in my office, where I see it every day. It brings back good memories, and makes me smile. I bet the other students rarely pull up their old PowerPoint presentations.
One of my favorite images on this board is a photo of our dog, Bailey, lying in the snow. This photo bears the title, “God as Guardian.” Bailey is a very special dog, for a lot of reasons. I got Bailey as a puppy during a difficult time in my life. He was a joyful beacon in my otherwise tumultuous days. Bailey isn’t just a pet in our family, though; he has a very important job. He is our Livestock Guardian Dog, living in the field full-time with our animals.
I first got Bailey when we lived outside of Snohomish. Farming isn’t easy – we know that – but continual loss can be disheartening. Weasels and raccoons took several chickens and young turkeys throughout the years. We had a mountain lion stalking the hill that we lived on, and it had taken both a goat and a sheep from neighboring properties. Then we had a black bear roaming the property. I didn’t mind so much when he ate the blackberries that surrounded our fields, but when he trampled my fences, I started to get nervous. The last straw was the combination of the young eagle and the possum that eyed our chicken pen as an all-you-can-eat buffet.
After doing a lot of research, I found a farm outside of Duvall that had Livestock Guardian Dog puppies. These dogs come from very specific breeds that have been used for centuries to guard flocks and herds around the world – Job even referred to “the dogs of [his] flock,” which were most likely ancestors of today’s Anatolian Shepherds. These breeds don’t tend to make great house pets, as they are very independent-thinking (AKA stubborn) dogs – and most of them are pretty big, too.
Bailey’s name at the time was Bear, and he was an adorable ball of fluff – hard to believe he would one day be a fearless protector. Almost 10 years later, and we have not lost a single bird or goat kid to predators. In fact, if I ever have a chicken that gets hurt or injured, I put them in a stall with Bailey until they’re feeling better. He’s an excellent nurse. Bailey takes his job seriously, and gets anxious if we separate him from his charges. He jumps for joy each summer when we bring our goats back from the fair.
I chose to use Bailey’s photo on my images of God display, because I know that God, like Bailey, cares deeply for us and grieves when we are hurting. God wants us to stay near, and rejoices when we return, just as Bailey celebrates when his charges come home. God has offered us never-ceasing protection and guidance. We simply have to lean in and accept.