This morning was a fairly typical one for me. I got up before everyone else, had breakfast, read my Bible, prayed and did some things for work. Most mornings I am up first and depending on when others arise the early time I have to myself can vary. Yesterday it was zero minutes and today it was an hour.
I spent a little time with my family while they ate breakfast. I am reading the Chronicles of Narnia to our daughter and today we finished The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe. It is our second time through the Chronicles and I am noticing things that didn’t catch my attention the first time. And I delight in spending time in this particular way with our daughter.
Then it was time for a bit more work, followed by a conference call with two other pastors, both in Denver. Among the things we talked about were some similarities and some differences between ministry in suburban Denver, where they are, and the reservation in New Mexico, where I am.
After the conference call it was time to run, as in "getting in my daily run." I changed into my running clothes and headed out the door, taking the highway through town over to the next town, two miles east. I had planned to head east to a point, turn around, and then take a slightly different way back as I got close to home.
Heading east takes me past a park, where a few people were sitting at a table. There aren’t always people at the park. Today there were and one or two of them called out to me. I couldn't see who they were and I just waved back as I continued my run. This particular park is across the parking lot from the liquor store, which is generally the primary attraction for people sitting at the tables.
A few miles down the road I neared the town east of us. I heard a dog barking and stopped to take a closer look. There is a large pit bull living at a house there, and almost always it is inside a fenced yard. Sometimes it barks, a little bit, and more often it pays no attention to me. Kind of like the dog in the picture. However once this past summer, things were different.
That day I had passed the dog, in the yard, while going through town, but on the return he was out on the street. And even though I was on the other side of the highway, he wasn't particularly interested in letting me pass. In all my years of running I have never encountered a more aggressive dog. Strong, angry, crouched down while barking up at me, and circling.
Trying to get past him that day was a risky endeavor and I decided that should I encounter him on the highway again that I wouldn’t try to get past on foot. And there he was, outside the fence this morning.
Quickly deciding to play it safe I just turned around and headed back to Dulce. Safe from the dog but now with a new problem. How to get in the amount of mileage I had originally intended, given that my plan had been altered by the pit bull? So I came up with plan B. Go to the corner where the park is and turn right, heading uphill and taking a bit longer path home.
As I came back to town I hopped up on the sidewalk, which brought me closer to the tables at the park. People at the park don’t often stay long. They may be there when I go by in one direction but they are usually gone when I come back in the other direction. Today was different, as they were still present, and there were more people. I hadn’t counted on the way out but the return there were two groups, totaling seven people.
They called out to me, and I called back. And I stopped to talk. I was close enough now to see and recognize a few of them, and so I stopped and talked a bit with all of them. And when asked, I prayed with two of them.
My altered running plan, and the time I spent with the people in the park, was answered prayer. It may not have looked like it, and it took me a moment to realize it, but that’s what it was. Alcohol abuse has a devastating effect on this community and each week in worship we pray that God would deliver people from it. That He would show us how to support and encourage people seeking freedom. That is what was happening this morning.
In the two years we have lived in Dulce I have come to know a number of people who really struggle with alcohol. I have come to see them as people God has placed in my life for a reason. They are people I pray for often, and whom I intend to pray for until either God delivers them from their addiction, or until we leave Dulce. And in either of those two outcomes I may still continue to pray for them. I pray for them, and there are times such as this morning, where I pray with them.
And so in the final analysis, the pit bull on the road was not quite the enemy I had supposed it to be. This morning he was there as guidance from God, changing my plan to become something that fits within His plan.
And His plans, no matter how they become apparent, are always best.