Because I’ve been let down before I tried to not get too excited about the Church’s upcoming plans for Easter and it paid off, I was right, I was working that day. Phooey. Church must be for the retired. No, that can’t be true either because the retired members use cruise vacations and visiting grandchildren as a reason for availability conflicts. I would have thought the Easter festivities would be on Easter, (makes sense to me), not the day before. My work schedule leaves me two available full weekends to do fun stuff and my church never gets it correct, they continuously arrange things on my unavailable Saturdays. They must hack my work schedule to plan this; it can’t possibly be totally accidental. I wish I wasn’t so paranoid, but at least I’m in touch with my emotions.
As I fidgeted with the ring on my left hand I realized the only options open to me were making cash donations and being part of the pre festivity activities. These were workable alternatives, but darn, I really wanted to be a part of the actual revelry, not a behind the scenes worker. Oh well, I opened my pocket book and made a contribution, (a hefty contribution, pat on the back), to the planning committee and signed my name down, in big letters, for volunteer assignments, (if they analyzed my penmanship I wonder what my signature revealed about my current attitude.)
With half a heart, I took some posters/flyers and thumbtacks with me from the planning committee to distribute around my neighborhood. They would probably sit on my car’s back seat for days before I got motivated to nail them to phone poles. And again, I was right. Three days before Easter Eve I leashed my dog Scruffy and trekked up and down my street and fifteen thousand others nailing signs on anything that was made of wood. Each time a sign went up I got to admire my ring. It was a simple ring, that a friend gave me when I joined the church but it made me feel, well¬¬—¬religious. It was my seal of church membership.
Scruffy, I discovered years ago, was a fantastic kid magnet. Kids of all sizes continuously approached me and begged to pet him and when I assented some of the younger ones would back away in fear after their first attempt to touch him. Why bother to ask if they were scared? It was obvious the only injury they would sustain from Scruffy would be abrasions from his tongue. I used the dog petting opportunities to invite the youngsters to the church Easter festivities, advising them to consult their parents. Parents who I suspected would have other plans for their days off or no intention of exposing their youngsters to fiction as I’d already heard from some out spoken adults, in front of their young and impressionable progeny.
“Thanks, but my parents made me go to church when I was a kid and I promised myself I would let my kids make up their own minds about church.” One lady with several youngsters fawning over Scruffy politely informed me after I extended a cordial invitation to her.
Each time I was subjected to that and similar comments I fingered my ring and launched a silent prayer upwards. That ring really made me feel connected with the Eternal One.
I headed home with one final poster in my possession. Where to put this one—hmmm. Scruffy strained at his end of the retractable leash pulling me to—the duck pond. Why hadn’t I thought of that? I should have kept several flyers for this location, it was primo. Today it was packed with families of all sizes throwing bread into the waters for the resident overstuffed fowl, or fishing off the embankments. Darn it, should I retrace my steps and retrieve a few extra posters/flyers? Oh, heck, no. It was getting late and I had other things to do. Volunteer work should be easy, not exhausting. The church should be appreciative I posted as many announcements as I had.
My poster hanging duties officially done I rested on a bench by the pond so Scruffy could have a front row seat for duck viewing/antagonizing but instead Scruffy took full advantage of his retractable leash to sashay along the border of water and land yapping ferociously at the winged targets and upsetting a fisherman, who by the looks of his empty bucket already flunked the right to be called a fisherman. He gave me some dirty looks, obviously displeased that Scruffy was further hindering his objectives. It’s not our fault, buddy, you were here long enough to catch something before we got here.
Oh, well, time to move on, I thought, as I waved my hand politely at the fisherman, just at the right angle so he could see my ring, and disappointed he didn’t.
A battered old car was parked on the street obscured behind the park’s sign with the back door held opened by a tatty looking dude. A semi pristine little girl was leaning in talking to someone blocked from my vision. Something seemed wrong about this picture, and for some reason Scruffy’s interest was piqued at whatever interaction was taking place because he used all of his thirteen pounds to pull me towards the beat up car. Man, I really needed to work out with weights more, this was humiliating, Scruffy had to have gained some extra pounds.
“Hey,” I said casually as I peeked harmlessly into the car’s backseat where a young boy sat with a box on his lap.
“Hey,” Tatty Looking Dude echoed, shifting on his feet. Did he look guilty of something?
“What’cha got there?” I asked.
“I was just showing your daughter some puppies,” Tatty Looking Dude answered.
“Oh, she’s cute but she’s not mine,” I responded as Scruffy underwent a transformation from cuddly pooch to intimidating canine, exhibiting his fangs; it wasn’t like Scruffy not to see a friend in every stranger. Again, something here was muddled.
The little girl, in her effort to get closer to the adorable puppies, was now half kneeling on the back car seat when someone called her name,” Come on Lindy, time to go.” It was fisherman.
Tatty Looking Dude lowered his head, slammed the car’s back door shut, hopped behind the drivers’ wheel and spun off; he disappeared faster than my paychecks. Well, if that doesn’t mean something, I thought, as I memorized the license plate. I now stood alone on the corner of what might have been a crime scene.
I heard Little Girl endeavoring to convince daddy of the necessity of puppy ownership as she skipped off arm in arm with him past my poster, unaware that she had probably almost become a victim in a crowded park. I glanced at Scruffy, what had he sensed? It seems Fisherman had lowered his guard while fishing and, I hypothesized, almost lost his daughter in a very public arena.
I called the local police department with a description of the car and felt foolish as I gave my gut feelings about my suspicions but I deeply believed that doing nothing was silent complicity. The police probably thought I was a nut who’d seen too many Sherlock Holmes movies.
I gave Scruffy’s ear a good scratching. He was the one truly responsible for rescuing Little Girl, after all, the duck pond was his brainchild.
The next goal for the Easter festivities involved me spending my Friday off filling colored plastic eggs with Easter tokens and candy. Tokens and candy I had helped acquire, remember my hefty contribution? I sure did.
On Saturday morning, the one I’d be absent from, there would be several stations depicting the last night and days of Jesus. At each station the kids, after an appropriate scripture reading, would receive an egg containing a symbol of the event portrayed. For example, at the last supper the egg held a picture of a loaf of bread; the garden of Gethsemane, some praying hand stickers; the trial, little leather strips; the crucification, little match stick crosses; the resurrection , little pebbles (remember the stone rolled away from the tomb?) and so forth .
There would be eight stations in all, with an estimated 400 eggs needing 400 symbols, not to count the eggs that would be filled with candy. This was another splendid day off doing something I wouldn’t be a partaker of, not in the fun sense. Well, at least I got to meet some of the other church members, some of who, by the way, verbally admired my simple ring.
It wasn’t until I went to bed Friday night that I noticed a grave personal loss. My ring was gone. My ring. After a thorough house, car and driveway search I had to admit to myself I had lost it at church. I’ll bet anything it had slipped off into one of those darn eggs. Great, I had made a heftier contribution than I initially realized, not financially, but in terms of my connection to God. I went to sleep morning my loss.
Sunday morning, Easter, I went to church and got to hear second hand about all the excitement I had missed; after inquiring, of course, whether anyone had found my ring; negatorio. The cake walk, hot dog stand, bounce houses, crowds of children discovering the Easter story didn’t contain mention of bunny rabbits, and general all out fellowshipping; I had missed it all, along with my ring. Silver lining to black cloud: I didn’t miss the cleanup detail, on that I lucked out.
My heart and soul weren’t tightly connected during the Easter sermon, since my bare ring finger felt light, my attachment to God had been weakened. I had lost my God-dar. I fidgeted throughout the entire service, rubbing my bare finger. My daughter kept nudging me, the way I did her when she lost focus at church services. I think she enjoyed payback.
The alter call that heralded the end of the service finally came and a young family answered the call to church membership following baptism. Something about the man seemed— recognizable. It was Fisherman, all cleaned up with his daughter and wife. Well, I’ll be. He raised his hand to brush some hair back from his eyes and there on his pinky finger was, of all things, my ring. Well now I knew where it was and I was going to get it back.
As I inched forward in the welcoming line to greet the new prospects I heard Fisherman tell the pastor that he had never visualized himself back in a church building let alone requesting baptism but yesterday his daughter had come to our Easter festivities and returned home with some plastic eggs she had shared with him.
“In one egg was some candy and this ring, I took it as a sign.” Fisherman explained flashing my ring at the pastor. My ring, my fish shaped ring, my Ichthys. “It was my mother’s favorite Christian symbol, bless her sainted heart; it was like she was calling me back to church from the grave, so here I am.”
Geez, how can I ask for my ring back after a story like that? It’ll be hard but—who am I kidding? Apparently I didn’t have to be present yesterday to be used by God to bring someone to the cross. Hey, I’m feeling the presence of God again, my God-dar is returning. All I had to do was let go and let God. I looked up and winked. “God it’s okay, he can have the ring, I don’t think I need it anymore.”
At home as my family and I sat down to our Easter Repast I heard a blurb on the news regarding a potential kidnapping. Apparently some unidentified concerned citizen had alerted local police to the possibility of a predator signaling out young children. Several squad cars put the alleged predator under surveillance for a few days and managed to apprehend him in the middle of attempted child abduction, using puppies as an enticement. Evidently God, through me, and Scruffy, had saved several people this week. The newscaster showed an interview with the little girl and her family where they profusely thanked the concerned citizen and hoped she/he would come forward for a more intimate gift of gratitude.
“Wow,” Cindy, my daughter, exclaimed as she passed the mashed potatoes, “That family has a lot to be thankful for. Do you think the concerned citizen will come forward?”
“Na,” my husband answered, “People that do things like that don’t want to be in the spot light. Remember the bible says ,’ But thou, when thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret; and thy Father which seeth in secret shall reward thee openly’ whoever made that call will get what they deserve from God himself.”
I nodded in one accord with my husband. I wasn’t about to come forward and explain it was my dog’s insight that had saved one little girl and raised my “danger Will Robinson” antennae.
I glanced down at Scruffy to offer him a well-deserved slice of lamb to notice he was fixated on the TV. Could he actually understand what was going on? His tail was arcing on the floor, a seriously content dog expression plastered on his face while both ears twitched in an odd unsynchronized fashion. Odd.
Beside Scruffy knelt two presences unseen to human eyes, angels assigned to this particular family, the same angles who had tugged on Scruffy’s leash to assist him in pulling his owner to the right spot at the right time. The same angels that had slipped a ring off a finger into an Easter egg to remedy a mother’s concern. The same angels were scratching Scruffy’s ears thanking him for his willingness to respond to their existence. No, for Scruffy it didn’t get any better than this.
Math 4 ;18-20
1 corinthians 3:6
2 corinthians 6:1