Maggie's here because of that prayer. You know the one I mean. I pray it every time I go in to the Community Care Center (CCC), and on a regular basis just generally. "Lord, I know who I'm planning to see today, and I have some idea what I want to do. But Your plan is the one that needs to take precedence. So, use me however You want today. Not my agenda…but Yours. Not my intentions, but Yours. Not my will, but Yours be done. Amen."
It's pretty short, that prayer, but it changes everything. Not just for me either. Case in point:
I walked in to the CCC on Sunday with a pretty good idea what I was going to do. It was my day to take my resident friend to African Church. That takes all morning, and then I get his lunch and eat with him and go home. It has always been God's will for me to be involved in his life, so I prayed the Prayer as a matter of course, because on this day of all days, I knew what God's plan was.
When I got inside, three residents came to tell me, "Kathy wants to see you!" Good! I'm always glad to see my friend Kathy as well. She is a ray of sunshine in the dark corners, and brings a little bit of joy wherever she goes. I checked on my friend and he was ready to go. As I was walking down the hall. Kathy came around the corner and stopped short. "Oh, thank goodness you're here. We need your help - we have a big problem."
Very hesitantly, I said, "I don't work here any more...I can't help with any big problems..."
"Oh yes you can," she insisted. "It's an ANIMAL."
On the way down the Truly Ancient Elevator, Kathy filled me in. The morning shift staff had noticed a little beagle shivering in the parking lot from about 5:30 on. She looked sick, and she was dirty and cold. "I think she might be pregnant," Kathy said. One of the independent residents had gone outside to sit with her and nobody knew what to do.
So I went to check her out. She was clearly an elderly beagle. Her abdomen was hugely swollen, she was shivering, her claws were way overgrown, and she had an angry, bleeding, golf-ball sized tumor on her face outside her right ear. The mass on her abdomen was not puppies; it was a soft, non-painful tumor of some sort (you can see the tumors in the photo). She was filthy and she stank. She shied away from my hand. What she needed was to see a vet. But I was taking my friend to church.
"What'll we do?" asked Kathy.
None of us wanted to leave her outside, so I asked if Kathy could keep her in the Activities office while I took my friend to church. She got her a blanket and a tunafish sandwich from the breakroom, and a bowl of water. The little beagle ate the sandwich and lay down on the blanket, and I left to go to African church.
After I left the CCC, I took the beagle to a vet. Her legs were so shaky I had to carry her. He estimates she is 10+ years old. The big tumor is a lipoma. It weighs six pounds and drags the ground. The other is malignant. In addition to what I had observed, she has worms and fleas, is anemic (so no surgery yet), her teeth are rotten, and she has infections in numerous places. She needed all sorts of medications, and who was going to do all that? It was Sunday evening; noplace was open. So I collected her meds, brought her home, gave her a bath, and introduced her to the joys of home-cooked dogfood, a warm bed, and doggie playmates. We named her Maggie, and that's how she came to join our family.
She's doing grand now, and will have surgery to remove her tumors on March 9. It's going to be quite expensive, so pray for provision. I have contacted the beagle rescue folks to see if there is any help available, and am waiting to hear back.
I was telling my friend Barb about this and she said, shaking her head, "You can even see the potential in a brokendown dog."
I don't think she's right about that. When I looked at her there in the parking lot, I didn't see any potential, except that I'd probably be the one telling the vet "She's suffering; put her down," and be a gentle hand and soothing voice while she died.
So why did I take responsibility for her? I don't work for the CCC; I'm not the boss any more. I don't have to take charge of every problem. I AM the chaplain, but this was not within a chaplain's scope of practice. I'm not working yet and we can't afford a huge vet bill. We already have 14 pets and I don't really want any more. And I most CERTAINLY didn't need any more heartache right now. So why did I swoop in and take this cast off dog?
As I reflected on this, I kept coming back to that prayer. "Your will be done."
When you pray that, you have to be ready for whatever He throws at you, and you have to know that you're probably not going to understand it while it's happening.
Paul tells us in Ephesians 2:10 "We are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works that God has prepared in advance that we should walk in them (emphasis mine). I'm not sure how that's supposed to work out practically. Paul is speaking inclusively, in first person plural. WE. We believers. So are the good works allocated specifically to one person, like a Christmas gift with my name on the tag; or are the good works allocated to all believers and it's up to us to find them and walk in them, like finding an egg in an Easter-egg hunt? I don't know the answer to that. But here's what I do know:
That beagle wandered into the parking lot at the Community Care Center. Not at Safeway or the high school or the assisted living place up the street. She came to the CCC. I am only there a couple hours, two mornings a week. That Beagle could have showed up there any time during the other 162 hours that I was not there this week, but there she was, on Sunday. When something drops into my lap like this, I consider that it’s one of those good works that God prepared in advance, and so I start walking in it. Lots of other people saw her before I got there, and not one of them even let her into the building. They had their chance to walk in that good work and they walked away instead. They were looking up at the huge pile of her problems and saying "I can't handle that." I’ve learned not to do that. Instead, I say “Well, she’s cold. I can do something about that.” And take the first step. And when you take just one step up, maybe you still can’t see the top of the staircase, but there’s one less step between you and the top. Maybe God doesn't want me to go all the way to the top, but until I know for sure I'm going to keep walking.
So now we have Maggie. I honestly have no idea why He prepared this good work for me. What use is it to God that we gave an elderly beagle a home? I may never know. But Maggie doesn't care about that. She is not living a life of constant suffering any more, and she does a happy beagle dance when she sees me coming with her dish. We walked half a mile together in the park today. And yesterday she crawled into my lap to nap while I was grading papers. We're taking the next steps om this Good Work Walk together.