It is a beautiful day. The sun shines down through puffy clouds set against a blue backdrop. The first robins are hopping about, the chickens are scratching up all the dirt and leaves in the back yard and the rest of the animals are wandering around eating the lush spring grass that has come at last. I puttered around the large lower pasture for awhile because Cletus had come back up to the house alone.
It has been their habit throughout the winter to seek out a particular group of yearling calves they had assigned themselves charge of. As the calves, like the rest of the cattle here, are frequently moved to different pastures across the thousands of acres of ranch, it sometimes takes awhile before the pups locate them and do their patrol through them. The calves have since been relocated to a ranch 2 hours away and it has been my concern the pups might just keep traveling, as they are very determined. I let them out on patrol for the first time since the calves have been gone and to my dismay, they didn’t come back that night. They weren’t in the corral by dinner. At midnite, I shone my flashlight out there and still no pups. My heart sank. Next morning, myself and visiting family members of the smaller persuasion, went out to feed lambs, calves and milk the goats. The pups came blasting up from the lower pasture and happily greeted us. Their faces were covered in blood, not their own. I assumed they had either gotten into a tangle with a coyote which was easily won, or found and stole a fresh kill. Usually, they drag their trophies home, but I didn’t see anything with them this time.
I allowed them their freedom to come and go, and they have remained close in and watchful over their lambs and goats. This morning Cletus came in alone and I began to worry about Bruno, as they are rarely far from one another. I asked Cletus to take me to him and he turned and walked back the direction from which he came, as if he understood me perfectly. After about ½ mile, with the lambs and goats following, I saw Bruno, struggling mightily to pull something through the fence. It was, indeed a stolen kill and the carcass was still quite large. It is the nature of Livestock Guardian Dogs to eat dead stock, even if it had previously been one of their charges, because failure to do so would attract predators. As their patrol a fairly large area, they tend to bring things closer to home, so they can keep an eye on the animals in their charge. They were both quite pleased to show me what they’d brought and I gave them the high praise they deserved for undertaking such a Herculean task as dragging this thing all the way home and through dense sagebrush and a wire fence.
I headed back to the house, the pups leading the lambs and goats along, as they clearly didn’t feel the low end of the pasture was the ideal place for little lambs. The lambs are becoming a bit more independent and courageously wander out through the gate to graze in the big pasture amongst the tall grass, cows and adult goats.
I came back out a couple of hours later and greeted Cletus and Bruno, who were sleeping by the pens. I heard the lambs start to cry at the sound of my voice, but couldn’t see them. They continued to cry out and even though I knew they were safe enough with the pups around, I went off in search of them. The pens behind our house are quite large, and one end is solid fence, which dips back in an “L” shape. I could tell the lambs had wandered outside and behind there and did not know the way to find me, once they realized I was near. They had been feeling happy and self reliant, until they heard me and realized they had wandered far and in their minds, become irretrievably lost.
I went through the large corrals to the pasture gate and walked the 100 or so yards down the fence line. I stepped past the end of the fence and called to them and they responded by running to me, surrounding me and crowding one another, each trying to be the closest.
We walked back a little ways, but I found the green grass and the warm sun too tempting, myself. So I eased myself down, Cletus came and offered himself as a pillow and the lambs went back to contentedly grazing, this time keeping their eyes fixed on me.
As I lay there, I thought about how He said,
“My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me”. (John10:27)
Once again, He used an example of my own life that I could understand. I often wander off, consumed by the moment, or whatever is commanding my attention and lose sight of Him.. It is when He is able to help me “hear” His voice, or “see” His face, I come running back, knowing that HE is the one who cares for, and takes care of, me. He heard my cry and He came for me. HE is the one who leads me to the best places, guiding me to what really nourishes and brings me the abundant life. I gratefully rested in His shadow and contemplated all He has done to prove that to me.
“Good Friday” is more often than not, a gloomy day for me. The awareness and remembrance of the suffering He took on, in my behalf, tears at my heart and conscience. Regret for my part of His pain squeezes until its almost a physical ache sometimes. My actions, my falling short, were so serious, so costly, the punishment so severe, the pain of the penalty so indescribable, that they had to create a new word for it. “Excruciating”. It means, literally, “out of the Cross.”
“Good Friday” hardly seems appropriate. But it is always followed by the best day ever, the anniversary of the empty tomb.
Death didn’t win. The enemy didn’t win. My sin didn’t outweigh His power or compassion. He didn’t abandon me to myself. He knew I was lost and He came past my walls to show me the way Home.