Sunday, September 14, 2008

The Dog Days of Summer

My husband met me at the garage, machete in hand. Was he protecting me from a home invasion? Or perhaps Bruce Willis was filming his latest action movie in our house and John was making an appearance as a movie extra.

My dream of being the wife of the newest cinema heartthrob was dashed when John answered my unasked question. "Shadow's stuck in the blackberry bushes by the orchard."

Shadow and her sister Jasmine are three-year-old purebred black labs that belong to my daughter's family. Their whole lives, the dogs have had to stay inside a nice kennel my son-in-law built for them, as they were always running off our property (fifteen acres isn't big enough?) and bothering our neighbors. Just the past few weeks they have started sticking close to home when let out of their enclosure.

I asked John how he knew Shadow was stuck. "Jasmine came up to me while I was working in the garage, and told me 'Timmy fell in the well.' She led me through the forest, toward the neighbor's cherry orchard. I could hear her whining up in the blackberry bushes, so I came back to get something to chop my way to her, as the bushes are really overgrown in that area."

I'm not a great dog lover, but even I was moved by Shadow's plight. I followed John into the forest so I could watch my man at work. He started at the foot of the slope, hacking his way toward the yelping dog, but after fifteen minutes became stymied by growth so thick he couldn't penetrate it.

Back through the woods to put on clothing that would be better protection from the thorns--his thick coveralls and a hat-- and find better tools in the garage. He decided that between two machetes, hedge clippers, and the lopping shears, he should be able to rescue the dog. He used a different approach this time, taking the high ground along the fence line. I stayed down on the pathway, content to call out sweet nothings to Shadow while I tried to keep an eye on John's progress. That word, progress, may not be the right one to use, as it was extremely slow-going on John's part. I soon lost sight of him in the jungle of the Oregon forest, though I could hear his thwacking and every now and then see a bush quiver in fear as this armed man neared it.

After nearly an hour of arm-numbing work, John was able to spy Shadow under some bushes, with her sister Jasmine keeping her company. Turns out she wasn't trapped by the blackberry bush, but had caught the clasp of her collar chain on the wire fence of the orchard, and was unable to move. If no one had been home to hear her pathetic yelps and reach her in time, she could have faced a dire (or should I say die-er) situation.

John finally unhooked her from the fence and both dogs followed us home, eager to lap up two bowls of water, lie down in the shade, and fall into an exhausted nap. But first they had to listen to a lecture on how bad it was of them to run off, that Shadow had a natural consequence for what she had done, and that we never wanted them to do it again!

That experience got me to thinking about how we humans put ourselves in the same kind of situations. God gives us directives about how we should live our lives.("Stay home. Everything is provided for you here.") But we decide that the orchard on the other side of the fence looks like a much more exciting place to be. And the sin that so easily besets us hooks us around the neck, immobilizing our lives, choking off the purpose of our life. It is only when One comes to seek us, clearing away the brambles and reaching down to loose us from our entrapment, that we are able to see that if we follow Him, we are able to lie down and rest.

Friday, September 5, 2008

Book review of Long Journey Home, by Sharlene MacLaren

For those of you who don't already know her, I'd like to introduce my friend, Sharlene MacLaren. As you can see from her photo, she is a beautiful woman with a bubbly personality and zest for life. I met her last fall at the American Christian Fiction Writers conference and have kept in touch with her throughout this past year.

Shar has written several novels and her newest one just came out in stores this week. Whereas her other books I've read have been set in a historical time period, Long Journey Home is a contemporary book dealing with issues rampant in our society.

A young pastor whose beliefs are failing the test of tragedy. A young woman who has dissolved her relationship with an abusive, cheating husband. These two characters, Dan and Callie, are brought together as neighbors, but their proximity leads to a tenuous friendship. Dan battles his anger, guilt, and addictive habit, while Callie is forced to face her lack of trust, which affects her life on many levels. Will these two hurting people be able to overcome the pain in their past? Is it possible to rebuild their lives and walk with the Lord, as well as each other?

This was my favorite Sharlene MacLaren book to date. She captures Dan's and Callie's characters and makes them believable. Throughout the book, the reader is aware something bad is headed down the pike, but never sure of when it will hit. One yearns for Dan to realize how little control he has over life, and for Callie to let down her defenses to the right man.

I give this book a four-mocha rating. It kept my interest and captured my emotions. Pick up a copy at your nearest bookstore and settle in for an enjoyable read.