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Patrick

Dad loved to fly fish, and it wasn’t necessary for him to have a friend along. He thrived on the solitude, the quietness, the beauty, the "swish" of the line from his reel, seeing how close he could put his fly to "that dark shadow under the tree across the river–they’ll be hiding in the shade by that stump." They? The Blue Gill. Goggle-eye perch. Smaller fish, but real fighters. You knew when one was on your line!

He had gone to Blackfork and was heading home … alone. The roads were made for 4-wheel drive vehicles and would have been an exciting challenge, but 4-wheelers weren’t around when Dad was here; so he drove the old black Pontiac slowly, carefully, lingering, still enjoying his own private forest.

It was then that he spotted the deserted campsite. There was a cleared place where the tent had been staked, a deep hole that had been used for ice, and a burned out campfire. And there was something else — a little black and brown dog sitting forlornly and expectantly by the pile of rocks that had bordered the fire.

Dad got out and made friends with the dog, sizing up the situation pretty quickly. The dog had no doubt been exploring and wasn’t around when time came to break camp and head home. (I can imagine how they had waited and hoped and whistled and called and finally left … without him.) It seemed like the dog knew that Dad was his last chance, so he hopped into the car and they headed for Poteau together.

We were "dogless" at the time (a rarity), so seeing the lost dog in Daddy’s arms was a real thrill for us. He was a small terrier with wiry black hair and tan feet. His tail hadn’t been bobbed, and the tip was tan like his feet. With his ears up, he was not over a foot tall. He let us hold him and love on him, sensing perhaps that this was going to be his new home. We tried every name that we could think of, but we just couldn’t excite him. He answered best to a two-syllable name, so we finally called him Sonny.

Dad put an ad in the LeFlore County Sun: "Dog found at campsite on south end of Blackfork River. Call 410 to identify." When a call would come, he’d always ask them to describe their dog, and Sonny never fit the bill. We were so glad, because he had won our hearts. His master had obviously spent time playing with him and training him … one of his favorite pastimes was knocking a pop bottle around with his nose and playing with it like a ball. Sonny had accepted us, and we had accepted Sonny. He was part of the Hoyle family.

Then one day Dad called, "Honey, we’ve got a young man here who thinks the little dog is his. I’m sending him out to let him see Sonny."

I was at home by myself and didn’t know just quite how I could face someone coming and claiming Sonny, taking him away. I put him on the back porch and closed the kitchen door.

Our front door opened into a hallway. The first door on the right was to our guest bedroom, the immediate left to the living room. The living room and dining room were one large, long room, with a door at the end of the dining area that opened into the kitchen; the door to the back porch was in line with that door. The divan had been placed as a "divider" between the two areas. Sonny could go around the divan, or crawl under it, but it was too high for him to go over.

A knock on the front door. I didn’t want to go. I dreaded it, but knew I had to. The young man at the door stood on crutches — you could tell they had been his life-long companions. He introduced himself, and I ushered him into the living room — right at the front end by the piano. We talked a moment, then I suggested that he call the dog when I opened the door to the back porch so we could see what kind of response he would get. He agreed. When I opened the door, Sonny was playing with a pop bottle.

Suddenly there was a short, clear whistle and a call, "Patrick!"

Sonny froze and tilted his head to one side, the abandoned pop bottle rolling toward the wall. Then again, the whistle and that name, "Patrick!"

Patrick skidded, trying to get traction on the linoleum floor with his little short legs, then he started running — through the dining table legs, over the top of the divan and, with one wild leap, into the outstretched arms of his master, who was ready … balanced … watching anxiously with tears on his cheeks. He grabbed that little dog and held him so close and tight!

I hope I did justice to that story. It’s one of my favorites. Why did I tell it? Because I want to talk about "who we are" and "who God is." We are Patrick and we have a Master who loves us more than we can possibly comprehend. Oh, Patrick was surviving with us, but his heart was still with the person who loved him, played with him, trained him, and drove 160 miles over a crooked, narrow road to claim him, to identify him as his own.

Do you know who you are? Do you know that those arms are outstretched, that He is standing and waiting, with a tear-streaked face, for you to run and with "one wild leap" jump into His arms? Do you know that you are totally and completely loved? Oh, you may be "surviving" in your present surroundings, entertaining yourself with your "pop bottle," but are you separated from the One who loves you — so much that He gave His life for you?

Knowing who you are brings a confidence into your life that cannot be taken away. Jesus got down on his knees, on the floor, and washed the feet of the disciples. How could He humble Himself to that degree? Well, John 13:3 tells us. "Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into His hands, and that He had come forth from God, and was going back to God…." Jesus knew two things: (1) who He was, and (2) that He was passionately loved by His Father.

You may label yourself as an engineer, a librarian, a business mogul, a student, an accomplished vocalist, a devoted mother, a retired banker, an executive secretary, or a wife above reproach. Any of those things could be gone in the twinkling of an eye. Now, who are you? There is only one identity that is unshakeable, one identity that is for eternity, and one identity that will never fail you. That is your identity in Christ.

Patrick’s story has limits, I know. It’s a sweet little dog story, more for children than for mature adults. But are you sure you know what the story is saying? Perhaps you need to become "like a little child." And don’t look at the obvious limits; look at the incredible possibilities. Patrick knew his master. Patrick knew who he was. That filled his heart with joy, his life with purpose.

Whatever you have in your hands, let it go. Then, kind of tilt your head and listen. Did you hear that whistle? Sharp. Clear. And you recognize the voice, don’t you? OK. Start scrambling. Run. Faster. Go under and over the obstacles, no matter how tall they seem to be. Then, jump! He’s watching … he’s able to catch you … and His arms will gather you close and hold you, and you’ll be back where you belong.

About the Author

Anabel spent decades teaching in many contexts through Lifetime Guarantee Ministries. She has taught countless others how to have a genuine intimate faith and a sound marriage. She shared from her heart about living from the heart. Lifetime’s beloved founder and mentor passed away November 7, 2010. Her legacy and influence are timeless and priceless.