A Breath of Fresh Air
A Merry Heart
A Touch of Romance
A Woman's World
A Word in Season
Acting Up
Cyber Walk
Faith Seekers
Golden Apples
Heaven Bound
Just Between Men
Ripe for the Harvest
Take it to Heart
Teen Truth
The Joy of Family
The Parents'
Survival Guide

The Rhythm of Life
The Treehouse
Through Their Eyes
'Tis the Season
We Are the Church

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By Dennis Van Scoy, Sr.

It had been almost three years since his Alice had passed on, but for Pastor Jim Bailey it seemed like yesterday. Loneliness was still a problem. If it wasn't for the faithful companionship of their pet Beagle, Sweetie, the emptiness of the house would seem over-whelming.

Sweetie was the mutual anniversary gift they adopted on their twentieth, and, having no children, she was his only remaining connection with his dear Alice. Jim smiled; recalling how Alice had joked that Sweetie would probably be the closest he would ever get to having that promised "lap-top".

Sweetie became a great comfort for him, beginning the night God mercifully took Alice home, concluding her painful struggle with cancer.

Now this evening, Pastor Jim determined to take his faithful companion along to church, while he finished preparation for Sunday's service. He pulled his old, blue van into the empty parking lot and walked with Sweetie up the icy sidewalk to the church door. As he tried the handle, he discovered that the door had not been completely shut, so the lock had never engaged. He opened the door and they stepped inside.

No sooner had they entered, than he heard the telephone ringing, so he rushed into the office, leaving Sweetie in the hallway. After a five-minute conversation with Mrs. Leland, concerning arrangements for the ladies’ brunch on Sunday, he hung up the telephone and called out, "Sweetie…. Sweetie….. Come here girl!" But she did not respond.

Franticly, he hurried back out into the hallway ... the door was open and Sweetie was gone!

His heart began to beat wildly as he was struck by a terrible wave of fears. What if someone had taken her? What if she got lost? What if she was struck by a car!?

The very worst scenarios bombarded his mind. He ran out of the open doorway into the parking lot calling loudly, "Sweetie… Sweetie … Sweetie!" But all to no avail.

He could see her tracks mingled with rabbit tracks in the fresh dusting of snow leading into the wooded area across from the church. He was painfully aware that two sides of those woodlands exited onto busy highways, and that fact magnified his fears.

Pastor Jim retrieved the flashlight out of his van, intent on following the beagle into the woodlands, but to his dismay found that its batteries were dead. He returned to his vehicle and drove to a nearby store for replacements, all the while praying that God would protect Sweetie, and direct him to her location.

Sweetie had become his closest friend, his constant companion, and Jim couldn't imagine what his life would be like without her. He reminded God that He had brought Sweetie into his life, and how much she now meant to him. He felt his eyes well up in tears as he prayed, desperately seeking God's help.

All too soon darkness had overtaken the wooded area and Pastor Jim, equipped with fresh flashlight batteries, returned to the church parking lot to commence his search. He tightened his coat and ran into the woodlands searching for dog prints, which were fast being consumed by the light snow. As he walked he prayed, sometimes inwardly, but mostly aloud, intermingled with his frantic cries, "Sweetie… Sweetie… come here girl!"

For nearly an hour Pastor Jim, with flashlight in hand, walked through the wooded area, until he came within sight of Highway 36 to the north. Nearly exhausted, cold and discouraged, he called out again, "Sweetie… Sweetie… Please come, Sweetie!"

Finally, he heard a familiar bark coming from a yard on the other side of the highway. Using his flashlight and exercising great caution, he crossed the busy highway, where he found Sweetie being hugged around the neck by a very little girl, while her mother looked on.

"Oh…. thank you God!" he called out, as he trained his flashlight on Sweetie and approached the yard. "Thank you. I've been looking all over for her!"

As he drew closer, he could see that the little girl was crying as she hugged the beagle. She was only about six years old and seemed to be determined not to relinquish her hold.

"Is this your dog?" the lady inquired, as she patted her little girl's head.

"Why, yes it is," answered Pastor Jim.

"I just couldn't get Jenny to let go of your dog," she said sadly. "You see, your dog looks just like her dog that was killed by a car just last week."

"Oh, I'm so sorry to hear that." Jim felt his heart break for little Jenny.

"She thinks your dog is hers come back to her," the lady explained.

"She is my dog, Mommy…" little Jenny sobbed, as she continued hugging Sweetie's neck. "She is… she is… she is!"

"Maybe if her dad was still alive he could make her understand. But he's gone and I just can't seem to reach her," Jenny’s mother moaned.

"You mean her dad has passed away?" Jim asked with astonishment.

"Yes…" she replied sadly, "…car accident, a little more than a year ago."

No longer was Pastor Jim's focus on Sweetie, or even on his own great loss. Now he saw through spiritual eyes a need far greater. He heard an inner voice asking him…. "What would Jesus give?"

At that moment the Spirit seized control and, as involuntary tears poured from his eyes, he bent down, removed Sweetie's collar and said, "Jenny here is your dog. God brought her home for you."

"Oh Mister… we can't…" the lady began with shocked surprise.

"Yes you can," Pastor Jim interrupted. "Jesus gave everything for me; the least I can do is give a part of me for your Jenny."

"A… a laptop?" she blurted out; shocked at the very words coming from her mouth.

"What did you say?" Jim asked, with equal astonishment.

"I don't know why," she replied, "but I just had to say the word laptop! It's just like the word was forced out of me."

"I think I understand," smiled Jim. "And if you would like to have lunch with me tomorrow I think I might be able to explain it."

"I would really like that." Jenny’s mother replied, adding softly, "My name is Ellen… Ellen Costas."

"Well, Ellen… I'm Jim Bailey, Pastor of Hope Shelter Church across the way." He gestured toward the woods. "If it's okay, then I'll pick you and Jenny up right here, about noon tomorrow."

"That would be just fine… Pastor… or… ah… Jim."

Pastor Jim left Sweetie and walked back into the woods knowing she was in good hands … but equally as important, so was he.
Denny Van Scoy is a retired Police officer turned Christian, freelance writer. He and his wife, Deb, have nine adult children and twenty grandchildren, and they make their home in Iowa.
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