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THE "BROKEN" SHEEPDOG AND THE SHEPHERD


Philip Keller tells a story in his book, Lessons from a Sheep Dog, about how a bedraggled collie named Lassie came into his possession. One day he happened to notice an ad in the paper that simply said: "Border collie to good owner. Currently uncontrollable and chases children and cars." So he found the address in the city and discovered a horrible situation.


He founded a collie penned up in the backyard of a home and it was obvious the dog had been neglected. Its coat was a tangled mass full of burrs, thorns, and dirt. Additionally, it was clear that there were several generations of ticks and fleas burrowed down under this dog's fur. But the real clincher was the chain about its neck and another chain attached to its back leg.


Keller writes that he went up to the dog and it began to bark and growl and snap at him with a menace that raged in its soul. The owner informed him that the dog was two years old and had "gone wrong and was totally useless." He was told that this dog was beyond hope and help. Keller also knew that at two years of age this dog had probably learned all it could and would never be reformed. But despite that fact, he decided to take a chance on it.


He finally managed to get the dog in the back seat of his car for the long ride into the country. Periodically he would reach around and attempt to touch the dog and she would growl and snap at him. Upon arriving home, he finally managed to get the dog out and put her into the place he had fixed for her. He had built a fine kennel with clean bedding. He had a large bowl of water and a dish that had food heaped on it. But this dog ignored it all. She refused to eat, to drink, or to enter the kennel. Any attempts to pet her or to touch her were rejected. Any attempts to speak kindly to her were met with low growls and bared fangs.


Finally at a loss, since she was not eating or drinking, Keller decided that to keep her from wasting away, he turned her loose. Off she darted like a deer to the woods behind the house and Keller wondered if he would ever see her again. In fact several months went by before Keller saw her again. He had almost given up on her and then one evening as he was moving some sheep from one pasture to another he looked up and saw her crouched down on rock above the pasture. She was watching intently every move of the shepherd and his flock. Her instincts were starting to kick back in and she was being drawn in by the shepherd and the sheep.


He noticed as time passed that she would come nearer to him in the evenings as he sat in the edges of the pasture watching the sheep. When he would see her, he would flip small bits of food from his pack to her and she would slip up, take them and then run back a safe distance away. But during her trek to get the food, Keller would speak clearly and softly to her in an attempt to win her over. Finally as it turned out, the collie finally lost all of her fear and through the kindness of Keller became one of the best sheep dogs he ever had.


The times are too many to count that I have seen broken folks come into the Church, pressed by their problems. They had chains on their necks and chains about their feet that so constricted them they could hardly walk and function.


I have also noticed that in time as they kept coming, the grace of God gently worked on their spirit. Whether it was the praying they heard, the singing they heard, the gentle moving of the Spirit, the power of the Word, or the fellowship of the Church, all of it working together turned their lives around.


That is what takes place when the voice of the Shepherd reaches through to those who are willing to heed that voice.


(From a sermon by Philip Harrelson, The Voice of the Shepherd, 8/6/2010)

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