Summary: God`s joy when I came home to Him.


Some time ago I read the story of Loch the collie in one of our English Daily Newspapers. Loch was one of two British dogs sent to El Salvador after an earthquake in its capital city, San Salvador, to sniff out trapped survivors, and to lead searchers to bodies under he rubble. The collie, from Cumbria, and another collie called Meg, found one man still alive after he had been buried for nine days.

When the search was over Loch had to go into quarantine for six months before she was able to return home to resume her work, but on her first job back in the English Lake District, when she was out searching for a lost fell walker on the Cumbrian hills, she went missing.

News that the brave dog, who had been dubbed "The Lady of the Lakes", was missing brought dozens of volunteers from as far away as Derbyshire and North Wales to scour the hillsides for her. Sergeant Riley, her beloved handler, led the rescue team that combed the hills for three days - and then they saw her. She was sighted near a disused farm in the middle of a blizzard, and the rescuers raced there by Landrover expecting her to jump on board - but she didn`t. Wary and disorientated, she ran away from the rescuers into the hills.

The same thing happened later that morning and again in the afternoon. The team tried everything they could to encircle her and close in on her, but every time she just ran away. Only one hope remained, an "eye in the sky", and it came in the shape of a bright yellow Sea King Helicopter from an Air Force Station in Northumberland. Its crew, on an exercise in the area, responded to a radio call for help and landed on a field near Lake Ullswater, to take Sergeant Riley on board. A little while later they saw Loch, and Sergeant Riley was lowered on a winch towards her, but she ran away, scared by the noise of the engine. When they next saw her they tried something different. Sergeant Riley jumped out of the helicopter well ahead of her and was guided towards her by radio link.

What happened next was tremendously touching - for ten agonising minutes, as the confused dog edged nervously towards him, Sergeant Riley tried to keep his voice calm and reassuring. Then, when Loch got close enough to realise who it was who had come to save her, she shed her pain and disbelief, and bounded joyfully into his arms.

"It was the happiest moment of my life", said Sergeant Riley. "At first, as I settled down in the snow to woo her towards me, she didn`t know who I was......... then she refused to believe it was me........ and then, thank God, the realisation dawned, and she bounded up into my arms! You can`t imagine the sheer indescribable joy of it for me. Yes, it was the happiest moment of my life!"

Now I don`t know about you, but I found that story very moving, not just for Loch and Sergeant Riley, but for me myself - and for you too - because, as I read it, I saw a lot of things in a new way about God..........

about the way I had been lost and away from Him.

about the patient way He had set out to find me down many years in my teens and 20`s.

about how He had drawn close to me in a way that defied belief, beginning 2,000 years ago with that tiny infant at Bethlehem.

about the way that it took a long time for me to come to the realisation that His love was real.

About how, for a long time, I was too confused and unbelieving to take it in.

Finally, about the joy of coming home into His arms......................................

Yes, I saw all these things in a new way in the story of Loch the collie, and it moved me tremendously.

But the thing that struck me more than anything, something I`d read in the Bible, but it had never really struck home before, was the sheer indescribable joy that God had when I came home to Him. He was over the moon that I was safe back in His arms. That was like a light bursting in on me........ light bursting into the dark places......... the kind of light that had burst into the lives of those early Christians, both Jews and Greeks, when they first heard the Good News. It`s what Jesus meant when He said, "There is more joy in heaven over one lost sinner who repents (returns to his Father`s arms), than over 99 righteous people who have no need to repent".

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