Last Thursday — the most beautiful day in a coon’s age — my hiking buddy and I hiked up Elk Knob, just short of four miles, round trip, and 5,520 feet elevation.

I suggest you make sure there’s no snow and ice on the trail before you do that hike — my buddy had his dog on a leash, and between the dog and the ice, he slipped and fell. Ouch!

That reminds me about our dogs a decade or so ago. My grandsons, who lived with us at the time, had an Old Testament collie named Princess. Then there was her playmate, a New Testament dog named Jasper, who belonged to my hiking buddy.

Jasper lived to retrieve sticks. He was a rather silly sight, crouching, every muscle straining, and entirely oblivious to everything else as he waited for the blessed pitch of the stick into the air towards him.

His was the joy of doing what he was designed to do —retrieve, whether it is a stick or a duck or a quail. Now, if he’s fast and lucky, he could get to the stick without being herded off to the side by Princess. Because she was simply doing what she was designed to do, and that is to herd things — sheep, or whatever is out there and moving!

I put up an electronic invisible barrier to mark out our yard. Princess had a collar which would first beep, and then give her a shock if she went past the invisible boundary. She learned that lesson so well that she would not under any circumstances go beyond the boundary. Not even if I took the collar off. Not even bribery with mmm-mm-m tasty dog biscuits would work. That’s one more dumb dog! But, I should give her credit for being a most obedient, loving dog.

Well, it went this way — load Princess up, drive past the boundary and park. Then she would happily gallop down the road to our neighbor’s house. The two dogs first race wildly around in great circles before quieting down for the walk.

One day they came barreling by us in the wild chase, and actually knocked my neighbor down. Now, being a former CIA agent — a “spook” — he should be smarter than to get in the way of 175 pounds of flying dogs! But he wasn’t, and they laid him out! Crutches for the first couple of weeks, then hobbling around for another month or so. So it was deja vu last Thursday when my hiking buddy tangled with his dog and fell.

Why am I telling you all this? Well, it strikes me that some folks are Old Testament believers, like Princess, focusing more on the “don’ts” of religion than on the joys. Obedience is designed to bring joy and delight into life; that’s the point of the Bible, to bring us back to our rightful relationship with God. But we are not to be obsessed with the negative, like the old Puritans, of whom it is said they were always afraid somebody, somewhere, was having fun! They were herders like Princess, never forgetting the stern rules themselves, and trying to stop others from having fun by retrieving the stick!

Now some folks are like Jasper, so caught up in the joy of fulfilling his calling to retrieve that they don’t use all their respective minds! I’ve seen lots of Christians who seemed to wear blinders about the world in which they live. They are afraid the Bible will be discredited; that God will be deposed, etc. etc. The Bible is quite capable of defending itself, thank you. And God certainly doesn’t depend on my help of yours to run this world! Our purpose is to walk with God.

One thing is sure; if you and I do not seek to both enjoy the delight of this life as well as keep the rules of God while doing so, we will miss our calling. And, one day when you and I are not paying attention, the dogs of this world may just knock us down!

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Earl Davis’ column: “Raccoon Theology” appears biweekly in The Blowing Rocket. Dr. Davis is an artist, earldavisfineart.com, and has an exhibit presently at the Seby Jones Regional Cancer Center. He is also pastor of the Middle Fork Baptist Church Blowing Rock, streaming on Facebook and YouTube, and can be contacted at earlcdavis@bellsouth.net

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