Finding Faith ... in the evening quiet

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Since our trusty family pooch "Cody" came into our lives five years ago, I estimate that we've walked an estimated 2,500 miles around our central Moorhead neighborhood.

Our walks generally take place in the evening, after dinner ... or after we've conquered the middle school algebra for the night! ... But sometimes the walks take place even later in the evening, depending upon schedules. ... Maybe a basketball game or orchestra concert or the occasional work responsibility will force us to walk later.

Regardless, we are pretty religious about them. If I am not on the road for work or school, Cody and I take that walk every night ... rain, sleet or snow. ... Cold or warm. ... Under winter's dark night or a clear blue late summer evening sky, we walk. ... The walk has become as important for me as it has been for Cody.

Unfortunately, as of late, our walks have been severely shortened by the fact that in his advancing years, Cody's back hips are failing him. We are doctoring with his veterinarian and dealing with the malady as best as we can. But the simple fact is, Cody is at least 10 years old, and he could be older as we don't have solid information since we adopted him from a rescue organization.

So in the last couple of months, what used to be a 2-mile per night jaunt, has turned into a tenth of that distance. Cody can only make it around the most immediate five or six blocks around our house before his back hips hurt him too much. After the short distance, you can see that he is just simply pooped and aching, which breaks my heart considering the healthy and strong dog he was when we adopted him.

But tonight, something was different. Cody had a bit more pep in his step, and I was caught up on all of my obligations, a rare occurrence. ... And so when the CoCo (one of his nicknames the girls gave him) and I started out, I was filled with the strange sensation that there was no reason I had to rush through the walk tonight.

In recent months, juggling the hospital chaplaincy work on top of the various other responsibilities I have, has left me pretty hyper-focused, keeping a one-step-in-front-of-the-other approach to get through the day until my chaplaincy work is up in December. And so, too often, I barrel from one segment of my life to the other, from work to family life to church to chaplaincy, and then reverse!

But for whatever reason, not on this night. ... On this night, as we stepped out of our garage and into the crisp but mild air, I was struck by how beautiful the evening was. ... Certainly, I still had on a stocking hat and winter coat, but all in all the temperatures were mild for this time of year. And there was no wind! ... Dare I say, it was pleasant!

And so, as we ambled along, I was overcome with a supreme feeling of peace. Even Cody's normal habit of trying to stop to pee on EVERY tree didn't annoy me as much as it does most nights. To the contrary, every time he stopped to sniff another tree or post or shrub -- he's always looking for a place to leave a mark! -- I'd slow up and give him plenty of leash so that he could dawdle.

And, on this evening, I think he too noticed something weird about my actions, as there were a couple of times, during mid-sniff, he'd look at me out of the corner of his eye as if he wondered when he was going to get the signal to move on, even though he wasn't done with his ritual.

So, on we moseyed. ... And moseying it was. ... Neither of us had a purpose other than to just cover some ground, to move farther away from the house ... just a shuffling one foot in front of the other. And once he figured out that I wasn't requiring him to be on the sidewalk tonight, Cody went about zigzagging from one side of the sidewalk to the other sniffing out new and familiar old haunts and peeing on them.

As for me, I looked at the house fronts, and checked out which neighbors were home, and which weren't. I saw the lights coming on in most first floor kitchens and dining rooms and living rooms, not a surprise considering how quickly the sky grows dark this time of year. And I wondered what everyone else's evening rituals were like. ... I wondered if they have dogs they walk. Or if they are as bad at middle school algebra as I am and have to call their older kids to help them. I wondered if they feel as rushed as Shelley and I do. ... I wondered how they were doing, just in general, if life had been good to them.

You know, it was just an evening to ponder such things, as Cody and I made our way around the neighborhood.

I mulled over the day's developments, both here at home and elsewhere at work. ... I looked at elections signs and thought, "Man, those innocent, ol' signs don't look nearly as harmful as our general discourse about the election does." ... And then my mind was off to other things as we continued our slow stroll through the evening quiet.

And in that moment, when the quiet settled in around me ... or more appropriately, I became aware of the quiet and calm around me, I thanked God for his presence. And I heard him speak to me, saying, "Hush child. All is calm."

And it was. None of my normal rat race mattered. None of the normal stresses of daily life mattered. The division over politics that we live through daily didn't matter.

It was just me, Cody, the beautiful evening and God's presence. ... And it was simply majestic. ... Amen.

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