“Time is running short Lord. I know you have a purpose and a plan for this church, but the wolves are at our door, Lord. If something does not happen fast, I do not see how this church is going to be here come Christmas. Please send me a sign Lord, let me know that this church is your will, and this is a stand you are calling me to make.”
Each morning he prayed as he arrived at the church. A quiet moment each day when he turned to God to help him with the day ahead. But on that Monday morning, he a felt an urgency to his prayer. He had been sent as a pastor to the church to help try and revitalize it, to help God bring it back to a glimpse of its’ past. The church had watched as its’ numbers depreciated over the years, and the funds needed to keep its’ doors open were running dry. While the church was collapsing, the small town it sat in the heart of was booming. A town of a handful of red lights, had now become a town of many lights. And the property the church sat on had drawn the eye of town hall, the perfect spot it needed for expansion. Offers had come to the church board for the property, but with each, the pastor had been able to push the board away from any decision. He knew that the Lord was not done with this church, that the Lord had great plans for it. But as the bills piled up, it was no longer a vision he could share with the board.
The night before the board had meet, and decided it needed to invite the mayor over to make an official offer. But the pastor knew that once the offer was given, it would just be a matter of time. It was that time that he had been praying for. Time he need from the Lord, so His will might be seen by all, and known by the board.
As he finished his prayer, the phone rang. It was the mayor’s office, telling him that the mayor would be by shortly to discuss the church. It appeared that the wolves had not waited, already getting word to the mayor of what had been discussed the night before. As he hung up the phone, another noise got his attention. Helen, an older lady who had spent her life in the church, was coming in the door with her beagle, named Bailey. Being widowed and without family near, Helen had often asked him if he would keep an eye on Bailey as she ran an errand or two. Bailey was an older dog of good nature, and was far more companion that grievance to have him around, so he did not mind Bailey staying in his office with him. But as Helen hurried out the door, it occurred to him what the morning would bring. He had the mayor on the way, and now a dog he also had to watch!
As he got Bailey positioned in his office, he again heard the door of the church. This time it was not Helen, but a well dressed man in a suit. The mayor was through the door and in his office before he even realized what had happened. Having meet the mayor on other occasions, he knew the mayor was a man of few words when he was not on the campaign trail. And as the mayor found a seat in the pastoral office, he soon noticed that the mayor had not changed. “With the hardships of this church, we all know this is for the best. The city can actually use the property for some good, instead of it sitting here empty and useless most days.”, the mayor pronounced. “And I think you will find this to be a fair offer, considering we will have to demolish the existing building. All I need is a signature from you as a representative of the church for us to get this process started.”
The pastor found himself pausing before he spoke, giving the Holy Spirit a chance to form the words for him. “Mr, Mayor, I am sure this offer is fair from a business sense, but the business I am in is far more concerned about people than profits. I know the Lord has a plan for this church, and a need for it that is greater than any you could ever imagine. If you would just be patient, and open your eyes to what the Lord is trying to show you, I know He will give you a sign to confirm what I am saying!”
As if on cue, Bailey raised his head from the corner of the room where he was laying. Without even a bark, he got up and walked over to where the mayor was sitting. Then, without even a pause, Bailey raised his leg in a hiking position and begin to urinate all over the mayor’s pant leg and shoe. Then as soon as Bailey finished, he went back to the corner, and laid down again as if nothing had happened. The pastor saw himself watching all this as if time was frozen, and as if he was frozen also. As soon as it was over, he knew he had to say something, to find a way to apologize to the mayor. But before he could even say a word, the mayor rose from his chair, and hurried from the church.
Now he found himself in a panic, not knowing what to do. Did he run after the mayor or call his office to apologize? Or did he just wait on the police and animal control, that he was sure would soon be coming his way? Why had Bailey done this? This was unlike any behavior he had ever seen from Bailey before? What had gotten into him? And why in the world had it gotten into him at this moment? He could not even begin to figure out how he was going to explain all this to the board. He barely believed what had happened and he had been there, much less to try to expect others to ever believe what he had seen. There was no doubt in his mind, his days as a pastor were just about over.
Several times that day he tried to call the mayor’s office, but never got his call returned. And as the hours of the day slowly passed, he realized that the mayor did not have SWAT surrounding the church. The day turned out to be surprisingly quiet. Sometime that afternoon, Helen showed back up to get Bailey. He did not have the heart to give her the full details of what had happened, only to say that Bailey had an “accident” earlier that day.
Before he closed the church doors for the night, he called as many on the board as he could possibly reach. Trying his best to explain what he never thought he would ever be in a position to have to explain. And with each word, he realized just how farfetched his whole explanation sounded. “Yes, you heard me right.” “Yes, it was Bailey, and no, he has never done anything like this before.” “Yes, it was the mayor. And yes, I am very sure that Bailey did not miss!”
As the pastor arrived at the church the next morning, he was sure the board would be waiting there for him. He could just imagine the phone calls that had taken place the night before. But as he arrived. It was not the board that was waiting on him, but a single car was parked in front of the church. Out of the car, stepped a reporter for the local newspaper. Rushing to get with the pastor as he entered the church, the reporter told him of a funny story he had heard circulating at town hall. A story of an older dog and a very wet mayor! The reporter asked the pastor to confirm the story, of which the pastor said he had no comment. But the reporter told him he already had two confirmations, so he did not need another one anyway. He just told the pastor he could read all the details for himself as the newspaper came out later that week. Then, as the pastor entered the church, he found an envelope taped to his office door, letting him know the board had a meeting scheduled after church services the coming Sunday. A meeting where his presence was being demanded, not requested.
As the week passed, the pastor prepared a sermon he was sure would be his last. The newspaper had indeed come out as usual, and you can only guess which article had become the talk of the town. But as he arrived at church that Sunday morning, he was shocked at what he saw. As the morning progressed, he was not looking out at the usual vacant parking lot, but a parking lot that was filled with cars. It seemed that the events of the past Monday had sparked an interest in the church, and people wanted to come to see for themselves what was going on there. As he rose to give the sermon that morning, he soon realized it was not the sermon he had prepared that he was suppose to give. But a sermon of how God can use us even in the most unusual of circumstances.
Seeing the crowd at church that morning, the board soon canceled the scheduled meeting. And with each Sunday, the pastor continued to see the pews being filled. Soon, the once empty church was running over with new members. Within months, the church was debt free, and looking at how the congregation could make a difference throughout the town. A difference that the town’s government could not make, but needed lives the Lord could touch with the congregation’s help. A difference, that not only found the town’s once wet mayor sitting in a pew each Sunday, but helping in the church’s community food pantry every Monday. A prayer answered, a difference made, in the most amazing of ways! A Christmas that would be saved, but that would never be forgotten. A Christmas, when the Lord used a beagle named Bailey to save a church, and to touch more lives than a mayor and a small town could count!
As you get caught up in the hustle and bustle of this Christmas, remember Bailey. And as you think of Bailey, ask yourself one question. If God can use a beagle named Bailey to change the lives of so many, what could He do with me?
Place your life in God’s hands, and let Him make you a present this Christmas!
Dr. Mike Murphy