As soon as apple harvest was done, we would construct a simple solar-powered electric wire fence within our orchard.
The fence was movable and capable of containing our four horses. So, once the fence was up, we'd lead the horses into it during the day. They happily roamed around, munching on fresh orchard grass and the apples that had fallen during picking time. The horses were in heaven. But oddly, they escaped one Sunday morning.
After church, we drove up the driveway through the apple orchard to the house, and noticed all the horses were gone. Believe me, it is easy to notice the absence of four horses, each weighing about 900 pounds.
Now, our orchard was close to suburbia, where houses sat side-by-side, children walked up and down the streets, and cars drifted from home to town. It was a bit disconcerting to picture four horses carousing around the neighborhood under their own instincts with no guidance. Searching my mind for direction, I thought of this verse from Colossians, "Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful." (NIV)
While at church, I had devoted myself to prayer _ well, OK, minus the time I spent mentally studying all I needed to get done in the upcoming week. But, devoting myself to prayer is something I try to do regularly, even when walking around the neighborhood looking for horses.
Prayer is more than pleading God to do something. God's work is done and it is good. I also didn't make up a wordy prayer. On that Sunday, I pulled on my boots and started looking for horses with a prayerful attitude and watchfulness.
Spiritual leader Mary Baker Eddy wrote in her book Science and Health, "Desire is prayer."
I can trust my desires to God to tweak and iron them out so they have a good motive. My desire to find the horses expanded to a desire for safety for the neighbors and the animals. And, I watched, thankfulness crept in on my thoughts.
To be thankful is not to be angry with the horses or myself. I had to stop being appalled over the fact that the horses would leave their well-accommodated abode. I had to stop asking, what on earth possessed them to run the fence and leave their food and water? I had to stop over- worrying about how dangerous it can be in the world.
Although it seemed abstract, I was thankful to God for being a constant source of wisdom and safety. I acknowledged God as all-presence, therefore I could be thankful for the all-presence of a guiding consciousness. God is speaking to all the creatures on and off the farm. Little did I know, this exercise prepared me for when our children were older and moving out on their own.
But, while looking for our horses, we soon came upon a couple who were also looking for us.
"Hey, did you lose four horses?" they asked.
"Yes," we answered with brightened faces.
"Well, they are in our backyard," said the neighbors.
Sure enough, my thankfulness blossomed into full bloom as I saw how that couple had sacrificed their backyard to four large animals, pacing around nervously, leaving deep hoof marks in the lawn and mounds of un-scattered manure plops all over. The couple was so happy to find their owners, they refused our offer to clean up the mess.
Not only did we get the four horses back home but I was forever impressed with true neighborliness.
Prayerfulness teaches us to watch, and the watchfulness keeps us in a state of thankfulness where even strangers are neighbors and safety is intact.
Cheryl Petersen is the author of '21st Century Science and Health.' She is a freelance religion writer with emphasis on Christian Science. she lives in Delhi.