Treasure Hunt: Frisky Dogs, Healed Hearts, and the Man in a Red Hat

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Contributed by Julie Atwood.

“It broke my heart to have to let her go. But when she ripped up an entire section of our carpet, terrorized the cats and our other dog, then decided to snack on the Book of Ephesians . . .”

With a rueful smile, Cheryl points to the torn and tattered pages in her Bible. She goes on describing the rambunctious stray mongrel she’d rescued for a season from the parking lot of Rowlett’s DART station. “After we took her to the shelter, though, peace again settled over our house. Our other animals came out of hiding. And God is already bringing healing to my heart.

“You know,” she continues in a thoughtful tone, “there are some books in the Bible—especially in the Old Testament—we think not even a dog would want to eat. We all like to focus on God’s love and forgiveness, and we often forget God’s wrath over our sin. Yet when Jesus died for us, He had to face His Father’s wrath on our behalf. He let His heart be broken over our sin so that our hearts could be healed.”

Healed hearts and frisky dogs. Following the theme of Cheryl’s opening devotional, these clues seem the key themes of this morning’s Treasure Hunt at the Firewheel Home Depot.

“Look, there’s a lady with a blue shirt!” Darting ahead of his mom and me down one cedar-pungent aisle, five-year-old Corby finds our first human Treasure. Sheila’s wearing the color clue Corby shares with both Cheryl and me.

The cheerful golden-haired shopper—whom we meet near a display of dog crates and cages—requests prayer concerning her family’s project of fixing up their patio. While detailing this project, Sheila shakes her head over a a rather unpleasant memory. “Our dog almost died when he chewed up part of my brother’s bed.”

After we offer prayers for Sheila and her family, Jennifer turns to her small son. “Wasn’t that another one of your clues, Corby? ‘A dog died’ ?”

“Yeah.” But he flashes his most radiant gap-toothed grin in our shared relief that this mischievous canine in fact survived his devastating snack.

Grabbing his mom’s hand and bouncing forward, Corby tugs her toward the outdoor gardening section. On our first foray out there we find only birds, chirping and soaring above the displays of multicolored flowers. “Should we pray for the birds, Mom?” The little Treasure Hunter grins again as he points skyward.

“No, we don’t need to pray for them,” Jennifer assures him. But on a second tour of this section, not far from her clue of a heater, we find our second human Treasure. There are actually two Treasures—a married couple.

“Marie, do we need prayer for anything?” Bill calls to his wife as she pulls up with her shopping cart.

“We need prayer for everything.” Marie grins and shakes her head. But on further thought, she and Bill agree their most pressing prayer need is for their college-bound son. “Just pray that Steve keeps to the straight and narrow way,” Bill advises us. His concerned eyes tell us he’s struggling with Abby’s clue of a spiritual heart issue.

Moments later we meet up with Abby and Darry. “Hey, guys, we just found John!” Abby’s eyes are dancing as she points to where her name clue—one I share—is scribbled on her sheet. “His name was printed on an orange name tag over an apron—both Cheryl’s clues. He needed prayer for his prodigal son—which for sure fit my clue of a spiritual heart issue. And we didn’t even need to approach him; he said ‘hi’ to us right by the air conditioners and the sign indicating he’s a Trane vendor.”

“Wasn’t ‘train’ also one of Cheryl’s clues?” I’m recalling when she earlier shared her clue of Thomas the Tank Engine.

“Well, this Trane is actually the brand name of an air conditioner.” But as she considers, Abby’s eyes leap into a livelier dance and her grin explodes into a chortle. “Hey, Julie, that’s cool! I’ll go for it as a clue—just a different outlook on the word ‘Trane.’

“Hey, this reminds me of what happened when Cheryl and I were heading over here to Home Depot. We were talking about how much little Michi loves Thomas the Tank Engine . . . especially this character in the show called Cranky Crane. And right when we were laughing about that—and also about how my parents are in town and my dad’s name is Crane—a whole flock of cranes went soaring past overhead outside our window.” Abby chuckles again. “Shows me God’s sure got a sense of humor!”

A bit later, when Darry pairs up with Brandy, they encounter a Treasure with physical heart issues. “My husband Tim just had emergency surgery for an aneurysm on his heart.” Anna—who’s also sporting a blue shirt—regards the Treasure Hunters with anxious eyes as she continues. “He also has issues with his liver and pancreas. And we’re looking for a church home.” As the Hunters wrap up Anna in loving embraces and prayers, her spiritual heart struggles find relief as well.

And when Abby teams up with ten-year-old Cheyenne, they find Treasures in Brad and Tina—a young couple who both sport Cheryl’s clue of orange shirts. Swishing her flow of long brown hair, Tina flashes the Treasure Hunters her most beautiful smile (both hair and smile are Abby’s clues). While they have no specific prayer needs, they’re grateful for the blessings the Treasure Hunters offer them.

Brandy pauses before a blue-shirted employee to question him in Spanish about prayer needs. “I am too busy to pray now,” Jose responds in his musical language. “But you are welcome to pray on your own for the music ministry at our church. I am the director of this ministry.”

In the meantime Fran and Cheryl meet June and Robert. June, the wife, is wearing Jennifer’s clue of a plaid shirt. She points toward her husband with a finger whose nail gleams a brilliant shade of blue. “Robert needs prayer for work.”

After the Treasure Hunters enfold this couple in prayer, Robert regards them with curiosity. “What church are you folks from?” He and June listen with interest as their many questions about New Horizon Vineyard are answered. And they beam their gratitude when Cheryl invites them to tomorrow’s church service and potluck lunch. “Yes, we just might show up there one of these days.”

Strolling through another aisle, Fran and Cheryl spot an actual dog . . . a clue they both share, along with small Corby. Far from wreaking havoc with frisking or snacking on inedible objects, this noble midnight Lab pads past with quiet dignity as he leads his wheelchair-bound owner along the aisle.

“No, I don’t need prayer for myself.” Sliding his chair to a stop, Brian—who’s clad in an orange shirt—fixes the Treasure Hunters with a gentle smile while he firmly shakes his head. “But I do know somebody who really does need prayer—my cousin Bobby. He’s suffering from Parkinson’s disease, and he and his wife Lou are really struggling with this.”

Cheryl returns his smile. “I know God really honors you for thinking of your cousin’s needs before your own,” she tells him warmly. “But I think He would like us to pray for you both.”

Brian agrees, welcoming their prayers not only over Bobby’s Parkinson’s but also over his own MS . . . which he’s endured with patience since 1971.

Throughout all our varied encounters with dogs and needy hearts, weaving up and down the aisles past one praying pair and another, rambles the man with a red hat. First pointed out by little Corby—one of his most striking clues—this man runs into Fran and Cheryl, then awhile later into Abby and Darry. From time to time Corby also spots and points him out. “Look, there he is again! The man with the red hat.”

Sadly enough, the highlighted stranger refuses prayer from every pair of Treasure Hunters he encounters. He’s looking a bit spooked by about the third or fourth time our smallest team member calls him to our attention. In fact, he looks like someone who’s heart has been truly dogged by a different breed . . . by Hounds of Heaven.

“We can still keep on holding him up to God,” Cheryl assures the rest of us as we head out the store past this potential human Treasure. “And we also can keep on trusting that several seeds of God’s love got planted today inside his heart.”

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