“Casting all your care upon Him, for He cares for you.” 1 Peter 5:7
For more than a year now, we at the Presbyterian Church of Wilmington have been using prayer stones to remind us to “cast all of our cares upon the Lord.” We have a large bowl of glass prayer stones in the back of the sanctuary and next to it is a beautiful, blue glass bowl full of water into which we drop those stones.
Before placing a stone in the bowl of water, we say a prayer asking the Almighty’s help in an area of our lives where we need the help and direction that only He can provide. We may ask for healing or for forgiveness, a much-needed job or a reconciliation with a loved one.
Our members and friends have prayed for missing hamsters to be found, for healing of a dear mother with stage four cancer and everything in between.
No cry for help is too small or too large for God to handle. We say that when we pray our prayer and cast the stone into the bowl of water, we are giving the care and worry to God in the assurance that He will take care of things perfectly.
The only problem is that our human nature is to take that care or worry back. We give it to God and then we take it back.
Our Official Parish Dog, Wally, a yellow Labrador retriever, has made it his mission to keep us from taking back our worries and cares.
About every month or six weeks, Wally takes the prayer stones from the blue bowl in the sanctuary and finds a body of water into which to cast those stones directly into the waiting arms of the Almighty. Once the stones are cast into the waters, they are beyond our reach. We cannot take our cares and worries back. Wally usually enlists the help of another canine as he goes about his holy mission.
Wally and his dog friends have been to farm ponds, rolling rivers, the Gulf of Mexico, peaceful streams and just about every type of water you can imagine. He has always found a friendly puppy or noble dog to help him with his work.
As pastor of the church, I was invited to tour sacred places in Scotland sponsored by the Church of Scotland (Presbyterian Church). Of course, we knew that our prayer stones needed to go along so that they could be cast into the arms of God in the land where our church had its beginnings.
Sadly, Wally could not go along. His duties here in Wilmington did not permit him to take off for a couple of weeks. I thought I would have to cast the stones into the North Sea in the shadow of the Iona cross all alone. God had other ideas.
As I was standing alone on a rock on Iona, next to the old abbey looking out to sea, I noticed a black Labrador retriever making his way steadily up to where I was standing.
Speaking with his owner, I learned that his name is Oswald and he is from the English area of Northumbria. He was making his fifth visit to Iona. He seemed to have an innate knowledge of the holiness of the place.
Oswald, I learned, would be pleased to help out his Yankee cousin canine and fill in for him as I cast all of our Wilmington cares into the North Sea.
When we had finished our mission, I showed Oswald a picture of Wally last month, casting stones into the Ohio River at Ripley. We had stood in front of the Parker House on the banks of the Ohio River, where slaves had cast not just stones, but their bodies into the Ohio River in a desperate quest for freedom via the Underground Railroad.
If those brave souls so long ago could cast their very lives into the hands of God, how could we not follow that example and trust God to handle all of our cares?
Whether in far away Scotland or just down by the river in Ripley, we are doing more than just casting stones in the water. We are entrusting to God our lives, with the sure knowledge that He will care for us and answer our prayers as is absolutely the best for us.
Come by any time and visit our sanctuary. Pick up a stone and say a prayer.
Place it in the blue bowl and God (with a little help from Wally and his canine friends) will do the rest.
He cares for you.
Debbie Linville is Pastor of the Presbyterian Church of Wilmington.