ESCAPE ARTISTS

This is an excerpt from my most recent book, “Inspirations from the Funny Farm”. It’s one of my favorite stories in the book.. Why must we always try to escape God’s presence and do things on our own?

“Where can I go from Your Spirit? Where can I flee from Your presence? If I go up to the heavens, You are there; if I make my bed in the depths, You are there. If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, even there Your hand will guide me, Your right hand will hold me fast.” Psalm 139:7-10

“But as for me, my prayer is to You, O Lord, at an acceptable time, O God, in the greatness of Your lovingkindness. Answer me with Your saving truth. Deliver me from the mire and do not let me sink. May I be delivered from my foes and from the deep waters.” Psalm 69:13-14

Coatimunidi are in the family of raccoons and kinkajous. They are highly intelligent. These are the South American version of our native raccoon. Their body size is smaller than raccoons, and they have a long snout like nose which is used to dig for insects. They have the distinctive ringed tail similar to that of a raccoon. We have owned both mountain coatis and white nosed coatis. I think that the mountain coatis are our favorites. They are very playful, and they thrive on human attention and interaction. They require constant stimulation. We took a trip up to Tennessee to get our most recent pair of coatis. We used the excuse that we were taking a summer vacation to the lake so that people wouldn’t think we were some kind of crazy critter people. After all, who drives 10-12 hours to buy critters? We do! We loaded up an RV and drove up to Fontana Lake. After enjoying a few days in North Carolina on the lake, we took our rented Ford Explorer and drove to Tennessee to pick up our new babies. We always drive Toyotas or Subarus and have never driven a Ford so we didn’t really know anything about the vehicle except that it was a very nice ride.

We picked up our baby coatis who were 6 and 8 weeks of age at the time. They were tiny and about the size of kittens. Jeff was driving back to the campsite and asked if I could take the wheel for a while. We pulled over and changed position. After a few minutes, he was playing with the coati babies. Then, all of a sudden, one of the babies dove into the floor of the car and raced up behind the dash area of the car. Like I said, we didn’t know anything about Fords. We pulled over on side of the mountain, scratched our heads, put our ears against the dash, trying to figure out where the little escapee may be and how we were going to retrieve him. We had just bought him less than an hour ago, and I thought he was a goner. I was fighting to hold back the tears. I didn’t know what to do. We couldn’t find him anywhere. I was afraid if we drove, he would get into an area where the exhaust would kill him. We didn’t have a clue what to do. Jeff assumed the wheel and we continued our ride towards the lake intently listening for any movement in or around the dash. Thoughts were flying through my head. What if we couldn’t get him out? Would we turn the rented Ford in with a coati in the dash? Would we tell them that there was a coati in the dash, or should we just let them figure it out on their own? Oh, what were we to do? I was just about to have a conniption fit!

I remembered that we had passed a Ford dealership near Bryson City, and I looked up their phone number. I called the service department and this conversation occurred:

Me: “Sir, we are in a rented Ford Explorer. Before I go any further let me assure you that this is not a practical joke and we are not pranking you. I promise.”

Service Man: “Okay, ma’am, what can we do for you.”

Me: “As I said, we are in rented Ford Explorer, and we do not know anything about this vehicle. We are staying at Fontana Lake, and we are on our way back from Bybee, TN with two baby coatimundi.”

Service Man: “With baby whats?”

Me: “Baby coatimundi. They are the South American version of a raccoon. They are babies. Well, anyways, one of the babies jumped out of my husband’s lap and ran up behind the dash area. We can’t find him and don’t know how to get him out. I am so afraid he will die in there. I know it’s almost closing time, but if we drive straight there, can you help us get him out?”

Service Man: (Long pause.) “Does he bite? How big is this thing?”

Me: “He’s tiny. He’s a baby. About the size of a kitten. He may bite. I don’t know. We haven’t had him but an hour or two, but he hasn’t bitten us. If he does, it’ll be like a kitten bite. Can you help us, please? I promise this is not a joke. We need your help. (Desperation in my voice.)”

Service Man: “Um, yea. Come on down and we’ll see what we can do.”

We quickly drove to the dealership. It seemed like it took forever to get there, although it was less than a thirty minute drive. We pulled up at the service department, and I think every service man there came out to greet us to see what these rednecks from Mississippi were talking about. It took them two seconds to pop the dash piece off. Our little coati was right there. Jeff pulled him out, and he was perfectly fine. Again, praise the Lord! I thanked the service guys profusely, and I think they were excited to have a crazy little story to share with their friends and family. We did not allow the coatis to be held while driving or riding in the vehicle from that point on. We eventually safely arrived home in Mississippi, and we named them Pip Squeak and Pitter Patter. They have a huge enclosure attached to our porch that my husband built. We pull chairs in there and play with them as much as possible. They are awesome little critters, and they continue to bring us great joy!

With the quantity of critters that we have had through the years, and the quality of critters, we have had quite a few escape events. I’ve even chased pigs in high heels while getting ready to head to church on a Sunday morning. Every time, I panic briefly while trying to catch the little escapee, but then we always get a great big old belly laugh after the fact. I’m thankful that God protects these little creatures just as he protects each of us.

I look back on my own life, and I see all the many times that I “escaped” from God for periods of times. There were times when I just wanted to see what life had to offer, times that I got too busy for God, and then there were other times that I thought I had everything under control…under my own power. He provided every need for those Israelites as they wandered for forty years. He provided manna from heaven. He turned a rock into water. They saw the provision of God first hand, up close and personal, and yet they continued to turn their backs on God and try to escape His presence. I have never been able to understand this. I want to scream, “You knuckleheads! Can’t you see what God has done for you!”  As I’ve aged, I realized that God rescued me more times than I can even begin to count.  I’ve been a knucklehead quite a few times myself. I am eternally thankful that He has patience when I goof up like those old Israelites, and He gently puts me back on His path. God loves me even more than I love all of these silly little critters, and He has gone before me to keep me safe from harm as I walk through this thing we call life.

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