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Through Lattice Windows: Lulu Attends Bible Study

...Lulu loves people and is quite convinced, I am sure, that when they smile and hurry towards us, it is because she is so adorable. She wags her tail and spins around to accept the admiration that she is certain will come her way...

Leanne Hunt is accompanied by her guide dog when she attends a Bible study class.

For years, I have not attended a regular Bible study. Certainly, it has been over half a decade since I was part of a morning ladies' group. And as for taking a guide dog along with me, that has never happened.

Now I am trying to build back into my life the things that have given me pleasure in the past. I am doing this with the help of Lulu, my golden labrador, who is trained to go everywhere with me and is, by rights, allowed access to all public spaces. Although I have been reluctant to take her to church as such, thinking she might be a distraction to others in their worship, a Bible study group is less formal and by its nature open to people with particular needs and circumstances.

Last Monday, therefore, I ventured out for the first time to a group I had heard about at a neighbouring Anglican parish. Our own church is unusual in that it does not have any midweek meetings, this due to the fact that it is connected to a college which already holds services several times a week for its boys. I had contacted the leader of the group to check that Lulu would be welcome, and she had assured me that the other women would probably be delighted to have her there. Although I felt slightly nervous about going into a completely new setting where I didn't know a soul, it was reassuring to have Lulu at my side, drawing all the attention to herself!

Lulu loves people and is quite convinced, I am sure, that when they smile and hurry towards us, it is because she is so adorable. She wags her tail and spins around to accept the admiration that she is certain will come her way. This puts me in a spot because it is hard to look poised and in control when your guide is twisting her harness in an effort to receive praise from friends and strangers! Nevertheless, the people at the Bible study were very understanding, apologising for distracting Lulu while she was supposed to be working. They all seemed to be very well informed about guide dogs and how to behave around them, which meant that they were soon ignoring her presence and leaving her to quieten down.

Introductions were made, and of course, everyone wanted to know what my guide dog was called and how long she had been with me. They were surprised to hear that Lulu is six years old because she still looks and behaves like a puppy, as well as being very small in stature. However, it was soon evident to them that she was an experienced guide dog because she ignored the sandwiches and muffins that were passed around and lay down very dutifully beside my chair for the duration of the meeting. Only when we sang did she look up, surprised, and appeared a little confused when everyone stood up at the end to hold hands and say the parting grace together. Still, even then, she followed along and stood with us as if to participate in the prayer!

The DVD we watched was part of a series by Tim Keller on witnessing. It centred around the theme of community witnessing, where a group testifies to the hope in which they trust by meeting together, supporting one another and caring for each other in times of crisis. It was an apt lesson to come in on. I felt that the group was witnessing to me of Christ's love, even as they welcomed me into their midst. It also reminded me that God uses the weak things of the world to confound the strong, which speaks of Him using blind and partially-sighted people like me to challenge and inspire those who are able bodied. If I can overcome isolation and realise my goal of publishing a book, then they can face their fears and achieve their dreams. Likewise, if I can use my disability to further my spiritual journey and connect with others, they can turn their limitations into opportunities too.

It was fun to return to the Monday Bible study this morning and greet people by name. I quickly learn to recognise voices and have a fairly good memory for names. Lulu, too, seemed happy to return to the venue, taking me eagerly up the path and into the small hall where the meetings are held. This time, the singing did not surprise her and she lay quietly during the meditation and the time of sharing afterwards. I felt very proud of her as we harnessed up and waved goodbye to everybody. I think we are going to enjoy being part of this group and building up a wider circle of friends.


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