Are There Sentinels Guarding Your "Thin Places"?

Is there a relationship between the dog suicide bridge and the dark and depressing spiritual condition of things in this particular area? Personally I go with the mink theory, but I do believe there are areas of the planet that need intense and consistent prayer. I’ve lived in two other regions of “harmonic convergence”—one near Mt Warning NSW Australia and another in Bandon, Oregon. Both places were spiritually significant and we were able to see God do some amazing things in both locations. Consistent and focused prayer can change the spiritual condition of people, locations and nations.
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My wife and I were in Scotland doing some consignment work for To Write Love on Her Arms when we first met Stuart, our bilingual friend from Glasgow. We met at Overtoun House, a castle near Dumbarton where our hosts, Bob and Melissa Hill, introduced us to some of the local history and pointed out that this castle and grounds had often been the focus of national attention due to an unusual local phenomenon. There’s an old stone bridge next to the castle known for many decades as the “dog suicide bridge.” Film crews have documented evidence from locals in the area that have lost their pets in an apparent doggy suicide. You might have been thinking the owners of the castle have a found a way to deal with stray dogs, but animal rights activists have confirmed that this is not the case. Neighbors walking their dogs have not been able to restrain their pets as they leap over the edge of the bridge to their deaths 50 feet below. Occasionally a dog will somehow survive the fall, only to return and jump again.

Dogs have been jumping off the bridge since the 1970s, leading some to believe there’s a weird, paranormal phenomenon taking place. Many believe dogs have a unique sensitivity to spiritual activity while others believe it’s only a natural response as the dog picks up the scent of mink (a weasel-like animal common in the area). The wall on either side of the bridge is about four feet high, so the dog might jump, expecting there to be level ground on the other side. As many as five dogs have jumped in six months and there have been at least 50 occurrences of this strange phenomenon since the ’70s.

According to Celtic mythology, the Overtoun House area is known to be a “thin place”—a place where the barrier between the natural and supernatural world is at its thinnest. Those involved with the New Age movement would be more familiar with the term “harmonic convergence.” There is yet another group that believes north winds, traveling down across Loch Lomond not far away, have a peculiar effect on animals.

Unfortunately, this peculiar phenomenon is not the only dark side to the area. While staying at Overtoun House, Stuart Gilmore, the director of Void Avoidance, an organization committed to raising awareness of self destructive behaviors, told us about the “Neds” (non-educated delinquents) who dominate the youth culture in that part of Scotland. He said that it’s common for girls in the area who are only 12 years old to become sexually active. Glasgow, a short distance away, has some of the highest unemployment, crime and drunkenness in the U.K. Not so surprising is the fact that the area also has extremely high rates of depression, suicide and self injury. To combat these conditions, Bob and Melissa have converted the castle into a safe place for single mothers and pregnant young girls.

Is there a relationship between the dog suicide bridge and the dark and depressing spiritual condition of things in this particular area? Personally I go with the mink theory, but I do believe there are areas of the planet that need intense and consistent prayer. I’ve lived in two other regions of “harmonic convergence”—one near Mt Warning NSW Australia and another in Bandon, Oregon. Both places were spiritually significant and we were able to see God do some amazing things in both locations. Consistent and focused prayer can change the spiritual condition of people, locations and nations.

So what does dog suicide have to do with us as leaders?

Leaders are a lot like the dogs in that “thin place” in Scotland. We all need sentinel guards posted at the bridges of our own destruction. Prayer sensitizes us to spiritual climate conditions, alerting us to real danger and deceptively innocent four-foot walls. Setting sentinel Scriptures at the forefront of our mind protects us from many an inviting and irresistible scent along the trail. All leaders need sentinel friends to block the way and alert to the dangers of leaping over walls. How many leaders have fallen once only to go back and jump again? There were not enough sentinels posted on their bridge.

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Let’s take a lesson from our four-legged friends and not think ourselves as beyond the impulsive nature of our own instincts. We all need help, we all need sentinels and we all need to learn from the destruction of others. It’s been said that one of the marks of truly effective spiritual leaders is that they bring lasting change not only to the people they serve but also to the spiritual climate of the location.

Case in point: A castle in Scotland famous for dog suicide and paranormal activity now becomes a safe place for children and their young mothers.

And by the way, there have been no dog suicides for the last five years. Maybe it’s the invisible sentinels that are now guarding the bridge.

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