Crossing Gracie Creek

The grass peaking through the frozen blanket of snow

It was a frosty winter morning in the Sand hills of central NE, in maybe 1970 or 71. The crisp air made my nose tingle and the grass bow in reverence to the chill as the still blades bravely peaked through the blanket of snow. As we walked across the frozen earth sparkling with snowflakes winking at us, our laughter rang as a bell of joy in the stillness of the ice-covered prairie.

We were carrying our ice skates, fishing poles, auger, buckets, picnic basket and various other items necessary for the family mini-vacation. We often took them and they were my favorite ones. We called my Dad the recreation director because nearly every weekend he planned something fun and interesting for us to do. Even though he enjoyed them as much as we did I think he arranged them to keep us out of trouble.

As we left the old green Chevy truck behind, I looked back and it seemed to be a watchman, smiling and waiting to take us on our next adventure. That old pick-up took us so many wonderful places, like: rodeos, camping, swimming, fishing, hunting, school, church, even to Mount Rushmore. We must have looked like the Beverly Hill Billie’s with five of us packed into the cab and all our gear piled in the back. Old Green as we referred to her also taught each of us kids how to drive. She pulled our horse trailer safely to I don’t know how many rodeos. Anyway that truck seemed a part of our family. But I have wandered away from my story, so let’s head back to Gracie Creek.

Gracie Creek

As we approached the creek the swampy areas had big solid motionless clumps of dirt and grass that we walked on top of. They reminded me of the goose bumps that were forming on my face from the chilly temperature. They became bridges to keep our feet dry from the pools of slushy water which refused to cooperate with the season.

Our destination was the pond across the creek where our fishing poles would be propped by holes freshly hollowed out by Dad in hopes of catching bluegill for our supper. While the poles rested quietly waiting for their catch, we were anything but quiet. As we skated our shouts of accomplishment, praises, and arguments could be heard for miles, even though there was no one nearby to hear them, except maybe Old Green. Everyone had to show off their abilities to go backwards, spin and jump. We also enjoyed a competitive game of hockey.  Our attempts at being Olympians included bumps and bruises, fights and fun.

There I go; getting ahead of myself again. Here comes the important part. When we arrived at the creek it still contained mud and water up to my Father’s knees.  This is not uncommon during the early winter months as Gracie creek is sustained by underground water springs.  None of us were wearing appropriate boots to cross the creek and it was much too wide to jump. However, my Dad saved the day, as he always did. He carried each one of us across on his back, plus all the gear, so we could have a wonderful day bonding together as a family and making memories for the future.

My Dad, like my Heavenly Father is my HERO. They both carry me across the streams of life anytime I hop on and enjoy the journey with them.


Galloping in the Desert

Win Your Horse’s Heart

Slick and I riding in the desert.

I saddled up my horse in record time, not a great feat as I had done it thousands of times. But with eyes blinded by tears it was a miracle I got everything correctly in place so it would stay on the horse. My bay horse Slick stood calm despite my hysteria as I swung on his back.

I galloped him by the house, out the gate toward the thousands of acres of unfenced BLM land. It was nothing more than dry rocky dirt scattered with sage brush, cactus, and an occasional jack rabbit or antelope. Sure there were dangers like rattle snakes, scorpions and deep hidden gullies one could fall into when riding at top speed especially when one was not watching where they were going. However, I was riding without fear of what the desert could do to me. These hazards did not matter to me because I didn’t think anything could hurt me more than the pain I was feeling as my heart split in two. In fact, I was hoping the high mountain desert of Nevada would swallow me up so I would never have to return to my miserable failure of a life.

The events which led up to this day were wrapped in poor choices and some gullibility.
Divorce, miscarriage, disloyalty, manipulation, deception, mistreatment, cruelty, violence, neglect, slanders, rejection, lack of self-worth, condemnation, and financial struggles had taken their toll on me. The straw which finally broke me was when I was asked to leave the church.

Where would I go now? I was still too full of pride to admit that I had been wrong and go home to my parents who I knew would accept me with open arms. I thought I had made this bed so now I needed to lie in it. I was all alone except for my faithful horse Slick who had been with me through all of it. He was the only constant in my life. I thought I knew God. But did I really? Maybe I knew a lot about him. But did I really know him personally?  Did I really trust him? Apparently not, because the moment I rode out into that desert I lost all hope.

I don’t know how long I rode or where I even went. I just let Slick take me to places unknown. They were dark places.  Sometimes I let Slick walk so he could rest, and sometimes I encouraged him to fly like the wind. And he did! I wanted to keep riding until I was hopelessly lost and no one could find me.  After a while I got off because thankfully I had not lost all of my senses. I did not want to kill my precious horse Slick by injuring him or even running him to death. It had been hours and we didn’t have any water.

I remember letting go of the reins, lying down on the sandy desert floor letting every fiber of my being scream in agony until it became a weak whimper. I don’t know how long I laid there. I just know my horse Slick never left my side.  When I could talk again I asked the Lord to take everything out of me which was not pleasing to him, or just let me die out there in the desert. I surrendered  to the Lord Jesus Christ in a way that I imagine a wild horse must yield in order to be tamed.

By now it was beginning to get dark. I had a choice to make; stay, keep going, or go back. My horse Slick began to nudge me. It was the most spiritual moment I have ever had in my life. I didn’t know the way home, but I knew he did. Would I, should I, could I trust him? I did and Slick my champion took me home. As he walked in the dark I let Slick have a full rein as I rode him. He never missed a step. He took care of me as if he would give his life for me. While I rode him I began to gain strength to face the world I was riding into which had not changed. Only I had changed.

See pictures of Slick in my video “A lifetime of Horsemanship”

Slick and I just a couple of days before he died.
Read about how he died in my book. “Win Your Horse’s Heart”

The Lost is Found

I normally write about what God is teaching me through my horses. However, I am preparing for a Lay Speaking Story Telling Class for this weekend, and I had to write a story to tell. So I thought I would share it on my blog.  As some of you guess this story is about me and it relates to the Lost Sheep Parable that Jesus tells in Luke chapter 15. Enjoy.

She had been gone for quite a few years. She wandered off on her own looking for greener grass, adventures, and excitement.  She searched for love, purpose, and meaning.

And there was talk, lots of it; that went something like this:

“It’s her own fault. She chose to leave.”

“Shouldn’t she suffer the consequences of her bad choices?”

“What does she expect? You reap what you sow.”

“She needs to learn the price of obedience. How else will she learn?”

“She is an embarrassment to us. She reflects poorly our values.”

“Leave her alone. She is not worthy of love.”

That is really exactly what she wanted – to be left alone – to find her own way.

She left a note on the dresser in the bedroom explaining she wasn’t coming back and don’t bother looking for her because there will be no forwarding address.

She always lived in the green valley under the protection of a loving family until a young marriage threw her into a dry desert of despair and confusion. So she ran away, as far and fast as she could.

At first climbing up the steep mountains were exhilarating and it gave her a sense of freedom and confidence in herself. As she explored she saw beauty on the mountain tops which thrilled her.

But there were also dangers along the way which tried to destroy her.

Bears with Anger.

Foxes with Pride.

Sneaky Cougars with selfishness.

Wolves with deception.

Coyotes with cleverness, “leaning on her own understanding.”

It seemed like she escaped from each one of these sinful predators, even though each encounter left her with both visible and invisible battle scars. Finally one day they all surrounded her and she found herself trapped on a steep ragged cliff, clinging desperately to a crumbling ledge, with no place left to go.

While going her own way looking for freedom she found herself cut off, imprisoned and out of options. She watched her wounds bleed as she cried and held on; hoping for a rescue.

As she hung there between life and death she wondered if she had gone too far this time? Was she totally abandoned? Was it over? Just as this thought crossed her mind the rock she gripped between her weakening hands began to collapse.

Suddenly she heard footsteps whispering in the distance, they were moving closer, closer, and then a familiar voice called her name over and over.

She did not know He had been calling for his lost love for a long time. Even though there was no answer He continued to search. Finally, in the darkest hour before dawn, He found his precious lost one at the perfect time.

From the depths of her soul she squeaked out “I’m over here, Lord, HELP, I need you!”

As she saw his face the cliff gave away again and she heard him say, “Don’t worry precious one, nothing can separate you from my love. Not height, nor depth. Not your accomplishments. Not even your failures. I promised never to leave or forsake you. I will pursue you no matter where you go because I love you.”

Using his Shepherd’s hook, He pulled her to safety just as the rock she hung from split. It plunged to the earth below shattering into a broken pieces as it hit.

He saved her from certain death and destruction. And then He took her in his arms. He didn’t scold or punish her. He simply carried her all the way home.

As the morning sunshine poured across the green pasture, the Shepherd arrived home as he carried her over his strong shoulders.

He called to His friends and neighbors “Come celebrate with me! I have found my precious one that was lost!”

That day, even the angels in Heaven rejoiced.  For once she was lost. But now she was found.

Riding the Trails as One

DJ resting at Laddy Lake after about 8 miles of riding the trail as one. LOL! NOT!

Before I start, I apologize to the followers of this blog that it has been so long since I posted. I have been so busy with camps, lessons, clinics, teaching a bible study and an intern. I don’t have so many thing on my calendar in August so I hope to get caught up on some of my computer work.

For those of you who follow me on facebook or on my yahoo group you know that I have been sharing quotes from Tom Dorrance’s book “True Unity”.  Despite the heat I have ridden every day throughout June and July. However in the heat of the afternoon Lindsey (my intern) and I often went to relax on the Calamus Beaches. It somehow seemed cooler at the beach with the breezes blowing off the water towards us as we sat under a shade tree reading either Tom’s book or the Bible.  Of course, every once in a while a refreshing dip in the cool spring waters of the Calamus when we got too hot felt so good. In fact sometimes it even felt quite cold, which was a very welcome feeling.

As I read Tom’s book in combination with the Bible I realized once again there is no magic formula to become one with a horse. Although I am sure the experience of oneness is a reality for the horse and rider to share, most of us only get fleeting moments of it from time to time. This “true unity” between a horse and rider is not something that can be handed to someone. It has to be learned. As Tom says, “It has to come from the inside of a person and the inside of a horse.”

I have been focusing on my relationship with DJ this month. He has been a very challenging horse for me. I have made what I thought was every effort to ride him in harmony without arguments. But the truth is, it has taken longer and much more effort than I ever dreamed possible to ride in agreement with this horse. It has taken humility, patience and endurance. But the good news is I feel like I am finally starting to get with him and he with me. It isn’t perfect by any means, but what harmony and oneness we do have I am eager to guard and keep.

Last fall I was making what I saw as really good progress with DJ, so I went to bragging about how well he was doing. That week he bucked me off. Proverbs 16:18 “Pride goes before destruction,  a haughty spirit before a fall.”

I think the greatest enemy to unity is PRIDE.  Proverbs 13:10 says “Pride only breeds quarrels”.  “The Message” says “Arrogant know-it-alls stir up discord, but wise men and women listen to each other’s counsel.”

Ray Hunt said, “When the horse is in trouble and the human doesn’t know how to help him, the human lets his pride get in the way and the first thing you know – it’s a contest. The human makes it a win or lose situation, and if you’re not real careful, the horse comes out the winner. The horse doesn’t know what win or lose is, or what a contest is, until the human shows it to him.”

When I am feeling too proud, in the not so good way. I remind myself of a few facts.

1. I remind myself that My horse is always right and a reflection of me. He didn’t ask to be in my corral.

2. I remind myself of who I am and from where I have come. Even though I have learned a lot, I still don’t know it all and have a long way to go to become the horseman DJ needs me to be on a regular basis.

3. I remind myself that I need to stop making excuses or blaming the horse. I need to  quit working on the horse and start working on me because the horse usually gets the job done in spite of me, not because of me.

I have discovered that unity with my horse DJ only happens when I truly listen to him and put his needs first. Tom says it this way, “The best thing I try to do for myself is to try to listen to the horse. I don’t mean let him take over.  I listen to how he’s operating; what he’s understanding or what he doesn’t understand; what’s bothering him and what isn’t bothering him. I try to feel what the horse is feeling and operate from where the horse is.” 

As I thought about riding my horse in unity this month I began thinking about living in unity with others in my life-like: my husband, parents, siblings, friends, co-workers, clients, business competitors, and of course believers in Christ. This Sunday I will be presenting parts of the message you are reading in a Sermon at two local churches. The liturgy scripture for this week is Ephesians 4: 1-16 where we are encouraged by Paul to run on the road together as one that God has called us to travel. While we are riding this trail together he admonishes us to do it with humility and discipline, not in fits and starts, but steadily pouring ourselves out for each other in acts of love, alert at noticing differences and quick to mend fences.  I encourage you to read if for yourself.

In “The Message”1 Corinthians 1:10 Paul shares his concern with believers, “I have a serious concern to bring up with you, my friends, using the authority of Jesus our Master. I’ll put it as urgently as I can: You must get along with each other. You must learn to be considerate of one another, cultivating a life in common.”

When Saint Augustine was asked to list the principles of the Christian life, he answered, “First, humility. Second, humility. Third, humility.”

Ray Hunt told us letting pride get in the way will cause a contest with the horse where there is usually no winner. If I want to ride the trail as one whether on my horse or traveling on the road of being a christian with other believers, I need to remind myself of some facts similar to the ones I listed above.

1. I remind myself of what Christ did for me: He HUMBLED Himself

Philippians 2:5-8 “Think of yourselves the way Christ Jesus thought of himself. He had equal status with God but didn’t think so much of himself that he had to cling to the advantages of that status no matter what. Not at all. When the time came, he set aside the privileges of deity and took on the status of a slave, became human. Having become human, he stayed human. It was an incredibly humbling process. He didn’t claim special privileges. Instead he lived a selfless, obedient life and then died a selfless, obedient death, and the worst kind of death at that – a crucifixion.”

When I survey the wondrous cross,
On which the Prince of glory died,
My richest gain I count but loss,
And pour contempt on all my pride.—Isaac Watts

2.  I remind myself of who I am: A sinner saved by GRACE

3. I remind myself of who others are: People VALUED by God

When I remind myself of  these facts and yield myself to the guidance of the Holy Spirit, it seems so much easier to lay aside differences with others. It reminds me that I hurt Jesus as well as myself when I criticize or argue. When I rely on the power of His Spirit working through me, I can achieve unity to ride the trails of life whether they are on my horse DJ, within the wall of the church, or outside the walls of the church in all of my relationships.

Today, I pray that we leave a trail of inspiration for others as we ride together as one on this journey of becoming a mature Christian and savvy Horseman. As we make every effort to live in unity with each other may the Spirit of God grant us the humility, love and patience required to live in unity so the power of God will be evident in our lives and through it bring others to Christ and glory to God. AMEN!