Monday, December 23, 2013

When you can't see, listen

I wrote about Listening to God over at Strawberry Roan, and was chatting with Pastor Kevin from Save The Cowboy, and thought of how we listen differently in the country than in the city. Here is another take on being still and hearing God.

John 10:27-28 (NIV)

 My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me.  I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one will snatch them out of my hand.

When you are riding in rough country the brush can be thick. Very thick.  You cannot rely on your eyes. You have to listen.  Sometimes you have to listen very hard.

A good brush horse is quiet. They can walk without raising a ruckus. Picking the right path.  But it only works when you let them find their way.  A level of trust is needed.  You are busy anyway, you are listening. For the cows in the brush. For other sounds. Sometimes for a lack of sounds.

We don't do much yakking in the bush when we are working cows. You gotta pay attention to what is going on around you. You need to listen. You need to ride your feet and legs. You need a hand on the reins and one in front of your face. Hat screwed down tight. Toes turned in.

Many times life is like finding cows in the bush.  You know the they are there. But they are hard to see. Cows are generally not stealthy. Yes I said generally, there are some sneaky critters who are very stealthy.  Most cows are loud. They crash. They leave a wide trail. They leave a lot of manure. You can hear them, and sometimes smell their trail, even if you can't SEE THEM!

Lots of the time we miss things because we are being too loud. Too busy. We miss danger signs. We miss trails. We miss blessings.

You can have a really long day if you aren't listening. Have you ever seen the show Mantracker? Cowboy Terry Grant uses his brush skills to find people doing mounted search and rescue.  He did a show for a while where people on foot would try to beat him and his mounted sidekick to an end point. 

People would laugh - thinking they could outsmart a mounted man. Lots of times they were betrayed by the small sounds they made. Sounds heard by the horses. Who then alerted their riders.  Man to man it is a race, add a horse and you suddenly have an advantage. More speed, more ears, better smell and another set of eyes.

Cowboys and cowgirls - God rides with us every day. We are never alone in the saddle. We are never alone on any trail. He is with us. 

Riding through the storm. Through the dust on drag. Alone on night watch. Watching the fire. Scouting the trail. Getting critters outta the brush. He is with us. 

We don't need to shout for Him. He hears the small sound at the beginning of a whispered prayer. 

Elijah went riding, looking for God.

1 Kings 19:11 The Lord said, “Go out and stand on the mountain in the presence of the Lord, for the Lord is about to pass by.”
Then a great and powerful wind tore the mountains apart and shattered the rocks before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake. 12 After the earthquake came a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire came a gentle whisper. 13 When Elijah heard it, he pulled his cloak over his face and went out and stood at the mouth of the cave.
Then a voice said to him, “What are you doing here, Elijah?” (emphasis mine)

You know that moment, don't you?  Riding through tight brush, and coming out to see the most amazing vista.  God-light streaming through the clouds after a storm. Sunshine on a distant river. A cow cleaning a new calf. An elk on a ridge.

We can get used to riding alone. Or what feels like alone. We know the sounds of the brush, the land. We know the ebb and flow of the wildlife and weather. We are attuned to the sounds of our world.  What we forget is that it was God's world first.  And knowing it as His, lets us know Him in a special way.

And knowing Him that way is a blessing without measure!  A sailor may hear God on the open seas. Truckers on the highway. 

But we can't know Him when we are loud, busy and crashing through life.  No one moves up a herd of cows by running ahead shouting, Y'all follow me now!  Rushing through things, being loud and distracted only serves the devil. We can't hear God when we are laying on the horn, chewing on complaints like an old piece of rawhide or spitting hate at those who are not the same as we.

We can't hear Him if we don't listen. And He wants us to listen closely. Reverently. 

Tomorrow is Christmas Eve.  We celebrate the birth of our King. He chose to be born in a barn. Amongst the animals which warmed that little family with their bodies and breath. Shared their fragrant hay and manger with the newborn King. Offered their protection and trust. As you go to do your chores, remember those first shepherds awoken from night watch by the first Christmas concert!  Remember their stewardship and celebration.  Remember our King!

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Romance in the country

My blogging friend Leah wrote today about romance and marriage.  It is a great post, I invite you over to read it.

She shares some thoughts and amazing quotes about romance, expectations and marriage.  Rather than fill her comment box with a blog length comment I thought I would share my thoughts here.

Men and women are wired differently. We all know that.   But what if your husband is the romantic? Or if you are the breadwinner? What if you work together?  Maybe he is away, serving in the military or working?  Things can change from those circumstances.

Even more interestingly is personality.  My husband is way more romantically oriented than I.  He knows the good chick flicks. I don't care for them at all!  Picking a movie from a date night list is a weird experience.  He knows what really moves my heart.  I know what moves his.

He is not wired to be more practical than I but differently.  He sees somethings I do not, and I can do things he does not wish to do.  We are all about balance.  

Romance ain't easy farming or ranching! But sometimes it can be sweet.  I love that he picks me up for a tractor ride.  Or that h shows me where he wildflowers are blooming so I can take photos.  He will carry my saddle when I want to go riding.  He opens the gate when we are walking to check the cows.  I open the gate when he is in the tractor.  We watch each other's backs with the animals.  I bring him food and drink to the fields.  We do it together.

Fencing may not seem romantic but it is time together. Time to talk, to share, to laugh.  Field picnics can happen when it is busy on the farm.  But again, it is time together. And it is a gift of food, and that in my world equals love.

I check on him to make sure he is safe.  Not exactly a Hallmark card is it? Sometimes I'm working with the animals and he is watching me.  I love his smile as he sees me bringing a young horse up through training or see a calf's first steps.

Touch and time together are our love languages, and we make it work on the farm.  Non traditional roles to be sure.  But in farm country and ranch country it is how we do it together.  We share the work, and we try to make it fun. We take the time together, whenever and however we get it, and we cherish it.

It may not make it into a movie, or a romance novel, or even a cartoon. But it is romance for us, in the country.  And it can be dirty (hey babe you look hot holding a grease gun!) and messy (oh no afterbirth from two calves is super look for you!) and tiring (one more round before the moisture gets too high) but is is balanced by wild sunsets, evening walks, the breath you take after seeding and after harvest.  The joy in doing a hard job together means so much to me!

So farmer and ranch sisters - share your stories of farm and ranch romance!  I would love to hear them! 

Friday, September 6, 2013

Why I don't really journal but

...I blog. In four places of my own, and on others. I also put tons of photos on my pages and social media.  That is my journal.

I have two cameras, plus my phone. I record our moments when I can.

That is my journal.

Private thoughts, dreams, and ideas get shared via poetry. Sunflower Poetry

My faith which is no secret gets shared at Strawberry Roan

The healing journey I am on was shared on Scarred Seeker for a while but I've let it lapse so I can write here and on the other two.  I am still healing, we always are working on it aren't we?

I am utterly fascinated by colored pens and pencils.  I love nothing more than to decorate the pages of a journal with illustrated quotes, sayings and Bible verses.

It has been said by my hubby that if you really want to know me read my poetry.  I guess the same could e said of any of my blogs.  I write from the heart and am not ashamed of my faith or my family or those I love. 

I have done a gratitude journal, and right now it is packed with 90% of our family belongings but I am still grateful for so many abundant blessings each day.

Linking up with sweet sister Dawn at Beneath The Surface. Stop by, link up and read some posts. Oh and leave some love people!

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Rex and Mouse

It may seem, at first, that this is a story about Rex. And it does have to start there.

Rex was old. He was more often drunk than sober.  He loved his ranching days, even though they were fast fading. His youth was gone. He couldn't help much at brandings.  He couldn't rope like he used to. Even training the colts he loved so much was hard.

Celebrating with the boys, however, always seemed to get easier.  Telling tall tales. Drinking whiskey, sometimes rum.  Always with straight up classic Coke. No ice. Nothing fancy for this old timer.  He was one who did remember line camps. And packing the mule after letting him blow a bit so the pack wouldn't slide and get kicked to pieces hours from camp.  He did remember how to rodeo, ranch and man he could work cows.

Rex had his habits. Stressing out the church ladies by peeling apples with his 'castrating' knife was one. They didn't know, of course, that it was clean enough for surgery. They just about fainted at the thought of the surgery and food mixing on the same tool.

But this isn't about Rex. Or his wild family. Or their jack-run-wild faith. No this is about Mouse.

Mouse was the horse, like Baalam's donkey, that no one thought could do anything.  He listened to a voice no one else could hear.  And that Voice told him to watch out for Rex.  You see Rex didn't drive. Never needed to, he always rode.  Mouse, like that faithful donkey, did his best to make sure Rex stayed in the saddle.

Staying in the saddle sober, as you may well know, is difficult for some and easy for others.  Staying in the saddle after putting to bed a bottle of Crown was nothing short of amazing.  And it had nothing to do with Rex.  He could haul himself into the saddle of that short grulla gelding.  Navigate his feet into the stirrups.  Find the horn (in front most times, but not always).  And then Rex held on.

Through the fog of the bottle and his memories he knew to trust his horse.  And this one he trusted with his life.  Mouse looked so strange walking home with Rex. Mouse would shift, Mouse would dip. Mouse would turn his neck and hip. Mouse moved like a slow motion ninja to keep his rider right where he needed to be - in the saddle.

Mouse never failed.  In the years those two rode together it was a Friday night legend. Who saw Rex first, and who saw the new moves of Mouse.  Rex aged. So did Mouse.  Rex's boys kept Mouse trimmed and Rex tended to his tack.

Their last ride together was the one that mattered most.  It was the night that Rex didn't feel so good. He didn't even have much to drink. He was quiet, really quiet for a garrulous old story teller.  When they asked he said he was fine. Fine as frog's hair in fact.  He pulled himself up into the saddle. Mouse stood as patient as ever.  Then Rex settled in.  And for the first, and last time, Mouse did not take Rex home.

No sir. Mouse did not walk that old cowboy home to his little three room shack.  Nope.  He walked instead to the house of one of Rex's boys.  Right up to the front step.  And he stood. And he waited. And he stomped. And snorted.

Right then that son knew something was wrong.  He never heard horses outside his house.  He lived in a part of town where no one rode.  He went to the window and saw Mouse. And saw Rex. Slumped in the saddle. Holding on to the horn.  He called his brothers.  He called the doctor.

They asked why he called so fast, and he replied that Mouse was at his front door.

They got Rex out of the saddle, and Mouse around back to the lawn.  The ambulance came and took Rex to the hospital. A heart attack they said.  Then liver failure. He may not come home. Gather the family.

Mouse retired to being the cowkid horse. Every kid could ride him. He was 100% trust worthy.

So now you know both Rex and Mouse.  Did you know, sisters and brothers in Christ, that you are Rex?  We all are.  But God is ever faithful and never lets us fall from His saddle.  We may slide, sure. Drag our reins or lose a stirrup. Even have the cinch loosen and roll the saddle over a bit. But God never lets us go. He honours His children, and loves them.  Even when all we can do is hold on.  Even when the only prayer we have is, "Help" or "Please" and then "Thank you".

Jesus promised us a helper in The Holy Spirit.  We are never abandoned.  We are never alone.  He will, like the loyal Mouse, always lead us home.  Not our earthly home, but our home range in Heaven.

Do you want to find out more about riding for the Lord?  Come to: Save The Cowboy and hear what you need to know about riding for God's brand!

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Jonah and cheatin horses

Sonny was a great horse. He was smart. He was strong.  He was well trained. He could do most things well.

He was also a thinker. He knew when you wore spurs and when you didn't. And he behaved accordingly. Every time. He could hold a bit in his teeth for miles. He was a 'spook for fun' horse.  He liked to randomly jump shadows and one day would go belly deep in the mud, and balk he next.  Rocks were either for scratching or they would eat you.

No matter what you asked, he had to think about it.  He was a cheat.

Lefty was one of the best horses ever. So was Ranger. They were both abused and had a lot of fear. But once they trusted you, they trusted you with everything. They would walk over barbed wire fences, held down by one boot. They would chase a bull into dense brush. They would make sure you got home if you were sick, sore or tired.

No matter what you asked, they did it. Even when they were afraid they did it.

Lola is a 'mistatim'.  That means Big Dog in Cree.  She is curious. She is clever. She steals things, and plays with them. She can't be ridden because she spends all her time trying to watch you doing things on her back. She has not one mean bone in her body.

No matter what you ask of her, she is a goof.  Big hearted and strong, she'll be a driving horse.

Then there is Tika and Belle.  One hates me and the other respects me.  Daughter and mother. As different as a tobiano and solid sorrel can be.

There are dogs like that too. Some try to cheat you. Some won't listen. Others do their best. Some  just don't get it.

People are not all that different.  We like things to make sense. We like a challenge, or we don't. Some people can and choose not to.  Others struggle and somehow make it through.  Some cheat, some pray. Some lie and steal. Others give all they have. And there are many in between.

Jonah was not unlike a few horses I've had.  He wanted to do what God told him, as long as he liked it.  He wasn't sure about asking the worst of the worst to repent.  He was so unsure, in fact, that he ran away. That almost crashed a ship and got him a free fish belly ride.  He wanted none of that redeeming the worst of the worst business. Like a good horse trainer, God didn't just lay the boots to him.  He didn't get a bigger spade bit or a sharper pair of spurs. He didn't get a quirt and beat him into submission.

God let him get to the end of the line, and brought him back.  Jonah had to learn that he could run but not far or for long before he could go where God sent him.  Jonah had gotten used to being in step with God. Maybe sometimes a half step ahead even. Nineveh was not where he wanted to be.

Under-saddle, chasing cows, or even standing is where some horses don't want to be either.  Jonah was the same way. We are the same way. The Holy Spirit is a gentle trainer and a light burden.  The Holy Spirit is not heavy on us, nor is the Holy Spirit cruel and demanding.  God requires our love.  And by loving Him we trust him.  And in trusting Him we are able to be led by Him.  And we are obedient to Him because we want to be.

That, my friends, is love.

That, my friends, is faith.

Feel free to visit Strawberry Roan and Save The Cowboy.

Friday, March 1, 2013

He's steady

A story brought home by my sweet husband, slightly fictionalized but still an important lesson.

Two ropers. One young. One older. The younger one drove for two days to get to the heifer roping jackpot. The older roper came from his home ranch nearby.  The young roper had a partner, and they were a money winning team. However, this time, his partner was not able to come at the last minute.

Having heard the news while he was already on the road, the young roper decided to stay on the road and had faith that there would be a partner there for him to rope with.  Everyone likes to take home some prize money, but for him, the roping and time spent with other cowboys was important too.  Fellowship amongst those who spoke the same language of the rope and the horse.  We'll call this young roper Trapper.

The older roper always came to the ropings. Even when the younger, faster ropers would snicker at his beat up old truck and dusty trailer.  He didn't saddle his horse fast, and got on even slower.  Once on board, however, he was strength and grace.  He and his horse had many hundreds of hours in the saddle together and knew each other perfectly well.  The gelding knew when the older roper, we'll call him Leroy, was resting and when he was ready to rope.

Leroy often had no partners at the ropings, but he enjoyed going and sometimes he'd get to toss a loop or two.  More often than not he would spell the time keepers or be a judge.  Many times he'd just sit on his horse, alongside the arena, and watch.  Glove on, rope ready and waiting.

Trapper arrived, tired from a long drive, and unloaded his horses.  He always brought a young horse with him to these far away ropings. Nothing like time on the road to season a horse, and it was always good to have a back up horse.  He got there a bit late and the only parking spot was next to a beat up old Chevy truck pulling a dusty stock trailer.

He got the horses unloaded, watered and brushed off.  As he was cleaning out the last of the horse manure from the trailer Leroy walked over to introduce himself.  Trapper was happy to see a friendly face, and Leroy sure seemed to know everyone by their horse and rig.  Leroy didn't get off his horse, but leaned down to shake Trapper's hand.

"Let me know if you need a partner today son," he said, "I'm not the fastest heeler but I'm steady."

Trapper said thanks, and said he would see if there was anyone on the roster needing a header.  Leroy nodded, he understood. Young fellers didn't want to be saddled with the old man.  

As he walked his sorrel heading horse to the timer's table, Trapper couldn't help but thing about Leroy. He seemed like a seasoned old hand, probably learned to rope on the job when he was young.  Something about him prickled at the back of his mind.  Getting his number and signing the releases distracted him and he forgot the not quite formed memory at the back of his mind.  He asked if anyone was needing a header. The girls shook their heads, no.  The older lady said, "There's Leroy. He is a steady heeler.  And he always needs a partner."

Trapper paused, and it came to him. Something his grandpa had said years ago, leaning on a round pen rail chewing on a toothpick. "Son, don't pick a horse or a partner for their speed or fancy nature. Always find someone steady."

Smiling, Trapper, said sure. Sign me up with Leroy. A couple of young guns snickered when they overheard him.  They thought there was no way, no matter how good he was, that this new guy was gonna take home more than a chewed off ear from listening to Leroy's stories.

Riding over to the blue roan that was dozing alongside the arena, Trapper coughed.  Leroy looked up, and smiled.

"What can I do ya for son?" he asked.

"Well," Trapper started, "I was hoping you'd be my heeler today.  I hear you are steady."

The grin that lit up Leroy's face make him look years younger. He sat up a bit straighter and tidied the coils on his rope. 

"Why sure. That'd be fine." he stammered slightly, "That'd be just fine."

They roped that day.  And visited. Trapper shared about growing up with his Grandpa on the ranch. Leroy shared about young horses and pretty girls.  They laughed. They roped. And they were steady.  

Trapper soon learned his only job was to keep the barrier unbroken and catch the head. Leroy never missed.  He wasn't the fastest but there were no empty loops, single hocks or wasted dallies. 

They found themselves in second place going into the last go-round.  The snickering and talking had long since stopped. Everyone looked at Leroy like they had never seen him before.  Trapper had to smile. Grandpa would be proud.

The last heifer was a bit wild, long line of range cows beget her, and she wasn't going to forget it in the arena.  She dashed out of the gate and Trapper was quick to toss his loop on her horns and she ducked, just a bit. Enough that he had to fish the loop back on.  When he had her caught and turned, Leroy did his job and caught her.  That little wobble was a three-tenths of a second onto their time. That was almost exactly what they lost by.

At the after roping bbq, as the teams got their buckles and cheques, Leroy and Trapper were talking at a back table.  They knew they'd get some gas money out of the day, and that was always good. The friendship they were forming, however, was priceless.  

The next year Trapper came down to the roping, and his partner was able to be there. They agreed, however, to pay the extra fee and ride with Leroy if he was still around.  Leroy was still around, dragging that old trailer behind the beat up Chevy. They parked next to him, and found him on the same old blue roan.  He was sporting a new shiny buckle that was inscribed with his name, and with a gold team on it, with this written underneath: He's steady.

Trapper smiled, so glad that his friend was enjoying his anonymous gift. What a joy to give him something without him needing to know who is was from or to think he was in debt for it.  Seeing his joy was thanks enough.  After all, Leroy had given him more at that one roping than he would ever know. He helped Trapper renew his faith.

They roped again. And this year they won.  That was Leroy's last roping.  Trapper kept in touch, as best as busy men can, and when he got news of Leroy's passing he went down for the service.  A young man came up to him at the graveside and shook his hand.

"You must be Trapper!" he exclaimed. "You are the fella that Grandpa told us about. Thanks for coming."

Trapper, after everyone had gone, stood looking down at the stone.  His face pinched as he tried to force back a tear. Someone had carved Leroy's buckle image on the stone.  His epitaph was: He's steady. And underneath: He's riding for the Lord now.

You see their talks, while waiting for their turn at those ropings, turned to things beyond horses and cows, girls and trucks. They talked about being steady for God, about witnessing in the oil patch and bunk house. About how God doesn't want us to be the fastest or the hardest running, He just wants us to be steady. To be there. 

God is steady. He is always there.  You don't need to look over to know, you can trust Him to be there with you.  As close as your breath away.  

Isaiah 43:5
Do not be afraid, for I am with you

If you are looking for some great fellowship with Christian cowboys and cowgirls I invite you to visit Save The Cowboy and join us via internet, in person or by radio every Sunday.   We have found great fellowship there and many blessings across the miles.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Trust your horse

When I was young I rode in the mountains with my Grandpa.  He was very aware of the dangers, both for us and for our horses, and he often told us about what to do if something happened.  It was a widely varied list, but the response to each was almost always the same.

  • Grandpa has a heart attack and falls off - drop the reins and let the horse take you home.
  • There is a bear or a cougar scent scaring the horse - drop the reins and let the horse take you home
  • We get separated and someone gets lost - drop the reins and let the horse lead you home
  • You get scared, sick, hurt and can stay in the saddle - drop the reins and let the horse lead you home
Every time the rule was the same.  Why?  Non horse folks may be scratching their heads.  Horse folks not so much.  The horse will almost always know the way home because horses have good memories for safe places.  Like their barn. Their yard. Their trailer. Their pasture. 

Let the horse lead you home. 

Later one I had another horse, oh how I loved him.  I could fall asleep on his back and he would wake me up in the yard. Every time.  I could trust him with my life.  He always led me home.

We are in the Lenten season for many folks.  Many folks are talking about things they are going to be giving up.  I wrote about it at my other blog, Strawberry Roan, as well.  How about dropping the reins and letting Jesus lead you?  

We are so trained, and ingrained, to be in charge, holding the reins that we forget that horses, and God, are very capable of doing their work without us constantly putting pressure on them.  We can, and should, let go of the reins and enjoy the ride.  

We worry and pick up the reins.  We get scared and pick up the reins.  We get stressed out and haul back on those reins.  A cagey old horse will stiffen up and put the bit in their teeth and keep going to where they know is right.  A young horse can get a hard mouth or grow a bad attitude.  Both are bad habits. 

We are not so different, are we?  We get stubborn.  We put ourselves in a position to tell God what He needs to do for us.  We get the bit in our teeth.  We grow a bad attitude.  Even if it still looks good and Godly.  Your heart knows. God knows.

What happens when we let go of the reins?  Amazing things! Wonderful things. Unexpected things.  We get time to breathe. We have time to pray. We can enjoy the day for which we thanked God for our daily bread in.  Amen? AMEN!

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Ag Days Fun

What would yours say?

Monday, January 7, 2013

Winter Fun, Farm Style

Loyal 'Houla dog and a tube sliding boy.

Go! Go! Go!

This is fun, farm style.

Love that smile!

Daddy time is good times!

All it takes is time.  An inner tube, a tow strap and the Gator.  Those three things add up to daily winter fun. And a good reason to get out for fresh air and laughter.