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!