Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Our Faithful Father

"The Lord has done great things for us, and we are filled with joy." Psalm 126:3

Our Father has been so faithful to provide for the needs of His Ranch this year, and as we sit back and take a look at what He has done, we are amazed!  He brought together a staff of very different personalities and gifts from all over the country, and He made them of one heart and mind in the ministry of love.  He gave us wonderful fellowship and encouragement in the body of Christ.  He allowed us to serve over 300 individual children, as well as parents and other family members and people from the community who were able to enjoy the ranch.  He provided two new horses this summer.  He made it possible for improvements to be made to the arena fencing, the wheelchair ramp and loading dock, and a pavilion to be built for shade and seating.  He brought in a variety of animals for the kids to enjoy; cats, dogs, a goat, cows, even rats.  He brought us a great team of volunteers who accomplished a lot of cleanup, landscaping, painting, and construction around the ranch.  And as we wrapped up the 2011 season with the annual fundraiser October 29, He provided above and beyond what we could imagine.  Last fall, the fundraiser gifts came to about $11,000.  This year, God blew us away and provided over $22,000!  We should not be so surprised; His resources are unlimited.  But we are humbled and amazed that He allows us to be part of His work here and has chosen to bless us as we seek to obey the call He has placed on us to reach out to children and their families.

smiling faces!

riding the roping steer!

It was a gorgeous day for a fundraiser.  The sun warmed us enough to take off our jackets.  We welcomed over 200 guests to the ranch, plus volunteers!  It was fun to see many of the families that we have gotten to know over the summer, as well as new visitors.  The pony rides were a huge hit with the kids!

We had great food, awesome face painting, play areas for little ones, roping instruction, and an exotic gumball machine!

We were also blessed to have Marty Langhofer, a cowboy vet from Indiana, come and talk to some of the guests about things we can learn from horses and show us some neat demonstrations in the round pen.

Everyone enjoyed the day immensely!  Our heartfelt thanks to all the volunteers who make the fundraiser event possible each year, and to the many friends and guests of His Ranch who came and gave willingly for a ministry they believe in.

Will you join us in praying and believing God for next year, that according to His Word, He will do exceedingly abundantly beyond all we can ask or think?
And join us in praising our mighty Father for His faithfulness, provision, and protection during the 2011 season!   
Soli deo gloria!!!


Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Whose Will?

Safety is a high priority here at the ranch, especially when we're dealing with children.  But when you're working with horses there is always an element of risk.  The horse has a mind of its own and is a lot bigger than we are.  There are few things we can make a horse do, so we work to build a relationship of trust where the horse respects us as the herd leader and submits his strength to do our will.

It is easy to get into a rut with these horses; where a horse has done well in the past, we expect them to continue to perform.  But they will always be unpredictable.  I discovered this the hard way in a recent experience with Victor.

Victor is our best horse to use with the kids.  He has a calm, steady disposition.  He behaves pretty much the same on any given day.  We always use him for our riders with handicaps and there is not much that can phase him.  He will give us attitude sometimes, but typically he doesn't have any issues that we need to work on, like some of the other horses do, so I think we have taken him for granted and allowed things to slide.  If a horse can find a loophole to do his own will rather than the rider's, he will take advantage of it.  The riding arena is a controlled environment, and Victor is usually easy to handle in there.  Riding outside, away from the ranch, can be a different story.

A few weekends ago, I decided to take Victor out for a ride by myself.  He is one of our fastest horses and I really wanted to go for an exciting, full-out run on a straightaway.  I got exciting, all right.  More than I wanted.  I was aware that Victor had developed an annoying habit over the summer.  We call it barn sour or gate sour.  The horses get tired of work and they get lazy, just like people do.  When kids were riding in the arena, all the horses got into this habit of going over to the gate and stopping.  In their minds, that is the way to get out of work.  Because we didn't curb it right away, they thought they were getting away with bossing their riders.  We've been working on this, but all bad habits take time to break.  So when we ride outside the arena, instead of running to the gate, the horses want to turn around and run back to the barn.  We will let them run when we're headed away from the ranch, but we don't allow them to run home.  But if Victor is already running and turns around, he is very hard to stop.  So I had this in mind when I rode out, and I took him up along the edge of the field to where I thought we were far enough from home, and I asked him to run.  He immediately took off, but it didn't take long to realize that we were not enough out of range to ignore that homeward pull.  The barn and pasture are Victor's little box where he is happy and comfortable, and his mind was set on going back there.  He wasn't trying to get rid of me, but he was choosing his will over mine. He did not want to leave his friends and his secure little world where he is in control.  He did not want to go out into the unknown and trust me to guide him.  He was not interested in spending time with me.  He wanted to be with his herd, eat hay, and not work.  My attempts to stop him or change course were futile.  He simply ignored all my cues.  So I tried to use the emergency stop, pulling his head sharply around to swing him in a tight circle and bring him to a stop.  He still was not responding easily, and changed direction only enough to be heading for the nearby busy highway.  Now Victor was placing himself and me in great danger.  But he couldn't understand that. He was doing what he thought was in his best interest. Thankfully, God allowed a telephone pole and two guy wires to be directly in our path.  He protected us from running headlong into the pole; instead, Victor hit the wires and the sudden stop threw me off his back.  I have so much to thank God for, because my landing could have been a lot worse.  I hit the ground hard, facefirst.  Considering the force of the impact, I'm amazed at how little damage I sustained.  Surface scrapes, a sore neck, and an injury to my eye which has healed wonderfully.  I've spent a lot of time praising God for His mercy to me and I have gained some valuable experience in horse safety.  Now I realize that we have to deal swiftly with little issues before they become big ones.  And we can never take for granted the disposition of even the most solid horse.  A wise horseman anticipates the unpredictable.

As I look back on the accident a few weeks later, I think about how Victor's rebellion against my will caused him to lose his connection with me.  He did not try to throw me off, but that was the end result.  We no longer had the relationship between horse and rider.  He was on his own and could have still brought great harm on himself by running unguided into the highway.  He also caused pain and grief to me.  His stubborness has resulted in some regression of his training; in other words, we will have to go back and work on some basic principles again to reinforce our place as herd leader until he is willing to submit again.  Suddenly it came to me; I've been acting a lot like Victor.  I know that Victor is just a horse.  He doesn't have an intelligent understanding, as we do, to see the value of relationship and to realize that our Master is doing everything for our good.  He's been trained, and he "knows" what we want him to do, but he doesn't really know any better.  However, I have no such excuse.

I took some time to think about what I value most in life right now, and what are the things that drive me. I realized that a lot of my motivation in relationships, how I spend my free time, spend money, and even how I approach prayer and Bible study, is self-interest, pride, guilt, and fear of man.  Even in my pursuit of good things, I am driven more by my happiness, comfort, and glory more than God's glory.  It is so easy to fall into a comfortable routine or box, if you will, thinking I'm okay with God and gradually spending less and less time with Him in favor of the stuff I really want to do.  It's not that I try to outright rebel and push God out of my life.  But when my heart becomes set on seeking my own will and pleasure, and I forget that I exist for God's glory, I am blinded to the harmful effects and, just like Victor, I run headlong for my desires, ignoring the prompting and convicting of God's Spirit.  I would much rather stay in my safe and happy place than to follow God out into unknown territory, where the way might be scary, uncomfortable, or difficult.  I would rather trust my own instincts, what feels good and right to me, than to trust God to be strong in my weakness, to use me in someone's life through means that don't make sense to me, and to give me the absolute best, even through challenging and painful circumstances.  Eventually, pursuing my own will leads me in a dangerous direction, and if I still refuse to stop, listen to God, and turn around, I won't even see the trouble I'm headed into.  I wind up "throwing God off" so to speak, losing the intimate connection with Him and grieving the Holy Spirit.  As a result, I end up spiritually backtracked, and God has to deal with me to regain that ground before we can move deeper into relationship and further in His purposes.  God never loses control, but He desires that I freely submit my will to Him, out of love and desire.  He will never force us to do anything.  My rebellion does not hijack God's plans, but it means I take a lot longer to get to where God wants me, and I'm only hurting myself in the process.

God gave me a lot of grace to see my accident in a positive light.  I was truly thankful from the first moments that I could get up and move and nothing was broken.  I could see God's protection and was blessed to experience so much love from the people around me.  Still, I wasn't sure why this had to happen and I asked God what He wanted to teach me through it.  The answer didn't come right away, but He did show me.  He used Victor to help me see what I was doing and to uncover some things in my heart that I needed to repent of.  He humbled me and gave me grace to reset my priorities, remembering that I was created to bring Him praise and glory.  God's greatest interest is His own glory, because that is who He is.  Self-existent.  Eternal.  Holy.  Worthy.  Think about this.  It would be silly and pointless for the rain to try to fulfill the purpose of the sun, or a tree to do what a bird does, or....you fill in the blanks.  When we make a car, we have no intention of using it to float in the ocean.  We make hammers to pound nails, not cut wood.  In the same way, God created us to fulfill a very specific purpose: to know Him, reflect His beauty, and worship Him.  And what a wonder, that when we are fulfilling our purpose, the very thing that brings God all the glory also completes our joy and pleasure!  Worshipping Him is in our true best interest.  Oh, for hearts to believe and embrace the meaning of our existence and to trust our Life-giver with everything!

"Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ, just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world......to the praise of the glory of His grace, by which He made us accepted in the Beloved......that we who first trusted in Christ should be to the praise of His glory."   From Ephesians 1


Thursday, October 20, 2011

Called By Name

Her name is Glory.  When she runs her head arches majestically as she pounds the earth with her powerful hooves, creating her own little thunder storm.  Her coat is a glossy midnight black during the Fall months.  She’s spunky, with enticing vivacity.

Before coming to the ranch, Glory went through a process of being haltered and ridden as hard as she could be repeatedly, so that she now abhors her halter.  Catching Glory is no easy matter—it takes time and steady effort.  But there’s something about a horse like that that draws all sorts of people to the challenge. There is one rule. Once you start after her, you cannot stop. 

The morning was cloudy with a light drizzle in early May, shortly after I had arrived at the ranch.  It was weather that any Phoenix girl would be instantly drawn outside to enjoy.  Slight wind and rain met my face as I left the bunk house and progressed to the arena to visit the horses.  Seeing me without a halter, Glory was not opposed to my hands rubbing her sleek coat.  To some extent, it was hard to continue onto the barn to gather her halter, when I knew she was well satisfied to just have me stand there next to her.  But such a relationship with this horse would be pointless.  If I couldn’t halter her, I could never use her. So I left the herd and headed to the barn.  Rain struck the tin roof creating a sound that I deemed lovely.  As I collected Glory’s halter I paused at the door, searching my brain for some way to make this go easy.  But it wouldn’t matter what I did—only Glory could make this go easy or hard.   I approached the herd slowly.  Keeping my halter hand low in hopes that perhaps Glory wouldn’t notice it.  I reached Ruby, an enormous Clydesdale and paused to pet her, delaying the inevitable.  I laid Glory’s halter down so that she would not be startled should she take note of it in my hand.  There was no tricking Glory, she noticed the halter alright, but since it was not in my hands, she sauntered towards me to investigate.  I watched breathlessly as she came close, and then reached with her neck so that the tip of her nose could take in the scent of her halter.  She was so close… She started to turn.  I picked up the halter with what I thought was a steady movement, but the smoothness of my movements meant nothing to Glory.  She turned and ran.   The game was on.  From here on out, I was committed to never letting Glory rest until I caught her.  No relief until the mare came to me for it.  I could not physically make Glory obey me, but with the halter in my hands I certainly carried a force that would make her move.  I followed Glory up and down the arena, never allowing her to cease movement. “Come on, Glory.  Easy, easy.”  I cooed, as I walked steadily behind her.  She ran from me.  “It’s okay, girl.  We’ve done this before, easy.”  The next 20 minutes were spent in this manner.  I pursued, while Glory tried unsuccessfully to elude me.  Eventually she grew tired and began to favor a corner.  My own heart was pounding as I tried to determine whether to continue approaching and make her move, or to hang back and see if she would allow me to walk up to her if I did so slowly.  For a moment it seemed she was going to submit, but then off she went for another round about the arena.  I didn’t give up.  I wouldn’t give up. Back in the corner we ended again.  Once more I hesitated—would she come to me now?  Observing her body language, I chose to move in.  Slowly.  She waited, nostrils flaring, ears erect and eyes on me. “Easy, girl…its okay, easy.”  I soothed.  Step.  “It’s okay, Glory.”  Step, step.  Still speaking gently, I reached my halter up and over her head.  For a moment I had to stand there in amazement.  The achievement was incomparable.  Then I proceeded to praise her, rub her, from my pocket I pulled an apple.  I hadn’t haltered her to ride today, I had haltered her to teach her.  She would be rewarded, and then quickly returned to the herd.  Glory accepted the apple with some apprehension, and then relaxed as I continued to praise her.  Within three minutes, I had slipped the halter back off, and we were done.        Easy.  Just as I had promised.

Late that night, I had to stop and think how much we as humans are like Glory.  God will ask something of us, and we’ll run.  But God is always there pursuing.

God doesn’t just ask something of us—He calls us by name.  He never asks more than what we are capable of handling, but like Glory we spend time racing around the arena.  We’re somehow convinced that we’ll either outrun God or He’ll give up and leave us alone.  We buck, we paw the earth, but God is always there; a steady even voice that gently reassures us that it’s going to be alright.  He doesn’t force us to come, He waits until we cease to run, turn to face Him, and submit, allowing Him to have His way with us. 
     And how often is it that when we finally stop running, and make ourselves willing to do whatever He would ask of us, God throws in an apple?    By A.H.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Quiet Time With God

One day, I was walking back to the ranch from the bunkhouse and noticed Peyton in the round pen.  I took a moment to stop and spend some time with him.  Our horse trainer, Willie, had told us that one way to teach a horse to accept and trust us as their authority is by sitting on top of the fence.  This helps the horse get used to someone being at a higher level then them.  It also prepares a young horse in training to accept someone sitting up on their back.  I thought I would try this in working with Peyton to form and continue a bonding/trust relationship with him.  As I was investing in my friendship with Peyton, he walked away from the area where I was sitting and went to another part of the round pen.  It made me think of how I can be like that with God.  He asks me to come to Him and dwell in His presence, but I still choose to walk away at times, ignoring His love and seeking my own desires and pleasures and going back to what is familiar to me.  However, when I submit to quiet time with Him, He teaches me how to see problems from His perspective, and I learn how to put complete trust in Him despite my circumstances.  The key is I have to seek Him for who He really is first.  

by R.V.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011


"Are not five sparrows sold for two copper coins?  And not one of them is forgotten before God.  But the very hairs of your head are all numbered.  Do not fear therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows."  Luke 12:6-7

All things bright and beautiful; all creatures great and small; all things wise and wonderful; the Lord God made them all.  - Cecil Frances Alexander

God has something to teach us through every part of His creation, from the smallest to the largest.  The more time I spend working in nature and with animals, the more amazed I am at God's wisdom in creating every thing not just for His pleasure, but also to reflect some facet of Himself, to teach us what He is like. His Ranch has a gift of drawing in a somewhat random and motley assortment of animals, some of which, at first glance, may look like outcasts and weirdos.  But if you have the willingness to push through your prejudice and look a little closer, there is more than meets the eye.  That's what I'm learning this week.

This is Mia.  She has been on the ranch for about a month.  Mia is a purebred bullmastiff puppy.  She was carefully and lovingly chosen as a birthday gift for Susan.  She came at a high price and has good breeding potential that could bring a good financial return in a few years.  Mia represents a person who looks pretty on the outside and seems to have life together.  They have lots of obvious talent and potential to do great things.  But they still have needs.  Mia is young and has lots to learn.  She needs discipline.  She needs behavior training.  She needs someone to give her food, water, shelter, and love.  When she was born she was just as helpless as any other creature.  On her own, she could not survive.  She is adopted.  Out of all the puppies in the world that her family could have picked, they chose her.

God chose us.  He loved us before we ever knew Him and made a way for us to come back to Him when we were separated from Him by our sin.  We were His enemies.  But still He wants us and offers us a way back.  Those of us who have trusted Christ for salvation are adopted by God.  He doesn't pick favorites.  He doesn't choose anyone because they are smarter or prettier or more gifted.  He receives every one who comes to Him in faith!

This is Buddy, the goat who wants to be a dog.  He came to the ranch a year or so ago as a young goat.  He was banished to another home last summer for eating the neighbors' flowers.  He returned to us this summer and brought much entertainment for the kids.  Then he developed a chronic cyst infection that can be contagious to humans.  He is still with us, but he's become an untouchable.  Kids no longer play with him because we don't want to risk anyone getting the virus.

We have our reasons for keeping our distance from Buddy.  Still, we provide for him.  Have you ever known a person that others tended to avoid because of some difference or they are just difficult to get along with?  God sees what is in our hearts and accepts us inside and out.  He is not afraid to touch our sin.  He is the only one who can take it away.  If you are tempted to reject someone because of where they've been or something you see on the outside, remember that God has created them with the same value and dignity as you.  They are worth your attention.  They are worth your respect.

We don't have the time to tell about all of our little friends, but they are worthy of mention: a few ducks who enjoy swimming in the fountain and sometimes entertain us with their antics, various and sundry cats; one with a stiff ear, some with battle scars, one little kitten who was found wandering at the county fair and adopted by Shannon's kids, 4-H bunnies, and the occasional frog, turtle, or snake, who are welcomed in varying degrees depending on who you ask.

I would like to introduce you to a few of our newest arrivals.  These are the ones who are teaching me right now, particularly because I don't get a personal thrill out of them, and yet I can see their value as God's creations and the joy they bring to the kids.

These two arrived about a month ago, all the way from Texas!  Now I'm a diehard horse lover, but cows just don't excite me.  Maybe I am slightly biased.  But some of the ranch staff were pushing for cattle and so it was decided that they would be a fitting addition.  What's a ranch without cattle, after all?  We were able to take a load of hay to Texas, where feed is in short supply because of drought.  Consequently, they are also desperate to sell cattle because they can't feed them.  So we ended up with a genuine baby Texas Longhorn heifer and a pregnant Black Angus, who actually just gave birth today!

These girls are kind of wild, so the cow adoption team is working to gentle the baby Longhorn.  Eventually she will be a mommy, and we may end up with our own herd.  We are already well on our way.  About two weeks ago we were gifted with this little orphan from a nearby farm.

Twinkie is a twin who was rejected by her mama.  She is 12 days old.  We are bottle feeding her.  She's just a cow, but you've gotta admit, anything is cute as a baby.  And it is so precious to watch the kids respond to these little animals.  It brings out their compassion and simple delight.  Coming to the ranch isn't just about riding a horse.  There is so much more, both physical and spiritual, that becomes part of the whole experience.   All these other friends add to the special atmosphere, and they all find room in a child's heart.

Every person finds room in God's father heart.  So many different people come to this ranch.  From the families who live here and the summer staff to the short term volunteers and the work teams, to the kids and parents and teachers who come for sessions, there is a rainbow of personalities, backgrounds, gifts, and abilities.  And we all have issues and disabilities.  Some are outwardly visible, and some are hidden.  But we all have them.  And God takes great delight in every one of us, despite our problems.  It's really amazing how God has also brought our family of animals together.  It fits the spirit of His Ranch.  Read His Word and you will see where God's heart is.  It's with the poor, the humble, the weak, the needy, the orphan, the outcast.  His Ranch is a place where anyone, people and animals, can come and be welcomed and accepted just as they are.  It is a place rich with God's love.

 This brings me to our discovery yesterday.  We were cleaning stalls and bringing in fresh sawdust.  On one trip to the sawdust pile, this is what we found.

Yes, you are seeing three orphaned baby mice, groping around, blind and helpless.  Their mama likely had a run-in with one of the cats.  Cows are one thing, but mice.... definitely not my thing.  I know lots of people would agree with me there.  Still, if the sight of such tiny, helpless creatures doesn't tug at your heart a little, you either have a serious phobia or a hard heart.  One of the staff instantly determined to take these babies in and save their lives.  She is keeping them warm and feeding them milk in a syringe every hour or so, around the clock.  Reactions to these new additions have been on both ends of the spectrum.  As I watched some kids help feed the mice after their riding lesson, I realized that even these guys, who to most people in most circumstances are repulsive or a nuisance, can bring joy and show us something of our Heavenly Father's character.  I see His compassion in the ones who have chosen to care for these mice.  After all, were we any more valuable or endearing in God's eyes when we came to Him?  Not in ourselves.  We had nothing to make Him desire us.  But He chose us to be His own because He made us, and because of His Son, Jesus, who paid the price for our sins.
I see some of the staff and kids taking joy in little things, and I believe this is a gift from God.  He said we must become like little children if we want to live in His kingdom.  He created lots of big and awesome things in this world, but He also made billions of tiny, intricate things that are easily overlooked unless we have the eyes of a child.  He means for us to delight in them all.
I see the utter dependence of these mice on someone to protect, feed, and warm them.  Right now, they have no choice.  We do have a choice.  But compare our knowledge and understanding and strength to God's, and we are just as helpless living life on our own as these baby mice.  God has no limits.  He created this world and everything in it.  He created us.  He has already written all the days of our lives in His book.  In light of this, the only appropriate response is for us to depend completely on Him for our protection, provision, and guidance every minute of our lives!

Truly, all of creation declares the majesty of our God.  Praise Him today.  He is awesome!

"All Your works shall praise You, O Lord, and Your saints shall bless You."  Ps. 145:10


Wednesday, September 7, 2011


"Seek the Lord while He may be found; call upon Him while He is near"  Isaiah 55:6

One morning as I was bringing the horses from the pasture to the barn for their feed, I stopped to consider Reva's behavior.  The horses like to press in at the gate when they know it's time to go, which makes it hard to take out one at a time, so in order to teach them to give space, we walk into the middle of the pasture and wait for them to come to us to get the halter on.  The horses are quick to catch on, and most of them will now follow us to the middle.  They know if they seek out the human, they get to go in to their feed.  But I noticed that Reva was hanging back.  Did she want to go to the barn as much as the others did?  Sure!  She wanted it, but because she has a less dominant nature and probably is afraid of being pushed away by the other horses, she would stay in the background.  If she would trust me enough to seek me out, despite her uncertainties, I would put her halter on and lead her through her fear.  If another horse tried to bully her, I would take care of the problem for her and get her safely to the barn.  But instead, she waited for me to come after her.  I still care about her and intend to take her to her stall, and I will come and get her, but she could go a lot sooner if she would come to me. She would be happier and more secure if she walked by faith, trusting me to keep her safe from the scary things she sees between us.    But Reva is doing what we often do.  She is walking by sight.  Once she sees the other horses that might bother her are out of the way, she may come to me.  Or she may still hang back and wait for me to come and coax her. She is trying to look out for herself, but in reality she's being controlled by her fear. 

God tells us over and over in His Word, "Seek Me."  He is a compassionate and merciful Father who has loved us before we loved Him and has sought us out in the first place.  If He did not pursue us, we would never seek Him.  But once we have come to know Him, His desire is that we would seek Him out; push through distraction, temptation, and fear with a desire to be near Him that is stronger than any other desire. God want us to know Him intimately. He promised to make Himself known to us. But He requires that we seek Him, and that we do it with all of our heart. 
"And you will seek Me and find Me, when you search for Me with all your heart." Jer. 29:13

If we choose to walk by sight and hang back because of our fears, God will still come after us and give us abundant opportunities to submit to Him. He loves us that much. But His ultimate goal is for us to believe (trust) Him enough that we will leave everything else behind and come willingly to His side. 
"But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him." Hebrews 11:6

What about you?  Will you listen to your fears today?  Or will you come to Jesus and trust Him to lead you to the good things He has prepared?

Story told by B.L.

Thursday, August 18, 2011


One Friday morning, one of the volunteers at the ranch wanted to go riding so a couple of us went along for help and support. The other two hopped on Victor and Glory while I jumped on Reva. As we headed out toward the over pass and levees, my commands to Reva were only irritating and frustrating her. She had her mind made up to go back to the barn or familiar territory so she reverted to dancing around and backing up. Due to the struggle I was having with Reva, I headed back to the stable area and we all made an attempt to journey around the lake going in a different direction then we previously had been. She still was showing her disobedient manner of backing up, dancing around and trying to go back to the barn. We eventually decided for the two other riders to go on ahead and I traveled back to the arena in an attempt to work with Reva on her resistant behavior. Once I led her into the training grounds and climbed on her back, I rode her around for a little bit to see how she would respond to my direction giving inside the fence boundary and she obeyed like nothing had never been the problem. Despite the frustration I was experiencing with Reva not minding when I was expecting her to, God taught me through Reva that the fence surrounding the arena is like our parents authority and when we get outside of that we tend to start telling God where we want to go and do. The whole while God is leading us with His quiet, still voice where He knows it is best for us to be and when we keep bucking Him, He takes us back where we came from - our parents boundaries -and refreshes us with the basics till we are ready to go out again and respond biblically to HIS authority. Thank you, Father, for teaching me this lesson through Reva!

1 Children, obey your parents in the Lord: for this is right. 2 Honour thy father and mother; (which is the first commandment with promise;) 3 that it may be well with thee, and thou mayest live long on the earth. Ephesians 6:1-3

By R.V.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Resisting God

One day, I was working with Tebow, our newest horse here at the ranch even though he is the oldest in age, and was tackling the task of picking his hooves. As I struggled to pick up his back foot, I began to realize Tebow's stubbornness to give it over to me. It made me think about my resistance to God when He asks me to give Him an area of my life in order for Him to clean (pick :)) out all the sin (rocks, manure, dirt, etc.) that He hates there and could potentially cause harm. Once I give Him every area of my life and body the relief and cleansing is tremendous. So my task and response needs to be - give it to Him; after all, look what He gave for you and me, His Son, Jesus!  John 3:16

by R.V.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Back To The Basics

What a privilege it is to be able to work with God's creatures here on His Ranch! It seems as though every week there is another valuable lesson to learn from one of our horses. I have already written about Glorie and her tendency to fear unknown things. As I have taken more of a personal interest in working with her recently, she is teaching me another spiritual truth.

We've had a busy summer, and although our season is not over, I have sensed the horses becoming weary of it all. They have so many different people riding them and telling them what to do and we don't have a lot of extra time to focus on working individually with each horse and building their trust and respect for us. Over time, I think they must get confused with all the mixed messages and simply stop respecting boundaries. Some of them are displaying this with attitude. If they sense that their rider is not capable of being the boss, they will take over. When a horse discovers they can get away with something, they will. Our girls especially can be drama queens. So the last week or so, Glorie decided she's had enough of this and started kicking her back legs when being ridden. Not vicious, but basically bucking. I knew we needed to work this out, but didn't know how to handle it. One day I tried working with her in the round pen, and I knew she was very skittish about strange objects and pretty sensitive to things touching her hindquarters, but I found out just how sensitive. We had a little explosion. We got over it, but I was afraid I might have made things worse instead of helping her. Now that we're being blessed with milder temperatures, our trainer was able to come out on the usual day, and so we asked him to work with Glorie on this habit. He spent a few hours with her and she is doing much better now. He gave us some advice on how to curb these behaviors. He told us that we have to go back to the basics. That has stuck with me the past few days. The most basic thing you do with a horse is to desensitize them to uncomfortable things. It starts with getting them used to the touch of your hands all over their body. From there you move into objects. Some of them are things your horse will encounter on a daily basis and needs to accept in their routine, such as a rope, a saddle pad, or a brush. It is the same concept with everything; touching and rubbing the horse all over with the object, until they no longer shy away from it. We also use other things that the horse could encounter randomly, like plastic bags, water bottles, an umbrella, a piece of string or a rag around the leg. All of this is teaching them to react calmly to new sounds, sensations, and objects. It is also teaching them to trust their handler. When the horse gets it in her head that none of these strange things are hurting her while her handler is with her through the whole experience, she will be more prone to focus on her handler instead of the scary new thing in other situations.

So when I work with Glorie now, I'm going back to the simple basics, slowly and gently, but with firm assurance. I am asking her to trust and respect me over reacting to her natural instincts. Hopefully I am building a relationship that will help to keep her within the boundaries when we're in the arena with a child.

It made me think about how many times in my life I have had to go back to the basics of truth about God and my relationship with Him. We all go through seasons where we drift away from the foundation of Christ. We get too busy to spend time with Him. We are distracted by so much other input and often we don't even realize how much our perception and beliefs have been changed by other sources until we suddenly take stock and find we have made a huge move away from truth. And God doesn't condemn us. He doesn't read us the riot act and throw us away. He will discipline, but it is for our greatest good, to bring us back into right relationship with Himself. He knows that is the only way we will be happy and complete. He comes with firmness, but also with gentleness and assurance. He takes us back to the basics. Back to the cross. Back to His words of life. Back to the hope and promise that we are clothed in the righteousness of Christ, saved by grace, living for a purpose beyond ourselves, and destined for eternal life. He asks us to trust Him and look at Him as we're going through uncomfortable experiences, because He is with us the whole time. He is using things that at first seem scary or irritating or strange to us and He is working out a purpose beyond our comprehension. If you are in a place today where life seems piled on top on you and you find yourself reacting instinctively with unhealthy thoughts, emotions, and behaviors, stop.....and allow God to take you back to the basics.


Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Lessons From the Round Pen:Forward Motion

When a trainer works with his horse in the round pen, especially a young horse that hasn't been ridden, he will start with groundwork. Almost anything you want to ask your horse to do when you are riding can also be done from the ground. You can teach the horse to yield to the pressure of a long rope to turn, stop, move, or step over. You can use long reins to get the horse accustomed to a bit. You can teach him to respond to voice commands. One of the most basic things involved in this groundwork process is forward motion. A good trainer keeps his horse moving and busy. In the round pen, we do this by driving him forward around the perimeter. The trainer stands in the center, holding a long rope attached to horse's halter. He will encourage the horse to go by waving a flag, a whip, or the end of the rope. He may also use arm motions. The position of his body as he moves in toward the horse's flank also helps to drive it forward. Body language, position, and voice commands communicate to the horse to go forward, change directions, and stop. This process, called lungeing, causes the horse to give attention to the trainer. An experienced horseman will be able to keep his horse moving without allowing it to anticipate his next move. Therefore, the horse must be tuned in. It cannot be easily distracted by outside things while it is moving forward around that center where the trainer is. However, if the horse is stopped for a long period of time, it will either become bored or distracted and will not respond well to its master's agenda. When a horse is being fearful or stubborn and refuses to move, nothing can be accomplished. In that moment, the horse is the center of his own universe and listening to his natural instinct to preserve himself. If you can get that horse to start moving forward, you then gain his attention and force him to shift away from his instinct and trust you.

Now, that horse is just being a horse, doing what he thinks he needs to do by instinct. He did not ask to enter our world. He did not ask us to do anything. We are pursuing a relationship with him. We are entering his world and asking a lot of him. All that we ask him to do comes naturally for him, but doing it in the context of a relationship with us is not natural. It's a bit different when it comes to God and us. God created you and me in His own image: relational beings. In the Garden of Eden, relating was the most natural, beautiful thing between God and man and between Adam and Eve. Satan came and tried to destroy what God made. When man sinned, relationships were perverted and broken. So now, the very thing we were created for has become the hardest thing in the world. Praise God, that's not the end of the story! One day, Jesus Christ is going to return and restore all things to perfection, including relationships. They will once again be the most beautiful, natural, alive experience between God and His creation and between all the redeemed in Christ.
"Because the creation itself also will be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation groans and labors with birth pangs together until now. Not only that, but we also who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, eagerly waiting for the adoption, the redemption of our body." Romans 8:21-23
So while we live on this earth and groan in the pain of broken relationships, let us realize that we are in a race, and while we will never reach perfection on this earth, that is the goal we are running for. Not to try to do everything right, but to seek God and draw nearer to Him, because in Him we are complete, and when we see Him face to face in That Day, we will realize wholeness in every part of life! So as the horse must be kept moving forward to focus in on the trainer, so we must be always moving forward, reaching out towards God, tuning in on Him as our center. When we stop looking up and moving toward Him, we get distracted by the world, the flesh, and the devil. We become the center of our universe, only interested in protecting ourselves. We will either start looking back and sliding downhill, or we will start looking around and sinking, like Peter did when he walked on the water. I see life and relationships on earth as a journey of desire for completeness, rather than a realization. It will always be uphill. It is practice, it is refining, it is painful. The best of our relational experience here is only a tiny foretaste of what it will be. So don't give up. Keep moving forward. And when you think you can't put one foot in front of the other one more time, look at your Trainer. Remember that your wholeness is in Him. Remember that His Spirit is empowering you to walk. When walking seems impossible, remember that He carries you.
"The eternal God is your refuge, And underneath are the everlasting arms;" Deut. 33:27


Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Lessons From The Round Pen: Imprinting

I'm no expert on horses, but I'd like to share a series of things I'm learning about horse training and the spiritual parallels that can be drawn from them.

The first lesson I want to talk about is imprinting. This is one of the very first things that a good horseman will do with their horse after it's born. The sooner after birth this can happen, the better. Basically, imprinting is to create an early bond of trust and ownership with the horse. It teaches him to accept being handled by humans as a natural part of his world. The process of imprinting includes touching and rubbing the baby all over his body, both with your hands and other objects, such as a towel or blanket. It is best to start with the baby lying down, before it has gotten up for the first time. You would also handle the feet, play with his ears, stick your fingers in his nose and mouth. These are all imprinting on his brain that you are both dominant and safe. It also gives you a good start in desensitizing your horse to new objects and experiences, teaching him not to fear. As he grows, the young horse will naturally be much more comfortable with having his feet picked up for cleaning, trimming, and shoeing. He will more readily accept a bit in his mouth, as well as dental and medical check-ups. He will have a better trust and respect with his master, built on that early bonding experience.

I see a couple of good thoughts in this. First, for those who are parents, God commands you to "train up [your] child in the way he should go, and when he is old, he will not depart from it." Prov. 22:6
Little children, like young horses, are greatly impressionable and have the potential to be majorly influenced in the right or the wrong direction for the rest of their life during their first years. In Deuteronomy chapter 6, God tells us to keep His words in our hearts and to teach them diligently to our children. Talk about them when you're at home, when you're out and about, when you go to bed and when you rise in the morning. Make His words priority in your home. The idea is to make teaching opportunities for your children out of every experience and routine in the day, even the mundane things. This consistent application of the truth of God to the attitudes, actions, and words of your children will imprint their hearts to walk the good paths in life. I believe even the youngest children and babies in the womb can be imprinted by hearing Scripture and songs about the Lord.

Secondly, maybe you are not a parent or don't have many children in your sphere of influence. Maybe you did not receive that early imprinting of the Word on your heart. It's not too late to start. Each of us, no matter how much or how little we were trained in the ways of the Lord, need to take responsibility to imprint the Truth on our own hearts. In James 1:21, it says, "therefore lay aside all filthiness and overflow of wickedness, and receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls." That word "implanted" is also translated "engrafted". It speaks of something that is placed deep within your heart and becomes a part of you, making you a different person. Sometimes a tree or plant can be grafted into another plant, to make a sick plant healthy or to mix the characteristics of the two and create a hybrid, sort of a new plant that is hardier or more disease resistant or yields better fruit. What happens when the words of God are implanted into our souls? Romans 12:2 tells us: "do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God."
Our human nature is to follow the world's way of thinking and try to control our own life. When you give your life to Christ, He sets out to change your thinking and your beliefs. This is a continual process that takes place as we read and think about God's Word and apply it to our thoughts, attitudes, words, and actions. Again, we have to make it a priority to be in the Word every day and ask God to help us obey Him. Over time, the wrong imprints in our hearts can be erased and stamped over with God's imprint. Then trusting God and following His ways will become our natural response to the new and strange situations of life.

Our Creator God is also a compassionate and tenderhearted Father. He wants the best for His children, and He will always be faithful to pursue us and draw us into closer relationship with Himself, just as the horse owner seeks to bring the baby horse into a relationship of trust and acceptance. There is really only a small window of time for a horse to properly imprinted. But with our Lord, every day is a new day and a fresh opportunity to receive His life-giving Words. Have you been with Him today?


Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Faith Walk

At the beginning of Summer, we installed box fans on the door of each horse stall in the barn, for the comfort of our friends. Most of the horses were cool with it, with the exception of Glorie.

Glorie has two sides to her personality. You know, like a lot of people. We may project one image but have another, more hidden side that surprises people once in awhile. Glorie has a lot of fire and spirit. She's a Tennessee Walker, which means she was bred to have a special fast walking gait that is closer to a run. Anyone who rides her needs to be ready to hold her back to a moderate walk, because if you let her, she will take off! When a new arrival, Peyton, joined the herd in the pasture, Glorie was very aggressive to him for awhile. She was bold to come up and run him off. Yet we noticed that she doesn't like to take the lead and jump in all alone. She prefers to be a co-conspirator with another horse that has a stronger personality. Yet for all her spirit and posturing, Glorie can also be quite the scaredy-cat. When we take her out for trail rides, she tends to be more skittish than the others. The oddest things can worry her.

So I got to see this side of Glorie come out when I took her in to her stall the first time after the fans were installed. The other horses had gone in just fine, and I gave no thought to it. So when Glorie stopped short at the door, it took me a moment to realize what was going on. This innocent fan that was put there for her good had morphed into a scary monster that would surely eat her if she stepped through that doorway! I sweet-talked her for a few minutes before she finally took the plunge, and I do mean plunge, through that door. She rushed into the stall, as far back as she could go. After I removed her halter, went out, and closed the door, Glorie stood there trembling in the back of her stall. It took a few days before she was desensitized enough to the presence of the fan to pay it no mind. As I watched her stand there, terrified of this strange thing in her world, it hit me. I knew what the fan was and why it was there. I knew it wouldn't hurt Glorie and it was actually going to make her life better. To me she was being downright silly to be afraid. But then I realized I was doing the same thing. There was something God had been convicting me about with a relationship and I knew He wanted me to deal with it. But I kept putting it off because I was scared. There wasn't any legitimate reason to be afraid. But because I couldn't see the whole picture and know how things would turn out, because of pride telling me that I didn't need to expose my weakness, because I cared more about my friends' acceptance and opinions than God's, I was paralyzed from taking the step God was asking me to take. Just like Glorie refusing to enter her stall because she imagined the fan was bad and threatening. I realized I've had so many opportunities in my life to take a step of faith, and when I'm in the moment, knowing what God wants, I just stand there trembling inwardly and let the opportunity slip away, because I can't see what He sees, and I imagine that this thing is going to be too hard or too awkward or too painful. God knows all along that what He is asking is going to do me good, even though sometimes it might be painful or difficult. He knows the reward and the blessing that will come in the end, and in His perspective, it's just as pointless for me to fear as it was for Glorie to fear the fan. Glorie doesn't speak my language. She doesn't know my thoughts or intentions. She has a choice to either trust the one leading her through or past or around a scary new obstacle, or to take her life in her own hands and do whatever is necessary to get away from her fear. I have many of God's thoughts and ways in His Word, but He is so massive and awesome and so high above me that my mind can only grasp a sliver of His wisdom.

"For My thoughts are not your thoughts, Nor are your ways My ways," says the LORD.
"For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways, and My thoughts than your thoughts." Isaiah 55:8-9

I think this is one reason why God does not allow us to see the whole picture, but asks us to live by faith, depending on Him for guidance one step at a time, rather than trusting in ourselves to know what to do based on what we can see, feel, and understand with our limited human minds. If we could fathom how indescribably great He truly is, I believe we would see it is utter foolishness to ever distrust Him.

Several days and a lot of balking later, I took the plunge to obey what God was telling me to do. Guess what? It didn't hurt me. In fact, I experienced incredible relief and the beginning of new freedom in the area where I was struggling. I only regret that I took so long to obey. It's happened before, and I'm learning that it's not worth the doubt and fear, but I'm a long way from leaving it all behind. Thankfully, my God is for me and with me for the long haul. As long as I breathe and walk this earth, He will never stop lovingly, patiently, faithfully working to take the fear out of me.

"For we walk by faith, not by sight." 2 Corinthians 5:7


Thursday, July 7, 2011

Unseen Reality

Over the 4th of July weekend, I got to spend time with relatives at Lake Michigan and go sailing in my uncle's catamaran. I'm far from an expert, but I learned a few things about the sailboat, its workings, and its relationship to the wind. I got to steer a few times, and it got me thinking about wind in a new way. Wind is an elusive thing to work with, because we can't see it. Yet by watching what it does, people have learned how it works and are able to harness its power for many uses. On a sailboat, you have to learn to know what direction the wind is blowing. But when you're moving, all you feel is the wind in your face made by your own motion. So you have to learn to read signals in the sails. How do you move with something you can't see? It brought to mind this word picture in the Bible.

"The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.” John 3:8

If you are born again in Christ, the Holy Spirit lives in you. We are told to walk in the Spirit (Gal. 5:16) and to keep in step with the Spirit (Gal. 5:25). The Bible describes the fruits of love, joy, peace, patience, etc. that the Spirit produces in our lives (Gal. 5:22). But how do we move with Someone we can't see?

I was sailing with someone who has years of experience and was directing me in how to steer the rudders and catch the wind. Even then, I got off course several times. Until you understand how to read the sails and position yourself favorably to the wind, a pleasant sail can turn into a stalemate. A slight drifting off your trajectory causes power loss to the sail, and unless you quickly readjust the rudders, before you know it you are facing directly into the wind. This is called being "in irons". The name conjures up a picture of someone in prison, clamped in iron cuffs. They're not going anywhere. When your boat gets in irons, you're going nowhere. It's futile to struggle against the wind. In the old days, boats had square sails that needed to be pushed by wind directly behind them. Sails today are different. They act like airplane wings; as the wind flow over and underneath the wing creates lift, so the flow along the sides of the sails creates the power to push the boat. You need to have the wind coming diagonally against one side of your sail or the other, depending on which direction you want to go. And you have to make continual small adjustments to stay on course. In our walk with the Spirit of God, if we are not tuned in to His voice and don't know how to follow His impulses, we end up fighting Him and no fruit can come from our lives. And it is so easy to get off course, following our own impulses. However, when we walk in step with the Spirit, we have power to touch lives for Christ and He produces the fruit of the Spirit in us. Following God requires constant adjustments to His Word (changing our thoughts and actions), and His will (changing our desires). Only Christ in us can make these changes. Both in sailing and in my spiritual life, it seems like a complicated work to keep on course and in tune with the wind. When I get out of step with the Spirit, I find myself being tossed back and forth on waves of doubt, or drifting in aimless circles, looking for meaning where it can't be found, and at times I come to a complete standstill, where I cannot move forward with God. We are weak, but let us take comfort in these promises: And He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. 2 Cor. 12:9
Being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus. Phil. 1:6

Let us pray daily for grace to walk in step with the Spirit.


Monday, June 27, 2011

How Beautiful

God sent us an amazing work team last week, and He accomplished so much through them in the four days they were with us! As I reflect back on the week and remember names and faces and the Spirit that moved among us, I am reminded of a song called How Beautiful by Twila Paris. It talks about the body of Christ and we experienced His body working together in a special way during the week. Here is one of the lyrics from the song; I would like to dedicate it to the Indy team:

How beautiful the feet that bring
The sound of good news and the love of the King
How beautiful the hands that serve
The wine and the bread and the sons of the earth
How beautiful....is the body of Christ

It was a week of long days, hard work, energy, and excitement. And there was time for fun, too! We finished exhausted, but it was so worth it. We were tremendously blessed and pray that the team was even more blessed. We love them dearly.

Here are some of the blessings they left behind.

Six brand new picnic tables

Fresh stalls

Weeded flower beds

Old hay moved out to make room for new, then transported, and shared with friends

A lot of junk and trash cleaned out in and behind the storage hangars

New borders dug around our beautiful fountain....

...and expertly landscaped!

Part of the arena fencing and wheelchair ramp were torn out and revamped (Before)

And after!
The tall posts are for shade to eventually be erected over the ramp

A new door and new paint for the base of the barn

And lots and lots of painted fence!

The team was also able to watch some of our riding sessions, interact with the people, and experience the heart of why we do what we do. Here are some of the kids and adults from the Transitions school.
Petting Glorie




Making new friends

At the end of the week, I took a walk around the ranch to look at everything that had been done, and I was thinking about how easy it is for us, for me, to think that what we are doing is less important than what that person over there is doing. We fall into comparison and competition and forget Who we are serving. The thought struck me that everything done here this week was the work of God. This is His ranch. Everything we accomplished was part of His purpose for the ranch. He gave us beautiful, dry weather every day so we could work outside. Every gift that was shared by each unique individual was really a gift from God and an expression of Him through every person. He created each of us with different gifts to be used in different ways, but all to His glory. He could have made me to express Him in the way someone else does, but He is a Creator, and all His masterpieces are originals! What kind of world would it be if we were all clones? So God chooses the design, the gifts, the accomplishments, but it all goes to His glory and we get to be a part of that! We are so incredibly privileged to be included in His work here at His ranch. All the credit goes to Jesus, so there is no room for competition in His body. May we become less, and Jesus Christ become ever greater in our lives!

Thank you, Team Indy!
And thank You, Jesus, our Lord and Savior and our Life!