Tuesday, May 31, 2011

No Fear: Lessons From the Horse's Mouth

(staff testimony)

It is incredible how many parallels can be seen between horses and humans even within a short time of working on the ranch. As someone who loves seeing spiritual analogies in natural things, I spent some time recently thinking and journaling about one of our horses, Reva.

Reva is a beautiful dark bay Thouroughbred with a quiet disposition. She tends to be a loner in the herd and rarely causes trouble. I find myself relating to Reva because I have been the loner for much of my life, the one who hangs back in a group of people and quietly watches them have fun. I've also been somewhat of a loner in my walk with the Lord. More recently, God has been showing me how much I need other believers to walk alongside me and help me to stay hard after Him. We are relational beings and were not made to go it alone. Too often fear and pride stand in the way of receiving God's blessings through the help and support of others in His family. I have seen this in my own life. I think fear is basically the lack of trust in God's love. As you watch a horse with their trainer, it helps you to understand a little bit more what God is wanting to do with us.

Reva has one major issue. She has a fear of being tied. We don't know what happened, but sometime in her history before she came to us, she must have experienced abuse or something traumatic having to do with fenceposts and being tied to one. Our trainer has worked with her quite a bit to overcome this fear, but we have to stay on guard because she could revert and freak out at any time. When Reva is overcome by this fear, she tries to bolt and pulls back violently on her lead rope. It takes a lot of patient and gentle handling to convince her that nothing is going to hurt her and it is okay to stand tied. When the trainer works with Reva, it is his goal to take the fear out of her. This applies to any horse in a variety of situations. Horses are prey animals and their greatest defense is flight. When a horse decides something is a threat, the natural instinct is to get away. It takes time and patience to build a solid relationship with your horse where they can respect your leadership and trust you not to hurt them, even when you introduce strange and scary objects.

As I contemplated Reva's fear and watched the Willie, our trainer, work with her, God started applying it to my own life. As we read in Romans 7:22&23, in my spirit I desire to submit all of me to God and to have a beautiful relationship of trust with Him. But my flesh keeps fighting in that pride and fear. In order for the horse to learn submission to the trainer, he must work on bending her whole body, bringing her head, her attention, toward him and causing her to disengage in her hindquarters, where she might kick, and to step over. He teaches her using pressure; first he drives her away to run around the edge of the round pen, and then releases the pressure, allowing her to stop and rest. Ultimately he wants her to come in to him in the middle and to lower her head. This is an extremely vulnerable position for the horse to put itself in. She cannot see much at all, she cannot hear as well behind her, and she cannot run away. It takes away all her defenses. God is working with us to take down our defenses and asking us to trust Him implicitly. He wants us to be responsive to His slightest touch and respond instantly to His voice. With the horse, less is more. You want them to respond to light touch and voice commands, rather than needing to be pushed and prodded around. God wants to be able to bend us to His will and have us "step over" where He is directing us into a new opportunity. He wants us to learn to give to the pressure of His Word and the Holy Spirit to adjust our lives to Him. He wants us to be always learning, always growing, and always responding to Him.

As my thoughts continued, God brought this Scripture to my attention. "The Lord shall preserve thee from all evil: He shall preserve thy soul. the Lord shall preserve thy going out and thy coming in from this time forth and even for evermore." Psalm 121:7&8
What is the evil I need to be kept from? It could be something completely different for you. For me, there are things in my life that I view as bad and I allow fear to hold me back. For instance, I have a quiet personality. I have always seen this as a bad thing, especially when I'm around a lot of loud people. I always felt so different from my peers, and this causes me to pull back into myself even more when everyone around me is having a high time and I don't have anything to add to it. I feel lonely and insignificant and my usual response is to compare myself and see everything that person has that I lack. This leads to jealousy. I think that my lack is bad, that loneliness is bad, that not getting the approval of people I admire is bad. If I can't see the whole picture in a situation or don't know what to expect or what someone expects of me, I see that as bad. When I have a need and can't depend on myself to fill it, that is "bad". What God showed me is that all of these things have a purpose in my life. He has promised to preserve my life from anything truly evil. Some of these fears are just as irrational as Reva's fear of the fence post. Some of them are rooted in pain that I might not even realize is there until I take a deeper look. But my Father has a plan to use each obstacle and struggle in my life to make me more like Jesus. I have a choice every day to either listen and yield myself to Him, or to listen to the fears and lies in my mind. God wants to teach me that there is no fear in love, for perfect love casts out fear. (from 1 John 4:18) When I trust myself to the perfect love of my Master, Jesus, I can find the power to be open and honest with people and to let His love touch others through me. Horses and people: we all can find the freedom to love when we understand how much we are loved by the one who bought us.

2011 Volunteer Bios

As we prepare to open the season here at His Ranch, we are amazed to see how God has brought our team together this year from all over the country, different backgrounds, different personalities, different dreams, but the same heart to know and love God better while serving Him as the body of Christ. He has blessed us with a core team of five full-season staff and volunteers this summer. And we know He will send us many others to leave an impact on our lives and this ranch ministry throughout the season. So let's start by introducing our long-term staff.

Carrie Blunier from Indiana has joined us again. She did an internship here last summer while working towards her vet tech degree. She has now graduated and moved to the Ranch and is looking for a part time job with a vet. The rest of her time will be devoted to the ministry here. We are so happy to have Carrie back and grateful for her expertise to keep all the "greenhorns" afloat. Carrie is supervising the ranch office and lessons. If you call or email us, she is likely the first person you will talk to, but she will also be training some of the other staff to help with these responsibilities.
Carrie loves dogs and horses and has always wanted to be a vet tech. Her knowledge will be helpful in caring for our horses. She is doing a great job coordinating the staff and volunteers and is eager to see our schedule fill up with riders!

Anneliese Hoerr is from Phoenix, Arizona, where the sun always shines! She is so delighted to experience the crazy weather of the midwest, and delights us all with her enthusiasm. Anneliese taught kids in martial arts and homeschool co-op classes for several years. She spent two weeks at the ranch last summer while taking a year to travel and seek God's direction for the future. God brought her back to us this year to help for the whole summer! She is always ready to jump in and try new things. She's already learning some basics of horse training and recently had the privilege of being the first person ever to ride our newest horse, Peyton. She will be teaching lessons and helping with general ranch work.
Anneliese is a spirited go-getter who helps us to keep looking up and we are blessed to have her on the team!

Ruth Virkler hails from Remington, Indiana. She met Shannon during a mission trip to Haiti several years ago. Later she heard about his vision to start the ranch. After the place was up and running, God put Ruth on Shannon and Susan's hearts and they invited her to come and work on the ranch. She came out to help at the fall fundraiser but was not convinced at that time that this was what God had for her to do. However, a few months later God gave her peace and confirmation about coming, and she committed her summer to the ministry. Ruth is training to work in the ranch office and learning horsemanship along with everyone else. She will also be helping with lessons. She has gained a lot of confidence already in dealing with the horses.
Ruth has a sweet, gentle spirit and is an encouragement to us as she seeks to put God first in her life and be available and sensitive to His leading. We are so glad to have her with us!

Ben Lindberg comes to us from southern Georgia. We are hearing rumors about his amazing sweet tea and grits and are hoping to get a chance to experience these delicacies soon! Ben is from a family of ten kids. He has a love for horses and has worked extensively with them at home since he was about 12 years old. He is experienced in riding and training and has even trained a wild mustang that he bought. His expertise will be invaluable to us as he will be working with the training of our ranch horses and teaching lessons. He is also doing some heavy duty work around the place. He and a short-term volunteer, Max, built the frame for a shade canopy on our loading dock at the arena. This will be such a blessing when it is finished.
After Ben fully surrendered his life to the Lord several years ago, he had a desire to reach out and disciple other young men. He heard a message about using the gifts God has given you for ministry and felt that God was leading him to be involved in reaching young men with horses. Last fall he was in the area at a church event and learned about His Ranch. He decided to come for the summer and be a part of God's work with the kids here. We are enjoying his sunny smile, friendly disposition, and servant heart. He can tell some great jokes, too!

Kari Keener grew up in northeast Ohio. She has dreamed of owning and riding horses most of her life. God has given her a desire to help kids with special needs, and after she read Kim Meeder's stories about Crystal Peaks Youth Ranch, which was the inspiration for His Ranch, she was inspired to be a part of this type of ministry. Several years passed between the birth of that dream and learning about His Ranch. Kari also came out to the fall fundraiser to experience the ranch and was praying about coming back to stay long-term. God has directed her to take this step of faith and move to the ranch indefinitely. She is excited to be a part of what God is doing here and to learn everything she can about horsemanship. Kari will be teaching lessons and helping out wherever needed. Her greatest desire for the summer is to grow in love for God and others.

We also want to welcome back Kyle Reinhard, who helped out last summer. He lives nearby and balances his time between the ranch and his job at Best Buy. Kyle is helping us on Tuesday and Thursday mornings and especially enjoys working with the groups from Transitions.

Max Knobloch from Iowa was here for two weeks, helping us get things ready for opening. He worked hard on the loading dock canopy and other projects. We hope to see him back again soon.

We look forward to the many other faces and stories that God will bring across our path to help in His work these next few months. We are grateful for every one. Only He knows all the imprints each one will leave on the lives that are touched here on His Ranch.