Thursday, June 9, 2011

Learning Admist Uncertainty

As we travel this world with its earth-shifting sands, we see how God teaches us despite all the uncertainty. In my time so far here at the ranch, God has shown me how useful He makes us through learning from horses. As it has already been stated before, Reva, one of the herd, has a challenging tenseness with being tied up. We typically need to bring the rope around the post but not literally tie it in a knot when we work with her at the fence. A little while back, I was working with Reva in leading her to the arena, grooming and saddling her up. As I was patient with her, being willing to understand her in the moments of fear, and encouraging her even when she didn't want to do what I was asking, it was amazing to see how she was able to work through the fears and eventually do what I needed her to do. I am realizing it is the same with The Master. He understands every need and fear we have in the past, present and future and He is still willing to be sooo patient with us and allow us to see Him for who He really is. In I John 4:18 it says "There is no fear in love; but perfect love casteth out fear: because fear hath torment. He that feareth is not made perfect in love." Jesus' Perfect Love is the reason we can overcome our fears, no matter how extreme they are. I am learning that a true, honest relationship with a trusting bond is so critical in working with a horse, that those two things in themselves help with breaking through whatever is crippling us emotionally or spiritually. Watching Reva come to grips with her uneasiness in certain areas, is hope for me to be working with God in breaking free from the darkness that plagues me.

by R.V.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Fountain of Life

One long time project that is progressing here at the ranch this summer is the fountain in front of the welcome center. We have tried different ideas with this pool, and this week we got this beautiful set-up going. We are so grateful for a team of volunteers who came out a few weeks ago and worked up the ground around the fountain, covered it with mulch, and planted decorative grasses. It looks so much better now. I think that motivated us to stick with the project and get it done!

I love the sound of running water. There is something so peaceful, refreshing, and pure about it. I could sit and watch a fountain, a waterfall, ocean surf, or just a little bubbling stream for hours. As I watched this earlier today I couldn't help but think of the picture Jesus used to describe our life in Him.
"Jesus stood up and cried out, 'If anyone is thirsty, he should come to Me and drink! The one who believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, will have streams of living water flow from deep within him.' He said this about the Spirit, whom those who believed in Him were going to receive...." John 7:37-39
This fountain has a continual source of water circulating through the system. As long as everything is working properly, it cannot run dry. It is a constant source of refreshment and inspiration to everyone who walks by. On the hottest days, it's even good for a quick dip, that is, if you're partial to chlorine!
The Holy Spirit operates like a fountain of water in the life of the born again believer. He is a bottomless, eternal source that will never run dry. As long as things are working properly, that is, while we are in fellowship with God, being daily cleansed by the Word (chlorine) and nothing is clogging the flow of water, His life in us will be continually springing up and bringing refreshment and inspiration to everyone around us. We cannot manufacture this fountain. All we must do is to be an open channel to let Him flow through. This is a two-sided relationship. We do have a responsibility and a choice to keep the channel clear of sin and other distractions that would restrict the fountain's flow. We have a choice to immerse ourselves in the Truth, God's Word, every day, and to keep it in our hearts to do it's transforming work. We have a choice to stay in constant communication with our Father, that our relationship may grow deeper. As we do this, His life can fill us and spill out of us just as easily and joyfully as this fountain. That is His responsibility. This is no longer my life, it is His. "I have been crucified with Christ, and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me." Galatians 2:20 Our prayer at His Ranch is to daily die to ourselves and let the One who gave Himself for us continue to give, or pour out His life through our lives.

A few weeks ago, some of us girls were walking down by the riverfront, and I encountered this lovely fountain and had some fun with my camera.

I love how the droplets are caught in this one

That day by the river, my friends were an example to me of how the Spirit flows when we are looking to see what God is doing around us. We walked by a lady who was standing by a railing at the water. I think we all noticed the yellow rose that was floating away.

But one of the girls looked closer. She noticed how sad the woman seemed, and she felt the Holy Spirit nudging her to find out the story behind the rose. So she stopped and told the woman she couldn't help noticing the flower, and asked if she'd mind telling her what it was for. This complete stranger was willing to open up and share the story of her daughter's death and some of the things that led up to it. But she also had a beautiful testimony of how the Lord gave her peace about her daughter's soul and the release she was experiencing through death. This confirmation in the woman's spirit was so healing, and helped her in her grief. While I had gone on to the fountain and was lingering there, my other friends had gone back to listen to this lady's story. When I turned around, I saw them all with their arms around each other, facing the river and praying. I almost took a picture but felt it was too sacred of a moment. After they finished, I wandered over and heard the end of the conversation. It was an incredible encounter, to meet up with a stranger in a seemingly random way and end up sharing from the heart about pain and healing, and to be able to pray in the fellowship of the body of Christ. I think that woman left feeling uplifted, and we left in awe of what God had done. This was no random thing. And yet I wonder, how many of these divine encounters have I missed, have we all missed, because we didn't have our eyes open, or we maybe we sensed a prompting, but put it off out of fear or doubt. I am so thankful that God allowed me to witness this scene and it encouraged me to start being more watchful. Stopping to talk to a complete stranger would be totally out of character for me. But God is not limited by our weaknesses. This story gives me a stronger desire to watch for God moments like this and I pray He gives me courage to step out of my comfort zone when I feel His gentle nudging.

Oh, may Jesus Christ, our fountain of living water, give us an ever growing desperate thirst for Him!

Monday, June 6, 2011

Herd Mentality (Thoughts from the Watcher)

"Being confident of this very thing, that He which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ." Phil.1:6

The fear of man. Some of us can instantly recognize it in our lives and others are not aware that it's an issue, but if you are human, there's a 99.9% chance you have dealt with or are dealing with this enemy in some form in your life. I am not referring to fear in the general sense, but the kind of fear that involves who we look to for our soul needs to be met. It's really about who we worship. God is using the horses to show me how the fear of man looks in our lives.

Horses are herd animals. In the wild, they live and travel everywhere as a group, and they look out for each other. They have a clearly established chain of command. The stallion is the leader, the head mare is the boss, and the rest of the herd follows after, from the more superior horses down to the young ones at the bottom of the pile. As such, horses are naturally co-dependent with each other. They don't need people. They never asked to enter our world. Though domestic horses no longer have the hardiness to survive in the wild and do depend on humans to take care of them, the herd mentality still rules. It is not natural for a horse to have a relationship with a human. We are the ones who have entered their world and are trying to understand how their minds work so that we can we use them to serve us and accomplish purposes beyond themselves. An important thing to remember when dealing with these animals is that what we perceive as misbehavior is really just the horse being a horse. We can't speak his language and he can't speak ours. He is only doing what he thinks he needs to do, drawing on his God-given instinct.

As for us, when our choice to sin separated us from God, we did not ask Him to enter our world. The Bible says there is no one who seeks after God. He chose to enter our world to bring us back into relationship with Himself and to accomplish His purposes through us, things we can't even dream up. Unlike the horse, we totally need God. He is not just our Provider. He is our Creator, who gives us every breath. He made us for relationship with Himself. He knows how we work and everything about us. But we cannot fully understand Him. We may believe and acknowledge that God is the only One worthy of our worship and dependence, but do we live like it's true? Or do we fixate on something we can see and understand, something very much like ourselves: other people?

Here's what I'm seeing. Our horse are extremely clannish. To their minds, they don't need us, as long as they have each other. When we separate them, they become anxious and it is often hard to gain their attention so we can teach them what we, the master, have in mind. One of the horses, Penny, is a great example. Penny has established herself as boss mare of the His Ranch herd. Sometimes she acts like an overbearing mother, trying to micromanage her "kids". Anytime we take one or more horses away from the others, or we take Penny out of the herd, she is constantly looking around, calling for the others, like she needs to be in control of where they are at any given time. Because Penny has come to the ranch only recently and had been accustomed to being left to herself for a few years, and because she is now the boss, she can be very pushy with us when we are working with her. She's doing what she thinks she needs to do, which is to get back to her herd, and if she thinks throwing her weight around will help her, that's what she does. It takes constant movement and a firm hand to keep her attention on the trainer and help her to focus on the moment.

Another example is Peyton. He is our newest horse on the ranch. Peyton is only two years old and he had kind of a rough time as the underdog his first week here. Now the other horses seem to be accepting him. The other morning when I was leading the horses out to pasture behind the barn, I noticed something interesting. Half of the herd was already out in the pasture. I was taking Peyton out, and two horses were still in the barn. Peyton kept stopping and hesitating, because he wanted to be with the others and he couldn't see them. They were only on the other side of the buildings, down the path a ways, but he didn't trust me to take him to where they were. He kept calling out to see who would answer him. Well, the horses back in the barn were answering, so I think Peyton really would have liked to go back there because he felt more secure with them. It took us a while, but once we got around the corner where he was able to see the others in the pasture, he was much more willing to go forward. Now some of those horses treated him badly for a while when he first came. He was chased, kicked, bitten, and snubbed. And yet he still finds his security and worth in being with the herd.

So, what about us? We do the same things! Many of us have become people pleasers rather than people lovers. When we say we love someone, doesn't it usually mean that we need them? Our love is based on what they can give us, or what we think they can give us. We look to other people to meet our needs, to give us value, to make us feel secure, instead of looking to God. We become enslaved to the approval of others. The problem is that we believe we need the acceptance and validation of others more than we need to know and love our Creator. And so we do whatever it takes to please people, because we're afraid that someone will reject us or judge us. Even when we get hurt, manipulated, pressured, or ignored, we keep setting our sights on that coveted spot of favor. We choose to be blind and ignorant toward our Master, the One who gives us life and has an incredible purpose to fulfill through us. We think we can't trust Him to be enough. When God says we're valuable because He made us, we don't believe it. We only believe we're valuable when other people make us feel like it. We think we're safer in our herd.

Now look at that verse again. God started a work in me and you. We are a good work in progress. Our horses are also a good work in progress. They are here to fulfill a purpose beyond their natural world. They are here to help kids. They don't understand it, but these horses have a wonderfully special job. As we work with them throughout the season, we will experience good days and bad. We will experience a measure of success when a horse is listening and cooperating. We will experience joy when the horse is relaxed and learning to trust us more and is willing to yield to pressure. We will experience frustration when a horse is not respecting us and not interested in the relationship. And we will experience setbacks when a horse reverts to old habits after long, patient training. But if we take our cues from our Master, we will respond with patience, respect, and mercy. Because God has promised that He will finish the work in us. Even though we act like these horses. Even though some days we're totally focused on the people who we think give us value. Even though we struggle over and over again to trust, to listen, to yield. Even though sometimes we don't want anything to do with the relationship. God finishes what He started. And so I have hope today. Hope that God's work in me will continue and go deeper and will shape me from a pleaser of people to a lover of people. Free to love from the joy of giving. Love without expectations of receiving anything in return. Love that comes out of a life secure in being loved by God and confident in following Him, regardless of anyone else's opinion.