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.
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