Thursday, July 19, 2012

Francesville Team

It's a dry summer here in Missouri, but the Lord continues to send showers of blessing on His Ranch in the form of people and resources.  Last week He brought us an eager team of volunteers from a church in Francesville, Indiana.  Most of the team were young people ages 14 to 18, and they tackled everything we gave them to do with enthusiasm.  They finished the work we had planned and then some!  We had great fellowship together, everyone worked in unity, and no one wanted to leave by the end of the week.  On the last work day, we had the team put their handprints and names on an inside wall of the barn that they had replaced.  It's a representation of numerous others who have left their fingerprints around the ranch in some way.  Some things have been done that no one may ever know about or that wouldn't be noticed by most people.  Other fingerprints are more obvious, yet those who have left them never claimed the credit for themselves.  God's hand is so strong in this ministry, and everyone who gives of themselves to play some part in it understands that all the glory belongs to Him, and that is what we desire.

Here are some of the ways the Francesville team left their fingerprints last week.  Our new tack room in the barn has been partially unfinished for a long time.  We were waiting to get insulation put in, and God provided for that to happen a few months ago.  So the team finished the walls and ceiling and put in lighting.  Once we get saddle racks installed, it will be ready to move into!

The front of the barn wall had already been redone on one side on the door, but the other side was still the old metal stuff.  They tore that section out and put up a new wall and painted it to match.

Those were the big projects, but there were so many other jobs done that were just as much appreciated.  A couple new gates hung in the arena.....

Painting and sealing wood on the welcome center.....

New mulch and rock borders around the trees and flower gardens....

And all sorts of cleaning!

Everyone had fun and also got to be part of some of our sessions with the kids and horses.  Those who wanted to also got a chance to ride and to watch horse training demonstrations.

We are always blessed beyond words and humbled when a team comes through and leaves the ranch better and more useful than before.  They always seem to accomplish so much more than we imagined they could!  It just goes to show that God is the force behind it all.  His Word says that He is able to do exceedingly abundantly beyond all we can ask or imagine!  When I look at how many visible changes He brought through a work team in a few days, it makes me wonder how much more He is doing beneath the surface of our lives and in the daily ministry with the kids and everyone who steps onto His Ranch.  It was also uplifting to the ranch staff to experience the energy and excitement of these young people as they saw the ministry of the ranch for the first time.  They had a blast watching all the kids, many of them with disabilities, riding the horses.  They jumped in to help give rides or assist a lesson at every opportunity.  They got to see what we see every day, and it made us realize that we get into a routine and sometimes forget why we're doing all this.  It becomes easy to go through the motions and not think about the influence we could be having in the life of a child or a parent.  Every day we are touching lives here, but when you are close to something, you can become dull to it and miss what is right in front of your face.  We are grateful for the opportunity to see God's work here through fresh eyes.  Work team weeks are exciting.  They are also exhausting.  But our spirits have been encouraged and invigorated by their presence here.  Thank you, Francesville!  Your labor of love will continue to bless countless people and will always be remembered by our Father in heaven.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Trusting In The One Who Holds You

A lot of our friends who come to His Ranch are living with extra physical and mental challenges.  It's fun to see the variety in their response to the horses.  We're not always sure what people are thinking or feeling, but we can usually tell they are happy and relaxed on the horse's back..

One day recently we welcomed a friend who is both blind and deaf and in a wheelchair.  Paul* has been to the ranch before, but had never been on a horse.  You can only imagine how terrifying anything new and unfamiliar would be for him.  All he knows is feeling.  Paul's caretakers weren't sure he would even let us put him on the horse, but they decided we could try it.  One of our staff guys got on Victor's back, and another one lifted Paul from his wheelchair and onto the saddle.  As soon as he was on the horse, he tensed up, but he didn't put up any protest or fight.  Kyle, who was holding Paul from behind, rubbed his hands from Paul's shoulders down to his hands so he could feel something familiar and reassuring.  He seemed to be okay, so we decided to walk Victor forward a few steps.  They ended up making three trips around the riding arena, and Paul was calm and relaxed the entire time!

As I watched Paul ride, I tried to put myself in his shoes.  Imagine that you can't see, you can't hear, and you have no idea what a horse is.  It's an unfamiliar position, unfamiliar movement, without the safe confines of the wheelchair you are accustomed to.  I think what kept him from falling apart was the feeling of another person holding him, and the familiar sensation of those hands on his.  He was putting incredible trust in Kyle's arms around him, someone he didn't even know.

Could I trust someone that way?  Could you?  What about God?  You can't see Him.  You can't understand Him with your physical senses.  As I go through life, I often find myself relying on my feelings to direct what I do and why.  If I feel like I can handle something, I can "see" the results or I'm confident in what the results will be, that is often my motivation to do it.  On the other hand, if I'm tired, anxious, or out of my comfort zone, and I feel like I don't know what I'm doing and I can't handle this, I will shrink away and try to avoid taking the risk.  When I'm trying to make a decision, I wish God would speak to me, that I could physically hear His voice telling me what to do.  He has many ways of speaking to us, but it's not usually that obvious.  Trusting God is kind a little bit like being blind and deaf.  We cannot rely on what we know and understand with our human minds or what we see around us.  We can't measure our success in God's kingdom by visible results.  Sometimes I don't know where I'm going and I have no clue what God is doing.  What I do know is that He's holding me.  And He's not going to let go.
"Even to your old age and gray hairs, I am He, I am He who will sustain you.  I have made you and I will carry you; I will sustain you and I will rescue you."  Isaiah 46:4 NIV

There have been times in my journey when I am at the end of myself.  I'm empty and tired.  I can't see God at work in my life.  I can't hear His voice telling me if I'm supposed to stay where I am or go someplace else.  There are no good feelings of excitement, purpose, or joy.  It's in those times that I can either become lost in self-pity and run from the hard things, or I can choose to keep trusting in the One who is holding me, come what may.  Does it feel like complete loss of control?  Yes.  But I was never in control to begin with.  In the realm of God's wisdom and power, I am just as helpless as our friend Paul is physically.  But even more than that, I have no clue what God has prepared for me in our future together.  The Bible says, "eye has not seen, nor ear heard, nor have entered into the heart of man the things which God has prepared for those who love Him." 1 Cor. 2:9
Someday, when Paul leaves this earth, he will open brand new eyes in heaven and see the face of Jesus!  He will hear the angels singing, and yes, I believe he will finally know what a horse is, because the Bible talks about Jesus and his armies riding on horses!  Right now, he cannot even imagine the things we take for granted every day....colors, shapes, faces, sounds.  He doesn't know what it feels like to walk, run, or jump.  He can't speak and tell anyone what he is thinking.  But that day is coming!  There will be so many new physical experiences for Paul in his new body.  Likewise, when we step into the pure presence of God, the spiritual experiences that God is preparing for us will be just as mind-blowing!

And so, once again, my Father has used a horse and a special friend with many limitations to teach me the meaning of faith.  Am I living for the here and now, focusing on a feeling or on what looks logical to me?  Do I freak out when God leads me somewhere that is strange or uncomfortable?  Or will I keep moving forward when life doesn't make sense?  Will I do the hard things to follow God, trusting that I am secure in Christ no matter what happens and looking forward to the unseen glories that he has promised?  To put it simply, God is holding you.  Are you holding onto Him?  It's a choice that you and I have to make every day.
"Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen."  Hebrews 11:1

*Name has been changed to protect privacy.