Friday, June 1, 2012

Blessed Rain

I love the rain. As I write this, it’s raining outside. It’s God pouring down his blessings on our thirsty north Texas pasture land. We’ll have at least one cutting of hay, maybe two, before the summer drought with its weeks of 100 degree plus temperatures begins. When I lived and worked in the Los Angeles area, I didn’t think much about rain. Not much rain to think about. And, most of the time rain or not, sure, it affected me, but not that I could personally see. Living in the country surrounded by horse and cattle ranches, rain or the lack of it is an important subject of local conversation. One year it was so desperately dry that some 30 or 40 of us gathered around the courthouse to pray for rain. In this area sometimes with the longed-for rains come tornado winds, floods and golf-ball-size hail. That’s not welcome. I’m reminded that although Christ has redeemed this earth, we’re in the in between times. As Paul wrote, “We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time” (Romans 8:22). And, it’s still groaning! The earth is redeemed. I am redeemed. You are redeemed, but we’re still awaiting his triumphant return. Someone once asked me why I still confess my sins when I’m already forgiven. It’s because I still sin! I confess them, not to be forgiven, but in acknowledgement of the momentous sacrifice made to free me from the bondage of sin and guilt. Thank you, Lord, for the rain, and most of all, for your overwhelming sacrificial love for me and for all your creation. And, please Lord, come soon!

Saturday, March 31, 2012

Weekend Crisis

Four-year-old Leyden had already gotten a ride on King’s back, but he wanted to see the big chestnut quarter horse again. Hand in hand, we walked through the pasture. That’s when I saw two horses and a foal standing at the back fence. “Look, Leyden, the neighbor’s horses have come over to visit with King. Let’s go look at that new baby.” As we got closer, I saw the mare wasn’t just visiting; she was caught in the barbed-wire fence, half of her body on one side and the other half in our pasture. Her back leg was bleeding above the hoof. Her foal was trying to nurse through the fence.
I called Ed, telling him to bring wire clippers and a halter. He and Jeremiah, a grandson and Leyden’s dad, came quickly. They put the halter on the mare and began cutting strand after strand of barbed wire to free her. She didn’t struggle. She may have been too tired to fight anymore and possibly dehydrated.
By this time, our two donkeys, Missy and Sugar, decided to see what was going on. They don’t like intruders in their territory and will chase whatever dares to come around. But I didn’t have to worry. King immediately charged after them, running them away from the mare and foal. He had to do this twice while Ed and Jeremiah freed the mare, led her back into her pasture and rewired the fence.
I’m not one to imagine animals have human emotions or characteristics, but that big gelding sensed something was wrong, and the donkeys shouldn’t interfere. The donkey girls weren’t completed thwarted that day, however. Before it was over they got to chase the neighbor’s dog out of their pasture.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

The World Went to Church

The world went to church this last weekend, a black Baptist church with a huge choir all dressed in white. I stayed in nursing a cold, so did a lot of reading and also watched Whitney Houston’s funeral on CNN. Four hours of memories of the lovely singer with the extraordinary voice. Lively gospel music was interspersed with performances by such notables as Stevie Wonder and Alicia Keys. Dionne Warrick, Whitney’s cousin, introduced the various speakers and performers. Heartfelt eulogies by family and coworkers focused on the positive aspects of her life. Her struggle with alcohol and substance abuse was already well known.
It was a celebration of her life and a tribute to her talent, but deeply sad as well. Her death was so unnecessary. She was young, beautiful, talented, with a promising comeback performance in a soon-to-be released movie, Sparkle. She had a teenage daughter who needed her and many caring friends and family members. Another amazing talent, streaking across our sky like a meteor, flashing brightly, then burning out as quickly as she came.

Friday, February 3, 2012

Where's Winter?

Some up north are ready for winter to be over all ready, but here in north Texas, we wonder when winter will begin. Not that we aren’t enjoying our Southern California 70-degree weather, but it is February now. Where’s our winter?
With winter seeming like spring, Ed is getting gardening fever. He’s had kale, spinach and several other greens growing, and yesterday he asked me to help him plant a couple of rows of green onions. So, there we were, down on our knees digging little holes, planting sprouts of onions and covering them up. He had already prepared the ground by digging a couple of trenches for us to plant the onions in.
Now, it has been a while since I got down digging in the dirt with my bare hands. My gardening is usually limited to using a hoe in my flower beds, and I wear gloves so I don’t dirty my hands. Actually, this was a good experience. Ed and I talked about the blessing of being able to grow our own food, right there in our backyard. We were in wonderment again over how, with a little water and sunshine, those tiny, dried-up sprouts would become fresh, crunchy green onions. It was also a reminder of where food actually comes from—the good earth. Thank you, Lord, for your magnificent creation! Help us to remember to take care of this marvelous gift.

Friday, September 2, 2011

At a Loss

I saw him almost every weekend. The young man usually sat a row or two behind Ed and me at church. He took up offerings almost every week and he took care of the offering envelopes. Sometimes he would read the Scripture reading before the sermon, if it was a short one. When our pastor had to be out of town, and I spoke at church a few weeks ago, he read the Scripture reading. He was single and he was painfully shy and socially awkward. When we talked to him, he would duck his head, briefly maintain eye contact and haltingly answer whatever question we asked. He did not initiate the conversation. Some time ago, he gave me and other members at church notes he had written. I could tell they were supposed to be encouraging, but they didn't make sense. There were words all right, but they weren't poetry or prose. They just didn't make sense. It made me wonder if my friend suffered from some form of autism. Then a couple of weeks ago, he wasn't at church. I didn't notice. Then the next week he wasn't at church, and then I did notice. It wasn't like him to miss church, certainly not two weeks in a row. I asked about him, but no one seemed to know why he wasn't there. Maybe he was visiting his family, but why didn't he let someone know, we questioned. Now we know why. He took his own life. I'm at a loss.

Cowboy Stories

Our farrier Kirk is a big guy, always smiling and always has a story to tell, or two or three. Ed had already gotten the animals up when I got out to the barn. Kirk had one of my quarter horse gelding’s back legs between his knees, clipping away on King’s hoof. I whistled and called out so he would know I was around, and so would King. I didn’t want to startle either. The temperature was in the high 90s. Kirk’s grey shirt with his company name on it was already soaked and sweat was running down his face. He put King’s leg down and after slapping at a couple of horseflies making bloody spots on the horse, continued working on another hoof. “Damn flies,” he said. I’m sure he would have said worse if I hadn’t been there. Kirk has a portable stand that’s magnetic to hold his farrier tools. He wears a well-worn, divided leather apron that covers the lower half of his torso and his legs. When he finished with King, he grabbed Sugar’s lead rope and tied the donkey up to the corral post.
It had been a while since I’d seen Kirk so I asked how he’d been. Been on any trail rides, I asked? Kirk hires out to accompany trail riders to take care of any problems with their horses. That was all Kirk needed. He leaned on the corral gate, and told me he had just returned from a trail ride in Idaho. On the way up, he had a flat on his horse trailer but found a place where they lent him a heavy jack and aired up his spare. “That spare’s still aired up,” he said.
On these trips, at night he stops at rodeo grounds along the way and unloads his appaloosa gelding into one of the pens. After supper, he spreads out his cowboy tarp, sleeping bag inside, near his horse and spends the night. In the morning he finds a café and has his breakfast. “I just love sleepin’ out, looking up at the stars, and then getting up in the morning and having breakfast at some little café. I just love it!” he said again, with a big smile. “Kirk, you’re a cowboy, all right,” I said. Even up in the mountains when the dew is a little icy in the mornings, he said he sleeps “warm as toast” in his bed roll. “That cowboy tarp--best money I ever spent,” he said.
He went on describing the trail ride, and how his old truck probably wouldn’t make another trip like that pulling a load. “I’ve got more than 200,000 miles on it, but I won’t quit driving it. I’ll get me another used truck, but I’ll keep driving this one too.” Finally, after several more stories, I looked at Sugar, who was patiently waiting, and decided I’d better leave or that donkey’s patience might run out. And Kirk still had her sister Missy’s hooves to do. So, soon as I got an opening, we figured out the next appointment, I wished Kirk the best and retreated to my truck, still enjoying, vicariously, Kirk’s cowboy experiences. I love living in Texas!

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Some Still Care

My daughter needed clear plastic legal-size envelopes to organize family documents, but she couldn't find the legal size locally. So she decided to check at the Container Store in the Dallas area. If you haven't been to the Container Store, it's an amazing ecperience. I hadn't been so I went with her. Of course that meant I found several items I needed too. It's hard not to in that store. The store is huge and it has more than containers. It has all types of items to organize your home and your life. We checked with a clerk who directed us toward office supplies. But no legal-size plastic envelopes. We went on through the aisles, just looking around when a clerk asked us if we had found what we were looking for. My daughter said no and told her what she wanted. The woman led us to another section of the store and, sure enough, the legal-size envelopes were there. Now, my daughter never meets a stranger so she set about getting acquainted with the helpful clerk. The woman began telling us how wonderful it was to work at the store. She praised the owners and described how good they were to their employees. She said we receive wonderful gifts on all the holidays, including Valentine's Day. The women were surprised by orchids on Mother's Day. She was a part-time employee, but she said she got company benefits as well. I don't know about you, but it's rare, if almost never, that I hear praise from an employee for their employers. This woman said the owner's wife would drop in at the store on occasion and visit with them. She was impressed by their concern for their employees. By this time, wo were we. If you're ever in the Dallas area, you might want to check out the Container Store or maybe there's one near you. I'm ready to support an organization that has a heart and cares about its people.