The Hoof Print
Horse News. Christian Living. Equine Education
The Christian Equestrian's Literary "Stamp" in Type
Today I sit with my hands in my hair about my tack room. Well, I say tack room. I'm still not entirely sure if my bedroom has tack in it or my tack room has a bed in it. Either way, pandemonium reigns. Somewhere along the line one of the saddle racks fell down and now in order to reach the lunging equipment, you have to clamber over one of the saddles, probably tripping over a pile of halters in the process and rediscovering a lost exercise bandage, a bar of saddle soap older than you are, tiny stirrup irons you didn't even know you had and, quite possibly, Atlantis. It's madness. It's enough to make me wonder why I even have all this stuff and what possessed me to acquire all of it in the first place.
Then, half an hour later, one of the horses will have a temper tantrum and I will think, “I really need a standing martingale right now.” Never mind that I haven't used it for years – each horse needs a different approach, and often, a different piece of equipment.
Non-horsepeople must be utterly bewildered by the array of bits, boots, bridles, blankets, bonnets and miscellaneous gadgets that we horsepeople seem to require in order to complete what appears to be the relatively simple task of staying on top. There are variations of everything, from saddles to rein attachments.
Once again, horse training proves not to be so different from the rest of the world. Just as we have many different pieces of equipment, so there are even more different kinds of people. In fact, seven billion totally different human beings are alive today – there is nothing so diverse as the personalities of mankind. We all have our own ideas, opinions, feelings, passions, hopes, and fears. No two humans have ever been or will ever be identical. We are unique because we are Handmade – created with utmost care by the God Who loves us so. And yet we are all created for one simple purpose; for Him (Colossians 1:16, Revelation 4:11).
We are all under the same commandments. We are all created, saved, and cherished by the same God. One Lord, one Truth, one Word reigns over all of us. And we all have a common purpose. Why, then, are we all so different? How can a world full of unique people work for a single goal?
The answer lies not in why, but in how. All God's children work for one cause – His glory. And we all work for one reason – His love. But we all work in completely different ways, because we all have different gifts. God has given us strengths and talents for a reason. Each of us has a unique calling for which we were created.
Horse trainers would have a dreadful time if we were stuck with just one piece of equipment. Imagine trying to school a horse to perfection with just a bit. You wouldn't even have a bridle to hold it in the horse's mouth. It would be completely useless. But if you have the bit and a bridle, a saddle, stirrups, girth, saddle blanket – everything else you needed – then the bit would incredibly useful.
Of course, if you were a true master, and you had enough time, you could train a horse without anything. It's a good thing for us that God is a true Master. He can save this world and bring glory to His Name without any of us. He does not need us, but He wants us. All of us. As unique as we are.
If God had made all of us the same, it would be like trying to train that horse with only a bit. So He made us all different, each with something else to bring back to His Kingdom, each with something unique to contribute. Just like the horse trainer with all his diverse equipment, all tools in his hand to achieve the one goal of training that horse. 1 Corinthians 12 says that God has diverse people, all tools in His Hand to achieve the one goal of bringing Him glory. United by Christ, not by similarity.
We are not all called to be prophets. We are not all called to be songwriters. We are not all called to be nurses. I'm a horsewoman. Maybe you are a housewife, pastor, carpenter, accountant, banker, bus driver, architect, doctor, farmer, police officer, CEO, ironworker... Whatever we are, if we are in Christ, we are what God has made us. We do not have to be preachers to get to Heaven. We do not have to be Gospel singers to serve our King.
Whatever we are, we are children of the Most High God. And He can use us, whatever our gifts, whatever our strength, in a unique and marvellous and special way, to bring glory to His amazing Name.
I always love to watch my trainer, the Horse Mutterer, at work, usually taking notes in my head so that I can try whatever he’s doing when I get home. But not today. Today’s small miracle is still so far beyond my capabilities that all I do is lend a hand and watch in wonder: it’s going to be a long time before I try this by myself.
I hold the little mare’s head while the Mutterer runs a soft rope around her neck, tying it so that it can’t slip tight, then gently slips a loop around each hind pastern. The little mare trembles, rolling her eyes so that I can see the whites, her ears constantly moving. She’s supposed to be trained, but I don’t want to know what her “trainer” did to her. Beat her most likely, maybe twisted her ears, yelled in her delicate little face. She has a fear about her that goes way beyond the ordinary nervousness of an unhandled horse. Even the lightest and kindest touch makes her flinch. I can see it now as I try to stroke her neck; the big muscles jump under my hand, too scared to hold still, too scared to flee. Eventually, I give up. She’s beyond human comfort now.
So I think, anyway, but the Mutterer has a plan. “Stick on the same side as me and hang onto her head.”
“Okay,” I say doubtfully. He’s usually right, so I do as I’m told.
The Mutterer has the ends of the rope around the mare’s legs in his hands. “Okay, girly,” he says to the mare, who trembles. “Easy now.” Then he pulls.
The ropes spring tight around the mare’s hindlegs, pulling them underneath her. She fights, throwing her head against the halter, but off balance she can’t yank even my weight around. Scrabbling at the grass with her forelegs, eyes wide, nostrils flaring, she panics. But the Mutterer leans calmly on the ropes and her hindlegs fold up underneath her. She sits down on the deep grass and stares at us, gasping. The Mutterer, still as calm as a monolith (the mare and I are equally spooked), leans against her shoulder and she eases slowly down onto her side.
“Good girl.” He puts a hand on her neck, but she’s not struggling. She quivers slightly, breath racing. He rubs her neck and shoulders and face and flanks, speaking to her slowly, explaining to me as I sit in the grass and stare. Because as the Mutterer explains, the mare relaxes. Her wide eyes soften. Her breathing slows down. The Mutterer loosens the ropes around her legs, but she doesn’t kick out. She is at her most vulnerable, lying on her side with – in her mind – her most powerful and violent enemy towering over her, but she’s relaxing.
The Mutterer hears my question before I ask it. “Because we didn’t hurt her once in this whole process,” he says. The mare gives a long sigh. “We use soft, thick lunging lines that don’t burn her, and we do it in the open where she can’t hurt herself, on thick grass so that even if she falls it won’t hurt.”
I nod. The mare went down, but she went down slowly, without being able to fight hard enough to pull any muscles.
Then, the mare licks and chews, an ultimate sign of equine submission and relaxation. Now the Mutterer pats her, softly at first, then hard enough to make the thudding noise most horses enjoy. And the mare doesn’t flinch. She lies still and lets herself feel a human’s love for the first time.
I’m still a little incredulous about the whole process right up until the moment when the Mutterer takes off the ropes and the mare gets slowly to her feet. Without a backward glance, he walks away. And without a second thought, without a halter on, in an open paddock, in the deep soft grass, away from her equine herdmates, the mare follows him.
It made sense when he explained it. The mare was terrified. She understood only two things about men: that they would unfailingly hurt her, and that if she fought or fled for her life she might avoid the pain. To gain her trust, we had to reverse both those principles. She had to believe that men were stronger than her. And she had to believe that they would never do her harm.
Pulling her down did just that. She was put into her most vulnerable position, shown that she could fight as she would but humans would always be stronger. (If it were not so, horses would still be wild; we have a God-given dominion over them [Genesis 1:26]. The bad part is that so many of us are tyrants and dictators instead of good rulers). But even at her most vulnerable, even at her most afraid, there was no pain. The humans didn’t hurt her or threaten her. In her darkest moment, there was just a gentle touch and a quiet voice. And when the force was taken away – when the ropes were removed – the little mare did what all horses do. She chose her leader, and she chose the leader that had proven his strength and his good intentions. Then she followed him.
And it probably saved the little mare’s life. The few minutes of fear and worry, now eclipsed by the relaxation and submission that flooded every line of her features, had been worth it. The mare had been a worthless, wild creature, doomed to the dark future of every useless and dangerous horse. But now, she had a second chance.
I was silent for a long time afterwards, because I know the feeling. Because I, too, have been that horse lying on the grass and gasping in terror. My legs tied up. A weight on my neck. Unable to fight back, unable to do anything to prevent my worst fear from coming true. It was a dark hour, and I was most afraid. I could not understand why I was suddenly so helpless or why the strange, higher being would force me so, any more than the little mare could understand why the man had pulled her down.
But in that darkness, in that fear, in that helplessness, there was no pain from the One Who had put me there. Just a gentle touch and a quiet voice: “Be still and know that I am God.” (Psalm 46:10) And I knew He was God, and I knew He was all-powerful, almighty and all-knowing, that He could crush me like a bug where I lay. And I knew, more overwhelmingly than I have ever known, that He loved me.
You see, in that moment, it felt as though I had nothing. My herdmates felt far away and unable to save me. My own strength had failed me entirely. All I had was the loving touch of Jesus as He held me, and His soft voice as He stilled the storm inside. I had nothing but Him, and He was enough.
Horses and people have the same clockwork inside. Because when He let me rise again and gave me my freedom, when I saw the open field and the rest of the world waiting, I looked up and I saw Him. He Who was stronger than me, Who loved me. So I did what all humans do: I chose my Leader. And I followed Him.
And I am now no longer a worthless, wild creature. I am no longer doomed to a dark future. I have been given a second chance.
I took it.
This is the first part of a multi-part series...
Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God. Matthew 5:8
Purity is a hot topic in the Christian world today.
In our culture, "to be pure" often is associated as being naive, abnormal, wimpy and "no fun." Even in Christian "upstanding" circles, the idea of physical purity (e.g. virginity, abstaining from substance abuse, not being a drunkard, etc.) has shockingly become a novelty. Many parents just expect that their children will turn wayward, have a "fling" and then hopefully get serious about life and settle down.
It doesn't have to be this way.
God forgives—yet—what we often find is an attitude of acceptance among Christian crowds for the "sake" of trying to cajole and lure the wayward (especially the young) into church so we can "fix" them. Many churches and Christian organizations mistakely define love as toleration. Much effort is put into glamourizing the Message into attractive, marketable packages that will be appealing and more palatable to the Generation lost. They increase and diversify marketing strategies and grow to unnecessarily accept a lower standard and end up accommodating sinful lifestyles by providing "a comfortable environment" where lives ultimately don't change much. Nowhere in the Scriptures do we find it Biblical to accommodate and excuse sin. We are to instead call sin, sin and disciple nations in the Gospel, a solid hope in an unchanging Christ.
Christ's purity is not subject to or diminished by human definition, interpretation, marketing strategies or popularity. Regardless of man's efforts—Christ remains the same. Christ was and still is the perfect pattern. In Him is a surety, a foundation to be anchored upon and an absolute possibility in obtaining His ways (He. 6:18-20). Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever (He. 13:8). He is consistent, unmoving, uncompromising Way, Truth and Life (John 14:6).
As humans, we are incapable of obtaining purity by our own efforts. We can "look the part" and still inwardly be vile. Being pure just doesn't happen by itself. As Christians that read their Bible know, the first tenet toward is a relationship with Jesus Christ and the indwelling of the Holy Spirit living through us, putting on the armor of God, feeding oneself with the Word of God, bearing the fruits of the Spirit, and praying without ceasing. Being pure as Christ, though, does have some more action on our part. We are born with a free will, thus, WE have to choose to allow the Lord to work in us a daily renewing in a never ending lifestyle that permeates every part of us. Briefly, in application this means we have to set things asside. We have to keep our clothes on or even add more fabric to our clothing! We have to not read or watch trash. We have to walk away. We have to turn off the radio or television or computer.
In accord with Scripture and with the enablement of Christ, we have a choice and ability to control and to "... keep thyself pure" (1Tim. 5:22).
Our mind – What do we think about? Read? Entertain ourselves with?
Our eyesight – what do we view? Do we walk away or refuse to look at it? Do we turn it off?
Our mannerisms – How do we act? Are we ruled by selfishness ("this is just me, you'll have to lump it") or self-giving?
Our speech—What comes out of our mouths? Are we deceptive, backbiting, idle, vulgar?
Our desires – What do we long for? Do we inappropriately want something?
Our passions – Are we controlled by our lusts and impulses?
Our bodies – How are we presenting them? Using them? Managing them? Dressing them?
In our relationships – do we treat others as Christ would? Are we physically pure with others?
Our identity – Do we act as women should? Are we uncompromisingly feminine as God created women to be? Do we excuse ourselves as being mannish when God gave us a role of femininity?
How we work? – Do we work with purity? Are we blameless, ethical, integral and honest?
How we spend our time? – Are we good stewards of our time? What are we doing with life?
How we spend our money? – What investments are we making? Do we tithe? Are we responsible?
What entertains us? – Do we have hobbies and interests that God would approve of?
How do we care for our families? Are we committed? Do we invest and love the lives God has given us in our family? Do we honor our parents?
And the list could go on...
God doesn't want us to feel beat before we're start. He enables, He provides, He satisfies, He gives. What we have to do is make the commitment and live today, one step at a time. When we fail, we have to confess it and get back going on the right track. We have to be willing to change and make changes.
Let's bring this down to application.
What does purity look like in our daily lives?
To Be Continued...
Last weekend, I took one of my favourite horses in the universe to a jumping lesson off-site. She is a young horse and conditions were not ideal, but she was amazing. Sure, she threw a little buck here and there out of purest excitement, but she jumped everything we put in front of her and tried her heart out. There were several moments in which she was afraid, but I was there with a determined voice in her ear and a firm leg against her side and no hesitation, so she went for me. There were several moments in which I was afraid, but she was there with a powerful thrust of her hindlegs and a forward set of her ears, so I went with her. Our partnership, from the outside, looks unremarkable; just a little grey mare obeying her rider. But on the inside, we are more than partners, we are friends, there for each other, rooting for each other, and working together to achieve our common goal. I may not fall on her neck kissing her each time she pleases me, and she may not neigh joyously at the very sight of me, but we love one another with a quiet constance. It is a strange and unlikely relationship, this mutual respect between man and beast, but one that I treasure.
How strange we are, us humans. We love, with an abiding passion, a half-ton animal that cannot speak; something with four legs and monocular vision. Yet at the same time, we fear and hate members of our own kind if they look a little different. History is pock-marked and scarred by dark deeds done in fear and hatred of those who happened not to be the right skin colour, the right gender, or the right origin; people who didn't look or act or speak like other people who happened to be stronger than them. Civil wars have been raged, concentration camps filled, apartheid declared. And while in many places, many people have made many huge differences, the old hatred of all that is different lingers on.
I am a South African. Born three years after our fondly-nicknamed Madiba and F. W. de Klerk put an end to apartheid, I should know it only as history. Yet one can walk anywhere in South Africa and realise that apartheid still smoulders in hearts and minds all over our country, remaining in an old wound called racism. And with every government survey demanding that you fill in your race (where is the box marked “Human”?), every angry glance thrown across the street, every car window nervously rolled up as the “wrong” kind of person goes past, that old wound's healing slows.
And yet we, the same people who shake their fists, spit as they cross the road, or hug their purses and children nearer at the sight of others, we will walk up to a huge and dangerous animal that doesn't speak any human language, mount up and trust it with our lives.
So if we can love a beast that could kill us in a breath, we can love those who we have warred with in the past. If we can love a creature with a furry coat, we can love those with a different skin colour. If we can love an animal that has no speech, we can love those who speak a different language. If we can love a herd animal that functions in a society we barely understand, we can love the people who have different cultures to us.
In short, brothers and sisters, if we can love the horse, then we can love one another. We are not so different after all. We are all human (Acts 17:26). Let us celebrate the amazing diversity of God's creation and accept what He has so fearfully and wonderfully made. The world is truly divided with only one line; God's children, and the lost; and we as God's children are called to love everybody. There is neither Jew nor Greek, neither bond nor free, neither male nor female, for we are all one in Christ Jesus (Galatians 3:28).
Glory to the King.
So Why Did I Become a Christian? Featured
Recently, I heard it again. “Rebekah, one day you’ll wake up and find out how much fun you’re missing out on…. Oh yeh, and every third day, I talk to the “holy man” too…”
People with more liberal outlooks have their way of getting their message across. They want no condemnation for their lifestyles. However, they LOVE to mock, scoff, blaspheme in playful or abrasive ways, your simple, steady commitment that you might not even verbalize but only live before them.
Ever happen to you?
Thinking this over recent, fairly mild brush of persecution, I’ve put some questions to myself (rhetorically).
Why did I become a Christian? I was 5—but I longed to be Christ’s. I wanted to know Him and go to heaven.
Was it because I just wanted to be different-just-to-be-different? No…
Perhaps it was a personal preference? No--It never occurred to me…
Did I just fall into it by nature? Definitely not by nature…
Did I have a natural aversion to lust making it easy to be pure? I was thinking of one woman’s infringing conversation about my singleness suggesting that I lived in a state of aggravated, unsatisfied sensual desire. “It must be so hard for you to stay pure.” I couldn’t believe it. This was a Christian! Waiting on the Lord’s best, He doesn’t leave you struggling. God’s ways fill you up and fully satisfy even the healthy (though frequently perverted) human elements He created to be holy and set apart for His chosen union.
Was it because I just happened to be shrouded and sheltered from bad people through my childhood? My parents did protect me, but regardless, there have been plenty of “bad people” lurking in the shadows.
Is it because I haven’t tasted of something “forbidden” that would change my whole outlook if I but only had a bite of the fruit? There is no shame in protection and non-participation of biting into forbidden fruits! PRAISE the LORD—I have been guided well by Christian parents. Praise the Lord that He is my Savior that lives in me and is sanctifying not only me, but all who will profess and believe in Him—no matter what sins committed in the past life. Praise the Lord that He has instructed all that want to know that sin should not be tasted and sought out—it WILL destroy us.
I have encountered many different adults in my life that have suggested by words and gestures that only by experiencing a bit of the “dirty side” of humanity can you achieve being “just a little bit wiser” and “more intellectually fulfilled” in the human race. I think about a fundraiser for charities that I declined attending for a “good cause.” I was urged to reconsider and realize this would be a good opportunity for me to “grow.” Later I found out, the series of fundraising dance routines included a team that performed a toned down “strip tease.” There was no denying there was no need to “grow” for this. The Bible is very cut and dry on honoring the Lord with what we allow our eyes to see, our minds to think on, our ears to hear. We don’t need to compromise for a “good cause” because the money earned will do a lot of good. God can provide money in other ways through purer channels. And growth wise, we don’t have to experience the heat of the sin—or just be a sideline observer—to determine a counterfeit to what is truly wise and superior.
The thing about being a Christian it’s not just about having all the “I”s dotted and the “t”s crossed. It’s not just about looking the part when folks are looking your way. It’s about being committed—when people aren’t looking—everyday—to a living Savior and having an eternal perspective in a dying, crumbling, degenerate world. That sounds almost depressing—yet, in contrast—it is a living hope.
There is a REASON for the hope that is mine! There is a REASON that Christians can be a light and even stand alone. We offer, nothing in ourselves, but Jesus Christ in a living, applicable witness. The more I live, the more I am convinced that following the Lord is the most hopeful, the most rewarding and the only way to live. Can I do it perfectly? Not in my own strength—not in the least.
To paraphrase the words of a visiting pastor at church, “We might put our sword down as Christians. But you know what? In Christ, we don’t have to live with our sword down. He enables us to pick it back up and keep going.”
By choosing the ways of Christ—they hurt or damage no one. Christ’s ways can make people uncomfortable, convict their consciences and make them angry wanting to lash out and perhaps even hurt us. Yet, Christ’s ways, in themselves, only tend to life and peace. Following Christ entails sacrifice and dying to oneself but such self-giving is life giving.
I would tell anyone that was honestly wanting to know—that being a Christian is a daily renewal. Yes, I became a Christian at an early age. I didn’t start out with a big list of habits to overcome. But, like anyone else, I’ve had to allow Christ to daily work on me. Profanity may not be in my vocabulary, but the heart still requires Christ’s redemption to purify thoughts that stem from selfishness, anger, pride. No, I may not have the vices or habits that are blatantly on the “blacklist”, yet, there’s a higher calling that constantly points out areas of growth needed to overcome attitudes that, if left to fester, the worst sins all stem from.
Christianity does not come by nature to any of us. But we were made with a void that only Christ Jesus can fill. And, the more a righteous lifestyle is cultivated, the stronger, healthier and more vibrant we do grow! We learn from experiences in a journey moving forward.
So why did I become a Christian? The reasons are many. The benefits are innumerable. It has been the best decision. The bi-product of Salvation in Jesus Christ is standing forgiven, provided with Sovereign help to overcome, given an abundant provision of joy (even in tough situations) and a lifestyle that tends to life right now. And my hope lasts to after death, when I’ll be with Him eternally in a perfect, sinless world.
For young people especially, I would encourage you to be willing to stand alone, if necessary. Make the commitment—be the valiant disciplined. It is possible. It is attainable. It’s a daily walk that requires you to trust the Lord, rely on Him for strength, and to be renewed in His mindset. Just do it. And as you do—you’ll find that a cultivated crop of a righteous lifestyle gives the best return. May God keep us very faithful and growing, ever deeply rooted, in Him.