“Courage is being scared to death,
but saddling up anyway.”
(image of a rider using a bull rope to tie his hand to a bull in order to stay on as long
as possible without being bucked off—from an Ebay image of all things)
I’ve written about this before but there is a pasture across the road from our house that
is home to a bunch of rodeo bulls.
Ours was not the luck to have horses across the street, although
two do live next door, nor could we even have a peaceful herd of dairy cows, sheep or goats…
Nope—we had to have rodeo bulls.
Loud, very vocal, very smelly, rodeo bulls.
Maybe 50 plus bulls.
Summer garden parties, when the wind is out of the northwest, are not for the faint
of heart at our house…so needless to say, we don’t host any.
(one neighbor / Julie Cook / 2013)
We don’t know the folks who keep up the bulls, as they don’t live in close proximity
to the field, but we’re told that they raise them,
or actually pasture them, for local rodeos.
I, for one, think the field looks atrocious and really question the “care” being offered
these animals but like I say, we hear the owners of the field are a curious lot.
Once, a few years back, the fence was so bad that the bulls kept pushing their way through
and would actually wander down the road or into a neighboring subdivision…
and even into our fenced property…
So you should know that an out-of-place bull is a force to be reckoned with…
Not much makes them want to move.
The local sheriffs would have a time trying to find the owners while attempting to herd the
animals back to the pasture.
The owners have since put up a new fence,
as word is the county made them an offer they couldn’t refuse,
so the bulls now thankfully remain in their pasture.
I’ve never been to a rodeo but I have caught them ever once and a while when televised on TV…
and I must admit that there is just something a bit intriguing about what it is that
makes a man want to climb on the back of a 1500 pound angry muscle machine,
tying himself to said angry beast, in an attempt to see how long he can stay on the back of
the animal before he is thrown off.
Not to mention the fact that the animal could then easily crush him under hoof or even
gore him with his horns…
Hence the life of a rodeo clown.
The cowboy will tie his hand to the bull using a leather rope known as a bull rope.
This is a means of holding on to the animal while the other hand
waves precariously in the air.
And I suppose if you want to stay up and on, tying a hand to the adversary is the
way to go.
But the hope is, that when the cowboy is thrown, his hand will come lose lest he dangles
haphazardly swinging randomly about attached to the wild flailing animal…
being drug around the arena while the bones in his hand, wrist, and arm snap
like little twigs.
All of this imagery of being tied to a bull came to mind today when I was thinking
about the current plight of most Christians worldwide.
An odd thought perhaps but stay with me a minute.
We are living in a very precarious time.
I write often about the current plight of Christianity worldwide.
Persecution is at a level not seen since the days of the Emperors of Rome.
Even here in our cozy little Western Society, Christianity is under heavy
It may not be physically brutal but the persecution is very much real, alive,
present and very much active—in a very insidious fashion.
Here is a one-minute snippet of an interview with Jim Caviezel, while on the set
of the filming of The Apostle Paul, when he was asked about Christian persecution:
The other day in the post I’d written about our friend the Wee Flea,
the Scottish pastor David Robertson, and his frustrated lament of being fed up with
measured responses, Mark over on’Thoughts From Mark “Hat” Rackley’ Origins
offered an interesting response to my post…
Mark offered a powerful observation found in scripture regarding the lost generations
and the silencing of the faithful…
“If an entire generation is lost, God will raise rocks to shout praises to Him.”
(When he came near the place where the road goes down the Mount of Olives,
the whole crowd of disciples began joyfully to praise God in loud voices for all
the miracles they had seen:
“Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord!”
“Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!”
Some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to Jesus, “Teacher, rebuke your disciples!”
“I tell you,” he replied, “if they keep quiet, the stones will cry out.”
I was tremendously struck by that passage.
It is a very powerful passage—
Imagine… God easily and readily raising rocks to shout His praise??!!!
For if He wanted such, it would therefore be.
It’s hard enough to herd a 1500 pound bull where it needs to go,
imagine getting a rock to sing.
And so I feel as if it’s time that the faithful tie their hands to the back
of the raging bull….as we fight to hold on…
The ride is not going to be easy nor for the faint of heart.
We will be tested and tried as we narrow our focus to the task at hand.
There will be the occasional distractions, much like the rodeo clowns, but
even the clowns won’t be able to distract Satan from letting loose upon the faithful
in those / these final days…
Tie the rope tight, because the ride is about the begin…
For you yourselves are fully aware that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night. While people are saying, “There is peace and security,” then sudden destruction will come upon them as labor pains come upon a pregnant woman, and they will not escape.
1 Thessalonians 5:2-3
… Men for the most part follow in the footsteps and imitate
the actions of others…”
(a working sheep farm near Killarney, County Kerry, Ireland / Julie Cook / 2015)
I caught an interesting story day before yesterday…
interesting but also a bit sad.
Seems there was a herd of sheep, on a farm located somewhere in the
Pyrenees Mountains along the border of France and Spain,
who were apparently being stalked or chased by a bear.
All 200 plus sheep leapt to their deaths off the face of a cliff as they were
desperate to escape the bear.
So rather than scattering…with some of their numbers dashing off in one direction,
while others dashed off to a different direction…
with chances being pretty good that 199 or so should survive,
they all opted to jump to a joint death.
And it seems this odd phenomena is nothing new as it’s been known to happen
to other herds.
So this mob mentality of herd animals and their reaction to panic and hysteria
obviously got me thinking….
See this picture….
(a working sheep farm near Killarney, County Kerry, Ireland / Julie Cook / 2015)
It’s the picture of a sheep farmer with his sheep dogs and his herd of sheep.
Notice how the farmer has his hand out alerting the dogs to stay.
Notice one of the sheep looking back over his shoulder at the dog,
a bit hesitant and nervous, as if he’s anticipating what the dog is about to do.
As soon as the farmer gives the word or signal or both,
the dog will go about his task, herding the sheep…
keeping them all together while working them into the direction he wants them to go.
And the sheep who are afraid and nervous, despite the fact that their numbers
and physical size exceeds that of the dog, place themselves at the mercy of
the guidance of the dog.
They say sheep aren’t the brightest animals on the planet.
And yet we the faithful are often referred to as sheep…
as we are reminded of our similarity to sheep throughout much of the Bible…
With us being the proverbial sheep of his pasture while Jesus is in position
of the Good Shepherd.
We are reminded that when 99 sheep out of a flock of 100 are present
and accounted for—with one errant sheep being lost and left behind
Jesus will go out and seek that one errant sheep until all sheep in the
fold are present—not willing to allow even one to be lost to some sort of
And like sheep, we have the same tendency to go running about all willy nilly
as if being chased by some sort of threatening bear…
even if there isn’t any real physical threat–
perceived threats are counted as equally as powerful in our own little
world of pandemonium.
So perhaps it would behoove the herd to remember the voice of the Shepherd
lest we continue heading toward the cliff…of our own demise…
So Jesus again said to them,
“Truly, truly, I say to you, I am the door of the sheep.
All who came before me are thieves and robbers,
but the sheep did not listen to them.
I am the door.
If anyone enters by me, he will be saved and will go in and out and find pasture.
The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy.
I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.
I am the good shepherd.
The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.
He who is a hired hand and not a shepherd, who does not own the sheep,
sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and flees,
and the wolf snatches them and scatters them.
He flees because he is a hired hand and cares nothing for the sheep.
I am the good shepherd.
I know my own and my own know me,
just as the Father knows me and I know the Father;
and I lay down my life for the sheep.
And I have other sheep that are not of this fold.
I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice.
So there will be one flock, one shepherd.
“There is only one kind of shock worse than the totally unexpected: the expected for which one has refused to prepare.”
― Mary Renault
“The expected always happens”
― Benjamin Disraeli
(an unexpected visitor rising up from the woods / Julie Cook / 2015)
It was early Sunday morning. . .my husband was outside as I was still in, cleaning up the kitchen.
Suddenly. . .out of nowhere, there is a voracious, deep engulfing sound reverberating from some place out and up.
“What in the world is he doing” I wondered as the cat flew past me racing into the house in a pure panic.
“GET THE CAMERA” I hear reaching up through the closed windows.
Racing outside to the shouts of my husband and the mysterious intermittent dinosauresque blast of sound.
“DO YOU SEE IT??!!” IT’S OVER THERE. . .”
Careening my neck and squinting my eyes I peer toward the woods. . .
Woods. . .
We live on 5 acres of what was once pure pasture surrounded by woods. What is it that is seemingly so large, so massive and so ravenous sounding which is about to come forth from the cover of dense woods to devour us. . .shades of Jurassic Park play through my mind. . .a T Rex, perhaps a wicked little valasoraptor is about to break through the trees, racing toward my direction. . .
When from out of nowhere, the tip of a hot air ballon peeks above the tree tops.
I don’t know. . .I don’t think I want to know. . .how, why. . .where does a hot air ballon come from in the middle of the woods in the middle of the countryside. . .who knew. . .
Which brings us to today and my visit to Dads. . .
I had departed early for Atlanta this morning feeling pretty good about everything. . .the weather was great with a bright beautiful sun rising brilliantly in a deep blue summer-like sky. . .the traffic for a Monday morning was delightfully manageable and heck, I had seen a hot air balloon at my house the morning prior, this was a great day and it was to be a simple easy visit with nothing pressing. . .no major decisions, no crisis. . .
One might say that’s what I get for “assuming” all is well, for being complacent or simply for being lost in the joys of Spring. . .silly me. . .
Too long of a story to express.
There are no words. . .
It was the twilight zone meets a breaking heart
A “you’ve got to be kidding me” kind of day. . .
Just know that it was the type of day that left me driving home, in tears, debating
stopping traffic on both sides of I20, climbing on top of my car and simply screaming for the world to stop. . .
I was a girl scout.
I know all about being prepared.
I’m a mother. . .
A career long educator—teenagers for heaven’s sake!
I know all about the plan B’s of life
So why did I not see today coming?
Why do I continue to think things will be predictable, calm, routine. . .
These two people have dementia, as well as a host of maladies besetting
bodies that are betraying the owners. . .
Expect the unexpected.
God prepares us for that.
We are strangers in a strange land.
We are the apparent enemy of the state, as we are the heirs apparent to the glory of the Son.
We are the adopted sons and daughters, not of this world, but of God almighty. .
And yes, we know all about the unexpected and yet it is to the expected, the known promise to which we cling. . .as I look to comfort myself with the notion that I must continue looking for those unexpected balloons of wonderment rising up from the dark woods of my life. . .
Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to such and such a city, and spend a year there and engage in business and make a profit.” Yet you do not know what your life will be like tomorrow. You are just a vapor that appears for a little while and then vanishes away. Instead, you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we will live and also do this or that.” But as it is, you boast in your arrogance; all such boasting is evil. Therefore, to one who knows the right thing to do and does not do it, to him it is sin.
To love means loving the unlovable. To forgive means pardoning the unpardonable. Faith means believing the unbelievable. Hope means hoping when everything seems hopeless.
Gilbert K. Chesterton
Upon first glance, the tree out in the pasture appears to be rather bare with only what one would assume to be a few straggling leaves. . .and then, suddenly, you hear it. There is a rousing deafening din of chatter–rising and falling to a crashing crescendo of chirping only to immediately and eerily cease—a few seconds later, it begins again.
Upon further inspection the leaves, or so it seems, are not leaves at all but rather hundreds of starlings, better known as grackles. I posted some images a week or so ago of this massive flock covering the telephone lines up and down our street. Today the roosting spot of preference is the tree in the pasture.
These pictures simply do not do justice to the overwhelming presence of these birds. A swarming black cloud. It is mesmerizing watching the mass of bodies and wings weaving in and out throughout the sky to the tree tops, only to be suddenly startled, taking off en masse, to another tree top. Amazing how they fly in tandem without running into one another–another beautiful example of the synchronization of nature.
As we find ourselves approaching the season of watchful waiting, expectant anticipation, may we be mindful of the unexpected wonders of the season. Small gifts of joy and magic found in the simplest of things, as in a group of birds.
I find today’s quote by the late great G.K. Chesterton, the larger than life British writer and journalist, and Catholic apologist, most heartening–a sober reminder helping to carry us through this season with a heart turned toward thanks and joy. To be mindful of what the season is truly about and not to the contrary of the glamour and glitz that the retail giants would lead us to believe–to love, to forgive, to believe and to hope when the world would direct us differently.
Watching, waiting, forgiving hoping, loving, believing— Veni, Veni Emmanuel…