Friday, June 26, 2009


Once there was an old man who lived in a tiny village. Although poor, he was envied by all because he owned a beautiful white horse. Even the king coveted his treasure. A horse like this had never been seen before--such was its splendor, majesty, and strength. People offered fabulous prices for the horse but the old man always refused. "This horse is a friend, not a possession. How could you sell a friend?" The man was poor and the temptation great but he never sold the horse.

One morning, the horse was not in the stable. All the village came to see him. "You old fool," they scoffed, "we told you someone would steal your fine horse." You are poor, it would have been better to have sold him and kept the money. Now the horse is gone and you have been cursed with misfortune." The old man responded, "Don't speak too quickly. Say only that the horse is not in the stable. That is all we know; the rest is judgement. If I've been cursed or not, how can you know?" The people contested, "Don't make us to be fools! Great philosophy is not needed. The simple fact that your horse is gone is a curse." The man spoke again, "All I know is that the horse is gone. Whether it be a curse or a blessing, I cannot say. All we see is a fragment. Who can say what will come next?"

After fifteen days, the horse returned. He hadn't been stolen but had run into the forest. He brought a dozen wild horses with him. Once again the villagers gathered around the old man. "Old man, you were right. What we thought was a curse was a blessing." The old man responded, "Again you go too far. Say only that the horse has returned with a dozen horses with him. How do you know if this is a blessing? Do not judge, you see only a fragment. You read only one page of a book and can you now judge the whole book on that one page? Can you understand it? Life is so vast, no one knows when all there is is a fragment. I am content with what I know and not anxious about what I do not."

"Maybe the old man is right," the villagers thought. So they said little. But down deep, they knew he was wrong. They knew it was a blessing. The twelve wild horses could be trained and sold for a profit. A profit the old man desperately needed.

The old man had only one child, a son. The young man began to break the wild horses. After a few days he fell from one of them and broke both his legs. Once again the villagers gathered around. "You were right," they said. "The horses were not a blessing but a curse. Your only son has broken his legs and now cannot help you in your old age. You will be poorer than ever." The old man spoke again, "You people cannot stop judging and go too far. Say only that my son has broken his legs. Who knows if that is a blessing or a curse? Life comes in fragments. Nobody knows."

It so happened that a few weeks later the country engaged in war. All the young men of the village were called to fight the war. Only the son of the old man was excluded because of his broken legs. Once again the villagers gathered around the man, crying out for their sons who had been taken. There was little chance they would see them again. "You were right old man," they wept. "Your son's accident was a blessing for because of his broken legs he is with you now. Our sons are gone forever."

The old man once again spoke, "It is impossible to talk with you. You always draw conclusions. No one knows. Say only that your sons have gone to war and mine did not. No one is wise enough to know if this is a blessing or a curse. Only God knows."

This parable, from Max Lucado's Eye of the Storm, is so appropriate in my life these days. When I "grow up" I hope to finally and fully grasp this one thing: I am small; God is big. To hold this tightly when something is a blessing; even tighter when it looks like a curse. For I do not know. Life is so many broken, misshapen shards that God is fashioning into a glittering mosaic.

Chance has not been performing well the last two months. And not for lack of trying on his part. Though not distressed when he is at rest in the paddock, he is plagued with a mysterious cough and what appears to be a blockage of sorts in his throat. He can only perform light work and often cranes his neck and does a series of jaw gyrations as if trying to dislodge something. He has an appointment with the vet for a full exam and internal scope. This visit won't be cheap (What am I talking about--they never are!!). I alternate between fear and resignation as my horse girlfriends and I laugh about the "free" horse. Yeah, free comes with a ball and chain--his name is Murphy. Of course all horses are expensive. I know 10,000 dollar animals that can hardly be kept sound. But I can't help worrying about a possible tumor/cancer/outrageously expensive terminal illness. What will we do with an unusable proud little pinto who is deeply loved by a ten-year-old girl? My mind jumps ahead, manipulating circumstances that haven't come to pass. I am cursed.

The above parable came to mind on Tuesday of this week as I lounged in the sun and watched Haley guide my gelding Tango through his gaits at her lesson. He is her horse while Chance is down. The horse I've said isn't suitable for a child. Though highly trained and well seasoned, I've feared Tango's knack for finding trouble and having a laugh (at your expense) would frustrate Haley. I felt protective of them both. But now they are having fun. He is responsive and obedient; she is relaxed and smiling. She wants to take him to a fun show this weekend.

Could all this somehow be....A blessing??

Perhaps I should stick to the facts I know and be content. Because I do not know; I do not see the complete picture in the shards of circumstance.

For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part, but then I shall know just as I also am known.--1 cor. 13:12

Tuesday, June 16, 2009


Ever notice how experiences that once seemed gross or unpleasant can turn out to be beautiful? Kissing a boy comes to mind (they used to be cooty carriers) and giving birth.

A few weeks ago my pastor was teaching about Jesus healing the man blind from birth (John chapter 9). Whether his eyes were freaky white orbs--think supernatural horror movie, or shriveled like raisins we don't know for sure. Maybe they looked normal. According to scripture the man didn't ask Jesus for healing. Jesus simply notices his dilemma, approaches and....puts mud in his eyes. To be technical, he spits in some dirt. Think about that for a minute: "Hey, sorry about your blindness. Let me spit in the dirt and put mud on your eyes." Yeah, I know he was the Son of God but even divine spit has an eew factor. I like to dig into the specifics in scripture. Not only that, you can't touch a much more vulnerable place then an eyeball. I have a hard time putting mascara on, much less allowing a stranger to put something yucky there. It amazes me that this man (who can't see Jesus at all remember), stands still for this scenario. He had some kind of trust. I'd probably be swinging at the Lord.

Sitting in church I zoned out a tad and flipped to some of the other miracles Jesus performed. Really, this was a guy who could work a miracle with simply a word--or a thought! Like turning water into wine. On these recent hot days I wish I could do something similar. Turn a glass of tap water into yummy Mikes Hard Lemonade, for instance. Then there's the woman who sees Jesus in a large crowd. She has this major medical issue but doesn't want to make a scene. She thinks, "If only I could just touch his clothes I'll be healed." I so relate to this woman. I hate being put on the spot. If I'm suffering in a public situation forget asking for help. I'll just die in the corner quietly, thank you. Jesus would have put his hands on this woman, anointed her with his joy, his healing, in a moment. But she's shy and her problem is embarrassing. Despite her reticence, her faith makes her well and while Jesus publicly makes known his awareness of her needs, he doesn't touch her. The healing is quiet and clean.

So, why the mud for the blind guy? I really don't know. There was nothing magical about that middle eastern dirt. All I can figure is the physical act of anointing did something for that man. Jesus loves to be a hands on kind of guy. The blind man must have had a heart that yearned for a personal touch.

The act of being anointed suggests special favor. It is an act of love and recognition. In the Bible being anointed was closely linked with holiness. The substance of choice was a fragrant oil but perfume and mud were also used. The specific substance wasn't as important as the act itself. So, what does this have to do with horses (you knew I'd eventually get around to it)? Well, these days I have my own nightly "anointing" ritual with Eli.

It started back in May when I noticed he was rubbing his mane and tail off. Literally. Eli is a beautiful animal. To see his chestnut locks frizzled into oblivion killed me. An Arabian with a mohawk? I don't think so. The source of Eli's skin problem is elusive and complicated. Like all individuals, he isn't perfect. Reactive, sensitive skin seems to be his "thorn in the flesh." I began by augmenting his diet. The first step in Operation Don't-Hate-Me-Because-I'm-Beautiful mane hair fit for a Revlon commercial. The flax seed helps with growth, condition, and essential omega 3s. I added garlic to keep the bugs away. They find Eli's smell particularly sweet and drive him crazy. Both dietary things helped but Eli kept itching. A close up inspection of the crest of his neck and tail head revealed skin that was rough, irritated, and excessively dry and flaky--Something Yucky (the technical term). I tried a couple different products before finding my miracle (drum roll please).....Shapley's MTG. Oh my gosh, this product actually works. Owners of sensitive skinned horses rejoice. The active ingredient? Sulfur. Yep, sulfur in oil. It's messy, its smelly, but it stops itching.

At night, usually while Eli is eating, I schlep out my oily sulfur and another great oil, Calm Coat, for his daily anointing ritual. Calm Coat is a much better smelling concoction of eucalyptus, lavender, and tea tree oil. I use it on his belly to soothe any irritation from noseeums--a major problem in this part of the country--or other insect bites.

As I've written before, Eli is a horse intensely careful about his personal space. When I got him he wouldn't eat if I stood next to him. He also got uncomfortable if I entered his stall when he was closed inside. Basically, he was always worried about how his body might be harmed if I got too close. An introvert, Eli doesn't want anybody making a scene. It's taken several months to get him to the point where he enjoys my attention up close. I can now stand by his side, arm over his barrel, and he doesn't flinch. He even gives me horse hugs now and then when I rub his neck and chest--his big arched neck turned my way as he simply hangs his head by my side.

When I first started my oiling up routine though he was less then thrilled. I'd have to halter him so he didn't walk away--Oh boy, here she comes again with that smelly goo. I had to tell him, "You know, not every stallion has a woman anointing them with oil every night for their personal comfort and beauty. You should be so lucky!" He wasn't impressed. But over the last couple of months I dare to say that he often seems to enjoy it. I no longer have to halter him. One night he even stopped eating altogether and simply hung his head in pleasure. As I stood by his neck, my hands rubbing MTG into the roots of his mane, he gave me a nice horsey hug. I began rubbing the soft place between his jaw bones. My fingers found a couple bumpy mosquito bites. As I rubbed Eli bobbed his head, happy as could be I was itching this most vulnerable place he was unable to do anything about. I put a dab of Calm Coat on my sooty looking fingers and rubbed the soothing oil on the bites. He bobbed even more enthusiastically--yeah, put some there! Interesting that it is a problem that gives me the opportunity to bond with this horse in a way he needs. He's learning to trust even if he doesn't understand what I'm doing to him, even if I'm touching a sensitive place.

I'd like to be more that way--"Lord, please touch me where I need healing; oil, mud, I'll take whatever you've got."

Sunday, June 7, 2009


A strange stillness dwells in my eye,

a composure that appears to regard the world

from a measured distance.

It is the gaze from the depths of a desert dream.

(Horses of the Sun--Robert Vavra)