Wednesday, November 11, 2009


I wanted my stallion, Eli, the moment I laid eyes on him. Aloof and introverted, he nevertheless had the kindest eyes I'd ever seen on a horse. He is sensitive, intelligent, and possesses a quiet mind and air of dignity. "Still waters run deep."

Though quiet and calm on the ground, swing a leg over this flashy horse and he's all about forward going. He's built to move. In reference to Tristan from Legends of the Fall, I call Eli Brad Pitt--strong, tawny, and full of restless masculine energy. He is a good example of why "horse power" describes a fast car. I'm still learning to ride and manage the enormous stride and energy of this horse, not to mention the challenge of converting his sometimes distracting hormones into useful activity. With my shortcomings in mind, I decided to take some dressage lessons.

"Dressage" comes from a French word that simply means "to train." Rather than bombing around the front yard, oblivious to gravity and the laws of physics (as I did as a child and teenager), a student of dressage breaks down the fundamentals of riding and movement, eventually mastering the subtle influence and language of a good equestrian. A horse well trained in dressage becomes the true athlete he is meant to be. One of my favorite horse trainers is funny Texan, Craig Cameron. While watching him guide a group of students one time he exclaimed in mock frustration, "They call it riding, people, not sitting!" Dressage is all about riding.

While the lessons have been stimulating and enlightening, I find myself challenged: challenged in basic fundamentals, to get rid of bad habits, to stop sitting and get engaged, to correct subtle misconceptions and misunderstanding. On perhaps our third lesson, my instructor made an observation as I guided Eli in a left hand circle. She said something like this:

"Do you feel your butt sort of fall away to the right?"

Um, yeah, and thanks for noticing. Note to self: The new riding tights don't look as good as you thought.

She went on to explain that Eli's right hip is weak and he frequently drops it rather than stride under. This makes my right hip feel as if it is falling. He is strong and balanced with the left hip. This is a fundamental of movement I'd noticed subconsciously but until she pointed it out, didn't connect it to anything. With lots of practice Eli will get better and stronger. As will my...well, never mind.

This dressage journey comes to mind when reflecting on last weekend and my attendance at an apologetics conference in San Diego called, The Case for Christianity. Rather than bomb around, oblivious to the evidence for my faith, it challenged me to study and consider the fundamentals.

"Veritas" is, of course, the Latin word for truth. The longer I live and journey in my faith, the less I'm interested in the traditions and habits of religion. Truth is the only thing worth seeking. May I never be the person described by Winston Churchill: "Most people when encountering truth stumble over it, dust themselves off, and continue unchanged."

One of my favorite movies is The Insider (forget Brad Pitt, I'm more of an Al Pacino girl when it comes to leading men). In the movie (based on a true story), Russel Crowe plays an insider, a scientist, who works for big tobacco. He risks his job, his family, even his life to tell the truth about the dangers of nicotine. Pacino is the truth loving journalist (yes there are some) who loses his job because of uncompromising loyalty to Crowe and the story. I saw the movie twice in the theatre and a couple times on video. I love the ending: Pacino tells his high profile boss what he can do with his lukewarm ethics and censorship then, music pounding, sweeps out of the door in a trench coat (as only he can do) and walks away. Away from compromise, away from lies. The film illustrates dramatically the struggle to expose and live truth. There is a cost.

Of course truth in religion is debated without end in this world. Many are willing to kill for what they think is true. This begs a question: If truth is relative, if it does not exist, if it doesn't even matter, why do people get so upset about it? In America we are a people of apathy and feigned "tolerance;" quick to be offended, to resist examining what might be true. At least one thing can be said about about Islamic extremists, they passionately live their beliefs.

Five years ago, as a novice writer, I learned this word, "verisimilitude." The appearance of truth. Some things that appear true are not and visa versa. In a world of religions that swirl and collide nothing seems more important than discerning truth. If God did create a universe that exists because of highly specific absolutes, does it make sense that he is confusing, vague, easily assembled into whatever form we feel comfortable with? Nobody would be so foolish as to jump out of a plane and say, "Gravity is not my truth." We accept absolutes in science--cosmology, biology, physics--but resist the notion that any absolutes exist spiritually. Why? As comfy cozy as moral relativism appears, nobody wants to go where this belief actually leads--Do What Thou Wilt/Anything Goes.

By definition a belief is something you hold to be true. Hopefully it is something sought not as an exercise in "rightness," but with an honest, transparent heart, willing to be changed if need be. God promises that, "You shall know the truth and truth shall set you free." Not, "You shall accept many truths, and amidst that pudding of confusion, find hope and freedom." God cannot be both personal and impersonal; eternity cannot all at once be dead in the ground, taken up into glory, and endlessly reincarnated.

"When you seek Me with all your heart I will be found by you, says the Lord." This is the only journey I want to take.

They call it riding, people, not sitting.

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