Friday, October 5: Lightening Storm
That day when evening came, he said to his disciples, “Let us go over to the other side.” Leaving the crowd behind, they took him along, just as he was, in the boat. There were also other boats with him. A furious squall came up, and the waves broke over the boat, so that it was nearly swamped. Jesus was in the stern, sleeping on a cushion. The disciples woke him and said to him, “Teacher, don’t you care if we drown?” He got up, rebuked the wind and said to the waves, “Quiet! Be still!” Then the wind died down and it was completely calm. He said to his disciples, “Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?” They were terrified and asked each other, “Who is this? Even the wind and the waves obey him!” Mark 4:34-41 (NIV)
I enjoy going to Alafia State Park to be a part of the Breast Cancer trail ride. It is a fund raiser for the Susan B. Koman Foundation. Not only is the ride a lot of fun, it is for a good cause. However, it starts early on a Saturday morning in a park an hour from my house. For the last three years, my friend, Andrea, and I have gone to the park on Friday night to camp so that we don’t have to get up at the crack of dawn to be there on time. The last two years have been beautiful. We have even been able to ride at night after setting up camp. This year, however, it was raining when we arrived. Despite the shower, with the help of our husbands, we set up our portable corral and got the horses settled. Then, we waited for a while before going ahead with our campfire. We had steaks to cook and with the way the skies were looking, it was only going to get worse before it got better. Sure enough, just about the time the meat was done, a deluge came, putting out the fire. At one point, it was raining so hard, we could not even see the horses though they were only 500 feet away. We ate inside my in laws spacious travel trailer, grateful we were not out in the rain, but feeling sorry for our horses that were. When dessert was served, an intense lightening storm arrived as well. For a while, the flashes were in the distance, but soon, the bolts began cracking around us. At that point, Andrea decided that we needed to move the horses back into the trailer, but I was afraid that in the commotion of relocating them, one or both would get away. In that massive acreage, we might never find them again. Twice, we stood out in the storm, debating what to do. I finally convinced her to leave them were they were and go to bed. But, as I lay in my bunk, I worried that something might happen to them and she would blame me. I knew that there was nothing I could do. Though I recognized the situation was all in God’s Hands, I was still afraid. Finally, I confessed my fear to God and made the choice to trust Him to do what was best. I did not know for sure that my horse might not be struck by lightening and die, but I could rest secure knowing that whatever happened, God was in control. Though the lightening continued to strike, I was finally able to go to sleep. When we got up the next morning, both horses were fine, in fact, they were nice and clean from the powerful washing they had had in the storm. Though He could have, that night, God chose not to calm the storm, but bring me and my horse through it safe and sound.
Saturday, October 6: Cloudy Day
No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it. Hebrews 12:11 (NIV)
When we got up for the trail ride on Saturday morning, the weather was still overcast and water puddles everywhere. We had to trace our rubber shoes that had been left outside the trailer far down the street where the rushing water deposited them. We were grateful for the travel trailer. On the other side of the campground, a family’s tent was completely under water. They rescued all their things in the middle of the night and left the tent submerged. The television reported a record amount of rainfall during the night. Because Alafia is built atop reclaimed land left from the phosphate industry, the water does not drain quickly. It was higher than we have ever seen it in the park, and a lot of the trails were underwater. Our trail guide took us as quickly as she could to higher ground, but it took a quite while to get there because seventy horses and riders do not move fast. Speed became an issue as some riders wanted to go faster and others preferred a slower pace. When you add in the number of stops and starts we had to make as people had problems with the tack or dropped something on the trail, it was tempting to take a left when they went right and get away from the crowd. Andrea was tired and feeling out of sorts. Her horse likes to move out fast as does mine so it was a lot of work to keep him from crowding the horse ahead of her. I did not blame her for her frustration, but we came to be a part of the group and support breast cancer research, so we stuck with the plodding pace. While Andrea struggled with her horse, I decided to make the best of the situation by turning the ride into a training session with my horse. When on a trail ride, he follows the horse in front of him closely. If that horse breaks into a trot, he will too even if I have not told him to do so. It is a bad habit, so I used the opportunity to teach him to wait on my command. Every time the horse in front of us moved faster, I slowed mine down to a walk until he relaxed. Then, I signaled him to go forward. Slow, fast, slow, fast. As the line of horses snaked along, I corrected, prodded and encouraged him to take his mind off the group and focus solely on me. It was a hot, steamy, cloudy day. We could not go at our own pace and had to deal with other riders and their needs. Yet, while it wasn’t our most enjoyable ride, by the time we were done, he had learned a lesson in patience and obedience. That will make for a better ride the next time. Discipline, though not pleasant, narrows our focus onto God. It brings training which makes us into better people and horses, too.
Sunday, October 7: Clear Skies
When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is man that you are mindful of him, the son of man that you care for him? Psalm 8: 3-4 (NIV)
We only planned to spend one night at the campground at Alafia. Camping with horses is a lot of work. You have to haul in water and feed, set up the corral, make sure it is secure, and carry all your tack. That is just what the horses require. Add in the lodging and gear for the humans, and it takes a lot of planning. It is really best if you can stay more than one night to make your efforts worthwhile. We had obligations at home, however, so we could not camp longer. Besides after the storm the night before, we were ready to leave. So were most of the other horse campers. Though many had planned on staying two nights, all but one rig packed up after the breast cancer ride and headed for home. The weatherman predicted another night of storms that were supposed to be equally as severe. No one wanted to go through that again. We were not the only ones agonizing over keeping our horses outside in the storm. Some of the other campers had moved their horses into trailers while others left them outside like we did. We got home much earlier than we planned because we were tired of the rain. My husband and I were supposed to go on a motorcycle ride that night, but the weather also caused our riding group to cancel. We rested in the afternoon, then, with no other plans, we went out for dinner. As we drove over the Skyway Bridge, I noticed that the rain was gone. The sunset was beautiful, and the sky looked amazingly calm. Where was that promised storm? I wondered. Later that night, I went outside to let the horses out of their stalls and there was not a cloud in the sky. Not one. The stars were shining so brightly that even though there was no moon, I could see my way clearly to the barn without a flashlight. I couldn’t help but grumble. Where was this nice weather when we were huddled inside the travel trailer and the rains put out our campfire? If it had been this clear, we could have spent the evening riding instead of fretting about the lightening. Why had we left when we could still be there enjoying a beautiful night? I spent some time questioning God’s timing before giving in to His sovereignty. I finally realized that I might have ignored that brilliant night sky any other night. But, after the storm, I appreciated it so much more. Isn’t that one of the benefits of surviving the storm’s that come our way in life? When things are easy, we take them for granted. It is only after we come through a crisis that we recognize the peace and blessing of the calm. We cannot predict the storms of life, but we can rest assured that eventually, they will end, the stars will shine again and peace will come once more.
Monday, October 8: Blue Ribbons
The LORD said to Moses, “Speak to the Israelites and say to them: ‘Throughout the generations to come you are to make tassels on the corners of your garments, with a blue cord on each tassel. You will have these tassels to look at and so you will remember all the commands of the LORD. Numbers 15:37-39 (NIV)
A long time ago, I trained and showed dogs both in obedience and in conformation. It was in my life before children when I had plenty of time and money on my hands. I spent several nights a week either teaching other people’s dogs or training mine. All of that work culminated each weekend when I traveled throughout the state with my dogs. We did okay in obedience trials earning prizes and certifications. But, I could never get the hang of breed shows where the rules were not as clear and the judge’s opinion was all that counted. I finally got a handler to show one of my dogs so she could earn her championship. No matter whether we were showing in breed or obedience, our goal was a blue ribbon. Second place never counted, it was first prize that mattered. Eventually, I gave up that hobby. It was too hard to balance motherhood with showmanship. Many years ago, when I was going through a difficult time in my life, God placed me in a Bible Study taught by Beth Moore called, “Believing God.” During that study, she encouraged each participant to tie a blue ribbon around her wrist as a reminder to trust God and believe that He would fulfill His promises. Her premise came from these verses where the Israelites were told to tie tassels of blue cord on the corners of their robes. Then, a blue ribbon came to have a whole different meaning for me. It was interesting as I went around town with that blue string tied around my wrist, how many other women I came across who had one on theirs as well. In the elevator at work, in the grocery store, and at church, we were a secret sorority. We would smile, nod and know that under Beth Moore’s tutelage each of us was striving to trust and believe in God. I remembered that string this week when I was faced with a crisis of my own faith. A conflict between leaders at my church threatens to split our congregation in half. It is pitting fathers against sons, brothers against sisters. Everyone is taking sides, and the result is strife where there should be peace and anger where there should be love. I know that whenever you put humans into an organization, even Christian humans, there will be times of upheaval. I understand that the church is made up of God’s people, and it is not based solely on one leader. Yet, it is still painful and horrifying to watch unfold. It comforted me to dig out a ball of yarn and tie a blue string around my wrist once more. I shared pieces with some sisters in Christ as we all committed to pray for peace and healing in our church. No matter how those around me behave, I can be confident that God is in control and that His Will will be done. That is the greatest prize of all.
Tuesday, October 9: Primary Sources
“I have much more to say to you, more than you can now bear. But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all truth. He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come. He will bring glory to me by taking from what is mine and making it known to you. John 16:12-14 (NIV)
One of my favorite parts of my job as historian is doing research. I love to dig into the old records and find clues about the past. I am blessed to work in our county’s archives so whenever I have a free minute, I can wander downstairs, open up a drawer and the past comes alive. Our building houses our county’s earliest governmental records. We have the first marriage license ever issued in our county. It is on a piece of fragile blue paper with a wax seal. In careful script, a justice of the peace certifies that he performed the marriage ceremony. We have probate files that hold inventories of the deceased. Pots and pans, cattle and horses, guns and money. All are itemized and precisely accounted for. Deed books covered in red leather list property transactions back to when the federal government gave away the land as a reward for service in the militia. School attendance records tell the names of students, their parents and the dates that they stayed home to work the fields. We have tax cards that show the footprint of buildings, their date of construction and materials used. Marks and brands of cattle are filed in our office as are the discharge papers of military men and women who served our country in war and peace. Some of my favorite files are the court records. Bullets taken as evidence rest in file folders along with testimony taken at the trial. Perusing these file cabinets shows me that the evil that surrounds me today has been in our community since it began. Perhaps I just hear about it more now because of the media. Then, the newspapers were only published once a week. We have photographs, post cards, maps, and obituaries as well. All of these records are what historians call primary sources. They were written or produced during the time period that the events occurred. They differ from secondary sources which come from a different era when perspectives may have changed or memories may have faded. I teach students to focus on the information from the time that they study. To go to the source, the one who lived through it. What did the people who experienced the past leave us as a record? Then, we learn the truth from the ones who lived it. Isn’t that what we seek, the truth? Not just in history, but in life, the truth can be best found when it comes from the source. When it comes to learning Who God is and how best to live our lives as Christians, there is no better place than to start with Him and His Word. The Holy Spirit came to be the source of knowledge about God as well. While we human Christians may strive to live our lives in a Christ like way, we often fail in that task. We are secondary sources. Don’t look to me to give you all the answers. Go straight to the source.