“There is something about the outside of a horse that is good for the inside of a man.” Winston Churchill

Today’s post is the result of many bunny trails of thoughts deriving from a photo on Instagram. (To hop on another trail for a moment: I recently saw a video called “Laughing Your Way to a Better Marriage” and Gungor’s thought on women’s brains is completely accurate—although he makes it seem like our wiring is a bit on the fritz at times, which is ridiculous. Our thoughts always make sense. Always.)

My friend Jacey posted about a ballcap she got from Pine Cove, which made me think of mine that I sadly left at home in Kansas.

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I miss my cap, burn holes and all. There are a four years of memories attached to it…memories consisting of sunrises, both cool and hot summer mornings, fall fires, fire ants and scars, tractor rides, freezing my fingers off in the sleet and snow while feeding hay, telling kids about Jesus Christ and helping them memorize and understand Scripture, teaching adults more about their relationship with the Lord, and then there were the horses.

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A horse, to me, is the story of the Gospel all wrapped up in four powerful legs and one stubborn brain. While I worked at PC from 2009 to 2013, I would go in everyday and be taught more about the grace, the might and power, the brilliance, and the beauty of God. I learned more about myself, how I should strive to better and more passionate and where I needed to submit and humble myself.

During my summers as a Barn Manager, I would ask the summer staffers to pick one horse they were the most like and one horse they desired to be more like. This was for three purposes: one, so the wranglers would observe the horses and their personalities, two, so the wranglers would connect the horses to themselves (this was especially for those who were not extremely fond of their work), and three, so they would see the horses as a platform for growth in their character and their journey with the Lord.

I tried to pick a different horse for each half and each year, but that didn’t always work despite the fact that I had 50-115 options depending on whether I kept it limited to Towers or all the barns.

One of my choices was the beautiful and late Jem. She died in 2011, and it broke my heart to see her go. Still, she did not live in vain because she definitely spoke into my life so that I may in turn speak into others. Jem was feisty, stubborn, and opinionated, but she was also at times incredibly gentle, loving, inviting, and obedient. When I first arrived at Towers, she was not one of our go-to horses for the scared riders, but by the end she was one of our most dependable rides, ready to work and a fairly good listener. It took her long enough, I know, seeing as she literally had to have a firecracker thrown underneath her to wake her up to reality (before my Towers experience). In many ways my life has looked like this, though thankfully, I have grown and try to be humble and determined as opposed to blindly stubborn and wise as opposed to just opinionated.

Though I had many examples of horses I would love to be like: Shiloh, Desperado, Jasper, JEB, Vacquero, Peeta, Rodeo, or Doolittle, I would typically choose One-derful. In many ways she is the opposite to what Jem was. She is not very pretty (although all horses have beauty). Jem was beautiful. Beautiful confirmation. Tall. Striking colors (black and white paint), and she was almost never alone. One-derful is short, squatty, has a fluff of mane that looks like she’s been electrocuted, and she is a loner. The thing about One-derful is…her spirit is beautiful. She can and will do almost anything you ask (within reason). She’ll stand next to Lefty in the barn even though he tries to steal her food and will try to get in her space.

She can do Trail Class away from the other horses, trail rides, arena rides, and Castle Rock rides. She will take any rider, although the weight and height is limited because of her age and her size. If you have a scared rider, she is just the right size for them and just the right temperance. To that child, she is perfect. She reaches the hard to reach and is gentle where others are not. Sure, she can be a grumpy mare at times, but what female doesn’t have her moments?

I remember clearly, as if it was yesterday, a time when I had the privilege of spending a week with this one camper girl with special needs who had permission to ride but would not the entire week due to fear. Finally, on Thursday, the last day for her to ride, she said she would get on the horse, but only if it was One-derful. And she did! And THROUGH that horse and that connection, she asked if I would lead her in prayer to join in the family of Christ.

Now that is the type of person I would like to be. Not dependent on my physical attributes or my own agenda. I want to use the desires and talents in me to be a tool for those who can’t speak or don’t know how and someone who will readily spread joy and the grace of the Lord. Because He is so much more than just a Sunday service or a convicting sermon. He’s a lifestyle that isn’t always easy, but it’s definitely worth the freedom and the joy I experience because I have been grafted in to His family.

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I have been looking at the vision I have in my life and what has been spoken over me lately, and as I was looking up verses to memorize and hold onto in order for me to hold fast to the vision, I came across this:

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A few things came to my mind as I read these verses:

One, I’ve been reading quite frequently about living with a Kingdom Mindset over the last few years, so this is a good reminder of where I need to keep my eyes focused on. If I focus on the immediate, I lose sight of the vision and sensitivity to the Holy Spirit. Yesterday, for instance, I was absolutely overtaken by hunger and not happy about it when I could have been taking advantage of an opportunity to make new friendships instead of having a pity party. I must die to myself, and the change starts from within.

Two, “we are receiving a Kingdom that cannot be shaken.” Wow. I don’t know if people really get this; there are so many times I forget what I have in the moment. I am quick to doubt or move to fix a problem by my own strength. Many times I am quick to pray, but the Lord has been showing me that while I have the faith to pray and declare, I still hold onto the fear attached to the problem. I have a mixture of trust and fear stirring inside me instead of an understanding that the Kingdom cannot be shaken and the Kingdom is in me. Another verse came to my mind that has similar phrasing:

Psalm 16:8: I have set the Lord always before me; because He is at my right hand, I will not be shaken.

Oh, to have the faith of David in times like these. Living in the Spirit, in the Kingdom, as my eyes are turned to Jesus, I will not be shaken.

Three, let us be thankful. Being thankful is something that comes easier for me now. I used to have this nasty sense of entitlement attached to me, that sometimes tries to sneak it’s claws back into my spirit even now, but the Lord has most definitely given me a new heart. Still, there are times when I take the Lord’s faithfulness for granted and do not give Him the thanks He deserves.

Four, worship God acceptably with reverence and awe. I have thought a bit of what that would look like. There have been many times when this is exactly how I have felt during a worship service, a quiet time, a car ride, etc…full of awe for an amazing God we have, but as I was thinking of an image that best captures that sense of awe that we are to have during worship, Westminster Abbey came to mind. The two times I walked into the Abbey, my jaw literally dropped in amazement while I attempted to take everything in. The vaulted ceiling, the stonework, the organ, the statues, the tombs, the history, the gold, the artwork, the cloisters. It was as if I was entering the throne room of the Lord, not the ruler of Great Britain. Yet, even in this, I know it was a barely a ray of light compared to entering into the glory of His presence.

Five, “our God is a consuming fire,” which is referencing Deuteronomy 4:24. In Deuteronomy, the context is this: “Be careful not to forget the covenant of the Lord your God that He made with you; do not make for yourselves an idol in the form of anything the Lord your God has forbidden. For the Lord your God is a consuming fire, a jealous God.”

Do I hold anything more dearly than Him? When I worship, am I still distracted by all that is going on around me or pleasing the world and that is what has kept me from the worshiping with the respect He deserves? There are times when this is definitely the case though I have no excuse of ignorance, and I am so grateful for a God who is full of grace and continues to train me. The good thing is, faith doesn’t need to be a pendulum swing of highs and lows. We only need to recognize that regardless of feelings and what the world is saying around us, the Spirit is what it is.

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Adventures in Driving

Before my trip I thought to myself, there is no way I’ll need to drive while I am in Zimbabwe…Miss J said there was a week I would be on my own though, so I was prepared for the potential experience of driving at least once if I could not find a ride to Celebration Centre. I figured it would be a one time thing for me to experience driving on the opposite side of the car, on the opposite side of the road, and that would be it.

Apparently, I forget how independent I am. I was itching to drive and practically begging Miss J for the experience some days after I arrived. Within three weeks of being in Zim, I was behind the wheel.

There are a few things that were potential problems though: I only vaguely knew how to get to the Centre, and if I took a wrong turn, I would have no way of looking up a map or calling someone to find my way back. Did this stop me? In true Lauren fashion, no, it did not. Road signs are not the most reliable things to look for here either. Sometimes they are visible and printed on one of the brick walls, but sometimes the sign has fallen over. Other times the sign is not even there because a person decided they needed that metal to sell. And at night, it’s rare that street lamps are working except for in specific areas. I have survived driving by remembering landmarks.

I thought it would be difficult to get used to driving on the other side of the road, but it’s actually been very easy. (Thank You, Jesus.) I think it’s been a good work out for the brain, switching things up…It will be interesting when I return to the States to see if I have a hard time switching back.

The good thing is that I grew up in Johnson County, Kansas where everyone drives fast and you quickly learn how to weave in and out of traffic lest you find yourself cast off the island like all the Missouri drivers. I fit in quite well with the way people drive here. Rules are set in place for the most part, but if someone is going slow, pass them….even if it’s a one lane road, you make another lane. This also happens in the situation that there are potholes or drop offs on the sides of the roads, which happens quite frequently. The conditions of the roads here makes me more grateful for rather than annoyed by the road construction that happens every summer in the States…in every state.

In the back of my mind is the police. They appear in random places, set up road blocks and stop people coming through, checking for anyone who has not: paid their tax on having a radio in the car (really), registered their car, got a license…all that. It’s smart, but so unlike how the cop do things in America, where if you are following the traffic and speed laws, you can go years without being pulled over. Sometimes the police in Zim are incredibly nice and fair, but then there are those looking for a bribe. It’s understandable because they do not get paid enough but so incredibly corrupt. Thankfully, whenever I have been driving, I have had the protection of God over my car and have not been stopped. There were even a couple times when I should have been stopped because they were targeting people going into the Centre, but they were busy with two or three other vehicles at the time. Legally, I should be fine, but if I can avoid dealing with them, I will…even if that means going on an adventure to find another way to my destination.

Today I had an adventure of a different kind. I needed to get to a specific gas station on an empty tank in order to use a coupon that is well worth the drive. I had never been to this gas station, and I was referring to a hand written map (beautifully drawn by Miss J) to guide my way. By myself. Now, in America, Monica and I are both known for getting bored with certain routes and finding new ways to get to a place. I call it going on an adventure, as I mentioned above, taking roads…side roads, main roads, whatever as long as it’s new. All a person really needs to know is what general direction s/he needs to go, and s/he’ll be fine. Because the light was already on at the start of my trip, there was no room for error in my adventure, so I spent the time talking to God, asking Him for directions and such because some of the landmarks I had been given I could not see from the angle I was coming…One of the landmarks written on was turn left at the “Nazarene House.” The sign for the “Nazarene House” was on the road I was supposed to turn onto, not the one I was on…so I looked to my left after a while and saw a giant salmon colored building with an interesting roof, so I thought to myself, “That looks Nazarene-ish. I’ll turn here.” Turns out, it was the correct road. I was rejoicing the whole way to the Redan gas station where the nice man filled up my tank (they still do that in Zim. It’s really nice! Imagine not having to get out of your car in winter!) When I left, I was still in a state of euphoria and thankfulness for the Lord, but also a little proud that I hadn’t gotten lost. I think the euphoria blinded me because I completely missed the Salmon Mansion “Nazarene House” and ended up treading onto unknown territory.

It was adventure time and trust in the Lord for protection yet again. I took some turns, saw some police who I was fearful of for a moment before I realized they just wanted to cross the road, and then ended up on a road that looked vaguely familiar. Miraculously, I ended up on the exact road I needed to be on in order to get back to the Centre. He is faithful indeed. I have a phone to call people now, but I don’t know how I would have described where I was to get directions back. I walked into Connections (Celebration Centre’s café) with a kick to my step and extreme thankfulness.

In some ways I feel sixteen again, experiencing independence and the world from a new perspective.

Harare Update

Writing a blog is more difficult than it should be. The act of writing something out comes naturally for the most part, minus the occasional assault of writer’s block I have defend myself against, but really, updating people on my experience in Zimbabwe should not have taken me seven weeks to do. I have internet throughout most of the day, so posting shouldn’t be an issue…but man, to sit down and think about what I want to share with people has been quite difficult.

I love Zimbabwe. If there is no divine intervention, I very well may move here. I love the people, though Africans have a completely different way of thinking than Americans do. If you order a plate of chips (fries) or a cappuccino, it may take you fifteen or twenty minutes to get your order. Be prepared to wait because they are definitely not in a hurry…even if you are. This mentality goes with everything: getting your ID, getting your passport, getting picked up, meetings…  …. …. ….everything’s in African time. Here is an example of what I mean: years ago I learned the phrase “just now,” which means in a minute or so to an American brain, but in Zimbabwe, it means twenty minutes ago, an hour from now, five hours from now, in two weeks…It depends on the person and the subject. This phrase is also a small representation of a communication problem the people in this country have, but I won’t go into that right now.

Still, this is a great place with fantastic people whom I feel at home with. People are sensitive to the Spirit. They not only are believers in Christ and the Bible, they hold true to the Bible without shame. It’s not a utopia of believers or anything, but I love and admire their passion for Christ, their ever evolving relationship with Him and His commandments. It’s a beautiful thing to be a part of.

I’m going to discipline myself and update the blog in a couple days with actual details pertaining to my experience here. I have so much to discuss: the orphans, the kids affected by AIDS/HIV, Domboshawa, Victoria Falls, Israel discussions, mopane worms, elections… it’s just a matter of what first.

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