We Call it Faith

The substance of things hoped for. The evidence of things not seen.
It strengthens the weak. It quenches the violence of fire. It stops the mouths of lions.

It builds nations. It shatters cities. It rises, undaunted and undefeated, above the blood and misery of this life.

It walks, singing praises, into the jaws of Death.

It saves lives. It destroys evil. It upholds, uplifts; it loves, it lives. Temptation, stoning, sawing asunder, destitution, affliction, torment, even death itself cannot triumph over it; it burns not like a candle but like a wildfire.

It parts seas and brings walls thundering down amidst the dust of their sinfulness. It washes the sinner in blood and brings him out clean and sparkling, a new man. It abides forever.

It is everything to me.

It is my life, my breath; it is the reason why I get up in the mornings and lay my head down fearlessly at night. It is the reason I ever have the strength to do anything. Before I had this, I have no idea how I even stayed alive.

It is my joy. It is the means of living, of laughing; without it there would be no reason to sing or dance, to leap or love, to walk, to run, to scream with the wonderfulness of the world.

It has been condemned. It has been thrown to the lions, beaten, nailed to a cross; it has been ripped apart by greedy hands, it has been squashed by cowards, it has been pierced through and through, hacked asunder by swords. Most recently, it has been trampled on, spat on, ripped and torn by that sharpest of all blades, words. It has been renounced. It has been deemed fit only for idiots and small children. With fossilised bones and fossilised hearts, even the intelligent men have screamed defiance against it, have cast it aside like nothing.

It has never been defeated, nor will it ever be. All this will pass away; the sky will fall, the earth will fail and they, still clinging to their fossils, will watch their world crumble around them. But those who have it will hold their hands up to the clouds and sing their joy, for it is the promise of something better. For it will last forever.

They call it stupidity. They call it myth. They call it foolishness.

We call it faith.

Cross & Clouds

Photo credit: John H Wright Photo

For Daily Prompt: Un/Faithful

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The Trees Shall Clap Their Hands

For ye shall go out with joy, and be led forth with peace: the mountains and the hills shall break forth before you into singing, and all the trees of the field shall clap their hands. Isaiah 55:12

Isn’t summer beautiful? I must confess that out of all God’s seasons, summer is my favourite. Everything is alive in the Highveld summer; birds and grass, and trees and thunderstorms and that special secret shine in a horse’s coat. The world is so much bigger and brighter and more colourful and sometimes it’s so beautiful that the very sky seems to be weeping for the beauty of it.

Naturally, there’s no better way to see the lovely world than through the ears of a horse, and if those ears are golden and have a tuft of silver forelock poking out between them, it’s even better.

Golden like the halo of an angel

Golden like the halo of an angel

My splendid charger Skye has been doing excellently. Her fitness is picking up with a noticeable reduction around the waistline; with her round hay belly almost gone, Skye presents a rather slimmer figure. She doesn’t puff and pant as much as she used to anymore, either. Three weeks of brisk walking work has definitely done her good, and we’re ready to build in some more trotting to see if we can get those lovely muscles to grow even more.

Training-wise she has get to run away with me, snaffle and all, although I have to hang on quite a bit when she gets excited. That has always been the rule with Skye when she’s in a Valiant Steed sort of mood, and I’m as happy as a bird. She might not be the conformation queen of the world, looking at her somewhat thickset throat and the hoof hardener I keep spraying on her feet to counteract their softness, but for temperament, for courage, for spirit, for pure golden snorting inner-radiance beauty, there’s no match for Skye’s The Limit. Oh, and I adore her. Have I mentioned that before?

Then there’s Magic, who should have been called Miracle, because he seems to be a continuous one. (Pity Miracle sounds a bit girly, or I would rename him). Having lost count around the fifteenth fall and ridden out more bucking fits, unexpected spooks and general shenanigans than I care to remember, I keep waiting for him to do something stupid. He is, after all, four years old, high-energy and spirited. And he doesn’t. He probably will, sooner or later. (This is the part where you all shout “Pessimist!”) But he hasn’t. Not a thing. He’s occasionally young and hot and a bit fizzy, but has yet to do something really brainless, which is a major plus. Every horse I’ve ever ridden on a regular basis has done something brainless at one point, with the exception of Skye who is never brainless.

The stable owner and a pair of pals were going on an outride yesterday and Magic and I

A fantastic view

A fantastic view

tagged along like a very large horsefly. Or Gadsfly, if you prefer. (Poor guy. Imagine racing under the name of Gadsfly!). Magic was given a compliment for his gorgeous silvery colour and was his usual photogenic self when the cameras arrived, and we clattered off into the beautiful hills at Bushwillow, filled with wildlife.

I admit to being somewhat apprehensive; I had ridden him out in a group once before, at a very slow walk for a very short period, and he was fine. But the hills are more challenging, and I am, as you may have deduced, slightly paranoid. I needn’t have worried. We stuck to a brisk walk, but Magic stepped out on a happy, loose rein, head nodding, long legs driving forward. He stared at a scary grey rock, but didn’t panic. A blesbuck shot out from under his nose. He calmly watched it go. Zebras snorted and galloped away; Magic snorted back, but thankfully didn’t gallop anywhere. On the way home, he stayed on his loose rein, sweet as pie, without jogging or breaking into a trot or any feisty-young-horse nonsense.

He was happy to lead the way even through quite dramatic terrain; he was equally happy to bring up the rear. The other horses, whom he didn’t know, occasionally brushed up against him; he didn’t turn a hair. He was an angel.

Oh yes, and I did mention that my awesomest parents ever agreed to let me buy him, as well as paying for half of him? I’m over the moon!!!

Thank You, Lord, for Your perfect timing!

Who says ponies can't be beautiful?

Who says ponies can’t be beautiful?

Little Arwen just had her second AHS shot, so she’s just plodding. We are making a little progress with the outrides, but slow and steady wins the race when it comes to Arwie. I still think she has one of the most exquisite heads I’ve ever seen.

Thunder is also doing splendidly. He’s been ridden five or six times now and doing well; although he is definitely very dead to the legs, he’s quiet as a sheep and the impulsion is definitely improving. I ride him with spurs, but I think I’ll be able to wean him off them quite easily once he’s gotten the hang of things.  I’ve ridden him bareback as well and he’s super comfortable as well as not being at all phased about it. In fact, Thunder’s being pure gold and I’m really enjoying him.

I’m riding him mostly in the ring now. His turning skills are improving, although he’s still a

Gentle eyes

Gentle eyes

bit sticky on that; he has nice brakes – it takes a few seconds for the message to sink in, but he doesn’t ever brace his neck or jaw against the bit, dropping his nose at the slightest pressure on his mouth. I ride him in his paddock sometimes, too, where he’s pretty much just the same as in the ring, and have ridden him at a walk and trot both inside and out (though I have yet to rise to the trot on him; seems to confuse them when they’re such babies). His gaits aren’t the most impressive-looking, in fact he has a distinctly low knee action, but he’s much more comfortable than his high-stepping father.

Lungeing-wise, I took him over a few trotting poles the other day and he figured them out quickly, albeit stepping between them too much in a walk. He is also cantering pretty nicely on the lunge now.

Not just a pretty face... but that too

Not just a pretty face… but that too

Oh, and I’ve started taking Blizz along when Skye and I go on outrides. Although she’s pretty much tuckered out after forty-five minutes composed mostly of walking, Blizz seems to enjoy herself immensely. She’s good about staying with us unless she’s truly exhausted and likes to chase guinea fowls or steenbuck, but she’s happy to come back after a few seconds’ yelling and whistling. Skye occasionally has a silly spook at her when she comes bounding through the noisy reeds towards us, but otherwise, she seems to enjoy her canine companion, detouring carefully around her and waiting patiently if I have to stop her and call Blizz back.

The life of a Disaster: one long endless walk, with runs in between. Puppy paradise!

The Sculptor

 It’s hard to see what the sculptor is trying to form with this shapeless chunk of dusty marble. The chisel cuts the marble to the quick, driven by the merciless hammer, biting deep into the dark surface to expose the brilliant whiteness within.

I strain to pick out some kind of a shape. It looks like the sculptor’s just smashing away at the marble, cracking it and breaking it. A curve here, a line there – nothing makes sense. And all the while marble shavings rain down around the sculptor’s feet.

I almost want to be mad at that sculptor. Why does he cut at it so heedlessly? It’s not the prettiest thing to start with, but surely being ugly is better than being broken. He’s not making sense. He’s just shattering it.

Curves and lines, sharp angles that meet like sword’s blades in battle, long flowing arcs that start nowhere and end in midair, wavy wrinkles in the stone all appear at the chisel’s thoughtless blade. The marble is hard, but the chisel is sharp. Dust gathers in the clefts, hiding some of the lines, making it even more confusing. The sculptor taps out a shape, then takes his hammer and smashes it deep into the marble without warning. I cry out in shock, in pain almost as a great chunk of it falls away, but miraculously, the marble holds. Unperturbed, the sculptor gets his chisel back and starts again, tapping, working ceaselessly at that poor mangled stone.

Finally, when the stone is but a twisted shadow of its former solidity, a fragile thing with no trace of its earlier self-independence, the sculptor seems satisfied with his desecration. He steps back and lays down his hammer. The big, scarred hand finds a brush with bristles as soft as snow. Stepping back to the stone, he starts to brush the dust out of the lines. He works slowly, cleanly; sweat and dust mingle on his brown skin. Then he steps back and the beauty hits me like a wave of seawater.

It’s a horse. The sculpture, I mean. Life-sized. Hindlegs on the ground, forelegs upraised as if in prayer, and so real that I half expect it to leap off its iron hocks. The mane sighs down its bending neck, every hair carved out realistically enough to ripple in the wind; the nostrils so delicate they almost move with the marble horse’s breath. Muscles stand out around its shoulders and hindquarters, a tail held high, pouring down in a white cascade. The marble that was so dull and dusty now glitters like a snowflake frozen mid-descent until a soft radiance seems to roll off the statue’s smooth flanks. Exquisitely noble, its head is raised to taste the wind; great marble eyes stare out from under a marble fetlock as fine as a breeze; it is not so much a carving of stone as a real horse caught in the middle of its mighty leap and held there for eternity.

The sculptor turns to me, shaking marble dust out of his midnight curls, and he smiles and his eyes are as deep as seas. “This is last year,” he says. “I had to use the chisel and the hammer to carve it out and I know it hurt, my little love, when I had to break down your own plans and replace them with mine. But look what that sorry mess of a twelvemonth has become.”

“Sculpt my life, Sir,” I say.

Jesus holds out His right hand. It’s a beautiful hand; the fingers long, elegant, slender as a king’s, small straight bones and strong tendons moving gracefully under a skin of the loveliest shade of pale brown. It’s a perfect hand, and the deep, puckered round scar in the centre of the palm makes it all the more perfect. It’s almost too beautiful to hold, but when I tentatively reach out to take it, the skin is all the softer for its brownness, the grip all the gentler for its strength.

Sculpt my life, Sir. Sculpt the year that is to come. I’ll set goals and I’ll dream dreams, but Your plan is so much greater than mine, my mighty love. It’s not the marble horse that counts, not the sculpture that next year might become. It’s the Sculptor that matters. Sculpt my life, Sir. AMEN!

Christian Cross

(For The Daily Prompt).

Ask

“And I say unto you, Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you.”

Oh, my Lord, how You keep Your promises!

“Dear Jesus, please make my friend Skye better.”

Skye91

Answered

“Dear Jesus, please let her have a wonderful healthy foal.”

Thunder47

Answered

“Dear Jesus, please, if it is Your will, please let us be able to buy Magic…”

Answered

Answered

 

 

Heart’s Desire

I’ve been reading Bible Gateway’s “Tozer on Christian Leadership” e-newsletter. And I have to say that Tozer is not playing games. Nothing he says is smoke and mirrors: For him, the Christian leader is serious and real. Happiness is nothing to the leader. He lives only for the Lord, come joy or pain.

Tozer is right.

Christianity is not all flowers and rainbows. Once you’re a Christian, the world doesn’t suddenly turn into Fairyland with sugar and butterflies and little pink rainbow ponies. In fact, according to Tozer, life even gets harder: God, like the good Father He is, chastises us hard because He loves us.

Tozer writes that God can only soften our hearts by breaking them open. He will never barge in, but once you’ve invited Him in, answering His knock to the door on your soul, that door might be so rusted that He has to break the walls down to come in.

God's light

God’s light

I know that’s how He came into mine, how He brought me to the realisation that He is out there and He is amazing. In my young and scarless life, the worst thing I had to go through was the serious illness of my horse. It might not sound that bad, but just ask my family. That horse means a lot to me, and I had never had to endure anything like this gut-wrenching fear that I would lose something I love so much ever before.

That was when I realised that my “magic” that I believed in hadn’t built the world and it wouldn’t save Skye. Only Jesus could save Skye, so that was the first time I got on my knees and said, “There’s nothing I can do. It’s all up to You now, Lord.”

But even as there are trials and pain in the world, I still believe that a child of God is joyful by definition. We have absolutely nothing to fear. Our bodies may be shattered, but in Christ our souls are safe. Whatever happens, as long as we hang on to Him, nothing can ever truly hurt us. That’s why Paul said to “rejoice in tribulation.” Paul knew what he was talking about when it comes to tribulation.

Tribulation doesn’t automatically mean sorrow. And God doesn’t always want to throw sorrow at you. In fact, I believe that joy is a mindset and not a circumstance, and as long as we trust Him, our joy will be great.

Delight thyself also in the Lord: and he shall give thee the desires of thine heart. ~ Psalm 37:4

That’s what He’s doing with me now, giving me the desires of my heart, even things that seem quite trifling in the face of His Kingdom. Christmas is all about giving, because Christ is really a gift Who keeps on giving: even thousands of years after He gave Himself on the cross, He still cares enough to give one small and insignificant morsel of humanity clinging to the face of the careless earth all the trifling little things that her tiny heart desires.

And they are little things. I have big dreams, but everyone has little desires, and because He loves me, He gives me what He sees fit to give me. I’m learning not to be afraid to ask Him for small things. It’s easy to believe that God doesn’t have time to give you a clear day so that you can work your horse, but He does. He has time for everything, and as long as those little desires don’t take up your whole life, He’s quite happy to give, too. But I always try to say, “Nevertheless, it is Your will and not mine that should be done,” like Jesus in Gethsemane. Because that same Hero said, “Even so, Father, for it seemeth good in Thy sight.”

He has given me little things. A good horse. A sunny day. The smell of leather and sweaty horse mingling with the sweet rising fragrance of the glorious wildflowers. An idea to fix a story. The sound of fingers on a keyboard. Little things. Heart’s desires.

When the time comes for me to walk back into the fire, I won’t forget the big and little blessings, the mighty and miniature miracles. Because even the trials and the fire are blessings. To God’s child, nothing is an accident. And I’m gonna keep thanking Him for it. After all, when we’ve been there ten thousand years/Bright shining as the sun/We’ve no less days to sing God’s praise/Than when we first begun.

***

As for the splendid steed that God used to break my heart and then to heal it, she’s doing

Told you so. Even prettier with the snaffle in!

Told you so. Even prettier with the snaffle in!

wonderfully. She’s finally getting a little fitter as we start to build up her work, and, naturally, I’m having a ball riding her around again. There just isn’t another Skye around. Period.

Under the guidance of the Mutterer, I changed her Pelham, which she wore on its harshest setting with a curb chain, back to a plain eggbutt snaffle. I had tried her in a snaffle years ago, but eleven-year-old Firn sitting on a half-trained seven-year-old Skye hadn’t a chance in the world of stopping her once she decided that she wouldn’t be stopped. Five years’ training in a Pelham later, she was starting to feel as if she was hiding behind the bit a little. Also, when teaching my beginners how to rise to the trot, I saw that Skye was getting pretty uncomfortable. No matter how much you shout at them, sometimes the poor dear beginners can’t control their hands, and this lead to some head-tossing on Skye’s part.

Now, in the snaffle, she’s being splendid. Doubtlessly a little harder on the hands than in the Pelham, but with training I hope that will clear up. She hasn’t taken off like a shot yet, so that’s a plus, and she is perfectly quiet with the students and much happier.

Also, I just like the way the snaffle looks. I hate big bits. Even when I know I have to use them and I’m being as quiet with my hands as I can and the horse is perfectly happy, I still feel vaguely guilty. A top-class dressage horse in a double bridle is naturally a different story, but I am pleased that Skye’s going nicely in a snaffle. Just hope it lasts.

As for Skye’s little son (another heart’s desire; I asked God for a healthy foal out of a healthy mare, and I got all that plus exactly the gender and colour foal I wanted, with the right markings and temper and everything), well, let the picture speak!!

Thunder under saddle!

Thunder under saddle!

Yes, that’s my poor dear baby horsie with me actually on his back!! Yeah, baby!!

As you can see, Dad finished building my lungeing ring (thanks a million, by the way!), and with the Mutterer’s help I moved Thunder and Achilles down to the mares. Thun has been gelded for two months, Achilles for four; Thunder is acting like a typical quiet little gelding, and Achilles still thinks he’s a stallion but can’t really do anything, and after Siobhan kicked the snot out of Achilles, they soon got along. Although Siobhan still kicks Achilles from time to time just to prove her point, despite the fact that she’s two hands shorter than him.

I presented Thunder to the Horse Mutterer because, well, throughout his two years Mr. Thun has had one (or possibly two) lessons with the Mutterer and I began to feel nervous because, left to my own devices, there’s no telling what I might do.

I did the same thing with Siobhan about two years ago, and when the Mutterer got that Look on his face and started to ask how old Thunder was, I was quite sure of which route this discussion was taking. When the Mutterer enquired as to my exact weight I knew I would be sitting on him before the hour was over. Thunder that is, not the Mutterer.

To be honest, I had done some backing myself. I had put his saddle and bridle on and lunged him with those so often that they were both old stuff to Thundy. I had even sat on him once to feel what it was like. (Rather like sitting on a coathanger, since you ask, and all he did was turn his head and stare at me in amazement for a few seconds before stolidly ignoring me). He’d done a little bit of basic long-lining, lots of lungeing mostly in a trot, and I had once tried to desensitise him, a somewhat pointless exercise as I simply couldn’t get him to spook.

He lunged beautifully, giving me a very nice canter on one side and a shorter one on his bad side, but without any bucking or kicking or even champing his bit. Then the Mutterer sent me off for my helmet and the next thing I knew I was on Thunder’s back and it was amazing. He was as sweet as pie. As expected, he was deplorably lazy, but despite the Mutterer’s protestations, I like them lazy better than wild. Some newly-backed horses, including Siobhan, feel like they’re about to go off like a rocket any moment; their backs are humped, their ears are flat, and you just know that at the least stimulus they’ll explode. (At least, if you’re me. If you’re the Mutterer, you just get on with it, to all appearances).

Thundy seemed to dismiss this latest antic of mine as yet another fallacy of this dopey human he’d ended up with, and after a few minutes, the Mutterer let us off the long line and we pottered around the ring at a walk. As long as the Mutterer was in the ring holding the long whip, Thun kept going, albeit slowly; but he didn’t understand my legs at all.

I rode him again the day after and he was surprisingly good; I mounted and rode him without anyone holding him or chasing him on at all, and he walked reasonably well around the ring to both ways, as well as changing direction without having an argument, protesting, panicking, tossing his head in the air or being a general loon.

In fact, he was Thunder. Not too bright or at all spirited, but sweet and steady.

I love this exquisitely dished face

I love this exquisitely dished face

In that way he has much the same temperament as Arwen. Arwie doesn’t have a bad bone in her body. She’s never malicious, treacherous, or wilfull; Arwen’s worst fault is a lack of confidence and an excess of fear. Also, she’s a terrible scatterbrain and not very smart. She’s actually a sweet, sensible, quiet little horse with the unfortunate tendency to having sudden panic attacks and brainless frights. These usually take the form of rearing, bucking or running away in zigzags.

Luckily, they decrease with time and effort, and she has been a star with riding out lately. I took her out three times this week and by the third time she was still a bit jumpy, but only had one very minor Little Moment. Still being in the three-week period after her AHS shot, Arwen can’t be jumped or galloped about right now, and I seriously miss the jumping. Riding out on her is getting fun again, though, and I’m remembering exactly why I love her so.

Then, of course, there’s His Awesomeness the Prince of Being Generally Wonderful, AKA Magic. He’s a heart’s desire that my Lord has granted hundredfold. Even if we can’t afford him at the end of it all, even if he never comes to live with the rest of the Horde and I never do train him to A-grade and we never do spend years and years together, I’ll always be thankful for the few months I’ve spent riding this beautiful silver horse.

How come I ended up with such unbearably photogenic horses?

How come I ended up with such unbearably photogenic horses?

He’s just got it all. I keep waiting for him to get difficult, and he doesn’t. He probably will, sooner or later, but I’ve been riding this spirited four-year-old TB for two months and haven’t fallen off or gotten a fright yet, so that has to count for something. We were popping around comfortable little jumps once a week at the most, doing tiny uprights around 40cm high (Magic hasn’t had any jump training beforehand), until the Mutterer told me I was boring him. So I built him a cross about 90cm high on the ends and 60cm in the middle and we charged at that and he was a star. His rhythm is still very wonky, neither of us having had much experience, but he is a very willing horse indeed; even if I don’t pull my weight, he’ll still jump, and can he jump! He tucks those long forelegs right up into his chest and floats. He makes all the jumps seem easy, even though he over-jumps by miles. He jumped it from both sides at a trot, very willingly and without touching the poles.

His flatwork is coming along, too. We put a different set of reins on him, that went through the bit and attached to the D-rings on his saddle, to get his nose in a bit. They’re off now and he’s going in a running martingale, and he’s much better. He doesn’t poke his nose in the air so much anymore and the stargazing is much diminished.

His canter has improved a lot; he no longer tears around like a maniac. Cantering on a turn to the left, he’s just perfect, balanced, quiet, and calm. To the right, though, he still doesn’t lead with his inside leg and tends to rush and worry. He has still quietened to the point where he can comfortably canter a figure-of-eight, the diameter of each circle being about 17 metres, which we didn’t manage when I started riding him.

He’s awesome. He just is. I really hope we can buy him someday.

And if we can’t… well, for God’s child there is no accident. He knows what I want, but He also knows what I need, and those two aren’t always the same thing. He knows what to give me. And that’s okay. If I can’t have Magic now, then even so, Father: for so it seemed good in thy sight.

Contentment is a horse grazing on a summer evening

Contentment is a horse grazing on a summer evening

Then and Now

This blog is my li’l sister Rain’s, and she’s impressing me with her taste and writing! Not bad for a 13-year-old. Thanks, also, readers, for the unbelievable amount of traffic on CWT over the last few days. I appreciate it!

Ballet and Bullseye

Time. It changes every thing. My whole world is different. And it will change again.

Here are pictures of then and now.

          

                                        

             

 

 

 

 

 

 

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