True stories of God's encouragement in the life of two music ministers living on the road in a living quarters horse trailer with their two horses.
Come ride along with Pony Express Ministry and be inspired by these testimonies and beautiful photos.
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"God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble”—Psalm 46:1.
Wild horses! Just the thought of spotting them sent me trotting to the barn. It took me no time at all to saddle my horse, Nocona. To be quite honest, I really didn't think I'd see anything, as these horses run on about 64 million acres of Nevada Bureau of Land Management land. What are the odds of me finding them? But, hey, it was worth a shot.
I glanced at the sky with its gathering clouds, but figured I'd have plenty of time to quench my thirst for exploration that day. However, I tied my slicker on the back of my saddle, just in case—you never know in the backcountry.
Off I rode toward adventures unknown. The wind was up and so was my spirit. I felt like the proverbial kid-in-a-candy-store—so many possibilities. Topping the last hill, I caught my breath in sheer delight as I gazed at the entire high desert valley stretched out before me to the far mountains—not a soul out there but me and my horse as far as our eyes could see. I breathed deeply as the sweet smell of sage saturated the breeze.
We descended into the valley, absorbed in the vast beauty. Suddenly I sensed something looking at us. Slowly scanning the terrain, I saw them. A band of six jet-black wild horses calmly watched us from their hill. I could hardly contain my excitement.
Captivated, I spotted the stallion (a black stallion, no less) standing on the point. The breeze caught his mane and tail; they flowed softly behind him. I cried—I really did. Never in my life did I ever think I would witness this sight for real, not just in some movie. But then again, the Lord is ever so willing to give us more than we could ever ask or think and to give us the pure desires of our heart ... very cool! (Psalm 37:4)
I could have stayed there all day with the Black Band, but the trail-less-traveled was beckoning, urging me to continue exploring this vast, wonderful land. I swung Nocona around and headed down the valley.
Riding the backcountry, one has to keep an eye on the trail—and another on the weather which, in this case, was becoming more unstable every minute. As I glanced toward Fred's Mountain, I noticed black clouds quickly gathering. Reluctantly, I decided to abandon my original trail ideas and head back to camp.
It was a good decision. With every step, the black cloud buildup was getting worse—that was on my right. To my left, huge white thunderheads formed and headed my way. If Nocona and I didn't hightail it out of there, we would be caught between both storms. I had another decision to make: 1) take the shorter route toward the worst part of the storm and risk getting hit? Or, 2) take the longest route and hope I made it through? It wouldn't have been so bad except the boom of thunder foretold of lightning inching closer. We were up in an open valley and a prime target.
Did I start praying? You bet I did! "Jesus, keep us safe," I prayed, as I kept an eye on the black mass making its way over our heads. I glanced at the sky again. Right between the mass of white thunderheads and the mass of blackness was a perfect trail of blue. Surprisingly, it pointed toward the longer route. I made my decision, threw on my slicker, and urged Nocona into a long trot, following that trail in the sky.
As serious as this situation was, I had to laugh. Looking up toward the "wild horse ridge," I spotted the herd watching us as Nocona and I hightailed it up their valley. What was going through their minds?
Trotting and loping, dodging sagebrush and cactus, we sailed off the ridge and raced across the valley floor. My slicker snapped in the air behind me as the wind grabbed it. My hat strained against its stampede string as it threatened to fly off my head, and I threw my hand up, pushing it down to my ears. My other hand grasped the bridle reins with a white-knuckled grip.
Urgent prayers went up again as we headed into open country, and I watched the lightning streaks flash to the ground. Suddenly I witnessed a miracle. The wind blasted toward us, but the black clouds moved away from us! As I prayed, the Lord spoke to my spirit, "I am bigger than the storm." Awed and encouraged, I swung Nocona toward our rig parked in the middle of the valley.
As we galloped toward camp, I glanced at Fred's Mountain—another set of storm clouds tried to make their way over the summit. I realized in amazement that some unseen force restrained them—another miracle.
At last we slid safely into camp and underneath the barn overhang. Only then were the clouds released. The downpour on the tin roof was deafening, but we were safe. And I thanked God for His goodness. (Psalm 91:14-15; Hebrews 1:7)
While scouting for a much needed truck, my husband Bruce and I have been privileged to hang around our home base and help family. One of these awesome opportunities came in the form of babysitting our little cousins over the summer as well as spot appearances in the fall and winter. It was a tad challenging from time to time as these kids live in a pretty tore up family life, so there were attitude adjustments here and there and yes, a lot of prayer. But, all in all, we had a blast together and developed a solid bond.
As I babysat these kids (six-year-old twins (boy and girl) and a nine-year-old autistic boy), I prayed for opportunities to introduce them to Jesus. We all need Him. But these guys needed a little extra dose. My heart was to show them how kind and mighty He is. That He is approachable, and He would help them if they were in trouble.
A variety of opportunities presented themselves throughout our time together—some profound, others more subtle, but every one important. Sometimes I got distracted and missed it, but those times just made me more determined to be quicker when the next opportunity came. With fervent prayers for wisdom, the Lord helped me field Creation, heaven and death questions; He helped me build on their grandparents’ foundation of praying over meals; And on one particular morning, He prompted me to take action and step out in faith.
That morning I walked in my aunt’s door for “work” and into a challenge. One of the twins was sick and “it” was coming out both ends. When things calmed down a bit, my aunt settled him on the couch with a trash can next to his head. She left for work, and I prayed for wisdom.
I watched his curled up form and couldn’t bear observing his misery. I knew right then that I needed to pray for him. I looked around at his twin sister, concern shadowing her face.
“You know what?” I told her. “We’re going to pray for Dax so he feels better.” Her eyes grew wide. “Come on,” I coaxed as I reached out my hand to her. “We can pray together.” She crept forward with a skeptical expression, but she was game. I held her hand and placed my other hand on Dax’s head. “Jesus, please make Dax feel better. Thank You, Jesus, for healing Dax. In Jesus Name, Amen.”
Dax relaxed, and Mila and I dug out the crayons and busied ourselves with masterpieces.
Dax used the trash can a couple more times, and then, in typical shy-Dax style, an arm emerged above the couch, fanning back and forth. I grinned: Dax’s unique “feel better” flag. Within the hour, he was up playing with his dinosaurs and Transformers.
Now, we were in full play mode…all of us. I cleared off the chest (a.k.a. the coffee table) to make room for horse corrals and a road for the truck and trailer. Tiny Transformer toys that scattered the chest top got tossed in my wellies (rubber rain boots) to keep them off the floor.
Mila and I corralled horses as Dax performed fly-bys with his Transformer fighter jets. Suddenly, a swift movement out the window caught my attention—a flash of flea-bitten gray. Oh, man! Somehow the ranch horse escaped from his pen and was having a high-time of it running around the yard!
Knowing the gate was open at the top of the driveway, I flew into action…and, yes, prayed again. I grabbed my wellies and stared into their uppers…brimming with Transformers. I promptly dumped them on the floor, jammed the boots on my feet, and slung on my coat and hat as I headed for the door.
As I hit the top of the landing, I saw the gray horse with his head buried in a feed bucket on the tie rail. Not knowing this horse, I quietly moved down the steps. He moved off toward a patch of grass. I had an idea. It was a ways up the lane to the open gate, and the horse seemed to have no interest in running off. I grabbed the bucket and slapped the side of it as I headed into the horse pen. Thankfully, the horse took an interest, and I safely lured him inside and secured the gate.
As I turned toward the house, I noticed I’d picked up two tails—both twins had bolted out the door, hot on my heels. I grinned as I observed Dax and gave a hearty “Thank You, Jesus.” I watched him run around like a penned up pooch that had won his freedom. He scooted across the yard with his hands shoved in his sweatshirt pockets, dancing from side to side.Then he took off to the ant pile to see if he could find any dead ants (frozen by the frigid temperatures).
He showed no signs of slowing down. Part of me wanted to stop him for fear, since he had just been sick, that he would relapse. And then the thought came, “Whoever Jesus heals, is healed…period.” So, I kicked that fear out of my mind and let him rip.
I’m thankful for the God-given courage to step out and take advantage of opportunities that not only put feet to my faith, but also showed these kids by example, the love of Jesus.
We will not hide them from their children, telling to the generation to come the praises of the Lord, and His strength and His wonderful works that He has done—Psalm 78:4.
I focused on the path in front of us and kept my seat centered as my horse Nocona and I rode along the narrow trail. The steep mountainside rose above us, and Nocona’s hooves ambled inches from the plummeting precipice falling away. As his hoof sunk into a soft part of the trail, the distinctive click of a loosed pebble made my heart skip a beat as the stone bounced off the side, sailing off into space.
Trust. I was grateful for the many hours spent hanging out with my horse. That bond of trust and love developed over time, throughout the years. We ride trails like these only because of that friendship and bond. I know his character and he knows mine.
Building the Relationship
It started out small. When Nocona was a colt, our first encounter involved putting a halter and lead rope on him—he’d never seen either. This was a must as I needed to load him in the trailer to take him to the ranch. On a hot, humid Texas morning, I watched him as he stared wide-eyed at me. Sweat trickled down my face as I spoke softly to him. His ears flicked, and he slowly dropped his head and relaxed. Our relationship began.
Trust is synonymous with relationship. You can’t truly trust someone you don’t know. I had spent years as a Christian, but not fully trusting the One I claimed allegiance to. When adverse circumstances ambushed me, I realized the hard way that my relationship with Jesus was sorely in need of maintenance. I found myself floundering, my foot searching for the solidness of the Rock. (Matthew 7:24-25)
In desperation, I looked for Him. He was already watching me. In that ever-so-loving still, small voice, His Holy Spirit prompted me to start at square two (I was already firmly planted on square one, having accepted Jesus as my Savior). He gently guided me to read Jesus’ words, written in red. As I studied every word, an amazing picture formed—God’s strong, open arms in unconditional love. As I read about His kind, solid character, I relaxed. And a real relationship began. I found a personal God who loves us all dearly and wants to take us to heights we have never known—heights that may make our heart pound, but have beautiful, breathtaking views.
A Love That Longs for Trust
In the beginning Nocona was a feisty one, but I never gave up. I slipped my hand around his neck and slid the halter over his nose, around his ears, and buckled it. It was a foreign concept to him, and he bolted. I stayed with him, letting him test the lead rope, all the while continuing to speak softly to him, reassuring him that all was well and I would not hurt him. We continued building on our relationship from that solid foundation. (Proverbs 3:5)
I suppose some schools of thought would have suggested I lasso him and then “show him who’s boss.” But what good would that have done? I would have created a relationship where he only obeyed me because he had to, or worse yet, feared me. It would have been a life of slavery for him and a chore for me.
Many times the Holy Spirit revealed His wisdom, but because it was foreign to me, I bolted. But He stuck with me, eventually earning my trust and moving me further toward my destiny in Him. (Psalm 73:28—But it is good for me to draw near to God; I have put my trust in the Lord God that I may declare all Your works.)
The Acid Test
Life can be a trail of unknowns. The acid test of our trust is what we do when confronted with one of life’s unforeseen surprises. Fear of the unknown (the “what ifs”) can easily keep us from fully enjoying life. Courage is required to take the leap of faith, believing God’s Word is truth.
While riding the trail, scary things tend to “jump out” of the bushes: A rattlesnake angrily buzzed his tail, warning us that we were in his self-proclaimed territory; A mountain lion dashed across the road ahead, chasing a herd of deer. Nocona stood his ground and just flicked an ear, all the while listening for my instruction.
In this fast-paced, don’t-have-time-to-breathe society, listening has become an antiquity. But it’s a must to develop that solid trust. In life, circumstances will shoot out of nowhere, putting us in a position of decision. Do we run? faint in fear? or stand our ground on that solid relationship we meticulously built in the peaceful times? We might “flick an ear” at the scary thing, but immediately flick it back toward the One with the instruction on what we need to do with that thing. (Proverbs 1:33—“But whoever listens to Me will live in safety and be at ease, without fear of harm.”)
Trust That Continues to Strengthen
As with any relationship, there is constant adjustment and tuning-up. Though it is built on a solid foundation, maintenance will always be an ongoing process. Even the apostle Paul was in constant growth and learning: Philippians 3:12—“Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me.”
Just like Paul, I haven’t “arrived” yet. I’ve learned my relationship with the Lord requires forward motion. There are always new things to learn about myself and Him, along with old things maybe I’ve forgotten and need to remember again. I’ve come to realize that a trust-building relationship is a step-by-step, day-by-day process. But it’s an exciting one. It’s a process full of adventure, offering hope as I discover the depth of God’s character and His love. (Jeremiah 29:11-13)
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“If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to him”—James 1: 5.
The Lord speaks to us in many ways: the Bible (His Word), dreams, visions, a “still small voice,” and on the rare occasion, audibly—just to name a few. He also “speaks” through everyday circumstances. He taught me a thing or two through this latter type of communication.
My husband Bruce and I rode with our friend, Bo, for one of the ranches in northern Nevada. Our job was to help drive six bulls across the pastures, through a gate, and “kick” them up a canyon. We gathered the bulls and drove them along the fence line. “Can you get the gate?” Bo called over the sagebrush. “Sure,” I called back, trotting my horse to the gate. Dismounting, I tried to unlatch it.
Two wire loops, attached to the main fence, were wrapped around the end post of the gate—one over the top, one around the bottom. Simple, right? I thought so. Besides, we have this kind of gate all over Texas. Trying to pop off the top loop first, I grabbed a hold of the post and pushed ... nothing. I pushed as hard as I could ... still nothing. Then I commenced to pulling that post ... nothing! Frustrated and scolding myself for getting soft in the muscle, I’m not sorry to say, I also called for angelic help.
The urgency? Six HUGE bulls were trotting up the trail toward me, and that gate wasn’t budging. As the minutes ticked by, Bo figured there was something wrong and sent Bruce to help me. Bruce stepped off his horse, grabbed a hold of a metal lever (that I didn’t see), and cleanly and simply popped it up—releasing the loop around the top of the post. Gate open, the bulls charged through, and we chased them into the canyon.
I had to chuckle at myself. Apparently, this handy metal lever is called a “Lady’s Aid”—this advantageous invention was lost on me! As we rode back to the ranch, the Lord spoke to me in that still, small voice of His, revealing a couple of lessons to be learned:
Lesson One: sometimes, when told to do something, we jump in and tackle the project the way we’ve always done it or how we think it should be done. After all, from a glance, we assume the situation resembles what we’ve dealt with in the past, and we use the same old strategy that worked before. The problem is, we assumed.
We try to accomplish the task in our own strength and knowledge. The Lord tries to tell us He has provided a better, easier way. But we’re so focused on our opinion, we ignore Him and end up making it harder on ourselves. (Matthew 11:28-30: “Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.”) He told me, “You cannot do what I’ve called you to do in your own strength. You may succeed a little (I did get the wire loop pushed up near the top of the post), but you’ll never get the job fully done.”
Lesson Two: unity. I couldn’t figure out that gate, but Bruce could because he had the knowledge. We need to let others help us—there are no Lone Rangers in the Kingdom of God. We are all called to uplift, encourage, and exhort one another, helping in each other’s destinies. (1 Corinthians 12:1-11)
Thank you, Lord, for caring enough to speak our language when we need a little “tunin’ up!”
“For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways and My thoughts than your thoughts”— Isaiah 55: 9.
Twelve hours and counting, we drove on into the night. You’d think it would be somewhat easy finding a rodeo grounds in the West to hole up for the night with a horse ... not.
We were headed for the northernmost parts of Nevada to work and minister with the buckaroos (cowboys) on their remote ranches. Our original plan was to stop for the night somewhere in Utah, but we couldn’t find a place on our route. So, on we trekked into the evening searching the Internet and road signs for a rodeo grounds in Nevada.
Finally, our Internet search paid off. Struggling to keep our weary eyes open, we headed for the rodeo grounds in the small gambling town of West Wendover. As we drove around the fence, we prayed that the gate would be unlocked. Rounding the corner, the gate was wide open. “Thank You, Jesus,” we breathed in unison, and squeezed our big rig through the small entrance. We shut down our truck, turned our horse, Nocona, out into a cow pen, and settled in— for about 10 minutes.
I glanced out the window and spotted two sets of rig lights inching down the fence line and turning onto the grounds. Oh, please don’t park right next to us. Dog-tired, we just wanted some peace and quiet.
Bruce and I looked on as they pulled in— right next to us. The man stepped out of his truck and headed for our door. As I cracked it open and peeked through, my mouth dropped. It was our friends from New York who had recently moved to California! What were they doing in Nevada? Their entire family, horses, dogs, and the whole shebang were packed into two vehicles and two horse trailers.
“Jason? No way!” we exclaimed, throwing the door open. “What are y’all doing here?”
Jason grinned as we exchanged bear hugs and handshakes. His wife and their four kids piled out of the vehicles and ran to our rig. Through happy tears, our friends described the exhausting events of their evening.
They were moving back to New York to settle some things. Their day had not been a good one. Planning to stay in Utah as well, they called ahead to a horse motel, but it was booked up. They, too, prayed for a rodeo grounds to spend the night. Tired and hungry, they also figured they’d have to spend the night in their vehicles just to keep an eye on their horses.
As they crept around the fence line, the kids had spotted our rig. “That’s Bruce and Shara!”, “That’s Bruce and Shara!” “Kids, no, it can’t be.” “YES, it IS! IT’S THEM!” they insisted. Sure enough, as they drove closer, they recognized our Paint horse, Nocona, and realized it was indeed us.
As we helped our friends unload their herd, we assured them we would be that “watchful eye” so they could get some food and a good night’s sleep in town.
God is so good! Greatly encouraged, we all continued our treks the next day knowing that the Lord is always working on our behalf, even when we can’t see what’s going on “behind the scenes.”
(Proverbs 16:9--A man’s heart plans his way, but the Lord directs his steps.)