Thursday, August 30, 2018

In Memory Of ...

It’s been kinda rough around here. My father-in-law passed away last week. We, like so many others, are wading through the waves of grief, yet holding on to the treasured memories of a man who left his mark on “this side of the fence.”

So, in honor of him, Henry Joe Repka, I decided to repost this story—the first story I posted on this blog. Henry loved his family, loved his life as a lifelong, accomplished musician, and, boy, did he love his dogs!

I invite you to ride along with us as we remember a very special man…

                                       Chico and the Man

 "The righteous cry out, and the Lord hears, and delivers them out of all their troubles. The Lord is near to those who have a broken heart, and saves such as have a contrite spirit. Many are the afflictions of the righteous, but the Lord delivers him out of them all"—Psalm 34:17-19.

My father-in-law, Henry, loves dogs. Years ago his original "dog plan" was to breed Rat Terriers as a business adventure (yes, adventure). However, as the puppies were born, he became so attached to them he couldn't bear to sell them. His brood grew to a lively bunch of seven. I have fond memories of watching him walk his dogs next to the cow pasture. With Henry leading the way, his little entourage followed him like the Pied Piper. Or, when he drove his "Mule" to the back end of the property, one of his bunch would proudly sit in the passenger seat—mouth open, tongue hanging, and ears blowing back in the breeze.

Henry also has a huge heart for homeless or unwanted dogs no matter what size or breed. As each one of the little Rat Terriers eventually moved on to the "Happy Hunting Ground of Heaven," a stray or unwanted dog would, without fail, show up "on the door step."   

He discovered Smokey, abandoned and wandering, around a gas station pump. She stole Henry's heart and became his constant companion for many years.

When the inevitable time came and she passed peacefully to join her former companions, my father-in-law was heartbroken. It is never easy to lose a loved one, be it human or animal, no matter what the age or reason.

It was a lonely drive as he traveled to the family farm for his monthly visit. He tried to steel himself as he passed every rest and potty stop that he and Smokey would frequent during that long trip. Finally, he couldn't take it anymore. "I can't deal with this," he cried. "Lord, You're going to have to help me." He drove on to the farm, parked his car, and wearily began to unload his things. 

Suddenly something caught his attention—a tiny figure next to the farmhouse door. He moved in for a closer inspection and discovered a lively little Chihuahua investigating the porch.

Daily inquiries were made until it was apparent that this little guy was homeless … dumped on the County Road to fend for himself. At this realization, Henry immediately made him part of the family and named him Chico.

Chico has proven to be a family project. Scared and defensive, no one could get close without him yelping. One day my mother-in-law, Betty, was lying on the couch and her hand slipped to the ground … right next to Chico. A "Grrrrrrrr!" immediately resounded from somewhere under the coffee table—her hand pushing the boundaries of his comfort zone.

However, as Henry and Betty persevered in their patient care of this little dog, Chico began to progress from whimpering at them to whimpering for them when they were out of his sight. The latest feat was actually picking him up, which,had not been a tolerable move until now. With heavy BBQ gloves to protect against defensive teeth, they crossed this last hurdle. But they needn't have bothered with the gloves. Chico lay perfectly peaceful in their "armory" … no animosity, whatsoever, expressed. He has now become Henry's faithful companion, following him everywhere and sleeping next to him in a little blanketed, cardboard box next to the bed.

The Lord displayed his grace by bringing these lives together: one with a broken heart, the other abused and homeless. He knows that in this life we will go through trials and heartaches. But He promises, through Jesus, to deliver us out of them all in victory and with strength. His love is so great that it will reach out in answer to a simple prayer—even bringing an abandoned little dog to a man's door step to help ease the pain of a loss. (1 John 4:14-16; Lamentations 3:21-23)  

Shara's book: Walk Like a Warrior: Inspirational true stories of God's encouragement on the trail less-traveled:

Tuesday, July 31, 2018

Fire Away!

Well… I was trying to be helpful.

It was a beautiful mountain morning as Bruce and I, two teenage girls, and our new friend hit the hill-trails with the expectancy of an excellent ride.

We hadn’t traveled far, when our friend started having trouble with her mare, a young draft horse cross. The mare was cranky so my friend dismounted to walk her for a bit. She led the horse along the trail and through the stream as the mare continued her antics.

We finally came to the short, but steep narrow part of the trail that shot up from the creek bottom to the top edge of the meadow. I knew that it would be difficult, at best, to lead a horse up this path. I offered to pony the mare from my horse.

She gratefully accepted, and I moved Nocona closer as she handed me the lead rope. I no sooner gripped the rope when the mare lunged forward. I tried to pull her back and around but that mare already had her plan of action figured out—and it was on. I remember seeing two huge freshly shod hooves fly at Nocona and me. She missed but, quick as lightning, regrouped and fired off another shot like a Gatling gun. I felt the smack as her hoof landed on my ankle and heard the thud as her other hoof landed on Nocona’s flank.

I vaguely heard a “let her go!”, but was already releasing the rope of that wild-eyed whirlwind as I swung Nocona away from her—but not after she cranked off another one and buried her final blow in Nocona’s stifle.

Immediately my friend was at my side bursting with profuse apologies. But her voice faded as I blocked out everything around me. I lowered my hand to Nocona’s flank and prayed, “No weapon formed against us will prosper, no evil will befall us, no plague will come near us!”—quoting Isaiah 54 & Psalm 91. I didn’t know who heard me and didn’t much care, my first thought was my horse.

Powerful testimonies pepper my experiences when the Word of God is spoken over situations and the miracles spring forth. As I prayed (albeit with heart pounding), Nocona slowly relaxed his leg and put weight on it. At that point, I noticed the intense throbbing in my ankle. I went to praying over it too. 

I pulled my attention back to Nocona and walked him back and forth across the clearing—he was solid. I reined him toward the steep incline—the real test. “Let’s do this, Nocona,” I grinned. He sailed up that trail with no problem. Praise God.

When we reached the top, the teenagers stared, wide-eyed, at us. “Are you OK?” “What happened?” they blurted. And, frankly, beyond me telling them, “We’re good,” I have no idea what I said after that, distracted by the stabbing pain in my ankle. I smiled through gritted teeth and headed for Bruce, who was also staring at me intensely. 

“How is he?” Bruce asked.
“He’s fine. But we need to pray over my leg,” I whispered. (My friend felt bad enough that her horse had kicked mine, and there was no way I was going to let her know that her mare had nailed me too.)

So, while the rest of the group got horses and riders reorganized, Bruce and I prayed over my ankle. He commanded healing to come and the pain to go in Jesus’ Name.

I moved my ankle around. “Pray again,” I said. He did.

“Are we ready?” our friend called out.
“Yep,” we answered. Nocona and I ended up leading the pack and he stepped out like nothing had happened. And as we rode out, I felt a kind of warm sensation in my ankle, with tinglies. The pain left… just like that.

Four and a half hours later, we finished the ride—no lameness in Nocona or me.

With all my stories, of course, there’s always some kind of epiphany or moral… a lesson to be learned somewhere. So, first off, I learned to not be so quick to offer help to someone, even a friend, with their cranky horse. Secondly, go for the prayer first. Sometimes there’s no time to think, just do it. The Word of God is definitely a two-edged sword and we need to wield it like a weapon… ‘cause it is. And you can’t beat the power in Jesus’ Name!

My ankle should have been broken, and Nocona could have been seriously hurt, but we were fine and finished a ride that turned out to be a very enjoyable one, indeed.

“Because he has loved Me, therefore I will deliver him; I will set him securely on high, because he has known My name. He will call upon Me, and I will answer him; I will be with him in trouble; I will rescue him and honor him. With a long life I will satisfy him and let him see My salvation.” (Psalm 91:14-16)

Shara's book: Walk Like a Warrior: Inspirational true stories of God's encouragement on the trail less-traveled:

Saturday, June 30, 2018

No Way Out?

Funny how thoughts of past adventures drift into your memory when you need encouragement. Many people nowadays are facing pretty hefty challenges. Our family is no exception. But this verse keeps popping up in my head, “And they overcame him (Satan) by the blood of the Lamb (Jesus) and the word of their testimony..."—Revelation 12:11).

In tough times, I am comforted when I reflect on all the times God has shown up in this adventure called life. And, frankly, I can’t recall any time He has let us down. Through illness challenges (both human and horse), lack challenges (no truck), family challenges, on-the-road challenges, ministry challenges, people packaged with challenges, on and on, there has always been answers…aka hope. Answers come in ways we expect or ways we never thought of (and every variation in between), but all answers come from a God who is incredibly kind and full of wisdom.

So, I have to remind myself of His faithful goodness with each confrontation that rears its ugly head: focusing on the faith of a good report, even when I can’t see the outcome clearly; focusing on the One who makes all things possible, even when there seems to be no way out.

The following simple, yet profound testimony insists on making a recurring appearance in my thoughts. It reminds me of God’s grace and power, and I figured it may encourage you too:

Back in 2005, before our living-in-our-horse trailer-days, Bruce (my husband) and I loaded up my diesel truck with snacks, sleeping bags, and a pup tent and headed cross-country. We sing/play Christian Country music, so concerts were scheduled along the way during our round trip from Texas to Wisconsin to California and back to Texas again.

Bruce and I love to stay in and explore National and State Parks. So after our concerts in Wisconsin, we set out for The Badlands of South Dakota.
As we traveled through The Badlands, we gawked at the strange, unearthly look of the landscape. It looked like a movie set from Star Wars!

We stopped and snapped pictures, enjoying this unfamiliar “moon” scape. However, we grew increasingly wary of the skies and the ominous storm brewing in the distance. But the storm seemed far off and was actually quite beautiful to watch with its swirling clouds and lightning show.

We made our way through the hills and down into a valley, keeping an eye out for a campground sign. A stampede delayed us a bit, so it was rather late by the time we spotted the campground entrance (see last month's post: Bison in The Badlands).

Creeping through a sleeping campground is a tad difficult in a diesel truck, but we trekked to the far end of the place, away from the other campers.

We set up camp and prepared for a good night’s sleep. Glancing at the skies again, we caught our breath—the humongous thunderstorm we had been watching changed course and headed straight at us! There was no way out. We hunkered down in our tiny, nylon tent and listened as the rumble of thunder drew closer.

Now in South Dakota, there’s a lot of open ground. And, here we sat in our flimsy tent with little to no protection. The line of that storm stretched so wide, there was no way it would miss us. About the only thing we could do was pray. And pray we did! We rebuked that storm in the Name of Jesus, then prayed and thanked the Lord for protecting us (albeit through heavily beating hearts).

We tried not to count the seconds between the flashes of lightening and the claps of thunder, but it was hard to ignore. By then the flashes and the thunder became almost as one. We prayed harder, thanking God again for our protection and that the storm had no authority where we were.

Suddenly the wind came up…blowing against the storm! My first thought was the verse in Psalms: “He makes His angels winds.” I told Bruce my thought.

“Hey! The Holy Spirit just told me the same thing!” he said.

We breathed a sigh of relief. The storm stopped within a short distance of our camp and blew around the campground in a circle. (Psalm 104:4)

As the thunder continued to roll and the lightning danced, we peeked out our tent flap. Directly above, we gazed at stars twinkling in a canopy of clear, black sky.

Safe and dry, we settled in for that good night’s rest.

(For You have been a strength to the poor, a strength to the needy in his distress, a refuge from the storm, a shade from the heat; For the blast of the terrible ones is as a storm against the wall—Isaiah 25:4.)

Shara's book: Walk Like a Warrior: Inspirational true stories of God's encouragement on the trail less-traveled:

Wednesday, May 30, 2018

Bison in The Badlands

"O Lord, You have searched me and known me. You know my sitting down and my rising up; You understand my thought afar off. You comprehend my path and my lying down and are acquainted with all my ways. For there is not a word on my tongue, but behold, O Lord, You know it altogether. You have hedged me behind and before and laid Your hand upon me”—Psalm 139:1-5.

The sound of thunder rolled in the distance, but there was no storm. Dust swirled into the night sky, but there was no wind. We drove on through the South Dakota Badlands, waiting for the unseen phenomenon to show itself. The darkness became a light shade of tan—we caught movement on the right. Huge shapes careened down the hills and through the draws, crossing the road in front of us. Bruce hit the brakes as bison of every size and shape flicked through our headlights like an old western movie. As quickly as the stampede pounded through, it disappeared, leaving us awed and bewildered. We had truly come to a wild land.

Arriving at the campground very late and trying to be inconspicuous in our diesel truck, we camped at the far edge where the tent sites bordered open land—wildlife abounded, and we wanted to be right in the middle of 'em. Little did we know ...

We woke up to a beautiful, crisp morning—and a mysterious sound of snorting, munching, and stomping. We wanted to see wildlife, but by the sound of things we were beginning to think we had gotten a little more than we bargained for.

I opened the flap of our tent and stared out at a world from centuries past. Everything from the twenty-first century was erased from view—by a couple of hundred bison! They grazed everywhere and all around our tent and truck! Two little curious calves stepped cautiously toward me as I held my hand out through the opening. I tried to touch their noses, but that was a little much for them, and they scampered off.

We were having great fun—until their mama snorted and pushed her nose against the back of our tent. Bruce and I looked at each other and realized we could be in a precarious situation. But as she didn't seem to be interested in trampling our tent, we again turned our attention to the thrill of the scene outside our little door.

We heard another ominous noise and were again pulled back to another uncertain situation. A humongous bull patrolled past us, swinging his head and grunting. And with every swing, he gave us the "stink" eye. Now I've hung out with animals, wild and otherwise, my whole life. I've never been afraid, but always respectful. But when I looked in that eye, instinct told me that this bad boy meant business. Bruce and I shrunk back inside our tent and prayed that this brute would move on. After a couple of passes he finally did, as well as the rest of the herd, and we crawled out of our tent.

We wandered over to the information post in the campground and found abundant literature, complete with warnings, about how dangerous these animals can be. Of course we read this stuff after the fact—ignorance was definitely bliss in our case. However, as I surely pushed the limits of my ignorance, I also thanked the Lord that my battery went dead as I tried to get a picture of the bull. If the camera bulb had flashed, that guy would have really been ticked off!

True to our "trail" experiences, epiphanies abound with the stories, and this was no exception. God understands the "stampedes" of life that threaten to overtake us, but He protects us before we hurl headlong into the midst of the fray. Likewise, when we push ahead against sane wisdom because of momentary excitement, God's gracious hand is evident when He brings our precarious plans to an abrupt halt, saving us from ourselves.
(Psalm 91:9-12)

Monday, April 30, 2018

Strength in the Struggle

“My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing”—James 1:2-4.

I’ve never seen a cow give birth from start to finish. I usually come across this fascinating bit of Creation either halfway through the process, or when the calf is already on the ground.

I was keeping an eye on the one last cow from the rancher’s herd, as I figured she’d give birth within the next day or so. As I watched her, she lay down. Then she got up, circled and lay down again with her back legs stretched out. I knew it was time.

I walked back to the farmhouse and informed my mother-in-law and my husband, Bruce, that the herd would expand shortly. Bruce grabbed the binoculars and spied on the mama cow through the windows. I took his cue and stepped out on the front stoop and peered through another pair of nocs.

The miracle of life is awe-inspiring. How could anyone even imagine God isn’t real?

We watched every inch of the calf come out. When it finally was lying on the grass, we took off out the gate and across the pasture to check out the rest of the process. I named it Slick…until we found out she was a heifer (girl). Bruce promptly named her Slippy.

All wet and fresh, Slippy blinked and looked around at her new world, and the show began.  A low rumble sounded from her mama’s chest as she spoke to her calf. She proceeded to lick her all over to stimulate her new muscles.

Little did I know, I would receive some much needed encouragement…again…by the simple hand of God’s creative touch.

Slippy’s spindly little legs did their best to support her on the slick grass. Then her legs gave way, and she sprawled out. It was kind of comical, but at the same time I wanted to run over and help her. However, I knew full well this is a natural part of the process and I had to let her work it out.

We observed her mama during the whole ordeal. She licked the calf for a bit, then moved away and munched on grass. She didn’t seem concerned at all as Slippy resumed her strenuous efforts. But I watched her mama’s eyes—her eyes never left her calf.

I noticed that Slippy had difficulty getting her hind end to cooperate as she struggled to stand. Suddenly, Mama turned and stepped beside her. She licked Slippy’s hind end and the upper part of her back legs, stimulating them once again.
By instinct, the mama worked on the parts of Slippy that gave her trouble. Then she moved off. 

Slippy started her mission again. She did a bit better this time—she got all fours on the ground. However, gravity prevailed and down she went again. But it was progress. I noticed that each time she struggled, she grew stronger. With the next attempt, she progressed a little more and fell less.

She never gave up, no matter how many times she seemed to fail, even when she toppled head-over-heels. She seemed to realize quitting meant dying. Her efforts weren’t just about getting to her feet. She needed to make it to the lifeline at her mother’s udder—the life-giving milk that would help her grow into a stronger calf and eventually to a mature cow where she could eat solid food—to grow up. (And, of course, to be strong enough to play with her bovine buddies in the pasture!)

In the struggles we face through the trials of life, we may feel as though the Lord has walked off. Or, if He’s standing next to us, it sure seems He isn’t doing much to help. But like that cow, He never takes His eyes off us. And at the exact time, He moves in and gives us exactly what we need, when we need it.

He also knows during the struggle, our muscles become stronger: faith-muscles, trust-muscles, etc. that have to be developed if we’re to stand strong.

Let’s be honest. Unless one thrives on drama, I don’t think anyone truly enjoys afflictions. The struggles we go through are hard. They’re frustrating. Sometimes it’s difficult to muster up the energy to try anymore. Yet, our very survival depends on us never giving up. And although we may assume, during our hardships, God has “left the building,” He hasn’t. Nor would He.

In fact, quite the contrary. Most of us have heard the verse, “He will never leave us, nor forsake us.” (Hebrews 13:5). Even though we may feel He has, our feelings are just that…feelings. And most of the time our feelings are not the truth.

The moral of my lesson that day? We all struggle—from the least to the greatest. It’s what we do in the struggle and with the struggle that makes the difference between life and death. The only real failure is if we lose hope and quit.

And I don’t know about you, but too many buzzards are hovering that are all too willing to swoop in, if I even think about giving up! 

“For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the Lord, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope”—Jeremiah 29:11.

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Mercy Sings in the Morning

Through the Lord’s mercies we are not consumed, because His compassions fail not.
They are new every morning; Great is Your faithfulness.
“The Lord is my portion,” says my soul, “Therefore I hope in Him!”—Lamentations 3:22-24


It was quiet. Really, really quiet. And dark. We woke up early this particular morning to get ready to hit the road to sing at a little coastal church in Texas. I sat on the couch with my coffee, savoring the silence. The abundance of birds that take refuge on this farm were strangely silent. Even the obnoxious, never-ending noise of the nearby highway was silent.

I gazed toward the horizon though I couldn’t see past the barbed-wire fence. Slowly, a tiny glow appeared in the distance. Immediately, one lone bird, who apparently was perched somewhere in the tree above our rig, burst into song.

I listened in amazement. That bird waited until it saw the first light. It’s funny, the profoundness in something so simple. Even Creation knows to celebrate the light, to praise the mercies of a new morning.

Those profound moments always give me a deep comfort. No matter what’s going on, when God's Creation shows us the simplicity of life, suddenly things line up in perspective.

Bruce and I have stuff going on. Frustrating stuff. Sometimes it’s hard to keep our faith energized. But then, God knows our struggles. That bird reminded me to sing. Sing because Jesus is the light piercing the darkness. And it really doesn’t matter what life throws at us, we rejoice because He is the God of the impossible. He makes streams in a dry desert and roadways in a pathless wilderness. (Isaiah 43:19)

“Be anxious for nothing,” He says…well, actually commands. He knows who He is and what He is capable of. As we learn to trust Him more, we start getting a clue that He’s pretty mighty. Nothing fazes Him, nothing surprises Him.

Even the sparrows sing. They’re tiny and vulnerable—a blip on the radar in the aviary of life. Yet God knows what they need and provides for them. He even sees when they fall. So, if He cares about them, He cares deeply what is happening to us.

Sometimes we need these little reminders of God’s love. With no distractions, I heard and saw clearly His message on this early Sunday morning: Sing to Him a new song; Play skillfully with a shout of joy. (Psalm 33:3)

Saturday, March 3, 2018

***GIVEAWAY SWEEPSTAKES*** is almost over!

Just a reminder! ***Giveaway Sweepstakes*** ends March 4 (tomorrow)! Enter for a chance to win an eBook version of the award-winning book, Walk Like a Warrior: Inspirational True Stories of God's Encouragement on the Trail Less-Traveled! Amazon giveaway link: For those of you who already have the book, I thank you from the bottom of my heart for your purchase, kind comments and reviews. Through God's grace, He is using this book in a mighty way, and my desire is to encourage as many people as I can with it. God Bless Y'all! 😃