Saturday, December 31, 2016

The Biker Bar

Funny how something simple triggers a hankering to visit unknown places and to experience new adventures. So it was when we saw the cover of a Christian magazine. Our friend, a cowboy pastor, posed on the cover with a biker, also a pastor.

Intrigued, I flipped the pages to the article. This biker-pastor sounded like the real deal, and the Holy Spirit nudged Bruce and I to visit his church … in a bar. A biker bar. Cool!

Main street was quiet in the small town of Meridian, Idaho as we slowly drove around to the back of the bar to park. We strolled down the sidewalk passing motorcycles of every style neatly lined up side by side with their back tires against the front curb.

We didn’t know what to expect. Cautiously we opened the old wooden door, letting our eyes adjust to the dark room. As we stood in the doorway, we figured we’d be as conspicuous as a neon light with our cowboy boots and hats amidst the leathers and dew rags of the bikers. And, I’m pretty sure, we were the only ones who didn’t sport tats somewhere on our bodies.

Rough-looking, tatted, leathered, rode-hard parishioners graced the dim room with their warmth. And we felt more welcome there than we had in the “religious” establishments with their new carpet and fancy digs. We found a couple of stools next to a video game and settled in with our backs against a vintage juke box. 

Before the service started, I decided to use the restroom and made my way through the crowd. As I opened the restroom door, I nearly collided with a woman on her way out. The tattoos on her face, hands and arms, her wild hair, and her generally tough exterior belied the light and peace in her eyes.

My first thought? “Whoa, I wouldn’t want to meet her in a dark alley.” But looking in those eyes and hearing her joyful, accepting, friendly greeting reminded me once again to never judge a book by its cover.

Most of the congregation had been rode-hard-and-put-away-wet.  But they’d also found Jesus. God’s grace had saved them from a very hard life.

The service started with a guy and his guitar. I looked around the stage and noticed a drum set and other evidence that this church had a band. And yet, there was just this guy and his guitar. You could tell he loved the Lord, but he was nervous, apologizing for messing up a song as he started over on his guitar. He did his best filling in for the worship team.

His voice may not have been American Idol quality, and maybe he more than once fumbled around on his guitar. But what touched me was his heart—it lit up the room. I smiled as God revealed, yet again, that the performance is not as important as a person’s heart.

We all joined him in one accord, singing “Turn your eyes upon Jesus.”  How appropriate. I caught a movement to my left, and an old biker rose from his chair with something in his hand. An American flag dew rag adorned the top of his gray head, and his long ponytail swung down over the biker colors of his leather jacket. He lifted the object in his hands to his lips and the sweet, earthy tones of a harmonica filled the room. He played in perfect time with the guitar and voices.

It was simple, raw.  And the Holy Spirit infiltrated that old bar. Tears welled in my eyes as the peace of God soothed my hurting soul. All the disappointment from dealing with other “worship” teams and churches with their critical, performance-based attitudes melted away. This is how it should be, I thought. This is how God always intended it to be—simple, yet powerful.

The old biker danced from one foot to the other in the joy of the Lord as his harmonica sang. And then he lowered his hands and quoted Matthew 18:20, “Where two or more are gathered in My Name, there will I be.”  And we all knew that Jesus stood with us in that dark, musty, beer-stained biker bar. 

The rest of that day continued to be one of the best times we’ve ever had with fellow believers. No pomp or parades. No ruses or airs. It was uncomplicated. It was genuine. It was Jesus.

The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with you all. Amen (2 Corinthians 13:14).

*Exciting announcement!* Walk Like a Warrior: Inspirational True Stories of God's Encouragement on the Trail Less-Traveled is now available in print and Kindle editions through Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and the WestBow Press bookstore.

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Concert in the Cookhouse

I stomped the cold from my feet and rubbed my hands together, feeling warmth creep into them. Fog billowed from my breath and from my horse’s nose. I put my foot in the stirrup and swung my leg over the saddle. “Yow, that’s cold!” I squeaked as I sat in the seat—at 7:00 in the morning the temperature hadn’t risen out of the teens.

My husband, Bruce and I were invited to this fall roundup by our friend Bo, a seasoned buckaroo (Nevada lingo for cowboy). Hundreds of cattle grazed across thousands of acres in the rugged, unforgiving mountains of northern Nevada. Several volunteers, stockholders, and hired buckaroos worked together to gather these cattle for shipment to their winter feeding grounds.

Bruce and I sing Christian Country music and travel full-time on the road with our two  horses. God had given us this awesome opportunity to ride with these folks, and we jumped at the chance. However, he saw an even bigger picture than merely volunteering to help with the cows.

                                      No Wimping Out

Saddles creaked and horses champed their bits as we waited for the foreman to assign groups of riders their sections of land. The goal was to drive or "sweep" the cattle from the high country and meet at the bottom pasturelands at the same time … or nearly. Most of these cows are as wild as the country they run in, and this type of gathering keeps them moving forward. 

While gazing across the haphazard landscape, I was grateful for the instruction we had received from Bo about the cattle and country. I realized we were living examples of Hebrews 10:24-25: “And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds … encouraging one another.“ Bruce and I were strangers to this place, but the Lord had prepared us for this job through Bo. Receiving our section assignment, we spread out to cover our area.

“I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me!” Philippians 4:13 flew from my mouth as my horse and I plunged down the side of a steep draw to gather cattle at the bottom. At the same time, “Whoohooohoooohoooo!” echoed across the mountains as the buckaroos revealed their location. I urged my horse around the cattle and drove my mini-herd through the small canyon.

We rode narrow mountainside trails that appeared to be carved by a goat and skirted bogs and boulders to keep the herd tight. I picked grit out of my teeth and blew a breath of relief when I saw Bo with his cows at the meeting point. We joined Bruce farther down the mountain.

                                         No Offense Taken 

Bruce and I have learned that the opportunities the Lord gives us are not just to minister to others. Opportunities also arise to knock the bark off us.           

“You’re late!” bellowed the foreman as he raced by us on his horse. Startled, Bruce spun around in his saddle and stared after him as he thundered past and disappeared down the prairie.

We knew there had been some confusion concerning the instructions of the day, but it appeared we were blamed for something out of our control. Our blood boiled. Angry words churned inside us: “How dare he!”; “It’s not our fault!” We rode in an indignant fog for about a mile. Then, like cold water on a hot flame, the Holy Spirit’s still, small voice impressed, “Let it go.”

We realized it was foolish for us to ride in offense, recognizing Satan’s temptation to tear down the relationships we had already built. Swallowing our pricked pride, we decided not to take the bait and continued our search for the cows in our section.

                                     The Bigger Picture

It was a good thing we let it go. Later that day the bigger picture unfolded—a stockholder asked Bruce and me if we would give a concert in their cookhouse.

The next evening as we set up our sound system next to the kitchen counter, we thanked the Lord that we had overcome the challenges from the previous days. When you ride in someone else’s world, you either earn their respect or you don’t. This was the ultimate reason God sent us here.

One by one, the entire crew filed into the warm cookhouse while the smell of fresh coffee and homemade cookies drifted through the air. They took their places at the picnic-style tables or lounge chairs along the wall. One old cowboy even relaxed in his own recliner.

We began with a lively hymn medley and continued through a list of songs as the Holy Spirit led. The demeanor of the more hardened ranch hands softened, their toes tapping to the beat. One rambunctious buckaroo had wanted us to sing one of his favorite country songs as we rode with him through the aspens the previous day. We didn’t know the song but, when the concert was scheduled, we determined to learn it. We sang it that night and dedicated it to him. He couldn’t believe it. His eyes brightened, and his heart opened to God’s message in the other songs we sang.

We watched in awe as the Holy Spirit moved through that bunch. Alcohol was passed from one to another, but one by one, weather-worn hands waved it away. We hadn’t said a thing—we just sang.

We intended to end the concert within an hour to respect the crew’s early morning call, but they didn’t care a bit about hitting their bunks early. Their stomping, clapping and laughter rocked the cookhouse. And by the time we wrapped up the hour with what we thought was our final song, shouts of  “Encore! Encore!” resounded around the room—even the rougher ones were giving us the thumbs up.

A buckaroo’s girlfriend slowly raised her hand. “Can you sing 'Amazing Grace'?” she requested.
“Absolutely,” we replied, as others nodded in agreement.

As the words and melody wound through the crowd, the peace of the Holy Spirit wrapped around troubled souls like a warm comforter. Tears streamed down faces; eyes stared off in deep thought; heads bowed, some nodded.  God’s grace and power were palpable in that old building.

We finished the last song, and no one wanted to leave. Groups of two and three gathered here and there talking, laughing, eating cookies, and sipping coffee.

The ranch foreman hailed us as we loaded our sound system and music gear into our truck. “Thank you,” he said. “We needed this. It gets really tense here around this time.” He smiled. “And, hey, you can ride with us anytime, and you’re more than welcome to sing here next year too.”

We are honored to answer God’s call to face the challenging tasks that introduce us to the ones living along the trails less-traveled. No one is too far from God’s gracious hand. As Acts 13:47 encourages: "For this is what the Lord has commanded us: ’I have made you a light for the Gentiles, that you may bring salvation to the ends of the earth.'” We pray that those stockholders, buckaroos, and volunteers never forget the love of God they experienced in that old 1800s cookhouse on a lonely road of Nevada’s high plains.

*Exciting announcement!* Walk Like a Warrior: Inspirational True Stories of God's Encouragement on the Trail Less-Traveled is now available in print and Kindle editions through Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and the WestBow Press bookstore.

Sunday, October 30, 2016

Beauty From Ashes

“The Spirit of the Lord God is upon Me, because the Lord has anointed Me to preach good tidings to the poor; He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound; to proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord, and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all who mourn, to console those who mourn in Zion, to give them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness; that they may be called trees of righteousness, the planting of the Lord, that He may be glorified—”Isaiah 61:1-3.

The morning sun flecked the curtains as shock waves coursed from my chest to my gut. The events of the prior day, November 24, 1980, had not been a bad dream. The nightmare was real.

My classmates and I smelled smoke from a distant fire and figured the mountain backcountry was burning again—like it always did during the high, autumn winds. But when the smoke drifted over our school, apprehension rose. Rumors ricocheted through the hallways, “Structures are on fire at the base of the mountains!” My home stood in those foothills. My hands shook as I called my family from the school phone—no answer. I panicked and raced for my truck.

Patrol cars blocked my way home, so I detoured toward my grandma’s house. Gripping the steering wheel, I drove through the smoke and screaming wind. Loose pets and livestock darted between buildings and across the road. I inched my way through the chaos, fearing the worst.

As I pulled into the driveway, my family met me on the front lawn. Thank You, God. They’re alive, I breathed. But my brother's two words said it all: "It's gone,” he whispered. And I knew, in one afternoon, we had become homeless, losing nearly everything but the clothes on our backs.

With nowhere to go, my dad, mom, brother, and I crowded into my grandma’s two-bedroom, one-bathroom house.

                                       Do Unto Others

As I drove to my grandma’s after school, I glanced down at the passenger side of my El Camino—everything I owned now fit on the seat. 

As I opened the front door, piles of trash bags met me in the entryway. “They’re filled with clothes,” my mom said, pulling them out of the walkway. It was surreal to be the recipients of charity. Life isn't supposed to be this way, I lamented.

I fumbled with the plastic tie on the nearest trash bag. Stuffed inside were blouses from the ‘60s, skirts from the ‘70s, torn jeans, and stained shirts—a virtual circus of clothes. Bag after bag revealed more of the same with only a few of the items fit to wear. As a newly homeless 17-year-old, this felt like rock bottom.

But a funny thing came over us as my mom and I numbly eyed the clothes now piled on the living room floor—a spark of God-given resolve. One by one, all articles of clothing became fair game as we picked our prize and headed for the back bedroom. Reappearing in a puffy, lime-green blouse—complete with stains on the front—I sashayed into the living room with chin in the air and hands on my hips. "How does this look?" I beamed. “I’m so in vogue, don't you think?" 

"You look mah-velous, dear,” Mom chirped as she disappeared into the "dressing room." Out she strutted in bell-bottom jeans with a tear in the pocket. With pivot turns and a flip of the wrist, she wore Christian Dior on a Saks Fifth Avenue runway.

"Those jeans just become you, dahling!" I applauded.

In the midst of our antics, someone knocked on the front door—a childhood friend had sent me a package.  Tucked between the tissue paper was a note and a model horse. But it wasn’t just any horse—it was King, her prized possession. I embraced him and read the note: “I know your entire horse collection burned,” she wrote. “King was my favorite, and now he belongs to you.”

My friend’s selfless gift helped soothe the pain of receiving others’ rejects. Luke 6:31 (the golden rule) became my new motto, and I vowed to always give the best I had when another's need arose.

                                          Helping Hands

My best friend, Dorothy, and I slowly walked together up the long driveway. My once beautiful childhood home stood lifeless, the concrete shell standing in the midst of white ashes. Gaping holes where the windows once set now stared blankly at me like a ghost. As my hands flew to my mouth, I felt her arm resting around my shoulders.

In the days that followed, friends, family, and even strangers stood shoulder to shoulder with us. They sifted through rubble, brought food and wearable clothes, and replaced photos that burned. They prayed and consoled us as we cried.

A rancher had caught my horse as she galloped through town, graciously trailering her to the safety of his corrals. My plea for her in the local paper united us.

Actions comforted more than wordy platitudes of, “You can rebuild.” Or, “At least your family didn’t die.” The Good Samaritans sympathized with our shock and discerned what we needed, sometimes without asking. We witnessed God’s Word walking as our town worked in harmony to help all 280 families who had lost their homes.

After a few weeks and frayed nerves in my grandma’s little house, our prayers were answered for another place to stay. A friend phoned my mother. “I don’t know if you’d be interested or not,” she said, “but some friends of mine are going on vacation for a month and need a house-sitter.” Within a week, our family moved into their lovely, two-story house. 

The day before the owners returned, a rental house became available on a lake in the mountains. And we realized that God had not forsaken us; He was restoring us. We stayed in the rental for a few months until my dad, a general contractor, built a house for us in a nearby town. 

                                     It’s The Little Things

The aroma of popcorn and chocolate chip cookies drifted through the air as raccoons loafed on our rental’s deck rail, and squirrels peered through the sliding glass door.  We eagerly anticipated this community of critters that scampered across our deck to indulge in our weekly handouts.

Finally, with popcorn bowl in hand, Mom slid the door open. The temptation was too much for one young squirrel—he blasted through the gap like a rocket. Squeals and popcorn peppered the air.

Up the walls, over the counters, bounding over the couch, that squirrel flew like his tail was on fire. Mom grabbed a broom as I ran in circles, flailing my arms at this fly-by furball. We nearly collided as he squeezed between us and shot up the curtains.

Before the white flag waved, we somehow corralled him and he careened out the door. Mom slammed it shut and slid down the frame in hysterics. We laughed so hard tears flooded down our faces.

These characters of God’s creation appeared at the perfect time—a merry heart indeed does good like a medicine.

                                        No Longer a Victim

Life hurts sometimes, but God is faithful to His Word. I found that time does not heal, but God does. He abundantly restored us, honoring our trust in His promises and in Him.  He also helped me break the bonds of materialism, which remain broken to this day.  As 1 Timothy 6:17 encourages, I can enjoy the things God has given, but never cling to them for hope and stability.

He gave me a newfound compassion that rose from the ashes to help me comfort others suffering loss. I can now come alongside them with the hope of Psalm 27:13: “I would have lost heart, unless I had believed that I would see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living.”

Sunday, September 25, 2016

Jesus-The Good Shepherd

As the sheep of His pasture, we quietly graze as He keeps watch. We glance up from our grazing and spot a wolf circling. The wolf had crept close, clothed in deception. But this wolf shed its sheepskin and now we see it for what it truly is. Our eyes grow wide, and our muscles tense, ready for flight. But flight to where? Our fear begins to blind us to try to run anywhere but here.

Our hearts beat as though, at any moment, they could leap from our chests. And then we hear a voice—the Voice of the Good Shepherd Who saw the wolf begin to creep up long before we noticed it. And the Voice instructs us: “Be still and know that I am God.” We watch the rod in His hand rise, poised ready to whack the wolf in its stealth, at just the right moment.

So, to the wolf—beware, the Shepherd stands ready with that rod; And to the sheep—peace, be still and know that Jesus is the Good Shepherd, ready to defend and rescue His sheep.

Psalm 23: The Lord, the Shepherd of His People
The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.
He makes me to lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside the still waters.
He restores my soul; He leads me in the paths of righteousness for His name’s sake.
Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil for You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.
You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies;
You anoint my head with oil;
My cup runs over.
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life; And I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Of Patience and Cholla

One of my favorite things to do is ride the backcountry on my horse, Nocona. I love exploring the wide open spaces. Also, there are always lessons to be learned or reminders of lessons once learned: parallels that compare riding the trails to life itself. The lessons quite often involve patience—and Jesus coming to the rescue when I fall short.

So went the adventure as Nocona and I rode merrily down the trail. I glanced at his feet as we rode a precarious part of the path. Seriously, Nocona? Do you need to walk on the edge? I gently cued him with my legs and hands to move him over to a safer part of the trail. He fought me on it. Frustrated, I rolled my spur a bit too energetically on his side. Oh, he listened then! His rump spun around—right into a cholla cactus.

Now, those of you with any experience in the desert with its various array of cacti are probably reading fast to see what happened next. Well, what could have happened and what did happen were two different things ... thank God. Nocona had three bulbs of cholla sticking in his back leg and rump. And yes, he commenced to bucking and kicking, entering us in our own little private rodeo on top of a hill—complete with a cliff. "JESUS HELP ME!" I blurted out.

Immediately, Nocona stopped in mid-air, landed, and calmly stood as I dismounted—like nothing was stuck in him at all! Looking around, I saw no trees to tie him to (only cactus—and that wasn't happening). So, pointing him straight ahead, I stepped back to his flank and rummaged through my saddlebag for my trail gloves. You've got to be kidding me—where are my trail gloves? I never leave home without those. Great.

Have you ever been up close and personal with a cholla and its lovely, long, needle-sharp barbs? If so, I bet you're cringing right now—so was I. But there was "nothin' for it" but to cowgirl-up, grab hold, and pull. Surprisingly (and a miracle), I hardly felt it, and the cholla bulb came out easier than expected. Nocona kicked out a couple of times, but they all came out with no problem.

After all was said and done, I realized we stood in the only clearing—no cactus or rocks—and on the only part of the trail my horse could safely "break in two" (as we call it) and not be in serious trouble.

Thank you, Jesus, for your ever so patient heart (and Your angels who had to be standing there holding my horse)!

 "The Lord is good, a stronghold in the day of trouble; and He knows those who trust in Him”—Nahum 1:7

Saturday, July 30, 2016

Warrior Walking

I can still see him standing in the middle of our friend’s driveway—a slight man, wearing loafers, Levi’s, and a pale blue shirt. A quiet man, but his voice rang with authority as he shared his street stories. Anthony Francis Monroe—Tony.

Dangerous enough on a good day, this former law enforcement officer patrolled the gang-infested Central California streets. One day, while driving through the city, God gave him a vision for a ministry that would challenge every area of his life: a mind picture of riding horseback down the Fresno streets, ministering the Gospel of Jesus Christ to the different gangs. 

He’d never been on a horse and had no money to get one. But God’s “still, small voice” encouraged him, “Don’t worry how you will do it, I will make it happen.” 

He stepped out in faith and Cross and Horse Ministry was born. He mounts up with cowboy hat, boots, sturdy saddle bags carrying Bibles and necessities, and hits the streets with one of his ministry team: Grace, a 2000 pound Clydesdale mare (age 15) ; Lilly, a Paint/Quarter Horse mare (age 15); and Rex, a Belgian gelding (age 16).  Gumby (age 24), a Thoroughbred, and Cinnamon both served faithfully for many years and are now retired. 

Tony’s powerful stories of God’s interaction, power, protection, and grace will encourage you. I know they have me and continue to do so …

“But whoever listens to me will dwell safely,
and will be secure, without fear of evil.” (Proverbs 1:33)

In ministering to gangs on the streets of Fresno, I first had to learn the principles of walking with God based on Ephesians 6.

One night, I encountered a man who threatened me and my horse, Grace (a 2000 pound Clydesdale) with bodily harm.  “Leave now!” the Lord commanded me.  That surprised me because God has never told me to leave a threatening situation. 

As I rode away, God got in my face saying, “You haven’t been praying or in my Word (the Bible) as you should.  You’ve been just going through the motions. YOU’D BETTER GET OVER THAT QUICK!”  I was under strong conviction, knowing He was right. I quickly repented and started praying and getting in His Word as if my life and that of my horse depended on it.

Three days later I encountered five older gang members who were smoking ‘crack’.  They also deal drugs.  They threatened I would get shot if I didn’t leave.  This time the outcome was different as I stood boldly on God’s Word.  God’s presence was there.

I don’t carry weapons when I am ministering on horseback.

For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart. (Hebrews 4:12)

Around midnight, I returned from ministering in a certain neighborhood and rode my horse, Cinnamon down a dark street.  Across the street, three gang members attempted to steal something out of the back of a pickup truck.  I yelled, “What’s up?”

“Don’t put your nose where it doesn’t belong or you’re going to get X’d out {killed}!” the older of the three yelled back.

“When I was seventeen-years-old, I asked Jesus Christ into my life, and He is right here with me now,” I countered.

They turned and faced me.  Slowly they approached, walking side-by-side.  “We don’t believe in God,” they sneered.

I started quoting scriptures from the Bible where God promises protection.  They came up to the horse, putting their hands in their shirts as if they each had a gun.  “We don’t believe in God or the Bible,” the older gang member repeated. “If you don’t get off our streets, you’re going to be X’d out!”

I remembered what Jesus had told His disciples when a “mountain” stood in their way. “In the Name of Jesus, LEAVE NOW!” I commanded.

Still, they threatened with their hands in their shirts. I side-stepped my horse, quickly coming up behind them. “Leave, in Jesus Name!” I commanded again.

Cursing and threatening, they spun around to face me once more.  But they slowly stepped back, and I followed them.  They backed up all the way to the next street.  And for the last time I commanded, “In Jesus Name, leave!”  They disappeared into the darkness, still threatening.
As I turned Cinnamon to leave, I thanked the Lord for His faithfulness to His Word.

Two weeks later, I was ministering again on Cinnamon and rode down an alley. That older gang member approached me again.  But this time his attitude had completely changed. “I’m sorry for threatening you the other night,” he apologized. “We were on drugs that night.  And anytime you need to preach at me … preach.”

These are just a few of many stories of the Cross and Horse Ministry over the last twenty-four years.

“Because he has set his love upon Me, therefore I will deliver him; I will set him on high, because he has known My name.” (Psalm 91:14)

Saturday, June 25, 2016

To Judge or Not To Judge?

It’s interesting how a Facebook post, a road sign, or someone’s general comment sparks one’s motivation into a full-blown, in-depth Bible study.  This particular spark came from a Facebook post and inspired my husband, Bruce, into the following research. 

There is a trend infiltrating a lot of churches today. It could be labelled, “We don’t judge!”  Well, if you've happened across this little confusing mantra, I encourage you to read on.  I know this study set things pretty straight for me …

Guest Post by Bruce Repka:

Let us not therefore judge one another any more: but judge this rather, that no man put a stumbling block or an occasion to fall in his brother's way. - Romans 14:13

And this I pray, that your love may abound yet more and more in knowledge and in all judgment; - Philippians 1:9

Are these two verses in opposition to one another? Is this a scriptural contradiction? Absolutely not. Are we, as the church, to judge or not to judge? Are we to use godly judgement, biblical judgement, or are we to live and let live allowing in the church a mindset of "anything goes?" 

To answer these questions we must first have an understanding of the definition of the word “judge."

The word “judge" found in Romans 14:13 is the greek word 2919 krino  which means to distinguish, i.e. decide (mentally or judicially); by implication, to try, condemn, punish:--avenge, conclude, condemn, damn, decree, determine, esteem, judge, go to (sue at the) law, ordain, call in question, sentence to, think.

The word "judgement" found in Philippians 1:9 is the greek word 144 aisthesis = perception, i.e. (figuratively) discernment:--judgment. 

This word has it's foundations in the greek word 143 aisthanomai of uncertain derivation; to apprehend (properly, by the senses):--perceive.

Then we also have a form of the word "judge" in 1 Corinthians 14:29 - "Let the prophets speak two or three, and let the other judge."

This word "judge" is the greek word 1252 diakrino; to separate thoroughly, i.e. (literally and reflexively) to withdraw from, or (by implication) oppose; figuratively, to discriminate (by implication, decide), or (reflexively) hesitate:--contend, make (to) differ(-ence), discern, doubt, judge, be partial, stagger, waver.

This word also has it's foundations in the greek word 2919 krino (see above)

So in summary, we can biblically define the word "judge" as meaning the following:

distinguish, decide, conclude, decree, determine, esteem, call in question, think, perception, discernment, separate thoroughly. 

OR: try, condemn, punish:--avenge, condemn, damn, sentence to, discriminate.

These are two groups of very different definitions. All these words are translated from the original greek to the english word “judge."

Therefore,  each use of the word "judge" in scripture must be examined and defined in CONTEXT as a whole of what is being said. If we resort to a conclusion that we as the church, disciples of Jesus Christ, must NEVER judge, then that would mean that we would never be allowed to call into question, decide, think, perceive or discern. If we are to never discern, that would mean we would have to reject and ignore the Holy Spirit, as "discerning of spirits" is a gift and anointing of the Holy Spirit.

If we are not to decide, discern or call into question, then that would mean there are many instances given in scripture that we will have to ignore and remove from our midst. Instructions and scriptures such as the following:

Let the prophets speak two or three, and let the other judge.
I Corinthians 14:29

If we are to not properly judge prophecy, that would mean we as the church would have to tolerate and accept any false prophet and false prophecy in our midst simply because there is no longer a standard to think, discern, perceive or call into question anything that is uttered by any so-called "prophet" or false prophet who "prophesies" in the name of the Lord. We would no longer require the lens of scripture in which to view and/or confirm or decide who among us is a true prophet of God or a charlatan. 

Sadly, this is already happening and has been happening in much of the "church."

Secondly, if we turn off and do away with godly, scriptural judgement, then we have to ignore biblical instructions such as the following:

Them that sin rebuke before all, that others also may fear. - 1 Timothy 5:20

Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all long-suffering and doctrine. - II Timothy 4:2

This witness is true. Wherefore rebuke them sharply, that they may be sound in the faith; - Titus 1:13

These things speak, and exhort, and rebuke with all authority. Let no man despise thee. - Titus 2:15

For if we would judge ourselves, we should not be judged. - 1 Corinthians 11:31

First cast out the beam out of thine own eye; and then shalt thou see clearly to cast out the mote out of thy brother's eye. - Matthew 7:5

And thou hast tried them which say they are apostles, and are not, and hast found them liars: - Revelation 2:2

Without Godly, scriptural "judgement" (discernment, perception, thinking, distinguishing, calling into question) then the church can no longer:

1. Rebuke
2. Recognize and deal with sin
3. Enforce sound doctrine
4. Apply biblical correction
5. Deal with sin in our own lives
6. Set those free who are held in the destructive grips of sin
7. Test and try deceiving spirits
8. Be the church

The flip side of "judgment" is to try, condemn, punish, damn, sentence, discriminate.

This form of judgement is the judgement of God, which we must leave up to Him. This is not to say that we do not warn those and try to save those who are headed toward destruction. But if we are to no longer "judge" in any sense of the word, then we can no longer warn anyone of the impending destruction they are headed towards. Because, no longer discerning, perceiving or thinking—everyone is OK. There is no longer a biblical standard for what being a "Christian" is. It's "anything goes." Whatever works for you is fine with the church and with God. There is no condemnation for those in Christ. It doesn't matter if we walk after the flesh or the spirit. After all, what did those archaic scribes of scripture know anyway?

Congratulations, church. This is exactly where we are today. We no longer talk about and deal with sin. We no longer use our discernment, think with our own minds, call into question unbiblical practices and doctrines, perceive wrong teaching and wrong spirits. We no longer conclude that there are false prophets among us, false spirits in our midst, those who are offering "strange fire" and leading many astray. Yes, the infiltration of the politically correct doctrine of "no judgment" whatsoever has escorted much of the church into an apostate, drunken, fallen, lukewarm, unrepentant, defiled, miserable state. 

Jesus has stood at the door knocking, but we esteem the tickling of our ears and therefore refuse to let Him in. We refuse to be rebuked and chastened and therefore allow all manner of sin and leaven in the camp. We dare not let the Bible get in our way of what we believe. We are proud of our preaching of a different gospel, a different Jesus and a salvation without repentance, transformation and sanctification. After all, we have "evolved" and are so much more "spiritual" than those whose examples we read of in the book of Acts who walked with and were taught by Jesus. We gladly accept, promote and anoint for service those who love their sin and refuse to repent. We unashamedly hang onto mantra's such as "don't judge me because I sin differently than you." 

Sadly, much of the church are comfortable being slaves to sin as we proudly and desperately cling to our Romans 7 way of life. 

What then? shall we sin, because we are not under the law, but under grace? God forbid. Know ye not, that to whom ye yield yourselves slaves to obey, his slaves ye are to whom ye obey; whether of sin unto death, or of obedience unto righteousness? - Romans 6:15-16

Jesus answered them, “Verily, verily, I say unto you, Whosoever committeth sin is the slave of sin. And the slave abideth not in the house for ever: but the Son abideth ever. If the Son therefore shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed.” - John 8:34-36

The failure to understand and properly judge within the church has really revolutionized, enlightened and liberated the Body of Christ, don't ya think?

(Copyright 2016 -

Monday, June 20, 2016

Clouds Without Rain

‘These are spots in your love feasts, while they feast with you without fear, serving only themselves. They are clouds without water {rain}, carried about by the winds; late autumn trees without fruit, twice dead, pulled up by the roots;’-Jude 1:12

I stared at the clouds, praying their blackness would oblige us and dump some much needed rain.  The red-orange glow of lightning-ignited fires ate up the surrounding mountainsides.  Dust mixed with smoke choked the long valley where we rode as we moved cattle up the Payette River.  

Why weren’t those clouds cooperating?  They meandered and accumulated, taunting us They had every look of a rain cloud, but they withheld any moisture. 

We left the cows at the salt blocks as the clouds drifted away and dissipated over the distant mountains, leaving behind frustration and haze.

“Clouds without rain” trailed through my thoughts, and I suddenly realized what that Bible verse meant—to understand the frustration of hope diverted.  I pondered the destruction of people’s lives around me: a heroine addict here, a grieving parent there, a lonely divorcee over yonder, and hopelessness abounded, driven by fear.

The common thread weaving its way through the desolation was a disillusionment of God. Where is He?  They had searched all the “normal” places but found nothing … no love, no answers. Oh, they found a semblance of spirituality in the folks they met, but nothing of substance.

As one rides along, there sure is time to ponder.  And I pondered.  Profound, disturbing questions pelted my thoughts as Nocona’s hooves pounded the sand:

Are we just too busy with our everyday lives to offer the hope within us, helping the hurting who stagger across our path? Are we too busy playing church, to go be the church?

Or, do we trip over the troubled as we lunge in a flesh-feeding frenzy, grabbing gold dust and jewels falling from a false heaven?

Are we as Believers in Jesus Christ living the Great Commission as Jesus’ hands and feet—healing the sick, casting out demons, raising the dead … binding up the broken-hearted? 

As I rode, I checked my own “gear”: When people observe my life, do they see God’s Word walking? Or do they hear a bunch of yammering and spiritual platitudes?—A cloud that should be full of rain, but void of any life-giving moisture? (I like asking myself the tough questions when I’m riding in God’s awesome creation—I can digest the hard questions a lot easier!)
(“Search me, O God, and know my heart: try me, and know my thoughts; And see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.”- Psalm 139:23-24).

David’s prayer is a bit scary, really.  Deep down, we all want to think that what we’ve chosen to believe is right—that we have a corner on the spiritual market. However, the truth is simply this: we are all growing and learning in this journey we call life.  But our learning better be coming from “rightly dividing the word of truth” in God’s Word through the Holy Spirit.  And when the Lord in His love and grace reveals a hitch-in-the-get-along in our lives, we’d best be swallowing our pride and humbly fixing it (2 Timothy 2:15).

Nocona and I rode out of the river bottom and up the bluff, joining the rest of the crew. And I determined to always be that refreshing “rain” to those the Lord brings across my path, as a faithful representative of Jesus Christ.

As with everything in life, the lack of rain was temporary.  A couple of days later, the wind kicked up, and other clouds appeared. But this time they emptied themselves on that thirsty soil. As the land greedily gulped in the moisture, the dust settled and the smoke cleared. And I breathed deeply the cool, fresh air.

(Copyright 2016 All Rights Reserved.) 

Saturday, May 21, 2016

Don't Lose Heart

Analogies of life are everywhere, popping up inconspicuously in the norm of everyday doings. But if we're watchful, we catch that encouragement of God’s ‘still small voice’ as he helps us along our trail. Here's an inspiring one that revealed itself as we helped a friend work her family's cattle in the hills of California:

And let us not grow weary while doing good, for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart.—Galatians 6:9

Bruce rode down to the flat, and I rode up into the hills. Branding and vaccinating were the order of the day as we worked with other volunteers to help gather cattle for a friend. Sometimes we rode fast and hard to head off mavericks that didn’t have a hankerin’ to get corralled, but eventually we got them herded in the right direction.  

As Bruce and I calmly drove all the cows, calves and the bull into the holding pen, the others worked the gates and stood ready by the chute.  Riding nice and slow, we then helped our friend sort the cows, moving them one by one into the alleyway that led toward the chute.  

But an ole bossy-cow had other ideas.  One minute we thought we had her convinced, next minute she’d wheel around and plow through us like a freight train and scatter the other cows. She knew no fear, nor mercy. But we regrouped and tried again.

With a fair amount of patience, we finally got her moving toward the alleyway—and we smelled victory. Suddenly the air exploded with shouts and mayhem—the gate-guy left his post to play “cowboy.”  Wild arms waved through the air as shouts of, “Hey, Hey, Hey!” and “Aaaaaah!” (along with a various sundry of other animated communication) ripped through the air like fireworks. Instantly, a sea of swirling cows surrounded us.

With jaws dropped, we watched all our work circle the drain. Our friend (the boss) quickly stepped in and quenched the fireworks, sending Gate-guy with tucked tail back to his post.

We had to start all over with that cow, along with quieting the herd. To say we were a bit annoyed would be putting it mildly. We took a deep breath, however, and swung our horses around, determined not to give up and lose sight of our goal.

It took some time, but every cow was finally vaccinated and branded, and we cut them loose into their world of pastures and freedom, in health and security. 

As I relaxed on my horse, watching happy cows, I grinned at the analogy that played out that day.  We live in dangerous and discouraging times, no question.  Distractions in every way shape and form are lurking everywhere ready to ambush our peace and purpose. 

But no matter what, we must never lose our focus of what Jesus has called us to do, and the grace that He gives. There are those in desperate need of the care and security only He can bring.  And He has commissioned us, His people, to help bring them home to Him.

(Luke 4:18-19—“The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me, because He has anointed Me to preach the gospel to the poor; He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed; To proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord.”)

(Copyright 2016 All Rights Reserved.) 

*Exciting announcement!* Walk Like a Warrior: Inspirational True Stories of God's Encouragement on the Trail Less-Traveled is now available in print and Kindle editions through Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and the WestBow Press bookstore.

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Welcome to my first blog post!

At long last I’m launching myself into the blogosphere. So, how about some encouragement throughout your month? Welcome to my blog: Trail Tails. The way I figure it, we all need to be encouraged in this daily adventure we call life.  I, personally, love stories about how God shows up in our everyday lives, helping us along our trail.  And I love to laugh.
My life is fairly interesting.  My husband, Bruce and I sing Christian Country music and sing/minister all over the western United States.  We’ve been living on the road full-time in our living quarters horse trailer for about nine years. Needless to say, we and our two horses, Rocky and Nocona (aka The Boys) have had many adventures.  Some of those stories I’ve compiled in a book, Walk Like A Warrior: Inspirational true stories of God’s encouragement on the trail less-traveled (available on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, etc.). And still other stories have been sold to magazines. I also enjoy sharing the stories of others.

I invite you to enjoy my blog with its adventures (ours and others) and the pictures. I also welcome your input: Have a question? I’ll be quick to answer (If I don’t, you’ll know we’re galavanting around the backcountry and returning with more stories.);  Or, have a bit of constructive criticism? I’ll don my thick skin with “ears up.”

I picked this first story because I just felt it would be an encouragement to many that, in God’s eyes, you always matter.  And thanks for hanging out with me for awhile.

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)  

Stay tuned for another adventure …

(Copyright 2016 All Rights Reserved.)