Over the Cattle Guard…

Recently, I spent a few days on a working horse ranch in the roughed hill country of Texas. As my husband and I begin a three-month sabbatical — our first in 15 years — we decided to begin by each taking a week to separate and draw near to God. Just six days. And I have to say it was time well spent.

Every day something profound sparked my spirit and rejuvenated my heart and soul during this time set apart for God alone. I discovered anew that my Father does hover close to me when I seek Him diligently.

I spent one day in fasting away from the ranch. The path leading out of the big house is marked by two cattle guards, one smaller than the other. I found myself singing, “Over the cattle guard and through the woods to Abba’s house I go… ” — a throw back from my childhood Thanksgiving memories. Most American children share this song memory.

I chuckled to myself as I crossed over those steel planks into the woods, because my heavenly Father’s house is located outside. He created it all…. so the sky became my ceiling, and the sun my lamp, a stone my sofa, and a shady tree my napping spot.

My backpack, filled with water, Gatorade, pens, journal, letters from home, Bible studies, and Bible grew heavy before I cleared the widely spaced metal beams and the gate that led into the wilderness. I wondered how I could last to the end of the day. Already! I also remembered someone saying that once a blind woman crossed the cattle guard alone and with her eyes closed to demonstrate to the seeing that it just takes faith.

And she was right; it did take faith. Not just to cross over, into the woods and to Abba’s house, but it took trust to find the right spot to camp and draw near to him. This required some time and stretched my belief that it was worth it, but I pressed on.

I am not an outdoors kind of gal. Thirty minutes in the natural elements is a stretch for me, and that is under an umbrella next to a pool!

But I did find a place to camp in Abba’s big outdoor house, and I settled in to pray, read, and most importantly hear. I sat under this huge tree and listened to the wind.

I wasn’t there long because I camped at different spots, but I fell in love with this patch of heaven. I marveled at the branches and leaves, the roughness of the bark and trunk. I rubbed my hands over the texture and imagined how it protects the tree against the elements, and how it must be peeled off if the tree becomes utilitarian in some way, e.g., paper, furniture, firewood, arrows, and the list goes on. How necessary the bark in the wide open spaces of Abba’s house and how unnecessary in its usefulness for man.

So many moments from my childhood came back to me that day. The howling, chilly, and relentless, early morning wind reminded me of John 3 which I memorized as a child. “The wind bloweth where it listeth but thou canst tell whence it cometh or whither it goeth, so is everyone who is born of the spirit” [John 3:8]. I have always adored this verse just for the Shakespearean language. And I always pondered its meaning.

A measure of its depth came home to me in Abba’s big living room — truly my life is not my own. I may come and go like the wind as I obey my Lord’s instructions which become the destiny of my life’s calling. I realized afresh that I just can’t explain to all those around, family and friends, obligations that God alone requires of me. I may appear flakey like the wind which rises and dies down in a puff and a flurry. The outcome of my obedience is left to God.

The wind will not be restrained or captured. That’s how I want to be in my obedience to God — unstoppable.

A red-breasted bird became my closest companion. He stuck with me all day, chirping and flitting from tree to tree. Sometimes he walked on the ground, pecking around for food. I enjoyed him so much.

I will never see a red-breasted bird and not think about my Savior’s blood shed for me. The constancy of that bird hanging with me all day began to show me in the most simple way how constant God is to me and how continual His atoning work in my life. Isn’t it funny — sometimes the foundational things  become the most profound when you draw near to God and take stock of life.

Another childhood song came to mind that day, “There is a fountain filled with blood, drawn from Immanuel’s veins, and sinners plunge beneath the flood lose all their guilty stains.” To those who do not know the power of redemption, this song seems like it was written by someone from an insane asylum. “… fountain filled with blood… ?”

This day of fasting became about separating the priceless from the good — the good from the vile. In counting life’s most cherished aspects, salvation tops the list. A new thanksgiving welled up in my heart for the enormity of God’s grace in my life. I remembered the fountain at the ranch’s front door, overflowing with water. It became my lasting memory of that fount of blood that cleanses me.

The day ended with a list I wrote covering the important moments in my life. I began to trace my journey and praise spilled over in my heart as I built new altars at each point — thanking God for his guidance, provision, and plan. I brushed tears away as I wrote pages and pages of memories of how God had lead my life from event to event, place to place, person to person, and country to country… how he had orchestrated it all beginning to end.

I am so glad that I crossed over the cattle guard and went into the woods to Abba’s house… I found God there — the Author and Finisher of my faith. He is at the first and in the middle and intertwined all between. He is the story and the reason. I learned to rediscover the foundations and to embrace and cherish them anew. I relearned just how profound the basics really are. They don’t just get you through, they get you through with graee. The foundations are there for a reason, and in all seasons of life, I must never take them for granted.

And I had to cross over the cattle guard once again to go back to the ranch… the door  that led inside to a shower and clean clothes… well it opened wide for me… sweet!


7 thoughts on “Over the Cattle Guard…

  1. Excellent!

    What a precious commodity–spending time alone in this manner with God. Truly got you back to the basics sounds like 🙂 We should all follow your lead!

    Thanks again for pouring out your heart 🙂

  2. Bonnie. Many years ago when Karen & the girls were on summer vacation from Shady Grove Academy. They took the tome to vacation at my parents lake house, but I had a respite. I read a book that profoundly touched my heart. A Severe Mercy by Stanley Vanauken. I became very homesick for Karen & the girls. It is a beautifully sad book about cherishing our loved ones yet knowing that we stand alone in our relationship with our heavenly Father. Like a three-fold cord we relate to our Lord, our loved ones, and ourselves.

  3. Frank, I always appreciate your thoughts. I love that book! It has been long time since I have read it. Yes, we work out our own salvations all alone.

    Bonnie

  4. A Severe Mercy by Sheldon Vanauken. Back in the early 80’s Karen & the girls went to spend several weeks with my parents at Hideaway Lake close to Tyler. I stayed home to work and read the above book. It’s autobiographical about his life with Davey and how she died and he came to God…including letters to friend CS Lewis. Not sure but I cried buckets missing my family. I talked to Karen and the girls by phone. Solitude made my heart fonder!

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