Challenged by a Book
By Betsy Kelleher
I’m reading a new book, Discipleship with Horses, Journey of Joy, by Lynn Baber. I wanted to read it the moment I saw the title. I bought it on Amazon, planning to read it on the plane while my husband and I traveled to Colorado to visit his daughter. I haven’t finished it yet, but I want to share a piece of the joy now, and I hope to share a more thorough review next month.
I’ve never met Lynn, but she read my book, Sometimes a Woman Needs a Horse, and we have had email and Facebook contact. She had been a World and National Champion breeder and trainer, now retired from that to become director of the Amazing Grays Ministry. I once asked her advice regarding Lady’s fear of tractors and big trucks.
Discipleship with Horses is the third book of a trilogy. The first of her series, Amazing Grays, Amazing Grace, was inspired by Bo and Swizzle, two gray quarter horses. He Came Looking for Me was next, a story of rescuing a horse named Shiner.
The Author’s Note says this new book was to help me “claim Jesus’ promise of peace, joy and freedom from fear today.” If only she knew how much I needed that very thing! But God knew. After almost fifty years of being a Christian, I am still a fearful person. I’m thankful God is still working on me. The night before our flight, I was an emotional wreck! I worried about leaving a precious dog, a horse, and a messy home with all the things I hadn’t finished. What if I didn’t come back? I worried about the flight itself, and this was before the second Malaysian plane incident! It took a double strength sleep aid to help me relax, plus a wonderful foot rub from my thoughtful hubby!
And then, there I was, sitting by a window seat of a rather small jet that held 70 passengers, 36,000 feet up in the air, looking down on a spotted landscape of white fluffy clouds over a lower landscape of distant ground below, with fields and lines and circles, and a clear deep blue above everything. It was an excellent moment to consider the issue of trust—trust in an airplane, a pilot and weather, and trust in a God who ultimately holds each one of us in His Sovereign hand. I am smart enough to know that things sometimes happen, and we don’t always get what we want. We must learn to accept God’s will and trust His purpose.
Lynn is not one to water down a message. She speaks the truth from Scripture with certainty. Discipleship with Horses was full of reminders of my own experiences which should have taught me plenty! At first, I was discouraged at not having the confidence that Lynn seems to have. But the more I read, the more I felt challenged to become a more confident Christian—and a more confident leader for my Lady.
Lynn begins with the question, what is the “journey of joy”? She ends the first chapter with this: “What could be more blessed than to walk each day in true delight?”
Her book is full of various issues that concern not only the leadership of horses, but the followership of Christians. I was happy to see many similar ideas that I tried to convey in my own book, ten years ago. Being different people, we express the same issues in different words. Sometimes it’s good to hear different words. It makes you think. For many years, I have struggled with the issue of Lordship. At times, I have been able to bow in submission. But like my Lady, I do have a will of my own, and God gives us freedom of choice. I can’t say all my choices have fit with God’s will.
Lynn’s words contain a heavy challenge. She claims that a “transformative relationship” will give our horses confidence in our leadership, just as it will give us confidence in our Lord. I’ve written about that very thing, words that I wanted to believe. Did I believe with total certainty? I realize now that sometimes we don’t go far enough to actually experience what we believe!
Sometimes I found myself trying to connect the dots—what did this sentence have to do with discipleship? And as I read further, I began to see it. Lynn’s book is not a fast read. It contains challenges that will cause you to think about your own beliefs and actions. Quite often, we say things or we think we know things until something happens and we are humbled by our uncertainty and scared by the reality of our insecurity.
I know I am not as committed as I should be. Is anyone? Or does it only look that way from the outside? How serious am I? Someone once told me, “God means business!” In the end, it only matters how real and deep is the relationship between you and God. Sometimes life events or painful times cause us to lose focus. God often sends reminders. We need to take time to listen while we can.
Our flight to Aspen had a stopover in Denver, putting us into a different plane, different pilot, different crew. And flying over the mountains each way gave a few bouncy moments. At one point coming home, the plane suddenly dropped several inches. The pilot apologized over the intercom and told us to keep our seat belts buckled. I began to correlate this flight with life itself. We must learn to accept the bumps and rough spots and hang on. Flying over mountains is often rough, but people still fly and arrive safely at their destination. We must trust God that we will arrive safely. And we did. I realize that there are exceptions. And I need to accept God’s will whatever it is. Can I do that?
The way we care for our horses, the way we train them and work with them, might say something about our relationship with our own Master. I want to share a sentence from Lynn’s book: “As long as the object of its faith is present, fear is not necessary.” That was the turning point for me. I suddenly realized that my own fears were not necessary, as long as I had the awareness of God’s Presence in my life, trusting in His care. When I get too busy, or too anxious, I lose focus on the One who walks beside me. I feel alone and afraid. The answer is simple, but it takes my commitment and my consistent focus, to spend time with Him who is my strength and my peace. We know that we should constantly ask for a horse to focus attention on what we are doing. Can you see the correlation?
Less than 100 pages into Lynn’s book, and I already have felt a challenge to move closer to the Source of my confidence. I am glad I bought her book. On page 95, she writes: “Christians secure in Christ are not undone by the trials and hardships of living in the world.” Now that I’m home again, I am spending more time alone, sitting by the lake, seeking His Presence. And I suddenly want to work with Lady again and take another step toward the goal. I want to experience more joy!
(Originally published in the August 2014 issue of the Illinois Horse Network)