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The Challenge of Discipleship

The Challenge of Discipleship

By Betsy Kelleher

    When Lynn Baber told me about her new book, Discipleship with Horses, Journey of Joy, I was eager to read it! It was the third book of a trilogy, however, and I suddenly realized I had not read her first two—which I’m embarrassed to admit since I have known Lynn (online) for some time. I had even asked her for advice a few years ago about how to fix Lady’s fear of big trucks and tractors.

     Lynn left a career in the business world to launch her Amazing Grays Ministry, retiring as a World and National Champion breeder and trainer. She writes and teaches Christian Horse Training—“the process of creating transformative relationship between human and horse that produces faith strong enough to banish fear and mirrors the journey you share with Jesus Christ.” Remember that word: transformative.

     Lynn’s first book was Amazing Grays, Amazing Grace, a book that links scripture to the round pen, introducing the promise of God’s grace. Her second book was He Came Looking for Me, a story of the rescue of a horse named Shiner, proving the truth of the promise.

     I must admit I wanted to compare Discipleship with Horses to my own book, Sometimes a Woman Needs a Horse, in which I explored the parallels of Christian discipleship and horse training principles. Lynn read my book and posted a review on Amazon, which I was pleased to add to my revised second edition!

     I measure a book by how it affects me. Discipleship with Horses measured high on my scale, as it challenged my relationship with horses as well as with God. Beyond the book’s message of truth, I was surprised how that message related to where I was sitting while reading it!

     I was in an airport, waiting for our flight to Colorado to visit my husband’s daughter, when I began reading. The author’s note said this book should help me “claim Jesus’ promise of peace, joy and freedom from fear!” And here I was, soon to board a plane, with a strong case of nervous FEAR!

     And then I was sitting by a window of a rather small jet with 70 passengers, 36,000 feet up in an endless blue sky, looking down on a spotted landscape of white fluffy clouds covering very distant earth below. In spite of the awesome scenery, this was an excellent situation in which to consider the issue of trust—trust in the plane, the pilot, the weather, and trust in the God who ultimately holds each one of us in His almighty hand! But I was struggling to find that freedom from fear.

     Flying over mountains is not a smooth ride. Besides normal turbulence, we experienced a few sudden drops! I found myself comparing the flight with life itself, trying to accept the rough spots, to hang on and trust a Higher Power. People still fly in airplanes, I told myself, and they arrive at their destination. I got halfway through Lynn’s book during our trip. Then life’s events got in the way, until I made time to recently finish my reading.  

     For years, I have read Lynn’s online comments with a secret disbelief. She says a horse’s fear is diminished through its faith in a worthy leader. Even though I mentioned something similar in my own book, I lost much of that confidence after one experience with Lady’s ability to spin. Perhaps this book is just what I needed, since it is all about being a worthy leader that my horse can trust.   

     One sentence stood out as I read, “As long as the object of its faith is present, fear is not necessary.” So if I am with Lady, she shouldn’t be afraid? In spite of my skepticism, I remember a few times when it worked that way. And then I asked myself, “Would my own fears subside if I was more aware of God’s Presence?

     Lynn mentions that telling Jesus “no” isn’t so difficult if you aren’t that close. Same with a horse. But when there is an intimate, personal relationship, everything changes! Haven’t we heard the importance of relationship from almost every book, every clinician? Have we been listening? Do we really understand?

     She summarizes horse training in simple terms. For example, a horse that says no is either unable or unwilling. Simply determine which one applies. As a horse learns to trust its human, obedience becomes automatic. “Reflexive obedience,” Lynn calls it. She also says, “Christians secure in Christ are not undone by the trials and hardships of living in the world.” How I wish I could fit that statement! Much of my life has been a struggle with uncertainty. I admire Lynn’s conviction.

          Lynn doesn’t water down her message. I hate that, because then I have to deal with its truth. When she asked if I give God as much attention as I want from my horse, she had me! “Time spent alone with God in His word and in prayer is the foundation for faith strong enough to defeat fear.” Another challenge—and at the same time, a solution. “Christians should be fearless, because the power of God has no limit.” I agree, but I’m still working on the fearless part.

     What a book says to me may not speak the same to another reader. Like Scripture, it speaks what ears are ready to hear. There is a tremendous volume of inspiring information within these pages! As I read words that touched the deeper places of my heart and soul, I shed tears. But as I considered my recent insecurity, Lynn seemed to answer my unspoken question. Yes, we sometimes have life events that distract or cause a disconnection. We get off the path. The loss of a son knocked me down for awhile. But faithful God keeps pulling us back, reminding us of His love and His power. Lynn wrote, “I will not fail the horse by letting it keep its place of insecurity; I simply work on earning the horse’s focus and trust.” And I knew in my heart that God was telling me He would do the same for me.  

     Lynn says a Christian’s fear is based on one of two things: either you are afraid God can’t handle the situation, or you are afraid that God won’t handle it the way you want Him to. I knew that I fit the second category. Speaking of the transformative relationship, the emphasis of Christian Horse Training, Lynn writes, “Your commitment and ability to lead will eventually free your horse from its hidden fears just as the Holy Spirit will for you.” I took note that she used the word “eventually” not ”promptly.”

     We must go beyond basking in the comfort and security of God’s love. There is a war going on with the evil of the world, and we who know God’s love and comfort must learn to also trust His power. We can become tools in His hand, to do good and to fight the evil around us, only when we fully trust in His ability to enable us.

     I’d like to add two more reasons to read Discipleship with Horses. If anyone has a horse that is spoiled or difficult, Lynn tells how she worked with a certain paint gelding, taking small steps to slowly build his faith in her—replacing fear with confidence, making obedience easy. And on page 269, there is a section on “what to do when what you’re doing isn’t working.” Lynn’s book is full of thought-provoking statements, challenges and truths. It is not a fast, easy read. But it offers tremendous help for anyone serious about learning.

(Originally published in the October 2014 issue of the Illinois Horse Network)

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