Several years ago, a woman told me about an equine therapy clinic she’d attended. Sounded more like human therapy to me. That’s often the way it is with horses, though. They teach us more about ourselves than the other way around. Anyway, she shared how she’d learned that women tend to pick horses with similar characteristics as the men they choose for romantic partners. I couldn’t quite relate to that, as I’ve had a bunch of horses and not one was like the other. This notion did not represent my life’s human relational experience, nor had I considered any shared behaviors between my horses and men. Still, I found our conversation interesting. She went on to say during our barn talk, “If you’ve had an abusive experience, you might select a horse that was all wrong for you, hard-mouthed and running all over you. Stubborn? You’d get a mule.” She slipped a glance at the gelding I had at the time. I think she told me this stuff because I really struggled with that horse. In turn, I squinted at her gigantic black Friesian she referred to as “tall, dark, and handsome.” I hovered over those words. Recalling how I’d used the same expression to describe a character or two in my penned stories, as if that’s the epitome of a good catch; a sort of stereotypical “tall drink of water”. Okay, so she had the perfect horse, I thought. Until she admitted her Freisen was dangerous and she feared to handle her horse, let alone ride him; the reason for her attending the clinic. “Big-hearted man?” she continued. “You’d probably settle for one of those big gentle draft horses or something.” Or something.
I glanced up again at her pushy Friesen. Height doesn’t make the man. Never has. Nor looks. Take a glimpse at 1 Samuel 16:7, when Samuel goes to anoint a new king of Israel. He’s struck by the tall, dark, and handsome appearance of the older of Jesse’s sons. Surely this is the one the Lord would choose. “But the Lord said to Samuel, ‘Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The Lord does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.’”
Much like how the Lord rejects and departs from King Saul, he then chooses this unlikely one to take his place. He’s younger, good-looking in his own right, but not of the stature of his older brother. Called up from the fields, he’s all ruddy-faced from tending sheep. He’s chosen and anointed because of his heart.
When it comes to horses, the two best horses I’d ever had as an adult were the only two that I hadn’t chosen for myself. They were chosen for me. The first was by a friend who was a cutting horse trainer, who called me out of the blue one day and said, “I met your perfect horse. You need to get down here and ride him. I’m serious. I just have this feeling you’re meant to meet this horse.” So I did, and he was right. It was a made-in-heaven partnership that spanned several states, miles of trails, and over twenty years. He was my irreplaceable dream horse. God worked through that situation and people, busy behind the scenes, until we paired up. He let me know when the conditions were right where I could suddenly receive that blessing.
The horse I have right now, well, he wasn’t even for sale when I was looking. In the market again, I searched long for the right horse, but after a string of unpleasant experiences, hazardous test rides, and misleading people, I decided I’d see one more horse, the last straw. I’d driven three hours and at first glance, I knew the horse wasn’t right. I was discouraged. Then, out of nowhere, a stranger’s prompting hunch diverted me to meet a peculiar gelding with unusual, sad circumstances. Long story short, we’ve been together for two years now. He’s become dream horse number two. Yet, the only thing he has in common with my first dream horse is they’re both buckskins. They’re nothing alike, not even the same breed. Getting to know this one has been a learning curve for me. Chico is sensitive and feels deeply. This makes him affectionate, attached, protective, curious—moody sometimes, but he’s also the brother of my heart. That’s how I see him. We’re partners in grime, both like the woods, enjoy time together, and squabble on the rare occasion. He is as honest as they come and he’s my genuine friend. Come to think of it… that ought to be part of the equation in human romantic relationships, honest and genuine friends.
Once again, God had worked out the details and I have this amazing horse I believe he chose for me. I witnessed an unseen arrangement materialize through the circumstances. I love my horse. We’re bonded. Took some time to get there because of history and all, but we’re solid. He’s also the shortest horse I’ve ever had, but I’m short, too. We’re an ideal fit. Again, height means nothing when the heart is bent for good. And he’s thick, substantial… strong. I’m partial to his conformation. He carries me well.
I’m glad I didn’t settle again out of frustration. Settling is never good, frustration either. Wish I learned this long ago in terms of people. Always best to wait on the Lord—who has yet another horse in mind for me. I believe I will one day again enlarge my herd (and I know Chico will appreciate that). Because the Lord has given me a progression of many beautiful, tender dreams about a grey horse, nearly white. I see and hear the word “Hotah” distinctly around this horse. Had to look the word up to learn its meaning. Made me smile. Apparently, it’s of Sioux origin, meaning “grey” or “white.” Appears that this horse will also be very special to me. I anticipate meeting him/her when the time comes. Now that I will trust in the Lord, I don’t mind waiting. He’s always right on time; his timing is perfect.
I guess there were only women at that equine therapy clinic. This notion could equally apply to men. Say you’re a man who has a mare. And in the human relationship characteristics analogy, did you settle and are dealing with the complicated fallout, or did you wait for the right one, the one the Lord intended for you? Your answer might reveal her temperament, whether it’s favorable. If you view this contrary to the world’s standards, then maybe she’s—oh, I don’t know--older. Not at all modelesque, as in tall, svelte, and glamorous… but she’s not unpleasant to look at. Maybe it’s her shining heart that grabbed you. Because she’s devoted—so devoted to you and to the Lord; a runner… after Him, and for your arms. The two of you can accomplish more for the Kingdom and for God’s glory together in this race of life than you could without each other. Hm… I might write this in a story somewhere…
In these observations, whether inimitable or stereotypical, inspired or strange, may you be blessed and nurtured in your pursuit of the King of Kings. Do not settle. Let him choose the things in life for you, especially such important things as relationships (or horses, if you’re also someone who dedicates time to them). And when he chooses you for something or someone… when you’re chosen, you’re more than enough. Because he’s seen your heart. When you’re anointed, you’re more than enough. When you know him, you’re more than enough. He’s made you more than enough. Arise, like David for Israel.
I love to laugh, but look for places where I can find comedy clean. Discovered a family-oriented channel on YouTube called Dry Bar Comedy. I enjoy countless comedians there who I don’t have to worry about dropping the f-bomb or telling off-color jokes… because the Lord has been taking me through a refining process. Convicting me of what I watch, listen to, read, etc. I’ve become more aware that I might be exposing my spirit to things, images, messages, sounds I probably shouldn’t. This is true for me, especially with music. I am swayed by music and I love certain bands, especially nu-metal bands, but the language, topics, veins, have come to the forefront. Holy Spirit is tapping me on the shoulder, saying, “maybe it’s time to clean this up.” It’s a bit painful, but I don’t want to leave any doors or windows open for the enemy to get a foot in or influence me in any way that is away from Jesus. Don’t want to saturate my spirit with anything but him and the renderings of people who also call him theirs (Christian metal bands, for instance). As I’ve scrutinized the things that I subject myself to, Dry Bar Comedy has made the cut.
But even on Dry Bar Comedy, I’ve noticed an awful lot of deprecating comparisons between men and women. Maybe this has always been a go-to spiel for a lot of comedians; I’ve just grown more sensitive to the contrasts which also feel like judgements. Bits on the male/female relational differences occur often, and they’re making me uncomfortable. They have me wondering why men and women even hook up if they so viciously misunderstand each other. Then I heard someone (not on Dry Bar) the other day say, “If men didn’t need sex, and didn’t find women so rrrr” (insert tongue-rolling purr), “I don’t think men would hang out with women.” My jaw dropped. I shook my head and was like: Did you really just say that?
I like motorcycles. They’re cool. I’ve ridden my own bikes; have maintained my endorsement since the 1990s. To be honest, though, I best enjoy riding in tandem. Haven’t in a long time, but that’s another story that will beg to be told one day. Anyway, I often have viewed riding in tandem, pillion, two-up, whichever term you prefer, as a light and lovely analogy of a male/female relationship. A dictionary term describes tandem as “two people or pieces of equipment that work together to achieve a result.” Here is where I envision the man's role as initiator, leader of church and family—and bikes (or trikes, which are way growing on me). A protector, provider, defender, driver. He’s a skilled rider, will assure safety to the best of his ability. And I see the woman’s role as supportive, affirming, responding. She’s a good passenger, balanced and upright. Wherever they go, the adventures they seek, the language (and prayer—spoken or unspoken) between the two, strives to be harmonious and kind, validating. To love and to cherish, to have and to hold. Together, they are on a mission to ride with purpose into the God-gifted horizon with the joy of freedom. Sounds nice, doesn’t it?
The origin of the term tandem came from a two-seated carriage (1785) drawn by harnessed horses, one in front of the other, or alongside each other. Together, in partnership or conjunction. You hear of the occasional happy couple who have it all together; partners in conjunction who praise each other and are careful not to criticize. Kind of seems rarer these days.
Have women turned to criticizing men, even their own partners, because of disappointment or rejection? And have men done the same? Are we so hurt that we can’t speak of the opposite sex as anything but complex trash? Is it really for the sake of a laugh when a comic throws his/her spouse under the bus? I don’t know, but lately I’ve been feeling how harmful this is—especially when gender roles are in crisis. With women trying to be men, and men trying to be women, or either treating the other like a burden, nuisance, or object. Maybe we just haven’t learned each other’s love language?
When I flew back home to Washington State, where I grew up, to visit my sister, we had a lot of healing hikes and talks about ministry, life, and relationships. I love her so much; she’s my tribe—and hey, my tribe might be small, but it’s big in love and support. We all need that; we need at least one person who feeds into us encouraging words and vice versa. On a whim, for fun, she insisted I take a What is Your Love Language test that suggests what your most compatible/favorable expression/response is out of five possibilities. Turns out that my love language is Words of Affirmation. But of course it is! Word. I didn’t quite realize that about myself. *shrug* This helps, I guess, to understand some things in my life.
I believe that men and women are disparate… unlike but not opposed. This is how I believe God intended it: two distinct parts, yet counterparts, genuine partners. Men are to be men in strength and leadership, and women are to be women in support and contribution. In tandem. A team. An alignment with each other because you’re aligned with the One Who Sits on the Throne before you. A relationship that says, “I get you,” and “I got you,” to your person. Whether it’s through Words of Affirmation, Quality Time, Physical Touch, Acts of Service, or Receiving Gifts, as outlined in the 5-love-languages test. It’s respect and a desire to understand the other’s role, mutuality, and with a level of authenticity that you don’t have with anyone else. To pray for and with each other, too—sounds like bliss! To focus on the good things within each other. And if that’s not what you’ve experienced or are living and receiving (believe me, I know about this), trust God. He can make a way—somehow, someway, someday—where there is no way (Isaiah 43:19).
Live for the Lord, not for man. The world can do what it does at its best, the common tear-down, but that doesn’t mean you have to roll with it. Dare to roll on your very own in the name of Providence. Exhibit love, honor, respect, kind treatment, compassion one to the other, male or female, in our words and deeds. Work to say, “I get you,” and “I got you.” And if you don’t receive the same, or you truly don’t understand something, or no matter how hard you try, you remain severely incompatible, continue to seek the Lord, worship him, and pray unceasingly. Just this morning during my devotional time, a daily word from Prophet Russ reminded me of following the Lord through difficult circumstances, situations, or people: “Keep trusting. Stay sweet in your soul. Refuse to become bitter or contentious.” Not always easy, but possible.
Yeshua has got to be first in everything, the number one. He can heal and transform; he can and may also realign you with other people who are better suited teammates, helpers and supporters. Next time I watch Dry Bar Comedy, if a comic starts ragging their spouse or the typical men vs women gig (the historical definition of gig is “a light two-wheeled carriage pulled by one [lonely] horse.” Just sayin’), I’m turning it off and walking away. Listening to that negative material doesn’t do me any good.
My love language actually begins with Creator, the creator of man and woman—all of whom he loves. His words are nothing but affirming.
Living in tandem with the lover of my soul,
Eshet chayil in the Hebrew, a woman of valor, means she is rich in her relationship with God. Since Hebrew is immense in multilayered word meanings, Chayil (or hayil) can also mean soldier, army, power, resources, effective, wisdom, or soul, etc. These are also allegorized as the perfect woman/wife (eshet or isha).
Valor is defined in the Merriam-Webster dictionary as “strength of mind or spirit that enables a person to encounter danger with firmness: personal bravery.”
We read about the woman of valor, or The Woman Who Fears the Lord, in Chapter 31 of the Book of Proverbs. Within the text, this woman, “She opens her mouth with wisdom, and the teaching of kindness is on her tongue.” She is one who “dresses herself with strength and makes her arms strong.” Recently I heard a Christian speaker interpret this as that she dresses to the nines, impressing by her appearance, and referenced Esther as an example. Here is where I digress. When I dove deeper into what dressing herself with strength really means, I learned she girds her loins so that she is prepared for battle. This is to love and defend for righteousness’ sake. She prepares mentally, also pulls her tunic about her for freedom of movement. It’s like she gathers her garments so she can run up a mountain for those she loves.
Verse 30 of this part of Proverbs continues to say that, “Charm is deceitful, and beauty is vain, but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised.”
There is an obsessive, damage-causing emphasis on outer beauty in our society. The pressures, insecurities, comparisons to look perfect, be perfect, present perfect, to appeal to mankind, to attract a person, land a job, gain favor, is off the mark; a diversion. As is anything that deviates from Yeshua, or his Holy Spirit, the Ruach HaKodesh sent to help guide and protect us and give us wisdom through our existence here on earth. Pressure or advice is everywhere to dress smarter, sexier, look the part—if you want a greater role. There’s nothing wrong with wanting to wear a nice outfit, favoring a certain fashion, styling your hair a specific way or that is appropriate for an appointment or important engagement; perhaps looking extra-nice for someone special—if it doesn’t consume our time, effort, or energy as if an idol, or attempt to beguile eyes by carnal triggers.
Queen Esther had a role to play, a mission to save her people. A powerful allegorical story. It’s often told that she underwent a year of beauty treatments before her night with the king. From more of a Jewish perspective, though, the first six months of preparation were for purification and cleansing, healing from within. The most important part. The story goes, yes, she was chosen for her beauty, but beauty began on the inside. I used to think this phrase humorous: “That person is beautiful…” then tongue-in-cheek, “on the inside.” But now I wonder why we need that differentiation when God doesn’t.
And this is admonished in 1 Peter 3:3-4: “Do not let your adorning be external—the braiding of hair and the putting on of gold jewelry, or the clothing you wear— but let your adorning be the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which in God's sight is very precious.”
I’m a hair braider (love braided hair), but I hope I don’t do it under the compulsion of flesh, seeking or demanding the approval of man or else I’m nothing. That notion’s gone out of bounds, and so many people—women especially, have suffered, are suffering because of objectness. Some blame men. Yet women have helped fuel the flawed system by succumbing or offering themselves, placing themselves up for the bids of money, ego, fame, lust, peer pressure, or because of a different kind of brokenness.
Then there’s the empowerment, strength, and overt confidence in oneself/herself. That’s not quite right either. Be confident in the Lord, that is, to trust in the Lord, and we are whole. Anything other and we risk sliding over to the side of narcissism. I’ve seen women take the “woman of valor” notion to the umpteenth-degree-on-steroids. A sort of “I am woman, hear me roar,” prideful enablement or arrogance. I’m all for equal rights, as in everybody treated with respect and dignity, but feminism has done quite a job of elevating woman to a throne-like status while emasculating men. We see it in the movies, media, and music… “Whatever you can do, I can do better,” mentality is rough competition that at the root tears down a lot of relationships (sort of my next blog post), because gender roles are in crisis. We are what we’re born as; there are men and there are women as the Word of God, the Bible, has inscribed. A fallen world has produced abuse, unfairness, perversion, pressure, cultural clashes, all kinds of injustices and skewed opinions and confusion between the sexes. But these things aren’t what God intended for his beautifully and wonderfully made men and women. I also recently heard a YouTuber criticize God for creating these fallout things. The statement made me shudder. God didn’t create these results of a fallen world. He gave us Eden, and we chose otherwise, and here we are living what we brought on ourselves. But God! He came to redeem us through Jesus. Again and again, his arm stretches to save; his mercy and his love are boundless.
True beauty lies within and not by our own volition. May we strive to look beyond the skin and see the light within. And may the light within grow stronger, like the beacon on a hill, a lighthouse that shines the radiance of Yeshua from our hearts and souls in a dark, misguided world. May HE be our essence, our beauty, our focus, our joy and delight. May HE be the source of our advancement and promotion. Not because we looked good or were at the most appealing age, but because he caused his favor and light to shine from our hearts, actions, and words because we’ve spent time with him who is holy and he’s filled us up. He looks at the heart. He looks at the heart. He looks at the heart! He is the Beautiful Great One (tender song by Broken Walls, by the way). To HIM be the glory.
When Lana Applewhite skipped town after high school, from a small rural community bent for gossip, she meant never to return. Aside from getting jilted, she also sidestepped expectations to help run the family-owned candy store. Now ten years have gone by, and although she’s reluctant, her grandmother’s urgent plea brings her back home, only to discover news that has her reeling with indecision.
When she seeks out her childhood best friend, Beau Monroe, it’s as if things between them never changed. Yet beneath the surface, they have. Beau has kept a secret that may ruin their friendship. Steadfast yet shy, a man of few words, he’s missed every chance over the years to tell Lana… until now. Confessing his love to her may change everything. Then again, Lana just might have a secret of her own.
Her Beau of Piney Cove is a clean and wholesome Southern Christian romance, my latest book freshly released. Available in digital and print formats with new stores added daily, grab yourself a copy… if it’s your cup of sweet tea.
The Lord has taken me through a heavy process lately, comprising three topics.
Topic one: Tying up loose ends. Part of this is following through with written works I’d finished or have partially completed in the past and to get them released (another book is coming out in the next few days).
I’m tidying up and getting rid of the excess of things of which I have full ownership. An urge has come over me, that if it’s not nailed down, or if it’s surplus to my daily needs/use, it’s gone (not including books or art). This act has hogged my spiritual life as well.
I noticed that occasionally a recollection of something I’d said or done in the past—sometimes years past—that I wish I hadn’t would pop into my head. It’d make me cringe with shame or embarrassment, and I’d push it down, away, and go about my business. Out of sight, out of mind means gone, right? Not really. Because it was still there and would keep resurfacing until I dealt with it. The Holy Spirit was bringing it up and again because I needed to repent. I had loose ends needing tied; unfinished business to address, excess to purge.
So it came to a place that whenever a cringeworthy memory struck a nerve, I would say, “Oh gosh, Lord, I’m so sorry. Please forgive me. Thank you, my redeemer, for who you are, for forgiving my sin. And now I ask that you forever remove that sin, along with the shame and embarrassment in the memory of it, and throw it all into the sea of forgetfulness. With your holy blood covering, it will never haunt me again. Gone! In Jesus’ mighty name!” I can almost hear a set of hands brushing together after handling something dirty.
This was happening a lot, because it was a shedding process. Layers removed that freed me from not just the big things, but itty-bitty things that I had no idea that what I’d flippantly said about this thing, or had done, grieved the Holy Spirit. I wanted to be free of it all. I asked God to do a work in me. If it took an overhaul, go right ahead. I asked for it. Because I wanted less of me and more of him. I want to move forward in his kingdom. So stuff was coming up a lot. I had to make room.
Over two specific nights, all night long, I was in what I like to call the “half-state”. This is that place between wakefulness and sleep. To an observer, you’re asleep and aren’t moving, yet your level of awareness is sharp. You can try to call out, but your body doesn’t respond. It used to be the place where demons would torment me; now it’s the place where Yeshua sits with me, and I listen (or I pray while wrestling snakes off of people—but that’s another story or more). Anyway, during these two nights, the Lord sat with me while in the half-state and he brought up one thing after another, and I was in a constant place of repentance for every single thing he wanted me to address. One might think this would be dreadful, and expect to wake up exhausted and feeling terrible. But this was not so. The Lord is so gentle, and kind, and loving, and merciful. As soon as a memory of something came to my conscience, the moment dread filled me over an issue or incident, the Holy Spirit was right there, instantaneously removing it and filling that void with volumes of his holy love and forgiveness—to overflowing! It was both a shedding process and a filling up of the goodness of God. I woke up refreshed and high on the buoyancy of joy! He is so good.
Topic two: Making amends. To be free in the Lord is not necessarily to be free in circumstances if you are in a situation that’s choking, difficult, or proves a constant trial. While I believe that if the Lord said to you he’s going to do a thing, deliver you from said situation, then he will. He fulfills his promises. He can change a nation’s position and outlook and deliver. Just look at how he delivered the Israelites from Pharoah. He can do the same for you, because don’t we all have pharaohs in our lives? But what if he hasn’t delivered yet? Or he has and yet you wander the desert for forty years before you are able to cross over to the promised land? Do we hold on to resentment, complain, or keep a string of bitterness in our hearts? Maybe we’ve done a pretty good job forgiving others who have done us wrong, such as a pharaoh in life, yet it’s a constant battle, a daily struggle to push down resentment, or keep bitterness from growing, and it lashes out sometimes.
I think of people such as Corrie ten Boom, or Eva Mozes Kor, who had a lot to forgive, having been under the cruel hands and unthinkable conditions during the holocaust. They came to a place of peace, healing, love, and genuine forgiveness toward their perpetrators.
My parents were stunning examples to me of having lived under unfair, unjust, cruel conditions, and not allowing it to fester or deepen. They shucked the damage as they could, allowing Yeshua to do his will to help and keep them. Their love and forgiveness toward those who hurt them was a great example for me. Damage is not irreparable. God can take it all and put something remarkable and beautiful in its place.
AND YET, I’ve had my own difficulties with coming to forgive the persecutor or pharaoh, if you will, in my life. I’ve exhibited anger and frustration. But my desire is to have a supple, mendable heart with which the Lord can use to help others. So I strive to make amends. And the Lord has been bringing things and people to my awareness that/who I have needed to make amends with. We aren’t to push down resentment (hidden but not gone), but to give it over; release it for good. Which leads me to the next topic.
Topic three: Cutting the line. Last night I had a dream where a pharaoh in my life sat on the ground and said, “I owe you an apology. I’m sorry for ___________.” And the blank was filled with an entire issue, a disappointment that has hurt me, that has held me back; had become a hindrance without my understanding that it was a hindrance. I thought I’d forgiven, yet here it was before me last night. And I said, “That makes all the difference. I forgive you.” And it wasn’t that the pharaoh in the situation (for lack of a better way to call this) in waking life had apologized or ever would. I realized you can’t expect apologies from people even if they’re deserved. Again, look at survivors of genocide who have found the path of freedom to forgive. We can’t control or change people (or the spirits within or beasts that drive them). We can pray, but their conviction comes only from the Holy Spirit. We are accountable for our own reaction, our response. In my dream, Yeshua, the Waymaker, became the one sitting on the ground. Not the one who apologized, but the One who now sat in pharaoh’s place, so to speak, and said, “Will you forgive? Will you do this for me?” And this is when I said “Yes.” The Lord made all the difference. And when I forgave, I saw in my spirit what was like a blimp or a hot-air balloon. It had been tethered down. And all the tethers had been released, except for one. The airship was so buoyant and ready to fly, but this caused that one remaining line to get so taut, pressure so tense, that it couldn’t be released. There was no give or slack in order to do so. I had to sever the last line in order to let the thing fly.
Cut the line, the remaining little or big thing you hang onto, that you think you need to keep because someone’s hurt you and owes you an apology, or you have a single strand of resentment or bitterness hidden deep in your heart. May your prayer be, “Search me, O God, and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts! And see if there be any grievous way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting!” (Psalm 139:23-24)
Cut that line, and fly the way you’re meant to fly.
Weighty topics for sure. Yet the love language from the Lord has been sweet. A few incidents I felt compelled to share, and so I wrote updates at the end of a couple of blog posts I did last month (June 10 and June 15) because they’re connected. Check them out if you have a chance.