January 1st, 2016 we woke up to four degrees below zero here in Central Oregon. An absolutely beautiful day. The sun was shining, couple of inches of snow and no wind.
While feeding my horses and doing various chores, I was almost overcome with such wonderful feelings of nostalgia and longing for my home state, Montana. Many thoughts and memories coursed through my mind in just a short while.
As a youngster living out in a very rural eastern part of the state, life was real basic especially in winter where temperatures could easily get to thirty below. I remember seeing washing, hung on an outdoor clothesline in sub-zero temps, actually freeze itself dry and, if someone would saddle and bridle my old horse, Handy, I would ride ‘till it got so cold that I could hardly slide off him.
As a young man with a young family of my own, ranch jobs never took a holiday, no matter the elements. Taking care of and feeding livestock. Kids all bundled up making the rounds. Sleds tied on behind the pickup or tractor for each to ride in. Everyone having the time of their lives. There in Montana, with kids alongside, you dared not get too far from the house as everyone would be having a great time until the bitter cold set in. Then it was a race against time to get inside where it was warm.
If I did not have too much country to cover a team of horses was my favorite for feeding chores. The kids seemed to enjoy being around them more also. They have a sound and rhythm that is rather unique. Each team with its own individuality and characteristics. I never really enjoyed driving a broke team — no, not enough action for a young man and, believe you me, in the cold weather such as we could get, some action surely helped keep you warm. Those green horses were better providers of warmth and a lot more fun…for me.
Several ranches that I worked on we would start a colt or two in the fall and then ride them through the winter, using them mostly to gather weaner calves that needed to be brought to feed bunks to help them grow through the coldest part of the year. Gathering those calves or simply checking on livestock, though, with the ground frozen, slick and hard with the bitter, bitter cold and added wind chill, made being outdoors an unbelievably cold task. Hopefully your young horse was doing well enough that you could rope and doctor a foot rot or pneumonia, if need be. The harshness of conditions in winter made you very mindful of how you treated your mount. A rough error could be very serious.
Here on the beginning of a new year, as I pondered fondly on all these things, my thoughts turned to the Lord Jesus Christ.
Looking back at my life, I can clearly see now that He was with me even when I had no awareness or knowledge of Him. I realize that it was His presence and grace in my life that, despite hardship, difficulties and grief, brought goodness, joy and pleasure during those cold hard winter days.
And so it is, several decades later, that I still find that joy in meeting a crisp, clear, sun-filled day like this morning. Now, knowing Christ, any thoughts I might have of the past that burden the heart, I can let go and take up another thought that is more in line with His thinking. In His abundant redemptive work of salvation, Emmanuel is with us, freeing us from living in a rut outside of the righteousness, peace and joy He has given.
He can so make all things new. For me, this is always an issue of the heart and learning to let go of a thought and take another more in line with His.
And it is good. Both for us and our horses.
I hope your New Year is off to a happy and grand start.
Blessings and Happy Trails,