Life On The Ranch (and Singing Cowboys)

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Most of us are familiar with the song “O give me a home where the buffalo roam”.

If that wish were to be fulfilled….there would be a lot of work cleaning up!

This year our VBS theme was Western. The place was called Saddle Ridge Ranch, a Dude ranch. A Dude Ranch is where “Greenhorns” obtain insight and experience into ranch life.

A Church is, in one sense, like a ranch. There is a lot of work to do. After all, you do want “Buffalo roaming” around. That is probably the reason God says, ”Continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to His good purpose” (Philippians 2:12-13).

The Church, as you think about it, is the ranch house on the ranch. The ranch itself is the Kingdom. It is, ultimately, the cosmos that is being restored by our Creator.

All of God’s creatures live on the ranch. The management strategy for running the ranch flows from the ranch house. Having lived on a small ranch as a boy, I am well aware of the chores allocated to each. Several hours of working cattle and feeding them was a normal morning before going to school. It did not detract from becoming our high school senior swimming champion. While my name is etched below others in a huge cup englassed in the school office, it will only remain there till Jesus returns. After that, it only matters if your name is on the list of cowboys/cowgirls that work the ranch.

Enlarging and expanding a herd, be it buffalo, cattle, or horses, is exciting and rewarding. It is also not without challenges. Ranches have snakes, gopher holes, poisonous shrubs, and rustlers, to name a few that may have a negative impact on the herd. However, if the “grass” is right, in other words, if the Word of God is being proclaimed, the herd will survive. The use of the word “survive” is intentional. On a healthy ranch, life is about more than surviving. It is about flourishing.

The seven dwarfs are surely not the only ones who can sing and whistle while they work. God celebrates “Singing Cowboys”, and we better do, too!

Singing is an expression of joy. I love to sing. Joy is a source of strength and an expression of strength. Nehemiah (who was a Cowboy) said, “The joy of the Lord is my strength” (Neh. 8:9). Working a ranch is hard work; you need a lot of joy.

The apostle Paul, another cowboy, was well aware of this. He encouraged the ranch hands and said, "Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!" (Phil 4:4).

The cost of feed and the price of beef are two essential factors in the total cost of operating a ranch. In challenging economic times like the present there are those who get discouraged. If you can identify with that, consider the following. You may be on the ranch. However, are you sitting on the porch of the ranch house? That is, are you merely sitting in the pew with ice tea? Or, are you holding a branding iron that says “Love”?

Consider the following words from an OT cowboy named Habakkuk. He had the right “feed”; still, there were challenges. Yet he concluded, “Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines, though the olive crops fails and the fields produce no food, though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls...Yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will be joyful in God my Savior” (3:18).

To work on God’s ranch is best done on His terms. Jesus knew that. Surely, that is why He gave them [the disciples] power and authority over all the demons (LK 9:1). This “business plan” worked so well, that by chapter 10, 70 new cowboys have joined the “bunk house” working the ranch.

It is time to consider our ways (Haggai 1). It is time to reflect on the strength needed to work the ranch.

“O give me a home….Where never is heard a discouraging word”. From the love and security of such a home it is a joy to saddle your horse, ride the trails and explore the beauty of the ranch and the love of the rancher.

PJ

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