Welcome to Narrow Gate Horse Ranch

By Jessica Rolph
Reprinted from a March 19, 2019 article from First Farmer’s Bank and Trust.

The first things you notice when you get to Narrow Gate Ranch are horses. The large barn is surrounded by gently rolling acres. The horses graze in small groups, some galloping a few yards as the mood takes them, most still and watchful. It’s not far from downtown Kokomo, but the flowing land and calm presence of the horses leaves you feeling far from anything you’d find in the city. It’s a peaceful scene, and one that Susan Zody appreciates.

For the past few years, Susan has been running the Narrow Gate Horse Ranch. Susan wasn’t familiar with horses when she started on this journey. She had been searching for a way to get the kids to continue coming and engaging with a youth outreach program where she volunteered, and remembered an article she’d read about a therapy horse ranch. After raising the funds through donations and researching therapy ranches, Susan was able to take a group to a nearby facility. The funds continued to roll in, and Susan started seeing the impact the visits were making on some of the kids in the program. Grades improved. Behavior improved. The kids started making better decisions. She was impressed, and committed to continue providing this to the children.

“They come here really, to build a relationship with a horse,” says Susan about the draw for the youth she works with at the ranch. These young people have sometimes suffered abuse and neglect, and an adult seeking to mentor these individuals will often face an uphill battle. But a horse, patient and calm and not demanding, can bridge that divide.

As donations continued to come in, Susan had to ask herself if there was more that she could do. Was it just the small group of children that she currently worked with that were meant to benefit? Could something else be done? It was a crossroads for Susan. She knew the need was greater than what could be met by visiting a horse ranch an hour way. She could see the improvements, but her kids, and the kids she knew needed connection in the community, would benefit from a slightly different approach. One that focused on building relationships and making better decisions, and ultimately, one that had its foundation in faith.

This was where Susan found herself in 2016 when she invited a group of people from the community to a discussion. Would the community support an organization like what she envisioned? Were the resources there to make it successful? Her plans were met with enthusiasm and support, and a board was formed. In a short three years, Narrow Gate Horse Ranch has been established and has weekly classes.

Narrow Gate’s target audience is at-risk youth in the community. In Howard County, Indiana alone, over 4,000 children live at or below the poverty level. At the Ranch, these children are able to grow their confidence, leadership skills, and communication skills.

“I want these kids to gain some confidence and to know that if they do things correctly, there will be a good ending.”

Scott MacDonald

When we visited Susan at the ranch, we also met Scott MacDonald, the equine specialist at the Ranch, and Kelsey and Autumn, two sisters who volunteer. Together, Susan and Scott shared stories that more often than not brought tears to the eyes of both speaker and listeners. The horses at Narrow Gate have faced their own challenges, much like the youth that works with them. The kids relate to the horses. They see their own struggles, and they work together to overcome challenges. It’s a rewarding experience for everyone involved, and one the team at Narrow Gate never tires of.

It was an honor to meet with Susan and Scott at Narrow Gate Horse Ranch, to be introduced to the horses, and to meet some of the youth benefitting from this wonderful operation.

I’m Afraid Not

“Love means never having to say you’re sorry.” — Ryan O’Neal, Love Story, 1970

“That’s the dumbest thing I ever heard,” — Ryan O’Neal, What’s Up Doc? 1972

We Baby Boomers and The Greatest Generation before us suffered the whiplash of sudden cultural self-awareness in the 1960s followed by the grinding self-indulgence of the “Me Decade” in the 1970s.  Christianity could barely catch its breath.

Not that I was a Christian at that point.  Navigating my middle-teen years and the bounty of intelligence, introspection, and worldly wisdom (cough, cough) I was to gain through college and into my early 20s and subsequent career, I had drifted completely away from my religious youth as an altar boy in the traditional Episcopal Church.

No, I didn’t know Jesus, but Father Cooper was a wonderful and kind man, and I knew the old communion service by heart.  It wasn’t until 30 years later that I came to understand and appreciate the beauty and depth of those words I could recite at 14.

The difference later was that I came to know Jesus, the Bible, and met so many Christians who were everything I didn’t think they’d be.  They were smart, kind, creative, educated, funny, generous, prosperous in their faith, highly productive in their vocations, and unwavering in their belief that Jesus is the Christ, Son of the living God, trusting Him as their Lord and Savior.  I learned all that in a church that reads the Bible.

None of that last paragraph would have made any sense to me prior to 2001, at age 47, when I very suddenly “got it.” Jesus made sense and the church came alive.  Most importantly, from an operational standpoint, the Bible mysteriously, magically, wonderfully before my eyes turned from opaque gibberish into utter clarity.  I saw God’s person, Jesus’s truth, humanity’s great fall but great opportunity, and the excitement, adventure, and joy of so much of life making an eternal kind of sense I had never seen before.  Why, even my childhood church liturgy morphed into a new creation of wonder.

All these lights coming on comprised the greatest gift imaginable.  They provided to me a life-changing, mind-altering, priority-shifting, and truth-testing reboot not just of worldview but of hope (eternal), understanding (divine), and love (other-directed).

So, here’s my point, which despite the preceding autobiography is really nothing about me.  It is everything about why and how we are encouraged to go to church, be in Christ, seek comfort and wisdom in the Holy Spirit, discern God, and consume our hearts with the grace, peace, trust, and compassion of Jesus.  What I’m saying is:

Fear and guilt can never build a loving relationship; trust and responsibility do. A self-focused life will imagine that “being loved” means “doing whatever I want.”  My own glory requires, “I gotta be me!”  Ergo, one never has to say, “I’m sorry.” Rubbish.

A worldly, liberal church going overboard to make your magnificent “You!” front-and-center relevant misses the key message of Christ that this life is about God’s glory more than mine or yours. And a church holding everyone’s sin and stumbles in constant reproach for the “price Jesus paid” and the “punishment we deserve” is preaching worldly transaction and retribution instead of extolling God’s divine grace in Jesus.

That’s when freedom and love die at the altar of control by fear and guilt.  Amen.

Satan applauds self-focus because it creates comparison, envy, and division.  Loving relationships grow amid mercy, encouragement, and trust, not self-obsession.

Still think it is all about you?  Sorry… I’m afraid not.

Walters (rlwcom@aol.com) is not afraid of God; he is thankful God is there. For more of Walters’ columns, see commonchristianity.blogspot.com. For his books, see www.lulu.com/spotlight/CommonChristianity.

A Reminder to Remember

I am beginning to identify with Jeremiah, the one called “the weeping prophet.” Not that I consider myself a prophet, but I am one who weeps.  
Each time my fingers tap out the words to send from my heart to yours, this thought runs through my brain, “Maybe I should write something that has a lighter feel.” And each time God whispers to my ear that there are so many people hurting, struggling, wounded, and uncertain about the future. I count myself one of the many.

We truly want to finish well the race that is set before us. But in the spirit of authenticity, sometimes I find my faith teetering on the fence of doubt. 

Perhaps the days of lightheartedness will come soon. I hope so. 

But for now, we are called to-

lock arms 
hold one another up 
offer grace when one stumbles
lift each other up
and take one more step in this heavenly race.


We are to remember that this world truly is not our permanent home (Hebrews 13:14). There is a glorious place waiting for us. But until we stand face to face with Christ in all of His glory, we must remember we are ambassadors of His kingdom (2 Corinthians 5:20-21). We are called to bring what’s up there down here in our day to day lives. We are reflectors of grace, set apart for a greater purpose.

We are called to know Him and the power of His resurrection as well as the fellowship of His suffering (Philippians 3:10). Confession time. We have all seen that crazed football fan. The one who paints his/her face with the team colors and roars with every advancement of the ball down the field then jumps up punching the air with his/her giant sponge hand when the team scores.  That’s me when I hear the first part of this verse, “the power of His resurrection.” YES!!! Go, God! That’s what I want to see, the resurrection power. 

As I reflect on this verse in light of so many who find themselves in life’s hard places, there is a clearer message coming into view. There can be no resurrection power without death first. Wow! I never saw that before. 

Maybe today you are experiencing a death of sorts–the death of a dream, a job, a relationship, health, or expectation. My friend, these are the places where His resurrection power breathes life into dry bones. 

Every victory won was first a battle fought.
Each body cured, was first a disease diagnosed.
All mountain top views were reached by trekking the valley.


This week’s “Hope for the Journey” is less organized in thought than I am comfortable with.  However, it seemed fitting to take a step back and remember some truths about who we are and who we are called to be. Suffering never negates the greater purposes of God or our identity in Him. 
 

Stand strong, dear one. Hold tight to His promises. Live with your eyes wide open to…

His divine peace
His miraculous ways
His overwhelming joy
His unexplainable presence
His extravagant love
His wondrous grace


This is our God!
Remember Him and live in awe.

Until next time, let’s find hope in the journey,
Evelyn

Hi There! My name is Evelyn. I am a lover of all things family, faith and Fall. So grateful that you found your way here. The chaos of life can leave us feeling a bit worn around the edges. Sometimes a little ray of hope is all we need to provide courage for the next step in our journey. So come on in, take a deep breath. My prayer is that in this space, you will be able to grab hold of hope. For more of Evelyn’s columns, see her blog Hope for the Journey.

Something New

In an interview some 50 years after the fact, Paul McCartney related a story about the first time the Beatles recorded an album using “stereo” sound.

“What’s stereo?” McCartney had inquired, having encountered the technology for the first time.  The studio sound engineer explained that in “stereo” recording, music is divided into two channels. “Some of the music comes out of the left side speaker,” Paul was told, “and some comes out of the right side speaker.” 

McCartney’s early-1960s response was a playful, puzzled, “Yeah? Great! Why?”

Although today we can’t imagine sound or video recording that doesn’t offer the depth and texture of multiple tracks, multi-channel sound, and multi-dimension video, one of the last century’s and arguably one of history’s best known musical talents had to start, at some point, hearing about “stereo” for the first time.  It was totally new.

This Beatles vignette was in a chunk of text I actually removed from something else totally new – something I did for the first time over the weekend – which was to preach a message – a sermon – in a small church service.  It was at Allisonville Meadows assisted living center here in Fishers, Ind., and while I loved the “stereo” analogy, I forced myself not to veer so far away from the point I wanted to make.

And my point was… that the most shocking, totally new thing in all human history was Jesus Christ.  He revealed to humanity eternal life, relationship with God, the fatherhood of God, forgiveness of sin, peace in this life, comfort of the Holy Spirit, and the assured knowledge of saving grace, sacrificial love, God’s glory, and ultimate victory over sin giving human life a depth and texture it never previously offered.

That is the truth of the Gospel; that was totally new and totally unexpected.

It’s surprising, really, that despite all the prophecy and Hebrew scriptures about a coming Messiah… everybody missed it.  The greatest experts–the Pharisees and Jewish leaders–utterly and violently denied Jesus when they should have known his voice.  Instead, they wanted to kill him. And did.  They did not know Him.

The opening of John 17 was the text for the message.  Verses 2-6 begin Jesus’s well-known “Priestly Prayer” given on His way to Gethsemane.  After leaving the Last Supper, Jesus prayed for himself, his disciples, and for all believers.  And he prayed aloud–as badly as Jesus needed to pray to God, the disciples needed to hear it. 

Jesus opens by praying for God’s glory, His own glory (meaning His death, resurrection, and return to God), His authority, His work … and the eternal life that will be given to all who believe in Him. That was my core idea: knowing Jesus is “The Right Stuff” (that was the sermon title; I took out the Beatles, left in Chuck Yeager and Neil Armstrong and referenced Tom Wolfe’s 1979 book about aviation adventure) to know God, for God to know us, and for us to have eternal life. 

The disciples–fearing Jesus’s death and likely their own–had no idea about eternal life or what was about to happen just three days later and on into human history.

I can imagine music without the Beatles, but none of us would have a clue–or could possibly have a clue–about eternal life or even new life without Jesus Christ.

That was really and truly something new.

Walters (rlwcom@aol.com) thanks retired ministers Bob Tinsky and John Samples for the opportunity to preach, which to be honest was kind of a bucket list thing for Bob anyway.  How did it go?  Evidently OK … they invited him back next month. For more of Walters’ columns, see commonchristianity.blogspot.com. For his books, see www.lulu.com/spotlight/CommonChristianity.

Truth at Work 2019 Conference

Friday, November 8th | 8AM-1PM
Northview Church (12900 Hazel Dell Parkway, Carmel)

TRANSFORM THE MARKETPLACE

This annual conference cultivates, encourages, and inspires leaders and those who desire to serve the Lord in the marketplace. If you want your work to have eternal significance, even if it means going against cultural norms, come, network with likeminded leaders, and learn from national experts on how to live out your faith so you can impact the marketplace for Christ.

Join thousands of other Christians in business for a powerful one-day event designed to equip and inspire you.

SPEAKERS

WHAT TO EXPECT

A day together that will equip and fortify you through learning how to become a transformational leader. This type of leader affects change in many ways, including:

  • Demonstrating Generosity
  • Building a Championship Culture
  • Creating a Vision
  • Disrupting Industries & Traditions
  • Leading through Service
  • Influencing Society

Don’t miss this opportunity to learn from some of America’s top thought leaders on how to transform your leadership, business, and in turn, society.

Who should attend?

WHO SHOULD ATTEND

Business Owners

Discover best practices, practical resources and a local community to help leverage your company as a platform for Christian ministry

Managers & Executives

Learn practical ways to live out your faith and model Christ-like servant leadership to your team and co-workers

Emerging Leaders

Learn how to build your career on proven biblical principles so your work brings honor and glory to the Lord

Pastors & Church Leaders

Equip, encourage, and empower marketplace leaders in your church to impact their workplace for Christ

For anyone wanting to integrate their faith and work, learn what God’s Word says about the integration of faith and work and how you can begin to do so right where you are.

For more information, see the Truth at Work website. To order tickets, visit the itickets event site.

I’ve Not Forgot

“Oh, no!” says the Lord.
“That’s not your lot.
“Look unto me; I’ve not forgot.
“Give Me your hand,
“And come my way.
“You have a future.
“It’s a brand new day.”

Margarett Inez Bates

For if ye forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you: But if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses. (Matthew 6:14-15)

Christian philosopher, Bible teacher, author, and prolific poet, Margarett Inez Bates is a graduate of Mount Vernon Bible College with a Bachelor’s degree from the Christian International School of Theology. Actively involved in Christian service for over forty years she currently resides in her hometown, Kokomo, Indiana. Margarett has published two books: Poetical Insights: Lifting Up a Standard, and Poetical Insights Vol. 2: A Closer Look. You can read more of her work at Kokomo Poet.

So God, What is the Next Step?

The room is filled with deafening silence except for the tick of the clock and the periodic roar of the blood pressure cup inflating. We find ourselves once again in life’s waiting room. Dad has just come back from having his heart cath. He sleeps. I write. We both wait for the doctor to inform of us of the next step.

These days seemed to be filled with waiting and unknowns. My prayers of adoration often become overshadowed by prayers of desperation. “God, what is the next step? Just tell me and I will do it.” And just like we wait now for the doctor, I wake each day waiting for God to step in and provide light for my next step. Next steps for…

  • Dad’s health
  • Wisdom for caregiving
  • Guidance in my job
  • Answers for hurting friends
  • Stewardship of time and resources
  • Strength for my weary body

I glance toward my father. His deep breathing now adds to the rhythmic sounds being played out in this room. As my eyes witness the gentle rise and fall of his chest with each breath, my mind replays his favorite verse. The one I need to hear right now in the wait.

But they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength;
    they shall mount up with wings like eagles;
they shall run and not be weary;
    they shall walk and not faint.
 

Isaiah 40:31

This “doing heart” of mine is unnerved with waiting. You too? To just sit seems so counterproductive. I would much rather be busy, moving around. At least then things are accomplished. But are they the right things? Are they the best things? 

As I reflect on this familiar passage, my eyes move past the phrases at the front end and land on the “doing” words. “They will walk, they will run, they will soar.” These are the words that grab my attention when steeped in turmoil. However, these action words give me a false sense of control when life is filled with uncertainty.  Then God draws my attention to the first half of that scripture.  My eyes shift and I stare at the uncomfortable part of this passage… they that wait. 

It is in the waiting light is given for the next step we take. It is in the waiting wisdom is gleaned for the race we run. It is in the waiting courage is gained so that we may soar higher than we dare dream.  

Perhaps this is due in part to the desperation that comes in the silence of waiting. Our hearts yearn for comfort, direction, and wisdom.  We intentionally lean in anxious to hear answers to the prayers we have poured out in the night season. We strain to hear the Father whisper hope to our worn heart. 

My friend, maybe you can relate to the season of waiting. I am right there with you. One thing I know…God speaks in the wait. It may not be within the realm of our comfort zone, but He does speak.  So, we must resist the temptation to rush ahead. The slow pace of waiting affords us precious time in His presence that is often stolen by the fast pace of life. It is in this time, waiting at His feet, that He does a transformative work in our hearts.

Let’s hold tight to Him knowing that He is with us in the wait. He is renewing, strengthening, and transforming us.

Until next week, let’s find hope in the journey.
Evelyn Sherwood

Hi There! My name is Evelyn. I am a lover of all things family, faith and Fall. So grateful that you found your way here. The chaos of life can leave us feeling a bit worn around the edges. Sometimes a little ray of hope is all we need to provide courage for the next step in our journey. So come on in, take a deep breath. My prayer is that in this space, you will be able to grab hold of hope. For more of Evelyn’s columns, see her blog Hope for the Journey.

For My Sake

Jesus Christ on the excruciating cross of human salvation is a frightening image, one upon which only the very crassest among humanity would gaze and ask: “What’s in it for me?”

Fact is, none of us wants exactly that – the cross of Christ – as Christian life’s promise.  Believe in Jesus, be Christ-like, do Godly things with a Godly attitude, love God, love others, read the Bible, go to church, be selfless, kind, obedient … and what do we get?  A horrendous and humiliating public death?  No thanks.

That’s not the deal anyone is looking for.

We must be especially wary, then, in our Christian witness and preaching, to be very clear what it is exactly that Jesus did on the cross.  The world sees punishment, shame, payment, retribution, and maybe feels a little (or a lot of) personal sin and guilt.  The neurotic Christian may wilt with remorse: “That agonizing passion on the cross is my fault!  That bloody end is what I deserve!”  The arrogant libertine may be repulsed and dismissive: “How can a good God allow that to happen to His son?  I don’t believe any of it!” A devious theologian may see a means to control people with fear and guilt.

What we see on the cross is less a picture of God than of what a perfect human will do to glorify God. In that sense a little neurosis about our fate is quite apt.  The wrathful God of the Law is the same loving and sacrificial God of the New Testament.  God never changes, but the enormous gift we are given through Christ is to see the true nature of a Godly human: Jesus is our example of what a perfect human in God’s eyes actually is.  Our fallenness makes it hard to see that.

We are – each of us individually – a great mess of conflicts, fear, aspirations, hope, and pain-avoidance.  The sneaky truth of Christ that takes a while to truly see is that our greatest human joy – and our highest, most God-like humanity – is the picture of Christ humbly sacrificing himself for others.  Seeing the cross as God’s love and mercy for us, rather than seeing it as God’s anger and wrath for our sin, changes everything about what kind of Christian we can be: loving? … or judgmental?

Our greatest joy, then, is in serving others in freedom, freedom not just from sin but freedom to be all that God created me to be… what He created each of us in His own image to be.  I get that the cross is a picture of humanity’s gross failings and sinfulness, but more importantly it is the picture of God’s love, Christ’s humility, and the Spirit’s illumination of truth.  In this picture are glory, love, self-sacrifice, humility, restoration, forgiveness, repaired relationship, covered sins, eternal life, the conquering of both sin and death… and overwhelming peace that exceeds all understanding.

As much as we fallen humans focus on “being forgiven,” in Jesus’s entire last prayer – indeed His final teaching we see in John 13-17 including foot-washing, the last supper, the vine, His relationship with God, the Kingdom as life, God as Father, Jesus as Son, the Spirit as comfort, plus persecution, glory, faith, and perseverance – there is not one word about forgiveness of sin.  Instead, there is assurance of God’s truth.

When the chips were down and His own end was near, Jesus prayed humbly for God’s glory, His own restoration, and for our faith.  So should we.  It’s part of the deal.

That’s the best thing I can do for my sake; that’s what’s in it for me.

Walters (rlwcom@aol.com) notes that humility frees us from pride. Duh. For more of Walters’ columns, see commonchristianity.blogspot.com. For his books, see www.lulu.com/spotlight/CommonChristianity.

For Your Sake

“I don’t know” … and … “Am I my brother’s keeper?”
— Cain, to God, Genesis 4:9

First a lie, then a dumb question… after starting with a weak offering.

Cain simply did not understand, embrace, or cherish his responsibilities to God.

Since the second generation of man – well, if we include Adam and Eve it actually starts right at the beginning – humanity has sustained an overall miserable record of discerning that for which we are and are not responsible in the eyes of God.

Abel – the object of God’s question and the brother whom Cain had just killed – was an exception.  Abel honored God with an offering of the best that he had, and God looked upon him with favor.  Cain, essentially, offered God leftovers and God knew the difference.  God’s favor was not on Cain, and Cain was self-righteously outraged.

You can read the entire story in Genesis 4, but here let’s focus on God’s reaction and some of the important aspects of man’s various responsibilities to God, to Mankind, and to all God’s creation.  I can’t think of a better starting point than Cain and Abel.

First, note God’s even-keeled response to both offerings.  He favored this and didn’t favor that.  No celebration, no anger … just … favor or not.  Abel’s pleasure was in honoring the Lord, period.  Cain’s heart was set more on the transactional dynamic of if he gave something to God, God better like it and act like He likes it!  Or I’ll get angry!

We often skip over Cain’s dissatisfaction with God and think Cain is simply but murderously jealous of his brother Abel.  No … Cain is angry at God so he destroys that which God favors. Who/what does that sound like?  Satan’s playbook; Page 1.

Just as God never asks a question to which He does not know the answer (such as, “Where is your brother?”), so too He knows the exact heart of every man and woman in His creation.  Abel with his “fatted parts of the firstborn of his flock” revealed a heart truly with God.  Cain thought his own duty to God amounted to something like a trade for which Cain could keep account.  It is an error still with us today the world over – in church and out of church.  Do we simply love God?  Or are we working an angle?

I bring this up because I see a modern society quick to assign and approve an entirely self-directed, secular, and personal responsibility in sole support of one’s own appetites and opinions. But it is a one-dimensional responsibility to self, not the proper, manifest palette buttressing the workings of a Godly and civil society: responsibilities to family, community, nation, and God. 

The shame of the modern public square is its numbed, frequent, and shockingly dire opposition to – and typically total ignorance of – God’s coherent commandments for how things go best for us.  Call it “360-degree accountability.”  We must honor God, but also weigh and discern the circumstances of our brothers and sisters; and they, ours.

This is the great lesson of Jesus Christ, what true responsibility before God and mankind looks like.  We wildly assert personal rights of pleasure, comfort, and opinion, yet vehemently shout down suggestion of Godly regulation extending beyond our liking.

Jesus’s death wasn’t so much a payment; it was a picture of responsibility.

In the light of Jesus, we are all each other’s keepers and our responsibilities are never just to ourselves.  We must always ask others: What can I do, for your sake?

Walters (rlwcom@aol.com) believes God prefers we don’t mess with His plan. For more of Walters’ columns, see commonchristianity.blogspot.com. For his books, see www.lulu.com/spotlight/CommonChristianity.