HORSE TALK

My son-in-law (actually a son than a law) and I often take time to discuss about the ministry and work of God, since both of us happen to operate within the realm of the church. Our repartee would bring insights and growth that enhanced us both. Being at different ends of the age spectrum, as iron sharpens iron, we crystallize and shape one another’s understanding that causes expansion in our thoughts.

In one such recent colloquy, we were analysing the post-covid orientation and state of the church, about members in general and leaders in particular. I was lamenting on the fact that Christian life and witness seemed to be focused on creating a good impression and causing a outward expression. Rather than exerting a life-changing influence that flowed from an inward heart-level transformation, leaders were intent on visibility and projecting of themselves.or their work.

He stopped me short with this pithy statement: It is a matter of knowing what you want to be trained for or what you are training others for. Whether you are grooming or being groomed to be a show horse or a race horse or a war horse. The goal and end determines the training and the achievement of the desired outcome!

Thunderstruck, I followed the ensuing train of thought and came up with an perception of the difference between a wild horse, a race horse, a war horse and a show horse!

Wild horses roam free, unfettered, gamboling around the range, eating what they will, drinking what they want, going where they want and typically live about 15 to 30 years. Wild horses travel many miles a day (usually between 10 and 20), in search of food (grasses, seeds and leafy shrubs) and water, often through rough terrain that wears down their hooves. They use fight or flight defend themselves against predators and other dangers such fires or storms, etc.

For a horse to be wild, all you need to do is to allow it to go scot free, without any disciple or restriction. Just set it loose, offering no direction or forcing it into training, and its own nature will take over to be what it wants to be – an outlaw!

Horses enjoy racing for running and jumping come naturally to them and Race horses are usually considered “hot-blooded” horses, known for their agility, speed, and spirit. Race horses are well-bred and carefully trained animals who are given the highest levels of animal care and welfare. Race horse trainers tend to develop strong bonds with their charges, understanding well their traits and moods since they work many hours a day with them. Horses happily take part in a race in most cases but no racehorse can be made to race if it doesn’t want to, and can plant its feet refusing to move. Racehorses are treasured and prized possessions of their owners, getting utmost care and attention.

If you lasso and corral a horse, wishing to turn it into a race horse, then its diet and schedule will have to be carefully drawn out with care given to its type, age and other physical abilities. Training has to focus on developing muscular strength, stamina, and speed in that order, and must be spread over several weeks,  moving from slow and steady to fast and furious! Great care is taken to tailor the program to suit the age, condition, weakness, etc of the horse and though there are general/common components, each horse is trained deliberately and particularly, making each animal uniquely fashioned and special care is taken to factor in its individuality for getting the best result!

War horse breeds were highly valued animals that carried mounted warriors into battle, bred in medieval or ancient times for the sole purpose of aiding men in war. War horses were a mixture of heavy breeds ideal for carrying armored knights, and lighter breeds for hit and run or fast moving in warfare. They were either heavy animals able to carry a fully armored knight as well as their own armor, or shorter, lighter, and swifter ones, ridden unarmored during sieges and raids.

Whether horses were trained to pull chariots, or ridden as light or heavy cavalry, or to carry the armoured knight, much training was required to overcome the horse’s natural instinct to flee from noise, the smell of blood, and the confusion of combat. They also had to learn to accept any sudden or unusual movements of humans while using a weapon or avoiding one. Horses used in close combat may have been taught, or at least permitted, to kick, strike, and even bite, thus becoming weapons themselves for the warriors they carried. Moreover, a war horse used as a riding animal was also trained to be controlled with limited use of reins, responding primarily to the rider’s legs and weight. The horse thus had to become accustomed to any necessary tack and protective armour placed upon it, learning to balance under a rider who would also be laden with weapons and armour. Developing the balance and agility of the horse was crucial to and in warfare. 

A war horse needs more discipline and attention, a more rigorous and diehard regime to equip it to not only carry the warrior but also itself become a fighting machine. Horses used for chariot warfare were not only trained for combat conditions, but they also had to learn to do teamwork with other animals in close quarters under chaotic conditions, since a chariot would drawn by more than one horse. War horses are also denoted as fight or flight animals since both tactics would come in handy in the battlefield.

Show horses in circuses, on the other hand, perform a variety of equine acts ranging from sensational feats of acrobatics to clever stunts and the execution of the elegant “airs” from classical equitation. There are no specific performing breeds, since ability alone determines the particular horse used and are groomed to be fine performers for they are show-stealerrs and crowd-pullers. In the history of circuses, the excitement of the show and the hard work of the show depended on these horses!

Show horses are trained to behave cooperatively and willingly, taught tricks and skills to attract crowds and seek to develop its own talents. Show horses are performance horses and so, confidence training and trick learning are part of their drill. Boldness is a key ingredient that is inculcated so that they execute their acts with grace and poise as well as appear endearing and appealing.

The accoutrements of a show horse are for attracting attention and therefore quite elaborate and flamboyant in order to capture the eye.

The war horse, on the other hand, is fitted with armor, making it ready for battle and is aimed at protection rather than giving pleasure.

The race horse is minimally equipped with only the basic necessary for riding such as saddle and bridle. As speed is crucial, the lighter the horse, the greater the chance of victory in an even field. Even the jockey chosen is usually of small stature so that no extra weight would burden or slowdown the horse.I

It goes without saying that none of these apply to a wild horse since it rebels against confinement and submitting to tutelage.

All this horse talk just goes to show one thing – that in considering a horse, its purpose and the focus of what it is to be determines whether it is to be trained or not, and the type and direction of its training. The end surely does justify the means!

Apostle Paul acknowledges a Christian, especially a leader, as having to endure hardness as a soldier, undergo rigorous training like an athlete and working hard like a farmer.

In the Scriptures we also come across statements such as: Run in such a way as to win the race; my aim is to finish the race; I wanted to be sure I was not running or had been running my race in vain; And let us run with perseverance the race market out for us; Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize; etc.

We also note admonitions such as: Therefore I do not run like someone running aimlessly; I do not fight like a boxer beating the air; Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms; For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does. The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds; etc.

The thread through the Word of God and the teaching therein motivates and urges the disciples of Christ and God-fearers to be race horses and war horses. Nowhere is there an instruction to be a wild horse or a show horse.

On the contrary, there is a injunction against being unbroken as an unruly horse and not to be showoffs or self-promoting or having an outward form without inward orientation. Indeed, one of the seven churches in the book of Revelation is judged as having a reputation that was not true in reality.

Following through my initial train of thought, I see that it is important to decide whether I am striving to be a race and a war horse, or a show horse, or worse still, a wild horse!

As the people of God and as the Ministers of His work, the Church needs to ensure that it is not breeding or grooming show horses, but committed to raising race horses and war horses.

Wild horse, show horse or race horse, war horse – which will you be?

*Pics courtesy google images, unsplash.com, shutterstock.com and information on horses from Google links

Distractions Diffuse Destiny & Direction

The soldier who leaves the post he is guarding, or the goalie who leaves the goal he is protecting or the farmer who leaves his fields to engage in action elsewhere are all as distracted as the one who is led astray by attractions.

Distractions destroy focus by involvement in unnecessary activity. The legitimacy of any work is dependent on its focus on your destiny or goal.

Nehemiah realised this and did not allow himself to be sidetracked from the work he was doing (Neh 6:1-14). Jesus set his face as flint to go to Jerusalem and was not dissuaded from fulfilling His work. Paul did the same and in spite of knowing bonds awaited him in Jerusalem, made it a point to go there.

In sharp contrast, in I Kings 13:1-32, a prophet became distracted and ended up dead.

An athlete or a racer or any competitor will not allow themselves to succumb to distractions. They cannot afford to, for even a millisecond can make the difference between winning and not doing so.

So it is necessary to be careful to guard focus, wear blinkers, like a horse, to avoid being turned aside by distractions.

Being distracted while driving can be fatal. Being distracted while performing an operation can harm rather heal the patient. Being distracted in the kitchen can cause burns and other accidents. Distractions have severe repercussions in whichever task you set out to do.

Jesus talked about thorns that choked the good seed – anxieties of this life, deceitfulness of riches and hankering after possessions. These are distractions to the growth of the right seed that will not allow it to mature. Distractions are destructive and deterrent to growth.

The Psalmist declared ‘one thing have I desired and that will I seek after’ (Ps 27) and the Apostle Paul said this one thing I do (Phil 3). These men were able to declare that they finished the race.

We live in world where attention deficiency is a major disorder with attention span being less than 10 mins. Reason: availability of multiple options, tendency for quick fixes, insecurity that promotes constant preoccupation, fear that fuels avaricious grasping, discontentment that leads to frenzied acquisitions and finally, languorous leisure that aspires for maximum gain with minimum effort. We have become like hothouse flowers that bloom quickly and fade even more faster.

Beware of distractions in the form of legitimate actions that detract you from reaching your goal. Distractions can come in the form of relationships that are a snare to our walk on the narrow path. Your compassionate concern can entangle you with people who make you drag your feet or turn you aside from the real path. Barnabas missed the mark of high calling to partner together in the gospel with Paul by choosing John Mark. People can ride on you like the old man on Sindbad’s back.

Have single-minded focus to conserve your energy and reach your target. Throw off the unnecessary weight that would divert and delay you on the path to destination. Identify and weed out things that drain and dissipate your attention so that you can sustain strength to the end. Deal with and destroy distractions that turn you aside and make you an also-ran rather than one who won the prize.

*Photo courtesy https://unsplash.com/photos/gRsBNSKgfII

WEARY WARRIOR, GO THE DISTANCE

Are you a soldier weary of the battle,
Holding the ground you already won?
Clothed in your armor, you stand so tall,
Yet you’re drooping ‘cos you’re tired of it all!

Who will help me, you cry within your heart,
What can I do, you question within your loft!
Fear not, good warrior, help is at hand,
God has placed resources close by your stand!

Look first to Him Who called you to go,
He’s promised to be there in all that you do!
His eyes are open, His ears do hear,
He doesn’t abandon you whenever you tear!

His grace is sufficient for the task that He gave,
His strength is made perfect when yours doth fail!
The clarity of His mission will lighten your way,
The focus of His purpose will enliven your sway!

Don’t give up yet, tho’ night seems long and drawn,
Just persevere and hold on until the day doth dawn!
Time is but short and the stakes are but high!
Its but a momentary dull and the end is but nigh!

Reach out for help from those who are with you,
Stretch out to succour those who surround you!
Seek not to walk alone for you have a community,
God’s always meant for you to be part of His family!

Stand strong soldier, let your heart be true,
Don’t let the world tease you into its lure!
His yoke is easy and His burden is light,
Stand firm soldier, your reward is in sight!

Sabina Tagore Immanuel
*Poetic form of Sunday Sermon by Ps Suman Jonathan (@SumanJonathan)
© NLAG CHURCH, LITTLE MT, CHENNAI, INDIA
*Pic courtesy https://i1.wp.com/www.kimrjackson.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/06/battle.jpg?resize=495%2C540&ssl=1