Thursday, September 17, 2009

A Soft Place to Land

A Soft Place to Land
By Brenda Black

Currents of sparkling clear water broke and swirled as our blue speckled gelding powered his way through deep pools on the far side of the river. The giant Appaloosa we called Blue Mountain Music always had wide, white eyes that made him look a little spooky. Though he still sported that wild look, he seemed to enjoy his swim within cool rapids that lapped at his chest and belly. I know how his muscles labored to paddle, how his nostrils flared infusing fresh air into working lungs, because I straddled his bare back, holding to nothing but a braided lead rope snapped and knotted to a nylon halter on his head.

The longer we swam, the slicker he got. My suit was soaked from dipping lunges that splashed Missouri river water over my lap. His satiny hide turned slippery when wet. I gripped thin strands of the remnant of his mane. It was all that was left at his withers after a roaching buzzed the crest hairs and left him clipped and crisp like a Marine in boot camp. And I giggled with delight like a young girl should on a summer vacation with a powerful steed beneath her who felt like a porpoise at sea.

When Blue began to tire, we paddled toward shallow waters. His sweeping strides eventually struck loose river rock that gradually felt like solid ground beneath his shod hooves. I wrapped my short legs tighter as he lunged his way toward the shore where his legs grew longer and more stable. As they lengthened, they also accelerated.

With only the cotton rope in one small hand, a wisp of mane in the other and a slick seat beneath my equally slick bottom, the ride quickly transgressed from serene to scary. With each step closer to shore, the tall and lanky horse became more determined to keep going. He was bound for the campground and the trailer. And there was nothing I could do to stop him.

One last surge found us on dry ground. It was the kind of sun-baked hard soil that sits on top of Ozark Mountains. Sandy on the surface and hard as rock just beneath. His stride graduated from a rapid walk to a bouncing trot to lope, then full out gallop as he purposed his way past pines and oaks and over rough rocks and fallen limbs, beating a path to his equine buddies and feed bucket. I hunkered down and held on for dear life, hollering whoa and pulling back with all my miniscule might.
My commands fell on deaf ears and a powerful nose that would not yield.

On one last, heart-stopping bend around a huge pine tree, Blue dumped me right in the middle of a sawdust pile. I rose just inches from the base of a hundred year old spruce, covered with reddish dust and feeling like one big cedar chip. And there he stood, looking innocent, munching on hay at the trailer between Jack and Slim.

He could have slipped me off in a rapid current. I may have lost my grip and plummeted to nail-hard soil. In any number of places between the river and the trailer, I might have met my head with the likes of a huge branch or jagged rock. But I landed in a soft pile of safety right next to the camper. Now that's what I call timing.

How quickly our circumstances can change from enjoyable to frightening. Suddenly we go from feeling in command of our destiny to clinging to anything solid for a glimpse of certainty. The ride is scary, often whirring and blurry. And then one final blow lands us in the lap of safety and then we know that the Lord was with us through the entire ride.

Give us eyes to see from the beginning. Gives us strength to hold tightly to truth even when we feel it slipping away in the midst of danger and fear. Keep your saving hand upon us so when we fall, we fall into the arms of grace that covers us with forgiveness and helps us walk away changed.

Even at a young age, I knew I had been protected. I was aggravated with my horse, but delighted with God's unseen hand. I've thought of that ride countless times over the years. I can still see the river, feel the rapids. I remember the round pebbles that slipped away beneath Blue's hooves and I see the path littered with less friendly stones. I smell the sawdust and remember the salty tears that mingled with the fresh river water that dripped from my braids. And I still stand amazed that I walked away.

“There is no one like the God fo Jeshurun, who rides on the heavens to help you and on the clouds in his majesty. The eternal God is your refuge, and underneath are the everlasting arms.” (Deuteronomy 33:26-27a)

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