A Goat, A Stranger, and A Resolution

I stared at the picture his leg sprawled out in front of him, his backpack and long board  tossed aside, an emergency vehicle with flashing lights careened towards him in the night. The picture text included no explanation, but told a horror I wasn’t prepared for this Christmas season. My hands shook, knowing I couldn’t get to my son. He was at his friend, Caleb’s beach house for a few days.

“Christian,” I texted frantically. “What’s happened?” I wanted to scream into the phone. He didn’t respond. I prayed, while dialing his number several times to no avail.

His younger brother, Colin leaned over my shoulder. “What’s wrong Momma?”

“Pray for Christian. Something’s happened.” I showed him the picture. “He’s not answering his phone.”

Finally, the phone rang.

 

There was a little goat on the farm named Prince William. Prince William didn’t have the typical goat life in the beginning. His mother developed mastitis and was unable to nurse him. He lived in a stall in the barn and was bottle-fed on schedule, usually by a young girl named Emma, who lives with her parents in the barn apartment. You couldn’t help but love this little guy. He bleated as you passed his stall, begging for attention. Emma rode her scooter up and down the barn, and Prince William scampered behind as if she were his mother.

Before long, it was time for Prince William to be castrated so he could join a herd. In the pen, he was the black goat in a pack of white, the smallest of the bunch and one of his ears pointed down while the other pointed heavenward. Life with the herd wasn’t easy for Prince William. The other goats didn’t accept him, he was always in a corner by himself. His food was placed in a separate container, so he would not be ousted at mealtime. Whenever I drove up on the ATV, he ran alongside the fence and bleated as if to say, “My peeps! There you are! Get me out of here!” I think he thought he was human to some extent. We’d discussed moving Prince William to our yard. He’d become a pet and not be so lonely, but after going back and forth we decided he was safer with the herd, until we moved there full time.

One night we’d left our bedroom doors open to allow the cool wind to blow through during the night. Around midnight, I jumped up hearing a loud noise.

I shook Jay. “Do you hear that?” I said.

He scrunched his face. “What is it?”

I ran out onto the porch. Howling and yapping to the left of our farmhouse, then in the front, and answered by howling to the right.

Jay squeezed my shoulders. “Coyotes,” he said.

“We’re surrounded. There’s so many!” I’d never heard anything like it.

“Sounds like several packs are passing through,” he said. “Unfortunately, we offer a buffet. They eat chickens.”

“What about the goats?” I said, turning to him. “Prince William?”

By his expression, I knew goats were what’s for dinner. “We’ll know in the morning.”

I didn’t sleep well that night, worrying over the little black outcast.

Surprisingly, Prince William survived that night, but soon after he received a slash on his hip by what the farmers believed was a bob cat or a Florida panther. He was treated and as it healed coyote tracks were found by the goat pen. This time Prince William wasn’t as fortunate.

He was eaten.

The herd is to blame. While they huddled in a tight circle of protection, Prince William was sacrificed. It’s a part of farm life, I will never become callous to. The pangs you feel when a beloved creature is killed, slaughtered, sold, or traded. Jay often shrugs “It’s farm life.” Sometimes, I wonder if I’m cut out for it.

I’ve thought about Prince William. The poor guy was doomed from the beginning. I knew his story was to teach me something. I didn’t know what until a few nights after, when I clutched my cell phone. Finally, Christian’s face popped up on the screen.

 

My “hello” sounded frantic.

“Momma!” he said, the sound of traffic in the background. “There’s a dead guy.”

“What dead guy? What happened?”

“This guy was riding his bike around the bridge. We saw him as we long boarded to the beach. Four hours later, his bike was on the side of the road. He was face down in the water on the rocks.”

“What happened to him?”

“He’s dead Momma. He was just alive. I just…” His voice wavered. “I just can’t believe it! When Caleb ran to get help, I called 911. I nudged him and talked to him, but I knew he was already gone.”

“You couldn’t resuscitate him?” I said.

“No, he was already gray and stiff. I sat in the dark with his body. I don’t know why I was talking to him. I didn’t know what else to do. I was scared to touch him too much maybe I’d be blamed for his death or something. The investigator said it was good I didn’t move him.” He paused for a moment. “It was suicide Momma. The guy killed himself.”

I didn’t realize I was holding my breath as I exhaled. My son was okay. It was someone else’s son. Some poor mother would receive a call, days after Christmas. She would hear the gruesome facts. The cans found around his body. How he removed his wallet from his pocket and laid it neatly on a boulder. He wanted someone to know who he was…who he once was.

Your son was snuffing they’ll tell her, he snuffed his life out…snuffed his soul free. He snuffed because he couldn’t stand on his own two feet any longer. He fell face down in the rocks. Crushed his skull. His nose was smashed to bits….No longer looked human.

 

At home, the next night Christian couldn’t sleep. The picture of that thirty year old’s face and bloated body wasn’t easy to forget. His mind swung back and forth between seeing him alive and then dead. Knowing he and Caleb were probably the last to see him riding his bike in circles on that bridge as he contemplated his end. I explained to Christian, God allowed him to be this man’s witness.

“Maybe you were to see what snuffing does, so you could help someone. Keep someone else from making the same mistake.”

He nodded sadly. “What would make him do that Momma?” He’d ask later.

Sometimes there are no answers… just questions.  I myself couldn’t help but wonder if this man like Prince William was rejected by his herd, and if he fought the coyotes and panthers of this life alone. I pondered why he was outside a circle of protection. Was there no one to turn to?

This was not the way I’d planned to start my New Year, but the experience pushed me into a resolution. My resolution for 2017 is to try harder to extend grace to those who are angry, rude, treat me unfairly, or see things from a different point of view,  to care for those who are sick, to befriend the lonely, and to open the door for the elderly. Jesus called this loving your neighbor. We are commanded to love without expectation of anything in return, for we never know what’s going on in someone else’s pen. Maybe, this man’s life will not be lost in vain after all.

 

Isaiah 41:10: “Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” AKJV

 

 

 

 

 

 

Nature is Crying out for Redemption

When my boys were little we’d play a game in the car. They’d name everything altered in nature as a consequence of sin.
“Weeds…mosquitos…thorns…animals killing each other… etc…” They’d shout from the back seat.
“Creation cries out for redemption too.” I reminded them.

I stated this to my brother-in-law, Thomas upon passing a moss heavy tree. He stated he loved the Spanish moss and found it beautiful.
“It is a parasite.” I said. “It robs the branch of air and sunshine, slowly choking the life out of it. The branch will eventually break away from the tree. Spanish moss is one of those consequences dating back to Eve’s disobedience.”
I equate it to sin. It may appear beautiful, but slowly it entangles our hearts and minds to the point we can no longer recognize the light of truth, the touch of the Holy Spirit.

Last weekend, at the farm,I thought about nature wanting to be free from the binding of sin.
In the morning, the goats bleat as the food tractor comes by. I stood on the porch to witness the chaos. The creatures stampeded Zach almost knocking him down, as he poured their food into the troughs. The many babies, all different colors followed their Momma’s and jumped excitedly, imitating the behavior they see, for they are still on the tit. I leaned over the bannister with my coffee and laugh. Jay tells me some of the babies have been trampled to death at feeding time. My laughter dissipates. Goats are no better than people I guess. How many human babies have been trampled by their parent’s greed or ambition?
There is a papa goat in the bunch. He is larger than the others, Colin likes to call him Sensei, for you can tell he is wise. He moves methodically throughout the herd and watches outside the fence, as if he is the goat’s protector.

Late morning, I stopped by the cows, as I jumped out of the ATV, the herd stared at me. I take their picture. The sun and wind flittered in their coats.The Momma cows moved closer to their calves as I approached the fence. They looked at me with those intelligent eyes as if they wanted to receive my affections, but knew of the unseen barrier between us, tearing it down would only bring us heartbreak.
I recall a passage in Isaiah, “The cow will graze near the bear. The cub and the calf will lie down together. The lion will eat hay like a cow.” (Isaiah 11:7) One day, cows will receive affection from man, for now they yearn to be free from the duty of provision and returned to the perfection of God’s ultimate plan.

It is no secret the horses are my passion. A passion born in my youth on hot Saturday afternoons. I’d hear the ring master’s voice over a loud speaker echo through my yard. I rode my bike to the stables to watch the horses circle the ring. It was not a place I was treated well by the spectators.
My sister once asked me, “Why do you go there, the people are so mean and snobby?” I didn’t care, I was mesmerized by the fancy horses and their prancing. Compared to the girls riding, I looked a mess, I had stringy blonde hair, a dirt smeared face, and was sweaty from playing outside all day. I enviously watched the girls in the riding attire moving fluidly with their shiny steeds.

Yesterday, I remembered the feeling as I drove up to the horse pasture. There are five horses on the farm, who see themselves as Golden-doodles, unaware of their strength and size, they crowded me against the fence, and I shoved them back. The sight of a halter slung over my shoulder began their restless circling, for they’ve been released to their wild nature far too long. I approached the one I wanted and she turned in the other direction.
I kneeled to appear less threatening. “Sugar… Come here Sugar.” I said softly. “I’m just going to give you a bath.”She slipped her head into the tool of submission, as if she understood. There is healing in washing a horse. I worked the lather into her coat and rinsed away the dirt and grime, the water flowed down her muscular flank. Once the oils and dirt encrusted in her coat are removed her true color appeared in the sunlight…sleek and shiny. She became new, while I wore the dirt on me. I worked through the tangles of her mane and tail, sometimes having to tug hard to release the knot.
I gave her carrots as a treat. She gobbled them up greedily. The soft of her muzzle tickled my hand, I couldn’t resist the sweetness of it, I kissed her and drank in her smell.
We walked through the breezeway of the barn, she called to the herd. They met us at the gate. I attempted to remove her halter, but the alpha-female named Zoe, chose at that moment to bite another in the rear, which started a frenzy.
I am slammed against the fence and Sugar now spooked, turned to run. I snatched the lead line and dug my heals in, determined not to let her go. Her eyes turn wild as the other horses circled around, tempting her to drag me.
She stomped her front legs and thrashed her head back and forth, but my will was stronger.
“Sugar, I have you! Come back.” I remembered to calm my voice, while she remembered the gentle touch of my hand. The wild white of her eyes disappeared, as I pulled her close. She trusted again. Once her halter was removed, she stood free, but reluctant to leave my side.
For a moment I brushed my face against her muzzle before pointing across the paddock to the others.
“Go!” I said. She obeyed and turned to join them.
I sprinkled carrots around their trough, hoping they’d each get a few. Sugar watched me from afar. As I drove away, she was eating the carrots alone.

The spirituality of the experience was not lost on me, for God loves me like that. He saw this dirty, country girl leaning against the bleachers longing to be clean and wearing fancy clothes and riding prancing horses.
He invited me into his shade, washed and brushed my tangled life, took the dirt upon Himself, and left me shiny and new. He didn’t let me go when I gave into temptations. He held the reins when I tried to buck and run. His will was stronger than my own. He told me to “Go”, go and tell others what He has done for me. There is peace and blessings at the trough of the Savior.

Though nature is crying out for redemption, crying out for God’s perfection, it beckons us to witness the Great I Am as well. Nature demands us to lean in, watch, and listen to the message of a Savior, to look past the creation in order to praise the great Creator. When is the last time you looked beyond a herd? Past the Spanish moss blowing in the breeze?