lesson learned/lesson taught
by Rick Anderson
That day was buried in my memory until I stood up for the Lord in 1989 in a church in Reedsport, Oregon.
After I asked Jesus into my heart, I remembered that day with all the anger and hatred I threw at the One who died for me, yet still loved me enough to forgive me for what I did to Him.
I begged and begged Jesus to forgive me. I had a tough time believing that He would let me slide over all the vile things that I did to Him that day.
Every time I read about His walk to Golgotha and the crowd spitting on Him, I see myself there.
When they put the crown of thorns on His head, I shared in it. And when they cursed Him, taunted Him and nailed Him to that cross, well, I did that also.
Over and over, I told Jesus I was sorry. I still do. Right now, I am asking Him to again forgive me for being a spoiled child and throwing such a tantrum that I still have a hard time forgiving myself. I probably haven’t, but I’m trying to. I only know one thing; I will never again raise my hand to God, unless the palm is face up. For I totally surrender to my Lord.
Over the years since I stood up for God, I have looked back on my days in Alaska. Jesus has shown me, I think, some lessons He was trying to teach me on that day. Why He waited over 20 years to make them plain, I will never know. But, every time I think about that day, some of the same points keep coming back to me so I will share them here with you.
1. Be Prepared
When I left the ranch that morning, all I had was that silly quirt. (See Blog – Part X) I didn’t take with me a rope or a whip, or a can containing food with which to catch any strays that I couldn’t force back to the herd. I was not prepared. I was just thinking, “I will just saunter down to the meadows and run some horses back to the ranch”, with no thought of any trials, or difficulties along the way. And because I didn’t go out prepared with the right equipment, I failed to accomplish my task.
Jesus also asks us to go out on a mission to bring in the herd. He wants us to be prepared when we go out and He has given us all we need to be ready for the task. The first thing we need to do is spend some time with Him before we head out of the house.
By saying a few prayers, having quiet time listening to the Lord, or reading the Bible before leaving the house, we equip ourselves with spiritual power to face the day. Jesus also has given us tools to use when we leave the house. Paul calls it the armor of God. Ephesians 6:10-18 describes daily protection that we need in order to be prepared for the daily battle. I know. I was in a situation in Reedsport where I put on the armor every day for over a year and was saved by God, but that is another story.
Now, when I wake-up in the morning, I say good morning to God. I spend the first hour of my day with Him to surrender to Him and to thank Him for the day. And, after my day is done, the last thing I tell Jesus is thank you for my day, no matter what kind of day I had, I give Him thanks. I am trying to be prepared.
2. Going your own way leads to failure
When I was chasing after the horses on Cherokee, I thought I was the one in control. I had the reins of the horse and by golly, I knew better than an old horse how to chase those two critters down. So, I went on my own way. I went for the easy route instead of the way through; I tried to find the way around and ended up going around and around a tree, lead by two rebel horses. I ended up going in circles. And without Jesus, that is how I will still end up, going in circles. It doesn’t matter what I chase, if I continue to go MY OWN WAY, I will surely fail.
Proverbs 14:12 says - “There is a way that seems right to a man, but in the end it leads to death.” And that is what going your own way does. It leads to death.
3. God disciplines those He loves
Proverbs 3:11-12 says - “My son, do not despise the Lord’s discipline and do not resent his rebuke because the Lord disciplines those he loves, as a father the son he delights in.”
Here is how I know that God forgives and loves me. He disciplined me and He does not do that to those He does not love. I won’t say He is delighted with me all the time, but He still loves me enough to teach me.
I was chewed on and out by Doug with the same force that I cussed out the Lord. As I sowed, so I reaped. Proverbs 7:15-16 says - “He who digs a hole and scoops it out falls into the pit he has made. The trouble he causes recoils on himself, his violence comes down on his own head.” And that was sure true for me. What I told God came right back at me. It was dumped on me to bring me down a peg or two and to humble me for being angry with God.
4. Trust in the Lord/Who has your reins
When Doug told me to hold on to Mister’s saddle horn, he was teaching me to put all my trust in something not under my own control.
Jesus wants us to put all our trust and faith in Him so he can lead us through and bring us home, to Heaven. Remember Proverbs 3:5-6? “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight.”
By putting all my trust and effort in staying on Mister’s back and holding onto the saddle horn, Jesus was teaching me to trust Him. To put all my faith and trust in Him and hold onto Him and let Him carry me to the Father.
Jesus says that His yoke is light, and all who believe in Him will be saved, that He will bring us to a place of rest. Jesus was trying to teach me that the ride of my life would not be easy. I mean, I really had to work at staying on Mister’s back! The trees tried to brush me off and I had to balance myself when we jumped ditches and logs and made quick cuts through trees and around deadfalls. But the ride of faith is worthwhile and in the end of life, we will be meeting the Father in the valley below and He will tell us “good job.”
5. After the strays
One final thought I had a few years ago, is that the best ride of our lives may not be staying with the herd or running with the pack. No, the best ride of our lives, is going after the strays with Christ. Chasing lost sheep and bringing them back to the Father is the best ride we can have. I don’t know if this ride is for everyone, I mean someone has to stay with the pack just to make sure they don’t stray or get lost in the forest. But I know that my best ride that summer, the one that held the most enjoyment and excitement, was on Mister’s back holding on for dear life, bringing in the strays, the lost, back to the ranch. I think that Jesus chooses us to do this. After all, He said for us to Go and make disciples of all nations, that He came not for the healthy, but for the sick. So, it seems to me that we also should go after the lost, the strays, the ones who flee from God and try to turn them back to the Father, so they too can have life.
I know that Jesus forgave me for my rebellion that day. Not only did he put His Spirit in my heart in Reedsport, but a week later He showed me just how much he listens to me.
Doug was taking a trip up the middle glacier with a couple of hunters and he wanted me to tag along. I had never been up that part of the valley so this was an adventure and a learning experience that I would not have again. Not many of us got to be with Doug when he guided hunters, so this was a real treat. It was a two-day trip just to get to the main camp at the bottom of the glacier. From there, Doug would take the two hunters he had with him and look for sheep.
After a couple of days of chasing dead ends, Doug took me aside and told me he wanted me to take the two hunters back to the ranch. I could make it in one day if I just kept riding, but it was going to be a very long day and I wouldn’t get to the ranch until well after 2 in the morning. So off I went. Very early.
Doug tried to tell me which rapid to cross and where to cross the river and which side of a slide to take. He said that when I reached the place where we had camped the first night, the trail was a good one and even I couldn’t get lost.
I tried to remember the way we came, but I hadn’t paid much attention on the first part of the trip. I didn’t think I would have to bring people back on my own. I mean, I was just a greenhorn. I hadn’t done this before at all so it didn’t occur to me to pay attention. Whoops!
I crossed the river where Doug advised me and started up the mountainside. It was very steep and filled with loose gravel about 1-2 feet thick. I had planned out a route to the top of a ridge line, but I didn’t think we should be riding when the horses went up that gravel slide area, so I had the two hunters get off and hike up to the ridge line while I brought the horses up myself.
Here is where I got stupid.
I tied the horses together. Nose to tail, tail to nose, 4 horses long in a train we were. And up the hill we started to go. Suddenly the rear horse started to struggle and slide in the gravel. He got frantic and started clawing and scratching his way, but began losing his footing. As he panicked, so did the next horse in line and that one started to dig in faster and faster, and soon all four of them were frantic and trying to get out of the gravel. Every hoof slid backwards towards the river.
The more they clawed and pawed and tried to get a foothold, the more they slid downward toward a rocky outcropping that was 1500 feet above the river. I was tied to the lead horse. His reins were wrapped around my hands and we were all sliding downward to the ledge. If the bottom horse went over, all of us would follow and all the horses knew it. So, they tried even harder to gain a foothold and make it to the top of the ridge line. They were scared. They were desperate. They were frightened. Heck, so was I. That ledge was only three feet wide, and we were just about on top of it. So again, I cried, “Help, God, please!”
Immediately, the rear horse stopped struggling. He slid about a foot or two, but he didn’t struggle anymore. Then the next horse in line stopped. And the next one. And the next one. Until all were still. The only sounds were gravel splattering down the cliff and our breaths coming out in frantic and relieved gasps.
I saw 18 pairs of knees shaking, mine included. I went to the horses and soothed them with my voice and patted them down. They were so frightened. They looked to me like I knew what I was doing and here I had no clue. But I went to each of them, calmed them down and then went around the bottom horse.
I looked out over nothingness. I was standing on the ledge when I was at the end of the train. If that horse had expelled gas it would have blown me off the ridge and out into the middle of the river. I looked down 1500 feet before I saw bottom. It was not a very good feeling at all how close I came. I came back to the lead horse and untied him and got him to the hunters. Then the next horse, and so on, until all were safe. I took a big breath when I got to the top of that ridge and thanked God for his help.
Two days later, Doug came back to the ranch. He didn’t do as well as I did.
He followed the same trail that I had taken and he lost Mister to the river. Mister went down the slide, over that ledge and ended up in the middle of the river. Two days later we went back to get his saddle and gear, and the rest of the summer I missed Mister very much. I would like to think that Jesus has Mister waiting for me to ride when I get to heaven. I would like to think that anyway, for my best ride had been on that horse.
In 2001, my pastor suggested to the congregation that we read the bible through from cover to cover. The church starts up a read the Bible in a year every January. Our pastor also says that the first time you read the Bible, you read the Bible, and after that, the Bible reads you. How right he is.
I had read parts of the Bible, but never the whole book from cover to cover. So, this was something new for me.
One day, I came to a passage in the Psalms and my experience on that ledge leapt into my mind. I had not thought of that cliff for a long time, but when I read that psalm the day on the ledge came back to me. I could smell the dust in the air and hear the horses blow and feel the quiet seep into me again as I looked out over the ledge to the river below.
Psalms 94:17-19 says - “Unless the Lord had given me help, I would have soon dwelt in the silence of death. When I said, “My foot is slipping,” your love, O Lord, supported me. When anxiety was great within me, your consolation brought joy to my soul.”
I have always wanted to write and tell these stories. A very good friend of mine told me he would like to read them, and that I should give them to three people and let them judge if they have any worth to be told again or if it is just a dream or a chasing at the wind.
Here they are. This is part of my history. My failure. And some of the greatest lessons God has taught me. He is always with me. He never left me. Even through all the years, when I had my back turned to Him, He was always there.
Thank you for reading my stories. May the Lord richly bless each of you who read them.