Horse D’Oeuvres Served With a Bit of Almighty

Today, I’m honored to welcome my friend Karen O’Kelley Allen as this week’s guest blogger here at the Cross-Dubya. Ms. Karen is a demure “Alabama girl” with a gentle spirit and a fire for God within. She’s the author of an amazing book entitled Confronting Cancer with Faith, a hope-generating Bible study that delivers on its opening promise that “God is bigger than cancer.” Not that long ago, my friend Karen could not have told you the difference between a hazer and a heeler. In today’s heart-warming post, she shares the lessons God poured into her during the time she recently spent building new friends (both two and four-legged varieties). Ms. Karen is the CEO of Ewe R Blessed Ministries. Please extend a warm Cross-Dubya “Howdy” to our guest as you enjoy the way she pours out her heart onto the page.

God’s blessings,

Recently I checked off another bucket list item: a dude ranch. Not just any dude ranch but a small working dude ranch owned by a godly couple with a Lord-loving staff. Their website doesn’t horse around about their Christian ethics. They even name their horses biblical names!

My friend and I spent five days on the ranch milking the cow, collecting chicken eggs, feeding the sheep, goat, and chickens, making bread, rolling oats, playing the spoons and washboard while singing around the campfire, eating chuck wagon meals, and line-dancing. Cowboy Church was an added plus. More than anything else, though, I gained a deeper appreciation and understanding from one of the equine residents named “Socks.” She is an older gaited horse with large white patches on her brown coat. Socks not only broadened my horse sense but she fed my spiritual appetite with horse d’oeuvres!

Although I had ridden a horse a few times in my younger days, I knew little to nothing about horses.  I had more fearful respect than I openly admitted but that didn’t keep me from riding when I had a chance. I always wondered how people developed such a strong bond with a horse. After all, it’s not like you can curl up in bed with them like you can a dog. A horse doesn’t lick your face, wag its tail, or sit in your lap. I’ve never heard a horse bark with joy when pulling into the driveway. No, I couldn’t imagine establishing a meaningful relationship with a horse like I had with my two Irish setters, O’Malley and Rio.

Horses are owned for a variety of reasons: working ranch horses, “pasture ornaments,” pleasure horses, show horses, and rodeo horses. Socks was my assigned pleasure horse. I learned how to muck, feed, water, give nutrients and supplements, groom, and saddle her. The more I cared for Socks, the more I enjoyed being around her. Petting her long nose and strong jaw, stroking her neck and bulging sides began to create a connection. Grooming her was especially enjoyable as she seemed to like the attention particularly when I rubbed the sweet spot on the right side of her neck. Her eyes would slowly close in pure contentment. After a few days, I found myself lingering at her stall when I had the opportunity. I learned that having a personal relationship with your horse is imperative in building trust. Hmmm … a personal relationship with God builds trust, too. I’ll take that horse d’oeuvre, thank you!

Giving Socks a treat of carrots and apples was fun and amusing to me. She seemed to inhale it as if it were candy. Her thick muzzle rolled around my hand searching for another nibble reminding me of an anteater sniffing and sucking up food. I loved the feel of Sock’s mouth on my hand; it gave me such delight. I wonder if that’s the same kind of feeling described in Psalm 37 when we “take delight in the Lord?” Ooo, a sweet horse d’oeuvre bite.

The time came to go on a trail ride. Socks and I had become friends in the barn but we had not yet bonded on the trail. With much-needed help from Stu, the wrangler, and some patience from Socks, I positioned myself on the saddle. Stu proceeded to sound out basic riding rules as we circled the arena. I was in obvious need of a refresher course. Poor Socks was as confused as I was but it didn’t take long to get reoriented. I had to demonstrate that Socks could trust me and she had to learn that I was the one to give commands. Once Stu was satisfied, we headed towards the trail. As the trail narrowed, Socks took smaller and more careful steps to avoid the trench formed by rainwater. I was thankful even though it sometimes meant getting swatted by a low hanging tree branch. One wrong step could potentially mean disaster yet I wasn’t fearful. My trust superseded my fear. Could there be another horse d’oeuvre nibble there?

When we reached the open field, it felt more secure and freeing until Socks stepped in a small hole and stumbled. She recovered but my heart took a little longer! We need gentle reminders to not get too comfortable and let down our guard from hidden adversity (like the enemy.) Whew! A hot and spicy horse d’oeuvre this time.

When we reached the river, Socks seemed eager to cool off from the 95 degree blazing sunshine. She gulped down some refreshing water before slogging down the river to a clearing on the bank. Our hungry stomachs emptied the saddlebags of our prepared lunches. A blanket was spread as curious cows began to encroach. Stu gave the cows and us a devotional taken from Job 39 pointing out the strength, majesty, and terrifying fearlessness of the horse. Only a limited number of animals are described in such detail in the Bible. An astonishing 217 scriptures can be found referencing horses. Giddy up!

The horse is portrayed as an animal of battle representing power, triumph, and glory. The splendor of Christ’s return will be upon a white horse. And yet, Christ’s triumphant entry into Jerusalem was upon a donkey colt, a lowly commonplace and humble beast. (How amazing when you consider the colt had never been ridden and was not spooked when exposed to masses of people cheering and throwing their robes into the street. A testament to Christ’s masterful touch.) How interesting, too, that just hours before Christ’s birth his mother Mary also rode a donkey. Jesus came into this world on a donkey, He left this world on a donkey, but He will return on a horse. Hmmm … definitely a flavorful horse d’oeuvre to savor.

I rode Socks one other time to the country church on Sunday. We crossed several creeks with rocky beds. I was told to loosen up on the reins so that Socks could look down to get proper bearings to navigate through the rocks at her own pace. I never considered allowing time and space for her to carefully choose a safe path. That horse d’oeuvre had a little nutty taste.

As we approached the church, we were forced to walk a short distance on the roadway. The shoulder was very narrow bordered by a deep ditch on one side. Danger lurked as cars and trucks whizzed by. A sense of urgency rose up within me along with my trust factor as I perched upon this massive one-and-a-half ton powerhouse clomping along a two-foot wide path. We made it with no mishaps and proceeded towards the trail. However, once in the open field, a coyote was seen in the distance. The wrangler decided to choose a longer path. The longer journey can sometimes be worth the added effort. Mmm, mmm, mmm. That last horse d’oeuvre is a good one! I’m full now.

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The longer journey can sometimes be worth the added effort. Mmm, mmm, mmm. That last horse d’oeuvre is a good one! I’m full now.

Karen O’Kelley Allen has a passion for music, ministry, writing and dogs. Recently retired from working in cancer research, Karen fills her time now with more writing, exercise, travel and ministry. She enjoys serving as the organist for her church in Birmingham, AL where she and her husband of 37 years, George Parker, attend. A diagnosis of breast cancer inspired her to write a Bible study Confronting Cancer with Faith (www.confrontingcancerwithfaith.com), which has brought encouragement and hope around the world. Karen has published numerous articles and devotionals and is currently writing a devotional book dedicated to the mental health community. Connect with Karen on her Ewe R Blessed Ministries blog (www.ewerblessed.com/blog) that highlights everyday and unexpected blessings.

40 thoughts on “Horse D’Oeuvres Served With a Bit of Almighty

  1. Thank you for the smiles, a chuckle or two, and the wonderful lessons in faith you shared with me and our readers Ms. Karen. I’m so honored you agreed to join me here as a guest; and I pray you’ll consider a return visit as many times as you would like ma’am. I can just picture you in the stall now as you’re preparing Socks’ tack. “Okay Socks, I’m a little rusty at this so you have to be patient with me sweetie.” 🙂 God’s blessings.

    1. Your comment made me smile, J.D. Your quote is exactly what I would say! You’ve got me pegged. I loved being part of the Cross-Dubya blog and will enjoy participating in the future. Thanks for the invitation and warm welcome from you and your readers. I have truly been blessed.

    1. So very glad you enjoyed Ms. Debbie. I can almost see your smiling as you read Ms. Karen’s post in my mind ma’am. Thank you also for sharing this on your social media feeds. So appreciated when folks are kind enough to do this.

    2. Thank you, Debbie. I, too, appreciate your sharing the post. You and your friends might also enjoy my Ewe R Blessed blog that highlights lessons from sheep, blessings from cancer, and every day and unexpected blessings we encounter.

  2. I loved your post, Karen! I’ve been a long-time horse owner and stable manager (though retired now). I can picture all those things you experienced. I’m grateful to the LORD for helping you point to Him in so many ways in this simple, fun, and inspiring Post.
    Thanks, Jim, for guesting her!

    1. My arms immediately covered in goosebumps reading your reply, Jacqueline. Thank you for those kind words. I was honored to be J.D.’s first guest blogger. I’m hoping he will guest on my blog as well at ewerblessed.com/blog. His posts are always delightful and inspiring.

    1. Thanks for your response, Jeanne. I’d love for you to check out my blog @ ewerblessed.com/blog. I enjoy writing about blessings of the everyday sort as well as unexpected blessings from cancer plus lessons we encounter from sheep.

  3. I can certainly relate with the “fearful respect” kind of attitude about horses! Thank you for all these appetizing tidbits of how you saw God-moments during your time at the dude ranch, reminding me to look for God-moments and lessons throughout my day, too! The trip to the dude ranch sounds like a delightful adventure!

    1. What amazing insights Ms. Karen gained. This post helped me realize how blessed I am to be living here on the ranch. Her two-week discovery can be an everyday experience in my life. Reckon what I would learn in a big city like Birmingham, AL. Maybe instead of “avoid the bull” it would be “avoid the Buick”! 🙂 Great post. So glad you enjoyed ma’am.

    2. Funny how that “fearful respect” can parallel a learned friendship the more we spend in close communication not only with a horse but with God. Thank you for your post, Julie. The dude ranch we visited was in Tennessee. While there, I was awed by the grit, responsibility and honor owed to the rancher that our country and us, as individuals, should have. I have such tremendous respect for ranchers like J.D.

  4. Love the descriptions of your experiences. Our 14 years old niece loves everything horses. She loves riding them , caring for them and now she has started creating artwork focusing on horses. I, too, have a “fearful respect” of horses. 🙂 Horses are amazing animals.

    1. Horses certainly are something special Ms. Melissa. They, more so than dogs I think, create a special bond with their owners. I don’t own any here on our ranch (I’m just too old and beat up to ride confidently any more), but we have them all around, and I always have a treat for them in my ATV. 🙂 So glad you enjoyed ma’am. If your little niece ever makes it to this part of Texas, I have a 14 year old barrel racing champion right around the corner from me. Miss Kerstin will be more than happy to take her around. God’s blessings ma’am.

    2. After having been on the dude ranch, I can certainly see how easy it is to develop a strong love for horses. I miss Socks since I have been gone and have checked in at the ranch to inquire! Thank you for your response, Melissa. I’m so glad you enjoyed my blog. I hope you will check out my ministry blog at ewerbless.com/blog.

  5. I loved this post from a fellow Alabamian. We’ve got some good Christian folks down here, though probably not as many as Texas.
    I really love how the Lord doesn’t waste any opportunity to show us His love and His truth. Karen, thanks for sharing.
    And JD, thanks for sharing her story. I might not have found her blog site otherwise.

    1. Am so glad you got to meet Ms. Karen Allen Ms. Dottie; she’s a dear woman who plays the organ for her church in addition to all her other ministry and professional efforts. I hope you enjoy her blog in the future, as I’ve learned a great deal from her godly insights; much like I do yours ma’am. Thank you so much for always contributing my friend.

    2. Well, howdy-do, Dottie. Good to hear from another Sweet Home Alabamian. I appreciate your words of affirmation reminding us of God’s constant companionship. We just have to open our eyes to notice His love and truth made manifest to us. Thanks for checking out my blog at ewerblessed.com/blog. Love to have new subscribers.

  6. Hey Karen, enjoyed your adventures on the dude ranch and particularly with Socks on the trail ride. 🙂 What great analogies to our spiritual journey! Especially love this thought: “We need gentle reminders to not get too comfortable and let down our guard from hidden adversity (like the enemy.)”

    1. I enjoyed those analogies also Ms. Karen F. Am so pleased you enjoyed Ms. Karen’s post. I hope she’ll agree to do it again one day (hint hint). 🙂 Thank you so much ma’am.

      1. Thank you, Karen, for taking the time to respond. It was a fun blog to write. I’m glad you enjoyed it. Hope you will check out my blog site at ewerblessed.com/blog. Would love to have you as a new subscriber.
        Hint received, my friend. Of course, I’d love to post again on your wonderful site, J.D.

  7. I greatly enjoyed this post. Your experience of bonding with Socks was so beautiful and inspiring. My dogs have taught me a few lessons!

    1. You are very kind, Robin. so glad you enjoyed my “horseplay.” I’m sure I’ll be writing about my dogs in the not-so-distant future! Check me out on ewerblessed.com/blog for a variety of blessings.

    1. Am glad you enjoyed Ms. Karen’s post Ms. Candyce, as we do yours ma’am. Perhaps one day you’ll be kind enough to share a post too ma’am. I know my followers and friends would welcome your candid thoughts.

    2. God is always near. We just have to take notice. I often find those connections through his creation and especially his living creation. So glad you enjoyed the post, Candyce.

  8. Karen, what an enjoyable read with so many spiritual lessons. I’ve always admired horses, but haven’t had much experience with them. I loved reading about yours. It makes me want to go to a Dude Ranch!
    Although I live in SoCal currently, I lived in Tuscaloosa, Alabama as a child.

    Thanks for sharing Karen’s post, J.D.

    1. Am thrilled that you and so many others have enjoyed Ms. Karen’s post ma’am. I know I have. I always thought of Dude Ranch’s of being where folks went to say the “went to the country.” In my mind, it was a place where they saddled your horse and brought to a ladder or step stool to mount them. They when you finished they ride, the did all the currying, tack-cleaning, etc. Apparently, this was one very different Dude Ranch that Ms. Karen and her friend went to. Lessons for everyone here. 🙂

    2. I am amazed at J.D.’s Alabama connections! How cool you are transplanted from T-town all the way out to CA. You’ve got a lot more dude ranches out your way than in our area but this one was in Chatta, TN. A close driving distance. You should go although it may be a different experience than mine. Thank you for your comment.

    1. I know Ms. LuAnn. I was thinking the same thing as I was placing Ms. Karen’s post. It’s been many years since I rode a horse for any real distance; the early 90s I think. I miss it, but in all honesty, I don’t know that my sciatica could take much of a ride these days. Plus, I wouldn’t be doing the poor horse any favors either. :-O

    2. Hey, I get it, LuAnn. I laughed at the wrangler and told him to take my picture since it might be the last time I would ever be on a horse! What a way to end, though, going to church on horseback!

  9. As a farm girl and a horse owner, I just kept nodding my head and saying, “Yep” as I read your message. We learn such valuable lessons from our animal friends and the other chores associated with nature. Thanks for the word pictures and the “horse d’ourves”!

      1. Y’all both make me laugh and smile. Thank you, Katherine and J.D. for such encouraging words. Katherine, as a horse owner and farm girl, I’m so glad you could still relate to this country-come-to-town Southern belle. It was a fun post to write. I could have gone even longer with more horse d’oeuvres but I have to look back to see how to spell it every time! Haha.

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