Learning to Nourish

“I don’t know Honey; the odds are stacked against this little fella. He will need to be a real fighter to survive.” The stiff breeze combined with the dampness created a wind chill in the 20s. “Lulu Belle” was the first Cross-Dubya born heifer to calve. I thought to myself, I wonder if there is such a thing as a great grandcow? On this cold January morning, I was about to find out.

While I love all the animals God has placed in my care, “Lulu Belle” holds a special place. She was the second calf born here on our ranch, and her gentle nature was present from the start. To this day, whenever I enter the pasture, she is among the first to greet me. She nuzzles close and waits for me to pat her poll or scratch her chin or ears. She eats out of my hand; and is always patient when I’m around. Heifers are those females who have not yet had a calf; making them the ones ranchers worry about most when calving season rolls around.

As calving day drew nearer, I watched my “little girl” (as much as you can call a 950-pound cow little) become less and less comfortable. She was last to get to the bunk feeders, slow to move, and it seemed she just couldn’t find a comfy spot in the pasture to lie in. Looking across the west pasture on the last day of the month, I knew her time had come. Finally, my baby’s baby was having a baby. Great grand-cows. Woo Hoo!

I watch for signs of trouble as the birth progresses. Hooves first, angled downward. Another contraction. She looks up at me with a look of confusion mixed with immense pain. As I kneel beside her head, I place my hand on her neck, gently stroke, and begin praying. Time seemed to be crawling as labor progressed. I’d check the time and had to resist the urge to interfere in the natural delivery. After about forty minutes, business picked up and with a few good pushes and some gentle coaxing, a beautiful little bull calf emerged.

Elated, I patted my girl and moved away to thank God for His presence and observe. When calves are born, I try to always give mother and calf some private time to bond. After just a minute or two, a cow’s natural instincts kick in and she gets to her feet and begins caring for her calf. After fifteen minutes, I began to worry. Here was a fifty-pound calf, soaking wet and covered in “yuck”, laying on the cold ground fighting for life. Mama hasn’t moved since the birth, only lifting her head to eat some fresh grain I had placed near her head to help replenish her strength.

Another fifteen minutes pass and I knew I had to act. If I don’t get mama up, then I need to carry the little calf around to her front and encourage her to clean him up. With some encouragement, she got up. She looked at her calf, looked at me, and moved away. I’d heard about this, but have never experienced it. Her pain was greater than her instinct to mother. I realized I had to teach my new mama cow how to be, in fact, a mama cow.

When I got her moved back to her calf, I began wiping the calf with a towel to clean it up. All the time, I’m encouraging “Lulu Belle” to come help; to come “meet your baby.” Finally, she starts helping. As she’s licking its head, I move away to let nature take its course. Soon, the first soft cries between mother and baby are heard. Before long, other mamas come to join in. Each takes their turn to come smell the little calf, give it a lick or two, and welcome it to the herd. If you’ve never experienced the gathering of the herd upon a new birth, it is a magnificent sight to witness. I leave mother and calf to bond.

Thirty minutes later, and it’s time for me to check on the pair. Usually, the calf is ready to stand and take its first awkward steps; find its way to its mama’s supply of nourishment and ingest the colostrum needed to activate its immune system. Before I can get to the gate, I realize something is wrong. I see “Lulu Belle” lying down, and I see a small lump two-hundred feet away. Then I see the turkey vultures starting to gather. “Not this time” I scream! As I race to get out to the location where the little calf is laying, I see it’s still alive. Shivering from the cold, half-cleaned, and weakening, I fear I may be too late.

I grab towels and begin wiping the calf to get it cleaned up. Cleaned, I then tried to herd mama back to her calf. It’s not that she’s a bad mama cow, it’s a case of her pain is greater than her instincts. She doesn’t know how to be a mama cow right now. I determine I have to teach her. “Lulu” doesn’t want to get up. She’s hurting, tired, and just wants to rest. I go back to the little calf and ask God what to do next. With arms cradling its chest and abdomen, I try helping it stand. I have to get it to its feet if there’s any chance of getting it to take nourishment.

As I’m working with the tiny little newborn, I continue to implore his mama to come to me. Mercifully, she gets up and comes to see me. All the while, the little calf is struggling to learn to balance and stand. I have to teach it to use its rear legs first to stand. How will it know how to get up if no one ever teaches it, I wonder. “Now you’re getting it little fella!” I’m elated to see signs of desire, struggle, and determination from the little calf. “Oops… it’s okay, let me help you back up” as I once again cradle him in my arms.

With mama now next to us, I help move the little calf into position to begin nursing. “Lulu’s” teats are tender, she’s in pain, and here’s this little thing with a mouthful of teeth wanting to nurse? Each time the little calf reaches to nurse, his mama backs away. Now he is chasing her around in circles, attempting to find the nourishment he needs. If calves don’t get the natural antibodies from a mother’s first milk, their immune systems can be easily overtaken. Hand-feeding some grain and hay, I’m able to still “Lulu Belle” enough to allow her little calf to nurse.

A few more minutes and it’s time for me to move away and let them bond. As I drive away, I raise my arms to praise God for His presence and guidance through the morning’s ordeal. Sipping a cup of coffee as I watch mother and calf through the kitchen window, Diane asks me what we should name him. Given her penchant for Italian names, I’ve no idea what to expect. Explaining the ordeal to her, she states matter of fact “We’ll call him ‘Rocky’, although I’ll be calling him ‘Sly.’” And with that, “Rocky” got the name he deserved.

If you look closely at the photo, you’ll understand why at three weeks old, I have nicknamed him “Ole Milkmouth.” To this day, whenever I go out to feed, “Rocky” comes up and nuzzles close, saying hello to his great grandpa.

Later that evening, as I often do, I asked God to reveal to me what lesson I can take from the day’s events. On this day, it’s a surprising one. I felt God telling me “Today, you learned the importance of discipleship.” You see, just like a new mama cow, or a new calf, new Christians don’t know what they don’t know.

We more mature Christians must be willing to help show them what to do. Too often in today’s churches we see new lives commit themselves to Christ. We rejoice in their moment of salvation. We shake their hand or give them a hug. Later, we do it all again at their baptism. Too often, we then leave them to struggle in learning how to deal with their newfound faith. It’s as though we expect them to “get it” through some spiritual osmosis of some kind.

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Instead of leaving them to struggle alone, sometimes in the cold, unsure of what to do next or how to do it, we must gently teach them. We must help develop the foundations of their faith upon which they can be nourished and grow to full maturity. I can only speak of my own experience here, but when I was saved, I didn’t know how to study the Bible. No one explained to me what it meant to be a Christ follower. I was never taught how to pray or about the importance of fellowship with other believers. The result was many years of struggle, failures, and eventually a period of turning away from my faith.

If you are a young or immature Christian and you have questions, doubts, or fears, I want to encourage you to ask someone in your church to help disciple you. If you’re a mature Christian who bears the scars of spiritual battle, I encourage you to become a mentor, a friend, a “Disciple Maker.” Whether a one-on-one situation, a small group, or a large gathering of like-minded Christians who seek to grow together, please look for the guidance you need or can provide to other Christians. We are not made for solo journeys in faith my friends.

God’s blessings,

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68 thoughts on “Learning to Nourish

  1. There are a lot of “Rocky’s” out there in the world. They need mentoring, but too often we are just too busy to give them the time they need for discipling. We are reminded in Titus 2:6-8,
    “Likewise, urge the younger men to be self-controlled. Show yourself in all respects to be a model of good works, and in your teaching show integrity, dignity, and sound speech that cannot be condemned, so that an opponent may be put to shame, having nothing evil to say about us.”

    1. Oh, how very true Mr. Ben. We can sometimes get so busy that we miss the important things in life. I sure hope you can make tonight’s PJNET.TV chatroom to share this insight with the folks there.

    1. Amen Ms. Jeanne! There absolutely are ma’am. What we so often fail to see is that they have the desire to do so, but no one has ever showed them how. I knew my “Lulu Belle” was going to be a great mama. I remember how she was so patient in teaching her little sister “Giblets” what to do right after she was born. She helped to guide her to mama for nourishment. She guarded her little sister. When she had “Rocky”, her pain (I was there and anything having a fifty pound anything is going to have pain) was clouding her natural instinct to be a mama. The same happens to us doesn’t it ma’am. Sometimes, we need nourishment before we can nourish others. What a great lesson you make ma’am. Thank you!

  2. J.D., I’m glad you are in tune to the voice of the Lord. Discipleship— yes, this is about discipleship. What a great analogy and such an interesting story!
    I learned many things, as I always do from your posts. The “gathering of the herd” was one of my favorite parts. Actually, the whole thing was my favorite part. Thanks!
    PS – I look forward to meeting Rocky in a couple weeks!

    1. Ms. Diane and I can’t wait to see you and Mr. Guy next weekend Ms. Connie. I’ll do my best to get everyone to come introduce themselves to you. We certainly have a cast of characters. I can’t wait to get a photo of you and Elpis together.

  3. J.D., moving and beautiful story from the ranch as always. I found myself rooting for both mama and baby as I read this post. So thankful, all turned out well and Rocky is growing and thriving. Thanks to your help and intervention.

    And that is what discipleship looks like. Helping new believers survive and thrive in this present and troubled world on the Christian journey as they grow in Christ.

    1. Thank you Ms. Karen. To be honest ma’am, your comments make me want to go back and listen/read the post again. 🙂 So very glad the message God wanted came through ma’am. Isn’t it wonderful being one of God’s scribes? I’m so glad I get to share this profession with great teachers like you.

  4. Great post. I love a story with a happy ending. I have been there too, but my story was with a goat kid….Great spiritual lesson as well. We are called to disciple others. The disciples have to be trained too.

    1. Yes ma’am. I’m pretty certain we need to reach out to those “Chicken Soup” folks. They need a book on “Lessons from the Farm” don’t they my friend. 🙂 Bestseller in “fly over country” I should think; although everyone could benefit from those simple lessons.

  5. Wonderful application from a herders heart. Thank you for these precious and timely thoughts. I want to see new faith nourished and set on fire for Jesus too. Blessings, my brother, keep up the good work.

    1. Aww schucks Ms. Karen. It’s all because of wonderful mentors and friends like you ma’am. Ask Mr. Russ to give you a hug from me please. 🙂 God’s blessings ma’am. You and your family are true blessings and an inspiration to many.

  6. As always, the image you create of the Christian life is moving and outstanding. There was so much great truth in this post, but what really stood out to me was “the gathering of the herd.” What a powerful image of how the church should respond to a new believer, welcoming them into the family and offering support and care as the new person learns to get their footing. I love this.

    1. Amen Pastor Joshua. Somehow I see you and your Ms Gina doing that very thing my friend. When I watch your sermons and listen to your podcasts I hear such compassion and desire to help others in their walks. God has given you a powerful gift my friend. You words, and even more your actions move people sir. What a blessing it is to watch and learn from you my friend. God’s blessings and continued prayers in your journey.

      1. Thank you, brother! That means a lot to me. I try to look at every message and every ministry decision through the eyes of someone who needs compassion, someone who needs to know Christ. Difficult truths can be conveyed with love and that’s important to me…. so it means so much that you would see that.

  7. Wow, J.D. This brought tears to my eyes. It read like a movie. (In fact, I thought of the calving scene from my favorite movie, City Slickers.)
    This lesson is so timely for me. Last night I e-mailed a submission to a writing contest. It’s a Bible study on Discipleship, probably part one of a two-part study. Your points are well-taken. Mature Christians do need to disciple others. But unless followers of Jesus are taught how to be disciple-makers, we won’t be reproducing ourselves. That’s how churches die.

  8. I want so badly to see the phenomenon of the mother cows — what a beautiful picture you paint for us, J.D. This post is timely as I continue to pray about a ministry idea. Thank you for sharing this special moment with us.

    1. Thank you Ms. Cathy. And if you and Mr. Brian ever make it out this way, we’ll be proud to give you the full experience ma’am. Just remember to bring your muck boots! 🙂 God’s blessings ma’am.

  9. This was beautiful with so many deep truths woven throughout. I had a similar experience to yours as a new believer not having been raised in a home that read the bible and made the relationship real although my parents believed “in” God. I became born again at 30 pregnant with my oldest son and was determined to raise my children knowing God and I am grateful I was able to do that and now to share my faith with grandchildren. I’m always blessed by your stories, J.D. and oftentimes challenged as well – which is a good thing.

    1. I am so glad you made that decision at 30 Ms. Ann. It took me a while longer to find my way to a right relationship with God; and it was sure a costly and difficult journey. But it is oh so worth it isn’t it ma’am. Sort of like the journey to good health you take us on each week. 🙂

  10. What a sweet story. I’d love to witness the “gathering of the herd” you describe. You sure do have a heart for your animals. Such a lovely thing.

    The takeaway God gave you after this birth is a great lesson and reminder.
    Thank you.

    1. Thank you Ms. Candyce. I liken the “gathering” to what we do at church when a new soul is saved. We welcome it into the family. I think my cattle do the same thing. You would be surprised perhaps to see so many human qualities in our animals. I’ve watched cattle cry, donkeys laugh, dogs be joyous, and cats… well they’re just stuck up anyhow. 🙂 God’s blessings ma’am; and thank you so much for commenting and sharing. It means the world ma’am.

    1. Yay indeed Ms. Beckie. “Ol’ Milkmouth” is something to behold indeed. I call him that because every time I go out to feed or check on the livestock, he’ll peek out from behind his mama and he’ll have milk all over his mouth (like he does in the photos in the post). He just cracks me up. That’s the eatenist little calf I’ve seen. 😀 God’s blessings ma’am. Am praying it brought you a smile my friend.

  11. I love your sweet story J.D. As I started reading I thought it was going to be a sad story of your recently deceased calf so I was glad for this happy ending. And having met you in person I can imagine every step of the story, watching you step away to let them bond, urging mom to come help….
    It is a great example of how we should disciple new believers. You’re right that we don’t. In my church they are encouraged to join Bible study groups or community groups, but none are intentionally designed to guide a new believer. It’s something we’re really missing out on.

    1. Amen Ms. Cathy. Am pleased you enjoyed the post ma’am. I too love these happy endings more than the sad ones. And I too agree that “we the church” need to do a better job of understanding what true discipleship is. We can’t make a gourmet dinner from table scraps, and we can’t make strong, vibrant Christians if we only feed them one meal a week. I often think of a quote from Rev. F.F. Bosworth, “Most Christians feed their bodies three hot meals a day and their spirits one cold snack a week. And they wonder why they’re so weak in faith.”

  12. Great story! Discipleship is so important. Newbies to the faith need support and guidance. Even those who have been christians a long time.
    Love reading your articles on life on the ranch. Down to earth and simply profound! Thanks.

  13. Heartwarming. Makes me think. We need to nurture the natural instinct to nurture spiritually with the same enthusiasm and patience a coach nurtures a player – with the same compassion he would have for his own son or daughter. Yep, this has got me thinking

    1. Amen Coach! I’ve never coached on your level of course, but I remember coaching pee wee football down in Bartow many years ago. My biggest “take-away”, and one I’ve carried with me into a successful business career, and I hope as a Christian, is that if you just show them that you love them, they’ll be so much more receptive and want to please. Isn’t that what God does? Amen? We have to show new Christians, and non-Christians, that we love them enough to want them to share in what we have in Christ.

  14. What a beautiful message you have shared today! We all need help at times. I am thankful for Christian mentors who have guided me in my faith journey. I know God placed those people in my life. I believe God placed you at the right place at the right time to help this new “grand”. God bless you.

    1. You and me both Ms. Melissa. I thank God every day for my adopted family. My Mom, Dad, and two brothers modeled for me what it meant to be a Christian. They changed my worldview so much; giving me the tools to see, and seek, God’s truth. Thank you ma’am. I thank God for so much He’s teaching me these past few years. I’m growing so much through the lessons He provides in nature.

  15. How apropos this story is! Oh my. Lots of times a baby Christian strays away and even gives up, if not tenderly discipled and taught like you did to tiny Rocky. Oh, let this be a lesson! Yes, God gives the increase of a harvest, but we can/should be both planters AND waterers.

    Aside from that lesson, wow, what a hold-your-breath, page-turner you have here!

    1. So very true Ms. Jackie. So many times of late, my mind goes to John 21 (Christ’s breakfast with Peter). All I hear sometimes is “Feed My sheep.” Isn’t that what we are all called to do my friend? Thank you so much for your kind words ma’am. God’s blessings. I pray I can one day live up to your belief in my writing abilities.

  16. A beautiful read. I didn’t know that other cows gather when a calf is born. I am also touched by your bond with your cattle. I wonder if working on a ranch would make me never want to eat beef again!

    1. Thank you Ms. Robin. If you and Mr. James ever make it out to TX, I’ve got some beef in the freezer that will dissuade you of that thought. I understand your point though. Lots of folks have asked “How can you eat something you’ve named?” My answer is always the same, “They are fulfilling the purpose God created them for. That’s not being cruel or inhumane.” I’m probably different from many; I pray over my cattle, talk with them, and yes, laugh and mourn with them. But I’m learning, I’m not the only rancher who feels that way. Right now, I’m in NC. My livestock is being cared for by a dear friend who I know is giving them better care than I can (Thanks Mr. Donnie Bookout; I preshate y’all sir.) That’s why we’re “Caretakers.” We must be good stewards of all that God blesses us with my young friend.

  17. We recently celebrated our great grandson taking 2cc of nourishment from a bottle his mom was giving him.
    Our great grandson was born February 5th, with his due date was March 29th. He was born with his intestines outside his little body. A modern medical procedure has placed them inside where they belong and surgery has closed him. He is doing well. All praise and glory to the LORD. The doctors have said that the baby’s last challenge is taking nourishment. Two cc of milk is cause for rejoicing. Those lessons have begun. If he continues doing well, he may be dismissed from the hospital in another month. It’s impossible to tell of all the spiritual nourishment this baby’s birth has given this child’s family. Congratulations on your new “great grand cow”. Thanks be to the LORD for all births and creation. God is good all the time.

    1. “All the time… God is good” Ms. Linda. So very well said ma’am. Sometimes, especially when we are newborns (be that calves or great grandsons) the nourishment we receive is what sets us up for growth, maturation, and success. The same concept applies to new Christians, and sometimes those of us who still need to grow in our faith. Amen ma’am! I am so very happy to hear the wonderful news about your and Mr. Butch’s great grandson. To God be the glory sweet friend.

  18. That’s my little Rocky, a fighter through and through, and I want to be just like him. That should be the heart and soul of every Christian young (like me) or old (like you). Thank you for the lesson you gave us in your blog. I don’t know if I could ever know what to do with a mama that wasn’t being a perfect mama, but I do feel confident that I can learn to be a much better Christian over time with perseverance and a little help from my friends. God’s blessing honey!

    1. When I watch you with the young ladies you serve through “You Matter”, you demonstrate God’s love and compassion through your “Servant’s Heart” my dear wife and friend. Those young people don’t see a growing Christian who is working hard to learn how to study better, be more effective, etc.; they see Christ in you. That’s the most wonderful gift we can give to anyone Little One, showing we care with God’s love. Thanks for being who you are my love.

  19. J.D.,
    Of all your blog posts thus far, this one is my favorite. Literally, it brought tears to my eyes.
    Thank you for the reminder we must not leave our newborns “out in the pasture to die”.

  20. Wow, J.D. I read with anticipation and I so wanted a happy ending! You have such a great way of telling stories of your ranch adventures and events, an it blesses us, your readers, when you relate these stories to our Sovereign Lord. Thank you for sharing, J.D., and thank you for loving God’s creatures so beautifully!

    1. Thank you for your kind and encouraging words Ms. Julie. Am so pleased you enjoyed this post ma’am. I was afraid it was so long, no one would read to the end. 🙂 It’s difficult sometimes to write from your emotions though isn’t it my friend? I love it when I can right “happy endings”, but am learning that isn’t always the case “Lucky v. Rocky” for example. If I were a betting man, based on worldly observations and logic only, those two would have reversed outcomes. Then, there is God! I pray He continues blessing your writing, and that of so many of us here who are striving to answer His call.

  21. JD I hung on every word of this story, rooting for Mamma and baby, because I knew what awaited each of them individually and together. We have treasures beyond our imagination in the Word if we take time to read and then study, individually and with a mentor. Thanks for a beautiful story and illustration.

    1. Thank you for all your encouragement and support Ms. Marilyn. Sometimes I think some of my most impassioned prayers are about my livestock. Life and death is such an important part of ranching; it is giving me such a different view and desire to learn to trust God more through it all. I am so grateful you are along this journey of learning with me ma’am. God’s blessings.

  22. What a beautiful story and important truth you shared, J.D.! I loved reading your post and learning more about daily life in a ranch. Discipleship for new Christians is critical for growth.

    1. Thank you Ms. Jeannie. I do love this life God has brought me into. I’ve been in your “neck of the woods” for the past few weeks, and I can’t wait to get home to my Ms. Diane and all my livestock friends. Of course, it’ll take me twenty minutes of loving on my pal Bubba the chocolate lab before he’ll let me in the house I suspect. Am so pleased you enjoyed the meager lesson I shared. It is so important to help others grow through discipleship. God’s blessings my dear friend.

  23. No fair, J.D., you made me cry. But, thankfully, for a beautiful reason. I have such a tender spot for the least of God’s creatures — babies, animals, and the elderly. I was so rooting for your “grand baby” and his mama. And what a lovely connection you made between them and discipleship. I may never forget the word picture you painted for us.

  24. What a beautiful story, J.D. I expect you and Rocky will share a bond for many years. You need to keep him, you know. As always, there is a lesson here and in your wisdom, you’ve shared it. As Christians, we are called to be mentors and share the Good News wherever we are. Thank you for this blessing, my friend.

  25. That little sly Rocky was born into good hands on a good ranch. I enjoy learning about what it’s like living on your ranch and seeing God’s hand in your everyday adventures. I am so appreciative of people/ranchers like you that care so deeply about their own little herd. Once again, thanks for sharing from your heart and the Cross Dubya.

    1. What a kind thing to say. Thank you so much Ms. Karen. We’re pretty blessed to have lil’ Rocky here with us too. I got home last evening from 12 days on the road, and the cattle were thrilled to see me. Rocky’s mama (Lulu Belle) knocked me right into the feed trough. LOL Then proceeded to give me a kiss. 🙂

  26. I love your heart for God’s creatures, J.D. and I’m so glad little Rocky survived. What a valuable lesson you’ve shared with us today! It makes me think of my own young disciples at home.

    Many blessings,
    Tammy

    1. Thank you for your kind words Ms. Tammy. Calves or kids (the human kind), it’s so important to pour into their lives. Am always grateful when God brings me opportunities to share something I’ve learned with another. What a wonderful feeling it is to help someone in their journey. God’s blessings ma’am.

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