Bull Strong and Horse High

Any rancher will tell you, “Fences are almost always in need of repair.” The reminder to build my fences bull strong and horse high came to mind while I worked on fencing this past weekend. I think the original quote, of unknown origin, is “Build your fences bull strong, pig tight, and horse high.” Given we have no pigs on the Cross-Dubya, I’ll stick with horses and cows.

For those of you who weren’t blessed growing up or living in the country, I should explain this phrase. As it was years ago, and still is today, having broken down fences or livestock on the loose is a poor reflection on a farmer or rancher. Not only does it show they’re either lazy or incapable of maintaining their farm or ranch, but it also reflects on how well they care for their livestock. In some areas of the nation, if your livestock gets loose and damages someone’s property (e.g. gets hit by a vehicle), you can be held responsible.

So the origin of this idea was to keep fences high enough a horse couldn’t jump over and strong enough a bull couldn’t push them over. Anyone that’s ever been around a ranch knows how T-posts can lean with 2,000-pound bulls using them as scratching posts; especially during the rainy season. And there’s always a thousand pound cow, or six, sticking their head through the fence to nibble the grass on the other side.

As I was stretching wire, straightening T-posts, and affixing fence clips, my mind started thinking about other “fences” in my life. Fences come in all shapes and sizes. Some are walls, cattle panels, or dog-eared wood slats joined together. Others are strands of barbed wire, long stretches of split rails, or steel casing pipe and sucker rod. The choice of fencing depends on its purpose.

We erect walls or solid fences around those things we want to remain private. For my cattle, I use barbed wire; allowing me to watch over the herd while still keeping them safe. Regardless of fence type, their purpose is to restrict. Something I suspect few of you know is the importance of knowing which side of the fence you are on. Here in cattle country, if the barbed wire is on the inside of the fence post (pasture side), then the fence should keep whatever is inside the pasture in. If the wire is on the other side, its purpose is to keep things out. Many times, this also denotes fence ownership on shared fences bordering properties. To help you understand, the fence posts provide support for each span of fence. The wire spanning between the posts is stronger when you’re pushing toward the post than pushing away. This makes me wonder if that’s why we are encouraged to lean into God in times of trouble. He’s our post, our firm foundation. It’s when we push away from God that we get in trouble in our journey in faith.

Thinking about this, I realized that my faith is a fence in some ways. How I exercise my faith depends on what I want to restrict. If my faith is inward facing, then I am using it to guard against sins in my life. Sins like lust of the eyes, flesh, or the pride of life. When my faith is outward facing, I use it to protect against the world and its temptations that seek to disrupt my Christian walk. An important part of learning to apply self-control over your life is knowing which side of the fence you’re on.

Which side of the fence is your faith on? Share on X

In my early Christian life, I saw my faith fence as being overly restrictive. I thought I could no longer enjoy living life. Perhaps that came from some religious folks who sat in church each Sunday with a dour look of sacrifice and suffering on their face. As my understanding of what Christ intended my Christian life to be increased, I found joy in living a God-pleasing life. What I discovered is that joy and happiness are very different. Happiness depends on your circumstances. Joy depends on your relationship with God.

As I’ve matured in my faith, I recognize that my faith is a double-sided fence. God shields and protects me from the world while His transformational work is happening inside. I pray too that your faith fence becomes double-sided. Perhaps we can adapt this old farmer’s advice for our journey in faith. What do you think of this? “Build your faith fence sin strong and temptation high”, so our sinful thoughts don’t escape and temptations can’t jump over.

God’s blessings,

62 thoughts on “Bull Strong and Horse High”

  1. I love this, J.D. I’m going to ruminate (how’s that for a good cow words) all day on the beautiful picture of spiritual fences’ dual purpose of protecting and defending. Thank you for this, friend. Well said.

    1. Be still my heart. A woman who knows what an abomasum’s purpose is. 🙂 Am so glad you enjoyed the post ma’am. I think we should all take this “momentary pause” from our day-to-day lives to reflect on how strong and high our fences are. God’s blessings Ms. Lori.

    1. Awww… thank you Ms. Jeanne. You know; I’ve seen a couple of pretty farms and ranches up in southern CT (Shelton and Fairfield area). I’m guessing you can relate quite easily ma’am. So grateful for your comments, shares, and encouragement my friend.

    1. Absolutely lots of applications in there COL Linzey. I know I join you in prayer that each person reading the post will find at least one aspect of it they can apply to their life. God’s blessings sir.

  2. J.D. It seems once you build a fence, you’re always mending it. I’ve done plenty of both. I love your adapted closing statement, “Sin Strong and Temptation High.” That’s sound advice to live by!

    1. Thanks Mr. Ben. That’s what I was doing this weekend; repairing. It seems to be the never-ending chore. Am so pleased you enjoyed that adaptation. I hope it wasn’t too trenchant. 😀

  3. J.D. you are the master of great analogies…especially these interesting farming ones. Yes, I want my faith fence sin strong and temptation high!

    I like this: “I recognize that my faith is a double-sided fence. God shields and protects me from the world while His transformational work is happening inside.”

    1. Thank you Ms. Karen. I think we all desire to grow our “faith fence” stronger and higher with each day ma’am. Am so pleased you enjoyed, and very much appreciate your commenting.

  4. Another great article my friend. Unfortunately many people cannot see God’s lessons in the world around us. You, sir, paint an excellent picture of what Lessons God has put before you. Thank you for sharing them.

    1. Such kind words. Just trying to follow your example my friend. Thank you so much for all the kindness and encouragement sir. God’s natural world is full of lessons we can apply to our lives isn’t it sir?

  5. I love the faith fence analogy, J.D. We know about fences! Goats try them constantly. They seem to have a sixth sense for knowing where to push on it. We can be like goats and cattle as well. The grass is always greener…We don’t want to stay on the side of the fence God has us on. Thanks for your post.

    1. I’ve seen others with goats; I think they’re worse than the cattle to keep fenced in! Very well said ma’am. We do have wandering souls sometimes while God patiently works to get that out of us. God’s blessings ma’am.

  6. I love that: “Build your faith fence sin strong and temptation high.” That is so good and your rancher fence analogy is perfect.
    I’m glad to say that after being on your ranch, I now know what a T-post is. I never learned that at Granddaddy’s
    You’re always teaching us good stuff in an enjoyable way, my friend. Thank you.

    1. You are too kind Ms. Connie. I guess you’re proof that we get what we give ma’am. Thank you for all your wonderful lessons in faith, and especially your friendship ma’am.

    1. Thanks Ms. Melissa. Great point ma’am. We don’t want our “Faith Fences” to be solid/privacy fences, but I think we do want it to be an “outgoing filter” so the good stuff can get through (our testimony and Christ’s light and love). I hope my fence helps keep me from saying or doing the wrong things that only hurt the Gospel message. Hope that makes sense my friend.

  7. My Grandpa never enjoyed putting in new fence posts, but it was critical to ranching and farming. I remember he’d often drive around the property to check the fence lines, being sure the barbed wire was tight and secure and that the posts were snugly in place. If not, he had a hard day’s work ahead. Your spiritual comparison prompted a thought, J.D. It seems we must continue to work hard on our “faith fence” lest through neglect the enemy slips through and overtakes us. Loved this post! Blessings, Tammy

    1. I don’t like putting them either Ms. Tammy. Especially trying to drive T-posts into hard summer ground with a heavy driver and two torn rotator cuffs (only one now). 🙂 Every week, Bubba the chocolate lab and I load up and drive all the fence lines around our property to identify what needs fixing. You are so very right ma’am. We must also pay constant attention to our “faith fences” to make sure they up to the job. Am so glad you enjoyed, and could relate to, this post. God’s blessings ma’am.

  8. “Which side of the fence is your faith on.” – I’ve never thought of it that way JD. It’s a picture that brings things into spiritual focus. Thanks for sharing Brother!

    1. Absolutely sir. We sometimes forget that fences serve a dual purpose. Our faith needs to do the same. And often times, one side of the fence will be stronger (more resilient), both both sides of the fence supports the other. Thanks for joining in our conversation sir. See you tonight at #PJNET TV.

  9. Makes me wonder if you are going to double build your fences–two sets of wire, one on inside of post and one on the other? All kidding aside, yours is a wonderful message, one that can help us not only have a better understanding of our faith, but how to strengthen our faith through prayer and the study of scripture so that we can then share with others.

    1. When I built the fences in 2014 Ms. Katherine, I actually considered alternating the t-posts and running alternating strands of wire inside and out. My sometimes illogical brain thought it a good idea, but my basic physics knowledge told me that by doubling the distance between the spans of t-posts, I would actually have less tensile strength. So, I opted to keep the babies inside my pasture and safe. Interesting enough, where I have shared fencing (with wire facing away from the posts), I have more fence repairs there. There’s a future lesson in that I think. 🙂 God’s blessings ma’am.

  10. Another great lesson from the ranch! I don’t know if you watched the show “King of the Hill”, but the post made me think about Hank Hill’s pride in his lawn. I think he had similar thoughts about his lawn as ranchers do about fences; his lawn said a lot about him.

    1. I caught the show a couple of times, very early on, but have written it off like most television programs today. I do appreciate the similarity. We tend to care about those things that reflect upon us more than we do other aspects of our lives. I wonder how that translates to our Christian walk. Do we take the time to make sure our spiritual fruit is always shiny and bright, and always on display? I wonder if sometimes my kindness, joy, or patience looks more like a six-day old banana than it does a shiny new red delicious apple. Great analogy young lady. What do people see in me? And most importantly, who do they see? Me or Jesus? Great thoughts ma’am.

  11. Always spiritual food for thought and action. Fences are necessary to keep predators out–the enemy and those he sends to steal, kill and destroy. Our best and strongest fence is built with the Word of God. “God shields and protects me from the world while His transformational work is happening inside.” Yes!

  12. Build your faith fence sin strong and temptation high.”

    I like your twist on the saying!

    As i read about the good purposes faith fences can serve, I also thought about how some of us build fences to keep good things out, such as support and help from others (perhaps due to the sin of pride), being open and transparent with others (due to insecurity), and even the love of Jesus (because of past sins or anger toward God).

    1. Thank you Ms. Candyce. What a wonderful perspective. “What are we using our ‘faith fences’ for?” A great question for reflection ma’am. Thank you so much for adding to our conversation. God’s blessings ma’am.

  13. Thanks for another wonderful gift of faith.
    Maybe we should weave our fences in and out, so we are covered on both sides. May our faith forever grow stronger.
    God bless you.

    1. Glad you enjoyed Ms. Joyce. You know, a couple of folks have suggested that approach to fencing. I’m thinking perhaps I just need to make sure my fences are well-maintained. 🙂 God’s blessings ma’am.

  14. J.D., I continue to be in awe of how you take the mundane tasks of life and make of them such a beautiful spiritual application. I learned more about the proper construction of pasture fences and received a memorable analogy for strengthening my faith in Christ!

    1. You are too kind Ms. Gena. Thank you so much for all your encouragement ma’am. Isn’t it exciting to see so many ways God can use our everyday to teach us? It’s been a wonderful “awakening” to finally reach a point where I can see Him more and more involved in my life. Perhaps that’s because I’ve slowly been becoming more and more involved in His. 🙂 God’s blessings sweet friend.

    1. I’m glad you enjoyed the post Ms. Emily. Mine was a small remittance for all of your great posts this year ma’am. There’s a comfort in knowing that God is looking out for us on both the outside and the inside. 🙂 God’s blessings young lady.

  15. Wonderful lesson, J.D. I always learn so much from your posts. When we put up our privacy fence, I felt bad that the “ugly” side would be toward the neighbor’s yard, and we had the nice slats toward the inside. The guys building the fence said, “that’s just how you do it,” but no explanation. Now I know why. Spiritually speaking, it’s good to know our double-sided faith fence is both enjoyable for us inside, and a witness for those on the outside. It’s also safety & freedom for us. Thanks again for sharing your insights.

  16. I hope to remember this sentence when I see fences: “Build your faith fence sin strong and temptation high”, so our sinful thoughts don’t escape and temptations can’t jump over.” What a vivid picture of safeguarding our mind with God’s Word. Loving these ranch lessons.

    1. Thank for your kind words of encouragement Ms. Jeannie. I pray we may each continue building our faith fences stronger and higher with each passing day ma’am. My prayer is that they reach heaven. God’s blessings dear friend.

  17. Always enlightening, educational, and spiritually enriching. Interesting that you are able to visually see both sides of the fence which can be of value. Christ wields a double-edged sword. Double-sided, double-edged. We must be prepared and equipped from all angles! Enjoyed your Good Friday devotional as well. It is good and right for us to suffer with Christ as He suffers with us.

    1. Thank you Ms. Karen. Satan can certainly come at us from all angles can’t he ma’am? I’m glad you enjoyed my Good Friday devotional ma’am. It has wrapped up a week of contemplation for me. While Saturday is a day of anticipation, I will sleep tonight know that “Joy comes in the morning” my friend. God’s blessings and Happy Easter. He is risen!

  18. Wow – I love this: “Build your faith fence sin strong and temptation high.” That’s great, J.D. And, something we could all keep in mind and build those double-sided fences! Thank you for sharing, J.D. Great message.

    1. Thank you Ms. LuAnn. There’s always chores to be done, farm or not, isn’t there ma’am? Thanks so much for your kind words. Glad you enjoyed a nice memory ma’am.

  19. “Build your faith fence sin strong and temptation high”, so our sinful thoughts don’t escape and temptations can’t jump over. Great wisdom and perspective on how faith in God produces fences that protect us.

    1. I’m glad you liked it Ms. Debbie. Of all the spiritual gifts God gives us, I struggle with growing my self-control the most. Too often, I give into my base and human self with some pretty ugly thoughts. I thank God He is helping me to learn to keep these between He and I, as He helps purge me, but it’s still a struggle. I too am most grateful for my “faith fence.”

  20. Another great article where you masterfully tie ordinary day-to-day occurrences to spiritual life lessons. God bless you, JD. Thank you for your faithfulness to seek God and share with us what He shows you.

  21. I never knew that about barbed wire fences – actually I never have even taken a close look. Thanks. And the analogy is spot on. I’m the type of “animal” who doesn’t like fences, so I need those loving barbs on the inside.
    In our horse stable we used pipe railings with an electric “hot wire” running a few inches around the top. It kept horses safe and inside. (I’ve touched it a few times by accident; once it knocked me off my feet!)
    Thanks for reminding us God’s fences are for our safety.

    1. Thank you Ms. Jackie. With horses only, I always try to minimize the barbed wire; opting for electrified ribbon wire fencing instead. Still, when some just ignore that, we have to use something stronger than 8,000 volts. That’s when I support it with a backup strand or two of barbed wire. If they (donkeys in my case) break the 7mm electric fence, then they won’t break the barbed wire. I thought about using a strand of electrified ribbon, but afraid my cows would eat it. LOL Thanks so much for commenting ma’am.

  22. What a great post! I think you are exactly right, that we need fences that are sin strong and temptation high. We have treasures in these jars of clay, and it’s important to protect our walk with Christ.

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