An Inside Job

Here in cattle country, a brand means something. More than identification or a marketing tactic, a man’s brand denotes what he stands for. Here at the Cross-Dubya, and in my Christian writing, it means we put Christ first in everything we do. It’s reflected in the way we seek to honor God through caring for the land and animals entrusted to us. You see it in the way we treat folks when they come for a visit and how we try living our lives with a focus on Him.

In June, I posted about what it means to Ride for the Brand; and used my friend Mr. Red Steagall’s wonderful poem to illustrate this phrase. At weaning time, a few weeks ago, we branded the first calves who are full-blooded Cross-Dubya. Some of you may recall, we made our freeze brand decision as it’s a more humane method of permanently identifying our cattle.

Besides freeze branding causing an animal much less pain, it also has “cleaner lines” (a more well-defined impression) that makes for easier viewing. While it takes longer to apply a freeze brand than hot branding, the time investment is worth it when we consider all things. We branded on weaning day so we accomplished multiple tasks with minimal handling. Each calf received another round of vaccinations while we branded them. The steps we followed were:

  1. Securing them in the squeeze chute for their safety and ours. This cattle handling system allows access to the animal while keeping them still and comfortable.
  2. We worked on both ends at the same time; giving subcutaneous vaccines in their neck while they shaved their left hip with clippers. Shaving the area where we apply the brand allows better contact between their hide and the branding iron.
  3. Next, we clean the area with a 99% alcohol solution and wipe it clean.
  4. Another spritz of alcohol to keep the ultra-cold branding iron (around -250⁰ F) from sticking to the hide, and we apply the brand.
  5. It’s important to closely time how long we apply the freeze brand. In reading and talking with those more experienced, I determined 35 to 37 seconds was the optimal time.
  6. After removing the branding iron, we tap the hide to ensure it feels hard like an ice cube while the surrounding area remains soft.
  7. We then un-squeeze the calf and let them out into their separated pasture to begin the shared-fence weaning process.

If we’ve done our job right, my red cows (Hereford, Angus, Saler, and Braford), should sport their distinctive brand in a few months, when the hair grows back. Freeze branding changes the color of the animal’s hair to white without preventing hair growth. This effect occurs by freezing the hair follicles where the cold iron contacts the cow’s hide, causing the hair to grow without pigment. When the hair returns, it is colorless (appearing white.)

For now, the three-inch brand appears as an imprint while the changes are happening on the inside. As the calf grows, so will the brand; getting as large as eight inches in diameter when mature. As noted in Step 5, it’s important not to leave the iron on too long. Doing so kills the hair follicle, which results in no further hair growth. You would do this on white-pigmented animals; leaving a darkened brand when the white hair around it grows back.

In the noisy days and nights that always follow weaning, as the mamas and babies cry out to each other, I had lots of time to think and pray. I often ask God what lessons He wants me to learn through this experience. He always shows me how my walk with Him on this little ranch is His classroom for my life. It is at the Cross-Dubya ranch that God performs His most challenging work in my life; sanctification. Here’s a few of the lessons He taught me.

Upon my salvation, God branded my heart. He sealed me through the Holy Spirit as His adopted son. But He’s had to put me in His squeeze chute (the crucible of His refining fire) more times than I care to admit; keeping me safe while He worked on me.

For some of us, our stubborn human nature results in God having to refine us more often than others; to remove all the dross of this world. Share on X

Like freeze branding, while the results will show on my outside, the work of sanctification happens on the inside. Like my calves’ hair follicles, God is transforming me from the inside out. My brand shows what He’s done IN my life; not TO my life. It takes time for God’s brand to show its best in my life.

Our outside shows the world what God is doing inside us. Share on X

The weaning process, removing the calf from its mother’s milk so it can grow faster and stronger on more substantial food, is the same for us Christians. We will cry out for the sinful life we had in the past at first because it is what we know and become accustomed to. But like a mama cow, God stands close to our shared fence to reassure us as we work to take those first steps in true freedom. When we cry out in fear and despair, He tenderly nuzzles us and tells us it will be alright if we just trust Him. In time, we mature enough we can graze alongside Him in heaven’s pastures.

God doesn’t leave us alone during our transformation. He cares for His children. Share on X

I pray you find that special place God has reserved as your spiritual classroom. In that setting, you’ll be amazed at all He wants to teach you. The secret is always being willing to listen for, and to, His voice.

God’s blessings,



Please join me each Thursday evening at 9:30 Eastern as host Coach Mark Prasek and I take a trip Around the Cross-Dubya. We discuss this week’s blog post, offer insight about the lessons learned, and enjoy the fellowship of friends in the live chat room.

48 thoughts on “An Inside Job”

  1. Such incredible lessons, J.D.! I particularly love your statement that God’s brand shows what He’s done IN my life and it takes time for His brand to show through. Amen. Repentance is a change in heart and behavior that the Holy Spirit inspires and enables. This ranch truly is your classroom and I love when you share your lessons with me.
    Thank you!

    1. Thank you Ms. Cathy! It truly is about what God does “in ” rather than “to” us my friend. He may break me many times before He gets me molded into the perfect Christ-like person He has always known I would become. I think it’s just a matter of how much I struggle against what He’s trying to do. His plan never changes, but I sure have caused Him lots of re-work in my life.

  2. Your analogies here are brilliant, J. D.! God is always there with us, ready to form and teach us through His signs and wonders. We simply have to open our eyes and ears, and willingly see and listen to what the Lord is revealing to us.

  3. I absolutely love how you share these lessons from God. They are so relatable and relevant to everyone. Where some little girls always want to be ballerinas or teachers, all I ever wanted was to be a mom. By His grace I have 3 wonderful children and now 5 amazing grandchildren. I learned more about myself and life from this relationship and from looking at Him as my Father and relating what I learn to that relationship. He always meets each of us where we can most easily understand Him.

  4. Another great article from the ranch, J.D. This imagery of branding is a powerful one. God also branded my heart and healed me through His Holy Spirit. While I don’t like the squeeze chute (the crucible of refining), I know it’s so I look more and more like Christ on the inside and outside!

    1. None of us like it Ms. Karen. And honestly, my cows don’t either, but they become accustomed to it over time. I’m not sure if it’s a case of their understanding I’m trying to help them or not, but they seem to appreciate the gentle squeeze it gives them. Sort of like the reassurance God gives us when we go to Him in prayer. Of course, like them, I don’t like when I’m moving forward toward the open freedom ahead of me and suddenly the gate closes around my neck to keep me in the chute a while longer as I get worked on. 🙂 I can’t help but laugh some times when my cows are so gentle and calm as they enter they enter the chute, but as they inch closer to the headgate they suddenly lunge for the freedom just beyond it.

    1. Thank you Ms. Tammy. Such kindness ma’am. I’m so appreciative of all your support and encouragement my friend. I pray I can one day live up to the high standards you set ma’am.

  5. Kathy Collard Miller

    Love the metaphor of the “chute” God keeps us in while he purifies and “brands” us. We feel squeezed by circumstances and difficulties, but every squeeze is intended for our good as we are forced to look to Him. As always, J.D., a powerful sharing.

  6. J. D., your post encourages me to perk up my spiritual ears for the lessons God wants to teach in the classroom of my life. I appreciate this reminder: “It takes time for God’s brand to show its best in my life.” Thank you for an interesting look at ranch procedures and a powerful reminder of God’s work in us.

  7. I really enjoy your writing. You paint a wonderful picture with your words and then connect the dots so we see God in action. My special place with God is when I spend time in nature and I learn so much as I still my mind and listen. Thanks for sharing

  8. I am glad to be His. He brings comfort, peace and He teaches me how to love and show compassion to His creations. I love your message “He tenderly nuzzles us and tells us it will be alright if we just trust Him.” Amen.

    1. Me too Ms. Melissa. Knowing I’m His gives me lots of comfort on those days when I don’t seem to act like it. Am grateful for the ways the Holy Spirit both convicts me and reminds me that I’m still on the journey. God’s blessings ma’am.

  9. J.D., your metaphors always leave me wanting more of Christ. The pictures you paint with the calves and their mother, along with your decision to freeze brand because it’s less painful for the animal — everything — is incredibly powerful. Thank you for taking us with you wherever you go on the ranch. God bless!!

    1. Oh my… am nearly in tears here over that comment Ms. Cathy. Thank you so much ma’am. When I read your last sentence, I shouted out to myself, “That’s easy. It’s God’s, I’m just the caretaker.” Thank you so much for all your encouragement and the blessings of your friendship ma’am. I’m glad you enjoyed the visit today. 🙂

  10. I agree, J.D., about us all finding our “classroom” where the Lord teaches us about Himself. It’s where we get weaned from the milk of the Word and learn to eat meat. I love how you referred to it as “grazing alongside Him in heaven’s pastures.” God truly leads us and cares for us, and we’re branded by Him as our Shepherd. Thanks for a brilliant post, as usual. dear friend.

  11. I had never heard of freeze branding – glad to know that there is a less painful option for the animals. I like how you relate this to the Lord helping us grow. Hope that you and Mrs. Diane are well! Is the weather cooler in Texas yet?

    1. Thank you Ms. Robin. I’d heard about it several years ago, but didn’t really get serious about learning more until I was nearing the time to begin branding my own Cross-Dubya herd. We are doing well; and praying you and Mr. James are also. We’re starting to cool off a little; actually wanted long sleeves the other morning when the dew was still in the air.

  12. Wonderful analogy here! And, as usual, you taught me something about life on a cattle ranch. Isn’t it telling how all of God’s lessons apply to the different lives we all live? That’s the beauty of Truth.

    1. Such kindness! Thank you so much Ms Candyce; means the world to me ma’am. And yes, While God’s truth never changes, the ways in which He can teach us is as varied as the universe He created. God’s blessings ma’am.

  13. I always look forward to the wisdom you share from the Cross Dubya. I also enjoy learning more about the cattle ranching process. I confess that I know about that “stubborn human nature” and the need for extra refining by the fire. Thanks for another good lesson, my friend.

    1. I can take solace in knowing I’m in good company when it comes to having a “stubborn human nature.” I don’t like being in God’s refining fire, but if doing so brings me closer to Him then the gain is most definitely worth the gain. God’s blessings my friend.

    1. Thank you Ms. Debbie; as I enjoy and look forward to your posts each week also my friend. Hope Mr. Larry, Strider, and everyone are all doing well and life returns to some semblance of normal very soon.

    1. Amen Ms. Barbara. What a comforting feeling it is to know that even when I mess up, and it’s more often than I care to admit, Christ still claims us as His own. Amen indeed! 😀

    1. I’m certain you would be a wonderful rancher Ms. Karen. Instead of singing them to sleep at night with an old cowboy song, you could play the organ for them to lull them to sleep. I can see you now, a pump organ in the back of a wagon. Adorned in a bonnet and slicker. The cows all lowing softly around you as they surrender to the darkness quietly enveloping them. Of course, the same thing is happening to the cowboys around you. 🙂 God’s blessings sweet friend.

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