The Welcoming

While the birth was as private as a wide open pasture can be in the early morning hours, the unwritten rules of calving among cattle fascinate me. Leave mama and baby alone for a bit and let them bond. Then, drop by for a social call, give them a lick, let them learn your voice and smell, then keep a protective distance. I call it “The Welcoming.”

About an hour after her twins were born this January, the rest of the mamas made their way over to “Lulu Belle” one at a time and paid their respects. One by one, each cow stopped and spoke with mama. Then, as if they’d received her permission, they lowered their heads, lowed softly to each calf, smelled, rubbed on each one, and gave them a lick. Perhaps that’s how cows kiss, but I’ve always seen this as a touching moment; as if they’re saying “Welcome to the herd.”

After their introductions, each cow moves away from the calf and gives the next in line the opportunity to say “Howdy.” This can take a while, but it’s something I’ve watched happen with every calf born here at the Cross-Dubya. Often, they’ll settle within 30 feet; creating a protective circle around mama and her calf. After another hour passes, they’ll start grazing and milling around again.

By this time, the new mama looks for a place to put her baby down and go off by herself to rest, feed, and recover for a few hours. It always tickles me how the mama will hide her calf; as she’ll stroll around for 30 minutes looking for just the right spot. The wobbly little calf follows her around as fast as they can, then mama nudges them down, speaks to them, and goes her way. What mama cows don’t realize is that they almost always give away the calf’s location by stealing glances toward where they’ve hidden them.

There’s been a few occasions when mama moves beyond earshot of their little calves. When that happens and the baby wakes up, often hungry, they’ll call out to mama to no avail. More than once I’ve come upon a calf that has gotten separated from its mama and I’ll carry them over to her. She’ll often admonish them, but always gives them a lick and sticks closer to them for a while. Twice, I’ve watched other mama cows lead the calf over to its mama. That always touches my heart. To see an act of kindness in nature reminds me that God is in all of it.

God uses everything in His created world to teach us; even cattle. Click To Tweet

While writing this post, my heart asked why we Christians don’t treat new members of the body of Christ in the same way. Oh, we’ll give them a pat on the back, a handshake, or a hug when they’ve accepted Christ; but then we often abandon them to figure out this whole being a Christian thing on their own. Friends, discipleship doesn’t happen via osmosis. The Holy Spirit infuses and seals a new Christian for God, but as wonderful an instruction manual as the Bible is, it doesn’t come with an easy-to-understand Table of Contents.

I can remember the moment of my salvation; of course the Bible was still on stone tablets back then. What I remember was the wonderful feeling of belonging and how peace and joy filled me. My next memories are thinking, “What do I do now?” I told my adoptive family—mom, dad, and my little brother Paul—and they gave me hugs. The next week, Mom and Dad presented me with a beautiful new Bible.

I knew I had to read it cover-to-cover, in one setting, but soon found myself filled with many more questions than answers. What did it all mean? Why were these funny-named people important to my salvation? They answered many of my questions with, “It’s in the Bible, you’ll find the answer there.” What I understand these many years later is that the people I was asking most likely didn’t know the answers themselves. So they did what some parent, friend, church elder, or pastor did to them; they “Prego’d” it.

I’m not suggesting that every new Christian has to enroll in seminary or take Theology 101 before they’re allowed to attend church. Rather, I encourage each of us to look for opportunities to disciple new and immature Christians in taking those formidable first steps along the journey of sanctification. If you’ve got a formal discipleship program in your church, volunteer or ask how you might support it. If you don’t, consider starting one. And please, don’t limit your discipleship efforts to only your church or your congregation. God’s word doesn’t instruct us to become a secret society where we keep His good news among ourselves. He says in Matthew 28:19-20 that we are to “go and make disciples of all nations; and teach them all the things He has commanded” (paraphrased).

You don’t have to attend seminary or have a theology degree to disciple others. Click To Tweet

Lastly, I want each of us to consider how we can do a better job of discipleship within our own families. I’m looking in the mirror sternly as I say this. If nothing else, I pray you’ll remember this lesson from my cows the next time you’re blessed to see the miracle gift of salvation given upon someone. Give them a little time to bond with their Father (in this case) and then come along, welcome them to your herd, and help guide their development.

God’s blessings,

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48 thoughts on “The Welcoming

    1. It truly is Ms. Karen. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve witnessed this, but it’s special and precious every time. I can’t wait to tell you about “The Reunion” one day soon.

  1. I found such inspiration and hope in this story, J. D. Yes, too often we neglect the new Christian, just assuming he or she will find their way. When I think back, I’m so blessed that I had many Christian mentors, mostly older women, who really encouraged me in my new-found walk, and whose experience and wisdom I cherish still today.
    Blessings!

  2. Ok, this has to be one of my favorites! I really enjoy learning about the social structures and behaviors of your cattle. It’s love in any language. However, I did have to look up prego. I’m still a little confused, but I know it’s not about spaghetti sauce. God’s character and order are infused throughout His creation, and it’s a beautiful thing. Because of that, we should intentionally reflect that nurturing with young Christians as well as weaker older ones. Bless you.

    1. Well, I’m glad we got the pasta sauce reference cleared up Ms. Dottie. “It’s in there!” 🙂 I’m more pleased though from your kind comments and encouragement ma’am. It’s comments like the ones I get each week that make this so much fun. I love the fellowship we have here in this tiny community of caring Christians.

  3. Another inspiring message, my friend. God sends so much wisdom to us through nature–if we just pay attention. So glad our Father has granted you the wisdom to share His message. I pray we can boldly share His message, in our families (so important) and to the world (our own little corner of it). Thank you for the blessing, J.D.

    1. Thank you Ms. Tammy. And yes ma’am, we must take caring for and discipling those who come behind us much more seriously than we do. I believe we’ll one day answer to God for that very thing.

    1. “Unusual” fits me perfectly Ms. Marilyn! 🙂 Thank you so much for your kind words ma’am. You always know just the right thing to say. It’s like you talk to God or something. 🙂

  4. J.D., you have the BEST analogies! This one is SO on-point. I guess I feel that way because, first, the welcoming process you described is so beautiful, but secondly, because I too see the deficit in the Body of Christ for discipleship of new believers. I think this is a challenge to churches everywhere to examine their processes for “onboarding”, shall we say. Thank you for this lesson! Blessings to you, my friend!

    1. Aww; thank you Ms. Gena. Yes, discipling others, not just church members, but our family, friends, students; whenever the opportunity is presented to help someone grow in their faith. I think that’s one of the best ways I know to glorify God; passing on what He’s helped us to gain in Him.

  5. Thanks for the good/true story. It’s a good nudge to get me busy. I mentor a young girl, but I haven’t gone to welcome new folks other than introducing myself. Afraid of more time commitment? Yes, probably.

    1. I think we all do that Ms. Jackie. Too often, we’re timid little Christians who don’t want to interfere in someone else’s life. God gave us a voice, we need to perhaps use it more. Well said ma’am; both convicting and inspiring. Thank you!

  6. J.D., what a beautiful analogy. I always enjoy your ranch stories. New Christians and seasoned Christians who are new members of churches need the nurturing you encourage us to give. Sometimes they receive jobs to do before encouragement, which isn’t a wise profession. I remember when as newly weds we joined a new church. Another young couple ran to catch us in the parking lot. They invited to join them for a meal and continued that practice until we made more friends. A blessing indeed.

    1. Oh, I love this example ma’am. If we are truly “brothers and sisters in Christ”, then we need to treat each other as family; and not distant cousins you only see at the reunion every 15 years. Amen ma’am!

  7. Great insight using Emma & Rose!
    Trees, plants and animals all drop us hints of a loving God. But they fall short of telling us that Jesus is the only way to salvation. I really enjoy how you share how life on the Cross-Dubya helps keep you focused on life eternal. Thanks for using the gifts God has given you to reach others!

    1. Awful kind words Mr. Ben. And yessir; all of creation signs out to the glory of God. Yet we humans could proclaim His majesty best. Amen sir. Thanks so much for adding to our conversation.

  8. Wonderful story, J.D. Thank you for another life lesson. When we witness God’s love and kindness in the animal kingdom, it speaks volumes. We see His hand everywhere in creation, don’t we? I agree, let’s apply these lessons to our own tribe and nurture our families and new believers along paths of righteousness.

  9. I absolutely love this post and analogy! How sweet to picture you carrying a calf to its mama or another mama cow helping lead the way!

    It’s beyond me why we welcome and say “Howdy” to new believers and then leave them be, alone on the journey. Especially since Christ said to go and make disciples.

    1. I’ve long wondered the very same thing Ms. Karen. Why do we say “Howdy”, then stand by silently and watch them struggle instead of extending a lifeline of compassion by coming alongside them in their struggle. Why do we not endeavor to “lighten their load?” Thank you for adding to our conversation ma’am.

  10. God’s plan is truly inspiring and powerful. I was blown away to hear this. Loved your application, J.D. Thank you!

    1. Thank you so much Ms. Gail. Discipleship is, in my humble opinion, a core tenant of Christianity. Christ didn’t tell us to say “Howdy” but to “make disciples.” Amen ma’am!

  11. Still catching up on these wonderful blogs, J.D. Love your comment that “discipleship doesn’t come through osmosis.” Excellent paraphrase. No, it does not. Discipleship is time-consuming and reward-ensuing. Thanks for a great lesson.

    1. You are too kind Ms. Karen. Thank you so much for your comments ma’am; they add richness and value to our conversations. You are so right about the cost of discipleship; but oh, how rich is the reward when you see a strong, confident Christian emerge who is prepared for the journey and will become all that God has planned for them since their creation.

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