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Cowboy up: caring for others during a wild ride.

DAD AND I had been invited up to Brisco, B.C., about 100 miles north of where we lived in the Rocky Mountain Trench. Dad had a friend there who had a ranch, a herd of good horses, a couple of good-looking daughters and a boy about my own age of 12. We arrived in the morning. The good-looking daughters and the boy soon had me mounted on a beautiful Arabian stallion. Before I knew it we were all heading out for a ride down the gravel road that bordered the ranch.

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The stallion was way more horse than I had ever handled before, but the good-looking daughters inspired me to be brave. I was cutting quite a figure as we rode along, the stallion doing his thing, sidestepping, prancing, tail switching, neck arched and nostrils flared. Things were turning out just about the way I had planned them, if I had planned them at all, when a woeful whinny wafted on the wind from across the field of a neighbouring ranch that we happened to be skirting at the time.

It turned out there was more than whinny wafting in the wind that morning. The plaintive sound was generated by the neighbour's quarter horse mare who was in the middle of a rampaging heat. As the love notes of the whinny wafted into the ears of my mount, the rampaging heat wafted up his nose. Instantly there was a lot more sidestepping and prancing going on followed by some enthusiastic crow-hopping and sun-fishing.

Now I was really cutting quite a cowboy figure for the good-looking daughters. And then, both the Arab stud and I lost control. He took the bit in his teeth, shifted into high gear and lit out in something crossed between a dead run and an outright rodeo routine. I didn't know whether to pull all the leather I could and try to hang in there for the consummation of the obvious, or whether I should let go of everything, including my pride, and bail out. One thing for sure, I was no longer cutting quite a figure for the good-looking daughters; I was struggling to simply stay on the wild ride.

Thanks to the good-looking daughters, who managed to get their mounts on either side of the stud, pinch him into control and prop me up in the saddle, I survived the wild ride.

Looking back on that scene, it's more than just a story to tell my grandson. For me, now enjoying the pleasures of old-timer's disease and not having my long term memories cluttered up with much in the way of short-term memory anymore, it is a vivid recollection that serves as a metaphor for much of my life in the fellowship of Christ's church. I have had quite a few wild rides since Jesus burst upon my life in the dawning of my third decade.

Some I have tried to ride out on my own and fallen flat on my prat. Others I have tried to ride out on my own and succeeded, with considerable satisfaction too, I might add. And then there have been others that have profoundly been too much for me, and I have been quickly and absolutely overwhelmed. One such experience was very early in my life in the church as well as in my experience in ministry.

About four years after being baptized, still very wet behind the ears and filled with religious enthusiasm if not foolishness, I found myself moving with Linda and our two small boys to a small rural church in the Fraser Valley of British Columbia. Bradner was the name of the community and the church, and I was to be its pastor while I was working on the necessary education to be ordained in the Presbyterian Church.

Looking back, much of the education could hardly be deemed necessary, including the three month "total immersion" class in Hebrew that the hallowed halls of academia had decided would be a real cool way to deliver their Hebrew course. Every moment of our time at the school, every bit of instruction and conversation, was to be in Hebrew. This empty-headed scheme, one that only a room full of PhDs could possibly have thought up, quickly threatened to throw the single students with few other commitments in their lives. Many of the students were married with children and the scheme completely pitched them to the earth. I was the only one in my year serving a church as a pastor while studying full time, a church that had blossomed into a full-time job within a year of Linda and I arriving on the scene. I tried to buckle up and ride it out. I think I made it a couple of weeks.

After worship, about the second Sunday into the seminary's attempt to ride us into the dirt, a young elder took Linda aside and asked if there was something wrong with her husband. I'm still not sure what he saw and I would love to know what Linda told him, but I remember clearly what happened as a result. I received a phone call that afternoon advising me I was fired with full pay for the next three months. I could come to church on Sundays with my family if I wanted to but beyond that I wasn't allowed to even think about it. For the next three months we were a kept family. If memory serves, even the laundry was done for us.

Three months later, I rode out of the final Hebrew exam with my head up and my heels down. Thankfully, I managed to forget almost everything of that 'seminal' experience within about as many months. One thing I will never forget though is my experience of Christ's church cowboying up and riding with me, with us. It's one of several experiences that have left me with the impression that there really is a third sacrament in Christ's church: the sacrament of care. Is this what Jesus was getting at when he took off his clothes, dawned servants' garb and washed his disciples' dusty feet? Is this what he was teaching when he concluded with the words: "I have set an example for you, so that you will do just what I have done for you." (John 13:15)

Rev. David Webber is a contributing editor to the Record. He is a minister of the Cariboo, B.C., house church ministry and the author of From Under a Blazing Aspen, And the Aspens Whisper and Like a Winter's Aspen: Embracing the Creator's Fire.

ILLUSTRATION BY BARRY FALLS
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Title Annotation:For the Journey
Author:Webber, David
Publication:Presbyterian Record
Article Type:Personal account
Geographic Code:1CANA
Date:May 1, 2011
Words:1109
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