As usual, I was accompanied by my faithful Labrador, Valentine. She had a temporary identity crisis and attempted to be a herding dog instead of a retriever. Fortunately, the sound of a one ton bawling animal with horns the size of a compact car was enough to rattle her back to reality and she retreated.
I am a native born Texan — third generation on both sides of my family raised in the Lone Star State. I like to think of myself as fairly well balanced and flexible, able to manage effectively both in high heels and boots. I was raised in Fort Worth, a good sized city that's also called "Cowtown," well in touch with my state's ranching, cattle-raising and horse-loving roots.
Fact is though, I can saddle a horse, but only if you give me enough time, and I can ride as long as the animal stays in low gear. Push it to a trot though and I stiffen up like a mesquite branch in a hard freeze.
I confess that I am truly a city girl. No escaping that fact.
I do own a pair of boots but they are five years old. Unless I have some mid-life growth spurt, they will last me until I face the grave. I am strong enough to heft a bale of hay, but not because I've ever done so. Those back muscles come from a pristinely clean fitness facility with gym rats wearing fancy workout clothes. My nails and cuticles are in much too nice shape to ever convince anyone that I might have scrubbed out a stock tank or helped deliver a foal.
Yet, I love to escape the hectic pace of my urban life and pretend I am a rural cattle queen or high falutin' horse rancher. As the old song goes, "The stars at night Are big and bright, Deep in the Heart of Texas" and I thrill to see them glitter in the black night sky. I love standing on the edge of a mountain (not a mountain by Colorado standards, but by, let's say, Dallas standards) where I can see for miles — nothing but hills and trees and patches of pasture dotted with cattle or goats or horses.
The verses from Psalm 50:10-12 seems to sum up that view:
For every animal of the forest is mine, and the cattle on a thousand hills. I know every bird in the mountains, and the creatures of the field are mine ... for the world is mine, and all that is in it.
But the God I serve and worship from this hilltop sanctuary reminds me that this world — His earth — is in the palm of his hand. The 30 some-odd ornery longhorns eyeing me on my morning walk are a drop in the bucket of his creation. The birds flitting from feeder to fence that catch my attention and thrill my heart — he knows every feather of their wing and their chirp by heart. He knows all that and more and yet loves me beyond comprehension.
He did not allow his only Son to die or send his Holy Spirit for those lumbering cattle or flighty feathered ones. He did all that and more for me. His hand of protection and his heart of love extend to me whether I'm safe in my seat-belted, security-system-ed city life or way out in the midst of this wide-open wilderness.
I will return today to the traffic, the voice mail, a high-speed internet and infomercial life. It will be back to a ringing phone, a hungry washing machine, and the standard demands of family time. But after these few days away, I will take back with me the memory of those cattle on a thousand hills as well as the mind's eye view of the rugged scenery and pleasant pastures. My citified stroll through the mall and my favorite well stocked grocery store will be tinged for a while with a bit of cowgirl swagger.
Most important though, I will carry with me the reminder that God in His infinite creativity and immense love for humanity made this remarkable world for me to enjoy. He set up his system of creation and creature to rattle me from my self-imposed busyness and refresh my heart. There may be oh so many cattle on thousands and thousands of hills, but there is only one you ... and only one me. And God's love for us is as immeasurable as the shades of color in a Texas sunset.