Sometimes we go through life looking for signs. We search in the bible, we pray, we ask others and we even do silly things like ask God to sky write it in the clouds, or open a door that seems impossible to open; we want a sign, an answer that we are indeed on the right path. Recently I was called to ride ( I would say blessed or fortunate, but I am starting to believe God calls us to every situation even the ordinary or mundane), my new horse Nite in a 25 mile race and then Promise in a 50 mile race the next day. So many obstacles were in the way just to get there I felt I may never arrive. But arrive we did and got to work setting up camp, vetting in and preparing our game plan for the next few days. Torrential rains poured through out the morning the race was delayed for a couple of hours. We started strong and Nite and I raced to a first place finish, it was a delightful joy to cross that line and have a horse full of energy and elation at my first time to win first place.
But the Lord had a plan for me the next day, the Day of Atonement for the ancient Jewish Nation, The Day of the Lord for future thoughts and discourse, but I digress. I took off in the lead for the first loop; as I came in guns blazing, I had a great sound vet check and waited the 50 minutes to head back out. Promise, without a horse ahead and one behind him, slowed to an average 7.5 mph, not lightening speed, but decent for a wet single track through the woods. I was on the green and white loop, which consisted of white ribbons with green polka dots, not exactly shinning beacons of color or obvious in the dense forest of autumns shifting colors. The person who had marked this particular trail, unknown to them had set the course for a wonderful and Godly message not only for me, but for the ladies in my bible studies I would be teaching. These ribbons were placed just far enough apart that as you trotted or cantered along you began to wonder if you had missed a turn, even though there wasn’t an obvious turn anywhere in sight. Then moment would come that I had to consider if I did indeed miss an obscure turn and should I turn around, and then BAM, a ribbon would appear. I would thank the Lord, continue my pace and sing and pray during this most High Holy Day unto the Lord, yes a joyful noise for sure, crazy and made up songs, but joyful according to His word. Soon this pattern of ribbons just beyond what I could handle would appear in the nick of time reminding me that indeed I was on the right path. Soon a very determined rider caught up with me and judging by the look in her eyes and the fact she didn’t stop to water her horse in the majestic creek I was in, gave me pause to consider that she was serious about winning. I came out of the creek and started up the trail and she immediately passed me and took off with lightening speed. Well, Promise would have none of that and he kicked it into high gear and we galloped the next 10 slick and sloppy miles along single track with great speed. Ribbons were still sparse and I was still aware that I was riding by faith and just when I began to doubt the ribbon would appear bolstering my faith and confidence. She had missed two ribbons due to her speed and I hollered “hey”, turn here and soon she relaxed and we began to talk and enjoy the ride. At vet check after a fast 20 miles we checked out well, but my faithful friend did not want to eat or drink. I began the task of forcing him to eat grass and drink from a plunging tube and water bottle. I knew without eating or drinking on his own we wouldn’t pass the final vet inspection regardless of how well he trotted out. Off again in first we took off for the final loop. She passed us again and now it was 12 miles of full gallop. This was not what I had planned. My mentor’s ever-present voice bid me , “don’t get caught up in someone else’s race” kept a steady cadence in my heart. Soon two more fast women came upon us and the four of us went flying through the Talladega national forest. This was the white loop and I realized I was not watching ribbons anymore, we were going too fast, I was simply following them. I was no longer trusting the Lord ( ribbons) to follow the way set before me, but I was caught up with others as they went about their intense pace to finish the race. My horse was keeping up well but I knew this was not best for him. I couldn’t stop him well as I had shifted to a hackamore ( a bit-less bridle I can usually use on the last loop). I had to stop and get off their game plan. Promise wouldn’t drink at the water stops with their horses, he only wanted to be in the lead. That was the final straw, I had to make a change, get back to what I was called to do with the horse I was on and what I had come to do; and that was finish with 50 more miles under my belt. I got off in a creek, filled my water bottle forced him to drink two of them, forced green grass into his mouth and waited. I knew I wasn’t going to race them off and would be fourth no matter what, but if my horse didn’t pass I would be out and this day would result in a pull full of tears and regret. After I remounted, Promise knew they were up ahead and his pace quickened. I watched for the white ribbons and once again they came in the nick of time as I began to doubt I was on the right path yet again. I am a slow learner when it comes to faith. At the next creek I got off again and went through the force water and grass routine, he began to eat and drink on his own and knew I had done what I needed to do for him and that we would finish. My faith welled up inside me and I trusted the Lord for the rest. We finished 4th and had an impressive 50 mile race time. The girl who won, was showered with flowers and ribbons, but she carried with her a broken finger, bruised ribs and a mild concussion. In their speed the three riders were vying for position when the first place rider hit a tree and was catapulted 20 feet injuring herself. She is a tough cookie, remounted told her friends who had stopped to check on her she was fine, jumped on and out ran them to the finish line. I was so glad not to be near that accident, and overjoyed to be fourth.
But I was so much more excited about the Lord teaching me about the journey and the ribbons and my faith. Having that lesson and knowing I would be able to share this was the real prize. I knew several people who were at a crossroads of sorts in life, going along a path and wondering if they were on the right path. I could assure them that soon a ribbon would appear and confirm they were also on the right path. The word says that we plan our course, but it is the Lord that determines our steps. Proverbs’ 16:9. I learned that as we journey there are markers, and these markers are just beyond where you can see them. They are around the corner of Faith and trust. Many people simply think they have missed them and turn around, sometimes they get lost doing this, other times they lose out as others pass them by, some even doubt there is a ribbon up head and they lose faith. But…there is a ribbon ahead, you just must trust the Lord. Believing in Jesus is about leaning your entire personality onto Him, trusting Him with everything and believing. It is our obedience to believe. We get confused and think we should be “doing” things to obey the Lord, not so, we are to BELIEVE! The actions come later in our belief. TO BELIEVE, TO KNOW AND BELIEVE increases our faith, it allows us to pray with out doubt, being double minded. It allows us to trust God. Doubt would always creep in minutes before I would see the ribbon and then I would be so thankful and glad I would rejoice, but within a few miles I would wonder all over again if I had missed it, but then there it was.
Now we obviously don’t get real ribbons in life, but we do get His word, spoken in the right season, we get friends who encourage us and assure us of our faith, they tell us that “they know we are loved and that God has chosen us”, we hear a song on the radio, a scripture from a radio show or TV show and sometimes just nature declares His glory and we hear that still quiet voice and we know we are on the right path. When I was racing too fast and following others I forgot the ribbons for my race- another valuble lesson. I have followed many, got caught up in their journey, jealous and confused about what they had and what I didn’t . But my directions were right there, I just didn’t see them because I was too close to another wanting to follow them and not my own path. You see, even on the same trail, with the same ribbons, we have a different plan. God can handle all of that and we don’t have to fret about it at all. When I thought I would not vet in, that I had pushed it too far, ruined it…..I declared NO! I knew that I knew I would finish, I refused to let doubt get in; I reminded myself I don’t believe in fate or “bad luck”, but faith in God and what He was teaching me. I didn’t think of what could happen, but only saying in advance thank you for the finish, because I trusted the Lord to bring me ALL the way through. He did. I was so encouraged I shared with both my bible study groups and told them that their ribbons were out there. But to watch for that ribbon, to believe it was right around the next bend, the next corner, the next tree, that is faith, and that is where you get to be a part of a miracle that God has in store for you. Is Your marriage falling apart and you want to quit? There is a ribbon ahead, wait for it while moving a head on that path, Is your diagnosis is bleak, wait for that confirmation ribbon that comes right when you need it, and not a moment to soon. As our faith grows I believe our ribbons are spaced out even farther to stretch us and make us grow more in the Lord, trusting and riding by faith and not by sight. We want a “sign”, Jesus said there would be no sign except that of Jonah, ( three days and nights in the fish) to represent His resurrection. The people wanted skywriting, a casting of lots, a prophet to lay hands on them, a medium to tell them the future…..all things He said to stay away from and yet we seek those I want to encourage you that I have been on that path, I have doubted, even stopped and wondered should I turn back, investigate a trail that looked like another way….I am hear to tell you. Keep on keeping on, your ribbon is right up there, God can see it, He is just waiting for you to get there so He can reveal HIs glory to you and reassure you that He loves you and that He is right there with you. On days I couldn’t, another rider would come along side me to reassure me, on days when you can’t, He sends me to ride with you and confirm the ribbons. What a great and mighty God to show us truths in our everyday life, our hobbies, our jobs, our families. He has set the paths up, go to the ride meeting and get your map and find out what direction to start….church and His word, it’s all there. we are in this together. so blast the magnificent seven music and get ready to ride the path of His word and have the ride of your life
Your sister in Christ