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9th of January

Below Zero


Why didn’t someone tell me this BEFORE we built a horse ranch—in Wisconsin—in summer.

Horses can’t change their clothes either.  And their clothes need changing frequently—in Wisconsin—in winter.


And horses certainly can’t feed themselves when nothing’s growing in the pastures—in Wisconsin—in winter.

In short, horses require the most work in the coldest season.


Here in Wisconsin, winters are often bitter cold and the caretaker of the beasts—that would be me—gets to trek out to the barn, twice daily, to care for those who can’t care for themselves.

It’s -5 this morning with a wind chill of -15.

The weather service has advised all humans to stay inside.



I changed the horses’ coats from medium-weight to heavy-weight, with my BARE HANDS, several days ago with the forecast showing frigid temperatures coming, five days straight.  For once, the Wisconsin weatherwoman got it right.  Our horses are up to their necks in insulation.





As for my attire in this frigid air of Thursday?  Pardon me while I name-drop . . .

It’s precisely 6:50 AM.

I’m dressed in fleece-lined Devonshire riding breeches and Ariat winter riding boots over my SmartWool winter socks on my feet.

Around my neck is a generic fleece gator with a nose flap so I can breathe.

Covering my core is a CuddleDuds long underwear tank, a CuddleDuds mid-layer fleece top, a THE NORTH FACE windproof vest, a down Patagonia “sweater”, and a down Outback equestrian coat (made in China, though “Outback” sounds oh, so Aussie stuck-up.)

On my head is a fleece-lined (TurtleFur) wool hat, size LARGE, to accommodate my mass of natural curls with enough room left over to cover my rather large, Scottish/English ears, pierced only once, but with no metal posts or wires to conduct the cold through my lobes. I’m a pragmatic fashionista.

Now for the hands . . .

I have several pairs of winter gloves, all for different purposes.  Which should I choose?

It’s a no-brainer.

Only one pair works in this sort of weather—my Grandoe mittens—at least 20 years old now.  They’re not down-filled and I don’t wear those fancy-shmancy-heat conducting (supposedly) liners either. I tried those liners.  My fingers still froze.  The only way I can get through my half-hour of barn chores in sub-zero temperatures is by keeping my fingers free to touch each other inside the mittens.

Fingers need to touch one another for comfort and warmth. Individually insulated, they do one another no good.  They need each other raw on the inside.


I stand at the front door like Neil Armstrong about to open the hatch and take mankind’s first step on the moon.  All dressed up with someplace to go, I look like an over-sized Weeble. I wobble my way across the threshold onto the porch, down two steps, through the garden, onto the front lawn, hoping I won’t fall down on my hundred-yard stomp to the barn.

I draw near the paddock and hear the snow crunch under horse hooves moving eagerly toward their stalls.

They see me coming.

They interpret.


I go into the tack room to get their grain.  I find our two mouser cats, Phil and Piglet, huddled together on a shelf with a cozy, western saddle pad underneath them.

I think about fingers touching in mittens, warming each other . . .

I think about cats huddling in tack rooms, warming each other . . .

I think about how we need one another—how we need God—to keep us warm . . .

I slide each stall door open and push the grain pans inside.  Roscoe neighs.  I’m giving him what he can’t give himself.  I smile and scratch him behind his ears.

Gratitude is the gift we give the giver.

I start shoveling his frozen waste into the wheelbarrow while he eats.  Three whole loads every morning from four horses who can’t clean up their own mess.  A labor of love.  I wonder if they are grateful.


I shovel and thank Jesus for cleaning up my mess—loads and loads of mess I’ve made.

I thank God for feeding me my “daily bread”—my soul food—my body food—my heart food—my mind food.

God satisfies all—with all good things—always. 

All covered in Himself, I am.

I want to stay warm.


I want to be HOT!

I thank God for sustaining me and keeping me from freezing to death.

Lord, fan my heart into roaring flame!  Make me HOT!


Some of us, in the body of Christ, have become lukewarm, cool, cold, frozen.  This should never be, so says Jesus (Revelation 3:15-16).


Some are making individualized rules and rationalizing why God would approve—as if He approves everything we deem right or necessary—as if He approves most everything culture defines as normal and acceptable.

Heaven forbid a human should stand and say, “The way of the Lord is NOT right!  I am righteous, so say I.  I will NOT walk in His [antiquated] ways!  I will NOT stumble, so say I!”  (Antithesis of Hosea 14:9).


In our times, some want to empathize with evil while having no tolerance for the ways of the Lord and His people.

Love of some grows cold toward anyone who doesn’t love and accept their thinking and acting.

Relativism is our God.

We bow.

We worship.

We do so at church altars.

We devote ourselves completely to our religion of relativism, our golden calf of today.

We all get to determine what’s true, don’t we?

All except God.

But the “enlightened” know that “God” is “relative”, right?


It’s not just Wisconsin that’s entered a deep freeze spiritually.  It’s the world.  It’s wherever a human heart has shut out the one, true God and His absolute ways found in His inerrant Word.

Yet, some places—some hearts—are staying warm.

Some places—some hearts—are growing warmer.

People in far off places are being fanned into flame while people in nearer places grow cold and colder still.

Where the Holy Spirit is welcome—where the Holy Spirit is sought—those who worship in Spirit AND Truth (John 4:23)—these are the places and the people who are warming to God.


How can the still warm stay warm while those around cool, even freeze?

How can the warm stay strong when those around us weaken, even crumble?

“Where two or three are gathered in my name . . .”

I think of my fingers wrapped around the stall fork I’m using to clean up another creature’s mess.

“Where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them.”

We can’t stay warm without spirit-to-spirit touching, joined by Christ Himself.

We need each other.  We need our God to join us.

We need to stay bonded as brothers and sisters in the LORD if we’re going to weather frigid times as Jesus foretold.  We need to stay close and stay in God’s word, the source of all truth that keeps the flames of our faith stoked and burning bright, not only for ourselves but for all who seek warmth and light in their lives, in our world.

Yes, we need to stay in our holy huddle.  And we need to move out of our holy huddle.  We need to share the warmth and light with the needy, the seeking, the cold, the freezing.

Where are you, this day?

Hot or cold?


Whole-hearted or half-hearted?

Perhaps we should all ask God what HE thinks.

Pray with me?

Lord, fan whatever flames you see waning in my heart.  Give me strength and courage to stand firm!  Amen.

“For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them.”  Matthew 18:20 (ESV)

“And then many will fall away and betray one another and hate one another.  And many false prophets will arise and lead many astray.  And because lawlessness will be increased, the love of many will grow cold.  But the one who endures to the end will be saved.”   Matthew 24:10-13 (ESV)

Encourage one another and build one another up.  I Thessalonians 5:11 (ESV)

“So, because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth . . . Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline, so be zealous and repent.” (Revelation 3:15,19 ESV)




Categories:  following Christ

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