Equine First Aid

A few weeks ago, I had the pleasure of attending an Equine First Aid class with Simply Beginning Horsemanship in Centerville, Tennessee.  The instructor Amanda Tidwell is certified by Equi-First Aid, and the course uses a veterinarian-approved curriculum.
I signed up for the course after meeting Amanda and hearing her speak at Southern Equine Expo.  It’s been over 20 years since I’ve had any training in equine first aid, and now that our equines are at home with us, I have to be prepared to be their first responder in the event of an emergency.
I had clear goals in attending.  First, I wanted to have the information I needed to update my first aid kit. Second, I wanted to get up-to-date in my first aid knowledge.
The course exceeded my expectations.  We had a lot of fun, learned, and got hands-on practice.  We left with a manual for reference and a certification good for 3 years.  More than that, we walked away confident that we could handle emergencies on our farms.  As an added bonus, Amanda fed us a beautiful, healthy lunch.  (Side note…  I always cringe a little when someone provides lunch, because it’s usually something processed and unhealthy.  Not so this time!)
Topics covered included

  • Prevention & safety
  • Evaluating your horse for pain
  • Stretching your horse
  • Taking vitals
  • Covering a variety of wounds
  • How to communicate to your vet in an emergency
  • How to accurately calculate your horse’s weight
  • Signs of colic
  • Hoof diseases

Since the class, I’ve started updating my first aid kit.  I’ve checked my existing supplies to makes sure everything is still operational.  I’ve purchased a larger tape measure, because I discovered that mine only went to 60 inches.  Not enough to measure my horses!  I also purchased a stethoscpope, digital equine thermometer, and analog equine thermometer.
I’m working on getting normal vitals for both of our horses and our donkey.  I’m also regularly practicing my first aid techniques.  I don’t want to have to think about what to do in a crisis.  I want the knowledge and skill to be at the ready.  I am hoping to enroll in one of Amanda’s advanced classes and even get certified to teach the course myself in the Fall.
I highly recommend signing up for one of Amanda’s upcoming classes.  The information and experience is worth twice what she charges!  She has classes scheduled for May 7. June 4, and July 2.

Freedom in Surrender

Surrender1I’m often surprised at Christians who say you shouldn’t bother with the Old Testament.  Certainly, no one should ever begin there.  The Old Testament isn’t easy reading, but contains a valuable and poignant story–a story relevant to today’s problems.  A Father trying to help his children and to provide for them.  Children grumbling and demanding more.  A Father angry and betrayed.  An intermediary begging for mercy toward the children.  A Father showing mercy, only to begin the cycle again.
God answered our cries over and over again.  God provided for us over and over again.  Yet, when he asks for our fidelity and trust, what do we give him?  When he asks us to surrender to the wonderful plans he has for us, what do we do?
We love to be in control.  We love to make our plans and execute them.  Rarely do we surrender to God, but the rewards in surrender are priceless.  The comfort.  The peace.  The serenity.  The freedom.  The Casting Crows song “Just Be Held” states it beautifully:

And when you’re tired of fighting
Chained by your control
There’s freedom in surrender
Lay it down and let it go
So when you’re on your knees and answers seem so far away
You’re not alone, stop holding on and just be held
Your world’s not falling apart, it’s falling into place
I’m on the throne, stop holding on and just be held
Just be held, just be held

Every time I let go of the results and let go of control, I find myself enveloped in peace and love, and the results exceed anything I could ever imagine for myself.  God does not give us what we deserve.  He gives us love, mercy, and joy.  He gives us the Kingdom of Heaven over and over again regardless of how many time we walk away.
How many times have we walked away?  How many times have we complained about what we don’t have rather than be grateful for what we do?  And how does God answer?  When we let him take over, he gives us far more than we deserve.  Even when we don’t act like it, he treats us like beloved children, providing everything we need to grow and to flourish.
In a recent Girlfriends in God, Mary Southerland shared a prayer and an activity, both of which I found particularly helpful in surrendering myself to God:

Let’s Pray
Father, I come to You – broken, shattered and desperate for You. I come to You in complete surrender. Please lift me out of this pit and show me the way, Lord.
In Jesus’ Name,
Now It’s Your Turn
Read Psalm 40:1-3. “I waited patiently for the LORD; He turned to me and heard my cry. He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire; He set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand. He put a new song in my mouth, a hymn of praise to our God.”
Circle all of the “action” words in these verses. What does God ask you to do? What does God say He will do? Do you believe Him? Are you willing to let Him be God in your life?

It is easy for us to take control and try to fix things ourselves, but it never works out as well as when we can surrender to God and give it to him.  When we wait upon the Lord, he always hears us and shows us the way.  We just have to be willing and faithful.

Maundy Thursday

As I prepare mentally and spiritually for what I know will be the most emotional liturgy of the year for me, I’m reminded of the Alanon saying, “Pain in inevitable; suffering is optional.”  If you’ve never been to 12 step meeting, you might be thinking, “pain and suffering are the same thing.”  In this case, pain refers to the inevitable hurts life dishes out: death, breakups, disappointments, etc.  Suffering refers to the pain we inflict on ourselves.
Tonight I will go to church and participate in a remembrance of the Last Supper, of fellowship and subjugating ourselves to one another that includes washing each other’s feet.  Before we leave the church, all  of the beautiful trappings we use to celebrate the Eucharist each week will be removed, leaving the altar stripped and the cross covered.
Tonight is the night we keep vigil in the church, waiting in the garden with Christ as he prepares himself to face unimaginable pain at the hands of his own people.  For those of us in liturgical churches, tonight will be a painful night.  We know what’s coming.  We know it hurts.

I am, however, reminded that I will not suffer.  I will hurt, but I will not suffer.  That is not what the Lord intends. Pain is inevitable, but in the Lord there is no suffering.  I will surrender to him, to his plan.
I’m also reminded that my pain is a small cross to bear in comparison to that of the apostles.  Imagine seeing your friend and teacher flogged and hanging on a cross, his broken body dead and lifeless.  They’ve been warned what’s coming, but they don’t know as we do.  They haven’t experienced it before.  Their Savior is going to be betrayed and gone.  We know Easter is the third day.  They don’t.
My pain is a small cross to bear in comparison with the sacrifice Jesus is preparing to make.  He knows he will be resurrected, but he also knows that to get there he must be flogged, beaten, and crucified.  We can pretend he isn’t scared, but why else would he ask God to stop it if there is any other way?  He is divine, but he is also fully human.  He will feel the lashes.  He will feel the nails.
Beginning today, the next few days will be difficult, painful.  But I will not suffer.   I will experience the pain, and I will have Faith that this too shall pass, as all things do.

Jesus Christ Superstar

JesusChristSuperstar1Jesus Christ Superstar became a Holy Week tradition for me back in 1988.  Director Bob Mitchel gave me the opportunity to be a member of the cast of The Community Players production.    As a teenager, I was in general at a very formative time in my life, but having been confirmed in December of 1987, I was in particular exploring a deeper relationship with Christ.  Bob was a minister and brought to the production a reverence and understanding that extended beyond the theatrical into the theological.
When Bob first began the production, we spent some time discussing his take on the show.  He told us that, despite common perceptions, he believed that we were telling Judas’s story.  The big opening number and the finale were both his.  That really stuck with me.  Until that day, Judas Iscariot existed as flat character in the Gospels.  Judas played the antagonist and the betrayer.  Nothing more.
During the course of rehearsals and production, I developed an abiding love and compassion for Judas.  He became someone who loved Christ but ultimately failed in his faith and fidelity.  Judas became the manifestation of my failures and my weaknesses.  The struggles between Jesus and Judas embodied the struggle within me between exercising my own will and surrendering to God’s will.  Both exist within me.  Both must be acknowledged for me to choose the path of Christ.
Another reason the experience of being in that production really stuck with me…  “Remember Caesar.  You have a duty. Crucify him.  Crucify him. Crucify. Crucify. Crucify him.”

Every year, the congregation joins in the reading of the Passion demanding Christ’s crucifixion, but there is a big difference between reading the words in the comfort of your church congregation and having to act them out as a part of an angry crowd on stage.  During those months, I had to *want* Pilate to crucify Christ.  I had to be swept up with the crowd that one day sang his praises and another day demanded his torture and death.
Difficult doesn’t begin to describe that experience, but the resulting personal growth in my Christian faith was priceless.  Now, when I join in the Passion readings at church, I hear that angry mob in my head and am reminded that Christians are responsible for the pain and suffering of Christ.  The tears roll uncontrollably down my face.
He didn’t just give his life for us.  We took it.  We participated in it.  He loves us anyway.
We loved him and left him.  We lost Faith.  He loves us anyway.
So now each year, I spend Holy Week listening to Jesus Christ Superstar over and over again, walking with Judas and Jesus, feeling their pain and suffering.  I live in a place of sadness and hopelessness, and I do it because I owe Christ at least that much.  I betrayed him.  I left him.  I lost Faith in him.  He loves me anyway.  I deserve to feel the pain and suffering.  It is after all only one week.

Palm Sunday

Palm Sunday always had a profound effect on me.  The last two since joining the St. Paul’s choir have been particularly powerful.  Our director Angela Tipps possesses an uncanny gift for choosing poignant liturgical music, perfectly accenting the theology of the service.  As someone who often prays through music, Angela’s musical selections move me as much as experiencing the Passion and nearly as much as the act of taking communion.
Sunday, we began the service basking in the sun and singing a lilting “Hosanna, blessed is he who comes” with children’s voices echoing adults and youth.  We had handbells and cello, making the peace a joyful start to our triumphant procession around and into the church.  We processed to a rousing “All glory, laud, and honor.”
By communion, we were singing “Father if this cup cannot pass,” and finished processing in silence.  We had listened to the Passion.  We had listened to our priest’s call to feel the suffering and sadness of Holy Week, reminding us that Christ deserved our walking with him through his pain and suffering.  We threw our palms on the altar steps, leaving the church to enter a world without Christ–a world of desolation and hopelessness.  Our Lord and Savior was dead.

I adore Easter.  It defines us as a church–not just the Episcopal church but the entire Body of Christ, the universal Church.  For me, however, Easter has such a profound meaning because of Holy Week, because of the journey of Lent.  I feel the Resurrection, because I have felt the Crucifixion.  I rejoice in the Lord’s triumph over death, because I demanded his crucifixion.  Holy Week more than any other week of the year defines my personal Faith and my Anglican identity.  I cannot imagine a life without the liturgies of Holy Week.
One of my greatest joys in being a member of the St. Paul’s choir lies in the dedication and heartfelt faith with which the choir attends to its ministry.  The choir members share a sense of responsibility for their work and a sense that the Holy Spirit is with us and guiding us.  Never do we gather without a prayer.  Never do we serve without a request to God through Christ that our hearts and our minds be guided by our Faith.
That dedication filled the air on Sunday.  When I walked into the choir room Sunday morning, the room was loud and joyful.  There were jokes and laughter.  When I walked out, the grief and solemn silences thickened the air.   No one was unaffected by the liturgy we had shared.
I can’t remember a Palm Sunday in my adult life where tears weren’t streaming down my face by communion.  I can’t remember a Holy Week where I have not felt profoundly sad.  I wouldn’t have it any other way.