On Cattle Dogs and Discouragement.

It’s been one of those weeks and it’s only Wednesday.

My baby dog of nine years, Gracie, is lying at my feet with labored breathing and full-body swelling that four days in the doggie hospital couldn’t sort out.

Baby Grace in Colorado

Baby Grace and me in Colorado

Sam brought Gracie home for me as a present even before we were married, and although she rides with him every day in the front seat of the Ranger, like a little canine Lieutenant, she is my dog.

This morning at daylight, Sam and I had to work calves. For the first time in history, Gracie couldn’t go. Moving cattle hither and yon is her life’s work and even though she chewed the moulding off the kitchen door trying to prove she was up to the task, I know better. She is bad sick and nobody knows why.

Concurrently, I have a stuff coming up I need a little help with, not the least of which is the direction of this blog. So I decided to fast for a few weeks and try to get a little clarity.

Fasting is a spiritual practice that I’d never really tried, except when I gave up coffee for Lent. Since I did that successfully I figured I might try the three-week Daniel Fast. I’m on day three and having a hard time staying off the couch.

There’s a lot more to say about fasting and I will after I spend three weeks eating like a vegan monk at AA – no sugar, no coffee, no alcohol, only water and things that grow from seed. I noticed recently that I control what comes out of my mouth a lot better than I what goes in it and it’s a problem. So more on that later.

But most importantly, I had a long, discouraging email exchange with a potential literary agent yesterday. She said she would like to represent my work but my platform (code for how famous you are blog, Twitter, etc) is too darn small.

I can’t help but think of all the Kardashian-esque ways to fix that problem but that approach is a little incompatible with my work. Plus, Sam and I are old. So, you know, that’s out.

Hopefully, this low, hungry time, where I lay on the floor and pray for my dog, will be the rainstorm I need to rinse away all the non-essentials and come up sparkly and clean. That way we can get down to the way things are, just as fast as we can.

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I Don’t Go to a Normal Church

If you watch tv much, you could be forgiven for thinking the Christian church has lost its ever-loving mind. Didn’t Jesus Christ himself say the two greatest commandments were to love God and love others? Uh Houston, we have a problem.

Just remember, normal followers of Jesus rarely make the news. Sometimes they do, but usually they’re too busy doing free electrical work at somebody’s house on a Saturday. They are typically quiet, unassuming people who, in a million years, would never tell you about the electrical work. But I will. That’s what a couple of guys from Wood County Cowboy Church have done with their spare time lately. In fact, two of them are in the picture below (Wes and Ryan – blue plaid and green short sleeves).

My nutty little church bustles with Christians like that. People there use whatever they happen to be doing as a vehicle for loving God and loving people, or put another way, obeying Jesus.

For instance, on Saturday, a bunch of us got together at church and had college for dogs. Our Elder Tommy Lee is a stock dog trainer and thought it would be fun to invite a bunch of people and have a clinic.

Tommy kicked off this canine hootenanny with his best dog. He said if we were half as enthusiastic about Jesus as Border Collies are about sheep, our lives would look totally different.

Picture 17

He also brought bunch of puppies along and turned them out with the sheep, just to get them thinking about their life’s work.

Picture 12

This fella won a bunch of money on tv with his dog.

Picture 5

And in case you’re wondering, this is how it looks when a dog listens.

Picture 23

This is how it looks when he doesn’t.

Picture 6

This is the pastoral peanut gallery. Mike, the guy with the dirty black hat, pastors our sister church, Cross Brand Cowboy Church, which has seen up to 2,000 people on a Sunday. A lot of people go there because it’s ok to wear a dirty hat.

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This is Marc, the W3C Arena Manager. He brought a pile of fajita meat from the local Mexican market and grilled it over the fire for everybody. Arena Manager Marc

And the wearer of these cute boots took all these pictures. She’s the fabulous Sue Ellen Lare. Yep, like Sue Ellen from Dallas. Picture 25

The point is, these people are servants – loving God, loving others and having fun doing it. What a healthy way to approach your faith.

Jesus said, “The thief comes only to kill, steal and destroy, but I came so that you might have and enjoy your life, have it in abundance, to the full until it overflows.” So why not pray, play with your dog, then thank God for the sunshine, eat lunch and make new friends?

Minus the dogs, that’s how Jesus did it.

He’s worth emulating, and the gospels show us how.

On Dead Cows and Miracles.

Coeur de boeuf tomatoes

Coeur de boeuf tomatoes (Photo credit: Franka-in-London)

This afternoon, Sam and I butchered a 500-lb heifer in the woods behind our house. Her insides smelled like milk, which makes less sense than you might think, since we raise beef cattle.

All that may sound like metaphor, coming from the girl on the right in the wedding dress, but it’s not. I’m a Texas ranch wife and things like this happen. The heifer broke her leg. Sam called me at a friend’s house and said, “hurry home, I need help butchering this calf. Bring ice.”

This post has little meaningful purpose other than to explain the kinds of things I get up to when I’m not sitting at my desk thinking about Jesus. Some of my followers from Kirk Ranch Organics miss crispy, down-home ranch stories like this, this and this, so…

This is him.

This is him.

Sure enough, when I got home, Sam was waiting with his .38, a rope, sharp knives and four coolers. He’s kind of a bad-ass in this department, a son of the deep American South with years of deer and elk hunting under his belt; a fact that reminds me, if things go south on this planet, like the doomsday preppers predict, I will be hot on his heels.

I’ve been on plenty of hunting trips, but like most people, I’m usually on the skillet end of the animal, not the slaughtering end. So today was my day.

“Hold her right here,” Sam said. So with both hands, I grabbed the bones of her brisket that he’d just split open. She was well and truly gone, but still warm under my gloves. Then I watched her lungs spill out of her body and I touched her heart – coeur de boeuf tomatoes mean something to me now. Once I got over my revulsion, I got curious about her stomachs, and her veins and the green grass still inching through her intestines.

Maybe this sounds revolting, but if you appreciate a medium rare filet mignon, like I do – well, this is where they come from. Big fatty, steers are better for sure, but we’ll make do. Thanks little heifer #992.

More importantly, when you consider the profound stillness of a rapidly cooling heart in your hands, this life, here, right now, seems much less a smash-up accident, and more the exceptional miracle it is.

‚ÄúThere are two ways to live,” Albert Einstein said. “As if nothing is a miracle, or everything is.”