For the first hour or so we rode alone, fanned out across the extensive pasture. I was in charge of rounding up the mamas and babies on the plain above the creek bottom. CJ was kind enough to obey my cues even though he knew much more about herding cattle than I. We made a good team. In general, mama cows thought it wasn't time to leave winter pasture. Babies stared at us as if to say, "Are we supposed to listen to you?".
A few minutes of fun riding and hat waving managed to convince them that they were indeed moving. We settled into an easy walk behind the bellowing multitude.
The sky was cloudless. The high desert air, cool and invigorating. No wind. 70 degrees. Bright green leaves on the cotton woods. New Mexico springtime at its best.
I talked with God as I rode along. What a day to be alive! But the best was yet to come.
Our little group of riders converged at the farther end of the field, bringing our charges. The cattle were counted as they ran through the gate, then we turned our horses homeward.
I rode beside one of the neighbor boys on the way home. He's one of my little buddies. A ranch kid through and through (the kind you think only exists in books anymore). We talked about the things that interest ranch kids. How he fell off CJ last time he rode him. The time the bonfire he was in charge of got a little out of control (he stomped it out himself without any help!). The new cowboy boots he was wearing. Our horses continued across the field, sometimes walking, sometimes trotting, sometimes cantering-- always side by side.
I asked, "Ty, what do you want to be when you grow up? Do you want to be a rancher like your daddy?" "I would like that", he replied. "I also like carpentry work." (His hero daddy is a carpenter too).
Then he spoke words that moved me to the core.
"But what I really want to be is a missionary to those people we're fighting".
I named the people groups in question.
"Yes, them. The ones who try to kill Christians. I want to tell them about Jesus."
I looked with new fascination at my little friend.
"And if they kill me, it doesn't matter 'cause I'm going to heaven anyways."
He said it with such abandon. I was thunderstruck. This 8-year-old boy had figured out what I am just beginning really to grasp at 25. That to live is truly Christ and to die is only gain.
"Oh Ty, I'm so glad to hear you say that. I want to do that too".
Yes, I want to do that too. Lay my life on heaven's altar, and run into the darkest places in the earth to see the triumph of God's glory. Learn the lesson of utter self abandonment. Serve Him by living or dying- if only He can use me to bring glory to His name, and light and life to those who haven't seen Him yet.
My friend inspired me. He didn't have to think twice about the ultimate sacrifice. It is what he wants to do for Jesus… and he knows the reward far outweighs the sacrifice.
We arrived home and put our horses away. The cows were happy in their new pasture. I went home to ponder our conversation for the rest of the day.
The call to my heart was to pour out my life for Jesus today, in real, tangible ways. To live with Him ever in mind-- ever in view. Absolute abandonment of my self is harder to do right where I am than the thought of abandoning my life for the sake of the gospel someday. But it comes first.
Lord Jesus, let me live, and die for You today. Because I love you more than life, and I love the souls you came to save. And if I am called someday to lay down my life in pursuit of the souls that are yet in darkness, I'll do it gladly. You are worthy.
Maybe I'll run into my little ranch friend across the wide ocean in years to come among the people we want to share our precious Jesus with. But if I don't I know we can compare notes in heaven, because that's where we're going anyway.