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    I was at the ranch office in Cooper Landing, Alaska one day when word came that Rebel, one of our more fractious horses, had bucked off the wrangler while up in the mountains and was running riderless back to the corral. We were working for a guiding outfit, taking tourists up into the mountains on horseback in Alaska, and the hapless wrangler who had just watched his mount disappear into the trees at a dead run was Ben, my oldest son. He was 17 at the time, it was his first year on the job, and as it was a large group of tourists, he had gone along to ride in the rear of the group as a backup and to help the regular guide.

    Rebel was a horse that had been mostly used as a packhorse in the preceding years, and was not yet dependable on the trail under saddle. He had been spoiled, and liked to break into a bucking spree without any warning, then run back home to the barn. We wranglers were riding him, trying to get miles on him and calm him down. “Wet saddle blankets” we called it. Of course, I say “we wranglers”, but the job of riding him fell mostly to the younger hands bringing up the rear, and Ben was the youngest.

    The group was over half way through their ride and had stopped in a little clearing for a break. Once break time was over, the wranglers had helped everyone back on their horses and had gotten them lined out. When everyone else was mounted safely, Ben had put a foot in the stirrup and gone to mount Rebel, and Rebel had promptly bucked him off before he could even get settled in the seat and a foot in the stirrup. Nothing was hurt much. Except for Ben’s dignity. Of course the show must go on, so there was no help for it, the guide just led the string of dudes off for the rest of their journey, and Ben started walking back down off that mountain … in cowboy boots.

    The trail crossed the highway before heading up into the hills and the highway was crazy busy in the summer with tourists heading to and from Kenai, Soldotna and Homer. It was a tricky crossing, so we went looking for Rebel in hopes of catching him out there somewhere before he got himself into trouble. However, he slipped across the highway unseen and unaided, picked his way through the woods and was standing smugly outside the corral when we finally caught up with him.

    Ben came stalking into camp on foot like a thundercloud some time later, and when I went up to him he said “All I could think of coming down off that mountain was that I sure hope he don’t get hit by a big truck crossing that highway.” I was warmed by his calmness and feelings of solicitude for the little horse until I heard the rest of his sentence as he stomped away. “… ‘cause he’s wearing my good saddle.”

    I don’t blame Ben a bit for viewpoint regarding the whole situation. I know that I would have felt the same way. But as I get older and look around at how we humans often treat each other, I see some painful similarities. We express our concern for the welfare and wellbeing of a brother or a sister, but what is sometimes left unsaid is that our concern is often based only on the fact that they are “wearing our good saddle”.

    The fact is, there is a bit of Rebel in each of us, a tendency to break apart at the most inconvenient time, an insistence on having things our own way and either an ungodly lack of concern or unbelievable ignorance of how our actions will affect others. We are all guilty of this to some degree or another, so it should come as no surprise when those around us are just as guilty as we are. Yet we are commanded to love the brethren, and to do so without guile, without hope of gain.

    Ro 12:10 Be kindly affectioned one to another with brotherly love; in honour preferring one another

That’s a pretty good example, or how about this one …

1Pe 1:22 Seeing ye have purified your souls in obeying the truth through the Spirit unto unfeigned love of the brethren, see that ye love one another with a pure heart fervently:

Maybe just one more …

1Jo 3:14 ¶ We know that we have passed from death unto life, because we love the brethren. He that loveth not his brother abideth in death.

    I am a Christian, have been one for nearly 45 years, and I am very pleased to be one. However, as I get older, my delight in being a Christian comes more from the joy of knowing Christ personally and having a relationship with him than it does in being associated with so many of the folks in church today. I have to tell you, I do not put stylized fish symbols on my truck, WWJD on my shirt or conchos with crosses on them on my saddle. Why? I want my Christianity to be discovered by those around me through my unfeigned love for them, my unbiased love for my brother and my unabashed love for my savior. And that’s not easy. But the whole chapter of 1Corinthians 13 is still in the Bible.

    If I (or Ben) don’t love all the horses, we can’t truthfully say we love the horses at all, can we? I mean, think about it. If I’m only loving the horses that treat me good, I’m not actually loving the horses, I’m loving myself through the horses. And if, as a Christian, I can’t say that I love all the brethren, then I can’t say I love the brethren at all. I’m only loving the ones that make me feel good, so actually I’m only loving … me.

    In other words, regardless of how big a pain a brother or a neighbor is and the trouble he has caused, I need to love him and genuinely hope he makes it across the highway without getting hit by one of life’s trucks, no matter what saddle he might be wearing.

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