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Safe Pasture

The Fall season is and has always been my favorite season of the year. I suppose there are several reasons why I love the fall so much. The weather has usually cooled off to the degree that a light weight, blue jean jacket or sweat shirt feels just right. The leaves of the trees have turned and beautiful red, yellow, green, brown, and orange leaves color the landscape. Fall festivals, hayrides, or just sitting by a warm fire on a cool night with family and friends always builds good memories. Just the smell of a camp fire or fireplace brings about a feeling all its own, especially when in the woods or when I am driving through the hills of the Appalachian area going to cattle sales.

Even memories of things that I used to do that I do not get to do much anymore like going to high school football games and seeing friends that I have not seen for a while or enjoying nature while sitting in the woods, in the dove field or chasing bird dogs during hunting seasons make the Fall season special for me. The memories of low crawling through the pasture with my sons playing like Cowboys who were sneaking up on Indians and then retreating back to our hideout to cook cowboy beans over a small fire are memories that I will never forget and that make Fall special.

Of course the Fall holiday seasons are my personal favorites. We enjoy all the holidays: Halloween, Thanksgiving and especially Christmas. Trick or Treating is something that I grew up doing, that we did with our children, and that we now get to do with our grandchildren. Somehow, we usually always end up hosting a family or church hayride associated with a big bonfire during Halloween. Thanksgiving is when we get together as family and remember all the ways God has blessed us as we share all the good seasonal foods, enjoy the kids and grandkids, and start getting ready for Christmas--our favorite holiday of them all.

I remember as a small child, daddy and all six of us young-uns walking through the woods on the Friday or Saturday after Thanksgiving searching for that one 'special' Christmas tree that would always seem to be much bigger once we got it home than it looked when we cut it down. I remember we did that a few times with our children too before vendors started bringing in those pretty Blue Spruce trees from up north--and before that pesty Privet Hedge took over our woods. Christmas lights, Christmas caroling, Christmas cantatas, Christmas shopping, and all the excitement of gift giving all pointed and still point to the greatest gift of all time: the gift of Jesus Christ who came to show us God's love and to save us from our sin, giving us eternal life! The events throughout the Fall leading up to the time that we celebrate His coming is alone enough to make the Fall season my favorite season of the year.

However, there is still another reason why Fall is my favorite season, and that is because it is and has always been our calving season! I have to admit that most of my sentiment towards calving seasons are just memories because now Jack does most of the calving since I am gone so much with the other work of the ministry during this time of the year. I do not get to be out in the pasture as much as I would like to be during calving season, but I usually cherish the opportunities when I do.

There is just something special about seeing how your long awaited and highly anticipated breeding plans work out! Though they are the most anxious and risky calving experiences, I especially enjoy watching the first calf heifers calving out. There have been many fall nights when I would set my clock to get up every two hours to put on my jacket and boots, pick up my flashlight and go walking through the heifers to see if there were any problems. Probably only those who have experienced what I am talking about can picture and appreciate this scenario, but it is indeed special.

The night air is cool and damp. The stars are as bright and beautiful as they can be and occasionally, I see one streaking through the sky for just a moment before it disappears. In the distance, I hear an occasional lowing of one of the mature cows across the road who has already calved and is looking for her new baby. The heifers know my voice and they are used to me being around them, so as I slowly walk through them, softly speaking my "whut, whut, hey girls" cow talk to them, they rarely even bother to get up when I pass by. I hear the occasional moaning and belching as they shift their body position and chew their cud. I look for any signs of labor, but I especially look for those that I noticed earlier that had a full udder and/or a swollen vulva. If one is off by herself, I make a special effort to check her, especially if she is up and smelling around.

I guess what makes this so special for me is that I know my cows and they know me. They trust me, even in the dark, even when I am flashing a bright light on them. They know my voice. They know my presence and can distinguish it from that of a predator. I know each one of them and if there is enough moon light, I can usually distinguish between them even without reading their ear tags. This relationship is one that is built by spending time together--both during the day and during the night when all they can rely on is the sound of my voice and their previous experiences with me. If I tried this with someone else's cattle, either they would run away or one of us would probably end up getting hurt--but these heifers know me and I know them so the nighttime strolls are relaxing and not stressful because they are the cattle of my pasture!

I found it interesting that in Scripture, the Lord describes His relationship with us, or at least His desires for a relationship with us, using the same analogy! Psalm 23 begins with: "The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside the still waters...." Psalm 37:3 says: "Trust in the Lord and do good; dwell in the land and enjoy safe pastures." Psalm 79:13 says: "So we, Your people and sheep of your pasture, Will give You thanks forever; We will show forth Your praise to all generations. Psalm 95:7 says: "For He is our God, And we are the people of His pasture, And the sheep of His hand." Psalm 100: 1-3 says: "Make a joyful shout to the Lord, all you lands! Serve the Lord with gladness; Come before His presence with singing. Know that the Lord, He is God; It is He who has made us, and not we ourselves; We are His people and the sheep of His pasture." Ezekiel 34:31 says: You are my sheep, the sheep of my pasture, and I am your God, declares the Sovereign Lord." John 10:9 says: "I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved.

They will come in and go out, and find pasture." Vs 11: "I am the Good Shepherd. The Shepherd gives His life for the sheep." Vs 14: "I am the Good Shepherd; and I know My sheep, and am known by My own. As the Father knows Me, even so I know the Father; and I lay down My life for the sheep." Vs 27: "My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow Me. And I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; neither shall anyone snatch them out of My hand. My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of My Father's hand. I and My Father are one."

Maybe the reason why Fall is my favorite season, and calving season is one of the greatest reasons why, is because it reminds me of how much God loves and cares for me and for all people. It helps me to relate to the kind of loving and caring relationship that He desires to have with me. It reminds me that He knows me, that He is watching over me, He will provide for me, and that all He desires to do with me, in me and for me is for my own good and His glory. You and I are the cattle and the sheep of His pasture. All we have to do is trust in and follow Him. He will do the rest!

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