Salve for Souls

Wednesday, May 27, 2015


The day I would look death in the face began like many others.

As a newspaper reporter/photographer team, my husband, Dan and I were on assignment to cover activities at a local horse ranch.

I had an odd sense of uneasiness as we drove there that dry, windy day. 

In retrospect, I wonder if that could have been God's "still small voice" referred to in 1 Kings 19:12. Maybe He was warning me to be careful. I would need to be. But as a reporter, I must forge ahead, so I tucked the uneasiness away.

It again reared its ugly head as we pulled into the driveway and large, barking dogs ran to surround our car. Dan opened his door and extended his hand. The dogs sniffed it and were satisfied, wagging their tails. I let them sniff my hand too and all was well for the time being.

The ranch's owner, Debbie, came to greet us. A children's riding class happened to be there on horseback. Debbie was about to lead the group down a sandy path to a meadow with a pond.

"Want to join us?" she asked Dan and me.

Deciding that would be an attractive setting for pictures, we said we would.

Holding a horse's reins, Debbie walked ahead of the procession, while Dan and I brought up the rear on foot.

However, walking behind the large horses left me feeling small and vulnerable. Uneasiness crept back over me as I stepped carefully among piles of manure.

Along the way, Dan pointed out an electric fence. "I touched one of those by accident some years ago. It gave me quite a jolt."

When I turned to look, the brisk wind kicked up the sand and blew grit into my eyes. As they burned and watered, I considered returning to our car and letting Dan tackle this job alone.

But then, I looked at him and the children. Everyone was having a good time. The children were chatting back and forth and laughing and Dan began taking pictures as we emerged into the meadow. What was there to be afraid of?

While Dan moved closer for better picture angles, I stayed in the background taking notes. I also began to appreciate the beauty of our surroundings. Against a sapphire sky, treetops waved in the wind. The horses circled the pond and to the delight of the children, waded in with their riders astride.

However, uneasiness tapped my shoulder when I spotted loose horses grazing to my right, maybe 50 feet away. But they were content, swishing their tails and grazing peacefully. For a while, I was able to relax and continue taking notes.

All that changed in an instant.

Suddenly, a spotted horse with a girl on its back, galloped toward the pond, kicking up its hind legs. Through my watery eyes, I watched the horror unfold.

The girl and her saddle slid sideways. She fell into the pond, thankfully unhurt. But the horse continued to gallop and buck.

Debbie attempted to grab its reins, but the horse galloped past her, around the circumference of the pond—aimed straight at me!

Although this happened in less than a minute, time seemed to move in slow motion.

Where can I run? How will I get away?

I glanced behind me. The electric fence was right there and all around was open field, with nowhere to hide.

My heart pounded. I could almost feel the horse's hooves kicking me to death right there in the muck and manure.

Help me, God, I prayed.

The next instant, one of the loose horses stopped grazing. Although facing away from the panicked animal, it turned as if on cue. It then galloped into the path of the spotted horse, blocking its way. Calmed, the spotted horse trotted off in another direction. Things returned to normal as the intervening hose went back to grazing.

Debbie later told Dan and me that the horse had "spooked" because it was new to the ranch and something had blown past its face.

As we drove home, Dan and I discussed what had happened. A common-sense guy not given to exaggeration, Dan expressed amazement.

"That horse in the field seemed to know exactly what it was doing."

I thought maybe I should have paid closer attention to my sense of trepidation. But then, I would not have witnessed the immediate answer to my prayer. Nor would have others at the ranch who agreed the rescuing horse's action verged on miraculous.

I learned an important lesson that day. Even though I sometimes ignore God's promptings, He always listens for my cries.

Friday, May 8, 2015


My husband could do amazing things with his smart phone: send and receive e-mail, go on facebook, check the weather, watch TV and so much more. He had the world at his fingertips and it made my little flip phone seem like yesterday's leftovers.

Before long, I was the proud owner of a brand new smart phone—and I learned how to turn it on!

The first place I brought it was to a women's retreat at my church, where I would be helping out. Before the retreat began, our group of about 20 gathered in a room for prayer. I was early and as the others straggled in, a friend said she needed to get her phone from her car to call her son.

I whipped out my prize possession. "You can use my phone."

She thanked me, took it and then stared at the blank screen. I quickly realized my friend knew no more about smart phones than me.

Drawing on my vast technical skills, I turned it on and some apps magically appeared.

Amazingly, there was one with a telephone receiver.

I pressed it. Nothing. I pressed it again. Still nothing. My friend pressed it too, with the same result. We must have pressed that thing a hundred times. Then viola! The screen changed and another phone app appeared. We pressed that one too, again and again. Eventually something clicked and a dial pad showed up.

Between the two of us, we managed to punch in the number and the call went through. But all our efforts were to no avail. My friend's son never answered because he didn't recognize my number on his caller I.D. He only answered when my friend went back to plan "A." She got her old-fashioned flip phone from her car and made the call.

My smart phone gave me more grief at the end of the day when I tried calling my husband to pick me up and take me home. When all attempts to call him failed, I decided to find a wall phone in the church. Yes, we still have a couple of these "dinosaurs."

As I made my way to one in the front office, another complication arose. At night, the halls were dark. Although light switches were on the wall, I didn't want to touch them, because one might set off a blasting alarm. Like most of life's lessons, I learned this one the hard way. Enough said.

At last, I groped my way to the phone, where I could barely make out the numbers. After they more or less came into focus, I couldn't get an outside line. Finally, I heard the welcome sound of a dial tone and was able to call home.

I have since learned how to better use my smart phone and I am taking life one app at a time.