Sunday, December 25, 2022

Heaven is Simple & Hope Remains the same.

 



.....At 9:43pm EST, the last of approximately 13,000 people took the final carriage ride out with Madison and Wyatt as her trusty steed.  Over the last 30 days with only Sunday being closed, a total of 2208 miles of memories were created under harness at the Billy Graham Library in Charlotte North Carolina.  

The familiar faces, the comraderie and the inside jokes still prevailed over any kind of weather that tried to dampen our spirits.  The gratefulness of all of us for one another stood out.  The daily prayers to keep us safe kept us motivated and inspired.   God was faithful with our horses, loving with His Children (us) and those passengers who braved the rain and minus windchill to keep the Christmas tradition alive.

We laughed at Visions of Sugar Cookies dancing in our heads.  Giggled at Embracing trees that hum. Felt the joy and sometimes sorrows with our passengers.  All with an attitude of gratefulness and cheer. The warmth of our team rose above the weather when it was inclement.  

The days and nights passed quickly.  Between the clip clops of  Jezebel, Wyatt, King, Musk, Boone, Moose, Motown, Gentry and Apple Jack who were so faithful to us in their understanding of their calling,  the undertone of wisdom and experience made every passenger feel safe, happy and even celebrated at times.

What is it about combining a million Christmas Lights and bunch of horses and about 30 awesome people that makes it so amazing?  Jesus of Course.  You can' t keep light under a bushel as the scriptures say.  Each jingle on those bells as we would bump along on our half mile route was something memorable to all whom were carried.   The little ones who always cried out loud "horsies!"  to the very old and feeble that we helped into the carriage made a great testimony of old family values and things that mattered the most.   Time is short and life is fleeting..and if this the last carriage ride any of our passengers took, then we can be proud of the memory made for that person.

Just the horse, the driver, the carriage and our passengers.  No cell phones, no tablet or iPads or digital images, no influencers, tik tok or Facebook.  This experience transported everyone back to a simpler time where horses were the way of life as a means of transportation.  Drivers turning an ear to their passengers, leaning over and spending quality time with those who cherished this experience for the first time or for the 22nd time.  Drivers overhearing the next generation say, "Grandma, did you ever ride a horse?"  And her smiling back and saying, "I used to ride horses when I was a little girl".    And the younger generations having fun singing all the way.  13,000 conversations.  13,000 connections made; some new, some old but all of them real.

We had passengers from as far away as Kenya, Scotland, Ireland, France, Hawaii and others as close as 3 miles away.   

None of this could be made possible without all that is stated above.  But the thing that always stands out is the family who is the constant glue to this operation.  Heidi with her good cheer made us laugh out loud and kept the lines moving, Miles on the stand a few times bringing his own flavor of comic relief while being super helpful and Madison's tireless spirit (even when she couldn't go on one more step) and lastly the most grateful for us all: Bridger.   He lives up to his name with his crew. Bridging gaps when needed making it all run the way it should...and Cindy, the right hand that brings the balance when the balance is needed.   Her expertise, warm spirit and get down to work ethic is next to none.

To be appreciated every day for what is going on is rare.  To get prayed for everyday in addition to that is the crown jewel of workplace emotional safety.

Our world today is still quite a mess.  But for just an instant and a blip in time, we got to escape life and live daily with bringing happiness to thousands of people --- with horses no less!

Our horses experienced the same comraderie as did.  They worked in perfect unison in an order that was like a well oiled machine.  Each making their own way with what came natural for them.  And our leadership having enough experience to know how to make this happen.

Wyatt loves to be scratched, Moose typically sneezes three times after coming up the hill, Motown needs Wyatt closeby to stand still; Jezebel with her work ethic needs slowed down so she doesn't work too hard, Boone just as easy going but will snort at an umbrella on the ground, King with his beautiful high stepping like he is in a parade, Musk being turned out and taking off bucking after a hard night's work.  Every one of these horses and their personalities were considered.  Every harness carefully checked... they were the heroes being transported 100 miles a day back and forth from Charlotte.  

"It's a wrap" we all yelled in unison. We all stood around a circle with a sense of pride and relief.  Some of us with the feeling of "this went by so fast."   Each of us hugged each other goodbye.  Ringing in the air "Have a great year, Thank you all,  Be safe out there" showing the love and compassion right down to the last moment. 

You never know what one year can bring, or even the next ten minutes.  But for a short period of time, as it has been for the last 22 years , the human celebration here was one of peace.  The common thread was Jesus Christ laying in a manger and the promise of His Hope in our Father's Salvation through His Son.

Then as quietly as the season snuck up on all of us,  we all dissipated into the chilly night on Dec. 23 around 10:45 pm.    The stars were out, collective satisfaction was felt and our hearts were happy.  O come Emmanual for a Savior is Born!!!   Hallejulah, Amen!

See you next year!  

Sunday, April 17, 2022

Spiritual Abuse and Pulpit Bullies

PulPit Bullies:  Covert Spiritual Abuse by Narcissistic Preachers

A quick look throughout the Bible will bring to mind scripture about pride, arrogance, boasting and condemnation.  I will not reference them here for it will take away the purpose of this post.  If you really want them to back this up, I would be happy to send them to you privately.


I don't throw labels around very often. In fact, I am anti-label.  But in order to convey this message, I am using labels to make explanation more concise to serve the discussion regardinv Pulpit Bullies.  


Pulpit Bullies use Aggressive words, condescending tones,  name calling, subtle backhanded compliments, gaslighting and dismissal and delusional thinking that their stance is perfect and everyone else is wrong Their bombastic arrogance comes from the need to be right and adopts the same traits as an abuser or narcissistic abuser who plays with your spirituality as s platform.


Collin Hanson, an expert on bullying with supportive scripture states, "For far too long we’ve tolerated this kind of leadership that should plainly disqualify pastors by several standards in Titus 1:7–8. Why do we think it’s okay for pastors to abuse their members and fellow leaders so long as they don’t steal money or have sex outside marriage?"

And I don't throw the term "abuse" around lightly these days either. I won't even drag the term out in discussion unless the spade is a spade.  And Pulpit bullies definitely trump in spades in this card game!

The abuse is far more subversive and subtle than being punched in the face or witnessing a violent act of spousal abuse. Bruises are easy to comprehend as violence on a target.   Spiritual abuse is much more undetectable since Pulpit Bullies are masters of stealth hiding behind doctrine to justify poor behaviors.


When we think of Pastors who lead their sheep, we think of Christ in his manner of doing so.  Gentle, kind, patient and holding people firmly accountable in grace.  Jesus was firm but he was not mean.  Jesus didn’t use language that would hurt, harm or shame them.  He didn’t use language that called his “friends” apathetic, ignorant or “out of touch with reality and truth.”  He did not define our reality for us by telling us what we need to believe about ourselves. He did not give us Grace to slam someone spiritually so they run away.


Spiritual abuse is most associated with sex and money scandal.   Little attention is paid to the subtle narcissistic tendencies that an Aggressive Pastoral PulPit Bully uses to manipulate and shame the people who follow.  And those who have fallen for those tactics are most often blind to it because the abusive Pastor uses the word of God to justify harshness because "truth at all costs" no matter how its relayed.  


Of course this also needs to be said that the majority of pastors, guide their flocks with gentle compassion, truth and love.  The time has come to NOT ignore those who shepherd those flocks with righteous indignation and any one opposing the pulpit bully’s theory will be shut down.  That is the manipulation tactic to gain control over people which is also a toxic connection to those who can’t see it.  Pulpit Bullies get all hot and bothered when others  see through their toxic micro aggression and call others “too sensitive” (Gray, 2014).


However, and sadder still, the followers who don’t see the toxic way in which a PulPit Bull is coaxing them deeper by manipulation is even worse.  For they do not recognize bullying as a problem, they see it as strong leadership and follow right along like sheeple to reinforce the narcissistic preacher bully’s theories as correct. After all people crave leadership even if the leader is abusive (Stockholm Syndrome overtones inserted here).


This week I have had three agnostic and atheists private message me about a Preacher who used language to shame them and condemn their position on faith.    They reached out to me as a believer in Christ  and said to me, “if that preacher is what being saved is all about, I will stay an atheist.”  If they are domineering bullies (Matt 20:25; 1 Tim 3:3; 1 Pet 5:3) there’s a reason for people to feel this way. Such behavior wounds much more deeply than most people can possibly imagine. And if only one person mentioned this. I probably would have blown it off. But three private messages and 3 others calling out condemnation and poor behavior on the social media thread?  That's a problem.


Three times this preacher was called out for poor behavior, judging people of differing opinions and then was told, “I will not argue with those who refuse to see the truth”.    That’s gaslighting right there.   Who said this person was arguing?  This person was stating an opinion just as much as this bully was. However,  the bully stands in defensive mode and shuts down anyone who opposes his beliefs or thinking. 


Lost souls are not going to run headfirst to Jesus if they meet a pulpit bully.  They will run like their hair is on fire and justify their atheism or agnosticism as their path because quite honestly, who wants to be condemned for their beliefs?  Who wants to be told they are an ignoramus or be disrespected for just being a human being who believes differently than they do? 


Exploring individuals who want to learn about faith will not tolerate PulPit Bulls who say they are “ignorant”, “apathetic”, “wrong”, or are mocked.   Pulpit Bulls use proclamations of condescension of opposing views to call attention to themselves.    “It’s National Atheist Day!” is one such proclamation by a PulPit Bull that stirred controversy from the atheists who were watching.  It made one of those atheists BLOCK this preacher.  Now what next for her salvation?  His flock followed suit mocking the National Atheists Day when the Bible teaches that individuals should sit with her like the woman at the well.  


And this Chump Gang represented something much more than small-town politics or position on social media.  His mocking was a Prime example of gaslighting, shut down, judgment, bullying and trying to connect backward with a lost sheep who may have asked more questions if she wasn’t RUN OFF by the “preacher almighty.”   


 Here are Four Passages that support this.  The KJV Bible for Believers is the inerrant infallible word of God.  For those who don’t believe this, the Bible holds amazing Wisdom as a life guide.  

The Scriptures are quite clear: it is enough. Sex and money are not the only issues. How shepherds (mis)treat their sheep is a key part of ministry qualifications. Consider just four 

verses.


1. “Therefore an overseer must be . . . not violent but gentle” (1 Tim. 3:3).

While at first glance this qualification may seem to refer to physical abuse only, the Greek word for “violent” (πλήκτης) is more all-encompassing. The HCSB gets it right: “Not a bully, but gentle.”


2. “Shepherd the flock of God . . . not domineering over those in your charge, but being examples to the flock” (1 Pet. 5:3).


Again, notice that Peter recognizes an inherent tendency in leaders to wield their authority wrongly, through domination, intimidation, or heavy-handed leadership. The Greek word here (κατακυριεύω) is literally “lord it over.” In contrast, the shepherd of God’s flock leads by example, not by force.


Narcissictic Preachers have no idea how not to lead by covert manipulative force.  Covert in the fact that they may present as shy, charming spiritual leaders.  They are affable but have an agenda.  They are charming but seething with deceit under neath it all. Beautiful sheep’s clothing is really a wolf knocking at the door.  A covert Narcissist is someone who craves attention but lacks empathy for differences of views in a consistent manner  every single time (such as shutting down anyone who differs in opinion or just overtly telling them to ‘just scroll on by’ and ignores their accountability for being generally a real asshole). 



3. “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. It shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant” (Matt. 20:25).


Jesus says this soon after some of his disciples request positions of power at his right and left. So, he clarifies the manner of leadership for the church. He begins again with the negative: not like the Gentiles who “lord it over,” but in the spirit of a “servant.” On this score, it’s noteworthy that many biblical leaders wrap their identity around the term servant (Rom 1:1; Titus 1:1; James 1:1; 2 Pet. 1:1).


4. “And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but kind to everyone” (2 Tim. 2:24).

The prohibition against being quarrelsome does not rule out disagreement, debate, or even vigorous theological exchanges. But it does rule out language or behavior that is belittling, abusive, harsh, or derogatory. In contrast, the qualified Christian leader is “kind to everyone.”

In summary, qualified leaders should be characterized as follows:

  • Not a bully, but gentle

  • Not domineering, but setting an example.

  • Not lording it over, but being a servant.

  • Not quarrelsome, but kind



But the gaslighter bully preacher will argue they are not being quarrelsome by saying they won’t argue.  Which is quarrelsome anyway.   It is lording their opinion over another and saying “please obey me as your leader and if you don’t like it, I’ll shut you down or ask you to just keep scrolling.”   When a Pastor demands their way in everything, tolerates no dissent or difference of opinion and ousts, shuts down and anyone who disobeys him,  they have a tendency to intimidate dissent by a barrage of scripture to try and justify their position.   This is called “hiding your abuse behind God’s word” in the rawest form.  Then the wearing down tactics start.  Which is common for any kind of abuse where the abuser bombards their position over and over and over wearing the target down where the target eventually agrees and gets sucked in or walks away in anger and disgust.  Either way, the Bully Preacher wins and feels victorious that HIS self righteousness and spiritual abuse is backed by the Almighty Word of God and that the target is “wrong”.  


Bully preachers also dominate other preachers in their area.  They will not allow other balanced leaders whose leadership is an advocacy of faith to state their opinions either.  The Bully Preacher’s opinion is the only opinion that counts.


John III specifically calls attention to Spiritual Bullying. In a nutshell because looking it up can be a pain, John III says that Preacher Bullies reject outside interference, bringing accusation against the opposition, and putting people out (or making then run away) when they oppose him.


Bully Preachers have the need to be right and debate semantics to create distractions from the real issue at hand.  Did Jesus raise from the dead on Friday?   No, he did not.. Historically at least.  But those Bully Preachers want to DISTRACT others by sucking them into a toxic relationship so followers will jump on the bandwagon and join the fuckery because they are being HOOKED like a fish staring at a shiny lure in the water.

OH LOOK A SQUIRREL!  LOOK OVER HERE SHEEPLE.. Never mind that the preacher is using language and undertones of abusive manipulation to gain power.  Servant  Leadership is not a word I would use here! Ha!


Today is not the day to go into the upbringing of said PulPit Bulls because that could take forever.  But I do want to mention that Narcissistic Leadership  in Churches present a spectrum of tendencies.  What that means is that PulPit Bulls are on a scale of  narcissism that exceeds normal pride and humility.  They are stepping into the pathological tendencies of psychopathology that are extremely divergent from normative or desirable leadership behaviors.  


Dr. Craig Malkin, Harvard School of Professional Psychology will also agree that Narcissism will have tendencies ranging on a spectrum from 1 to 10:  and 10 being completely criminally psychopathological to the point of being dangerous to society.  The average person on their best day and even being proud of their accomplishments will sit around “5”.  6 if you have something you like to be proud of. Preachers, leaders and other individuals  in positions of power typically sit around a 6.  Sadly the statistics don’t lie either.  Stanford conducted a study of narcissism and abuse of powers in leadership positions (that includes leaders of countries and those in pastoral roles) will stay about a 6.5 on the Narcissistic spectrum on a constant basis.  When an individual is on level “7” on the narcissistic scale, those who are experienced in discerning a spiritual narcissistic abuser will see ALL the red flags.  When a preacher sitting at an "8" – that is stepping into the pathological hell fire pretty darn quick!

Narcissistic Preachers are really amazing at blinding their flock, especially those who make proclamations on Social media.  The ones who agree with the Bully will get Love Bombing, Affirmations, support, encouragement  and Scriptural support (given out of context) to justify the Narcissitic Bully Preacher.    The Shining Squirrel Effect (I may have to trademark that) is when the flock will “ fall head over heels in love” with the Narcissistic Bully Preacher because they really don’t know him in any other capacity or personally.  Narcissistic Spiritual Abusers are masterful at keeping relationships surface to show off the “shining squirrel over there!” 


This sadly speaks volumes to the individuals who fall for the bullying tactics but are blind to it.    Those who don’t see bullying statistically most likely have their own cognitive dissonance to resolve.   They fall prey to believing that condemnation of Holy Fire and Brimstone is “the way, the truth and the light”.   Arrested spiritual development starts to seep into the flock under the leadership of a Pulpit Bully.   The Pulpit Bully then praises them for being so “correct, righteous and right.”   They stop growing spiritually and they never leave..and the cycle continues.  The Preacher love bombs, affirms and sings their praises.  And why is it so important for a Narcissistic Preacher Bully to keep his flocks under his wings?  One simple answer: EXPOSURE that he is a fraud, a fake, an abuser and a narcissist.  Exposure is the Narcissistic Bully Preacher’s worst enemy.  If you expose one,  you better get ready for the largest smear campaign of your life! Narcissist Bully Preachers hate exposure to the truth of who they really are. I think they would rather lose their salvation than be exposed on this earth.  And if you have seen a Narcissist be exposed, then you know what I am talking about. Literally all Hell breaks loose. 


So gotta keep those masses down, down, down....  Way down they go!!  Does the Narc. Preacher have salavation?  Yep! They do, they are still saved by the blood of Christ and that is permanent and that will never undo what Jesus did on the Cross.   That’s the amazing thing about Grace! Christ grants Grace through Salvation.    Sin is sin in God’s eyes… the severity of which we give it value is a "human thing.”  However, that doesn’t make Spiritual Abuse ok.  But for those who wonder, those who are saved by the blood of Christ will be still saved.  But I can guarantee that the Good Lord is an amazing Parent to His children and those Bullies will be dealt with as God states that Vengeance is his.


I digress…


Historical accounts of churches have had these problems since the new testament was written.  That is why it is mentioned in scriptures so much!  Corinthians shows us this in Paul’s letters, Galatians as well and petty egoism in III John have been with us from the beginning!   When members of the body of Christ see through the bullpit, typically they will leave that church because leadership is no longer following the Will of God.


Is there a solution to Narcissitic Preachers who commit acts of spiritual abuse on members of their flock?  Of course there is.  But taking the Narcissictic Pit Bull into a process to make them aware of themselves is NOT the answer.  They will continue to love the discontent that you are spewing at them as a way to gain attention and acquire their much needed love supply from the disdain that you are throwing at them: they want and love to see you squirm in your emotional discomfort and mock you for being wrong spiritually.  Talking the Narc. Bully Preacher is like trying to herd a cat.


But there is nothing wrong at stating the facts about  how a Preacher may be a PulPit Bully who herds shining squirrels to throw their flock off balance.  If your pastor or preacher exhibits any of these things on a regular basis,  this is spiritual abuse.    How can you spot one… watch how the preacher handles differences of opinion in any situation: watch how that preacher handles his words or if he/she shuts down opposing views.  Abusers come in many forms and abusive tactics are no different than domestic violence or in any other domain where abuse can be prevalent.


The shining squirrel over there that you eventually see just might be the only way you save yourself . A Shepherd wouldn’t call one of his sheep “ignorant or wrong”.  A Shepherd would tend to the needs of the sheep and not shame it for existing.





Friday, December 24, 2021

Heartland

I woke up on Nov 30th at the real live Heartland Ranch nestled in the south east portion of North Carolina. And instead of being on the border of Canada and the USA, This heartland borders South Carolina to the south by 6 miles. Just an easy drive under harness to the grocery store should someone decide to hitch up and head that way.

The fall leaves were still on fire. Looking at the front the house gleems the Glorification of God with it's Southern Christmas Charm exuding peace mixed with the ebb and flow of life's reality living on a farm. The highs... the lows.... the amazing.... the challenges. The unification of one family who brought all this wholesomeness together under one roof.....

Luke 9 says "Go I am sending you"...and this is where I landed. Also we know the best day in our lives is to discover our gift and the second best is to give it away.

These beautiful people that have made me their guest for the last 30 days bring forth the gift of love and hope and protection. I've been a quiet observer in many ways taking in all the goodness here. Steadfast in beautiful humanity, humbled by confession, strengthened by instruction, committed to Christ's mission greeting each other with the peace that comes from God.


But beyond the boundaries of this acreage lays another special place. A place that is safe for us Christians to express our faith in Christ and Glorify his Name in a Big Way.

Combining these two together and have brought absolute magic into my life and so many others who have had a part of this awesome experience. First and foremost, I would like to thank the 22 horses who made this possible.... for their work ethic and the unconditional love and bringing joy to people's hearts as they carried a total of 13,000 passengers this last month... The amazing horse care and logistics that no horse worked more than 4 days a week and no longer than 5 hours in one stretch ----- exemplifying a GOLD STANDARD in our Industry. We all travelled 2100 miles total....and every night was perfectly implemented with the love, skill and care of every person out there... the end came as bitter sweet and merged into a soft landing as the stars came over the North Carolina skies, the harnesses hung up in the tack trailer and the clanging of stainless steel hames being hung up for one more year.

One by one the last 5 horses came off the trailer... Open the gate, halters off, horses out... one by one they went into the safe pastures with their fellow equine brothers and sisters... Each horse signified an adjournment for those seated in the barn.  

At almost 11:30pm December 23rd, I said " I think you can say it now."

The words fell out of his mouth, 'We did it."

Those three little words meant that this entire team made it 2100 consecutive miles in perfect unison like the Geoffrey Ballet having its final curtain call.

I took the last ride with passengers from the Honduras. A young couple who travelled here just to experience this place. Not ONE of the 13000 people who were carried were ever out of line. There was a strong under current with Merry Christmas being spoken out of everyone's mouth in a manner where we all felt emotionally safe to be who were in Christ. And to think, only 3 rain days...and the rest. PERFECT weather with a few nights of Chilly.

However, the heart and soul of it all were the team that made it happen with synergistic leadership encouraging each of us every day. From the opening prayer to the last halter off, I guess you can say this is a love letter to my new carriage family of the south. Bridger, Heidi, Madison, Gail and Mike, Eric, Larry, Isabell, Caroline, Maddie, Travis and his amazing team and experience, Erika, Taylor, and I am sure I am missing someone and it's not intentional....


BUT ALL OF YOU, have made this feel like "falling in love" all over again. Every one of you made me feel like this is where I have belonged, I felt safe and secure under the Wings of the Lord nestled on top of a horse carriage in a comraderie that rivals my carriage family in Chicago...
 
So here in the heartland of the Carolinas is a corner of the world that no one knows about.  It has been here since before the motor laws... stemming back 5 generations.  

The parking lot at the end of the night was hard.  When my passengers stepped off the carriage, I choked back the tears knowing I was hanging up my lines commercially for who knows how long.    Bridger jumped into the back of my carriage to take the last trip down the hill. I knew sweet silence was importance for a bit.  Pulling into our staging area, as usual, a Descension of the finest footmen and drivers undoing every thing for each horse and carriage and------

POOF --- within 20 minutes 10 carriages parked, tops up,  10 horses un-tacked and loaded into huge rigs.  The chill night breeze caught the appearance of an instant ghost town.  It was over...  We all hugged each others necks.   And 4 5 6 7 8 JUST~LIKE~THAT - gone. 

I always held the belief that when we show up in Christ, God does the rest...

'We did it."

AMEN!   
 



      
 



Monday, December 20, 2021

Eulogy - In Memory of Anthony Eppolito

(First Draft)

 Anthony J. Eppolito

March 15 1952 - Dec 12 2021

Anthony's sudden passing has taken a week for me to wrap my head around it.  Covid Pneumonia is what was his demise.   

Almost 26 years ago I met Anthony on Michigan Avenue coming out of his same workplace office in Michigan Avenue dressed to the nines in a double breasted suit.  We chatted some and we struck up a friendship.  Over the course of the next few months we became pretty decent friends and dating a few dates but nothing transpired beyond that. I was in a budding relationship with my soul mate.   He was inspired by horses and I introduced him to the possibility of owning a horse.  He made it happen and bought Turbo.  Throughout the years, Anthony was in the background in my life.  Sorta always there.   When he married Barb after a short time, the marriage lasted 10 years and they were together for about 15 total.  The last five were absolutely short of misery for both of them.  During the last 10 years we became close friends again to the point where he considered me his best friend.  Sometimes I was his only friend and the only place he could go.  Often times when Barb would have a tantrum and throw him out of his house, I would toss him my keys to my place and Bloomingdale and have him stay there.  He got to know Jennifer as well...and that ole place at 139 S Bloomingdale Road became a safe haven for  Anthony as Barb was as unpredictable as shifting winds. I promised him he would not be homeless on my watch... ever.

I could go on about the years of minutia and details that made us stay friends.  The credit goes to Anthony to inspire me to become a better person...and that stems all the way back to 1997.    He directly told me several insights that I didn't have about myself which was the catalyst for becoming the person I am today.

Now he is no hero and absolutely no saint. I will not turn him into a hero like most people do when they have someone close to them die. I would like to believe I have had a balanced and connected closeness with him that was completely platonic.....and our relationship was centered in Christ. To say those 6 words "our relationship was centered in Christ" seems like a complete disservice to what we actually were to each other as God was the glue to our friendship.

Both of us were Pisces and the deeper we went the bluer it got as our conversations led down several paths of discovery with each other about our life goals, his physical limitations, the emotional struggles he had.  He never came up short on conversation and he never came up short on being fascinated by human nature.

The 14 years work he did as a Psychotherapist was more than remarkable.  His population that he worked with were sex addicts and sex offenders.  He wanted to help the unloveable become good citizens no matter what that looked like.  That took a serious toll on how he felt about men in general and took a favor to having almost 100% women friends.   He stood for honesty, righteousness, kindness, fairness and even though opinionated on most days, he was right, Kind and utterly washed in the Blood of Christ.  Utterly!  Christ can exclaim unequivocally, "Well done my good and faithful Servant."  Times a million.

Anthony's psychological pain hung a grunting weight like a 10 pound fish on a 5 pound line. It was no secret to those who deeply knew him that he was bi-polar who managed it like a champ.  He never felt worthy, however, of anything.  I would always be supportive and remind him 'that is your chemistry talking" and he would agree.  He had physical limitations and a diagnosis of Fibromyalgia came about within the last 10 years.   In addition an added diagnosis of COPD complicated alot of things and curbed his activity.  Depression was a staple in his life.  Sometimes it would completely knock him down and he expressed all the darkness to me when in those life moments where he felt like depression was bigger than any solution he could find for it.  He longed to be with the Lord for decades but definiutely didn' t want to rush his time here on earth though.  There was too many to 'love' yet for Anthony to be cut short and showing love deeply to all he had met.

Finally after his divorce from Barb and a near miss with some legal complications, he settled in Marengo.  His life started changing, becoming better. His relationship with his father was healed before his dad passed away. There was enjoyment in his world...but still the psychological pain from the bi-polar kicked around and he still managed it well without letting on it was truly affecting him.

Our conversations were super deep about everything you could imagine between two people who have known each other for 26 years.  Since about 10 years ago we were in touch like you would expect close friends to be.    I respected his emotional head space and energy to be able to absorb anything in my life and he respected mine.  We understood when we said, "Not today, I don't have the energy to do this right now."  

He was the total Pisces empath to his core: we clicked on that aspect. After his divorce his world fell apart and then it came together and then more together alittle more. He dated some women but those didn't 'stick.'  However I learned he was always carefully looking for the next Ms. Forever.   "You Ole' dog" I would tell him.   He would give me that knowing laugh that I understood.  He referred to himself as old and "why would any woman want to even be remotely near and with me."  I encouraged him to continue his search and nothing seemed to stick.  He was also happy for me that I had finally settled into long term with my own soul mate...and when that came crashing down, he was there for me to cry on.

I guess there is something unqiue about two therapists being friends that is unlike any other friendship.  The deep understanding, the knowingness and of course out countless conversations that we would have about Jesus, being in Pre-tribulation times, about the nature of Christ and God's infinite love and care for his children.  The understanding of the scripture that flowed freely woven into our conversations that held a continuous space in our world.  We both sat playing like His Little Children at the feet of our God the Father basking in His protection and love...as we hung out in this world, not rushing to leave it but ready to go when called home.  We were each other's sister and brother In Christ Jesus... that sacred space between this world and the next. Protected and held together with Jesus as the glue. 

The last month and a half of Anthony's truncated life was the best of his life.  His ache to be with horses was filled to the brim.  He was my ground crew as he was getting to know his current love of his life.  She was with us too when we made that Trek across Illinois.    His life was changing around.  He succumbed to the love that was being given to him by this awesome unique woman he had found to spend time with.  I got to know JS in the process and knew she was also the real deal for him.  They were a match made in Heaven. I haven't seen Anthony so giddy in at least a decade over a gal.  Added on top of that were Horses, the trek that he did with us (who knew it was his last ever) and the continuance of all of his passions and love accumulating: materializing right before his eyes as he looked forward to being 70 years old. Everything was going right for him.. absolutely everything.   He was finally contented, peaceful and happy... exuding joy in every conversation and experience.  His cup was running over.  

The thing that haunts me the most is our conversation about covid.  He said to me, "I am ready to meet the Lord, I don't want to rush it, but I pray that God does not take me by giving me Covid."  It was his worst fear.  He did not want to Drown in his own breathe.  He begged God out loud in front of me to not take him that way.  He said to me, "Anything but Covid."   And one week after his passing, that sticks to me like glue.. His words echoing that sentiment.  He gave himself the best fighting chance with treatment and care while in the hospital but a mere six days there, a his worst fear was realized...

I just can't find the right "word" or "words" to describe his essence and just the 'way' he had with people and relationships.  Anthony was highly relatable to everyone.  He thought of himself as a fat old bald guy...but underneath that exterior he hated that comes with age was the handsome guy I met 26 years ago in a double breasted Armani Suit standing on Michigan Ave.  I think he felt his own appeal at times and his new love def. brought that out of him.   We were at a Perkins in Burlington Iowa and he had tears in his eyes. His tender heart welled up when I asked him what was wrong.  Anthony replied choking up, "I finally feel worthy.  Truly, I finally feel worthy."

After decades of fighting the dark demons of a mood disorder,  he found his self worth.  Thousands of words were said from any one that knew him about how he mattered and his was always worthy...but the chemistry did his talking for him...

And that day... over sausage links eggs and biscuits and gravy... he finally arrived.  Finally arrived at self worth in a manner that seemed to stick it out the remainder of his last month on the planet. It never was subject of conversation again.  I owe this new found insightful transformation to the people in his life over the last two months.  JS.. this means you, too.  

It's as though his new transformation into his own self worth and feeling Worthy of God's love was the final stop for Anthony that he didn't know about.  He finally "arrived" so to speak that took close to 7 decades for it to transpire.   Was there nothing left for Anthony to realize once he "got this" wrapped around his head?  Was his worthiness to God the final missing puzzle piece...and now he Could Go Home knowing that.  Truly only God knows.

EVERYTHING in his world was heading in the right direction and everything he loved merged into the same time space in the last two months. I had never seen him happier than he was those last two months of his life and the world that was revealing itself to him.  New found love, horses, old deep ancient friendships remaining true, healing family relationships.  Anthony even admitted that his health was better than he had expected when under taking a pretty grueling horse expedition as ground crew.  His health was fine! He ditched the back brace, The FMS was in remission, the COPD was better than it had been and the newest love of his life and he were moving forward.... and I watched him unfold in this season of his life as his happiness and joy exuded from every fiber of his being.

I will remember Anthony the way he was the last two months of his life: feeling finally worthy, feeling good enough and finally feeling the love of God in a manner in which he accepted.   Anthony's tender tender heart could be pricked by love and emotion so easily.  But the heartache and bleeding stopped and was superceeded by his pure joy for the world, the love he had for others in his life and the way he felt about being a Child of God.

Worthy of God's love in the forever capacity of unconditional love and light.  And Anthony...You were always worthy...but now you just Get to experience it first hand.  You have been called home (albeit in a very unwanted tragic manner)..  Resting forever in God's love and talking to Jesus.  

Yes Anthony.. you are worthy.   You always have been.



Monday, September 6, 2021

Buffalo Moon Expedition 2021 - Press Release

The Hope Ride


Buffalo Moon Expedition’s message is simple.  However, the long-distance delivery of that message has a most been most unusual and sometimes unfathomable even for horse minded folks who trail or endurance ride.
 
Experienced long-rider Megan Gray and her 13 year old Haflinger Hope will be heading out this fall with not much more than a toothbrush in Gray's saddle bags.  Their destination is unknown as of yet. However,  she is making her way south letting her intuition be her guide as far as a general destination is concerned.  Gray states she has worked hard for one year as she has planned to take 10 weeks off to see where the countryside would lead her.  She will start in the Chicagoland area, close to where she originally was raised.  

Gray will still be utilizing many of the Rails To Trails to make her way. The Rails To Trails Conservancy have endorsed a few of her expeditions in the past.  Gray is an avid conservator of horse history, historic preservation and also rail trails.  Rails-to-Trails Conservancy (RTC) is a nonprofit organization dedicated to creating a nationwide network of trails from former rail lines and connecting corridors to build healthier places for healthier people.  As an equestrian explorer, Gray also is the founder of Buffalo Moon Expedition, an organization that preserves equestrian travel.

Her expeditions have been an integral part of Ms. Gray's life. This journey also comes intertwined with her desire to heal from some recent past trauma and "make right the ride from 2017."

Gray states, "My previous ride across Illinois was a disaster in 2017. "  She listened to the voice to her non equine peers who begged her not to go alone.  Going against her better judgment and knowing that riding with a friend can be fun, it more than often times will ruin a good friendship.  In addition, she was in a abusive relationship with a partner who did not understand her passion for horse travel.  "In so many words, he forbade me to go. In addition, he was used to glam girls with fake everything. I remember him saying in so many words to me that perhaps getting my hair colored would scratch my itch for horse travel," Gray stated, "He hated the horse smell in an varying degree. Hated it with a passion.  He never accepted me as I am.  Calling me ugly without make up, telling me I looked like an old hag when I didn't color my hair and comparing me to other women.  He never accepted me for who I am...and since I was lost myself, I tried to be the chameleon girlfriend and lost myself in the process."   

Gray caved into peer pressure and did the opposite of any ride she has ever done:  she took a good friend, two trucks, two trailers and everything including the kitchen sink.  In the Long Riding world, this is a recipe for disaster, heartache and complication. 

Gray says, "Susan was such an awesome friend to attempt this with me.  I always leave an out for people should they not want to continue.  Somehow, when she didn't continue, we still maintained admiration and respect for each other. I give her credit for going 112 miles with me.  Sergio was amazing and her riding skills were very well matched with mine."  Gray always encourages others to ride along for a few days, but not the entire journey.  "It never works out for me," she states.   

They remained friends.  However, the two trucks, the two trailers and the others who begged her not to go alone ruined every thing else for Gray.  "This ride turned out to be their ride, not mine."

"Saying this ride was over-complicated is an understatement!  There was more shuttling the rigs than there was riding and savoring the experience.  Absolute disaster. Not to mention that Buffalo Moon Expedition made front page headlines in the Daily Herald in Chicagoland:  not finishing even that short of a distance was the utmost embarassment for me," Gray Stated.  Gray feels like she owes the reporter Bert Constable an apology, and hopes to make up for it on this ride. 

Swiss Long Rider, and sadly now deceased,  -  Basha O'Reilly when she mentored Ms Gray in 2008 said to her, "Just pack a toothbrush and go."    Gray knows this to be true in her experiences.  If the 2017 ride could be called anything, Gray would call it a "Pony Picnic with everything AND a toothbrush."   

Those words Ring so true in Gray's ears who can hear Basha O'Reilly's (FRGS) lovely wisdom every time she swings a leg over into the saddle on an expedition like this.  And for this reason Gray will ride in honor of her memory.  Mrs. O'Reilly and the Long Riders Guild have been invaluable for mentoring her along the way.  Basha passed away this year, and regardless of where things were left with the Long Riders Guild and Gray,   Basha was always packed in her saddle bags theoretically with her mentoring wisdom close in Gray's heart. 

Their hosts were amazing and they met some magical people.  The horses left and came back in better condition than they left.  But the ride totally missed the point.  "I turned into the laughing stock of DuPage County among my friends," Gray states.    Gray's positive attitude believed that any attempt is a success.  But in the case of the 2017 ride... it was an utter failure."

Then life went from bad to worse. Gray with the rest of the commercial carriage companies in the city of Chicago were banned after a decades old fight with radical animal activists.  She experienced 45 deaths in 24 months- several were family, her livelihood, her last relationship and cut ties with her soulmate once and for all.   She lost everything, "Including myself," she states. She recalls living in a tool shed in 26 degree weather without heat.  That was the lowest time of her life.   She was stripped of all her money with no place to go, no one to turn to.  She took odd jobs and did anything she could, including staying with an abusive individual because that was better than living on the streets.     

The individual that Gray stayed with, even as she was paying the little rent she could, accused her of being her meal ticket after calling her a psycho-bitch one day.  She remembers the day, "It was January 22, 2019 at 10:30 in the morning."  Gray states she told that individual, "I'll be out tomorrow!"  Gray called one of the oldest and truest friends.  She landed in the burbs taking care of his 91 year old mom as she was coming back from serious health issues.   "John is like a brother to me. He saved my life that day I called.  John couldn't stand that "Jag off" that treated me so horribly. He also was in serious need of helping his mom get well.  And what son wants to really have his 91 year old mom in all her glory revealed to him."   Gray's past history in social work in long term care kicked in.   "Helen was a blessing in my world.  It was an honor to take care of her all those months.  And it was the least I could do.  They are my oldest family friends that I have."    

"Crying herself to sleep in that tool shed in layers of clothing in 26 degree weather felt like the beginning of the end."  The only pride she had was leaving that horribly abusive relationship where the word "C***" was what she was called frequently for no reason.  But Gray has found her way back out of everything she has lost (and ejected from her life) to the point where she can put life on a 10 week hiatus.

Little by little she picked herself up by her bootstraps, got herself working in her own amazing rescue transport business ---- and started to thrive again. Through two years of utter hardship (much harder than the perils of a long ride), Megan is back at it with renewed positiveness. Gray is going about her ride in the least complicated as possible. Their travel style is similar to that of the Old West.  The duo travels from town to town and less than 15 miles a day at a  leisurely pace of 2 to 4 miles an hour.  Hope is much slower than previous horses that have undertaken this journey.  But she is as solid as they come.

“Without Hope (in more ways than one), this ride wouldn’t happen,” Gray said. “  The safety and her care always comes first!  The expedition will stop if Hope's well being is in jeopardy.  Hope came into her life after losing her best expedition horse who was retired in 2012.  Hope is a stout Halflinger with good sense.  She is an ex Amish women's horse who was the "main family transportation" before Megan came into her world.  Hope and Megan also partnered together on their Commercial Carriage business until the activists started stalking her and she had to shut down. This Gypsy cowgirl relies on help from hosts and sponsors as she ventures the trail. Hosts often transport gear to the next host, and give them a place to shower, eat and rest.  

“It’s not the miles, it’s the meaning,” Gray emphasized again. "The longest journey we take is life itself and into our own world.  Equestrian Exploration heightens the possibility of discovery with every mile under saddle."

Our modern day Don Quixote rides off to be able to make the good weather and arrive where ever the winds takes her by Thanksgiving with Hope her dreams in her saddle bags and a whole bunch of real live HOPE to pass on to those they meet on the trail!

There are so many people who are hurting out there.  And storytelling can help connect one another.  Hope is a sweetheart of a horse.  She will be the lamp at the person's feet to help open up their own possibilities of healing if they are struggling.  Gray states that Luke 9 is what initially inspired her to head on out.  The passage reads, "Go I am sending you, the harvest is plenty and the workers are few."  Luke of the Bible was a physician.  Gray states this long ride is 'just what the doctor ordered."

Buffalo Moon Expedition does not accept monetary donations. Those who want to donate money to support the ride are asked to donate to Hayslope.org.  To learn more about Hayslope go to www.hayslope.org.   

Support Buffalo Moon Expedition as they make their way on their route.   Megan would love to have you join her on her Facebook age at www.facebook.com/megangray226@gmail.com

Wednesday, May 26, 2021

Tik Tock - One Horse's Journey to Hell and Back

Tick Tok - A Buffalo Moon Press Rescue Short Story


52 hours was the time they took to decide to sell you due to no fault of your own.  You heard whispers that you were being sold because a family member was dying from cancer and that you were so amazing that your price would pay for treatment.   You had hopes to be a horse for another family until you heard the word auction ring in your ears.


48 hours you spent with your family before you headed to auction.  They loved all over you, said their goodbyes and hoped against hope that another awesome family would come to know you.  You were purchased from the same auction to begin with 13 years ago, so you believed and hoped that you would come home to an amazing family again.


36 hours away by trailer is what is between you and the processing center for slaughterbound horses. Your family carefully kissed you on the nose, braided your trail and made you the prettiest mare they had ever seen. You absorbed all the tears from your family and you stood strong loving them in their grief, trying to comfort their decision.  You are thinking you will be ok.


24 hours from now is the auction.  Who is there,  no one knows.  Your family takes care of the paperwork, gets their auction fees straightened out.  You feel the sting of the needle for something called “Rapid Coggins”.  The vet said you were a great horse when they pulled the blood sample.  He took your temperature and created a health certificate based on the old coggins.   The vet leaves and says, “I’m sorry you have to make this decision: this situation is so hard.  She is one of the best horses I have ever known.  She is so healthy and never had any issues... I hope to see her again.  She will bring a great price!”



12 hours you were at the auction lot. Your family loved you but did not know the auction process and placed no reserve on you.  You wanted to strut your stuff, spin, turn, one hand neck rein and shine like a diamond.  But the auctioneer called you into the auction ring as a loose horse.  Your family couldn’t watch as you tried to be the best horse and well behaved you could be in the ring.   


8 minutes is what it took for you to sell for less than $400 to someone you didn’t know.   The auctioneer rallied for you and called “MAX BIDS, get your max bids in..this one is a nice one you all. Neck reins and good handle.  She does ride like the wind with no buck, bite, rear or kick.  I’ve seen her in playdays around here.”  


12 hours goes by and you are being loaded onto a huge livestock trailer.  You are in there with so many other horses but you're not packed in.  You are getting afraid but are trying to stay calm.You have no idea where you are going.  You have an accident that causes multiple deep puncture wounds to your flank. You leg is seriously bloodied and injured.  You have had water and some hay, but those wounds start to fester.  You are tired from all the travelling but you have to convince yourself to stay strong.  You grow hungrier, more tired and exhausted.  Your new horse friends with you start to feel the same way. 

36 hours later you arrive at the border processing location.   You stood there, got processed, and a giant green X was marked on your back that declared you were meat.  You were scared but quiet and did everything your handler asked of you.  Your wounds are now infected, your life is on the line, you remain calm and are worried and upset about what happens next.  The others with you are being loaded forward. You see a nice man who appears to be the vet. He looks you over-- checks some boxes and looks at your wounds.  You flinch because they hurt and are now draining puss. The Doc Looks at you and says very loudly “REJECT...put that horse back on the trailer from where it came.”

24 hours before I left is the phone call I took from the rescue to tell me there was an emergency rescue.  No details at this time.  I jumped into action clearing my plate of anything in front of me.  I was told she was in jeopardy of dying, blood was running down her legs.  Her pictures were sent.  


36 hours was what it felt like for me because I couldn’t sleep that night when I was to pick this emergency rescue mare the next morning. I knew it was bad but I didn’t know how bad.  I flipped and flopped tossed and turned and got little to no sleep.  The rescue chose me for my experience and availability, my trailer and my compassionate way of travel for horses who are in dire need on the brink of death.  The most precious cargo with the chances of perishing in transit was my next “assignment.”  


48 hours and through the night you came back on the same trailer that took you there.  You are exhausted, tired and barely able to stand up during your journey. Your wounds worsening.  Standing with the roaring of traffic all the back from where you came.  Your life is flashing before your eyes but yet you are a fighter to the end.  You remember how clean you were before you left and now there is a huge X on your back.  You have been losing weight rapidly due to stress and long transit times.


36 minutes she stands with you after she puts this brand new halter on your head.  You feel safe.  Her hands are soft and she tells you “We love you Baby Girl” stay strong.  You hear her talking to a few people about her infected wounds that are dripping by now.  You are drinking water and eating hay standing in your pen.  She says to you, “Girl everything is gonna be alright”. She inspects you all over, rubs her gentle hands down your back and continues to love on you.  You feel safe, you feel for the first time that things will get better.  She stays with you a long time while the details are squared away. She is taking videos of your deep wounds, your back leg and is noting what else needs treatment.  The rescue cowgirl transport girl continues to hug you around your neck and starts to cry.  She pulls herself together and gets a lead rope because she has to transport you.  You hope to God and pray you are not going far.  You don't know if you can stand any longer.


48 minutes to go in a blinding rain storm through East Texas after you trusted your rescue human and got back into the trailer,and you are on your way somewhere.  She checked on you every 50 miles gave you water, hay love and kisses.   She was scared to death you would get down in her rescue trailer.  You started to perk up. Your eyes got brighter and your mood lifted.  Never has your rescue transport been so happy the speed limits are 75 in Texas.  The tension in your rescue transport’s gut as she travelled with this precious cargo grew and grew as her worry welled up as tears in her eyes hoping she would make it. Your rescue,compared to a life flight, told herself, “Stay together, don’t cry Cowgirl, you can cry later.”  


52 seconds is all it took to open the trailer door and You collapsed from exhaustion.  We all panic. You just couldn’t do it any longer.  You were done.  52 hours is also the time you spent on a trailer in the last 3 days.  And only the last 4 had love, food, water and hay. The love in the air filled with the panic was a cacophony of mixed emotions.   And with almost the last breathe in your world, you use every last bit of strength when your rescue cowgirl transport girl asks you to get up.   The trailer is huge and you have plenty of room.  Cheering from outside the trailer now.. 3 of us encourage you to stand.  You stand with the last bit of strength you have…….and you are safe, you are home and you will be loved.  You are now what your rescue transport calls a forever heart on the map.


*********











  

  


Sunday, April 23, 2017

2017- The Illinois Rail Ride - Press Release



Press Release 2017

Buffalo Moon Expedition’s message is simple.  However, the long-distance delivery of that message has a most been most unusual and sometimes unfathomable even for horse minded folks who trail or endurance ride.
 
Experienced long-rider Megan Gray and her horse Shadow will be heading back out on expedition this week starting from Medinah Black Horse Troop Stables in Carols Stream with hopes to complete the ride in Burlington Iowa.  They are attempting a ride across the state of Illinois on many of the Rail beds that have been converted into trails throughout the state.

The Rails To Trails Conservancy has had their sights on Gray for several years now.  They have sponsored a few of her expeditions in the past.  Gray is an avid conservator of horse history and also rail trails.  Rails-to-Trails Conservancy (RTC) is a nonprofit organization dedicated to creating a nationwide network of trails from former rail lines and connecting corridors to build healthier places for healthier people.

An experienced equestrian explorer, Gray also is the founder of Buffalo Moon Expedition, an organization that preserves equestrian travel.

All of her expeditions have been inspired by Gray’s horse-loving father who wanted to travel together on a journey like this. He passed away in 2007 before that dream of theirs came to fruition.   But this past year, Megan has experienced the death of 40 people… in various degrees of closeness and she plans on helping others as she finds healing herself.  She is riding as memorial to her mom who passed from cancer and Burlington, Iowa is near and dear to her heart:  The Gray Family are founders.  Megan even changed her last name to her mother's maiden name a few years ago to honor her and the Gray Family.

“There are so many people out there who are hurting emotionally and just as many who want to share and celebrate their lives on an adventure like this,” Gray said.

Their travel style is similar to that of the Old West.  The duo travels from town to town and less than 15 miles a day at a  leisurely pace of 4 miles per hour.

“Without our horses, this ride wouldn’t happen. They are the ones who make it everything it is,” Gray said. “ Shadow is very well road tested and have traveled through towns, over tracks and under bridges.  The safety and care of their horses always comes first!  The expedition will stop if Shadow's well being are in jeopardy.

This modern day urban cowgirl relies on help from hosts and sponsors as she ventures the trail. Hosts often transport gear to the next host, and give them a place to shower, eat and rest. "Truly, all you really need is just a toothbrush" she chortles.

“It’s not the miles, it’s the meaning,” Gray emphasized again. "The longest journey we take is life itself, and as the old cliche goes, it's not the destination it's the journey.

Our modern day Don Quixote rides off this Wednesday with their dreams in the saddle bags and a whole bunch of hope to pass on to those they meet on the trail!

Buffalo Moon Expedition does not accept monetary donations. Those who want to donate money to support the ride are asked to donate to a favorite heritage charity of choice. 

Support Buffalo Moon Expedition as they make their way on their route.   Megan would love to have you join her on her Facebook age at www.facebook.com/megangray226@gmail.com