|Publisher:||Tyndale House Publishers|
|Product dimensions:||6.00(w) x 1.25(h) x 9.00(d)|
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The Means of Grace
Almighty God, Father of all mercies, we your unworthy servants give you humble thanks for all your goodness and loving-kindness to us and to all whom you have made. We bless you for our creation, preservation, and all the blessings of this life; but above all for your immeasurable love in the redemption of the world by our Lord Jesus Christ; for the means of grace, and for the hope of glory. And, we pray, give us such an awareness of your mercies, that with truly thankful hearts we may show forth your praise, not only with our lips, but in our lives, by giving up our selves to your service, and by walking before you in holiness and righteousness all our days; through Jesus Christ our Lord, to whom, with you and the Holy Spirit, be honor and glory throughout all ages. Amen.
Daily Morning Prayer and Daily Evening Prayer: Rite Two, "The General Thanksgiving," The Book of Common Prayer
Will our new donkey enjoy his new home? The long westward highway flattened out ahead of us as we left the rolling hills and trees of north central Texas behind, giving me plenty of time to imagine his first impressions. I hope he likes us.
With the giddy anticipation of an adoptive pet-parent, I'd made sure his living area was tidy and ready for him: fresh water in a large bucket, holding pen free of sticks and debris, and hay set aside to be served. Although I knew he would only see the barn and pasture, in my nervous zeal I'd cleaned the entire house and breezeway, just in case he might want a tour. I mean, you never know ...
It was Saturday, official chore day at the Ridge household. As I swept the concrete floor of the breezeway, I mentally clicked through the rest of the tasks on my to-do list. With only Tom and me at home, there were fewer messes to clean up and no one else to blame for all the shoes left out and dishes in the sink. A good chunk of that blame rested with yours truly. What can I say? I'm just a humble tool in the hands of the Lord for refining the patience of the neatnik whom I married.
I rested my chin on the top of the broom handle and thought back to a memorable chore day several years earlier, when Meghan and Grayson were still at home. I had barked out orders to clean up their toxic-waste-dump bedrooms or else, while I focused my attention on the main living areas. Tom's task for the day was replacing the driver's seat belt on our (then) fifteen-year-old Explorer. I could tell his patience was at the breaking point when he came inside to get a drink of water and said preemptively, "Don't talk to me."
I had followed orders, continuing to move from room to room through the house. Checking on the kids' progress, I jabbed my pointer finger first at Meghan and then the vacuum before giving Grayson a look that communicated my wishes: Put down the Legos and get to work. And no, I don't care if you're hungry right now.
Suddenly, I heard a noise coming from outside and looked up to see Tom banging on the glass sliding door that leads from the breezeway into the house.
I couldn't believe my eyes. My husband's face was contorted, and he was covered in blood!
Dear God, he's been shot! Oh, Lord!
My mind raced in a thousand directions, but my body was frozen in place. I knew Tom would collapse any minute, from sheer blood loss alone.
I immediately commenced crying and praying and looking for my phone so I could dial 911. It had to have been a shotgun at point-blank range!
How is he still standing?
And then I heard ...
"It's P-P-PAINT! I accidentally punctured a red spray can, and it exploded in the back seat! I can't see! It's in my nose and throat, and it's everywhere inside the truck!"
Not blood — just paint.
We sprang into action. While Tom hosed himself down and got somewhat cleaned up, Meghan, Grayson, and I grabbed rubber gloves and paint thinner. After madly ripping old towels into rags, we began wiping down the truck as quickly as we could. The back seat, the carpet, the backs of the front seats, and the ceiling were solid red, while the insides of the doors and windows wore a splattering of the quickly drying enamel.
We were like a CSI team cleaning up a gruesome crime scene, toiling for hours in the sweltering heat, not saying a word except for an occasional whispered request: "Pass the paint thinner, please."
Finally Meghan asked, "Does this kind of thing happen to other people too, or just us?"
There was a long pause as we all looked at one another. There we were — sweaty, greasy, covered with red paint, our rubber gloves dissolving at the fingertips like decaying flesh — feeling like the survivors of the French Revolution in Les Misérables. Oh, mercy. We were such a pitiful sight!
The question hung in the fume-filled air — until we began to laugh ...
When we pulled ourselves together, I assured Meghan, "Oh, no, sweetheart. This kind of thing only happens to us."
We broke down in hysterics once again.
Just when we were feeling alone in our misery, a sparkling moment had been interjected.
I needed it just then.
So often I have felt alone in my particular trying circumstance.
Surely no one else drives a fifteen-year-old vehicle with a broken seat belt. No one else is forced to clean up paint explosions. No one else has struggled through failure and loss in the same ways I have. No one else has experienced whatever it is that I am going through.
Sometimes I just want to know: Am I the only one?
Because it feels like I am.
Then, when I least expect it, a small beam of light breaks through the darkness and offers a glimpse of goodness. A reminder, perhaps, that I am never really alone.
Grace is present.
And if grace is present, then God is too.
Doc met us as we pulled up, directing Tom to pull the horse trailer to a spot near one of the outbuildings. We got out of the truck and stretched our legs after the long drive, taking in the scene around us. Donkeys of every shape, color, and size roamed in pens and dry pastures in all directions. Big donkeys, little donkeys, donkeys with babies, old donkeys. Seeing more than a thousand donkeys in one place at one time is almost impossible to comprehend. It's noisy, and dusty, and utterly overwhelming.
I couldn't help it: I immediately thought of Abraham and his flocks of sheep and goats, his herds of cattle and donkeys described in the Bible. Is this what his nomadic empire might have actually looked like?
Suddenly more questions popped into my mind: Where did they get water? What did the animals eat? How did Abraham's hired hands keep the animals from running off ? What did they do with all the poop? It must have been quite an operation!
"Howdy!" Doc shook our hands and introduced himself to Tom. Wearing a cowboy hat with a crumpled brim, a red bandana around his neck, and work-worn Western boots, Doc looked as if he had stepped out of the pages of a history book. We weren't the least bit surprised to learn he sometimes participates in 1800s-era historic reenactments. He could certainly carry off the part of a Civil War soldier or a Wild West cowboy.
"I know y'all are anxious to meet your new donkey, so let's go on over to where he's waitin' for ya," Doc said with a smile. "I'll let y'all get to know each other a bit, and then we'll head inside to fill out the paperwork."
We rounded the corner, and there he was: Henderson Number Ten. Freshly brushed and groomed, he was haltered on a lead rope and voraciously eating tufts of green grass in the yard. While I held out my hands for the donkey to smell, a volunteer named Margaret, who was holding his lead rope, told us what little the ranch knew about him.
"All we really know is that he was found wandering around Henderson County with a bunch of other donkeys. He was the only mini in the group, which means he probably knows how to hold his own. We don't think he's been handled a lot, but he has an engaging personality, and he's not afraid of people," she said, ruffling his ears. Margaret had the compassionate air of a true animal lover, and I could see she thought highly of this one.
The donkey ignored my outstretched hands in favor of the grass, so I knelt down next to him and began to stroke his neck. His dark summer coat was smooth and shiny, with an even darker "cross" marking on his shoulders. His stubby legs had faint stripes below the knees, and his tail swished flies rather futilely. Two soft ears twitched this way and that, letting me know that even though he seemed focused solely on his snack, he was paying attention to my voice and presence. He had a warm-gray muzzle that matched the light-colored circles around his eyes. In short, he was adorable.
I was smitten.
Doc jumped in. "We think he is about seven or eight years old, and he has a great disposition. Since he's used to being part of a herd, he's not going to have any problems socializing with Flash. In fact, he will probably really enjoy having one single friend."
"What's up with his stomach?" Tom asked.
"Yeah, he's pretty round," Doc laughed. "But that's perfectly normal. Minis don't have a whole lot of room for their organs and stomach, so they always look kinda fat."
Hey, now. That's my donkey you're talking about! I was already defensive.
Doc continued. "Since we knew he might be around a lot of people, we actually led him in a parade last weekend to see how he would do. He was fantastic! He just walked right along like he knew what he was doing. Didn't balk or anything!"
I swelled with pride. My goodness, my donkey didn't balk in a parade!
Not only that, but Henderson Number Ten also jumped up into the horse trailer like a professional after the adoption paperwork was done and we were ready to leave. The donkey looked ridiculously small inside the cavernous space, the soft tips of his brown ears just reaching the bottom of the window openings along the side of the trailer. Tom closed the door and secured it.
"Now, just a word of caution," Doc said. "When donkeys get nervous, they tend to have explosive diarrhea. Don't be alarmed if this happens. He's already been through who-knows-what, and he'll have to get used to lots of new things, including Flash."
He gave the trailer a couple of taps and smiled. "On that note, good luck to y'all!"
Right now, grace looked like a charming miniature donkey in a big old horse trailer making its way across Texas in the fading daylight. It looked like a chance to pick up some broken pieces and begin again.
An artist I admire has said,
I have discovered that something is awakened through failure, tragedy, and disappointment. It is a place of learning and potential creativity. In such moments you can get lost in despair or denial, or you can recognize the failure and run toward the hope of something new.
I've experienced grace in a thousand ways in my life and missed it in a thousand more. Maybe it's because grace rarely arrives with fanfare and a parade. But somehow, it always comes. After all that we'd been through to bring us to Henderson Number Ten, I had hope that grace would come once again.
I leaned back into the passenger seat and adjusted the pillow in my lap. (Yes, I have a lap pillow to rest my arms on when I travel. Doesn't everyone?) As we chased our long shadow down the highway toward home, I pulled out a small red notebook and opened to the first pages. Inside, I'd copied a prayer that I wanted to memorize. To this day, "The General Thanksgiving," from The Book of Common Prayer, is my favorite, perhaps because it reminds me of that long drive home with our small passenger and my deep sense of gratitude. I stopped on these words and let them rest on my soul:
... for your immeasurable love in the redemption of the world by our Lord Jesus Christ; for the means of grace, and for the hope of glory.
The means of grace.
One little donkey, out of a sea of a thousand donkeys, was traveling to a nice home tonight. He'd been chosen for a special job — hand selected to become part of our lives as a friend for Flash. I suppose you could call that a kind of grace.
My mind's eye returned to Abraham. Out of his massive herds of donkeys, he had one special donkey — hand selected for his personal use. Sturdy, surefooted, and able, this donkey had no idea he was about to become part of one of the most pivotal and prophetic events in biblical history.
I could just see it: One morning, Abraham got up and saddled the donkey for a three-day journey to Mount Moriah. He brought along his young son, Isaac; two servants; and some wood for a sacrifice to worship God. I have no doubt that Abraham lifted Isaac onto his donkey (it was customary for women and children to ride while the men walked) and led him on the long trek.
That first night, they camped under a canopy of brilliant stars, the very stars that had once given the man then called Abram such hope. Abraham squeezed his eyes shut, trying to blot out his memory of God's promise that his descendants would number as countless as the stars. As he lay on his makeshift pallet, he listened to Isaac talking in his sleep and the donkey rustling in the brush. Only two more days to Moriah, he thought.
Did Abraham wonder if his God, the one he thought he knew, had changed His mind about His promise? What a torturous night it was. As far as he could see, he had no option but to obey God's command to give up his son.
Perhaps Abraham's donkey walked along willingly in the small caravan of travelers: Abraham, the donkey carrying Isaac, a servant carrying wood, and another servant carrying food ... all trudging through the wilderness.
But I know donkeys: Like all donkeys, there had to have been a few times that he balked.
Refused to go.
Stopped the whole procession.
I can picture the moment: a standoff between man and animal. But rather than take his frustration out on a stubborn donkey, this time Abraham patted the beast of burden on the head. He scratched his ears a little. Abraham, grieving with each step, savored every extra moment he had with Isaac, blissfully chatting away. The father could wait. He could give the donkey a chance to collect his thoughts and decide when to start moving again.
It's what you do when you walk with donkeys: You expect to stop every now and then.
Most days, I imagine Abraham was impatient with his willful donkey.
But these three days ... oh, how he treasured each stop.
He looked at his boy, his beautiful boy, sitting atop his daddy's donkey. Perhaps Abraham lamented that Isaac would never see his own donkey — a special donkey Abraham had already picked out for him. This one would have to do ... a borrowed donkey for a much-loved son, on a journey toward sacrifice. There would be no other donkey.
Abraham's story would have ended sadly, except for one thing: Grace showed up.
Grace is the unexpected twist to this story, and it's the unexpected twist to every story. It's the surprise ending we can hardly dare to hope for.
In the nick of time, God stepped into the awful nightmare and stopped the whole proceeding. God provided a ram — its horns caught in a bush — for the sacrifice. Isaac, the apple of Abraham's eye, was spared and would go on to become a source of blessing for the entire world.
It was a dramatic moment that would be told and retold to Abraham's descendants for thousands of years: This is our God.
Our God is full of surprises.
Our God is gracious.
Our God blesses.
Our God will see to it.
Our God will provide.
It was time for a pit stop. Tom exited the freeway and pulled into a Whataburger parking lot. We were hungry and also wanted to check on our tiny passenger to see how he was faring. The sight of fuzzy ears sticking up and the sound of miniature hooves echoing in the trailer grabbed the attention of others, who wandered over for a better look.
One lady stepped onto the bumper of the trailer and peered inside. "Oh, a little donkey!" she exclaimed. Henderson Number Ten's liquid brown eyes gazed at her, his ears perked forward. "Look how cute he is!"
Then she turned to me. "Donkeys always bring me such joy," she said. "You have no idea how much I needed it today." Squeezing my hand, she left without saying anything more.
She didn't have to. I understood.
Just when you think it's the end of your story, grace shows up in all its unexpected glory.
Sometimes, grace arrives as a moment of joy in the middle of despair.
Sometimes, grace's horns get caught in a thicket, at just the right moment.
And sometimes, grace has fuzzy ears, a bristly mane, and hope for a new start.(Continues…)
Excerpted from "Walking with Henry"
Copyright © 2019 Rachel Anne Ridge.
Excerpted by permission of Tyndale House Publishers.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
An Invitation, xi,
Chapter 1 The Means of Grace, 1,
Chapter 2 I Believe, 13,
Chapter 3 All That I Need, 31,
Chapter 4 Open Our Eyes, 49,
Chapter 5 What We've Left Undone, 63,
Chapter 6 This New Day, 81,
Chapter 7 People of His Pasture, 95,
Chapter 8 Lead Us Not, 113,
Chapter 9 Infected Hearts, 133,
Chapter 10 O Gracious Light, 155,
Chapter 11 The Way of Peace, 169,
Chapter 12 Companion in the Way, 181,
Chapter 13 Glory Be, 197,
Your Guide to Prayer Walking, 213,
About the Author (and Her Donkeys), 233,
What People are Saying About This
Personal, reflective, practical, and profound. Walking with Henry shows us how the Lord can provide timely, beautiful wisdom from an unlikely and unexpected teacher. Rachel Anne’s words are thought provoking and life giving, the very best kind of medicine for a weary soul.
This tender book will pull you into Rachel’s and Henry’s stories and lift you up to Jesus. I love this book!
When I first read Flash, I fell in love with Rachel’s world. Never did I think the same magic could happen again! Yet Walking with Henry is filled with wit, grace, and beautiful lessons as we watch Rachel and her donkey friends live the life God has given them.
Who knew there are so many lessons about faith, grace, and letting go of past regrets that you can learn from a miniature donkey named Henry? Walking with Henry is the beautifully written story of two donkeys who had to find their way and let go of fear as they forged a relationship they weren’t even sure they wanted. You will see yourself and your own human frailty in these pages. You’ll laugh, you’ll cry, and most of all, you’ll never forget the impact the humblest of creatures can have on the way you view your faith and your God. Rachel Anne Ridge has written another heartwarming book that will charm you and challenge you in all the best ways.
Rachel Anne Ridge has a unique and endearing gift of finding spiritual wisdom in unusual places. A rescued miniature donkey with lots of behavioral baggage arrives during a time of deep personal searching in the author’s life. Rachel’s journey with Henry is a sweet and vulnerable story that will make you smile, think deeply, and ultimately worship our Creator God.
Walking with Henry is a breath of fresh air. Each page is filled with golden nuggets of wisdom that unexpectedly drop into your hand and heart like little gifts wrapped in packages of well-crafted words. If you’ve been looking for a read to snuggle up with, cry with, laugh with, and ultimately grow withthis is it. Rachel Anne Ridge writes the way she lives: full of grace, contagious joy, and a wide-open heart. That’s why I know you’ll enjoy this book as much as I have.
I’m not much of an animal person, which is why I am amazed at Rachel’s ability to make me love two donkeys. This book is a thoroughly enjoyable reminder to be actively aware of the many ways God seeks to teach us using the normal moments of life.
A five-star read! Rachel is all heart . . . and wait until you meet Henry. Who will want this book? People who . . . (1) love animals, (2) dream about farm life, (3) want to deepen their prayer lives, (4) have ever felt guilty, and (5) have a pulse!