Our wonderful nephew Max and niece Kate have been visiting Jerry and I for the last week.  Once we got over our initial fears of entertaining kids for a week, we’ve had a blast!  Of all the things we’ve done– the rodeo and rides at Cheyenne Frontier Days, hiking Casper Mountain, spotting deer and antelope, and a sleepover with the neighborhood kids–the very best has been horseback riding.
Yesterday, on horseback, we found ourselves retracing the route of westward settlers on the old Oregon Trail.  We saw a bison jump used by the Native Americans.  And an eagle’s nest.  It was a wonderful immersion in American history and natural history.

All the while, trail horses Spot, Hope, Burrito, and Hancock were well-behaved and patient.  They’ve been giving lessons and trail rides for years.  In fact, they know the trails so well they didn’t really need us to show them the way.  They knew exactly where we were and where we were going.
Nevertheless, when we let loose on the reins, they ambled along at their own pace, and stopped to eat whenever they wanted.  That made for some slow riding.
It struck me that there’s nothing like horseback riding to teach a young person how important it is to develop a mind of one’s own.
If you don’t use yours, the horses will use theirs!
Kate, almost 11, looks up to her big brother, Max, 14, in every way.  Whatever he wants to do, she wants to do.  If Max wants to watch the Olympics, she wants to watch the Olympics.  If Max wants pizza, she wants pizza.
“What do you want to eat?” I pressed her at one point.  “I don’t know.” she said, “Ask Max.”  “But what if one day Max isn’t right there to help you figure it out?”  “Then I’ll call him.”
At some point, it’s important to develop a mind of one’s own.  Our big brothers, big sisters, or others we look up to, may fail us.  Nor can they speak for us forever.
Leaders must be able to articulate their own mind.  Find their own voice.  Muster the courage of their own convictions.  And lead us into an uncharted future.
The Church is in need of just such leaders.
A pastor friend of mine recently posted on Facebook:  “I wonder if we in America need to do a better job of defining our beliefs, acting on our beliefs, giving a better witness to who we are as 21st Century, progressive Christians and thereby redefining Christianity in America in such a way as to attract new believers…? Just a thought.”
Lots of people hit the like button.
She then went went on to ask, “Why are we so timid?? Lost??  Uncreative?? SILENT??”
Good question!  Why are we?
I don’t think it’s that most of us don’t have minds of our own.  I think it’s that we are afraid to give voice to them.  For fear that others will disapprove.  And the whole thing called church may come crashing down around us.
That silent timidity is what happens when we’re worried about surviving.
Surely, some will disagree.  Some will disapprove.  Some will leave.
And…
…just as surely others will gladly inhale the breath of life that is unleashed when someone dares to say what they truly think and believe. Even if they disagree!
It takes that kind of authenticity to move from survival into a new kind of growth.   A growth that isn’t based on the safety and security of the past.  Or on avoiding the pitfalls of the past.  But one founded on a trust in the future.  And the God who beckons us into it.

One day Katie is going to mature enough to trust herself and her future.  Even when she makes a choice she regrets.  She’ll learn to live with the consequences and feel an inner freedom in the process.  She’ll discover her own mind.  Articulate her own thoughts. Voice her own requests.   And thereby create her very own future.
May we in the Church do likewise.
It’s that or die.
Meanwhile, it’s back on the trail for us.  Giddyup!