I was raised in a Baptist church in Pueblo, Colorado. I have lived in Colorado my entire life. We now spend the winters in Arizona. I have ridden horses since I was little; competing at gymkhanas and junior rodeos as a kid. We didn’t have much money so we stayed pretty close to home. My Dad worked at the steel mill and my Mom was a stay at home Mom.
Rick and Judy Shepard
I made the circuit finals several times on the best horse I ever had, G.G., short for God’s Gift. She didn’t have an abundance of speed, but she could turn and she never quit. She could stand up on anything. Since GG, I have had over twenty five barrel horses, or horses I wanted to be barrel horses. I always wanted to train my own horse. I never thought God wanted me to spend a lot of money for a horse and so I worked with some rather cheap prospects, horses that always had some hang up. I didn’t win much, but I learned a lot. One of the times I cried out to God for my lack of winning, I felt his still small voice telling me, “I am giving you these horses with problems so that someday you will know how to handle my women.”
Rick and I married in 1970. He liked roping calves and I liked riding and training horses. So barrel racing became my event. We have rodeoed together our entire married life. Rick is a gold card member of the PRCA. I am a gold card holder of the WPRA. We were always circuit cowboys. Rick worked extremely hard in the home building business and rodeo was his escape from the stress of his job. He made the circuit finals many times in the calf roping and in the team roping. He qualified for the DNCFR twice. The two pictures are of us rodeoing in the early 80’s. Rick was roping at Denver and my run was taken at Greeley.
When I was a young adult I prided myself in my intellectual abilities! I also thought that Jesus Christ was nothing but a myth, much like Greek mythology. I didn’t believe in heaven or hell. I grew up in the Baptist church and never saw any reason to believe in God. It just seemed like a group of people, doing the socially accepted thing. But because of God’s great love for me, a sinner, He didn’t give up on me. After reading Chuck Colson’s book Born Again, and C.S. Lewis’ book Mere Christianity I accepted Christ.
Rick and I have four children. Our son Ty is married to Lori, and our daughter Amy is married to JD Crouse. When Ty and Amy married, in our hearts we adopted Lori and JD. Ty and Lori have two boys, Austin and Cage. Amy and JD have three children, Clay, Avery, and little Ellie, who was not yet born at the time of this picture. You truly don’t have enough time to hear about how great my kids and grandkids are, so we will just leave it simply--they are this Grandmother’s joy and blessing.
The sin of pride, that of thinking I am just a little smarter or a little better than other people, has been a huge struggle for me. God has blessed me with a good mind. Studying is a pleasure for me. I did well in school and any class I chose to take was easy. It wasn’t that I thought I was smarter than everybody else, I just thought I was smart enough to do anything I wanted. In college I prided myself as an intellectual atheist. God has done many things to break this pride and bring me to a place of humility and dependence upon Him. After about ten years of being a Christian, I remember praying. “God, I see there is an easy way and a hard way to learn what you want to teach us. Is it possible for me to learn things the easy way?” And yes, there is an easier way to learn things: “We must eagerly listen to God, through His word, and we must diligently obey His Word. Being teachable is huge. Stiff necked horses spend a lot of time with their heads tied around. I decided a long time ago, I didn’t want to spend my life in the round pen, but wanted to go out and be productive for the Lord.
I want Jesus to be glorified. The Bible is very clear that God will not share his glory with anyone. Many years ago I would say, “I want God to be glorified” but I want to ride along on his shirttails. That attitude was sinful. I wanted to look good. I wanted people to like me and to approve of me. I wanted people to think I was smart. I expressed the desire to be a God pleaser, but in my heart I wanted people to be pleased with me too. And even now, I am repenting often of this sin. In my life I truly want God to be glorified. I will let him take care of my reputation.
God has blessed us abundantly, over and above anything we deserve or could have imagined when we were young adults. Another temptation for me is that of forgetting God because I live in abundance. In the Old Testament God warns his people not to forget Him when they come to the promised land. It can be very easy to forget about God when life is going well. When we live in abundance, we can and do become very complacent. We are so very comfortable where we are and forget the destruction that is looming around us. I like being comfortable, I like my own bed, and my own familiar comfortable surroundings. I can easily get caught up in what I call a rut of complacency. We just feel good where we are and it often seems like too much work to get out of the rut. It is easy to kick back and wallow in the life of comfortable. It would be easy to just ‘sit around and eat chocolates all day, go shopping, or go to lunch, go to the spa, get a pedicure, manicure, hair cut, tanning salon, and on and on. There is nothing wrong with any of those things if we are in balance. I ask myself who is on the throne of my life, Me or Jesus. I repent when I realize I have been living “all about me.” That attitude is not of God.
If I could only learn to obey God’s command, of “Don’t worry about anything!” Carrying burdens that were not mine to carry have drastically affected my health over the years. We are told if we trust in the Lord with all of our heart, and lean not on our own understanding—then we will have healing for our body and strength for our bones. Worry deteriorates our health, and I pay the consequences for not completely repenting of this sin. I repent, but then I turn and go back to worrying. My levels of anxiety and worry have decreased by 90% but I certainly haven’t arrived yet.
Anger used to be a huge thing. I was always ready for a good fight, verbal of course. Many years ago, I prayed, “Lord give me righteous anger. Let me hate the things you hate. Take all the energy I used on sinful anger and use it for your glory.”
I want to talk with you a bit more about the sin of complacency. When I am too comfortable and slip into complacency it is easy to forget the destruction that lies around. Even though I don’t see the destruction it is real and it will come if I don’t repent. I see the destruction in two ways;
what is going to happen to me if I remain in this state and
unaware and uncaring of the destruction that is being waged against my fellow humans.
The verse in Proverbs 1:32-33 sums it up:
"For simpletons turn away from me—to death. Fools are destroyed by their own complacency. But all who listen to me will live in peace, untroubled by fear or harm."
Making this painfully simple, when I am complacent, I am self centered. The pain of others becomes secondary. God says that if I don’t repent I will be destroyed by my own complacency. I fear God and I believe His Word. I want nothing to do with complacency.
We may go to a church where we feel comfortable and blessed but not challenged. We may work in the nursery on Sunday, or teach a class, but we don’t want to be uncomfortable or have our schedule changed. Much of the time many of us, live in a world of comfort complacency.
The devil, our enemy is prowling around seeking whom he can devour. He comes to kill, steal, and destroy. We must wake up and realize that the enemy is devouring, killing, stealing, and destroying us as we sit in our comfort complacency. He is destroying our families, our friends, and the lost. Oh, how we need to repent of the deceptive sin of complacency. It is nothing less than spiritual laziness.
My second concern is that of hypocrisy in the church. Jesus was very hard on the religious hypocrites, the Pharisees and Sadducees, that lived when He lived. Jesus, on the other hand, was so incredibly patient, kind, forgiving, merciful, and gracious to the lost, to the hurting, to the down and out.
A verse in the New Testament tells us that to whom much is given, much is expected. Those of us who are Christians have been given much! God expects much of us! I try and repent of the hypocrisy that God shows me is in my life. Hypocrisy is the act of putting on a mask, pretending to be something we aren’t. Hypocrisy is playing at church without a heart of true faith, true love and true devotion to Jesus Christ. Hypocrisy is a religion of doing, Christianity is to be that of believing in our Savior. When I see hypocrisy in my life, I beg God to help my unbelief and to give me a heart for God. I repent of doing things to be seen by men.
HEARTS LIKE CHRIST:
My third concern is that we must have burdened hearts. One of the most influential teachings I ever received was from Joy Dawson. A friend gave me the tapes over twenty five years ago. I nearly wore them out listening to them over and over and over. They were life changing. She talked about having a burdened heart, a heart like Christ, where we love the unlovely. Joy asked God to perfect that in her. She told the story of going to a third world country and seeing a thing, but it wasn’t a thing, it was a human. A human that had been deformed and lost its mind. A human that was covered with filth. A human that could only growl and mutter. And Jesus challenged her by saying, love this one. Ladies, Joy Dawson taught me that whatever we have done to the least of God’s children we have done it to Him, our Savior and King. Oh how we must repent, get our hands dirty, give our hearts to the hurting women of this world and really love them.
We must love with burdened hearts and love as Jesus loved. Jesus touched the leper, can you. I hope I could. Jesus loved the hurting, I want Jesus’ heart! Jesus healed the suffering. I want Western Meadows to be a vessel that Christ can use to heal suffering women! Oh God, give me your burdened heart, that Western Meadows might shine with Your light and we will truly glorify You, Jesus Christ,
our Lord and Savior. With open arms may Western Meadows embrace every woman.
Dad was awarded a Bronze star after serving in the army during WWII in Italy. As a small boy, Dad acquired the nickname, cowpuncher, because all he ever wanted to do was ride horses and raise cows. Dad worked in the steel mill but ran about thirty head of cows on his Dad’s place in Beulah, Colorado. He gave up his dream of being a cowpuncher to support his family better by working in the steel mill.
My Dad and his brother loved running horses at bush tracks. That’s where my love for riding horses came from. In the early 60’s my uncle was killed in a car accident, and at the time was training Appaloosa horses. My uncle Bob had a lot of grit. He too had been through the war and when he came home he got electrocuted stacking hay. He lost half of one arm and the fingers of the other hand were paralyzed. He became a good horse trainer, in spite of his handicaps. When he was killed my Dad took over his horse business and then we showed Appaloosas. I am pictured here when I was Rodeo Queen of the Colorado State Fair. That was my favorite App. His name was Little Man.
I started riding horses when I was itty bitty. Never having much money, as a family we went to the local gymkhanas and fun days. I was in 4-H for years. Dad made me sew and cook in 4-H before he would let me be in the horse program. He wanted me to know something besides how to ride a horse.
My uncle had one of the best barrel horses in Pueblo County in the 60's. Little Man was his name and he was my first barrel horse. An honest, grey horse, wow but to have another one just like him. That's who I named my App after.
My Mom was a great seamstress. We didn’t have any money for fancy or trendy clothes, so Mom made much of my wardrobe for years. She also loved pink. This picture of me as a small girl was the dress my Mom was proudest of. She had seen it in an expensive children’s store and she went home, and duplicated it, one for me and one for my sister. They were our Easter dresses complete with bonnets and bags, and matching slips.
My Spiritual Weaknesses
These are just a few of my real struggles. Rick and I are real people with real problems, just like you. Jesus Christ is the Lord and Savior of our life. I have yet to live a perfect day without sinning, but I serve a perfect God.
Concerns for the Churched