by mia hinkle
The summer of 1965, the year I turned 11 years old, my Mom put my nine-year-old sister and me on a Greyhound bus bound for Minneapolis—a four-hour bus trip all by ourselves. What was the occasion? Was it a family emergency? Some sort of medical crisis?
No, it was much bigger than that. It was a pilgrimage, the culmination of months of fanatical dedication and study and planning. We were going to see…the Beatles in concert at Metropolitan Stadium!
We had given the widow’s mite–all that we had–$4.50 for each ticket. My sister Holly and I were huge fans of John, Paul, George, and Ringo. Even to the point of speaking with British accents. Imagine that! Little girls from west central Minnesota with Norwegian brogues imitating the Liverpool accent! We thought we were so cool.
We didn’t simply listen to She Loves You one time and accept that the Beatles were a good band. No, we couldn’t just leave it there. We listened to those records over and over and over and over again. Then we pooled our birthday money and allowance, so we could buy teen magazines in hopes of learning something very personal about our favorite Beatle. A 33 was $5.00, a 45 was $1.00, and we did odd jobs around the house to earn enough to buy the latest release. We dreamed of a marriage proposal and a fairytale life of celebrity. We were truly nutz about the Beatles!
Hour after hour and day after day, we listened and sang along, talked about them and read about them. We memorized lyrics and stats, and hoped for the day they would re-run Ed Sullivan. We were obsessed. And then we couldn’t wait to go out and share what we learned with friends, classmates, cousins, anyone who would listen.
Years later when we were grown, we often asked our mother, “Mom, just what WERE you thinking? Didn’t that sound just a teensy bit dangerous to you? Putting your little girls, 9 and 11, on a Greyhound bus, trusting we would be safe as it stopped in every little town and dive truck stop along US 55, 4 hours away, to the Bus Depot on First Avenue downtown Minneapolis?”
She would just say, “No, you were fine. I knew you would be okay.”
Our Uncle picked us up at the depot and we stayed with our cousins until the concert the next day. We were so excited! We found our seats up in the nose bleed section, and then we heard the first strum of the first song. Sadly, that was the last music we heard for the night as the stadium erupted with screams of teenage fan girls, drowning out the entire concert. Not to mention the Fab Four looked like tiny little dolls on that itty-bitty stage. We didn’t care. We loved every minute of it!
My name is Mia Hinkle and I am here to talk about CHOICES.
When I look back now at that on that crazy experience and the choice my mother made to arrange this outing for us, I just shake my head. What was she thinking? I have an 11 year old grandson and it makes me nervous when he rides his bike to the neighborhood pool! THE POOL IS ONLY ONE HOUSE AWAY!
It turns out that my mother made that choice based on her confidence in us, that we would follow her direction, and stay on the bus, and NOT get off until we saw our uncle at the bus station. And it worked out. We stayed safe because we followed her words. And the reward is that we have a legendary story to tell all these years later!
I believe God calls us to a great and legendary adventure if he can trust us to choose to follow his instructions. Some of the most amazing things can happen when we follow God’s plan for our lives.
Unlike plants that simply grow, drop a seed, and then grow some more, and unlike the animal world driven by instinct, God has given mankind the privilege and the responsibility to make our own choices. Life is full of choices and we are called to make them all day every day. Making choices are part of the privilege God has given us, part of our God-like character as it says in (Gen 2:19) “Now the Lord God had formed out of the ground all the wild animals and all the birds in the sky. He brought them to the man to see what he would name them; and whatever the man called each living creature, that was its name.”
Free will and the ability to make choices are gifts from a loving God. But along with privilege comes responsibility; a responsibility to make the choices we can AND a responsibility to bear the consequences. That’s where the rubber meets the road.
In my twenties I owned a couple of horses and rode western-style showing them in horse shows in timed events like barrel racing and pole-bending. A ballet in dusty boots. One balmy summer evening, I was practicing poles with my quick little Arabian mare whose registered name was Lucky Lola. Looking back, I should have quit while I was ahead. The best pole benders know there is usually only one good run for a horse and rider on any given day.
Normally Lola and I would glide between those poles, switching leads like a Lipizzaner; barely a breath from each one, floating on the wind. But that day, the sun was going down and it had been a long day. Lola was getting tired. I was pressing my luck. We were both loosing focus. As if to let me know she was done for the day, her here-to-for nimble weaving between the 6 poles just 21 feet apart, turned into a straight line race that slammed my knees against each of those poles at a break-neck speed.
Like I said, I should have quit while I was ahead. Instead, in a flash of pain and frustration, I planted my spur into her left shoulder and yanked the reins to the right to let her know I didn’t want her to hit another pole with my kneecap.
Well, I must have pulled those reins way too far and down we went! I had pulled her head right out from under her, just like in the TV westerns when the rider gets an arrow in his thigh.
Consequently, she went into a forward roll at a full gallop. Needless to say I was not ready for THAT, and as she went down, I flew from the saddle right into her path, breaking our collective fall with the crown of my head on the hard packed dirt. I held on to the reins and she rolled right over me – all 900 pounds of her. I don’t know how long I lay there as she stood over me. The next thing I remember I was leading her around and around the edge of the arena trying to cool her down. Later that night, I ended up in the emergency room with a concussion.
There were definitely consequences when I chose to ignore all the signs and keep pushing when I should have quit while I was ahead.
I could have broken my neck!
It has been said that if you want to know what is really important in a person’s life, take a look at their day planner and their checkbook. How we spent our time and our money is the key to what we treasure. Our choices tell where our values lie. Our choices tell what is really important to us, what our desires really are. Our choices tell where our hope is.
Our daily choices tell where we are heading. Each choice takes us down a road. Perhaps it is the first step in a new direction or it may be building on previous choices. Little choices can very easily lead to habits – good and bad.
Unfortunately, sometimes our choices are based simply on the path of least resistance.
Let me tell you a story about a day I followed the path of least resistance and rushed through something I should have taken my time with.
It was a crisp cold Saturday in the dead of winter. Yes, it was Minnesota, but we were die-hards and rode horseback in winter and summer just the same. We had purchased a pure bred Arabian stud colt as a yearling and we counted the days until he turned two and we could begin to break him for riding. He was high strung and gorgeous, dark dapple grey with striking confirmation. Finally, in late winter he was old enough to ride. I was lighter so I got the honors. I put the saddle on him inside the barn and cinched it up tight. I knew better, but I was in a hurry and my fingers were cold.
Horsemanship 101 or just plain common sense teaches you to tighten the cinch a little at a time, walking the colt around a little bit between each tightening. Remember this is a brand new sensation for a young horse, and it’s best to take it easy the first time if you want to have a second.
Anyway, I cinched up that saddle as tight as I could and led him outside. I remember hearing the hard packed snow squeak beneath his hooves, but his steps were halting and stiff. I hadn’t realized that he had filled his lungs with air and was holding his breath like a little kid throwing a temper tantrum. It really wasn’t working for him to walk and hold his breath at the same time. I felt like I was dragging him with each step.
In his panic when he finally took a breath, he seemed to just explode — rearing up on his hind legs and throwing his head from side to side. I was at the end of the lead rope and knew I could not let go of this young stallion. A stud loose on a horse farm will cause mayhem with a capital M. In other words, his very basic instincts would take over! If you know what I mean.
We were just a few steps outside the barn door when he reared up and I flew thru the air like a rag doll at the end of the lead rope. When I landed in a snowdrift on my back, his two front hooves landed firmly on my sternum. He stood there stiff legged for what seemed like forever; his full weight planted just below my throat. I was holding on so tight, I could feel his hot breath on my face.
I was saved that day by the grace of God … and cold weather. I had on two sweatshirts, a down vest, a down jacket, and insulated coveralls. Providence must have known all those layers weren’t quite enough to save me from harm, so I mysteriously landed in a foot of freshly fallen snow, and not on the icy driveway just a few feet away. Not a scratch on me.
My choice to take the path of least resistance and rush though the cinching process could have taken my life on that bright blue winter day!
It is true, some things are out of our hands. God has some influence. People and situations have some degree of control over us. But there are still plenty of choices we are called to make for ourselves. Some are big life altering decisions like whether to marry, who to marry, where to go to school, whether to have children, which job to accept, where to live. Those are the big ones.
But there are plenty of choices that might seem minor, but ultimately add up to having a significant impact on our lives. Have you ever worked with a plum line; you know that little chalk string you snap against the drywall when you are building something? If you are off just a little tiny bit at the top of the wall, you will be off by a lot at the bottom of the wall. Little daily choices add up.
God has called us to be decision makers. To allow others to make decisions for us – those that we should be making ourselves – is not being what God has called us to. We need to actively accept responsibility for the choices we are called to make. We may seek input from others. We may ask for God’s guidance. And then we follow through and make the choice. Here is an example of allowing others to make decisions for us.
Back at the stable, I was helping my horse trainer boyfriend with a thoroughbred that was really fast but had a problem with the starting gate. He was scared to death of that tiny space and would not get in. So the trainer got the bright idea to take both my horse, Lucky Lola, and this new one he was training to the racetrack during off hours, thinking my little Arabian would have a calming effect on this spooky race horse.
Me: Are you sure this will work?
Trainer: Of course it will, trust me.
The thoroughbred had been soured at the track in his previous life, so when he stepped out of the trailer at the track, his entire countenance ratcheted up a few notches. Ears straight forward … nostrils flaring … fighting the lead rope, he knew where he was and didn’t like it one bit. We trotted around for a while to get the lay of the land and eventually it turned out my seasoned little mare DID have a calming influence on that flighty thoroughbred after all.
We approached the back side of the starting gate. I remember thinking that I agreed with the race horse; it looked really tiny.
Me: “Are you sure this is a good idea? It looks a little dangerous.”
Trainer: “No it will be fine, just ease her on in there. You go first.”
Lola had never seen anything like it, so, no reason to be frightened she walked right inside the gate with me on her back. The thoroughbred saw Lola walk in unafraid and so he did the same. For an instant, there they both stood as if they were in their stalls waiting for supper. But when the gate shut behind us with a loud CLANK, Lola began to freak out, snorting and pawing the ground beneath us. I swear she was trying to get down and crawl out on her knees. She became more and more agitated – again banging my knees against the teensy metal cage. Note to self: starting gates are not made for people in western saddles.
Finally the bell rang and the front gates flew open. My little grey mare shot out like a watermelon seed on the Fourth of July on to the racetrack and barreled around the curve like she thought she was Secretariat.
I’m not sure how to describe the scene, except with the imagery made famous by Saturday morning cartoon characters. You know the ones … where Wiley Coyote hangs in midair for several seconds looking terrified before he plummets to the bottom of the canyon to his violent demise.
There I hung in midair … my trusty steed becoming smaller and smaller as she barreled around the track … until suddenly and with great impact, my tailbone slammed onto the track with a dull thud and I slid to a stop on my back in a cloud of dust.
The mix of sand and clay found its way into every crease and crevice of my 20something year old body. When my head stopped spinning, my ears were ringing and I could taste blood and dirt. There was sand in my boots. There was sand in my bra. There was sand in my underpants and where the sun don’t shine! I feel like I may have been taller before that day … like my spine was compressed just a little with the impact.
When I regained my bearings, I looked around to see that goofy thoroughbred just standing inside the starting gate looking around. The trainer was encouraging him with whip and spurs to spring forth, but I think that race horse was just too stunned at the sight of greased lightning resembling a little grey Arabian mare disappearing down the track, while her rider, the big-eyed Wiley Coyote suspended in midair before crashing to the ground, little birds circling my blonde head with their maniacal chirping.
I could have easily been paralyzed.
This is what can happen when you allow others to make decisions for you, when you clearly know better and should have taken a different path.
I went on my Discipleship Walk (#3, Table of Mary) in 1989, 33 years ago this month. I learned a couple of things that weekend.
First, the world of God’s people is much bigger than the church I attended or the one I grew up in. People from several different denominations attended that weekend. In this room today, there are women from nearly 20 different churches, ranging from very traditional to very charismatic. Some of us are still looking for that good fit and are between churches right now. Rest assured, God will meet you right where you are this weekend.
Secondly I learned it’s nearly impossible to have an effective Christian walk without Community. That is without a good church and Godly people you can connect with and learn from.
Third, I learned about Accountability Groups, small groups consisting of a few women with whom you can enjoy authentic relationship. These are women who love you just the way you are. These are women who hold you accountable when you start to get a little squirrely. These are women who are there for you, love you, and care for you.
My Accountability Group has been there for one another since 1998. I can’t take the time here this morning to tell you all the ways they have been there for me in good times and in tragic. I can’t imagine life without them.
Over the next couple of days, we will present you with many ideas and testimonies.
We want you to listen to each speaker with an open and discerning mind.
Only you can make the final decision about how the things presented this weekend may apply to you.
God has given you the privilege and responsibility of CHOICE.
The next steps are up to you.
Walk in Love